Review: ‘The Columnist,’ starring Katja Herbers

May 12, 2021

by Carla Hay

Katja Herbers in “The Columnist” (Photo courtesy of Film Movement)

“The Columnist”

Directed by Ivo van Aart

Dutch with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Amsterdam, the satirical horror film “The Columnist” features a predominantly white cast (with a few biracial/black people) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A seemingly mild-mannered newspaper columnist becomes a serial killer when she starts murdering her online harassers.

Culture Audience: “The Columnist” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching revenge stories with a dark comedic tone.

Katja Herbers in “The Columnist” (Photo courtesy of Film Movement)

Make no mistake: “The Columnist” is not a truly feminist film. It’s a male exaggerated fantasy of a woman getting revenge on her male harassers by killing them. These two types of movies should not be confused with each other. The operative word in “The Columnist” is “fantasy,” because what happens in the movie is such hyper-surrealism that it can’t be taken completely seriously. And that seems to be the point, because “The Columnist,” for all of its flaws, is ultimately an incisive, satirical look at how revenge can be hollow if a bullied person becomes worse than the bullies.

“The Columnist” is a Dutch film that takes place in Amsterdam, but the story could be set anywhere in modern society. The movie was directed by Ivo van Aart and written by Daan Windhorst (two men), and this “male gaze” perspective is present during every single second of “The Columnist,” even though the main character in “The Columnist” is a woman. There’s absolutely no nuance or subtlely to this violent story, but at least it doesn’t become insufferable by having the female character spout cliché-ridden, pseudo feminist lines in an attempt to pass “The Columnist” off as a pro-female film. “The Columnist” is really just an artsy slasher flick, but it’s not quite a terrifying horror film because there’s really nothing too scary about it.

“The Columnist” might get some comparisons to the Oscar-winning “Promising Young Woman,” another female revenge movie that mixes drama and satirical comedy that is far superior to “The Columnist.” “Promising Young Woman” was written and directed by a woman (Emereld Fennell) and has a more authentic, less cartoonish depiction of an intelligent woman out for revenge in a society that enables toxic masculinity. In “Promising Young Woman,” writer/director Fennell kept the movie grounded in reality, although some viewers had a problem with the movie’s surprise ending.

However, the female protagonist in “Promising Young Woman” did something that the female protagonist in “The Columnist” does not do: She gave her victims a chance to redeem themselves by letting them live and possibly learn from their mistakes. Instead of killing her victims, the female protagonist in “Promising Young Woman” shrewdly (and often at risk to her own safety) made her targets take a very uncomfortable look at how their actions are part of rape culture. By contrast, the female protagonist in “The Columnist” just yells at and berates her victims before she murders them.

Whenever male writers and directors do a movie about a woman out for murderous revenge, they often make the mistake of depicting only men as the villains in the movie, in order to “justify” this woman going on a killing spree. One of the reasons why “Promising Young Woman” resonated with so many people is that it didn’t use this extreme and unrealistic trope. The protagonist in “Promising Young Woman” has a very loving and supporting father, and the movie authentically shows that women can be just as cruel as men when it comes to perpetuating misogyny.

“The Columnist” starts off with a somewhat predictable “battle of the sexes” scenario. Newspaper columnist Femke Boot (played by Katja Herbers) and horror novelist Steven Dood (played by Bram van der Kelen) are on a TV talk show, debating how online bullies (also known as “trolls”) should be handled by society. (By the way, “dood” means “death” in Dutch.) Real-life Dutch journalist Matthijs van Nieuwkerk plays a version of himself, as the talk show host. Femke has been the target of vicious online bullying by men, and this harassment is brought up in the discussion.

Femke says she doesn’t believe that Internet companies should bear all of the responsibility of punishing online bullies. She explains, “Our culture has to change. These days, we think it’s so normal that someone else, the person we don’t agree with, that they are our enemy.” Femke advocates for open exchange of different ideas, as long as people can disagree in a polite and civil manner.

Steven—who looks like a semi-Goth with heavy eyeliner and fingernails painted black—scoffs at Femke’s idealistic wishes. His response is, “This is just an old-fashioned campaign for decency.” The movie never explains why Steven was selected to be Femke’s adversary on the show. Is he a toxic person who doesn’t have a problem with online bullying? Or is he someone who thinks that governments and corporate entities shouldn’t interfere with freedom of speech? Or is it both?

Viewers don’t really find out why Steven is in direct opposition to Femke in this talk show discussion, because this TV debate scene ends very quickly, after just a few minutes. Femke is then seen riding her bike home from the TV station while it’s dark and pouring rain outside. She’s dressed in a way that she could easily catch a cold from this bad weather.

