Susanne Bier, the Danish director of the AMC miniseries “The Night Manager,” has made films that have been nominated for two Oscars, including the 2011 Best Foreign Language Film winner, “In a Better World.” But when the celebrated filmmaker was offered the television adaptation of the John Le Carré spy novel, she found she could not say no.
“I have been attracted to television for a while now because there is just so much going right in television,” Bier told TheWrap. “I was also tempted by the idea of something longer than two hours. I’ve also always been a fan of John Le Carré, so all of these factors made the project irresistible to me.”
The miniseries follows former British soldier Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) as he attempts to infiltrate the inner circle of notorious arms dealer Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie).
“It was exactly like working on a six-hour movie,” said Bier, who directed all six episodes. “It shot sort of randomly. You do a scene from Episode 2 in the morning and a scene from Episode 6 in the afternoon. So for me as a director it was like having three chessboards running at the same time.”
One thing Bier insisted upon, however, was not letting her female characters fall into the roles women typically occupy within the spy genre.
“I was quite keen on making the women breathe,” she said. “One of the things that has always been a part of this genre is that it is a white, male world. I was quite keen to let the women not just be an extension of the men but be characters on their own.”
To that end, Bier was not fazed when she learned that Olivia Colman, who plays British operative Angela Burr, was pregnant. “I thought, ‘That is great for the character,'” she said. “I thought it gave the character a lot of depth. It ups the stakes.”
"Underground" offers a compelling look at the Underground Railroad, a part of American history that has largely been ignored by Hollywood (though the announcement that Harriet Tubman will grace paper currency has made it timely). Topnotch performances, great writing and excellent production design make this freshman series from WGN America a show worth watching.
Gaby Hoffman of "Transparent" seems like the easy choice for most dysfunctional of Amazon's Pfefferman clan, but don't discount the subtle and heartbreaking work of her onscreen siblings Amy Landecker and Jay Duplass. They're just as broken as their sister, and as desperate for their true identities as their transitioned former father, Maura.
HBO's underrated dramedy set in the geriatric ward of a B-list hospital is caustically brilliant, with standout turns by Laurie Metcalfe as a delusional doc and Alex Borsten and Niecy Nash as put-upon nurses. (June Squibb also deserves attention for her guest turn as a foul-mouthed patient.)
"Veep" always has the best insults on television, and the best Veep insults are always directed at Timothy Simon's Jonah Ryan, the most deliciously dunderheaded and misguidedly ambitious comic foil on any show anywhere.
"Horace and Pete"
Louis C.K. says he went into debt to finance this dark, online-only comedy about two middle-aged bar owners (C.K. and Steve Buscemi) and their troubled clientele. The writing is daring (in the premiere almost three minutes pass before a line of dialogue is uttered) and the cast (Alan Alda, Edie Falco, Jessica Lange) superlative.
Krysten Ritter's comedic roles in the past could not have prepared audiences for her dark and dramatic turn as Marvel and Netflix's titular superhero Jessica Jones, but the whiskey-chugging, traumatized victim-turned vigilante looks just right on her.
No comedy in the last year featured an ensemble cast as strong or as well-utilized as Fox's "Brooklyn Nine-Nine". Led by Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher, the show's large cast has only gotten better with time, delivering the strongest season yet for the best workplace sitcom on the air.
This British period drama about gangsters in the 1920s--think "Boardwalk Empire" in Birmingham--is stylish and gritty, with a magnetic lead performance by Cillian Murphy as real-life mobster Tommy Shelby. Michael Mann, Snoop Dogg, Leonard Cohen and the late David Bowie are (or were) all fans, which ought to be recommendation enough.
"Hannibal" went off the air before its fans were ready to say goodbye, and just as its quality was peaking. An Emmy for Bryan Fuller's creepy and complex cannibal drama would be a nice consolation prize in lieu of more seasons.
A series about two strangers who decide to marry after their one-night stand results in a pregnancy is fertile ground for bawdy humor, but stars and co-creators Sharon Horgan and Rob Delaney don't play it all for laughs (though there are plenty). By zeroing in on the challenges--sexual dysfunction, poopy diapers--that face parents on the brink of middle age, their U.K.-set show shines a smart, sassy light on all of the wicked and wonderful catastrophes that life has to offer.
Eva Green is in her third season of battling the devil on Showtime's "Penny Dreadful," and she's overdue for her some Emmy recognition for her work as the steely-eyed medium Vanessa Ives. Week after week, Green delivers one of the most underrated and electrifying performances on television, at once conveying a seamless blend of confidence, vulnerability, pain and terror.
The series is deservedly getting Outstanding Drama Series consideration, but Lifetime's dark and twisted drama would be nothing without its leading lady. Shiri Appleby's Rachel is a sociopath who's as broken as she is masterful.
Keegan-Michael Key richly deserved his 2015 acting nomination, but his partner in "Key & Peele" shouldn't be overlooked. He might not be as exuberant as Key, but Peele was a sly comic superstar in the show's final season.
"Please Like Me"
Writer-star Josh Thomas' funny-sad show about a gay Australian twentysomething maintained a sharp, bittersweet edge in its third season on Pivot--as Josh's alter ego overcame his many insecurities and emerged as the unlikely stable one surrounded by ever-needier friends and family.
"You're the Worst"
Starring Chris Geere and Aya Cash as a couple of cranks learning to be in a relationship and Kether Donohue and Desmon Borges as best friends with their own issues, You're the Worst added an impressively nuanced depression arc this season that brought new dimensions to its characters, deepened its storytelling and proved the show is capable of reaching great heights even outside its initial premise.
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For your consideration, TheWrap recommends dark horses like Eva Green, Jordan Peele and ”Getting On“