-Released on September 30, 2016

-Runtime 6 - 23 minute episodes

-Budget: Unknown

-Production Studio: Amazon Studio

-Distributor: Amazon Studios

-Something about television brings out the nostalgist in Woody Allen (well, y’know, even more than usual), and understandably – it’s a medium inextricably tied to his own early days. He got his start as a staff writer for The Colgate Comedy Hour, Sid Caesar specials, and sitcoms like The Gary Moore Show; in his stand-up and early (comic) filmmaking days, he was a fixture on Jack Paar, Ed Sullivan, Dick Cavett, and Merv Griffin’s shows, and even had a couple of prime-time specials. But after his Nixon-baiting Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story was yanked from PBS, he swore off the medium, and mostly stuck to his guns. His last major television project was a 1994 TV movie adaptation of his hit ‘60s play Don’t Drink the Water, in which he was now old enough to play the harried patriarch confounded by his times. [13]

 

-Woody Allen’s six-episode miniseries for Amazon, “Crisis in Six Scenes,” which runs just less than two and a half hours in total, is, in effect, his “American Pastoral.” Like Philip Roth’s 1997 novel, it’s a vision (a comedic one, where Roth’s is tragic) of a liberal suburban household, in the late nineteen-sixties, that’s thrown into turmoil by a young woman who commits an act of political terrorism. It has the virtues and the faults of Allen’s later films—which is to say that his ideas come to the fore in sharp focus, sketched with clear and decisive lines, but sometimes the sketchiness detaches them from the context of lived experience and turns them merely assertive and hermetic. [1]

 

-In “Crisis,” Allen writes himself back, in current form, into an time in which he was actually already anachronistic. Allen made his great breakthrough, with “Annie Hall,” not at the beginning of an era but at its end. He was already older than forty; he had twenty years of show biz behind him, and his nineteen-sixties weren’t an age of protest and activism but of trying to establish himself, tooth and nail, as the filmmaker that he had decided to become. “Crisis in Six Scenes” starkly conveys the wistful—yet not regretful—sense that his sixties were secondhand and spectatorial. [1]

 

-Above all, however, the core of the series is the secondhand experience not of the sixties as action but of the sixties as political rhetoric. It isn’t only Alan and Kay who are transformed by Lennie’s presence. Kay also delivers the political literature to the members of her book club, mainly elderly women, who become comically enthusiastic acolytes of violent revolution, spouting Mao’s aphorisms and eagerly, if obliviously, anticipating bloodshed. [1]

 

-This readiness of many people to fall for the virtuous-sounding but hollow, reckless, dangerous, and destructive rhetoric of dictatorial revolutionaries is the very through-line of the series. [1]

 

-Allen presents his Sid as the one sane man who, despite—or rather, because of—his neurotic inhibitions and practical artistic ambitions and ideals, remains invulnerable to such flights of grandiose and vapid thinking. As a portrait of the sixties, this relentless satire of revolutionary action serves to justify the course of Allen’s own ideas and activity, even as he hints at admiration for the fervor and daring of the revolutionaries themselves [1]

"Crisis in Six Scenes" Screening Companion

Woody’s Deal with Amazon

 

-According to Woody at the premiere of Crisis in Six Scenes, he had no intentions of doing a TV series, but Amazon was “the most persistent” over others. “They kept at it and they wouldn’t take no for an answer and kept improving their offer all the time,” said Woody. “So finally they won me over.” [8]

 

-Woody adds, “They said anything you want to do. 6, 12, 20, you know period, do it in Paris. Do it in California. Do it in the 1920s. Do it in black and white. Anything you want. Just show up with it, tell us how much you need to do with it and show up with it. So I did it.” [10]

 

-WA: “The only other deal I made with them was to put out Cafe Society. But I didn't want to put it out and then go stream [Crisis] right away, so we said it would have to be a normal putting out of a picture. It would have to play for several months in the theaters, the way I normally put a picture out — in a few theaters and then a larger amount. Depending on what the box office is, it either goes larger quickly or slower or whatever voodoo strategies those companies have. But that seemed fine with me. [10]

