Why “THE GOOD WIFE” should have been a cable drama!

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Since it’s debut in the fall of 2009, THE GOOD WIFE has been the best drama on broadcast television.  The superb cast, lead by Julianna Margulies as the titular character, stands toe-to-toe with the casts of any of the the most buzzed about cable dramas.   Airing on CBS, THE GOOD WIFE is about as “edgy” as the network gets.  The story follows Alicia Florrick (Margulies) as she tries to rebuild her life after her husband Peter, the former states attorney is imprisoned after a sex and corruption scandal.

At first glance I thought THE GOOD WIFE was going to be a retread of previous CBS series JUDGING AMY.  Let’s face it, the network found its sweet spot with safe, by-the-book procedural crime dramas so who would have expected a smart, compelling, often edge of your seat drama.  The show allows its perfectly cast characters to explore their sexual desires in a way never really seen on other CBS shows.  But, for all the smart, compelling, sexy stories THE GOOD WIFE has often been overshadowed by in buzz and awards by cable dramas

The nature of airing on a cable network, basic or premium, allows dramas more latitude in how they are written and produced.  While THE GOOD WIFE produces 22 to 23 episodes a season, cable dramas only produce on average 13 episodes a season.  This allows cable dramas to have more tightly written story arcs and because their entire seasons are usually filmed well ahead of their premiere date, stories aren’t subject to change course because of network executives’ reactions to a shows ratings performance.

As THE GOOD WIFE has evolved over the past few seasons, I’ve often said, if the show was on cable it would be nominated and win a Best Drama Emmy.  If the show aired on CBS sister network SHOWTIME, it wouldn’t be subject to delayed airings due to football and other sports overruns.  With a shorter episode order, THE GOOD WIFE would could give even greater focus to the often conflicted relationships between the characters and less on the procedural “case of the week” elements of the show.  Don’t get me wrong, the show does an excellent job of weaving timely cases into their storylines, often times being ahead of breaking news.  But, with a cable production model, especially on a premium network, the show would rely less on these stories and could focus on one or two major cases throughout the course of a season.  And without having to write with commercial time in mind, the show’s content would fill close to 60 minutes.

As for content, as I said earlier, THE GOOD WIFE is about as edgy as a show gets on CBS.  But imagine if the show were stripped of the limitations of FCC broadcast standards.  In a world filled with lawyers and criminals, the characters would talk the way lawyers and criminals talk. Alicia’s arguments with estranged husband Peter would sound like real arguments that couples in troubled marriages have.  Remember the season of THE SOPRANOS that focused on Tony and Carmela’s marital woes?  It was intense and it felt real.  Also, the show implies many of the characters have wild sexual appetites, but on broadcast we’re usually just left to our imaginations.  There have been a couple of envelope-pushing scenes but not to the extent we see on cable.  We would get to see more than Kalinda wrapped in a sheet after a tryst with one of her many lady loves.  Or when sexual open Kalinda turns to her male friend with benefits and co-worker Cary Argos we don’t have to just see the  under a sheet tent in post coital bliss.  As for Alicia, her sexual fantasies could be more fully explored beyond quick cuts of what “might have been.”

A major plot point since early in the series is Alicia’s representation of Chicago drug kingpin Lemond Bishop.  In season six, Bishop played a big part of the story putting Alicia’s political future and Cary’s live in jeopardy as well as being a major part of Kalinda’s exit story.   While the story that played out was intense and the audience was never quite sure what would happen, if it had played out on cable a the stories could have had grittier more explosive outcomes.  Kalinda’s exit from the series was cute but could have been a water cooler moment.  The show did have a major water cooler moment when Alicia’s onetime romantic lead and legal rival was gunned down, off-screen, with no spoilers of the event being release ahead of air.  This was an instance where the show had been delayed for a football overrun and I decided I would just watch the next day on-demand.  When my Twitter feed exploded, I knew I had missed something big and the next morning watched the game changing episode online.

THE GOOD WIFE is a show that should have many explosive game changing moments, without the restrictions of broadcast television.  If the show had the creative freedom that cable allows, it would be as big as its cable counterparts.  I’m not advocating for gratuitous sex and violence but I can tell THE GOOD WIFE would go there, if only they could.

While critics love the show, I believe the show suffers from the “it airs on CBS” perception problem.  CBS isn’t known or embraced by viewers as a place for edgy, social media buzz-worthy programming. Lesser shows that air on basic or premium cable networks benefit from their association with the type of programming those networks put out and reap the benefits, sometimes undeserved.

