'Things Go Haywire' in Netflix's Trippy Series 'Maniac' Teases EP Patrick Somerville
There’s a prescription for some truly trippy television.
Netflix’s new comedic sci-fi drama, Maniac, centers on two lost souls — aimless, semi-employed New Yorker Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) and schizophrenic Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill) — who meet and connect in a pharmaceutical company drug trial.
Both could use some help: Annie has witnessed her share of broken relationships, chiefly, those of her own parents and sister, and Owen wants to return to life as it was before the onset of his mental illness, which began with a psychotic break when he was in his 20s. The cryptically named drug U.L.P., which promises to accomplish all that psychotherapy would in just three days, may be the magic pill both Annie and Owen need. “It will fix any problem: mental illness, anxiety, heartache, loneliness, sadness,” says executive producer Patrick Somerville.
U.L.P. works in a strange way, by making patients hallucinate and envision entirely different worlds. And although Annie and Owen start out as strangers, they somehow appear in each other’s “reflections,” the drugmaker’s name for these altered realities. Scenarios range from tame ones (the two are married parents) to others involving medieval weaponry.
The trial takes place in a bright white lab at Neberdine Pharmaceutical and Biotech, under the guidance of Dr. James Mantleray (Justin Theroux, below, with costar Sonoya Mizuno), who’s undermined by his own baggage and his mom, Dr. Greta Mantleray (Sally Field). “He’s not so much a villain as a person with different goals than everybody else,” Somerville teases. Needless to say, he adds, “Things go haywire.”
In more ways than one. “Every patient who goes through the trials has a confrontation with their darkest inner demons,” Somerville says. “And they’re also headed toward a confrontation with the lab itself.” We’re ready for our first dose.
Maniac, Series Premiere, Friday, Sept. 21, Netflix
This article also appeared in the Sept 3 - 16 issue of TV Guide Magazine.