The movie never explains why Femke would choose to ride her bike in this torrential rain when she could presumably afford to call for a rideshare van to give her a ride home with her bike stowed in the back. When she comes home, she’s in a gloomy and seemingly empty house. The only conclusion that viewers can make from this scene is that the filmmakers want to make Femke look pitiful and to garner sympathy for her.

Femke, who is divorced, actually doesn’t live alone. She’s the mother of a strong-willed daughter named Anna (played by Claire Porro), who’s about 16 or 17 years old. Femke’s ex-husband/Anna’s father is never seen in the movie, but he’s briefly mentioned later when Anna has an argument with Femke and says in anger that she wants to live with her father. Femke and Anna have occasional mother-daughter spats, but they generally have a good relationship.

After coming home from the talk show appearance, Femke checks her online messages and finds more men bullying her. One calls her a “fake feminist” who’s only interested in “flirting with Matthijs.” Another says, “I hope they rough up her daughter.” Another one says, “I know where you live.”

These ominous threats prompt Femke to post a message that she’s quitting social media. She de-activates her accounts but she doesn’t delete them. And throughout the story, she continues to obsessively check what people are saying about her online. The bullying goes beyond calling her derogatory names. Eventually, the trolls start spreading lies that Femke is a pedophile and that she keeps children as sex slaves.

Even though Femke and Steven were at opposite sides of the debate on the TV talk show, it just so happens that Femke’s daughter Anna is a fan of Steven’s work. The day after the talk show appearance, when Femke and Anna are having breakfast together, Femke sees that Anna is reading one of Steven’s books. Femke asks Anna if the book is any good, and Anna says yes. Femke then tells her daughter that Steven might be a talented writer, but he’s not a nice person in real life.

Femke and Anna might not agree on their favorite writers, but one of the things that Femke and Anna have in common is that they’re both passionate about freedom of speech. The issue of freedom of speech is an ongoing theme throughout the movie, because freedom of speech is often used as an excuse for bullying that involves words. Anna seems to want to follow in her mother’s footsteps of being a journalist, because she’s a writer on her high school’s newspaper.

However, Anna runs into problems when the school principal (played by Harry van Rijthoven), who doesn’t have a name in the movie, disapproves of an editorial column that Anna wrote that has a lot of criticism and scrutiny of the school’s upcoming business merger. The headline of the column reads, “Merger? Fucking Dumb.” Anna and the principal have an argument about the article, and Anna refuses his demand to back off from the story. And so, the principal expels her from the newspaper staff.

It seems as if the principal doesn’t have a name because he’s the filmmakers’ obvious symbol of patriarchy. Anna ends up staging protests at the school about freedom of speech. Femke is completely supportive of her daughter’s activism. And when Anna invites Femke to give a speech at her school during one of these protest rallies, Femke doesn’t hesitate to say yes. This rally is a pivotal part of the movie.

Femke works for Volkskrant, a well-known Dutch daily newspaper that is described by many as politically “centrist”—neither very liberal nor very conservative. Femke’s column appears in the paper, as well as on the newspaper’s website Volkskrant.nl. Based on what’s shown in the movie, Femke writes a column about women’s issues. Her editors expect the column to cover what they consider to be traditionally “female” topics, such as cooking, parenting and love/romance.

However, Femke has become increasingly opinionated about her politically liberal viewpoints in her column. It’s implied that her political opinions have angered some people in the public, which has led to her being the target of online abuse. The movie goes way over-the-top in showing that the only people who harass Femke are men.

The female criticism that Femke gets is gentler and more subtle. Femke’s boss Uitgever (played by Medina Schuurman) is also the editor of an upcoming novel that Femke is having problems completing due to writer’s block. The day after her talk show appearance, Uitgever tells Femke that she should have promoted her book during the interview. She also chastises Femke about the content of Femke’s column, by saying that Femke’s readers just want to be entertained, not told how to think.

In another scene, Femke and a friend/co-worker named Renate (played by Jessica Zeylmaker) are shopping for clothes together. Renate knows about the online bullying that Femke is getting. Renate advises Femke to stick to personal stories in her column and avoid talking about politics in her work. Renate also says if the online harassment and death threats were so bad, Femke would’ve gone to the police instead of going on a TV talk show.

