“The Friday TV Report” 14 + Netflix! from Sally Ember, Ed.D., and her mom

“The Friday TV Report” 14 from Sally Ember, Ed.D., and her mom

I (Sally) update this ongoing mini-reviews of certain TV and Netflix shows with our opinions (began in fall, 2015). Check on Fridays! This is the fourteenth post, for four weeks ending 7/22/16. A few returning shows and a few new ones this month.

Also, I have been steadily removing my reviews of all shows that have been discontinued/canceled since we started this posting. As of 5/23/16, I added potential new shows to watch for the fall of 2016.

BACKGROUND
My mom, 84, and I (61) are probably not the “target demographic” for almost any show on television or any movie being produced currently. We live in the suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, USA (Midwest, for those of you unfamiliar: think of that huge “Gateway Arch”? That’s here). I grew up here but then didn’t live here for 42 years; I’ve been back for about one year, now. We were both raised Jewish, but I have been a meditator since 1972 and a practicing Buddhist since 1996. We are both Caucasian women-born-women. We are considered “middle class” although we have almost zero dollars of “disposable income.” My mom is hetero; I am bisexual. We are both partly disabled. I am highly educated (doctoral degree plus other training); my mom has extensive work-experience, with a high school diploma.

My mom has been a TV watcher for over 60 years. I watched a lot as a kid, but from about 1972 – 2002, I didn’t have a TV and hardly watched it elsewhere, either. I usually didn’t have a TV between 2005 – 2014 as well, but I watched some shows online (Hulu, usually) or Netflix.

We think we should be part of a group that at least some producers are aiming to please, because we (especially Mom) now watch a lot of television. We also get movies regularly from DVD borrowing through our local library. We even occasionally go to a theatre to see a movie. We eagerly await the “new season” of television every one of the four times it seems to occur every year: “Fall Sweeps” happen, but so do Mid-season Sweeps, Mid-year New Seasons, and channels with an entirely different set of “seasons.”

We also occasionally watch TV shows and movies on Netflix!

However, we are consistently disappointed that many shows we do like are cancelled and some shows we despise seem to go on forever.

Again, for July, 2016, I/we continue with this Report.

preview-2016 summer
image from http://www.nj.com

We don’t watch: most “sit-coms,” any zombies or vampires, reality shows (except one on BBC), extremely violent shows, premium channels (HBO, Showtime, Starz), “teen” shows.

Fall TV + Netflix, 2015 – Spring/Summer, 2016
Our planned evening viewing line-up for shows (updated frequently) is as follows, sort of in calendar order, BUT, those I’ve already reviewed get “bumped” to the bottom of this post.
Scroll down if you don’t see a show “on top” that you want to read my review of.

NOTE: Our viewing “schedule” includes a lot of recording-and-watching-later, due to simultaneous broadcasts and my early bedtime.

**usually only Mom watches
*usually only I watch

NEW SHOWS
Weeks ending 7/22/16

The A Word (Sundance)

The A Word

The A Word is a BBC drama television series based on Yellow Peppers by Keren Margalit. The series follows a 5-year-old boy and how his dysfunctional family cope with the revelation that he has autism.” Starring Max Vento, Morven Christie, Lee Ingleby, Greg McHugh, Vinette Robinson.

This program is almost incomprehensible, for American/older audiences, IMHO. The dialog is heavily accented (rural British), volume is low, audio is poor, there is loud music playing constantly (because Joe, the child with autism, is almost always listening to loud songs on his headphones and singing along), and they all speak too quickly, often turned away from the camera. My mom gave up after about 15 minutes. I watched the first and part of the second Episodes and gave up, myself, but for different reasons.

The actor (Max Vento) who plays the main character is very good, but it is almost impossible to direct a neuro-typical child to pretend to be autistic, and this director has failed. I have been around many children, teens and adults who are “on the spectrum,” and their main “tells” are that they do not like to be touched and rarely (if ever) make eye contact. So, epic fail on both counts for this depiction.

If, however, you know people who are or you are yourself dealing with a family member who has these issues, I’m sure many of these characters’ struggles will be familiar to you. I wish they hadn’t tried to throw in so many other “family issues” (infidelity, racism, in-law issues, middle-aged/senior sexuality, just in Episodes 1 & 2), because there are plenty of topics to cover in learning about and handling a child with autism. I hope they get more into how the community copes as well, since many others are affected/involved by a special needs child, aged 5, who keeps “escaping” their home, roaming the roads unattended.
Not keeping, but some will appreciate this show.

