Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
Oops… She did it again. Britney Spears has captured the nation's attention, but this time it's for an entirely different reason.
Framing Britney Spears premiered ten days ago on FX and is now available on Hulu. This New York Times documentary examines the pop star’s conservatorship held by her father Jamie, and the ongoing court battle that has ensued. But there's so much more to this doc than that.
Britney has been "away" long enough to draw a fraction of the interest she once held. We’ve all had our opinions about Britney. She was all over pop music in the 90s, all over the tabloids in the 00s, and an enigma throughout the 10s. The pop star was everywhere, yet no one really knew much about her.
This doc is well crafted. The first part examines Britney's childhood and how she broke into the industry at such a young age. Her early appearances are reminiscent of the recent Tiger Woods doc — how could this amazingly talented child ever miss? She didn't.
When Britney hits it big in pop music, she's a young teen thrust into the limelight that she (and her parents) craved. I remember my daughters singing Britney songs over and over again. The kid from Kentwood, Louisiana was a global superstar before she turned 16.
The videos in the documentary of Britney at this age are telling. She's mature for her years, seems very much in control, and enjoying every minute of her pop success. When I see stars rise at this age I always wonder — where are the parents and how are they dealing with their child's success?
The controversy starts to build and no one escapes unscathed. Tabloid reporting. News anchors. Talk show hosts. Boy band lead singers. Misogyny galore. Kevin Federline and the kids enter the picture, and the paparazzi cranks it up a notch. Who needs who? Britney divorces and the custody battle begins. She starts to slip away, but really, who could hold it together under that pressure?
Britney snaps. She shaves her head wanting to establish some control. Rolling Stone, Us Magazine and the rest of the world is there to watch. When the conservatorship is established, it made a lot of sense to the outside world. Britney was out of control and who better to trust than her dad looking out for her best interests. But is that what Jamie is doing?
Britney returns and the money rolls in… to the conservatorship. Her Vegas residency is big dollars, until Britney decides to stop and take control. At least that's what we think.
The main drawback of Framing Britney Spears is that we only see one side of things. The Spears family doesn't chime in. Who knows how damaging Britney was to her own cause? To quote the pop star, she's not that innocent, but you get the feeling she never stood a chance with her parents at the helm of her career.
This documentary is must-see and makes you feel for Britney. She's a star, but she’s anything but lucky (I'll stop now with the lyrics). I'm all for #FreeBritney, but let's get the full story first.
This week we've got a British love triangle, a fake space race, and the Farrow/Allen saga to explore…
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
Behind Her Eyes (NETFLIX)
Wednesday, February 17th
Another British import adapted from a best-selling book - and this one works from the get-go. A secretary gets caught between love for the boss and a friendship with his wife and awkwardness oozes everywhere.
The "something's not right here" vibe persists through all six episodes. Simona Brown is excellent as the lead Louise, and her boss Tom Bateman (good looking Scottish actor) and his wife Eve Hewson (good looking Euro with a short haircut) play quite the odd couple.
The end of the book earned its #WTFthatending hashtag, and I look forward to getting to the final episode to learn what's really going on here. Enjoy the ride.
For All Mankind (APPLE TV+)
Friday, February 19th Season 2 premiere
Never bet against Ronald D. Moore. All of his shows aren't hits, but there are few who write outer space drama better than the guy who successfully rebooted Battlestar Galactica.
The second season of the what-if premise of Russia getting to the moon before America has fun with the different path history could have taken. The astronaut struggles continue as Moore clearly has fun with his fake space race.
There are stretches where the show gets caught up in its own drama, but when it clicks there's some fantastic television to behold. It's not The Right Stuff, but it sure feels like you're inside NASA when these missions that never happened happen. Watch trailer.
Allen v. Farrow (HBO & HBO MAX)
Sunday, February 21st 9pm
This new documentary uses archival footage and interviews to examine a story we've become all too familiar with. Woody Allen has never been charged of a crime, but claims of his taking advantage of his then 7 year old daughter persist.
Controversy is no stranger to the Oscar winning filmmaker who quoted Dickinson when referring to his relationship with Mia's daughter Soon-Yi — "the heart wants it wants." When I lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in the early 90's, I once passed Woody and Soon-Yi on a neighborhood stroll. I've always been in awe of Woody's comedy, but his relationship choices leave me shaking my head. I gave a quick wave of appreciation for his work, and they both politely smiled and waved back. They were a happy couple, but I couldn't help think of Mia and her family dynamic.
This four-part series sheds light on the controversy as it explores Woody's controversial personal choices and Dylan's quest to bring his truth to light. I always preferred Woody Allen's comedies to his dramas. This real-life drama is too compelling not to pay close attention to.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Wear a two masks. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.