And so, sure enough, the next scene is of Femke at a police station to report the online harassment. The police officer on duty (played by Seno Sever) is condescending and dismissive. The cop tells Femke that what she’s experiencing is no different than what kids experience in school when they’re being bullied. He also says, “The Internet isn’t real.” Needless to say, Femke doesn’t get to file a police report.

Femke’s boss Uitgever doesn’t give any support either. And technically, Femke’s employer might not be required to do anything to help her, since the online harassment is on Femke’s personal social media accounts, not the company’s. Uitgever is so callous about Femke being targeted by online bullies, that at one point Uitgever suggests that some of the bullies’ insults be included on the cover of Femke’s upcoming novel, which is about a serial killer.

While all of this turmoil is happening in Femke’s life, the movie takes a somewhat inexplicable turn by having Femke and her seeming arch-enemy Steven end up as lovers. One minute, Femke and Steven see each other at a book signing for another author. The next minute, they’re in bed together. Viewers are left to speculate that maybe there was an attraction between Femke and Steven all along, but there are no flashbacks scenes or any mention of any contact that Femke and Steven might have had before they were on the same talk show together.

Femke and Steven start seeing each other on a regular basis, to the point where Steven spends a lot of time at Femke’s house. But they don’t have a traditional romance of going out together on dates. Instead, aside from sleeping together and having meals together, the only things that Steven and Femke do together is sit side by side on their laptop computers when they are writing.

This contrivance is meant to show the contrasts when Steven seems to write with ease, while Femake struggles with writer’s block. Later, when she goes on her killing spree, her creativity increases, as if to signify that killing her oppressors is a “freeing” experience for her. It’s a metaphor that’s a little too “on the nose,” but it’s tolerable only because the movie eventually shows that Femke gets no real satisfaction from these murders.

The first murder happens when Femke finds out that one of her online harassers happens to be her next-door neighbor Arjen Tel (played by Rein Hofman), a middle-aged family man who is doing some outdoor renovations on his house. Most of the harassers use their real names and real photos of themselves, while some do not. At first, Femke gets revenge by secretly using an ax to hack up part of Arjen’s wooden fence that he recently built. She sneaks onto his property at night to commit this vandalism.

The next day, Arjen is on Femke’s front doorstep and asks if she knows anything about the vandalism of his fence. She plays innocent and says no. Arjen has also brought a slab of what he says is leftover cooked ham as a gift, which he offers to Femke. She accepts the ham, but then when she’s in the house, she throws away the ham in disgust.

This scene is a little strange because during his online harassment, Arjen made no attempts to hide his real identity, including posting photos of himself. And that’s why it doesn’t really ring true that it took so long for Femke to find out that her next-door neighbor was one of the trolls harassing her. Similarly, why would Arjen openly harass Femke online and then be nice to her face and act like nothing was wrong?

That’s what happened shortly after Femke found out that Arjen has been harassing her online, and before she hacked up his fence, when they have a cordial conversation outside their respective houses about how Arjen’s fence building is going. The construction noise is irritating to Femke, but she doesn’t tell Arjen that in their conversation either, and she ends up destroying the fence after it’s completed. Viewers can only speculate these face-to-face pleasantries are symbolic of the hypocrisy and phony politeness that people can have in face-to-face interactions, in order to hide true feelings of animosity.

Femke gets such a thrill from her vandalism revenge that she takes the violence to deadly levels. When she sees Arjen working on his roof, she sneaks into his house, climbs on the roof, and pushes him off, which immediately kills him. This murder happens in broad daylight, when plenty of people could potentially witness this crime. But Femke gets away with it. While Arjen is lying dead on the ground, Femke takes a shovel to chop off a middle finger on one of his hands.

Viewers of “The Columnist” will have to get used to this repetitive pattern, because every time Femke murders one of her online bullies (by stabbing, shooting, electrocuting or bludgeoning them to death), she cuts off their middle fingers. She gruesomely saves these fingers in a snack box that she keeps hidden in her home. When Femke is on her killing spree, she commits these outrageous murders in unrealistic scenarios where she never has any witnesses catching her in the act. It’s meant to show how emboldened Femke becomes when she gets away with these killings so easily.

Some of these murders are so loud that they would definitely attract attention, but Femke doesn’t get caught, even when other people might be in the house and even when she could leave her DNA behind. Her killings usually happen at the bullies’ homes, where she shows up and surprises them. However, in keeping with this movie’s fantasy tone, the bullies don’t seem very alarmed when they see that Femke is an intruder in their home. She spends a minute or two loudly shaming them for their bullying, and then she kills them. Some of the bullies are more apologetic than others.

