The challenges of translating “serious” modern fiction to the screen are showcased in the ambitious and brilliant limited series “Fleishman Is in Trouble,” streaming exclusively on Hulu.
Toby Fleishman (Jesse Eisenberg) is the man on site. His soon-to-be ex-wife, Rachel (Claire Danes), has not only left him, but she is missing. Throughout the series, the story bounces back to Fleishman’s past to see how he and Rachel met, married, had children, and drifted apart.
Facing her departure, Toby confides in some old trusted friends, including Libby (Lizzy Caplan), a down-to-earth woman he hasn’t seen in years.
What Fleishman doesn’t do is tell his children about Rachel’s disappearance, call the police, or confide in mutual friends or enemies. These contrivances lead to the complications that propel this story ever more embarrassing.
The opening episode makes Eisenberg’s suddenly single status comical. A dedicated oncology specialist who entered medical school being a nerdy nerd, he is shocked to discover how desirable he has become as an independent doctor on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in the age of dating apps and instant hookups with no consequences.
Flashbacks reveal how part of the friction between Toby and Rachel stems from his status as a successful theatrical agent who rubs elbows with the ultra-wealthy. Only in the land of the 1% can a doctor making $300,000 a year be considered a “loser.” Rachel is constantly nagging him to cash in and work for a big pharmaceutical company or something more lucrative. She’s joined by Hannah (Meara Mahoney-Gross), their status-obsessed 11-year-old daughter, who finds her father’s social standing embarrassing.
With its emphasis on marriage, sex, infidelity, class, caste, and midlife angst, “Fleishman” might remind some readers of novels by John Updike, Philip Roth, Richard Ford, and others. Toby can also project the neuroses of more than a few Woody Allen characters, as well as their penchant for making moral judgments about social acquaintances and society at large. As in that director’s films, there is a fine line between self-importance and self-centeredness.
Many of Toby’s more annoying qualities are tempered by Libby’s point-of-view voice-over narration, the voice of an old college friend who probably wants to be more than a friend.
• Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) returns in the 2022 sequel to the 1982 holiday favorite “A Christmas Story Christmas,” streaming on HBO Max. Vince Vaughn co-stars in this nostalgia fest. This is not the first return to Cleveland Street. Daniel Stern starred in ‘A Christmas Story 2’ in 2012.
• “Gangs of London” airs its second season on AMC+.
• Green Bay Packers host Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football (6:15 p.m.), streamed on Amazon Prime.
MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM TONIGHT
• A wok on the wild side of “Hell’s Kitchen” (7pm, Fox, TV-14)
• A princess (Amy Adams) is exiled to the big city in the 2007 fairy tale “Enchanted” (7:00 PM, ABC, TV-PG).
• Stephen Colbert hosts “Pickled” (8:00 PM, CBS), a charity event featuring celebrities playing a popular new amateur sport.
• Not All Homicides Are Equal on “Alaska Daily” (9:00 PM, ABC, TV-14).
— OK, that was weird. The least anticipated story of the week was the scandal involving Felicity Huffman (“Desperate Housewives”) and “When Calls the Heart” star Lori Loughlin (Sundays 7 p.m., Hallmark, TV-G), in a conspiracy of bribery/cheating to get their respective daughters into elite universities.
This is obviously an ongoing case and all sides have their say, or day, in court. But the motivation at the heart of this story is worth discussing. It implies an overwhelming need to do anything to get children into elite schools. As if something “minor” was unthinkable.
Television plays no small part in this insecurity. I can’t remember how many times I’ve had to describe an ABC legal drama where every single character comes from only the most exclusive Ivy and spends most of the pilot bragging about it.
There was a time, not too long ago, when John Grisham wrote best-selling books about barely accredited young lawyers from no-name institutions who took on impossible cases against big corporations and ultimately won. And he took the girl, too.
So, our current age’s neurotic obsession with elitism and inequality is hardly hardwired.
If anything comes out of this sordid affair, it’s an appreciation that cheap attempts at snobbery are always essentially pathetic. Or on classic, comedic TV. Watching “Gilligan’s Island,” we identified with Mary Ann and the Skipper, and took pity on the millionaire and his wife.
— CNN releases four-hour documentary “Tricky Dick” (8:00 PM, Sunday), detailing the life and times of Richard Nixon’s public career, spanning the decades from the dawn of the Cold War to the Clinton years.
– An anxious new mother joins a group for solidarity and support, only to discover she has darker plans on her agenda in the shocker 2019 “Mommy Group Murder” (7 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).
– Thunder and Warriors meet in NBA action (7:30 p.m., ABC).
