Chelsea Handler’s NETFLIX Talk Show Made Me Get Up and Vacuum!


Over the past 20+ years I’ve watched, analyzed and programmed countless new talk shows.  Most of them failed.  That’s because launching a successful talk show takes more than just a familiar face.  It’s takes a strong point of view, a clear identity and talent with whom the audience connects.  Chelsea Handler’s new talk show for NETFLIX is an interesting experiment.  The streaming service known for popular and acclaimed scripted series has not just dipped its toe into the talk show genre, but jumped in head first.

I like Chelsea Handler. I enjoyed her show on E!  I especially enjoyed her when she covered topics in which she was particularly interested or invested.  By the end of her run on E! Handler was honest about not wanting to talk about the Kardashians and Justin Bieber anymore.  Her show on NETFLIX affords her the freedom to more clearly define her voice, not just as a comedian but as citizen of the world.

So, having experienced what I can honestly say are some of the worst talk show launches ever, I chose not to watch the first week’s batch of episodes that NETFLIX made available for streaming.  Instead I started with week 2.  I immediately had the same problem with Chelsea that I had on her E! talk show, her monologue.  Although this really doesn’t count as a traditional monologue since she she only covered one topic and quickly moved on to her guest, Christina Aguilera.  The interview portion was fine, but Chelsea lost me when the segment moved into Aguilera giving her voice lessons. Next, was an interview with openly gay soccer star Robbie Rogers and some sports critic.  Talking about why soccer isn’t as popular in America as it is in the rest of the world is not in Handler’s wheelhouse and that’s not unexpected.  As Handler tried to keep the segment interesting by making fun of the critic, I decided I should vacuum my living room.  When I turned to the tv, there was pretaped segment of Chelsea learning how to figure skate on, so I decided I would clean the stairs.

Then, as I turned the vacuum off, I look up at the tv and Chelsea was back with Rogers and the sports critic talking about Rogers’ experience coming out as a major sports star and the reception of homosexual athletes in the world of sports.  It was a topic in which she was invested.  She asked great questions. It was an interesting conversation.  Even the critic was interesting.  I was seeing Handler in her wheelhouse, in her voice.

As anyone with NETFLIX knows, after an episode of a show ends, it will automatically take you to another episode.  This one was a conversation with comedian Wanda Sykes, where they discussed why Sykes would perform in North Carolina despite their recent transphobic bathroom law.  They then segued into the presidential election. It was a compelling discussion about why they like Hilary Clinton, but also why they weren’t necessarily excited by her.  They were smart and funny. Not a surprise.  During the segment, Chelsea introduced President Obama’s former speechwriter Jon Favreau (not the actor/director) and the three continued an compelling conversation about their election with Favreau sharing two insightful and funny stories about President Obama.

Chelsea Handler will produce at least 90 episodes of her show for NETFLIX.  This gives her the time to find her footing and the right voice for the show.  It will be interesting to see what happens with this show.  Unlike the scripted shows on NETFLIX this isn’t a show that I would binge in one sitting.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of buzz about it, and I’ve seen no promotion.  Honestly, I forgot the show had debuted until I saw it on the home screen when I went to check out some viewing options on the streaming service.  Chelsea Handler has 5.8 million Twitter followers,so maybe that’s all the promotion she needs.  I follow her and can’t remember seeing one tweet from her about the show.  She should put her assistant on that, stat!

Have you watched Chelsea on NETFLIX?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section.

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.

 

“The Good Wife” is the PERFECT SHOW to Address ASHLEY MADISON SCANDAL!

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The recent Ashley Madison hacking scandal is ripe for a “ripped from the headlines” story on THE GOOD WIFE. The series has often been in-step with stories playing out in the real world. THE GOOD WIFE writers are amazing and don’t really need my help, but for fun, I have a few ideas.

The origin story of THE GOOD WIFE is that the wife of the Illinois State Attorney has to pick up the pieces of her life after her husband is caught in a sex and corruption scandal.  Throughout the last six seasons the show has often referenced that scandal to reinforce Alicia’s (Julianna Margulies) continued mistrust of Peter (Chris Noth). Now that Peter is running for President, it’s a perfect time for an Ashley Madison-like website to get hacked, potentially derailing Peter’s campaign.

Alicia is, yet again, setting up her own law firm so she could take on a class action lawsuit again said website by a group of “clients” of a website designed to help married people cheat on their spouses who had an expectation of privacy when they signed up for its services. Maybe one of the men exposed in the scandal has committed suicide, as has been recently reported amid the real life scandal, and his family is suing on his behalf. As Alicia is going through the list of names she recognizes a name, possibly an alias she’s known Peter to use in the past when he needed to be incognito.  Alicia immediately suspects Peter had an account with this site and she will once again face public humiliation.  While Peter denies her suspicions, this new conflict reopens old wounds and makes Alicia question if she can continue to play the role of the supportive spouse. Alicia’s former law firm could represent. the website giving Alicia a chance to go up against Cary (Matt Czuchry) and Diane (Christine Baranski).

Of all the shows on television, I trust THE GOOD WIFE most with this story.  The writers would intelligently explore all sides of the hacking issue as it pertains to a website set up for the express purpose of infidelity.

THE GOOD WIFE returns for its 7th season on Sunday, October 4th at 9pm EST.  Check out an extended deleted scene between Alicia and Peter from season one of THE GOOD WIFE below: