Archer signs off for the year, plus Michael Fishman on a very 2020 The Conners

Allison Shoemaker and Danette Chavez
·6 min read

Here’s what’s happening in the world of television for Wednesday, October 28. All times are Eastern.


Top picks

Archer (FXX, 10 p.m., 11th-season finale) and The Conners (ABC, 9 p.m.): We’re guessing this Archer season finale will be pretty great, so of course it’s a top pick. Here’s our blurb: Archer might make you temporarily forget about the fact that this is the This Is Fine dog’s world and we’re all just living in it. Enjoy!

The rest of this top pick belongs to a particularly topical episode of The Conners and to our conversation with its director. “Halloween And The Election Vs. The Pandemic” is a pandemic/holiday/election special wrapped in one for The Conners. The A.V. Club spoke with Michael Fishman, who plays D.J. Conner, about making his directorial debut with this thematically-packed episode.

The A.V. Club: The original series [Roseanne] was well-known for its Halloween episodes. Did that history create additional pressure for your directorial debut, or did it make you more excited to tackle this season’s Halloween episode?

Michael Fishman:
Somebody had to take that big responsibility, and I think it’s a huge vote of confidence from the people I work with, because it’s always one of our most complex episodes. It involves costumes and makeup and turnarounds, and a lot of special effects and extra pieces for the pranks that we don’t always do. In this particular episode, we have greater time constraints because the kids are pretty much in every single scene. But it’s a beautiful gift to have that responsibility. I wanted this so badly, and then I think it was perfect that it was Halloween, because I love what we do for Halloween. I love what we do, period. They got the right guy, because I was just excited, and love the whole process and love our production and our crew and our cast and everybody. I relished the opportunity. [As a director, it’s] my job to guide that and stay strong, calm and kind, and make sure it works.

I’ve been so close to the crew over the years. Every show we ever filmed back in the day, I would go out to the truck where the directors were to watch the process. Since we came back for The Conners, I’ve shadowed most of our directors and watched things on the technical side. I think for a lot of the people I work with, it was kind of like, “Well, it’s about time, buddy. You’ve been following everybody around and keeping track of everything forever.” With my castmates, it’s definitely a different environment, because I was always the kid and this is an opportunity to lead. It’s a different dynamic, but you do that within the framework of having respect and being professional and coming prepared.


AVC: “Halloween And The Election Vs. The Pandemic” doubles or “triples” as a Halloween episode, another pandemic episode, and, like Black-ish and One Day At A Time have done, an episode about the importance of voting and attempting to bridge political divisions among family members. How hard was it to tackle all of those topics in one episode?

MF:
Well, Halloween’s always about family, and it’s our big holiday every year. I think it fits that we have a real, authentic Halloween that people can relate to. I’m glad we’re on a couple of days before Halloween, because it may give some families an idea of a way to make it special within the framework of what’s going on in our world. We’ve never shied away from big topics. That’s the best part of the show. It’s the biggest reason why I wanted to come back when the opportunity came, is we get to tackle big things.

There are two really loaded scenes this episode: One between Darlene and Dan about politics, and one for D.J. that was such a challenge for me as a performer, to play all those emotions and have all those beats. But it’s a part of this world that people are dealing with on a daily basis, because the economic pressures force you to make life-altering, tough decisions—decisions you don’t want to make. I think every family’s dealing with that right now. I think it is once again, a good representation of what’s going on in the world, and we’ll see how it plays out over the course of the season. But it’s so important that families also see people coming together to bridge those gaps.

There’s a really hard line to walk and then find some comedy in the midst of that as well. All of us—Sara Gilbert, as an executive producer and on our writing staff, with some contributions and input from John [Goodman]—really dove into to figure out, come Wednesday, November 4th, how do we all come back together? I hope we open some people’s eyes in that way.

AVC: Do you have a favorite Halloween episode from the original series?

MF:
“Boo,” which was our original one, because it set the tone for everything with the house and the pranks and all of that stuff. It always sticks out to me with the tunnel of terror and all of that stuff. From a cultural standpoint, the episode where Roseanne dresses up as the trucker and pretends to be a guy. It’s about gender roles, and I think there’s real cultural significance there within the framework of a funny Halloween episode. Those two stick out for me, but Boo is where we started, and I hope that we did that legacy proud in what we did this year. [Danette Chavez]

Can you binge it? Nope, but you can find the first episode of the season on Hulu.

Regular coverage

The Masked Singer (Fox, 8 p.m.): This episode may be preempted by the seventh game of the World Series. If not, then Angelica Cataldo’s coverage (created with some help from her dad) will return as well.

Wild cards

Time for another wild card lightning round.

Not Done: Women Remaking America (streaming): This energetic (and, obviously, timely) documentary premiered on PBS earlier this week, but now it’s available for all to stream via Makers.

Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb (Netflix, 3:01 a.m., premiere): Get yourselves in order, archaeology nerds. We ride at 3:01 a.m.

Holidate (Netflix, 3:01 a.m., premiere): Now technically, this rom-com moseys through a whole year’s worth of holidays, so if you want to pretend that Netflix hasn’t officially fired the starting pistol on Christmas movies, you are free to do so. Look for Caroline Siede’s review on the site today.

Burning Ojai: Our Fire Story (HBO, 7 p.m., premiere): Director Michael Milano, an Ojai resident, captures the 2017 Thomas Fire—and the struggles and resilience of some of the many people impacted by its spread—firsthand.

Martha Knows Best (HGTV, 8 p.m., second-season premiere, back-to-back episodes): Martha Stewart’s socially distanced series returns with a pair of spooooooky episodes fittingly titled “The Martha Mash” and “Tales From The Compost Crypt.” No trailer, but here’s the kind of thing you can expect:

Full Frontal With Samantha Bee (TBS, 10:30 p.m.): Like Martha, Sam Bee is spending a lot of time in her backyard. The difference is that Martha is gardening while Sam is squeezing out diamonds.