The killing spree eventually attracts the attention of the news media, which calls this serial killer the Middle Finger Murderer. You know the movie isn’t going for realism when the police investigators don’t figure out that all of these murder victims have one thing in common: They’re men who’ve been bullying Femke online. That alone would put her under suspicion, but she doesn’t get as much scrunity as she would in real life.

It turns out that these bullies have a leader, who hides his identity. Femke spends quite some time investigating this chief bully to find out who he really is. Whether or not she finds him is revealed in the movie.

The murders in “The Columnist” aren’t as interesting as the effect as they have on Femke. On the one hand, she seems to get some kind of catharsis that frees up her writer’s block. On the other hand, viewers can clearly see that killing her bullies doesn’t make Femke happier.

What’s missing from the movie—and what would have made the movie better—is some sense that the murders were being properly investigated and that Femke was paranoid about being caught. Instead, she becomes more obssessed with going after more of her online bullies to kill. And she’s not very careful about it.

Much of “The Columnist” is elevated by Herbers’ compelling performance as Femke. She brings as much depth as she can to a character that, for long stretches of the movie, becomes a shallow killing machine. However, there’s a scene in the movie where Femke seems to finally understand the gravity of her rampage, when she makes a big mistake that tragically affects someone who has nothing to do with her online bullying.

The underlying message of “The Columnist” is that although this type of revenge seems to come easily to Femke—perhaps a little too easily, since the movie is very far-fetched in how quickly she becomes a skilled assassin—it comes at a heavy price to her soul. There’s also the matter of how much longer she can keep having a double life. “The Columnist” has some artistic touches, such as using tomato sauce and crushed tomatoes as symbols for the bloody mayhem in the story. However, the movie is really just a better-than-average slasher flick, with an ending that’s more arthouse than grindhouse.

Film Movement released “The Columnist” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on May 7, 2021. The movie’s DVD release date was on May 11, 2021. “The Columnist” was originally released in the Netherlands in 2019.

2019 Tribeca TV Festival: recap and reviews

September 16, 2019

by Carla Hay

The third annual Tribeca TV Festival (which took place September 12 to September 15 in New York City) once again offered a diverse mix of programming representing various TV genres. This year, the entire festival took place at the Regal Battery Park Cinemas in New York City. In most cases, a new episode of a show premiered at the festival, and there was a post-screening Q&A with stars from the show and at least one executive producer. The event also featured a 25th anniversary reunion of “Friends” executive producers who curated two episodes from the classic sitcom. There were also “Tribeca Talks” celebrity conversations with Emmy-winning actor James Spader (who was interviewed by Whoopi Goldberg) and comedian Hisan Minhaj.

At the festival, I saw the first-episode premieres of two new series: The comedy “First Wives Club” (which launches on the  BET+  streaming service on September 19) and the crime-drama “Evil,” which debuts on CBS on September 26, 2019.

“First Wives Club” Review

Michelle Buteau, Jill Scott and Ryan Michelle Bathe in “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

The “First Wives Club” show is the TV version of the 1996 comedy film that starred Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn and Bette Midler as three wives getting revenge on their ex-husbands, who dumped them for other women. The movie was rated PG, and the TV series (whose showrunner is “Girls Trip” co-writer Tracy Oliver) is definitely for mature audiences, since the show has nudity and explicit language that can be seen in R-rated movies. People will inevitably compare the TV show to the movie (which are both set in New York City), so here’s a helpful summary of the similarities and the differences:

Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton in “The First Wives Club” movie (Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures)

In the movie, the three women (who have known each other since their college days) are reunited in the beginning of the story because of the suicide of their college pal Cynthia Swann Griffin (played by Stockard Channing), who’s been depressed that her ex-husband married a much-younger woman. Keaton played Annie MacDuggan Paradis, an intellectual, super-organized type who likes to pretend that things are going better in her life than they really are. Midler played Brenda Morelli Cushman, the loud-mouthed humorous friend who’s still very bitter over her divorce. Hawn played Elise Eliot Atchison, an Oscar-winning actress who drinks heavily and has become so insecure about her looks that she’s addicted to plastic surgery.

From the beginning of the movie, Brenda is already divorced from her sleazy ex-husband Morton Cushman (played by Dan Hedaya), an electronics-retail businessman who’s gotten engaged to his gold-digger mistress Shelly Stewart (played Sarah Jessica Parker). Brenda and Morton have a teenage son, who’s often embarrassed by Brenda’s blunt attitude. Annie has a better relationship with her own child: She and Aaron have a young, adult lesbian daughter named Chris (played by Jennifer Dundas), who helps Annie get revenge on Aaron.

