“THE REAL O’NEALS” is a SOLID FIT FOR ABC’S FAMILY SITCOM LINEUP

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ABC didn’t do “The Real O’Neals” any favors with its pre-launch on air promo campaign.  I groaned every time I saw it and expected very little from a show that looked like it was desperately trying to use as many storylines possible to hook an audience.  I begrudgingly watched the first episode and to my surprise, “The Real O’Neals” is so much better than the promos!

The series centers on an Irish Catholic family living in Chicago whose life from the outside looks perfect.  Pat, the father played by “Mad Men’s” Jay R. Ferguson, is a Chicago police officer; Eileen, played by Martha Plimpton is a mom who will settle for nothing less than perfection from her husband and children. But the kids are anything but perfect.  In the pilot this seemingly perfect family reveals shocking secrets: oldest son Jimmy, a high school wrestler is anorexic; middle son Kenny is gay; and their youngest, Shannon runs cons on the community.  Meanwhile, Pat and Eileen have a secret of their own. Their marriage is in shambles and they plan on divorcing.

These revelations set up what is a very funny sitcom.  While Kenny’s anorexia seems to disappear after episode 2 (good call), the family continues to deal with Pat and Eileen’s marital woes and Kenny’s homosexuality.  While his siblings are immediately accepting of Kenny’s news, it’s not so easy for Pat and especially Eileen.  The show does an excellent job exploring the conflicting feelings for devout Catholics regarding what they’ve been taught about homosexuality in the church but still loving their son and wanting what’s best for him and what makes him happy.

The show doesn’t get preachy, but excels at an honest portrayal of a sixteen year old boy who knows who he is, but struggles to understand what that means for his future. Because he is the only openly gay teenager at his private Catholic high school he often thinks he’ll be alone forever as he watches his classmates pair off.  Newcomer Noah Galvin shines as Kenny.  He plays Kenny’s angst, frustration and optimism for truth, never missing a beat. Galvin has such a strong grasp on who Kenny is, that I often forget that there’s an actor playing the character.  Galvin is the heart of “The Real O’Neals.”  For a young actor he has amazing comic timing and his line delivery against seasoned heavyweights Plimpton and Ferguson is stellar.

The whole cast is great. Martha Plimpton who is always amazing makes Eileen, a character you could easily hate, relatable and often fun.  Ferguson who has shed the beard and some of the weight worn by his “Mad Men” character is charming as a forty-something who is realizing he’s a hot commodity on the singles scene. Unhappy in their marriage, both Pat and Eileen are realizing there’s so much more to them than what they’ve allowed society and their church to tell me they should be.

While much of the action does focus on Kenny, the entire cast is well serviced in each episode.  While only a handful of episodes have aired, it will be interesting to see how far ABC allows Kenny to go in his search for love in season 1.  The network is not shy about exploring the sexuality of adult characters on shows like “How To Get Away with Murder” and “Grey’s Anatomy” they might be a bit more restrictive when dealing with a teenage character.  I hope Kenny gets to experience his first kiss by the season finale and continue his journey into season 2, if the show is renewed.

ABC should be applauded for adding this show to it’s lineup of inclusive family sitcoms.  “The Real O’Neals” has become my go-to show when I need a laugh.  I have some episodes saved on my DVR just for that purpose and so should you.

“The Real O’Neals” airs Tuesdays at 8:30pm ET.  Watch an episode and let me know what you think in the comments.  In the meantime, here’s a clip from the show:

 

 

 

 

 

The Appointment of Channing Dungey as President of ABC Entertainment Group Should Be an Industry GAME CHANGER!

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Yesterday ABC announced that their head of drama development Channing Dungey would be taking over the reigns as President of Entertainment. This is a game changer for networks, studios and content platforms as Dungey becomes the first African American to head of programming at a major broadcast network.  Dungey has an impressive resume as an executive having developed SCANDAL, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D., QUANTICO, HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER and AMERICAN CRIME. These shows all feature male and  female characters who are equal parts strong and dysfunctional, just as we all are. The casts are ethnically and culturally diverse. Gay, lesbian and bisexual characters are written as fully formed human beings.

As television and other content platforms have made strides in representing the diversity of the world we live in on-screen, it’s time that they do the same behind the scenes. Dungey’s success as a development executive proves that having diverse voices as part of the development and decision making process only helps to create content that representative of our society. When there is more diversity among the executive ranks at networks, studios and other content platforms it helps to enhance the storytelling.  People with diverse experiences bring different perspectives and provide a new takes on an old tales.

Dungey’s promotion to President of Entertainment at ABC gives hope and inspiration to all the non-caucasian male programming executives who just want the opportunity to be in the room, to be a part of the conversation and to have a voice. But for this to happen corporate leaders have to take the time and make the effort to recognize and develop them.

ABC took the first step, now its time for others to follow their lead. Good luck Channing, I’m rooting for you!

 

 

3 TV Characters Who Could be MY VALENTINE!

It’s Valentine’s Day so I started thinking which tv characters would make the perfect Valentine.  I would accept a rose from any one of these characters!

