(Photo by FOX, Walt Disney Pictures, Kyle Kaplan / Amazon / courtesy Everett Collection)“Know Your Critic” is a column in which we interview Tomatometer-approved critics about their screening and reviewing habits, pet peeves, and personal favorites.Emily VanDerWerff got started as a critic by covering Battlestar Galactica episodically. She’d created a blog with the intention of writing for and about television, and caught her break when an editor – Matt Zoller Seitz, now Editor-at-Large for RogerEbert.com – invited her to join The House Next Door’s roster. Now, she’s several years into her role as a critic for Vox and continues that legacy of boosting up-and-coming voices. She also wants you to know that she’s currently without a cellphone. Emily VanDerWerff doesn t have a phone,” she told Rotten Tomatoes in an interview. “It makes her life difficult, but she feels compelled to bring it up at every instance. In addition to her criticism, Emily has produced several podcasts. She launched TV on the Internet with her wife, IndieWire’s TV Awards Editor Libby Hill; she currently hosts Vox’s What to Watch podcast; and she is the co-creator of Arden, a fictionalized spin on the beloved true crime genre. She says working on Arden has made her ”weirdly gun shy about being a critic.” Not because she’s afraid to be critical – criticism is fundamentally “an act of love” for her – but because writing a fiction series has given her new perspective on narrative decision-making.“The choices we make are so often deliberate choices that we are making to achieve a certain effect. Maybe you don t agree with that effect, but that doesn t mean the choice was wrong,” she said. “Similarly, the choices we re making are sometimes driven by lack of budget, lack of actor availability, lack of everything and sometimes, I m disappointed with the way things turned out too, but there was a reason that happened and now I know the reason.”Emily VanDerWerff is Critic at Large at Vox. Her reviews can also be found at AV Club and Slant Magazine. Find her on Twitter: @emilyvdw.What was the first movie that you saw when returning to theaters?Oh, oh, oh, I know this one! They started doing press screenings again and the first movie I saw was A Quiet Place Part II, which I thought was pretty good. The lights dimmed, the movie started and it took me about a half-hour to have a complaint because I was just like, I m having a great time.” There are things in that movie that make no sense whatsoever! There s an attempt to add emotional resonance to stuff that I don t think entirely works. There s zombie people living on a boat, but it s never quite explained, which is fine. I just was like, It s so good to be back. The actual thing where I feel like maybe I was a little easy on a movie – though, I m not ever going to apologize for this because I had a blast watching it – was a couple of days later I saw Cruella and it was just like, I m having the time of my life just sitting here and watching Emma Stone stomp on people. When you re watching things at home, do you have a screening ritual?My ritual is I don t have a ritual. I do have a ritual when I go to the movies. The Alamo Drafthouse here in Downtown LA – I go there and I get a popcorn and I get a Coke Zero and I watch the trailers and, usually, I get chicken strips and that s about as close as I come.What is the best thing that you watched in quarantine?The Underground Railroad. I think this is the best TV show in a long time and I am just blown away by it, and I hope that more people discover it over the years to come. I watched Neon Genesis Evangelion toward the tail end of quarantine, and that is just one of the best things. It s so weird and complicated and beautiful and strange.I rewatched all of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with some friends and … What a fun show? Like, what a good show? It s always been my favorite Star Trek and this rewatch just kind of solidified that.(Photo by Hulu)What are you most proud of in your career so far?If you were going to ask me one or two pieces, I d probably point to my Handmaid s Tale season three review, which I came out as a trans woman. I feel like my recent Underground Railroad review was a really great attempt to wrestle with some stuff within the form.What I m proudest of is the stable of collaborators I ve built. This is the thing I feel like if I want people to take anything away from my time in journalism and my time in criticism that they re not taking away from it. What we did at The A.V. Club, we helped build a team of freelancers. We built a team of writers. We built a team of regular contributors that substantially