The movie shows the breakup of Annie’s and Elise’s marriages. Annie’s ad-executive husband Aaron (played by Stephen Collins) leaves her for Annie’s therapist Leslie Rosen (played by Marcia Gay Harden). Elise’s movie-producer husband Bill (played by Victor Garber) has been cheating on her with ditzy actress Phoebe LaVelle (played by Elizabeth Berkley), who’s young enough to be his daughter. Annie and Brenda gave up their careers to become housewives and stay-at-home mothers, so their divorces have a different type of identity crisis than Elise’s divorce, since Elise has no children and still maintained her career throughout her marriage.

Ryan Michelle Bathe of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

In the TV show, Ryan Michelle Bathe is Ari Montgomery, the counterpart to Keaton’s Annie MacDuggan Paradis. Ari is an attorney who has given up her law practice to become the campaign manager for her senator husband David (played by Mark Tallman). In the first episode of the series, Ari and David are having problems in their marriage (he’s become bored and uninterested in her), but Ari is still projecting an image to the world that her life is perfect. Although Ari and David’s kids are mentioned, they are not seen in this episode. However, in the Q&A after the screening, it was revealed that Ari and David have a lesbian daughter (whom Buteau called “gender-bending”) who first appears in the show’s third episode. The daughter’s name is Versace, and she’s played by Tara Pacheco. At the Q&A, Oliver declined to elaborate on what Versace’s storyline is in the show.

Michelle Buteau of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET

Michelle Buteau plays Bree Washington, an orthopedic surgeon who is the counterpart to Midler’s Brenda Morelli Cushman. In the first episode, viewers see that Bree is separated from her businessman husband Gary (played by RonReaco Lee) because she found out that he cheated on her. (The other woman, who is described as a one-night stand, is not seen in this episode.) Buteau, who’s also a stand-up comedian in real life, seems to have some of the best lines in the show. In one scene that has the three friends on a high-rise window-washing platform (in a nod to a similar scene in the movie), Bree yells, “Bitch, you got us out here like brown-tittied Spider-Men!”

Jill Scott of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

Jill Scott plays Hazel Rachelle, a fading R&B star who is the counterpart to Hawn’s Elise Eliot Atchison. Hazel isn’t as obsessed with her looks as Elise is, but Hazel is worried about her career and getting older in an industry that prefers young artists. Just like Elise, Hazel works closely with her husband, so when their marriage ends messily, her career is also in jeopardy. Hazel’s cheating husband is Derek Ellsworth (played by Malik Yoba), the head of her record company, and he’s been having a not-so-secret affair with a sultry young diva named Stella Bentley (played by Tasie Lawrence), whom he’s been grooming to replace Hazel as his next big hitmaker. The episode’s first big emotional meltdown scene comes when Hazel finds out about his infidelity, and storms into a recording studio to confront Derek. And yes, things get thrown, and things get broken.

Jill Scott in”First Wives Club” (Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/BET)

The main difference in the comedy styles of the movie and the TV show is that the comedy in the TV show is less broad and more rooted in reality, which is why there’s so much adult humor in the show. And in a switch from how most adult-oriented TV shows portray sex scenes, in “First Wives Club,” the men, not the women, are the ones who are shown naked (backsides, not full frontal), at least in the first episode. That might be because “First Wives Club” show has a female gaze, since the majority of the show’s writers and directors are women.

In one hilarious bedroom scene, Ari and David have unsatisfying sex, but David thinks he’s an amazing lover. In the episode’s other sex scene, Bree takes home a hunky bartender named Jesus (played by Angel Garet) after he flirts with her at the nightclub where he works. Showing the sexual needs of the three main characters in the TV series is a big contrast from the movie, where the three main characters do not have any sex scenes, and only one of them (Elise) seems interested in dating again after her marriage ends.

Ryan Michelle Bathe, Michelle Buteau, RonReaco Lee, Mark Tallman and Tracy Oliver at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

At the Q&A, Bathe said she can’t watch her sex scene in the first episode: “I still haven’t seen it. I closed my eyes!” Tallman replied, “You’re really good in it. I’m just embarrassing.” Buteau said she was happy to represent for “thick” women: “My husband could not be more proud. As a size 18 broad, no one [on a TV show] is like, ‘Oh, go make out and open your legs.’ You’re usually [cast as] the best friend. Body positivity, all the motherfuckin’ way! Let’s go!”

