SHOWCASE : Go Deeper with Creators, Producers & Stars
At Split Screens, take a deep dive with our SHOWCASE section, packed with opportunities to view a series through the lens of its creators, producers and stars.
SATURDAY, JUNE 3
In attendance: Series creators, co-directors and executive producers Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers, and Executive Producer Lilly Burns.
It’s rare to encounter a TV series that could accurately be described as a satire, much less an unsparing one, but Search Party absolutely qualifies. It’s a detective story about people trying to get to the bottom of a young woman’s disappearance, but that’s just what’s happening on the surface. The mystery is the gimmick that draws you in so that this exceptional and surprising show — credited to a rogue’s gallery of executive producers, including Michael Showalter, Sarah-Violet Bliss, and Charles Rogers — can work its dark magic. The vanishing is a device that the show uses to explore Dory’s (star Alia Shawkat) world and make uncomfortable observations about modern life, in particular the tendency to confuse the ego-stroking virtual busywork of the text- and social media-driven era for actual, meaningful action. There’s an even deeper level to this series, something on the order of an existential quest, a long journey into the heroine’s emotional interior. The condition of believing oneself sensitive while feeling very little has rarely been examined with such exactness.
SUNDAY, JUNE 4
In person: Series co-creator and executive producer Stephen Adly Guirgis, and supervising producer Nelson George.
“Unfold your own myth,” blares a graffiti tag on the skin of a subway car in The Get Down. Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Adly Guirgis’s 1970s musical melodrama about the birth of hip-hop and the fall of dirty-glorious Gotham is forever characterizing itself this way: like a rapper nimbly reframing a story as he tells it. It’s a multimedia work—television, cinema, a novel, a scrapbook; collage, decoupage, a montage barrage. The sheer, shameless entertainment value of The Get Down camouflages how formally inventive it is. The gleeful way that the image texture (1970s TV news video, 16mm, what looks like enhanced YouTube footage) changes from shot to shot suggests the filmmakers are glorying in a crazy-quilt aesthetic instead of knocking themselves out trying to make every piece seem like part of a seamless whole. The show is sampling pop culture history, New York City history and music history to create its own sound.
In person: Series creator, co-executive producer and costar Julie Klausner
Julie Klausner’s series about brilliant, acerbic, self-defeating best buds on the fringes of stardom is tailor-made for the YouTube era, when artists and entertainers act as their own agents, publicists and managers and watch their colleagues’ successes and failures unfold in real time, with envy or glee, depending.
Julie (Klausner) and Billy (Billy Eichner) keep hatching schemes like a couple of Lucy Ricardos, even though their quest is motivated less by a burning urge to express themselves than a lust for fame and comfort. They pop others’ delusions and preserve their own, but even at their pettiest, there are moments when they speak the truth, and some of their most penetrating insights have to do with the show you’re watching and the medium that spawned it. One of Difficult People’s fiercest convictions is that a sitcom’s first obligation is to be funny and engaging, a surprisingly contrarian point of view now that every form of scripted entertainment is striving to subvert rather than embrace proven formulas. “When did comedies become 30-minute dramas?” Billy asks, with an aghast tone that suggests Difficult People is not interested in becoming one.
TUESDAY, JUNE 6
In person: Actors Tatiana Maslany, Jordan Gavaris, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Kristian Bruun, Kevin Hanchard, Evelyne Brochu and Ari Millen, and Executive Producers Graeme Manson and John Fawcett.
Graeme Manson and John Fawcett’s science fiction brainteaser stars Tatiana Maslany as several genetically identical people who had never met each other. But this is not merely a series about clones; it’s a continuous study in nature versus nurture that routinely puts Maslany in conversations with iterations of herself, and each iteration feels like a distinct human being rather than a sketch-comedy caricature. You’re in a fun house hall of mirrors where the reflections can not only talk, but have their own opinions. The result is sorcery, and Maslany is at the center, playing two, three or more personalities at once while a constellation of gifted supporting players, including Dylan Bruce, Jordan Gavaris, Kevin Hanchard, Maria Doyle Kennedy and Evelyn Brochu, swirls around her. The show’s bottomless inventiveness and persistent sense of fun are infectious. In addition to the suspense generated by the story itself, there’s a secondary thrill from watching the cast and crew struggle to top themselves in sheer outrageousness.