Culture Feature

12 of Jessica Walter's Greatest Contributions to Television

With nearly 60 years in film and television, Walter's most iconic roles came in her later years.

This week, actor Jessica Walter passed away at her Manhattan home.

At 80 years old, Walter had spent most of her entire adult life — nearly 60 years — taking on prominent roles in TV and movies, from Dinosaurs, The Love Boat, and Flipper to The Alfred Hitchcock Story Hour, Clint Eastwood's Play Misty for Me, and the 1966 classic Grand Prix.

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TV Features

"The Outsider's" Holly Gibney Is the Best TV Investigator

Unlike your stereotypical TV detective, Holly doesn't need to learn how to feel for others.

HBO

After years of watching TV crime dramas come and go, the detective protagonists tend to blend together.

You take a unique individual (usually male), give him an irksome quirk or glaring character flaw that rubs his colleagues the wrong way, translate that quirk and/or flaw into a case-solving superpower, and bam, you're green-lit for at least a season or two. Just to be safe, maybe even give him introverted tendencies or a lack of overt sympathy that can only be cracked by a love interest. Taking all of the cliches into account, it's difficult for any of these protagonists to really make a statement.

the Outsider HBO HBO

Fortunately, Holly Gibney from The Outsider is not a collection of cliches, and she makes a hell of a statement.

The knowledgeable savant investigator from HBO's horror crime drama (portrayed by Cynthia Erivo) has proven to be a major highlight throughout the 10-episode miniseries (which could move into a second season if the finale is any indication). Among a sea of quirky, cookie-cutter TV detectives and investigators, Holly Gibney stands out as realistically talented, vulnerable, and emotionally available.

If you're not caught up on the show, The Outsider portrays the small town of Cherokee City, Georgia, plagued by the grisly murder of a young boy. Local little league coach Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman) is arrested for the crime by Detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) after thorough forensics implicate him as the obvious prime suspect. But when conflicting evidence places Terry as far from the crime scene as possible, a deeper enigma is revealed, one that involves something more horrifying than Anderson and his team has ever dealt with before.

When the case becomes too complex and outlandish for the local police force to crack, they hire Holly Gibney to jump on the case. Though she carries with her a troubled past of being endlessly questioned for her autism and considerable mental capacity, she uses her capabilities as an investigator to get substantial results. By and large, Holly is the one responsible for broadening the scope of the case, magnifying even the tiniest details and shedding more light on crucial evidence that went overlooked by her fellow detectives.

What Holly brings to the table as a TV investigator is a willingness to keep her mind open to stranger possibilities and an unabashed level of empathy for the victims in her cases. As she traces the details of the murder across the country, she is the first to officially discover that something more supernatural may be at play. Rather than confront this information through unquestioning acceptance or balking skepticism, however, she lets the case lead her to its natural conclusion, regardless of how "unnatural" it turns out to be.

Holly also recognizes that her suspicions about urban legends and boogeymen will open herself up to rejection and ridicule. But since that's what the facts point to, she assumes the responsibility of presenting her evidence as honestly as she can. Holly's level of open-mindedness, coupled with her realistic approach, adds a refreshing perspective to the mystery genre. Her case-solving MO is not an obsessive desire to explain the inexplicable, but to simply find a tangible trail and follow it to its darkest corners.

Holly Gibney HBO

Yet despite Holly's intellectual efficiency, she still allows herself to be emotionally invested in her work. The further she dives into the case, the more she meets people whose lives were ruined by this paranormal entity. As seen in Terry's situation, the entity left behind a number of victims who were convicted of terrible murders that they didn't commit. With these people in mind, Holly becomes driven not only to locate a murderer but to find justice for those affected by it.

Unlike your stereotypical TV detective, Holly doesn't need to learn how to feel for others, nor does she view her emotional vulnerability as a hindrance. If anything, her ability to openly show compassion and remorse for victims is what further compels her to see her investigation through. Even toward the very end of the season, Holly presses forward with the desire to rid the world of something truly evil, almost forgetting about the context of a case entirely in lieu of making sure the killer never harms anyone again.

Like many viewers, I've never been particularly entertained by the "high-functioning sociopath" detective that most crime shows tend to romanticize. It's no longer particularly entertaining to watch a successful but introverted investigator learn, then unlearn, and learn again that being emotionally available isn't a bad thing. That's what makes Holly Gibney so special.

She wouldn't be as good of a savant investigator if she weren't so sentimental and thoughtful. Holly is determined and thoroughly analytical without sacrificing her heart. Even in a gritty HBO crime drama, she does her best to be as good a person as she is a detective.

So props to you, Holly Gibney, for being the best investigator on TV right now. Hope to see more of you in a second season.

FILM & TV

Saturday Film School | The Most Dysfunctional Family on TV Is Back

On its last leg, Arrested Development returns on Netflix with new episodes.

Netflix

What was once the quickest, driest family sitcom on TV is now a graveyard for puns about incest, awkward romantic pairings, and aimless adults who still don't know any better.

It's hard to watch a show die. Arrested Development, a show that originally aired on Fox, returns on Netflix after its disastrous fourth season nearly derailed it. Convoluted storylines, familiar gags, and a handful of unfunny gaps in time make for a bumpy start, but devoted fans will find reasons to return to the ever-dysfunctional Bluth family.

Arrested always responds to real-world events in a subtle manner; this new batch of episodes—particularly fixated on Trump and the infamous wall set to divide the U.S. and Mexico—has a way of heightening the absurdity of microaggressions and police brutality. Creator Mitchell Hurwitz sets out to unearth the same comedic gold that made seasons 1-3 sitcom treasure, but it's often exhausting watching the show's wheels turn, a well-oiled machine that has no purpose to keep running except to outperform its glory days. Arrested is still fun to watch, but the characters bounce off of each other in a rotation that is, by this point, predictable. Thankfully, the cast is still enjoyable when they hit their stride outside of Hurwitz's heavy-handed exposition.