Oliver also talked about how the show breaks convention by casting two “thick” women in leading roles: “I remember on day one of shooting the pilot [episode], Jill [Scott] came up to me and said, “Thank you for having two thick girls in your cast. I’ve never actually had that happen’ … Let’s expand the definition of what beauty is, and not just make this all about skinny women, and really diversify what everyone looks like.”

Ryan Michelle Bathe and Jill Scott in “First Wives Club” (Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/BET)

A previous attempt to make a TV version of “The First Wives Club” for the TV Land network fizzled in 2016. Vanessa Lachey, Megan Hilty and Alyson Hannigan had been cast as the stars of the show, which was going to be set in San Francisco. After the blockbuster success of 2017’s “Girls Trip,” Oliver was asked to do the TV version of “The First Wives Club,” which was going to be on the Paramount Network before the show moved to the BET+ streaming service.

Oliver said at the Q&A that in an industry where people have to beg for work and have to deal with constant rejections, being given this opportunity as a first-time showrunner “almost never happens.” She added that she was just as surprised when she faced no objections to her requirement that people of color would be the stars of the show: “That was the one opportunity I’ve had where I said what my parameters were up front, and they agreed to it.”

Michelle Buteau and Ryan Michelle Bathe in “First Wives Club” (Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/BET)

Another big change from the movie to the TV show is that there is no fourth friend who commits suicide in the beginning of the story. During the post-screening Q&A, Oliver explained: “With movies, you have the luxury of time. With a half-hour pilot [episode], if we’re laughing after a death within 10 minutes, it’s a little weird.” Instead, what brings the three friends back together is Hazel’s scandal-plagued and very messy divorce.

As for scenes from the movie that made it into the TV show, there are two memorable scenes that were mentioned in the Q&A. In the movie, Donald Trump’s first ex-wife Ivana has a cameo playing herself, and she gives this divorce advice: “Don’t get mad. Get everything.” (That became the tag line for the movie.) In the TV show, the famous ex-wife who delivers that line is Shaunie O’Neal, ex-wife of basketball star Shaquille O’Neal. The movie also has a memorable scene with the three women, dressed all in white, singing Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.” Oliver said that the TV show also has a “You Don’t Own Me” scene, but she didn’t want to spill any more details:  “I can’t say anything about that, but what I will say is that we do our own White Party and a version of that [song] in the show.”

Michelle Buteau, Jill Scott and Ryan Michelle Bathe of “First Wives Club” (Photo courtesy of BET)

One of the best things about the show is that the chemistry between the three main characters seems very natural, not forced. And if the camaraderie looks genuine on screen, that’s because the three women have become friends in real life. Oliver says it was a stroke of luck, because before the show began filming, “They never actually did a chemistry read together, which is a disastrous way to ever do a show about friends … I don’t know how it happened, but they loved each other immediately.”

Buteau said of the trio: “We’re all fire signs. We’re all only children. We all have so much in common. We’ve all had to fight for our place in whatever Hollywood was giving us. For this all-inclusive experience, it was like showing up to work with smiles every day. Also, working with boss-ass bitches who are moms and get stuff done, I follow you!”

BET+ will premiere “First Wives Club” on September 19, 2019.

“Evil” Review

Mike Colter and Katja Herbers in “Evil” (Photo by Elizabeth Fisher/CBS)

Husband-and-wife TV showrunners Robert King and Michelle King, who created the Emmy-winning hit “The Good Wife” (as well as the spinoff “The Good Fight”), have another potential hit with the crime drama “Evil.” Just like most of the Kings’ recent TV series, “Evil” features a complex woman in the lead role, and the series explores themes that have to do with ethics, ambition, and gray areas of morality.

In “Evil,” Katja Herbers plays Kristen Bouchard, a skeptical female psychologist who teams up with priest-in-training David Acosta (played by Mike Colter) and carpenter Ben Shakir (Aasif Mandvi) to investigate the unexplained mysteries uncovered by the Catholic Church. Kristen and David naturally clash in the way they investigate—she doesn’t believe in the supernatural, and he does (which might remind people of the male/female investigator relationship in “The X-Files”)—and it wouldn’t be a King show without sexual tension. It’s revealed in the first episode that Kristen, who’s married with four young daughters, is sexually attracted to David, who has a colorful background as a world traveler and former war photographer. Kristen’s husband is frequently away from home, which explains why she’s feeling lonely. Because David is studying to become a priest (in other words, he’s preparing to lead a celibate life), it obviously adds a layer of tension to the “will they or won’t they hook up” subplot that the show is clearly setting up as an ongoing issue between Kristen and David.