changed the scope of the Someone just came in and threw a salad on the floor! Make that your lead, “Emily VanDerWerff s wife enters and throws a salad on the floor.” [laughs]… The thing that we did at The A.V. Club is we built this team of regular collaborators, regular writers and substantially shifted. … It s been similarly true at Vox. I continue to try to figure out: Who s new? Who s up and coming? Whose writing do I really like? Then, I try to work with them whenever I can. That s the thing I m proudest of. I say that sometimes and people think of me as a writer because I write a lot, but I am, honestly, proud of some of my editorial managerial achievements and choices.What is the hardest review or piece you ve written so far?That Handmaid s Tale piece. I went through many drafts. I don t struggle with reviews, generally. I usually sit down and have a sense of what I want to say. So yeah, I think it s probably the Handmaid s Tale review because it was a question of striking exactly the right balance and understanding how much to talk about Handmaid s Tale and how much to talk about myself, and how to blend those two things together.If television isn t some part of a queer person s coming out, are they really queer?This is true.That’s a joke based on my experience.I spent most of my adolescence watching women on television and really identifying with them. When I was a teenager, I grew my hair like Angela on My So-Called Life and just so wanted that look and wouldn t tell myself why. I knew why, I just wouldn t look at it.One of the times when I almost came out was in 2013. I was watching New Girl, one of my favorite television programs. There s this moment where Zooey Deschanel is wearing just the cutest dress. I saw that and some part of my brain was like, Zoey Deschanel and you are around the same age. If you wanted to, you could wear that dress. She s significantly shorter than me and significantly in better shape than I was at the time, but just something zinged through my brain and I immediately shut it down because I didn t come out to myself until 2018 – it was a five-year gap in there.Television gives us new ways of imagining ourselves and consistent ways of seeing ourselves. It gives us new ways of thinking about what is possible. I think it is not a coincidence that I came out in the midst of TV deciding it was cool to tell stories about trans people, sometimes very poorly, but doing it more and more often. Seeing Laverne Cox in Orange is the New Black was a big moment for me. Transparent was a big moment for me – as many issues as that show has both in front of and behind the camera, it was a huge, huge deal for me.What s interesting has been seeing how now that I m out, I ve kind of moved past those things and I don t need them. Hollywood is still very much stuck in, If we re going to tell a story about a trans person, we d better over-explain everything. I think that s fine. The cis need to have trans-ness explained to them to some degree because it s very confusing to them apparently.Over and over again, apparently.It s important to do that, but in my own work – in Arden, we had a character who was trans in our second season. There was an episode where she did a lot of explaining about what it meant to be trans. Then, I talked with the actress about it and she was like, I don t know if we need this. I was like, “I don t know if we need it either,” so I just took it all out. There are remnants of it in there, but it s all just stuff that would have come up in normal conversation.The show assumes that you care about the character on an emotional level. You don t need to care about them on an intellectual level. You don t need to sit there and know what their dosage is every day and if they take their estrogen sublingually, or if they do a weekly injection, or if they have patches. The show assumes you don t care about that because why would you? I m not saying that we wrote the greatest trans character in history. Other people can and should say that. I am not going to say that, but I feel like we got closer to it than we would have been if we had just gone with my script where I was like, Here s how it feels to be a trans woman. We need some of that. We certainly need some of that in mainstream TV and movies – that s how we move this conversation – but we also need stuff that is a little bit more specific and weird and interesting.
