The Watchman: ‘Insecure’ Goes Small in New Season, PBS Goes Wild With Animal Special

The new season of comedy Insecure starts on HBO July 23, and after season one’s surprisingly strong run, showrunner Prentice Penny promises smaller things in its sophomore year. “The perception is, after season one’s success, in season two you go bigger,” he said. “My approach is, go smaller.”

That involves going deeper into the psyches of Issa, Lawrence, Molly and other main characters, and examining “the things that make them tick,” Penny said.

The producers also play around with storytelling conventions. One episode, he said, takes place in a single day.

The Insecure crew was very pleased with how season one was received. “I’ve worked on a lot of first-year shows, and you don’t know at all what will happen,” Penny said. “The way people responded was amazing. It validated the way we were thinking in the room.”

The Issa Dee character is essentially a younger version of Issa Rae, who created Insecure with Larry Wilmore. “Issa Dee is trying to find her place. We need Issa Dee to be a little more messed up,” he said. “We need Issa Rae to run a TV show.”

For another funky fish-out-of-water series, there is the three-part PBS special Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark, which sees National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore photograph at-risk and rare species around the world. The Photo Ark has 6,500 animals in it after 11 years of shooting. Sartore, who is 55, figures he’s halfway done photographing every animal species in human care.

“It’s a big honor to be their voice,” he said.

Some of Sartore’s Photo Ark highlights include a northern white rhino that died two weeks after the session, leaving the number of such animals left in the world at three. “Seeing things like that makes you feel like you’re in a race, before they go away,” he said.

Sartore also photographed a South China tiger and Yangtze giant softshell turtle. One of “the joys of doing a show like this is you get to introduce the public to many creatures they never knew existed,” Sartore said.

While climate change is frequently debated around the U.S., Sartore laments that at-risk animal species don’t seem to be on anyone’s mind. With the world’s people population booming, it puts several species at further risk.

But Sartore said the animals he’s encountered are smart, curious and tough. “They’re striving,” he said. “And they’re thriving, if we let them.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.