Mike Colter, Katja Herbers and Aasif Mandvi (Photo by Michele Crowe/CBS)

The first episode of “Evil” is a little overstuffed with villains, and rushes through several things in order to pack in numerous plot developments, but the good news for crime-thriller fans is that this show definitely has plenty of scares and suspense. Without giving away any spoilers, the three villains introduced in the first episode are:

  • A demon named George (played by Marti Matulis), who looks like something out of the “Insidious” movie series, and who taunts Kristen in what she believes are her nightmares.
  • A suspected serial killer named Orson LeRoux , who is in jail while on trial and is repeatedly interviewed by Kristen and David. (Shades of “The Silence of the Lambs.”)
  • A mysterious creep named Leland Townsend (played by Michael Emerson, the former “Lost” and “Person of Interest” actor who’s made a career out of playing mysterious creeps), who gleefully commits all sorts of mayhem.

Somehow, these villains are all tied in to an enigmatic group of evildoers called The 60.

Katja Herbers and Michael Emerson in “Evil” (Photo by John Paul Filo/CBS)

Kristen’s therapist, Dr. Boggs (played by Kurt Fuller), is also introduced in the first episode. Fans of these types of shows can speculate that this character probably isn’t what he first appears to be. In other words, can Dr. Boggs really be trusted? We’ll have to wait and see. At the post-screening Q&A, “Evil” executive producer Robert King hinted at Boggs’ dark side, by saying that Boggs has “problems.”

There’s no shortage of real-life supernatural investigations to inspire stories for this show, so if “Evil” is a hit, it could go for years without running out of ideas. Expect to see many scenes of “possessed” people in this show, but Robert King also said don’t expect the show to be “all exorcisms, all the time.” “Evil” will also push some emotional buttons when it comes to debates over religion and spirituality.

Overall, “Evil” is one of the better-quality new shows being offered on broadcast TV this year. Some of the scenes are so terrifying, that “Evil” looks like it could also be on a cable network such as AMC (home of “The Walking Dead”) or FX (home of “American Horror Story”).

Katja Herbers and Mike Colter in “Evil” (Photo by Elizabeth Fisher/CBS)

At the post-screening Q&A, Michelle King said that, just like the female and male lead characters in “Evil,” she and husband Robert have very different beliefs when it comes to evil: “We don’t see the roots of evil in the same way. Robert typically thinks it comes through something religious, something demonic. I’m much more likely to jump to the psychological or the scientific.”

Robert King added, “When you look around and see some of the evil going on in politics or whatever, you kind of think there’s something going beyond …. what science can explain. When you see what’s going on with racism in this country, there’s something that holds people [to racism], and I don’t think it’s all in genes.”

“Evil” executive producers Robert King and Michelle King at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Robert King said that “Evil” will include a lot of timely social topics. For example, in the show’s sixth episode, Leland grooms a male incel loner to possibly become a mass murderer. “If you’re not writing about that today,” said Robert King,”I don’t know if you’re awake, because you’re watching what’s going on with lone gunmen [who commit mass murders], how people are creating communities around anger, frustration, bitterness, racism.”

Herbers shared how she develops the character of Kristen Bouchard: “I work on intuition, and I go with what’s on the page. The scripts are absolutely incredible.” She also added that she works off of the flow of her fellow actors, but she’s not a Method actor: “I’m not one of those people who needs to go into solitary confinement … I did have to study psychology for about a year. I have very little knowledge of the Catholic Church.”

“Evil” co-stars Mike Colter and Katja Herbers at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Colter commented on his David Acosta character: “I think he is a work in progress. He’s trying to achieve something that few people can, and be happy in that world.”  Colter added that what attracted him to the role was that David was described as “the most interesting man in the world.”

When asked if Leland Townsend is “evil,” Emerson replied: “I’m not sure what you mean by ‘evil.’ I think he’s playful. He’s a kind of a gamesman, maybe. He likes stirring things up. It delights him to watch things spin out of control. The wreckage appeals to him.”

“Evil” co-stars Aasif Mandvi and Christine Lahti at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Mandvi said that he’s had “many” supernatural experiences, so he’s almost the opposite of his Ben Shakir character: “Ben is a guy who really believes only in the things you can touch, taste, feel, smell, hear. He lives in a world of pragmatism and empirical truth. David needs that in his life as well.”