nny and A Penny for Your Thoughts productions.“I’m really excited to bring my point of view to late-night television and have felt nothing but support creatively from HBO and A Penny For Your Thoughts,” Jay said. “So everyone wear your mask and vote so I can make my TV show! Thaaaanks!”Jay, who has appeared on Broad City and Nobodies, released her first comedy special, 3 in the Morning, on Netflix in August.Lorne Michaels Producing New Musical Comedy Series with SNL Stars for Apple TV+(Photo by courtesy Apple TV+/Krista Schlueter (Kristin Chenoweth), Cliff Lipson/CBS (Keegan-Michael Key), Robb Klassen (Ariana DeBose), Steve Vaccariello (Alan Cumming), Martina Tolot (Dove Cameron), Catherine Opie (Fred Armisen), Fer Piña (Jaime Camil))And more Saturday Night Live-related news this week, the week of the seminal comedy series’ 46th season premiere: SNL papa Lorne Michaels is executive producing a still-untitled musical comedy for Apple TV+ that will feature SNL-ers Cecily Strong and Fred Armisen, as well as Keegan-Michael Key, Alan Cumming, Jane Krakowski, Kristen Chenoweth, Aaron Tveit, Dove Cameron, Ariana DeBose, Jaime Camil, and Ann Harada.The series, created by Despicable Me writers Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio, will revolve around a couple who goes backpacking to spice up the relationship. They find themselves in an initially charming town where everyone acts like they’re in a 1940s musical, and find they can’t leave until they find true love.Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black) will direct the series, while Strong will also serve as a producer on the show, and Paul will be the series showrunner and write all the original music. The series is set to debut next year.And in yet one more bit of SNL news – perhaps the best SNL news ever – every episode of every season of the show is now streaming on Peacock. Every. Single. Episode. Which one will you look up first?NEW TRAILERS: Borat Returns!Very nice! Amazon Prime Video has picked up the next Borat movie, specifically, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Sacha Baron Cohen, Oscar nominated for writing on 91% Certified Fresh film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, returns to the role that cultivates enemies for the actor worldwide.More trailers and teasers released this week:• Big Sky is David E. Kelley’s mystery drama about the disappearance of two sisters who were kidnapped by a truck driver, and the private detectives and cops fighting over the investigation. Starring Ryan Phillippe, Kylie Bunbury, Katheryn Winnick, and John Carroll Lynch. Premieres Nov. 17 (ABC)• Fear the Walking Dead season 6 stars Lennie James, Garrett Dillahunt, Colman Domingo, and Alycia Debnam-Carey, Jenna Elfman, Austin Amelio, and Colby Minafie. Premieres Oct. 11 (AMC)• Belushi is R.J. Cutler’s documentary about the late, great Saturday Night Live, Animal House, and Blues Brothers star John Belushi. Premieres Nov. 22 (Showtime)• Supernatural, the series’ 15th and final season, starring Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, premieres Oct. 8 (The CW)• His House is a horror movie about a couple who escape war-torn Sudan, only to find their new British home is filled with evil. Stars Wunmi Mosaku, and Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, and Matt Smith and premieres on Oct. 30 (Netflix)• Supermarket Sweep is a remake of the classic ‘90s game show, this time hosted by Leslie Jones. Premieres Oct. 18 (ABC)• Holidate is a romantic comedy about two strangers who agree to be each other’s regular plus-one for holiday events so their friends and families will stop trying to matchmake for them. Starring Emma Roberts, Luke Bracey, Frances Fisher, and Kristin Chenoweth, premieres on Oct. 28 (Netflix)• Vampires vs. The Bronx is a comedy horror movie about a group of teenagers who are forced to protect their NYC neighborhood when it’s invaded by vampires. Stars Method Man, Chris Redd, Jaden Michael, Shea Whigham, and The Kid Mero and premieres on Oct. 2 (Netflix)• David Byrne’s American Utopia is a filmed version of the titular musician’s 2019 Broadway show, featuring his music and directed and produced by Spike Lee. Premieres Oct. 17 (HBO Max)• Resident Evil: Infinite Darkness, season 1, is a CGI series based on the Resident Evil game series and starring Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy. Premieres in 2021 (Netflix)For all the latest TV and streaming trailers, subscribe to the Rotten Tomatoes TV YouTube channel.CASTING: Hamilton Star Renée Elise Goldsberry Is Starring in Girls5eva, Tina Fey’s Pop Star Comedy at Peacock(Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for IFP)Grammy and Tony Award-winning Hamilton star Renée Elise Goldsberry will star in the upcoming Peacock comedy Girls5eva, from Tina Fey, Robert Carlock and Meredith Scardino. Goldsberry will join previously announced star Sara