 

-WA: "I like working with [Amazon Studios] because they came to both projects—the movie and [Crisis]—with the understanding that I had 100 percent freedom in every aspect. Just completely free," he said. "They put up the backing and they come back when I'm finished. And they're very supportive and very intelligent and they understand how I work. They didn't come in and say, 'Well, we've backed these projects but we would like to know who you're casting.' Or 'We would at least like to read the script or at least get a synopsis.' But they said, 'We're buying you. We trust you. Do what you want.' … It's like artistic sponsors, like the Medicis." [5]

 

-Amazon Studio has committed to fully finance Woody’s next film with $25 million. It’s a Coney Island-set project will shoot in the fall and stars Kate Winslet, Jim Belushi, Justin Timberlake and Juno Temple and is expected to be released in summer 2017. [2]

On Working on a Film and TV Show in the Same Year

 

-I have regretted every second since I said OK. It’s been so hard for me. I had the cocky confidence, well, I’ll do it like I do a movie…it’ll be a movie in six parts. Turns out, it’s not. For me, it has been very, very difficult. I’ve been struggling and struggling and struggling. I only hope that when I finally do it — I have until the end of 2016 — they’re not crushed with disappointment because they’re nice people and I don’t want to disappoint them. I am doing my best. I fit it in between films, so it’s not like, no film this year, I’m doing Amazon. It’s a job within my usual schedule. But I am not as good at it as I fantasized I might be. It’s not a piece of cake; it’s a tough thing and I’m earning every penny that they’re giving me and I just hope that they don’t feel, ‘My God, we gave him a very substantial amount of money and freedom and this is what he gives us?’ [12]

 

-WA: “It was much harder to do than I thought. I thought, "I'll sandwich this in between two films and knock it off. What's the big deal? It's tele­vision." But over the years, television has made enormous strides, and wonderful things are being done on television. And I found as soon as I started to get into the project, I couldn't bring myself to slough it off because this is not television of 50 years ago, where every silly thing was acceptable. You're working in a medium that has grown up and has got wonderful things being done in it, and, yes, you may prove to be an embarrassment, but you don't want to be a total embarrassment.” [4]

 

-In an interview published on the day of Crisis in Six Scenes was released, Woody further expressed his struggles working on a episodic series: “I thought it would be a cinch. One half hour and then another half hour. But it’s not! It’s very, very hard, and I just hope that I don’t disappoint Amazon,” he said at the time. “I don’t watch any of those television series, so I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m floundering. I expect this to be a cosmic embarrassment.” [5]

 

-Crisis actor John Magaro, who was previously part of the ensemble in The Big Short, claims it's just Allen's way to be overly self-critical, saying of the filmmaker's initial comments, "Yeah, I read that. I feel like Woody says that about everything. I feel like every project he gets onto he beats himself up over and thinks why's he doing it. But I also feel like he loves the work. Every year he puts out a film. And this year, he put out a film [and a] TV series. He's already on to the next [film]." [5]

 

-Woody discussing if he would do another episodic series: "It would be tough. I don't know if I want to do more. It was very hard work," Allen told THR. "And I don't know if this one will work at all. People may see this and think, 'I hate this; he should stay in the movies.' Or they may say, 'I like it very much. I wish he'd do more.' And then it becomes a little tempting. But I'm not too tempted really." [5]

 

Is an Episodic Series the Wrong Format for Woody?

