PODCAST: “THE GOOD WIFE” FINALE SPOILER: IT’S NOT A ROMCOM!!

 

 

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UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT” GETS SEASON 2 (MOSTLY) RIGHT!

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NETFLIX found an unexpected gem in season 1 of “UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT” from c0-creator Tina Fey.  The show was orginally set to air on NBC but lucky for all involved moved to NETFLIX where its quirky humor was more likely to find a more accepting audience. The show continues its sometimes frenetic story telling pace, along with Tina Fey’s sharp and smart writing.

Season 2 picks up not long after where the season 1 finale left off.  After successfully testifying against the cult leader that kept Kimmy (Ellie Kemper) and other women hostage in an underground bunker for fifteen years, she’s determined to put her past behind her and make up for all the time she lost. This being the strongest story thread in the new season, finds us going along on a journey with Kimmy as she  must figure out who she is and learn how to deal with the demons of her past. Kemper continues to be charming in the role and I really can’t think of anyone else who could play the role.

This season also gives a bigger platform to the character of Titus, played by breakout star Tituss Burgess. As with many sitcom supporting characters that become popular, the show gives Titus bigger story, which isn’t always a good thing.  In a season where all the characters are searching for the truth of who they are and what they want for there lives, Titus’ larger than life character is often to0 much in early episodes of the second season.  Fortunately, with the introduction of construction worker and love interest Mikey (Mike Carlsen), Titus becomes less caricature and more human. While he’s given plenty of fun musical numbers throughout the season, nothing comes close to his season one performance of “Peeno Noir.”

This season “UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT” shares the love of developing the characters of Kimmy’s landlord Lillian (Carole Kane) and her suedo-boss Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski).  Each are given very well throughout character driven story arcs that stay true to the characters to whom we were first introduced in season 1.  Both are incredibly talent actresses and should be on the short list for Best Supporting Actress in comedy category come Emmy time.

This season also boasts two spectacular guest stars.  Tina Fey  plays a therapist with whom Kimmy becomes unusually closed, while Lisa Kudrow pops up in a surprising role. I’m not going to spoil it, so you’ll have to watch to find out!  Again, both actresses should earn Guest Actress Emmy nods.

Like many sitcoms before it “UNBREAKABLE KIMMY SCHMIDT” addresses the theme of family, the one you’re born into and the one you create for yourself.  I think of this particular group of “THE GOLDEN GIRLS” on acid. The early episodes of season 2 are a little uneven but ultimately saved by an overall story arc that leads to a very satisfying season finale. If you liked season 1, you’ll enjoy season 2.  Again, I was bit frustrated early on and could have done with less Titus, but it all works out in the end.  I will say that this is a show that should be binged. If I had to watch from one week to the next, I probably would have given up by episode 4. But, thankfully NETFLIX put all 13 episodes up at once that made for a quick, easy and ultimately satisfying binge.

In case you missed it, here’s Titus performing “Peeno Noir” from season 1.

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.

NIECY NASH is the ALL STAR of the FALL SEASON!

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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.