The Match Game ABC
My mom and I are old enough to have watched the original version of this game show and since we liked some of the principles and the promised celebrities, we gave it a try. We watched two entire episodes, which consisted of 4 segments (both segments have the same celebrities but two new contestants for each of of the two segments in each hour-long show). Rosie O’Donnell (who seems to be having a great time and is the contestants’ favorite, so far) and one or two others were on all four segments; the rest rotated. My mom and I were only familiar with 3 or 4 of the 6 celebrities, plus the show’s host, Alec Baldwin, each time.

We aren’t prudish (I especially am not, being a hippie and all), but we were shocked at how lewd, graphic and sexually focused the clues, responses, jokes and reactions were. A lot of the bits are improvised (supposedly), but none of their remarks was censored (self- or network-) or even attempted to be made more family-oriented.

I expressed my surprise at its bold raunchiness and my mom replied: “Well, it is on at 9 PM Central time…,” shaking her head.

So, fair warning. Some of it was funny, most of it was silly, and it’s all in “good” fun (if you’re into that base type of humor).
Probably keep watching, but totally ridiculous.

NETFLIX Premier dates for 2016 (some are not new shows, but they’re new to us):
[We don’t know anything about these show, below, but may check some out.]
Stranger Things – July 15
The Get Down – August 12

NEW/AS YET TO BE SCHEDULED on TV
For the summer/fall of 2016:

This is Us NBC

*Making History Fox

The Blacklist: Redemption NBC

The Jury ABC

MacGyver CBS

*The Good Place NBC

Frequency CW

Miranda’s Rights NBC

Shots Fired Fox

Timeless NBC

Broken ABC

*Doubt CBS

Great News NBC

Zoobiquity Fox

**Chicago Justice NBC

Conviction ABC

Emerald City NBC

**Bull CBS

The Death of Eva Sophia Valdez ABC

Pure Genius CBS (10/27)

Bunker Hill CBS

Marvel’s Most-Wanted ABC

Drew CBS

Notorious ABC

**Presence ABC

Time after Time ABC

Imaginary Mary ABC

Pitch Fox

RETURNING SHOWS (tried and liked, up until now… Won’t comment on them all, but a few are worth mentioning.)

The Great British Baking Show PBS July 1
Somehow our recording system missed the first show, so we are catching up later. Meanwhile, we enjoyed the second Episode, “Biscuits,” even though I was slightly disappointed. I had been hoping to learn how to make American “biscuits,” but the British use that word for “cookies,” even for “savory” ones.

Still fascinating for my mom and me, who are NOT bakers, since a lot is explained both for how to create good and how the mistakes are made for bad “bakes.” Everything can go wrong, especially during the “Technical” bakes, whose recipes are extrapolated from very skimpy instructions (deliberately vague) from one of the two judges each week. Disasters occur from bakers’ forgetting to turn on or check the oven temperature, to mistakenly using salt instead of sugar, to neglecting to allow enough time to accomplish it all, to using ingredients/proportions of ingredients that are too weakly or strongly flavored or getting the dough too wet. “Crisp” and having a “good bake” are big on this show.

We like the artists’ renditions in sketch books of each participant’s planned creation for the final segment each week, the contestants’ “Show-Stoppers.” They obviously have weeks to concoct and practice prior to the contest date, and it shows.

What we also like are the camaraderie among the announcers and judges and how respectful the judges are to each contestant and they to one another. None of that “reality show” staged back-biting and fighting here (if there were, we’d turn it off). They give a bit of bio and film scenes at their homes and/or day jobs for each of the semi-finalists and finalists, which we look forward to seeing.
Keeping and highly recommended, if you like cooking shows.

Suits USA July 13
Not a fan of prison stories or settings, my mom and I are not sure we’ll keep watching this season’s SUITS disaster. We usually like this show, but Rachel (Meghan Markle) is now almost always crying or whining, and the over-the-top machismo exhibited by all the other main male characters is ridiculous.

