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Are the Days of Anthologies Back? AMC's 'Soulmates' Thinks So
October 5, 2020  | By Mike Hughes  | 1 comment

In TV's early years, anthologies thrived.

They were inconsistent, but we forgot the bad moments and savored the good ones – Twilight Zone or Alfred Hitchcock or tales that became movies, from 12 Angry Men to Requiem For a Heavyweight.

And now – thanks to streaming and cable – they've made a mild comeback. AMC's Soulmates (10 p.m. ET, Mondays) joins a mini-trend that has included Modern Love, The Romanoffs, and Black Mirror, and the last in that list is from a Soulmates writer-producer.

Like Black MirrorSoulmates is set in the near future, when technology may be a tad too good. This time, it can peer into our souls and select an exact mate.

And like most anthologies, it's inconsistent. The first episode (Monday, Oct. 5) is relatively good; it's first because it explains the premise. The last one is disappointing; it's last because, well, it has to be somewhere.

But in between are four terrific – and wildly varied – episodes. One of the best is an odd delight that might remind you of Martin Scorsese's After Hours.

The film started with a reserved chap meeting a free-spirited woman, but in this case, both characters are men. "It's written by a gay man, directed by a gay man," Will Bridges, one of the Soulmates creators, told the Television Critics Association (TCA). "But it's not about being gay. It's just a fun story."

Bridges was a Black Mirror producer; now he and Brett Goldstein run this show, "telling love stories from different points of view…. Because it's an anthology, we can tell a different story every episode." 

They can also have a rich variety of actors, each hired for one episode. Charlie Heaton (Stranger Things) gives a particularly moving performance.

Some actors fit previous images. We expect David Costabile (top) to play someone mean – as he did in The Wire and does in Billions – and he does again here. Betsy Brandt was dead-serious in Breaking Bad, but many viewers know her from the Life in Pieces comedy; here, she's deeply tragic.

The actors seem to agree that they're glad no computer has linked them to a duplicate. Brandt's husband of 20 years works for a software company. "If my husband wasn't so different from me, I wouldn't be able to even get on this (internet) panel," she said.

Malin Akerman – who makes a fascinating duo with Heaton (16 years her junior) – agreed. "It definitely makes it more exciting and fun and challenging when you have someone who's different." 
Sarah Snook, who stars in the opener, says she asked actors and crewmembers what they would do. "It was pretty divided of who would take the (soulmate) test and who wouldn't."

Sonya Cassidy – who plays a richly enigmatic character opposite Costabile – agreed. "I like the excitement of meeting someone," she said. The ideal would include contrasts in many things "and being on the same page where it counts."

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J. Bloom
I'm a big fan of Black Mirror, which I always consider a Twilight Zone for the 21st Century. Sometimes, I just want to watch an episode of a TV show with a beginning, middle and an end and not have to binge watch a whole season to get to the conclusion of a series.
Oct 6, 2020   |  Reply
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