PODCAST: MR. ROBOT on USA is a MUST SEE!

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I binged all 10 episodes of USA’s dark drama MR. ROBOT and it deserves all the accolades it’s been receiving.  Check out my thoughts in the podcast below. Just push play!

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 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.

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.

5 Things I Hope to See During the 2015 TV Season

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With the fall season quickly approaching, I’m anticipating the return of some show and curious about some of the new entries.  Here are 5 things I hope to see during the new television season.

  1. HOMELAND maintains its creative momentum from last season. Let’s face it, HOMELAND had been a mess creatively for a couple of seasons, but when the show returned for its fourth season, it was refocused and regained its critical credibility. HOMELAND even earned an Emmy nod for Best Drama Series.  I hope the series is able to continue with its creative resurgence in season five.  Claire Danes and Mandy Patinkin are incredible in their roles and deserve strong material. But please, no more Brody fantasies!
  2. UNDATEABLE thrives on Friday nights. As you may have read in a previous post, I’m quite fond of the NBC comedy UNDATEABLE. When the series aired a one hour live episode this past season, I was 100% sold on the series about a group of misfit friends who hang out at a bar sharing their usually unsuccessful romantic adventures. Fridays are a tough night for any show, and the only comedy to survive on the night in recent years is ABC’s woefully unfunny LAST MAN STANDING.  That’s how low the bar has been set.  This season UNDATEABLE will be live every week and hopefully viewers will tune in for all the hijinks.
  3. HOW TO GET AWAY WITH MURDER doesn’t flame out in season 2. Given the disaster that former ABC mystery soap REVENGE became in its second season, I hope the same fate doesn’t await HTGAWM. They show is a high adrenaline murder mystery, with a number of B, C and D stories.  I hope the storytelling doesn’t become too complicated with all the flashbacks, flash-forwards, and current day settings. Rhonda Rhimes is a master at multi-arc storytelling so that gives me comfort.
  4. SUPERGIRL soars. CBS is not the first network that comes to mind when I think of reimagining a comic book superhero, but the Tiffany network will debut SUPERGIRL on Monday nights this fall up against Batman prequel GOTHAM on FOX. I quickly fell out of love with GOTHAM last season, so my I’ve tempered my excitement for SUPERGIRL. The show does have two things going for it. One, she’s a female superhero which could broaden the appeal of the show from just comic book purists. Second, former ALLY MCBEAL star Calista Flockhart as publishing mogul and Kara’s (aka Supergirl) boss/confidante.
  5. EMPIRE continues to break new ground. EMPIRE had a record-breaking first season this past winter telling compelling and contemporary stories that often go untold on with African American characters on tv. While we’ve seen many coming out stories, Jamal’s felt fresh and bold. Having oldest son Andre struggle with bipolar disorder was a great way of educating the audience about mental health while still delivering a great soapy story.  I hope EMPIRE continues to weave topical social issues into its sometimes over the top storytelling boldly distinguishing itself from all other dramas on television.

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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.)

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CASTING CORNER: 3 ACTRESSES WHO SHOULD BE SERIES LEADS!

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These three talented women are familiar faces to tv viewers but none have ever headlined their own tv series, which is a shame. It’s time for Hollywood take notice and cast these women as series leads.

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KHANDI ALEXANDER

Khandi Alexander has most recently been recurring as “Mama” Maya Pope on SCANDAL.  Whether she’ll be returning for the upcoming season is unknown, as the show keeps its storyline spoilers close to the vest. But, Alexander’s talent is too powerful for her to be sitting on the sidelines. Her performance on SCANDAL is proof.

I would love to see Khandi Alexander as a corporate mogul fighting to keep the business she built from nothing into an international powerhouse. Alexander’s character would be single, by choice, but not lonely. She can have any man she wants, whenever she wants him, but on her own terms.  While she’s confident and proud of her success she struggles with her relationship with her parents who think she abandoned her past in her quest for her fortune.  Khandi Alexander would have no problem playing a strong, poweful, smart and sexy woman. She’s done it in supporting roles on a number of shows and now it’s her turn to take center stage.

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JUDY GOLD

Judy Gold is a brilliant comedian. I’ve seen her do stand up a lot and her sets consistently keep the audience laughing.  Gold has had a few guest spots on sitcoms 2 BROKE GIRLS and LOUIE and delivered standout performances.

Judy Gold should headline a show on Netfiix, Amazon or Hulu where she can have the freedom bring her unique sensibility in a fresh and uncompromising way.  Gold should star in a comedy based on her relationship with her family, a constant subject of her standup. The story could focus on Gold’s character, a divorced lesbian, who is in a new relationship but also in constant contact with her ex-wife because they share a son.  If that’s not enough Gold would ask be struggling to keep her family business afloat while caring for her elderly, spitfire mother. She has such a gift for storytelling that she would be sure to appeal to her current fans while drawing a whole new audience who have yet to discover her.

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ROSIE PEREZ

Rosie Perez is an Oscar nominee who this past year co-starred in the critically acclaimed Broadway play FISH IN THE DARK while serving as a co-host on THE VIEW.  Now that Perez is done with her hosting duties, she’s free to headline her own series. Not only is she an amazing actress, Perez is well versed in politics and science. She’s a social activist who has spent years fighting for issues impacting the Latino community, inner city youth and HIV/AIDS education and prevention.

Rosie Perez should star in a gritty cable drama about a woman who wants to save the world through her social activism. When she’s asked to run for a local political office she’s at first reluctant but then considers the impact she could make by working on the inside. In the “fish-out-of-water” story Perez’s character would have to learn how to navigate the politics of politics in order to make  a difference for her community. She would be torn between her new professional world and colleagues as she tries to maintain the relationships with her community in which she still lives. Some of the activists with which she once worked will consider her a sell-out while others will try to leverage their relationship with her to move their agenda forward.  Rosie Perez is a star who deserves a star vehicle that shows off her amazing acting chops.