They have painted themselves into a horrible corner, putting their lead character, Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams) in jail and bankrupting the law firm. They also make Mike a complete idiot, falling for obvious scams and ruses on his first days in the Big House. He’s supposed to be a genius, though?
Disappointed and may not keep watching.

*Halt & Catch Fire AMC August 23

AS YET TO BE SCHEDULED, Returning

Longmire (Netflix)

Humans (scheduled for late in 2016, UK; early 2017, USA) AMC


From Previous New Shows’ Reports
(only some are kept for more than a few postings, below)

The Great British Bake Off
It’s on again with new contestants and it’s excellent! This is only reality show we watch because the baking concoctions and watching the bakers create them are fascinating, always unusual and new to us, informationally. Many funny moments, but not at any baker’s expense, usually, which we like.
Plus, none of the competitors is actually a professional baker: a student; one makes satellites; a retired teacher; one also paints. So interesting that these individuals chose to compete in this way.
RECOMMENDED HIGHLY. Wish we could taste the entries!

Blindspot
Got very confusing, very dark, and now, completely off the rails (killing off two main characters). Why?
May not watch Season 2

Rosewood
Refreshingly NOT CAUCASIAN, not all heterosexual (but not “camp,” either), not too serious version of “non-cop with special abilities working with police” dramedy. Morris Chestnut as “Rosie” and Jaina Lee Ortiz as Annalise Villa give surprisingly nuanced performances week after week, with strong writing to back them up, usually.
Strange casting for Anthony Michael Hall as a grumpy detective, but great to see him, again. Liking Lorraine Toussaint in her somewhat minor but obviously recurring role. Liking Rosie and his sister, Pippy Gabrielle Dennis, and their banter a lot.
Strong and NOT SCREWED UP lesbian relationships on prime time TV?!? Unprecedented! But, then, UPDATE at end of Season One: writers have gone off the rails with the unwarranted break-up of Pippy and Tara (Anna Konkle) and with their depiction of Annalise’s reaction to Rosie’s news about her husband’s murder ().
Why do Villa’s Captain (Dominick Lombardozzi) and her mother (written and played very stereotypically by Lisa Vidal) have to get involved?
WTF? Ridiculous reactions and stupid situations result, starting with the unnecessary introduction of a recurring character, Mitchie Mendelson (vaguely anti-Semitic), brought in to “help” Rosie, written poorly, played by Sam Huntington.
Season Two is not looking good.
Keeping this, tentatively.

Quantico
My mom and I liked Quantico for the first half or so. Then, it devolved, as so many do, into chases and violence and not much (else?) to commend it.
The premise was supposed to be that this is a show about a new cohort of recruits at the FBI federal training academy (Quantico) in the USA. Why didn’t they stick with that? Why did they think they needed a terrorist bombing/ “moles”/ multiple deceptions-based plot?
We know it’s an FBI show and we did expect some of the above. But, really, when more than a few minutes of every show is devoted to pursuit chases and macho posturing/inappropriate blame and shaming, we look at each other and say: “Not enough plot, eh?”
UPDATE in November: going back in forth in time from the cadets to the present is a good idea but not done well at all. Relying too much on different hairdos for the female characters and who’s having sex with whom to anchor the timeline (who cares?). Still watching, but not sure why.
Watched the entire year but hated the poor visibility and convoluted storylines

quantico-abc

Colony
We were very confused and a bit impatient with the way this series’ pilot throws viewers into the middle of an alternate Earth near-future without sufficient explanations. However, we kept watching and did enjoy the pilot, despite our bewilderment.

We liked seeing Josh Holloway, since we liked him so much in the all-too-soon-cancelled Intelligence, and Amanda Righetti, from The Mentalist, which we loved.

Colony

But, we never watched Lost, The Walking Dead or Hercules, so the others are new to us, except for Peter Jacobsen, from House and Madam Secretary, and Paul Guilfoyle, from CSI.

Luckily, I had taped the “Colony: Behind the Wall” show, which we watched after we saw the pilot. That was excellent, because it explained a LOT. We also got to see how and why they established some of the special effects and sets for this series. We are now looking forward to seeing the subsequent episodes.

