The world of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is scarily contemporary


The Handmaid’s Tale

Wednesday, 3 p.m., Hulu

Women have no rights in the land of Gilead, the dystopian state seen in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a new series based on Margaret Atwood’s chilling 1985 best-seller. Facing a plunging birthrate, Gilead is ruled by a fundamentalist regime that treats women as property. As one of the few remaining fertile women, Offred (Elisabeth Moss) is a Handmaid in the Commander’s (Joseph Fiennes) household; she is forced into sexual servitude while trying to stay on the right side of the Commander’s barren wife, Serena Joy (Yvonne Strahovski) and survive long enough to find the daughter that was taken from her.

Bruce Miller, who adapted the novel for Hulu, spoke to The Post about working with Atwood, and how he put together his impressive cast, which includes Alexis Bledel, who plays the subversive Ofglen, and Ann Dowd, who will shivers down your spine as Aunt Lydia, the battle-ax who supervises the Handmaids.

Why is the character of Serena Joy portrayed as a younger woman than she was in the novel or 1990 movie?

I wanted Serena Joy in greater and more current opposition to Offred. She is fulfilling a desire to have children. Serena [in the book] is not in normal childbearing years. Serena Joy is so despicable in the book but Yvonne brings empathy and humanity. There’s an element in the show that these women might be friends or have plenty to talk about.

Are you faithful to the novel? 

Are we changing it? Yes. There are sentences turning into whole episodes. We expand the book. This book has been adapted many times and Margaret’s been involved. She understands the parts of the story that are malleable. She said, “We’re not filming the book, we’re making the TV show.” We are very true to the book and sometimes go into different directions.

Why did you cast Elisabeth Moss as Offred?

She has a huge range. Over the years I was always impressed with how precise she was in putting on the clothes of another character.

Aunt Lydia is one of the most frightening characters on TV. What made you think of Ann Dowd from “The Leftovers”?

She’s so fearless. Offred with very good reason hates her and thinks she’s a sadist. I wanted to bring out why Lydia is doing this. It all comes from the belief that the human race is on its way out.

The script has contemporary references such as Tinder and salted-caramel ice cream. Why did you include them?

Those are things I changed from the book. It’s all supposed to make it scary and this world is only scary if it’s real.

Are you ready for the identity-politics police who say a man can’t make a TV show from a woman’s point of view?

Probably not. I just look at it as Offred’s story. I’m a mindful of the fact that I’m a man. Anytime you work on a show you shore up your weaknesses. I surrounded myself with extraordinaray female writers, actors and directors like Reed Morano, who know that if there are things I don’t understand explain them to me. I also think you’re in every script your write. And I hope people enjoy the show.

And here’s what else to watch this week:

Feud

Sunday, 10 p.m., FX
Season finale. Despite her deteriorating health, Joan (Jessica Lange)accepts a leading role in ‘Trog” (1970), her last feature film, in which she stars opposite a troglodyte. Faced with a new rival, Bette (Susan Sarandon) reflects on her misplaced feud with Crawford and the Hollywood she once knew.

Silicon Valley

Sunday, 10 p.m., HBO
Season premiere. In the wake of Pied Piper’s clickfarm scandal, the guys struggle to find funding for Pied Piper’s video-chat app to keep up with their rapidly growing user base. Erlich (T.J. Miller) faces resistance from Big Head’s dad (Patrick O’Connor), while Gavin (Matt Ross) balks after Jack (Stephen Tobolowsky) steps on his toes at Hooli. Having a hard time adjusting to his company’s pivot, Richard (Thomas Middleditch) gets sage advice from an unexpected source, leading him to a big idea that could change his future.

Genius

Tuesday, 9 p.m., National Geographic Channel
Series premiere. This new drama series chronicles the rise of Albert Einstein, from his origins as a rebellious thinker to his global celebrity as the man who unlocked the mystery of the cosmos with his theory of relativity. Sure, he was a genius but what about his personal relationships? He was married twice and cheated with assorted women. Cad! Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush plays the older Einsten and Johnny Flynn the younger man.

Shots Fired

Wednesday, 8 p.m., Fox
The tension heats up in Gate Station as a violent riot erupts between the citizens and the police. Meanwhile, Ashe (Sanaa Lathan) and Preston confront Governor Eamons regarding their latest suspicions in Joey’s murder, Ashe takes matters into her own hands when it comes to Javier (Angel Bonanni) and Preston sits down with Beck (Jahlil Muhammad). Directed by Jonathan Demme (“Silence of the Lambs”).

Dear White People

Friday, Netflix
Series premiere. Students of color deal with life issues while attending the fictitious Winchester College, a predominately white Ivy League college in this adaptation of the popular 2014 indie film of the same name. Through an absurdist lens, “Dear White People” utilizes biting irony, self-deprecation and sometimes brutal honesty to hold up a mirror to the issues plaguing society today. Starring Antoinette Robertson as Coco Conners.

48 Hours: NCIS

Tuesday, 10 p.m., CBS
Series premiere. Rocky Carroll, star of “NCIS,” takes viewers into the world of real-life agents as they track killers, crack fraud cases, and how they hunt terrorists using street smarts and technology. The United States Naval Criminal Investigative Service has just celebrated its 50th anniversary and is responsible for investigating felony crimes, preventing terrorism and protecting secrets for the Marine Corps and the Navy.

Fargo

Wednesday, 10 p.m., FX
Gloria (Carrie Coon) deals with the aftermath of a crime, Varga (David Thewlis) makes a move, and Ray (Ewan McGregor) and Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) move on to Plan B.



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