THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE is the MOST RELEVANT DRAMA on TV!

MV5BMjEwNTgxODcyOV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzI5ODUyNzE@._V1_SX214_AL_.jpg

It’s hard to talk about the AMAZON original series “THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE” without spoiling plot points for those who haven’t finished or worst yet, started the series. If you haven’t guessed, I think you should WATCH THIS SHOW! “THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE” is based on a book of the same name, poses the question “what would the world be like if the Nazis had won World War II?” Well, in this series, the United States would be a much different place.  The east coast and a good portion of the midwest would be under Nazi rule, while the west coast would be reigned by Japan. Between the two would be a “neutral zone” reminiscent of the lawless wild wild west.

The show is a political thriller, domestic drama and character study. It often exceeds expectations from one episode to the next.  Our heroine Juliana Crain (a great tv character name) is a strong, vulnerable, and flawed woman. Her boyfriend Frank just wants a quiet life with her in San Francisco, but when Juliana’s sister pays her a visit one night, it sets off a chain of events for the couple that will change them forever. Meanwhile, a young man in New York named Joe is on a collision course with the couple that will make him question everything he’s ever known. Set in 1962, the U.S. looks quite different than how we know it. Anyone can be pulled from their home if only suspected of being Jewish or part of the underground resistance group trying  to undo the Nazis and Japanese governments. There are no freedoms and very few liberties. Police, military or anyone from the two governments can ask to see a citizen’s papers at any moment without cause. There is very little joy in anyone’s life and what joy we see is mostly on the surface for the benefit of others. That’s all the synopsis I’ll give so not to spoil the story for you.

“THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE” has been renewed for a second season. The show delivered a fantastic season finale with a high stakes final sequence that ended with a jaw-dropping ending.  The mostly unknown cast sells every moment of the show. I’m hoping season two will make clear where Blacks, Latinos and immigrants fall within this society’s food chain.  While we see a few people of color as extras and a Black character features prominently in the season one story, it’s not clear what happened to these groups in this alternate version of history. My guess is it’s not good.

Given the current Presidential election cycle “THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE” is probably the most relevant show airing.  It’s as if the author had a crystal ball for the 2016 political environment. It’s compelling, engaging and more than just entertainment.  You won’t regret the time spent watching this show.

Have you watched “THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE”? What did you think? Comment below.

Here’s a look at the show:

 

“YOUNGER” Moves TV LAND in a NEW DIRECTION!

MV5BMjA1MzkwNTk5NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMTg4Mjg0NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_.jpg

This past winter TV Land signaled a shift in its original programming strategy when it debuted the Darren Star sitcom “Younger,” starring Broadway star and TONY winner Sutton Foster.  The single-camera comedy is a far cry from the traditional multi camera sitcoms the network has offered in the past (“Hot in Cleveland,” “The Exes,” etc.). The premise is built around Liza Miller (Foster), a 40 year-old divorce mother who is desperate to get back into the workforce. Liza left her career in publishing fifteen years ago and after a series of interviews she realizes returning to the workforce won’t be easy.  After a 26 year-old tattoo artist mistakes her for being his age, Liza and her friend Maggie (Debi Mazar) concoct a scheme for Liza to pretend to be 26 to land a job and through the magic of television, it works!

“Younger” benefits from casting Sutton in the lead role, as she’s able to pull off playing under 40.  I thing 26 is a stretch but because she brings so much emotional depth to the role, it becomes very easy to buy into the premise.  The show aims to be a present-day basic cable version of “Sex and the City” (also from Darren Star).  It’s not “Sex and the City” but that’s not a bad thing. “Younger” is a show where the initial setup drives the character while the characters on “Sex” drove the plot.  But “Younger” does get you to care about the character’s and their journeys.  With strong writing and nuanced performances from Sutton Foster and Hillary Duff (Liz’s co-worker turned bff) it becomes easy to be drawn into their world.  The show accurately captures the disconnect between Millennials and Generation X. The younger group has no understanding or appreciation of those who came before them while the older set realizes adapting to a world filled with technology-based relationships is the new norm.