Without giving away too much. we appreciated the parallels the producers/creators are deliberately creating between Nazi-occupied Paris and a hypothetically occupied Los Angeles, asking us all (and all the characters are also asking themselves and each other): what would you do? Would you be a collaborator or a resister? Are you a pragmatist/selfish/greedy “winner,” or are you trying to keep going with “normal” life while wresting control from the occupiers and collaborators as you do? What lengths would you go to and what risks would you be willing to take under these circumstances?

Excellent questions and cool concepts.

You can to the series’ website and choose your side and see what you get into there! http://www.colonytv.com/
Keeping this one.

*The Magicians (new to me, Season 2)
Don’t know how I missed this last year, but catching up, now, and liking it enough to keep going. Kind of trite, but interesting. Liking Anna Dudek in the headmistress role.
Keeping, for now

*Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (2/8/16)
I loved Samantha Bee on The Daily Show and awaited her new individual show with great anticipation. I was not disappointed.

Bee was funny, insightful, appropriately outraged and very bold, extremely feminist and “in-your-face,” but since I agree with her POV, this all worked great, for me. I laughed out loud and sighed with relief at many of her “bits.”

Finally: a feminist’s POV delivered with wit and humor about this horrible election season! Yeah! And, more coming, I’m sure.

Full Frontal
Definitely keeping!

*The Catch 3/24/16
Watched both of the first two episodes and are hooked by the twists and intrigue. Mireille Enos (who bears an uncanny resemblance in voice, appearance and style to Ellen Pompeo of Grey’s Anatomy; guess producer/creator Shonda Rhymes has a “type”!), Peter Krause (a very different role from the geeky dad/husband in Parenthood!), Alimi Ballard (loved him in Numb3rs), Jay Hayden, who is unfamiliar to me as are Rose Rollins, Jacky Ido and Elvy Yost, comprise a strong cast.

The Catch
Good to see Sonya Walger in another eveil beauty role: she’s so good in these!
Keeping.

*Preacher AMC (May)
I watched the first (Pilot) Episode of this and I’m sure my mom won’t like it. I don’t really like it, either. Stars little-known actors, Dominic Cooper, Joseph Gilgun, Ruth Negga, Lucy Griffiths, which is great, but such weird/awful characters! Seth Rogen and his co-creators, Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin, seem to enjoy the idea of alien intervention (possessing the bodies of religious Christian evangelical leaders) around the globe, with some mysterious “men-in-black”-types (wearing brown) chasing after them/it, a bit too much.
Also, as usual, unnecessarily violent (warning: bodies explode messily several times) and plain bizarre. May watch one more Episode, but maybe not. A dearth of female characters (only two of note) and unlikable protagonists make this mostly unwatchable.
Off my list.

*Cleverman Sundance (May-June)
Very odd characters reside in a sci-fi view of a post-apocalyptic Australia. Humans try to quarantine and control “Inhumans,” or “Hairies,” as they are known in derisive slang. The show has difficult-to-understand dialogue (Australian accents and not-so-great production values for sound), overly trite plot and theme devices (slavery/enslavement, illegal immigration, betrayal by “coyotes”) to convey, as usual, very harsh social attitudes towards those who are different.
Also, even worse, the writers chose to include many pseudo-Aboriginal paranormal components which I found to be insulting to the indigenous cultures’ beliefs and rituals. Why do sci-fi writers try to usurp/appropriate existing religious and cultural traditions and then depict them inaccurately?
Unnecessarily violent (so many shows are, now) with an anti-hero and no likable characters throughout Episode one: not worth anyone’s time.
Off my list

*Feed the Beast AMC (6-5-16)
Jim Sturgess and David Schwimmer are fine in their roles, but I didn’t like the premises at all, nor all the violence and threats.
Another mafia trope? More still-using addicts? Another mute child? Almost no LIVING female characters?
Why?
I watched the first Episode and won’t continue.
Hated it. Off my list.

