What we're watching: 'Mandy,' 'Succession' and 'Great News'

The Nicolas Cage experience.

This month, Reporter Timothy J. Seppala checks out the latest Nicolas Cage joint and explains why you should too, while Senior Editor Daniel Cooper returns from a break with impressions of some binge-worthy television.

Succession / Great News

Daniel Cooper

Daniel Cooper
Senior Editor

If there's one thing that paternity leave guarantees, it's that you, and your newborn, will be spending plenty of sleepless nights in front of the TV. Which gave me ample excuse to clear off my DVR, or at least make a dent in the number of things I've failed to watch. The only big things left on my queue are Get Out and Billions, both of which I'll do my best to get around to in the next few sleepless weeks.

The biggest new show to come out during my absence was Succession, Jesse Armstrong's brilliant satire of a wealthy media family. Inspired by the Murdochs, but drawing material from any number of powerful media dynasties, it's the story of a civil war between Logan Roy and his children. Well, kinda: the trailers made the show seem like it would be all boardroom battles, rather than the touching family drama it is.

It's hard to love pretty much every member of the Roy family, from monstrous patriarch Logan through to baby child Roman Roy. Each character is its own type of awful, and yet despite this, you can't help but pull for some of them. I won't spoil the back half of the season, but it draws upon a moment in another notable American dynasty to create a crisis you'll be surprised by.

The fact that each character gets more grotesque and yet, you wind up feeling for them, is a testament to the show's writing. It helps, too, that the show has been written by the cream of Britain's writing talent, including Armstrong, Georgia Pritchett, Tony Roche and Lucy Prebble. Succession is also pretty beautiful, and it's the sort of show that only HBO could make. Hell, it's the sort of show that can have Judy Reyes and David Rasche in its cast and relegate both to little more than background roles!

I know that a lot of folks, especially in the US, didn't feel for Succession when it aired, because it's hard to believe a drama about the troubles of the one percent amount to much. Believe me, it does.

I've been excited to watch Great News ever since the promos hit in mid-2016. After all, a show about a TV show from the team behind 30 Rock had to be great, right? Two years later and Netflix finally released the first season to the UK and my suspicions were correct. Great News concerns an ambitious, hungry news producer whose overbearing mother winds up as the network's latest intern.

Great News, which was created by Tracey Wigfield, doesn't stray far from the 30 Rock template of quick-fire gags launched en-masse at the viewer. And the show is carried by its cast, which includes Andrea Martin, Adam Campbell, Horatio Sanz and John Michael Higgins. Pretty much every line coming out of their mouths elicits a belly laugh, and the ensemble is a delight to spend time with.

Unfortunately, Great News suffered the same fate as other sitcoms that have been produced by Tina Fey: a total lack of support from NBC. The 10-episode first season has taken two years to reach Netflix, at which point it has already been cancelled. It's baffling, given just how good Great News is, that NBC would just dump it out, rather than let the show's strengths create an audience on its own.

Over at Decider, Brett White compared Great News with The Good Place, which had lukewarm ratings in its first season on NBC. That show, however, went onto Netflix shortly after broadcast, allowing cord-cutters to catch up over the summer break. When The Good Place came back for its second season, ratings jumped from 3 million viewers to 5.5, confirming the existence of the Netflix Bump.

I don't know when Netflix will get Great News season 2 -- it didn't respond to my query -- but if it isn't soon, I might have to break my 'no piracy' rule. Unless, of course, we all binge Great News so much that Netflix decides to bring it back. That might almost make up for killing off The Joel McHale Show.


Timothy J. Seppala

Timothy J. Seppala

I'm still thinking about Mandy five days later. I've watched at least a dozen movies in the past week, including BlackkKlansman at the theater, but the latest Nicolas Cage fever dream is the only one that's still actively worming its way through my brain. That hasn't happened since I saw The Killing of a Sacred Deer last November, and watched Raw at home before that.

I went in to my local indie theater Thursday night for an early screening absolutely blind by circumstance, rather than design. Nicolas Cage's filmography is as wildly inconsistent as his off-screen persona is eccentric so me not seeking out a trailer or paying much attention to it ahead of time doesn't feel unfair. More than that, his folksy Southern accent from Con Air comes to mind every time I see a stuffed animal bunny and I can't forgive him for it. I'm not as well-versed in Cage's filmography as some, but he's everything you expect he would be in this role. You get some crazy-face Nic Cage, some uncontrollable sobbing-yelling and moments of him glowering at the camera with his face covered in blood, teeth bared.

And that's the extent of what I tell you about the movie itself. Giving away the plot or structure, or talking about the rest of the characters feels like it'd betray the experience of just letting the movie wash over you. There were times when the audience was cheering (myself included), others laughing at random, inappropriate spots (again, myself included), and then there were moments where the tension hung heavy in the air, everyone silent.

Mandy seems destined for cult-status already, helmed by auteur director Panos Cosmatos (Beyond the Black Rainbow) it has an unmistakable visual style, with Cosmatos' strong direction keeping a minimalist story fresh and surprising. There are plenty of places online calling it a masterpiece, but it's an art-house movie through and through, so I'm not sure how it'll play at a megaplex (or at home, it's already available via video on-demand) versus a smaller theater. Or to people who were expecting another National Treasure performance. I don't know if I'd call it a masterpiece either, but I do know I'll be thinking about it until I come up with a descriptor of my own.

"IRL" is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they're buying, using, playing and streaming.