One of the fun aspects of season one of “Younger” is Liza’s “Devil Wears Prada” relationship with her boss Diana (Miriam Trout). Although the two are actually the same age, Liza’s easily believed lie about her age makes Diana instantly judge Liza as just another vapid twenty-something who doesn’t know or value the meaning of hard work. But, since Liza is really older, she’s able to help Diana through personal and professional tribulations. The show is smart in that Diana is not presented as a one dimensional villain, but as a multilayered woman.

TV LAND allows “Younger” to deliver a lot of sex talk with some sex on the side. While there’s not a lot of gratuitous nudity, there is frank language, as has become de rigueur on basic cable.  Liza embarks on a relationship with the aforementioned sexy tattoo artist, Josh (Nico Tortorella).  It’s fun watching 40 year-old Liza pretending to be 26 and immersing herself in Josh’s world trying to navigate the language, activities (dodgeball anyone?) and sexual fluidity. The series is also setting up a love triangle between Liza, Josh and her more age appropriate publisher Charles Brooks (Peter Hermann).

If and when Liza’s big secret is revealed to her new work family, it will be interesting to see if her talent as a writer/editor will allow them to look past her deceit or have her blackballed from the publishing world entirely. I have a hard time seeing “Younger” running for as long as five years on its initial premise, but I’m interested to see how season 2 plays out. Again, Sutton Foster is so engaging in the role that I want to buy into the premise no matter how silly the set up.

Here’s a look at “Younger”:

 

The 5 Best Gifts TV Gave Us in 2015!

With over 400 scripted series on television and countless reality shows, there really is something for every spread across broadcast, cable and digital platforms.  But quantity does not equal quality.  With Christmas right around the corner, here’s my list of the 5 Best Gifts TV (including digital platforms) gave us in 2015 (in no particular order).