Bareilles in the story of a one-hit-wonder girls group from the ‘90s who try for comeback.Mahershala Ali, Angela Davis, T.T. Harris, Mimi Jones, Ledisi, Greg Alverez Reid, Nate Smith, Olivia Washington, and Ta-Nahesi Coates have joined the cast of the HBO adaptation of Coates’ Between the World and Me, which will premiere on Nov. 21. The cast already includes Angela Bassett, Jharrel Jerome, Joe Morton, Wendell Pierce, and Oprah Winfrey.Tom Sturridge is reportedly the leading contender for the title role in the Netflix series adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s graphic novel The Sandman. (Collider)Dwayne Johnson and NBC have set the cast for Young Rock, the network’s Johnson-produced comedy about his formative years. Adrian Groulx will play the 10-year-old Dwayne, Bradley Constant will play the 15-year-old Dwayne, and Uli Latukefu will play him from 18-20, when he is being recruited to play football on a scholarship at the University of Miami. Adult cast members include Stacey Leilua as Johnson’s mom, Joseph Lee Anderson as his dad (wrestling legend Rocky Johnson), and Ana Tuisila as his grandma. The show is scheduled to premiere in 2021.Lisa Edelstein will join the cast of 9-1-1: Lone Star, playing Gwyneth, the ex-wife of Rob Lowe’s Owen Strand. The actress played Lowe’s love interest on The West Wing. (Deadline)Basil Eidenbenz will play Eskel in the second season of Netflix’s The Witcher, taking over for Thue Ersted Rasmussen, who had to drop out of the role because of scheduling conflicts caused by the pandemic.Gotham star Alex Morf will return to Gotham City to reprise his role as villain Victor Zsasz in Season 2 of The CW’s Batwoman. (EW)The Resident star Erinn Westbrook is joining the cast of Riverdale, where she’ll play Pop Tate’s ambitious granddaughter, Tabitha, who wants to take over Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe and franchise it. (Deadline)Scrubs star Judy Reyes and ER star Parminder Nagra will guest star as – what else – doctor colleagues of Bow (Tracee Ellis Ross) on the Season 7 premiere of Black-ish. (EW)PRODUCTION DEVELOPMENT: Conan The Barbarian Live-Action Series Set for Netflix(Photo by Universal Pictures)Netflix is developing a live-action TV series about Conan the Barbarian, the character created by writer Robert E. Howard, and played on the big-screen by Arnold Schwarzenegger (pictured). Netflix has the rights to create Conan movies and TV series, live-action and animated. No cast, writers, showrunner, or directors are yet attached to the project. (Deadline)Another movie being developed as a series: A Fistful of Dollars, the spaghetti Western that launched Clint Eastwood’s film career. Mark Gordon Pictures is behind the adaptation, which doesn’t have a home yet, but Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman is in talks to pen it. The movie, itself a remake of Akira Kurosawa’s Yojimbo, revolves around Eastwood’s “Man With No Name,” who arrives in a violent town and uses his brains to trick the local thugs to destroy each other. Eastwood played the same role in two other movies, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, so there should be plenty of material for the series. (Deadline)Hilary Clinton is developing an anthology drama for The CW, with Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Television. The Woman’s Hour will be based on author Elaine Weiss’s book, The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, and will shed light on the ferocious battle to ratify the 19th Amendment, the 100th anniversary of which was commemorated in August. Each season of the series would celebrate individuals responsible for changing that history.ABC is developing two drama series with Mr. Robot creator Sam Esmail. Acts of Crime is a “unique spin” on crime procedurals, written and directed by Esmail with Esmail and Esmail Corp’s Chad Hamilton as executive producers. The other series is known only as “Untitled CDC Project.” Both shows are set up at NBCUniversal’s UCP studio.New Disney+ Feature Allows Socially-Distanced Watch Parties(Photo by Walt Disney Studios)Perfect for Mulan and Hamilton watch parties during the socially-distanced holidays: like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, Disney+ now has a watch party feature. Called GroupWatch, which allows users of the streaming service to sync up the same program and watch together.A First Look at the New Batwoman in Costume View this post on Instagram Look out, Gotham, I m suited up and ready to go But just wait until Ryan Wilder puts her own spin on the Batsuit. @cwbatwomanA post shared by Javicia Leslie (@javicia) on Sep 25, 2020 at 6:02pm PDT