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Aziz Ansari's 'Master of None' renewed, Netflix originals flourish
According to Variety, Netflix has renewed "Master of None," its comedy-drama featuring actor and writer Aziz Ansari. This announcement didn't surprise television fans familiar with the quirky show and its parent company's recent accomplishments. Over the last five years, Netflix has developed a reputation for producing critically acclaimed and widely watched original content. Shows like "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black" are now considered cultural touchstones. Of course, the streaming service continues to capitalize on this buzz and regularly releases new programs, looking to score another streaming success. And, a few up-and-coming Netflix originals are poised to become once-in-a-decade hits.
"Grace and Frankie"
In this half-hour comedy Hollywood icons Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play Grace and Frankie, two aging women whose business-partner husbands leave them to be together. This shared crisis forces the pair to reassess their relationships and confront their less-than-positive feelings for each other. Critics have showered the show with praise for its light-hearted, late-life hijinks and unique dramatic core, reported The Atlantic. Fonda and Tomlin, both in their 70s, are uniquely equipped to play parts on a show that offers an unflinching take on aging.
"I did have a fantasy that we would live out this show in our lives," Tomlin said in an interview with The New York Times. "I don't know which one of us will go first, but that would all be a part of the series. If we get really serious about getting old."
"Marvel's Jessica Jones"
The film and television industry has nearly oversaturated the entertainment market with superhero movies and shows. Since 2010, studios have released over 60 films or television series based on comic books or graphic novels, reported CNBC. Netflix latched onto this trend this past fall when it put out "Marvel's Jessica Jones." However, the show isn't your run-of-the-mill superhero project.
The series centers on Jessica Jones, an ex-hero who works as a private investigator in New York City. The leather-clad, hard-drinking Jones deals with demanding clients, fights old foes and instigates a few bar brawls. Reviewers say the show addresses issues most superhero-themed works fail to dissect, including addiction, self-doubt and failure. According to The Atlantic, viewers can actually identify with Jones, a herculean hero plagued by ordinary inner demons.
"Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"
Comedian Ellie Kemper stars in this off-the-wall comedy about a woman who moves to New York City following a 15-year-long stint as an imprisoned member of an underground doomsday cult. The series follows the ever-positive Schmidt as she navigates a new world filled with alien technology and unfamiliar cultural norms. Saturday Night Live alum and "30 Rock" creator Tina Fey produces the show which has so far received seven Primetime Emmy Award nominations. Fey originally pitched "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" to NBC but the network passed, reported The New Yorker.
The show is clearly a Fey creation and features plenty of the same semi-surrealist bits that made "30 Rock" a kooky hit. The two shows also share cast members. Jane Krakowski, who earned four Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series as a cast member on "30 Rock," plays a pivotal role in "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt." As does Tituss Burgess who also appeared on Fey's former show.
Despite its airy trappings, "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" isn't all laughs, all of the time. In between the comedic fish-out-of-water situations, Fey intersperses cutting lines that subtly address serious topics such as post-traumatic stress disorder. The show also provides fascinating insights into the nature of viral Internet culture and, of course, show business.
Most network executives won't touch televised science fiction dramas. The storylines are stuffed with overcomplicated technology, the sets are expensive and most modern audiences won't wait around for essential dramatic elements to develop - they want their emotional payoff minutes into the pilot. Even showrunners heavily invested in the genre understand its pitfalls.
"The sheer magnitude of actually shooting an episode with feature-level production value every two weeks is borderline impossible," Damon Lindelof, creator of the defunct Fox fantasy show "Lost," said in an interview The New York Times.
"Sense8" is as complex as most science fiction series but has somehow found a way to develop a committed audience. Andrew and Lana Wachowski, the minds behind "The Matrix" franchise, and Joseph Straczynski, creator of "Babylon 5," produce the show which follows eight individuals from across the globe who are emotionally and neurologically connected. The characters, called "sensates," spend much of the series exploring this connection and its implications.
Critics lauded "Sense8" for its originality and ambition. Others have praised the show for the way it handles controversial topics like gender, religion and sexuality, reported Slate.
"Culturally, particularly in the last five, ten years in this country, we've been marginalized and factionalized in each inch of our lives. Politically, in terms of our discourse about sexuality and gender," Straczynski told BuzzFeed. "We thought we need to do something that deals with us as a species. It's a planetary story that shows we are better together than we are apart."
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