Crisis in Six Scenes First Look review: No natural disaster but still a crisis

Chad White

Crisis in Six Scenes
“Episode 1”
Season 1, Episode 1

This is a first look review of Woody Allen’s Amazon show Crisis in Six Scenes starring Allen, Miley Cyrus and Elaine May.

The last time Woody Allen was on television, behind the camera, was 1967 on Kraft Music Hall on NBC -- a variety show sponsored by the storied cheese maker. That show, Wikipedia tells me, lasted only 13 episodes, possibly because it was a variety from a cheese maker. Now, Allen returns with the Amazon series Crisis in Six Scenes. It’s billed as a comedy but there’s no telling where the laughs are supposed to be. The show also comes with the classic Woody Allen vibe that a good number of his movies contain. It’s that feeling of dry conversation that is supposedly leading to the already jumbled story. But there may be one hope for the series: Miley Cyrus.

Allen stars as Sidney J. Munsinger, a well off writer who is every bit of Allen. His wife, Kay (Elaine May), feeds his narcissism and looks to have lived her life doing as much and nothing else. They’re joined by Alan Brockman (John Magaro), a promising NYU student who’s staying with the Munsingers. Since only the first episode was watched for this review (sorry, I’m busy :[), I never saw the hotly publicized Miley Cyrus. Maybe next episode. May and Allen work well enough together but their deliveries, both of them, are off. Maybe it’s age; maybe it’s the script. They just don’t work well together. Allen’s acting alone comes off as fabricated and manufactured.

The story, sadly, moved too slowly in episode one for it to be fully established. Herein lies the problem. Crisis in Six Scenes plays out more like a movie or short play before it rears its head as the TV show. This is where the six scenes comes from. Episode one is a first act rather than a true pilot. The premiere episode and, what looks to be the first half of the next episode, are busy establishing characters before the ball can get rolling. Episode length is considerate to the viewer but the story suffers in the process (whereas a show like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt benefits from a shorter runtime).

Crisis takes place in the 60’s during political and social unrest, post-Vietnam War, -- as seen in the set design and repeated hitting over the head of overheard broadcasts -- which could make for a good playground as it compares to today’s climate. Allen’s characters live through their conversations, not by the action, so it’d would be good to see how they respond to the enlightenment around them.

Should you watch Crisis in Six Scenes?

Woody Allen is an acquired taste. Think of him as a beer. Sometimes, you think the taste is too bitter, too hoppy, or too mellow. But other times, it’s the best thing to enter your mouth that week. While some find Blue Jasmine to be a compelling character story, others find it obtuse and overly critical. But Allen’s voice, in 23 minutes, comes across as dull; becoming a drone in the presence of other, better looking shows. I’m not an advocate of “binge” viewing but some people may want to set aside two hours to dig into Allen’s six scene crisis.