Having since become a Hollywood A-lister, Jason Bateman still nails Michael's brand of narcissism filtered through his deadpan delivery, getting himself into trouble even in situations that call for no such effort, and the kids, Maeby (Alia Shawkat) and George Michael (Michael Cera), banter their way through the episodes as if nothing has happened (How old are they supposed to be, again?). In reality, too much has happened—one of the biggest downfalls of season four: The farce-style humor was dialed up so much, it seemed the show itself was going to implode.

This time around, Buster (Tony Hale) is still the butt of every joke and his bionic hand makes for a consistent gag throughout the season, but his lunacy and dramatic outbursts, again, are to be expected. What was once the quickest, driest family sitcom on TV is now a graveyard for puns about incest, awkward romantic pairings, and aimless adults who still don't know any better. Lucille Bluth (Jessica Walter), the mom you love to hate, is equally nail-grating and hilarious—her antics embody the show's cynicism, so naturally, she's a pleasure to watch…cocktail in hand.

Oddly enough, Jeffrey Tambour returns reprising George Bluth Sr. and Oscar, his twin, but those familiar with Transparent probably recall his termination on set after accusations of sexual misconduct. Seeing him on screen feels wrong, almost like a weird pass given to him by his male co-stars.

With what Netflix has released thus far (more episodes are set to release later this year), it's clear that Arrested knows its formula and is set in its ways, content to wring out the very last laughs its conventional model has left. But I and many other Arrested fans are underwhelmed. It's hard watching something settle into familiarity, knowing what was once in its prime is now merely the framework of a house that reimagined what a dysfunctional family sitcom could look like. Some will cozy up to season five and its we'll-never-be-a-normal-family ethos, but those that relished the show's earlier seasons will find a lukewarm midnight snack in season five. Binge-watching it feels like mental labor, where you spend a considerable amount of time adding up plot points and character arcs that get lost halfway through. Some flames simply don't burn as strong the fourth and fifth time around, but the Bluth family, in true fashion, will carry on in their dysfunctional splendor.

POP⚡DUST Score: ⚡⚡⚡


Shaun Harris is a poet, freelance writer, and editor published in avant-garde, feminist journals. Lover of warm-toned makeup palettes, psych-rock, and Hilton Als. Her work has allowed her to copyedit and curate content for various poetry organizations in the NYC area.


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FILM & TV

BOX OFFICE BREAKDOWN | What's coming to theaters this weekend?

FEBRUARY 23RD-25TH | Scare your pants off and enjoy the best super natural stories

Be prepared to travel to worlds unknown this weekend when these films hit the big screen.

In Popdust's column, Box Office Breakdown, we aim to inform you of the top flicks to check out every weekend depending on what you're in the mood to enjoy. Looking to laugh? What about have your pants scared off? Maybe just need a little love? Whatever the case may be, we have it.

Take a peek at our top picks for this week...

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Frontpage Popular News

Arrested Development officially renewed for season 5, but will fans tune back in?

TELEVISION |The cult comedy is being revived for the second time on Netflix

Michael Buckner- Getty Images

After a four year wait, Netflix has officially announced new episodes of Arrested Development aiming to debut in 2018.

This is not a trick (or an illusion). This morning Netflix officially announced that Arrested Development had been officially renewed for a fifth season due in 2018. For those unfamiliar, the Emmy winning series follows the lives of the eccentric Bluth family, and after a low-rated but much beloved run on Fox, the series was revived in 2013 by Netflix for a fourth season. And while the signs had been pointing to another season with the Bluth clan, including star Jason Bateman recently signing on officially for the new episodes, this news marks not only the first official confirmation of more Arrested, but also a loose arrival date.

Series creator Mitch Hurwitz offered a tongue and cheek statement on the renewal and the surprising similarities to the current first family: "In talks with Netflix we all felt that that stories about a narcissistic, erratically behaving family in the building business — and their desperate abuses of power — are really underrepresented on TV these days. I am so grateful to them and to 20th TV for making this dream of mine come true in bringing the Bluths, George Sr., Lucille and the kids; Michael, Ivanka, Don Jr., Eric, George-Michael, and who am I forgetting, oh Tiffany. Did I say Tiffany? — back to the glorious stream of life."

Still there is a fair amount of uncertainty about what this new season will look like and whether fans will get on board. This is due to the polarizing reception the fourth season had, with many fans criticizing the season being structured around character specific episodes rather than letting the show's beloved ensemble cast play off each other. This being a result of the busy careers of the cast, the new season may attempt to solve this problem by double casting the main family with younger actors for a prequel component. While there's been specific names mentioned for these younger versions of the Bluths, in season four the show did a similar move casting Seth Rogen and Kristen Wiig as the younger versions of Jeffrey Tambor's George Sr. and Jessica Walter's Lucille.

Maury Phillips- Getty Images

Additionally while the series' fans had been fervently waiting for the series to return after the seven years of anticipation, the attitudes of fans have changed since the fourth season. While the series' revival was something of an unprecedented event, since then beloved series coming back from the dead has become status quo, with series like The X-Files, Gilmore Girls, Will & Grace, Twin Peaks, and more following in the footsteps. Without the novelty, the prospect of new episodes may not carry the same excitement as they once would have, especially coming after the mixed reception many of these revived series have faced. Still, perhaps with lower expectations the series will have the leeway to engage with the original offbeat spirit fans fell in love with.

Though we may have far more questions than answers about what this fifth season may look like, given the talent involved and the comedic absurdity they've reached in the past, I'm certain there'll be plenty willing to give it a chance.


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We can't wait!