  1. Live Scripted Performances on NBC – In the pioneering days of television almost every program was performed live, but in recent history live performances have mostly been relegated to awards shows, reality show finales, the Super Bowl and 2 soaps during sweeps months (“One Life to Live” & “General Hospital”) and sitcoms like “Roc,””Will & Grace” and more recently “Hot in Cleveland.”  But in the spring of 2015, NBC aired a one hour live edition of its struggling sitcom “Undateable.” With musical performances from British pop star Ed Sheeran and guest stars including “Scandal’s” Scott Foley, the show served up it’s funniest episode up to that point prompting NBC to order of third season of all live episodes.  “Undateable” has become the most creative, daring and by far funniest sitcom on broadcast television this season.  While the live production isn’t without it’s technical problems, which have vastly improved, it all still works.  Watching the cast make each other laugh and use timely, real world references is just plain fun, something most returning sitcoms are missing this season. During the past few years NBC has also been staging live productions of classic musicals during the holiday season.  While “The Sound of Music” and “Peter Pan” fell flat, this year the the network wisely chose to update “The Wiz” featuring new-comer Shanice Williams as Dorothy and an all-star cast (Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, and Ne-Yo). “The Wiz” was a success on all fronts. It was expertly directed, choreographed and performed. The success of “The Wiz”should signal a change in the way NBC approaches its live musical productions. With FOX airing a live production of “Grease” this winter I’m hoping other networks look for creative ways to deliver more live scripted programs, especially on the one hour drama front. I would love to see a live episode of “The Good Wife” set in a courtroom during a big trial.
  2. “Empire” (FOX) – “Empire” premiered it’s first season in January of 2015 and became an instant hit and pop culture sensation.  Oscar nominee Taranji P. Henson gave the break-out performance of the year as mother and ex-con Cookie Lyon, but it should be noted that Terrence Howard’s underrated and under appreciated performance and patriarch Lucious Lyon is giving other classic primetime soap villains JR Ewing (“Dallas”), Alexis Carrington, (“Dynasty”) and Angela Channing (“Falcon Crest”).While season 2, which premiered this fall hasn’t benefited from the strong narrative of season 1, and has had some story missteps (Jamal sleeping with a woman, sigh…) “Empire” overall delivers soapy goodness.
  3. “Looking” – Season 2 (HBO) – In 2015 HBO delivered the second season of “Looking,” the half hour dreamed about a group of gay men in San Francisco facing challenges in romance, family and career. The show delivered a sexy and nuanced love triangle between Patrick, Kevin and Richie which I’m sure the writers planned on diving deeper into in season 3 if there was one.  Unfortunately HBO decided to cancel the quiet series that didn’t make as much noise as the creatively challenged “Girls.”  The second season of the show was also notable for introducing HIV positive character Eddie and being the first tv show to have a characters talk about PreP (Truvada) a drug the FDA has approved for use to help prevent HIV infections in conjunction with other safer sex practices such as condom use. HBO ordered a two-hour wrap up movie of “Looking” to air in early 2016, but it still stings that a thoughtful show about gay men as leads had such a short life.  Luckily, for fans of the show and for those yet to discover it, episodes of “Looking” will live on HBO GO (HBO’s digital platform) forever. And if we’re really lucky, the “Looking” movie will do well enough for HBO to revisit the characters with more tv movies.
  4. Mature Audiences Matter on Digital Platforms – With the broadcast networks still chasing the 18-49 demo, digital platforms such as NETFLIX and AMAZON PRIME proved that stories featuring older characters still matter and can draw an audience. Shows like “Bloodline” (NETFLIX), “Grace and Frankie” (NETFLIX), “Transparent” (AMAZON PRIME) proved that older, mature characters are still compelling and can carry story.  With few exceptions, broadcast television has abandoned storytelling for older characters unless they’re male leads on procedural dramas or supporting characters.  Digital platforms have embraced these characters and delivered high quality series centered around them. A few weeks ago I was watching “The Golden Girls” and realized that today that show wouldn’t exist on broadcast television and if it did, it would be a watered down version not nearly as relatable or timeless as what we got in the 1980s.  Digital platforms have created a space for the diversity in story-telling that doesn’t exist on broadcast television.
  5. Regina King wins an Emmy! (“American Crime, ABC) – Regina King is that rare actress who started out as a child star and was able to stay out of trouble as she transitioned into an amazing adult actress.  I always thought her performance on the NBC/TNT drama “Southland” should have been earned her multiple Emmy nominations but it was her performance in the limited series “American Crime” that earned her an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.  With every performance, whether on tv or the big screen, comedic or dramatic, King gives strong and nuanced performances.  Based on the reviews and buzz she could find herself back in the race for her performance in HBO’s “The Leftovers.”  King returns for the next edition of “American Crime” in 2016.

NETFLIX Comedy “Master of None” is Worth a Look

MV5BMjI1MDgyMTMwMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDU5MzAxNzE@._V1_SX214_AL_

Aziz Ansari (“Parks and Recreation”) stars in the new Netflix series “Master of None” proving himself to be a solid leading man.  The series, set in NYC, follows Dev (Ansari) a struggling, but working actor navigating life in the big city.

In between auditions for commercial, tv and movie roles, Dev surrounds himself with friends Denise (Lena Waithe), Arnold (Eric Wareheim) and Brian (Kelvin Yu). Unlike many other series set in New York, “Master of None” cast supporting characters to reflect the diversity of the population within the city.  Even the extras represent a diversity not seen in other New York centric shows like “Friends,” “Sex and the City,” and “Seinfeld.”  Much like in the FX series “Louie,” Manhattan looks and feels authentic.  I could actually feel the influence of “Louie” on the show, except “Master of None” is much lighter in tone. The show thoughtfully explored Indian stereotypes within the entertainment industry and confronted the narrow mindedness of studio and network executives head-on.

Much like many other Netflix series, “Master of None” takes viewers on Dev’s personal journey over the course of 10 episodes. Dev questions his place in the world, his choice of career and how his life would have differed without the sacrifices made for him by his parents.  The journey also includes a cute but often rocky romance with Rachel (Noel Wells).  Dev’s parents who immigrated to the U.S. warmly welcome Rachel into their lives with no hangups about her not being of Indian descent, which in 2015 is refreshing. It would have been nice if another young Indian woman had been included in the cast. It would have been a different and interesting perspective of Dev’s story.

