Severance (Apple Plus)-One of the best-developed science fiction worlds I’ve ever entered, Severance is about a world where a set of workers have their memories completely compartmentalized when they are in and out of work. Audience surrogate Helly (Britt Lower) works in a classified division of a faceless company who clocks into work every day and has no memory of what her life is like outside. When she clocks back into work, she is essentially a different person with a different set of memories. For Mark (Adam Scott, in his first Emmy nod), erasing his memories for eight hours a day is a good way to deal with the grief of his lost wife. Like great sci-fi, the show explores big themes of the human condition in dramatic terms. There’s also a good mystery angle that moves the plot forward. For reference, the show reminds me of Orphan Black on BBC.
The Bear (Hulu)-This show, about the adrenaline of a gourmet chef managing the kitchen of a high-end New York restaurant, is getting some good reviews. It’s an exciting sphere of our world that we don’t often get a glimpse of, so there’s a lot of potential here on paper. However, I personally wasn’t hooked. It either works or it doesn’t. The show is episodic and none of the 30-minute plots were memorable enough to remember 5 minutes after the show’s conclusion so the show relies primarily on atmosphere which isn’t enough to get over the hump. At the very least, the show gives employment to Abby Elliott, a decent character actor, who was very much in no man’s land through three and a half seasons of SNL.
The Orville (Hulu)-The Orville: New Horizons expanded in ambition this season with a larger special effects budget (a plus) and a new one-hour-plus format (a mixed bag).
The first few episodes were wobbly right out of the gate and when an episode doesn’t hit, the longer running time makes things worse. Ideally science fiction combines character development with the kinds of thought-provoking situations that can be created by when reality can be altered through scientific imagination. But the first two episodes of the first season are based on character moments that are irrelevant to the viewer: The first episode deals with the crew hating on Isaac but didn’t Isaac’s betrayal of the crew happen in early season 2? The second episode revolves around Claire’s ex-husband but he…