 

-WA: “I don’t even know what a streaming service is; that’s the interesting thing. When you said streaming service, it was the first time I’ve heard that term connected with the Amazon thing. I never knew what Amazon was. I’ve never seen any of those series, even on cable. I’ve never seen The Sopranos, or Mad Men. I’m out every night and when I come home, I watch the end of the baseball or basketball game, and there’s Charlie Rose and I go to sleep.”  [12]

 

-WA: “I’m like a fish out of water. Movies I’ve been doing for decades, and even the stage stuff, I know the stage and have seen a million plays. But this…how to begin something and end it after a half an hour and then come back the next time. It’s not me.” [12]

 

-It’s...a cautionary tale for a TV industry that’s increasingly enamored of hiring experts from the world of film: These might be two similar forms of media, but they’re different enough that one can’t simply move between them at will. [11]

 

-The best explanation I can come up with for how Allen approached the construction of Crisis in Six Scenes is that he simply filmed what amounted to a movie script, didn’t cut anything — even if it didn’t quite fit — and then arbitrarily split it into six episodes. [11]

 

-More troubling than Allen’s editing laziness, however, is how awkwardly it meshes with the episodic TV form. The first episode of Crisis in Six Scenes is all setup, and then the second episode introduces a new character before devolving into more setup. This utterly kills the story’s momentum, and even though it picks up in the second half of the season, there’s no guarantee most viewers will stick around that long. [11]

 

-Sam Wollaston for The Guardian wrote: “I doubt it’s as deliberate as that, though Crisis in Six Scenes is both disrespectful and ignorant of television as a medium.

 

-Amy Zimmerman for The Daily Beast wrote: “Crisis in Six Scenes doesn’t benefit from the creative license of its unconventional platform. Allen’s series doesn’t tell a new story, play with an established form, or shed light on under-represented characters. What it is, really, is mediocre Mad Men.”

 

-Tim Goodman for The Hollywood Reporter: “It's compelling in very infrequent, late-episode snippets and stacks up poorly against a plethora of current, artistically ambitious half-hours like FX's Louie, Atlanta, Better Things and You're the Worst; Amazon's own Transparent, Catastrophe, Fleabag and One Mississippi; and Netflix's Master of None, Hulu's Casual and Starz's The Girlfriend Experience. That's a short and probably incomplete list, but what it does, with some authority, is show that Allen either didn't take seriously his venture into television or he simply finished something that pales in comparison to numerous other half-hours that attempt, in some way, a higher-caliber combination of comedy and drama.”

 

-What surprises us about these comments is the feeling that critics haven’t watched a Woody Allen film in the last quarter century. Woody pumps out a critical darling every few years, but none of them have been called groundbreaking or truly innovative. To expect Woody to release such a series that played on the conventional television format is a bit nonsensical. Woody, time and time again says he doesn’t watch TV (outside of sports) and knows nothing of its current artistic state. Some could also argue he hasn’t released a innovative film since the 80s. To think Woody was going to release anything other than a chopped up movie, especially giving his time restraints of still releasing a film in the same year, is ignorant of the filmmakers methods. Many critics spend the majority of their reviews on such matters and less on the content itself. While none of this is a pass  for Woody releasing a mediocre or uninspired product, to be so surprised by it and overly focused on it, is a testament of many critics lack of knowledge of the filmmaker. [WAW]

 

-With all of that being said, did Woody do Amazon and his audience a disservice trying to release a six part television series and film in the same year (especially since Amazon is funding both)? Woody didn’t need to reinvent the TV wheel (like most critics are claiming he failed at doing), and maybe should have spent more time properly pacing and structuring his story to better fit a six part format. [WAW]

The Process of Making an Episodic Series

 

-When asked how is it different making a television series, Woody replied, “It isn’t reeely different. It’s the same thing. You cast, you have to write a script, you show up, direct the actors. It’s the exact same thing except they show it on television.” [10]

 

-Rachel Brosnahan echoed [John] Magaro's assessment, saying making the show "was like working on a movie." "We shot it like a movie. It wasn't split into episodes. He edited it into episodes later," the House of Cardsalum added, arguing that the set had the same communal, family-like feeling as a small indie film. [5]

 

-WA: “I figured it's a television show, What is it? Six half-hours? I'll knock it off like that,” he said. “It was hard work. The same hard work as doing a movie and even a little harder because you have to start and stop.” [6]

 