“Master of None” is a solid show. By the finale, the story lead Dev in a natural direction that made me wonder what’s next for him.

Check out the trailer for “Master of None” below.

 

NIECY NASH is the ALL STAR of the FALL SEASON!

MV5BMTcwMzYzNTEyMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNTI0MzQxMw@@._V1_UY317_CR13,0,214,317_AL_

While Niecy Nash’s face certainly isn’t new to television viewers (RENO 911, CLEAN HOUSE, THE SOUL MAN), she’s definitely having her moment in 2015, starring in two primetime series.  Nash earned an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series for her role as Didi Ortley on the HBO comedy GETTING ON.  This was such a well deserved nomination, as Nash has incredible comedic timing and her line delivery is spot on every time. But more impressive is what she’s able to convert without uttering a word.  Her face can convey empathy, disgust, annoyance and joy effortlessly.  Now in its third and final season, GETTING ON is wrapping up Didi’s story but hopefully HBO will be back in business with Niecy Nash soon.

While her performance as Didi is quite and internalized, the FOX dramedy SCREAM QUEENS gives Nash the opportunity to show up and show out as Denise Hemphill, a security guard determined to catch the serial killer terrorizing a college sorority.  I suspect Denise has a tie to one of the sorority girls that will be revealed during the final five episodes.  Nash gives an over-the-top comedic performance that has me howling in every week.  Again, her line delivery is brilliant and I can’t imagine anyone else in the role.

GETTING ON and SCREAM QUEENS  gives Niecy Nash an opportunity to showcase herself as a brilliant actress.  If Hollywood is smart she’ll get more high profile feature film roles as well.

SCREAM QUEENS is an anthology series so if FOX renews the series for season two, I hope Ryan Murphy has Nash on his short list of actresses to be featured in the new season. If the television academy is smart Ms. Nash will be a multiple Emmy nominee next year.

Check out Niecy Nash in GETTING ON and SCREAM QUEENS below.

The Reboot of the Reboot is Being REBOOTED!

imageshart_to_hart_titleMV5BMjI1OTU4MTM2M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTU4NzgxMTE@._V1_SY317_CR6,0,214,317_AL_MV5BODM3NzU0MDI2N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTA0NDI5NjE@._V1_SX214_AL_MV5BMTcyODA3NjcxMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTY1NTk3OA@@._V1_SX214_AL_

It’s long been common practice for the movie industry to develop remakes or reboots of franchises (BATAN, BEN-HUR, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK) and television development executives are following their lead. It seems as though every day a network is announcing a reboot of an old tv series or an adaptation of an 80s or 90s movie for television. The short list include tv revivals of HART TO HART (with a gay twist); FULL HOUSE (now called FULLER HOUSE); TWIN PEAKS; THE X-FILES; PRISON BREAK; THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL AIR; XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS: THE A-TEAM; MACGYVER; AMAZING STORIES; GILMORE GIRLS (as a limited series on NETFLIX); and this season’s THE MUPPETS and HEROES: REBORN.

In the past, most of these shows would have just returned as television movies, but with the expanded platforms from which viewers have to choose, everyone is looking for content with built-in name and brand recognition.

Among the movies being adapted into tv series are: MY BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING; LETHAL WEAPON; ALL OF ME (1984 movie starring Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin); FATAL ATTRACTION; and CRUEL INTENTIONS, which was previously developed as a tv series called MANCHESTER PREP for FOX but the pilot was ultimately released as a movie on home video.

It’s not uncommon to see popular movies in the tv development pipeline. Often times they don’t make it to series but again, they’re a known quantity and it helps networks and other content platforms with their marketing efforts if they don’t have to spend a lot of time introducing the concept to the audience.  In the old days, this was often done with spinoff series, but that practice seems to have lost favor.

Development executives must be having a difficult time getting writers to pitch exciting original ideas.  And, with the myriad of content providers, experienced show runners are in higher demand.  This is both good and bad. It gives new talent an opportunity to shine behind the scenes, but sometimes that lack of experience can show in the execution. On the  other hand, we get new concepts such as BLACK-ISH (ABC), CLUB DE CUEROS (NETFLIX) and TRANSPARENT (AMAZON).

