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!

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

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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:

 

Why CBS should END this version of “THE GOOD WIFE”

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Fist off, I’ve loved “The Good Wife” since it premiered in 2009. The story of Alicia Florrick, played by Emmy winner Julianna Margulies, as she tried to rebuild her life and law career after her husband Peter’s affair with a call-girl was exposed combined juicy family and political soap opera with weekly law cases (keeping with CBS’ staple of procedural dramas).  But “The Good Wife” transcended any procedural drama on CBS or any other network quickly becoming the best drama on broadcast television.

Co-creators of “The Good Wife” Robert and Michelle King announced this week that they are leaving the series at the end of this season. They’re vision for the show was a seven season story arc and for them this is the end.  It’s rumored that CBS is trying to negotiate deals for an eight season of the show, which means a new show runner and vision for “The Good Wife.”

I believe CBS should allow the Kings to complete their vision for “The Good Wife” at the end of this season and viewers should say farewell to Alicia Florrick and company.  Alicia deserves her happy ending and be allowed to walk off into the sunset gracefully.  However, “The Good Wife” is such a good brand that there is a way for CBS to evolve the show with new protagonists and stories.

Other networks have had success with anthology storytelling in recent years and “The Good Wife” could be a way for CBS to get into the game. The show should focus on a woman of color who is running to replace her late husband as Governor. Her only political experience has been that as First Lady of her state. She’s built a career as a successful Chief Financial Officer of a Fortune 500 company.  Her opponents will of course use her lack of political experience against her.  And even though she was able to turn her company’s financial turmoil around when she came on board, he opponents will spin things to make it look like it was her fault.  And, because she’s had a success full career, they’ll call into question her dedication to her family because she wasn’t a stay-at-home mom.  The show can focus on many themes including women in politics, race in politics, the effect of local politics on the community and the double standards when it comes to women and power.  There could also be an umbrella mystery surrounding her husbanding dealing while in office and the circumstances surrounding his death.For continuity, CBS could enlist one or two, at most, of the current characters to make guest appearances on the new incarnation of “The Good Wife” as legal counsel, or old love interest from the new “wife’s” past.

“The Good Wife” in its current incarnation should go out while still in a good place creatively.  This season hasn’t been its strongest, but it still stand out as one of the only quality dramas on broadcast tv.  CBS should give the show the dignity of going out with the vision of its original creators, the Kings.

What do you think? Should “The Good Wife” wrap up at the end of season 7?  Would you watch a new incarnation of the show in a new setting?  Comment below.

 

 

Eva Longoria and America Ferrera DESERVE BETTER!

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This winter NBC debuted a pair of new workplace comedies “Telenovela” and “Superstore” starring two popular and talented Latina actresses.  Sadly, neither of the shows is deserving to the immense talent of their leading ladies.

First, Eva Longoria whose comedic timing was one of the bright spots of ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” stars as telenovela star Ana Sofia Calderon. Ana is the leading lady on her show “Las Leyes” but her life is anything but glamorous.  In this “show within a show” Ana has to contend with jealous co-stars, wacky sidekicks and her sexy ex-husband who has been added to the cast by the network. Longoria is a master at slapstick and brings a great deal of charm to the role.  One fun aspect of the character is that although Ana is a telenovela star, she’s not actually fluent in Spanish.

Unfortunately not even Eva Longoria can save the lackluster writing of “Telenovela.” It’s a shame because her supporting cast is quite strong, but after watching multiple episodes i come to same conclusion of just not caring about the world with in they operate.

With the popularity of real telenovelas, I wish a network would develop and English language version of a show that’s not a comedy (“Ugly Betty”, “Jane the Virgin”) but instead a straight forward interpretation of of the genre.

Next, Emmy winner America Ferrera (“Ugly Betty”) stars in “Superstore.”  I don’t have the words to describe this show, other than NBC was trying to replicate the late comedy “Community.”  I never got that show, and I don’t get “Superstore.”  It’s writing and directing is sluggish. We’re given no reason to care or root for any of the characters.  This show is a mess and I can’t get through an entire episode without either rolling my eyes or turning it off.

America Ferrera and Eva Longoria are great talents who deserve better than what they’re being given on these shows and they should demand better.  It’s shows like these that make me want to give up on broadcast comedies.

It’s frustrating that NBC is spending a lot of time promoting these two shows while basically ignoring the best comedy on their schedule “Undateable Live.”

 

 

 

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

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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.

 

Country Music Star STEVE GRAND Should Use His Album “ALL AMERICAN BOY” as Inspiration for a TV SERIES!

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Openly gay country music star Steve Grand’s debut has been a constant on my playlist this week and as I was listening to it for probably the tenth time, I realized that his title track “All American Boy” should be the genesis for a tv series in which he would star.  The song paints such a vivid picture of unrequited love that anyone, gay or straight, can relate.

Here’s how I see the origin story of show unfolding:

Steve is an aspiring musician living in the midwest playing whatever gigs he can get. He lives in a converted apartment above his parents garage which leaves him very little privacy. Although Steve has come out to his ultra conservative parents it remains a mostly unspoken topic. His parents love him, but struggle to understand this part of his life. Steve has dated a couple of guys, but he’s never brought anyone home to meet his parents in part because he knew none of those guys were “the one.”

Steve’s best friend Jake is a strapping farm boy.  He’s never been outside of their small town and he’s quite content to spend his days at the lake drinking whiskey by a fire while Steve plays the guitar and previews his music. While Jake sees this as just another good time with his best friend, Steve finds it to be the most intimate times he’s had. Unfortunately for him, Jake’s girlfriend Laurie always finds a way to join in the festivities. Every time Steve has to watch Jake and Laurie hold hands, embrace and kiss, his heart breaks a little bit more. Jake is cool with Steve’s sexuality and has no idea his best friend is in love with him, although Laurie has noticed the way Steve looks at Jake and takes every opportunity she can to make sure Steve witnesses their affection for one another.

When Steve plays a gig at a small bar in Chicago, he meets Marcus a handsome medical intern who is immediately taken with Steve.  Marcus persuades Steve to have coffee with him before he has to catch his train back home. They hit it off and Marcus suggests they see each other again. Steve is hesitant but exchanges numbers with him and heads back home. Marcus is persistent and even though Steve tries to put him off, Marcus eventually wears him down and Steve agrees to see him again the next time he can book a job in Chicago.

When Steve and Marcus do start officially dating, it’s only in Chicago, when Marcus has time off from the hospital and Steve can get into the city. Steve doesn’t tell Jake about Marcus, although Marcus suspects something is going on because Steve and his music have taken on a more upbeat tone. Unfortunately for Marcus, he feels there’s a distance between him and Steve. He suspects Steve has a boyfriend back home, but Steve assures him that’s not the case.

When Steve finally introduces Marcus to Jake, Marcus suspects that there’s more between the two of them than friendship. As he witnesses how close Steve and Jake are, he suspects Jake is using Laurie as a cover.  Marcus becomes incredibly insecure in his relationship with Steve and Steve’s inability to shake his feelings for Jake won’t let him fully commit to Marcus emotionally.

The series would follow Steve as he struggles to find success in his music, build a relationship with Marcus and fight every instinct he has to tell Jake how he feels about him, in fear of not only being rejected but also possibly losing his best friend.

Steve Grand is a handsome, sexy and charming all American boy and has all the makings of a leading man. His music can serve as inspiration for a variety of storylines.  ALL AMERICAN BOY would showcase the struggles not only of Steve’s love life, but also the struggles of an openly gay musician.

Check out Steve Grand’s videos for “All American Boy” and “Time”.