Richie Donado (LOOKING, HBO)

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During the two seasons of LOOKING on the surface Patrick had a high class problem being torn between earnest barber Richie and his boss video game developer Kevin. But, Kevin is a cheater.  Richie on the other hand always presented himself in an honest way. He wants to love someone purely without agenda. He simply asks for respect. Although he comes from humble beginnings he’s been able to make a life for himself as a barber and although his career choice hasn’t made him rich, he’s happy. And I would love all the free haircuts and shapeups I would get if Richie was my one and only.

Oliver (HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER, ABC)

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Oliver has become the heart of HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER. He’s the purest of the bunch, having not committed murder or knowingly been an accessory to murder after the fact.  Ollie is sweet, cute, adorable and smart. He also realizes that we’re all flawed and is willing to accept imperfections in his partner.  The other bonus to dating Ollie is that he’s a computer genius and can hack into the computers of all the people who annoy me and tell me all their secrets!

Brett (UNDATEABLE, NBC)

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Among the diverse cast of characters on UNDATEABLE is Brett, a beefy bartender from the U.K.  Brett is unlucky in love but often gives it the college try, at least if the stories he tells his friends at the bar are to be believed.  Brett’s a nice guy who is alway there for his friends and can make a mean cocktail.  Aside from the sexy British accent, Brett is also an amazing singer and who wouldn’t want to be serenaded by him on a cold winter’s night?

5 TV SHOWS to WATCH as an ALTERNATIVE TO THE SUPER BOWL!

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If you’re not excited about the showdown between the Broncos and the Panthers in the Super Bowl tonight, here are a few alternate viewing options.  But, you’ll probably want to press pause and check out the half time show to see what surprises Beyonce has in store when she joins Coldplay on stage.

In the meantime check out episodes of these shows where available On-Demand, Netflix, Hulu or their network website:

AMERICAN CRIME (ABC):

AMERICAN CRIME is probably the most daring drama on broadcast television right now.  Season 2 is tackling the subject of male-on-male rape, what it means and peoples perceptions if it being an actual possibility.  Regina King is a stand out among a stellar cast.  Listen to my podcast for more of my thoughts on the show.

SHAMELESS (SHOWTIME):

SHAMELESS is having an interesting season. The Gallagher family has gone through so much over the  years, I was hoping this season would be a little lighter and more fun. But, this is SHAMELESS we’re talking about and the show is cleverly tackling teen pregnancy, abortion, and guns in school.  The show continues to explore the journey of Ian’s struggle with bipolar disorder and how he’s got to figure out how to move on with his life and not keep feeling sorry for himself.  SHAMELESS sets a high bar with this storyline.  Don’t worry the show still finds time to be sexy, messy and funny.

VEEP (HBO):

Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is brilliant as VP of the United States fighter her way to the presidency.   While we might cringe at moments during our current presidential race, the faux pas of Selina and her staff will make you laugh out loud.

BEING MARY JANE (BET):

Gabrielle Union is a stunner in BEING MARY JANE. She plays Mary Jane’s sexiness, and messiness as deftly as any lead actress on more buzzed about shows like EMPIRE, HOMELAND and SCANDAL.  As single woman trying to navigate her career and troubled love life, she also has her often needy family to contend with. BEING MARY JANE has set a new bar for the scripted programming on BET and it deserves more notice in the mainstream press than it gets.

MICHAEL JACKSON’S JOURNEY FROM MOTOWN FROM OFF THE WALL (SHOWTIME):

While this is actually a documentary, I highly recommend it to all music or just pop culture lovers. The documentary is filled with interviews with those who worked with Michael Jackson while he was still a member of The Jacksons to his evolution as a solo artist.  The doc also features interviews with Michael, reminding us of what a genius he really was.

 

The Reboot of the Reboot is Being REBOOTED!

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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

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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.

THE MUPPETS Could Deliver TV’s BEST New Love Triangle!

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When THE MUPPETS return to television this fall on ABC, viewers will quickly learn that Kermit and Miss Piggy have not only broken up, but Kermit has moved into a new relationship with Denise, who is also a pig, proving everyone has a type. While their personal relationship may have ended, Kermit and Miss Piggy will maintain a professional relationship as Kermit will serve as the executive producer of Miss Piggy’s new late night talk show.  With Denise also working on the show, there’s sure to be big drama and laughs as the three settle into their new, yet uncomfortable relationships.

It’s so smart of the producers of THE MUPPETS to throw a new wrench in Kermit and Miss Piggy’s 40-year relationship. ABC is masterful at developing and marketing compelling love stories (SCANDAL, GREY’S ANATOMY, NASHVILLE). It looks like the show will have some fun finding new human love interests for Miss Piggy which I predict will be highly entertaining.

But, when all is said and done, I still root for the Kermit and Miss Piggy to find their way back to each other, but I’ll keep an open mind watching as they expire their personal lives as separate entities. Each incarnation of THE MUPPETS is smart, reflect the times and brilliantly skewers pop culture. Based on the promos ABC has released, the new series looks to continue the tradition in a much more sophisticated way.

USA Today went behind the scenes to find out more about what’s in store for Miss Piggy, Kermit and Denise. Click here for the full article and video.

In the clip below, it looks like Miss Piggy has her eye on CASTLE star Nathan Fillion.