The burning question is just how much do viewers care about revisiting some of the brands being adapted and rebooted. This season has seen mixed results with MINORITY REPORT on FOX finding its episode order reduced after poor ratings results and LIMITLESS on CBS getting a full season pickup this week. My guess is that fans will flock to GILMORE GIRLS since the series didn’t get the satisfactory conclusion it deserved. FULLER HOUSE will probably garner some interest but since the show went off the air series star Candace Cameron Bure has become quite polarizing because of her religious and political leanings.  I still don’t get the PRISON BREAK reboot. The series had such a limited concept to begin with and ran out of creative steam by the end of season 2 of its four year run.

None of the movie adaptations really excite me.  FATAL ATTRACTION could have some soapy fun but seems limited in scope. There are stalking laws that can resolve this story by the end of the pilot.  ALL OF ME seems an odd pick for an adaptation. Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin made for a fun comedic duo, but no one remembers the film.

It will be interesting to see how far some of these projects get in the development process. Hopefully, among all the reboots and adaptations we’ll see original projects as exciting as EMPIRE, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER and BLOODLINE. There are a lot of writers out there with fresh ideas, I hope network heads are encouraging their development executives to seriously consider these projects.

Are you excited for any of the reboots or adaptations? Are there any other shows or movies you’d like to see on the small screen?  Comment below.

Also, check back to read some of my ideas for series I think would be fun reboots or television adaptations. Oh, and bonus points for anyone who can name the inspiration for the title of this article.

QUANTICO Delivers as TV’s Newest Mystery Drama

MV5BMTg2NjU1NTkyMl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzk5Mjg5NjE@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_

Prior to its premiere and based on the ABC promos it was easy to dismiss QUANTICO as nothing more than “HOW TO GET AWAY WITH TERRORISM.” After all, at first glance the setup for the series sounds like a ripoff of HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER.  Instead of lawyers, an aspiring group of FBI agent trainees are at the center of a murder mystery that is told in present time and flashbacks, just like the Viola Davis led legal drama.  QUANTICO even has an African American woman as the head of the FBI training program.

But, I was pleasantly surprised to see that after three episodes QUANTICO stands on its own as a solid mystery series with Indian actress Priyanka Chopra at the center of the mystery.  ABC casting gets an A+ for casting Chopra who was unknown to American audiences, but will soon be gracing the covers of every magazine imaginable.  We learn in the pilot that Chopra’s character, FBI agent Alex Parrish is the prime suspect for a bombing at Grand Central Station in NYC. We learn through flashbacks that none of Alex’s FBI classmates are who or what they seem, each carrying multiple secrets and identities.

QUANTICO reminds me of the first season of LOST.  It has richly multilayered characters, a compelling plot and unpredictable twists at every turn.  I just hope that the writers and producers figure out a way to resolve this initial mystery without dragging it on for six or seven seasons.  I suggest they learn a lesson from THE KILLING which decided to play out  its initial murder mystery over the course of two seasons, losing most of its viewers along the way.  HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER has expertly wrapped up its original murder mystery, and set up new stories while allowing the characters to still be affected by the events of season one.

It seems as though the producers have mapped out enough of the QUANTICO story so that it doesn’t feel like they’re making it up from week to week (yes BLOOD & OIL I’m looking at you!). The show has a quick pace and edge of your seat storytelling that keeps me engaged throughout the hour.

With a cast of mostly unknowns (Priyanka Chopra is a huge star in India), QUANTICO has been able to quickly give you characters to love and love to hate.  Aside from Chopra, other cast standouts include resident hunk Jake McLaughlin as Agent Ryan Booth, Tate Ellington as the “is he really gay” Simon Asher and Aunjanue Ellis as Quantico Training Director Miranda Shaw.

Strong writing, sharp directing and solid acting from the ensemble gives me hope that QUANTICO will deliver an exciting freshman season.  It’s fun to follow the story and wonder where it will go next.

QUANTICO airs Sunday nights at 10pm EST on ABC.