Saturday, March 18, 2023

Alaska Daily and The Company You Keep Prove Network TV Is Not Dead


Scott D. Parker

Remember a few weeks ago when I lamented the end of New Amsterdam and wondered if there would be any more network TV shows I’d watch? Well, it didn’t take long before two very different shows landing on my viewing schedule.

Alaska Daily

Curious about the throughline of the series—the disappearance and murder of indigenous women in Alaska—the wife and I watched the pilot of Alaska Daily, the new show starring Hilary Swank. She plays Eileen Fitzgerald, a famous New York investigative reporter in New York who gets fired for asking too many questions. Amid her public humiliation, her old boss, Stanley (Jeff Perry) shows up. He has a job for her: investigating the systemic crisis of murdered and missing indigenous women in Alaska. The sticking point is, obviously, that the new job is in Alaska. Stanley knows Eileen and all he has to do is get her hooked on the story.

She gets hooked and she moves to Alaska where we promptly have a fish-out-of-water story mixed with a this-is-how-we-do-it-in-the-big-city story. But it works well.

The indigenous women story is the season-long arc and little pieces are uncovered in each episode. But you also get a story of the week. In each episode, you’ll see some of Eileen’s fellow reporters either get rubbed the wrong way because of her or learn something from her that they can then use. It’s a good push-pull dynamic.

Two things particularly stand out. One is obvious: the importance of journalism, especially local journalism. In episode 7, Eileen has a long conversation with another character who thinks all she does is twist facts around. She counters the argument by pointing out things that reporters have contributed to society. It’s a general “If not us, who?” argument that I find matches the tone of 2023.

The other aspect of this show I really dig is Eileen herself. She’s single-minded in her devotion to her job, so much so that she sacrifices personal relationships. She’s a loner, and her lover is being a reporter and uncovering the story. We’ve seen characters like this before, but they’ve almost all be male. With Eileen, you get the female version of it, and it’s refreshing.

I find it fascinating that the topic of violence against indigenous women is featured not only on this American network TV show but also on Amazon’s Three Pines. Perhaps with more exposure, more can be done to stop this crisis.

The Company You Keep

On the other end of the ledger is another new show, The Company You Keep. We saw the trailer while watching America’s Funniest Videos one Sunday evening and were intrigued. I didn’t watch This Is Us but I knew the Milo Ventimiglia starred on it. Milo’s also in this show opposite Catherine Haena Kim. He’s a con man named Charlie from a family of con artists: mom, dad, and older sister. She’s a CIA operative named Emma, daughter of a retired senator whose brother is running for his dad’s seat, and no one in the family knows she works for the government.

In the pilot, Charlie’s family earn $10 million from a job but Charlie’s fiancĂ©e steals it. Emma discovers her partner is having an affair. Charlie and Emma meet at a hotel bar and a weekend of passion ensues. But they are both secret about their real selves and real jobs. Naturally, they fall for each other but still keep up the mysterious fronts. Cut to the end of the pilot where the bad guys who used to own that $10 million show up at Charlie’s family bar. They demand repayment plus interest, and you have this show’s schtick: A Con of the Week.

And it’s so much fun. It doesn’t hurt at all to have Milo and Catherine look so dang good and look good together. As the credits rolled from the pilot, I said to my wife, “Ah, so it’s pretty people doing cons every week. I’m in.”

The supporting cast is fun, especially William Fichtner as Charlie’s dad. He’s good in just about everything he’s in, but a particular favorite is his role in the 1999 movie, Go. James Saito plays Emma’s dad, an actor who has been in a ton of things, but I particularly enjoyed him in the old Eli Stone TV show.

If you are a fan of heist stories, you’ll probably get a kick out of this.

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