— An old kidnapper gets back into shape in “Ransom” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14).
— Featured on “60 Minutes” (6:00 p.m., CBS): Embassy workers in China and Cuba complain of mysterious ailments; AOL founder Steve Case and his plans to invest in the future of America’s neglected small towns; a visit to Munich.
— Duels begin on “World of Dance” (7 p.m., NBC, TV-PG).
— Auditions for “American Idol” continue (7:00 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
— Lex Luthor is on the loose in “Supergirl” (7 p.m., CW, TV-PG).
— Mr. Wednesday prepares for battle on “American Gods” (7:00 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).
— After learning of her royal lineage, an adopted 10-year-old becomes a petty tyrant in 2019’s shocker “Mommy’s Little Princess” (7 p.m., Lifetime, TV-14).
— A secret room contains dangers in “Charmed” (8 p.m., CW, TV-14).
– Hidden secrets revealed in “The Walking Dead” (8 p.m., AMC, TV-MA).
— Retrial begins on “The Case Against Adnan Syed” (8 p.m., HBO, TV-14).
— Ax is determined to destroy Taylor in the season 4 premiere of “Billions” (8 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
— Ulysses pursues conspiracy theory on “Now Apocalypse” (8 p.m., Starz, TV-MA).
— “Unsung” (8 p.m., TVONE) profiles the Jets.
— Pacific opening on “Madam Secretary” (9 p.m., CBS, TV-PG).
— Tensions rise on “Good Girls” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
— Mo’s past is revealed on “Black Monday” (9 p.m., Showtime, TV-MA).
— St. Patrick’s Day inspires many traditions. Syfy offers a marathon of “Leprechaun” movies, from “Leprechaun 5: In the Hood” (4pm Sat, TV-2pm) to “Leprechaun 2” (8pm). TCM takes the traditional approach, sporting the Technicolor clamor of director John Ford’s 1952 novel “The Quiet Man” (Sundays at 7 p.m., TV-PG).
“Dateline” (7PM, NBC, TV-PG) … “NBA Countdown” (7PM, ABC) … Kids Are Alright on “MasterChef” (8PM, Fox, r, TV- PG) … “48 Hours” (9 PM, CBS) … A vintage portion of “Saturday Night Live” (9 PM, NBC, r, TV-14).
A visit from an old friend inspires Miles in “God Friended Me” (7pm, CBS, TV-PG) … Homer can’t leave Bart’s virtual realm in “The Simpsons” (7pm, Fox, TV -14) … Empathy for all things “Bob’s Burgers” (7:30 PM, Fox, TV-14).
A walk down the aisle in “NCIS: Los Angeles” (8 p.m., CBS, TV-14) … In two episodes of “Family Guy” (Fox, TV-14), Meg’s Winter Olympics (20: 00), fights over a widow (8:30 p.m., r) … Aches and pains on “Shark Tank” (9 p.m., ABC, TV-PG).
A film producer (James Coburn) throws a party on his yacht with each guest a possible suspect in his wife’s murder in the 1973 whodunit “The Last of Sheila” (9:45 PM, TCM, TV-14), starring Richard Benjamin, Raquel Welch, Dyan Cannon, Joan Hackett and James Mason. Written by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins.
A Journey with the Scientists in “Young Sheldon” (7 p.m., CBS, r, TV-PG) … A home invasion claims a veteran’s life in “Law & Order” (7 p.m., NBC, TV -14) … Life ends in “Ghosts” (7:30 PM, CBS, TV-14) … A child murderer becomes a target in “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” (8 PM, NBC, TV-14) … Real Estate School on “Welcome to Flatch” (8:00 PM, Fox, TV-14) … Tapped on “Call Me Kat” (8:30 PM, Fox, TV-14) … Pearl’s disease defies prognosis on “Law & Order: Organized Crime” (9 p.m., NBC, TV-14).
Michelle Williams and ‘Pickled’ winners are booked for ‘The Late Show With Stephen Colbert’ (10:35 pm, CBS) … Jimmy Fallon welcomes Jessica Chastain, Martha Stewart and The Smile to ‘The Tonight Show’ ( 10:34 pm, NBC) … Patrick Dempsey, Nicholas Hoult, the Backseat Lovers and Billy Gibbons appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (10:35 PM, ABC) … David Duchovny, Sarah Jones & Arjuna Contreras Visit “Late Night With Seth Meyers” (11:37 PM, NBC) … Tracee Ellis Ross, Sosie Bacon, Erica Spera Appear in “The Late Late Show With James Corden” (11:37 p.m., CBS).
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