Heading into its seventh season, I know it’s too late to for THE GOOD WIFE to make the move to cable but I like to imagine what heights an already stellar cast, writers and show runners could achieve in a more unrestrictive creative world.

Relive Alicia and Will’s stormy relationship in the video below:

You should visit this “KINGDOM!”

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DIRECTTV has delivered a solid show in KINGDOM.  The series set in the world of MMA fighting, at its heart is a modern take on the family drama.  The action is set at the Navy St. Gym, owned by Alvey Kulina and run by his girlfriend Lisa.  Alvey was once a champion fighter but an aging body has taken him out of the cage and relegated  him to coaching.  Don’t get me wrong Alvey, played by Frank Grillo is in amazing shape, but the one can only take so may body slams before your body says “enough!” With a mediocre clients, Alvey and Lisa can barely keep the gym afloat.

One potential bright spot is Alvey’s youngest son, Nate, played with a sweet sincerity and physical intensity by pop star Nick Jonas.  As a fighter he is his father’s son in the cage, but takes on a quiet, sweet demeanor in the outside world.  Nate keeps walls up, making it hard for anyone, even his family to really get to know.  Alvey’s oldest son Jay is also a great fighter, but his irrational behavior and drug use has made his father ban him from the gym.  Lisa holds a soft spot for Jay and truly believes in his talent as a fighter.

Jay is also distracted by the fact that he’s secretly taking care of his estranged mother, Christina, beautifully played by former Another World star Joanna Going.  Christina, still married to Alvey, left her family only to become a drug addicted prostitute.  Jay makes regular visits to the corner she works to give her what cash he can scrape together always asking her to “please make sure to eat.”  Jay is his mother’s son, as evidenced by his whimsical, carefree nature and ability to take a dark turn into depression and drugs.

And what would a hot drama be without a good old-fashioned love triangle?  Enter former MMA champion Ryan Wheeler, who has recently been released from prison after serving time for a crime that isn’t revealed until later in the season.  Ryan was engaged to Lisa, until he went to prison and she moved on with Alvey.  Alvey still sees a champion fighter in Ryan, and offers to coach him back to his former glory.  This new relationship keeps Ryan and Lisa in each other’s orbits creating tension among the three.

KINGDOM’S storytelling is a slow burn.  With a first season  consisting of only ten episodes, the stories are not rushed or wrapped up neatly at the end of each hour. Instead, secrets are revealed bit by bit like a slow drip of morphine, just enough to keep you hooked.  While Alvey and Ryan are positioned as the series leads, it’s the young Kulina brothers who steal the show.  Both so different but totally committed to one another.  Jonathan Tucker gives a showy, but not ridiculously over the top performance as Jay, which works well in contrast to Nick Jonas’ more reserved performance.

While MMA is the backdrop for the series, season one doesn’t go deep into that world except for the matches.  Season 2 will most likely explore more of the broader mixed martial arts wrestling world.  Jamie Kennedy gives a comedic turn as a sleazy fight promoter in season one and he’s likely to show up in season 2.  Jay, Nate and Ryan have many more matches ahead of them, so the show will likely introduce new rivals to intensify the conflict.

I hope season 2 gets rid of Alvey’s narration which is done through sessions with his therapist.  It’s reminiscent of SONS OF ANARCHY’S narration by Jax Teller, just not as poetic.  Alvey’s new age zen feels like the show is trying to hard to set him up as a Tony Soprano type, which he’s not.  He’s more of a poor man’s Ray Donovan.  He’s not nearly as damaged as they’d like us to believe.  He’s a father who wants to relive his glory days through his son.  He’s selfish but knows that as a coach, it’s not about him, it’s about his athlete.

At the end of the tenth episode I wanted to know “what happens next?”  That’s a good sign of that the show delivers interesting and compelling story-telling.  KINGDOM isn’t perfect, not many shows are, but the it has nicely defined each character setting them up for long-term story arcs.

DIRECTTV ordered 20 episodes for season two and will split them between fall of 2015 and sometime in 2016.

Check out KINGDOM below:

Have you watched KINGDOM? Are you excited for season 2? Let me know in the poll below:

Discover the series “PLEASE LIKE ME”

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Some friends of mine have been hounding me to watch a show called “PLEASE LIKE ME.”  It’s an Australian series, that airs here on the digital cable and satellite network Pivot (pivot.tv).

I was able to catch up on all of season 1 and most of season 2 on Pivot On Demand as part of my Direct TV package.  I had to watch the season 2 finale on Amazon Prime because for some reason it’s not available On Demand.