-Woody when asked if he’d do another TV series: “They have talked about it,” he said. “I don't know ... this was so hard to do for me that I don't know if I'd want to do it again. It was very hard.” [6]

 

-When Woody was asked if he regretted his decision to make a episodic series he said, “Oh, it’s amazing how you can regret. I haven’t had a pleasurable moment since I undertook it.” [12]

 

Trivia

 

-Crisis in Six Scenes will only be one season. [4]

 

-Just like on Allen’s film sets, actors only got their pages of the script and not the full script. [5]

 

-Crisis in Six Scenes in Miley Cyrus’s first TV series she’s done since her days on Disney's Hannah Montana. [7]

 

-According to Miley, Woody had her in mind when he wrote her role. [9]

 

-Woody’s thoughts on 1960s: “The 60s were a nice time for me. I was playing in a Broadway show. I had a big romance with Diane Keaton, and I started to emerge as a filmmaker. It was a very nice time in my life,” he recalled. “I have a nice memory of it, but I’m sure it wasn’t as nice as I remember.” [7]

 

-According to Miley, Woody has never meet anyone that owns a pig and it was “the one thing he got stuck on,” Miley told Jimmy Fallon. “Everyday for two months, he’d be like, ‘Can I see another picture of the pig?’” [8]

Critical Reception

 

-Tim Goodman for The Hollywood Reporter: “Looking at his motivation for the project through the prism of his comments, it's pretty obvious that he did it for the money, it was probably a bit of a headache and he prefers films — which likely means there won't be a second season. And that's probably a good thing. Because Crisis in Six Scenes isn't very good.

 

-Mike Hale for The New York Times wrote: In recent years, Mr. Allen’s movies have swung wildly in quality, alternating real highs (“Midnight in Paris,” “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”) with definite lows (“Hollywood Ending,” “Irrational Man”). “Crisis,” a six-episode mini-series available on Friday from Amazon, sits in between. It’s closer to the low end, but for fans of a certain earlier strain of his work, its shambling, amiable vibe may seem comfortingly familiar.”

 

-Sam Wollaston for The Guardian wrote: If it’s not quite crap – Allen’s direction is probably the best thing about it, plus it looks nice – then it’s certainly insignificant, lazy, lame. The comedy is light and so familiar (and so not very funny); the structure is naive – not really even six scenes (episodes), more like one big one sliced into six. The 60s setting feels incidental rather than integral or even relevant. And the acting is poor.”

 

-Daniel D’Addario for Time wrote: “If only Amazon—for many reasons, among them the work itself—had been quite so discerning. The number of artists with meaningful things to say had gotten a fraction of the money Allen presumably had to work with. Instead, a name certain to get curious clicks was given free rein. And Allen, trading off that name, tossed off a poorly-paced, dated statement that the world is fine and would be finer if he could be left in peace. Perhaps, given the quality of the work, it’s time to let him live out that dream.

 

-Sonia Saraiya for Variety wrote: “Cyrus as Lennie is an unfortunate mistake “Crisis in Six Scenes” cannot recover from; in some universe, the pop star’s hamfisted treatment of simple declarative sentences might be charming, but she’s obnoxiously flat, believable as neither a product of the ’60s nor an impassioned radical. One scene has her sleepwalking. It’s such a terribly unfunny rendition of comic somnambulism that it seems to exist only to pre-empt the joke that Cyrus is sleepwalking through the role.”

 

-Jason Bailey for Flavorwire wrote: “Crisis in Six Scenes certainly has its problems: too many weak buttons (as with most of Allen’s recent work, his apparent disinterest in second draft screenplays hurts the work), weirdly recycling the same music cues over and over (a habit that reached its apex with Irrational Man), an all-hands-on-deck climax that’s too self-consciously “madcap.” But it’s not half-assed, the way his recent films have been; it’s just relaxed, and the difference is key. Those who’ve sworn off his work (for any number of legitimate reasons) won’t find much here to lure them back. But Allen’s stalwart fans, for whom the annual Allen feature has become an occasion for cringes rather than delights, will have a pretty good time.”

