‘MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY’: SOPHISTICATED AND INTRIGUING – The Republic

Disney+ adapts "The Mysterious Benedict Society," based on a series of popular young adult novels by Trenton Lee Stewart.

At first glance, this seems like the latest fantasy about gifted juveniles sent off to a Hogwarts-style academy. But its different enough to be much more interesting than that.

The first episode follows dozens of grade-school-aged kids through a series of tests to get a coveted scholarship to an elite school. Not to give too much away, but at the end of a series of academic exams, feats of logic and tests of character, only four emerge to enroll in a "school" very different from what they anticipated.

Tony Hale and Kristen Schaal star as Mr. Benedict and his matronly assistant, Number Two. The fact that these two actors best known for their goofball characters are the "grownups" in the room says a lot about this series.

From the graphic design of its title sequence to the precise and peculiar art direction, "Benedict" seems like a fantasy series for young adults as it might be directed by Wes Anderson. Streets are spare and postcard perfect, like a toy model re-creation of Paris. For reasons unexplained, most of the cars are Citroen Deux Chevaux, trendy, underpowered, ragtop autos favored by the young French bohemian set in the 1950s and 60s.

While some may find this production a tad precious, it is also free from the loud, explosive special effects trickery that tend to dominate and prolong so many fantasies. The action often seems to unfold inside a jewel box.

In an obvious metaphor for contemporary society, "Benedict" unfolds against an atmosphere of crippling dread. Adults, children and overheard news reports speak of "the Emergency," a vague unease that appears to sap society and individuals of their ambitions. Mr. Benedict hints that a nefarious individual may be behind the crippling malaise. But perhaps Ive said too much.

The four young talents are relatively unknown performers. Two gentle boys (Mystic Inscho and Seth Carr) and a tomboy (Emmy DeOliveira) graduate from the days examinations. They are joined by Constance Contraire (Marta Timofeeva), a brutally opinionated young miss with a haughty Russian accent. She seems like a juvenile knockoff of Villanelle from "Killing Eve." Another reason "Benedict" should appeal to both its young audience and adult viewers.

Streaming on Apple TV+, "Who Are You, Charlie Brown?" profiles cartoonist Charles Schulz, whose "Peanuts" comic strip has delighted readers since 1950. "Who" begins as a cartoon with Charlie Brown assigned to write an essay about himself, something the depressive child finds impossible. Blending animated storytelling with live-action interviews with his widow, Jean, and dozens of performers and artists influenced by the strip, "Who" recalls Schulzs Minnesota origins as the son of the local barber, a shy boy with a gift for observation and drawing.

The first decade and a half of the "Peanuts" strip focus on Charlie Browns many disappointments. Around the mid- to late 1960s, Snoopy becomes an upright figure with a vivid fantasy life. Early "Peanuts" strips, with many scenes of skating and snow, seem influenced by Schulzs youth in St. Paul. Could the "Joe Cool" Snoopy era reflect Schulzs transformation into a wealthy Californian?

"The Choe Show" (10 p.m., FX, TV-MA) allows controversial artist David Choe to interview and literally illustrate guests, including figures from the worlds of tattoo art and pornography.

Eager to become a mother, a woman falls under the control of a "baby doctor" with hidden motivations in the 2021 horror movie "False Positive," streaming on Hulu. Starring and co-written by Ilana Glazer ("Broad City").

Returning series include the detective thriller "Bosch" (Amazon Prime) and the animated comedy "Central Park" (Apple TV+).

TONIGHTS OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Sheryl Underwood hosts the 48th Daytime Emmy Awards (8 p.m., CBS).

U.S. Olympic trials (8 p.m., NBC) features womens gymnastics.

The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra celebrates summer with selections by Strauss, Wagner, Offenbach, Puccini and more from the Schonbrunn Palace Gardens on "Great Performances" (9 p.m., PBS, TV-G, check local listings).

Frank confronts Jamie on "Blue Bloods" (10 p.m., CBS, r, TV-14).

CULT CHOICE

Summer erupts in the 1993 coming-of-age comedy "Dazed and Confused" (8 p.m., IFC), set on the last day of school in 1976 Texas. Directed by Richard Linklater.

SERIES NOTES

"WWE Friday Night SmackDown" (8 p.m., Fox, TV-PG) Luke Wilson hosts "Emergency Call" (8 p.m., ABC, TV-14) Whispers on "Charmed" (8 p.m. CW, TV-PG).

"20/20" (9 p.m., ABC, r) Old acquaintance on "Dynasty" (9 p.m. CW, TV-PG) "Dateline" (10 p.m., NBC, r).

LATE NIGHT

Jimmy Fallon welcomes Charlize Theron, Willie Nelson and Beabadoobee on "The Tonight Show" (11:35 p.m., CBS) Kenan Thompson, Juno Temple and Marina are booked on "Late Night With Seth Meyers" (12:35 a.m., NBC, r) Barack Obama and Kelly Rowland appear on "The Late Late Show With James Corden" (12:35 a.m., CBS, r).

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'MYSTERIOUS BENEDICT SOCIETY': SOPHISTICATED AND INTRIGUING - The Republic

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