I have to say PLEASE LIKE ME is one of the most refreshing shows I’ve watched in a long time.  It lives in that hybrid drama/comedy space and does an amazing job of having honest comedic moments while dealing with some very serious topics.  The story focuses on awkward twenty-something Josh who in the first scene of the series is dumped by his girlfriend Claire as she finally says out loud what she’s known for a while…he’s gay.  One of the most refreshing parts of the show is that it’s not an earnest “coming out story.”  Most of the people in Josh’s life have thought he’s gay and were just waiting for him to come to the realization and embrace it.  While his social circle is small, consisting of Tom, best friend since they were ten and his former girlfriend Claire, acceptance from his social group is easy to find.  But even his parents easily embrace Josh.  His relationship with his divorced parent is complicated and proves to be a significant roadblock in his early attempt at a relationship with hunky Geoffrey.

PLEASE LIKE ME is similar to the HBO series GIRLS in that the lead character does not have the looks of a traditional television leading man, but most of his love interests look like they stepped out of an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue.  While these guys are genuine in there affection for Josh, one of the most honest moments of the series is when Josh is told by one of his Abercrombie type boyfriends that while he likes hanging out with him and kissing him, he has no interest in actually having sex with him.  Ouch! In that moment I could feel Josh’s heart sink into his stomach and related to his rejection.  And, like GIRLS the show is written and produced by its leading man Josh Thomas.

Josh is a very flawed character.  While he starts to fully embrace his sexuality, he has difficulty making an emotional connection with his boyfriends, but we do see the beginnings of Josh learning how to open his heart.

Josh’s best friend Tom is a supportive guy.  He’s straight, a bit of a dork but has a way with the ladies.  In the season 2 premiere he brags about being well endowed, which I assume is what gives him the confidence to  try to juggle two women at the same time.

While Josh is definitely the center of the show, there’s no shortage of good story for his mother who his trying to rebuild her life post-divorce and his father who has quickly moved on with another woman. This is truly an ensemble show, with strongly defined characters.  Even the love interests who pop in and out throughout both seasons are more than generic bed mates.

PLEASE LIKE ME is so much more than a coming out story. It’s really not a coming out story at all, as that bit of business is quickly handled in very early episodes of the first season.  It’s about family, the one you’re born into and the one you create for yourself.   It’s about resilience, picking yourself up when you’ve been knocked down and learning how to move forward. And it’s about acceptance, of not just sexuality, but of imperfection and all the flaws that come with being a human being.

I’m glad I listened to my friends and I binged the eighteen half-hour episodes in a day.  The new season of PLEASE LIKE ME premieres on PIVOT on October 16th at 10pm.  If you’re cable or satellite provider does not carry Pivot, episodes are also available on Amazon.

Check out the season 1 trailer for PLEASE LIKE ME:

 

 

 

 

You should rediscover “THE MIDDLE”

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THE MIDDLE premiered in fall 2009 but was overshadowed by another new show also on ABC that year MODERN FAMILY.  Now entering its seventh season, THE MIDDLE has been a quiet yet solid performer for ABC.

I’ve been watching repeats of the show on The Hallmark Channel and with each episode I’m reminded why THE MIDDLE continues to be one of my favorite shows.  Narrated by star Patricia Heaton, the show centers on the Heck family who are constantly struggling to maintain a place in the middle class.  The show reminds me of ROSEANNE but with smoother edges.  It’s about a family that while they don’t always like each other, will always be there for each other.  Even though things rarely go their way, the Hecks much like the Connors on ROSEANNE remain hopeful.

Frankie (Heaton) and her husband Mike have three kids.  Axel is the oldest son, a jock who although not book smart always finds a way to make things work out in his favor; Sue, the middle daughter rarely has anything work out in her favor but remains the ultimate optimist; and Brick, the youngest son has poor social skills and would rather spend his time in the library reading books rather than at the playground with kids his own age.

The actors playing the kids on THE MIDDLE are great.  They are hands down the best sitcom kids on tv. Yes, better than the kids on MODERN FAMILY.  The standout among the three is Eden Sher who plays Sue.  Her performances over the past six seasons have been Emmy worthy.  Even when Sue is crushed with disappointment, Sher is able to convey layers of emotions that eventually lead back to Sue’s signature optimism.

The Hecks aren’t a perfect family, no family is and that’s the beauty of the show.  Without being self-aware or ironic, the show is able give voice to so many real life families that argue, struggle and sometimes don’t like each other but still come together, because as Frankie often says “you do for family.”

I’m so glad The Hallmark Channel is the home for reruns of the THE MIDDLE, it’s a perfect fit.

