The Bingeworthy Breakdown is an occasional look at new TV shows. An estimated 500 scripted seasons of TV will air in 2017, and to help you sort the wheat from the chaff, we’re going to look at the first episodes of the most notable of these to help you work out whether it’s worth tuning in every week for them, waiting to binge later, or using the time to finally catch up on “Sneaky Pete” or whatever else you’ve been waiting for. Today, we’re looking at Netflix’s new drama “13 Reasons Why.”
It’s been a while.
It has! “Legion” was the last time we did one of these, and that’s wrapped up its whole first season since.
Been busy then?
You know. Oscars and stuff, and then we did a big 90s thing in the last couple of weeks. It was good, you should read it.
What’s been going on in the TV world, then?
“Big Little Lies” hit and was pretty great, as is the current run of “Girls.” “Review” aired its micro third and final season and was also great. And we wrote about how good the second season of “Billions” has been (and it’s only gotten better since then too). And on Friday, Netflix debuted their latest series, which is the reason that we’re gathered here today.
OK. So what it is?
It’s called “13 Reasons Why,” and it’s the streaming giant’s first foray into the often-lucrative world of the teen drama (excluding the genre-led behemoth that is “Stranger Things,” which doesn’t quite count).
I feel like it’s been a while since there was a really great teen series.
I feel like you’re probably right. Shows like “Teen Wolf” and “Pretty Little Liars” have their fans, but a recent run of anniversaries, reunions and revivals have hammered home that it’s been a while since we had something like “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” “Freaks & Geeks,” “Friday Night Lights,” or “The O.C.” shows that crossed over past their intended audience and became wider critical favorites.
Maybe you’re just old now.
But I get your point. Isn’t “Sexy Archie” meant to be good?
“Riverdale,” it’s called. And we hear mixed things. Our Kevin’s a fan, but we haven’t got round to it yet.
“Sexy Archie” would be a better name.
So what’s this Netflix show then?
It’s an adaptation of a best-selling 2007 YA book by Jay Asher, produced by pop star Selena Gomez (who doesn’t take an acting role) adapted for TV by Brian Yorkey, best-known as the Tony and Pulitzer winning co-creator of the hit musical “Next To Normal.” It’s probably most notable for cinephile types because the first two episodes are the first thing that director Tom McCarthy has directed since his Best Picture winning “Spotlight.”
Wait, this is directed by the guy who did the amazingly brilliant “Spotlight?”
Which means it’s also by the guy who right before that directed the amazingly awful “The Cobbler?”
Yep. And he also did the wonderful “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor,” the reputedly mostly disastrous unaired pilot for “Game Of Thrones,” and the so-so “Win Win,” as well as co-writing the story for Pixar’s instant classic “Up.” He’s also an actor, perhaps best known for playing truth-challenged journalist Scott Templeton on the final season of “The Wire.”
Man, he’s had a weird career.
So where does this fall on the McCarthy scale, from “The Cobbler” to “Spotlight?”
Better than “Win Win,” not as good as “The Visitor.”
Ok. So what’s it about?
In the high school of Liberty High, an unnamed town in the present day (the lack of specificity is kind of an issue, but we’ll get to that), the pupils have been devastated by the recent suicide of classmate Hannah Baker (Australian newcomer Katherine Langford). Shy, insular kid Clay (Dylan Minnette, a busy young actor who you might recognize from his lead roles in “Goosebumps” and “Don’t Breathe”) seems particularly broken up, having had a crush on his late friend.