 

-18% Rotten Tomato rating (As of Oct 4, 2016)

Cast

 

Woody Allen as Sidney J. Munsinger

Miley Cyrus as Lennie Dale

Elaine May as Kay Munsinger

John Magaro as Alan Brockman

Rachel Brosnahan as Ellie

Joy Behar as Ann

Mary Boyer as Linda

Marylouise Burke as Lucy

Margaret Goodman as Helen

Julie Halston as Roz

Sondra James as Rita

Margaret Ladd as Gail

Rebecca Schull as Rose

Mary Shultz as Andy

Barbara Singer as Carol

Becky Ann Baker as Lee

Lewis Black as Al

Gad Elmaleh as Moe

Steve Mellor as Narrator

 

Review Headlines

 

-The Guardian: Crisis in Six Scenes – Woody Allen's TV debut is lazy, lame and badly acted. But it looks nice

 

-The Daily Beast: ‘Crisis in Six Scenes’: Woody Allen Sabotages His Own TV Show

 

-San Francisco Chronicle: Allen has fun with first TV outing, ‘Crisis in Six Scenes’

 

-TIME: Woody Allen’s Crisis in Six Scenes Reveals a Crisis for Streaming Services

 

-The New York Times: ‘Crisis in Six Scenes,’ a Mere Ghost of Woody Allen Past

 

-Vox: Crisis in Six Scenes brings Woody Allen to TV. The movies can have him back.

 

-Flavorwire: Confounding Expectations, Woody Allen’s ‘Crisis In Six Scenes’ Is Actually Kinda Okay

 

Woody on Miley

 

-WA: “I met her for this project. I noticed years ago that my kids would be watching Hannah Montana. And I would say: "Who is that girl? She's got such a good delivery. You know, she snaps those lines off so well. The show is a silly little show, but she's very good at what she does." And then she emerged as a singer, and someone showed me a little clip of hers from Saturday Night Live, and I said, "It confirms what I always thought about her: She is very good, she is really a talented girl." She wanted to take some time off, but she [agreed to do the series] because the role interested her. So I met her right here [in a screening room].” [4]

 

-WA: “She came in here one day while the casting people were here. She came in and we chatted for a few minutes — a perfunctory chat, just getting to know the person. But I wanted to hire her. I didn't need that five minutes of silly chat.” [4]

 

-WA: “Miley’s a pleasure to work with. She couldn’t have been better,” Allen told Vanity Fair. "She has a great comic delivery. She’s really wonderful. Years later, she then emerged as a singer and as an actress, and I thought she would be great for this character. I took a chance and hired her. She exceeded my finest expectations. She’s 100 percent professional. She knows her work and comes in and hits her mark. She’s also sweet to everybody. She poses for pictures and signs all the autographs without complaining. I absolutely enjoyed working with her.” [7]

 

Miley On Woody

 

-Cyrus: “What I love about Woody Allen is that he’s never putting anything on. He’s never fake and he’s exactly who he is through and through. For me, I have the highest respect of anyone who is truly themselves. He even runs his set in a way that is truly him. He’s super-resourceful and he’s not over the top. The budget of the movie goes into the project. It doesn’t go into fuckin’ crème brûlée for everybody and a hot tub in your trailer,” she added. “It’s for the project. So the styling, the casting, the location, the sets, it’s all the best. He doesn’t use anything that’s luxury and a waste of money, which I really like. I think every set should be like his.” [7]

 

-Cyrus: “I was playing so much of myself that I wasn’t really feeling any pressure as an actress. I had so much fun, and it was the best experience. I learned a lot by watching the way he worked. I love that I didn’t have to do things a million times. There is like magic in the way he does things and gets the right angles. He sets everything up in the right way, where you do two takes. You don’t do multiple takes. You don’t do multiple angles. He’s done this for such a long time that he’s perfected what he wants, so the actors aren’t like, in a vegan saying, beating a dead horse. He’s really awesome.” [7]