The seventh season premiere of THE MIDDLE is on Wednesday, September 23rd at 8pm EST.

If you haven’t seen THE MIDDLE, watch the clip below and get caught up!

The season 2 promo for “EMPIRE” is here!

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FOX released the first promo for season 2 of their monster hit hip-hop family soap EMPIRE today.  While not giving any plot spoilers, the promo does tease what could be an exciting season.

Empire has announced a number of cast additions and guest stars for season 2 and I hope that the super-sized casting doesn’t distract from what made season 1 work so well… a compelling origin story about a far from perfect family that rose from the projects to power in the music world.

Empire returns on Wednesday, September 23 at 9pm EST.

Take a look at the first season 2 promo below!

What are you excited to see in season 2 of Empire?  Comment below.

The new MUPPETS series looks AMAZING!

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This fall ABC brings an updated version of The Muppets back to television.

The new show reflects the times by being presented in a docusoap format.  The series follows the backstage and personal lives of Kermit, Miss Piggy and crew as they work on Miss Piggy’s late night talk show.

I think this is a fresh take on the Muppet franchise and can’t wait to watch!

The Muppets premieres Tuesday, September 22 at 8pm EST

Click below to see the pilot presentation that was used to sell the show to ABC.

“UNDATEABLE” is a show you should be watching!

UNDATEABLE -- "A Live Show Walks Into A Bar" Episode 209B -- Pictured: (l-r) Ron Funches as Shelly, Rick Glassman as Burski, Chris D'Elia as Danny, David Fynn as Brett, Brent Morin as Justin -- (Photo by: Darren Michaels/NBC/Warner Bros.)

(Photo by: Darren Michaels/NBC/Warner Bros.)

Last summer, I was pleasantly surprised when I watched the new NBC series UNDATEABLE, for which I had pretty low expectations.  Based on the NBC promos the show didn’t look promising. But after watching the first few episodes, I was hooked.   The show revolves around a group of misfit friends who hang out at their friend’s bar, Black Eyes.  Although they are all said to have jobs, they seem to spend a great deal of their time at the bar.  That’s probably where the “undateable” part comes into play.  The premise is pretty simple: losers are funny.  Some of the greatest tv sitcoms thrived on this conceit:  THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW, TAXI, MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, CHEERS and ROSEANNE to name a few.

The show stars Chris D’Elia who was the highlight of NBC’s two-seasons too many sitcom WHITNEY.  Here, D’Elia gets to show off what makes him a popular stand-up comic, quick-witted line delivery and the ability to contort his body into any position to get the desired laugh.  He does a great job with sharing the spotlight with an ensemble of relatively unknowns.  Each character is quirky, but clearly defined.  Aside from D’Elia’s Danny the motley crew consists of Justin, the earnest bar owner; Leslie, Danny’s divorced wine loving sister; Shelly, the lovable teddy bear; Brett, who recently came out of the closet; Burski, a geek with the hots for Leslie; and Candace, a young waitress.

While the show initially set up their version of a “Ross/Rachel will they-won’t they” with bar owner Justin and waitress Nikki, scheduling conflicts for the actress playing Nikki forced the show to abandon the story, and shift to a new potential romance for Justin with starry-eyed and naive waitress Candace.

The show is silly and it’s quite obvious the cast, many of them stand-up comics, are having a blast improvising through most of their scenes.  But what won me over was this season’s one-hour live episode.  It was filled with tons of guest stars including musician Ed Sheeran, SCANDAL’s Scott Foley and an array of actors from executive producer Bill Lawrence’s previous show SCRUBS. It was honestly the most fun hour of television comedy I’ve watched in a long time.  The cast performed live for both the east and west coasts so it was a treat to see how the shows and performances differed.  That episode continues to be a go-to for me when I’m bored and looking for something that’s pure entertainment. This was the first time in TV history that a sitcom performed a one-hour live show.

Is the show as “clever” as MODERN FAMILY? No, but I’ve laughed out loud more watching UNDATEABLE than I ever have with MODERN FAMILY.   UNDATEABLE reminds me of the early seasons of THE BIG BANG THEORY, which weren’t perfect but once the show found its footing, it became the top rated comedy on television.

UNDATEABLE is like the perfect neighborhood bar – friendly, comfortable, easygoing and there’s no cover charge.

Give UNDATEABLE a shot.  There are only 23 episodes, so it’s an easy binge on VOD before the new season begins on Friday, October 9 at 8pm.

Check out a clip from the live episode below:

Have you watched UNDATEABLE?  What do you think?