Christine Lahti, who is not in the first episode of “Evil,” was nevertheless at the Q&A. She plays Kristen’s divorced mother Sheryl, whom Lahti described as a “free spirit” and former rock groupie. “I’m the surrogate babysitter,” Lahti said, “My character is a little more comic relief than anything.” She added that Sheryl is “hungry for a relationship,” because she “got rid of [her] husband, who was very controlling, about 15 years ago.” Lahti teased that Sheryl does find love on the show, “but I’m not going to tell you who it’s with.” Robert King dropped a hint though: “She ends up dating somebody on this stage.”

“Evil” co-stars Michael Emerson and Kurt Fuller at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Carla Hay)

Fuller said his Dr. Boggs character is “the person in this show that Kristen is actually honest with. She trusts [Dr. Boggs] and tells [him] everything that’s going on with her. If it wasn’t for her sessions with [], she would spin out of control.”

Robert King said that members of The 60 will definitely be in the show. “Some may be in the White House, some may be in ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement],” he teased.

Here’s a photo recap of the festival:

Day 1

Tribeca Talks: James Spader and Whoopi Goldberg

Whoopi Goldberg and James Spader at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Epix’s “Godfather of Harlem”                           HBO’s “Room 104”

(Series premiere: Sept. 29, 2019)                     (Season 3 premiere: Sept. 13, 2019)

“Godfather of Harlem” co-stars Forest Whitaker and Ilfenesh Hadera at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

“Room 104” star/executive producer Mark Duplass at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival  in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Dominik Bindl/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

BET+’s “First Wives Club”

(Series premiere: September 19, 2019)

Mark Tallman, Ryan Michelle Bathe, executive producer Tracy Oliver, Michelle Buteau and RonReaco Lee at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival at Regal Battery Park Cinemas in New York City on September 12, 2019. (Photo by Jim Spellman/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Day 2

“Friends” 25th Anniversary Reunion

“Friends” executive producers Kevin Bright, Marta Kauffman and David Crane at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 13, 2019. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Amazon Prime Video’s “Goliath”

(Season 3 premiere: October 4, 2019)

“Goliath” co-stars Lawrence Trilling, Amy Brenneman, Billy Bob Thornton, Shamier Anderson, Nina Arianda and Tania Raymonde at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 13, 2019. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

AMC’s “Hip Hop: The Songs That Shook America”

(Series premiere: October 13, 2019)

“Hip Hop: Songs That Shook America” executive producer Amir “Questlove” Thompson, panel moderator Lola Ogunnaike and  executive producer Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 13, 2019. (Photo by John Lamparski/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Day 3

The CW’s “Katy Keene”

(Series premiere: Sometime in  2020)

“Katy Keene” co-stars Ashleigh Murray, Katherine LaNasa, Julia Chan, Lucy Hale, Jonny Beauchamp and Camille Hyde at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Freeform’s “Party of Five”

(Series premiere: January 8, 2020)

“Party of Five” co-stars Niko Guardado, Emily Tosta, Elle Paris Legaspi and Brandon Larracuente at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival  in New York City at Regal Battery Park Cinemas on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

CBS’s “Evil”                                                                                       ABC’s “Bless This Mess”

(Series premiere: Sept. 26, 2019)                     (Season 2 premiere: Sept. 24, 2019)

“Bless This Mess” co-stars Dax Shepard, Pam Grier and Lake Bell at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City September 14, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

“Evil” co-star Mike Colter at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival

Day 4

Starz’s “Leavenworth”

(Series premiere: October 20, 2019)

“Leavenworth” panel: New York Times national correspondent David Philipps, executive producer David Check, Mike McGuiness, executive producer Steven Soderbergh, Sarah Girgis, executive producer Paul Pawlowski and attorney John Maher attend the “Leavenworth” screening at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival at Regal Battery Park Cinemas on September 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Hulu’s “Looking for Alaska”

(Series premiere: October 18, 2019)

“Looking for Alaska” co-stars Jay Lee, Kristine Froseth, Charlie Plummer and Denny Love at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Tribeca Talks: Hisan Minhaj

Hasan Minhaj at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Apple TV +’s “Dickinson”

(Series premiere: November 1, 2019)

“Dickinson” panel: Adrian Enscoe, Ella Hunt, Hailee Steinfeld, Alena Smith, Anna Baryshnikov, Toby Huss and Jane Krakowski at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 14, 2019. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

Amazon Prime Video’s “Transparent”

(Series finale: September 27, 2019)

“Transparent” panel: Jill Soloway, Jay Duplass, Alexandra Billings, Shakina Nayfack, Judith Light, Faith Soloway, a guest and Jude Dry at the 2019 Tribeca TV Festival in New York City on September 15, 2019. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images for Tribeca TV Festival)

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