Television Reviews

The ‘Episodic Premieres’ Of SXSW 2021

One of my favorite things to catch at SXSW are the episodic premieres and being introduced to new shows. It’s nice to break up all the films with some shorter stories and this year definitely had great options, including a horror series I’m very excited about. I only had time to view the narrative ones, which included Made For Love, Cruel Summer, Them, and The Girlfriend Experience; all releasing very soon. So here are my spoiler-free first thoughts!

Made For Love

Starring Cristin Milioti, Ray Romano, Noma Dumezweni, and Billy Magnussen, Made For Love is a dark comedy following a woman who’s trying to escape from an overbearing husband, just as he moves to weld their consciousness together. It takes place in a recognizable future, exploring technological lifestyle advancements in a hilariously disturbing way. If Black Mirror had a comedic sibling, this would be it.

The pilot exudes a chaotic energy that Milioti does wonders with; and she’s well supported by her fellow castmates. We’re only given a small taste in the first episode, but its intriguing premise has me fairly hooked. This was definitely a hit and I’ll say if you enjoy off-kilter stories, you won’t want to miss this series when it begins April 1, 2021 on HBO Max.

Cruel Summer

In the aftermath of a popular girl (Olivia Holt) going missing, an outcast (Chiara Aurelia) takes her place before falling far from grace. Executive produced by Jessica Biel, Cruel Summer has something to it that’s enticing by episode’s end, but its execution doesn’t have me sold quite yet. I think it’ll certainly satiate the Pretty Little Liars crowd, but faults lie in that it overpowers the story with gimmicks.

The story takes place across three summer’s, and for the first episode it really needed more time to better establish each. It also tries to pack a lot of exposition into 45-minutes which just crowds the setup even further. And while I’m a big fan of nostalgic set pieces, I’m torn between the idea of setting the story in the 90s.

It’s on par with other projects that Biel has produced, specifically The Sinner, and this does feel like a teen version of that. The premise is there, it just needs to avoid packing too much too quickly. You can check it out for yourself on Freeform on April 20, 2021.


When a Black family relocates to a white neighborhood in Los Angeles in the 1950s, they will face terrors they could have never imagined. The series stars Deborah Ayorinde, Ashley Thomas, Melody Hurd, and Shahadi Wright Joseph as our main family, with Alison Pill portraying one of their menacing neighbors. As the series tackles the real horrors of racism, with some fictitious frights in the mix, it’s clear the show will be infuriating and horrifying in so many ways.

Focusing on the fictional aspects, the series boasts some incredibly creepy visuals that will undoubtedly freak viewers out. The pacing is great and I appreciated that no time was wasted in introducing us to these scares. On the other end, and more importantly, the series highlights the terrifying treatment and language used towards Black people. It adds a psychological element to the series that will really play with viewers emotions.

Them is certainly on its way to proving itself to be a quality horror series that’s not to be missed. The will be available on Amazon Prime Video starting Friday, April 9.

*Spoiler* I will warn that there is a deceased dog early in the series (insert sad face)

The Girlfriend Experience

In this third installment of the anthology series, we follow Iris (Julia Goldani Telles) as she moonlights as a high-end escort under “the girlfriend experience”, in order to improve an app she’s designing, one that’s aimed to make the perfect match. The season also stars Oliver Masucci and Frank Dillane, whom Iris meets in her dueling roles.

While I haven’t seen the previous two seasons of the series, the anthology aspect allowed me to jump in without much confusion. I wasn’t entirely a fan of the writing style, as it felt really cold, but the overall premise of the series has me intrigued. If you have STARZ, you may want to catch up with the series before the third season starts on May 2.

See more SXSW reviews:

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