Picks of the Week offers Women and Hollywood’s top recommendations — women-driven and women-made movies, series, VOD releases, and more — and tells you why they are worth your time and money.
Batwoman (Series) – Created by Caroline Dries
“Batwoman” showrunner Caroline Dries (“The Vampire Diaries”) has said that bringing the caped crusader to TV has been “really intimidating.” She explained, “I think of it as sort of two emotions, excitement and pride, to be able to be one of the voices that get to bring a character like this into our living rooms at the forefront of a TV show, as the lead character.”
“Batwoman” isn’t just a female-led superhero story — further distinguishing the show is the fact that its titular character, also known as Kate Kane, is a lesbian. And she’s played by “Orange Is the New Black’s” Ruby Rose, a proud LGBTQ activist and lesbian. This isn’t the kind of origin story we’re used to seeing in Gotham, and it’s a welcome change.
Set three years after Batman has disappeared, “Batwoman” sees Kate returning to Gotham after some time away. The city is in chaos. Her relationship with her father, who has created a private security force to protect Gotham, is complicated. After he confirms a long-held suspicion of hers, Kate realizes that if she’s going to make the kind of difference she wants, she’ll need to take matters into her own hands. She borrows Batman’s suit and weapons to do so.
“Batwoman’s” pilot offers us glimpses into Kate’s past, including the tragedy that led to her mother and sister’s deaths. We also witness Kate being discriminated against for her sexual orientation — and how homophobia affected her relationship with her then-girlfriend.
Like much superhero fare, “Batwoman” is dark and gritty, but the series does hint that Kate has a sense of humor. Hopefully we’ll get to see more of that. In general, the series would benefit from doing less telling and more showing — relationship dynamics and characters’ thoughts and feelings are often made too explicit. (Laura Berger)
“Batwoman” premieres October 6 on The CW.
Almost Family (Series) – Developed by Annie Weisman
The excellent Australian drama “Sisters” gets a U.S. update in Fox’s “Almost Family.” For those of you who have seen the original, the overall premise — a woman discovers her renowned fertility doctor dad has fathered dozens of other children with his patients via IVF, without their consent — is the same. (And as nuts as that may sound, it’s happened in real life. More than once.) Like its source material, “Almost Family’s” primary focus is on protagonist Julia’s (Brittany Snow) newfound relationship with her two half-sisters, type A lawyer and former bestie Edie (Megalyn Echikunwoke) and troubled fading celebrity Roxy (Emily Osment).
While “Almost Family” can sometimes feel like a sanitized version of “Sisters” — it features a lot less cursing and sex, for example — it’s also slightly more woke. While all three sisters were white in the original, Edie is mixed-race in the reboot, and she’s open about how her blackness made her feel marginalized growing up. Additionally, “Almost Family” is more explicit than “Sisters” regarding the damage Dr. Bechley (Timothy Hutton) inflicted when he decided to use his own sperm on women looking to conceive. It’s not only a breach of medical ethics: it’s a form of sexual assault. The not-so-good doc repeatedly stole women’s reproductive autonomy. He took advantage of people who trusted him.
Developed by Annie Weisman (“The Path”), “Almost Family” is still finding its footing. Despite its candor about Dr. Bechley’s transgressions, it can be a bit toothless. Still, it’s an effective springboard for discussion about reproductive rights, the spectrum of sexual violence, and the havoc “brilliant” men often wreak. It’s imperfect but worth hanging out with — just like family itself. (Rachel Montpelier)
“Almost Family” premiered October 2 on Fox. New episodes will air on Wednesdays.
New and Returning TV Shows On Our Radar
Raising Dion – Created by Carol Barbee (Netflix, October 4)
Madam Secretary – Created by Barbara Hall (CBS, October 6)
Supergirl – Created by Ali Adler, Greg Berlanti, and Andrew Kreisberg (The CW, October 6)
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