The Tony Awards (CBS special, 6-12-16)
James Corden hosted. He’s no Hugh Jackman or Neil Patrick Harris, but we were open. He did not disappoint. Great outfits, also!
From the opening statement in support of diversity (referencing the horrific murders at Pulse in Orlando the previous morning) to both opening numbers to many one-liners and audience moments (interviewing his dad was hilarious!), Corden provided great fun and info throughout. We were quite teary during the final opening segment including children—with a mini-James Corden-like kid—and all of the nominees, sending everyone who aspires to act and perform the message that “This could be you up here.”
We LOVED the Car Karaoke segment (I had already seen the longer version online, but it was new to my mom) and it inspired us to start recording James’ Late, Late Night TV show just to see more of those.
We especially enjoyed the outdoor mini-performances done by portions of each of the this year’s nominated casts of musicals, singing songs from past Tony-winning shows, for an enthusiastsic outdoor audience. We hope the Tony producers keep this feature in future years!
Very moving tributes, commemorations and reminders of the tragedies in Orlando from several winners and presenters, which were wonderful to hear. Great cameos and presentations from some of the greatest Thespians of all times, including Glenn Close, Cate Blanchett, Neil Patrick Harris, James Earl Jones, Carole King, Nathan Lane, Angela Lansbury, Steve Martin,Marlee Matlin, Audra McDonald, and BARBRA!!!
http://www.tonyawards.com/en_US/tonynight/presenters_and_performers.html#sthash.3SrXJ1sv.dpuf

2016 Tony awards

Maya and Martin (NBC)
If you like “humor” that requires sexism, racism, classism, size-ism (both weight and height), derogatory yet unfunny imitations of famous people and boring sketches mixed in with mediocre musical numbers, many unnecessary (and probably wildly expensive) costumes and wigs peppered with insipid silliness, you’ll love this show.
They referred to the 1960’s and 1970’s successful variety shows headlined by Carol Burnett, Sonny & Cher, Donny & Marie and others, but this show was so bad that it was insulting even to mention those greats during these half-assed performances.
Best sketch was the kidnapping/”Ransom of Red Chief” bit done by Nathan Lane and Martin Short, and it was not that great. Best musical number was the duet medley done by Tina Fey and Maya Rudolph, but it could have been so much better. What was the point of those horrible stools?
Even Tina Fey, Nathan Lane and Steve Martin couldn’t save this train wreck.
Skip this one.

**Brain Dead CBS (June 13)
The creators of The Good Wife brought us this seemingly political dramedy, but it’s really an aliens-ZOMBIE-like premise. Yuck.
Mary Elizabeth Windstead, Tony Shaloub and many others ordinarily good actors are complete wasted in this campy version of how mentally deranged politicians are (do they really need the device of alien brain parasites to prove this?).
Mom wanted to watch. She said: “It was okay for about 20 minutes. Then the bugs came on. I had to turn it off and erase the entire series. it gave me nightmares for days!”
Off her list.

AFI Lifetime Achievement Award given to John Williams (June 20) (TNT)
This was so delightful! Highly recommended if you are a film fan of Spielberg, Lucas, Tom Hanks, Harrison Ford, and/or Williams’ amazing decades of film scores. Great bio info and slides from his entire career.
Wonderful comments and tributes (whoever wrote those is a genius!) from so many wonderful actors, directors and musicians. Truly worthwhile to honor him and worth your time to watch.
RECOMMENDED

RETURNING SHOWS Reviewed previously
Stitchers FreeForm
My mom and I found Stitchers in the spring of 2015. Because it’s on ABC-Family, now FreeForm, all the violence is low-key and mostly off-camera (yeah!), while the characters and plot are much better than on “adult” stations.
Devolves a bit too often into soap opera, with too much post-adolescent angst and horrible choices made by the youngish cast of characters, but interesting.
Take a hint, “adult” stations: this is what TV should be like!
Keeping

Scorpion CBS
Could be that this show, like so many, is becoming a bit too formulaic, a caricature of itself. This season’s Episodes had a few too many “Oh, one of the bizarre genius’ amazing ideas, number four, didn’t work, so we’re going to die” moments.
Why does Katherine McPhee almost never sing in this show? She has a spectacular voice. What a waste.
Watched all Episodes. Started putting a quarter in for every crisis. Topped out at $3.00 for one Episode!
Predictable but interesting. Good for laughs.

NCIS New Orleans CBS
Good start to the new season. Like the new character played by Shalita Grant (female, African-American, kind of snarky and good at her job).

Shalita Grant
Shalita Grant, on her own Instagram account.

Keeping

**Grey’s Anatomy ABC
I am a long-time fan of this show, especially, Ellen Pompeo
Love the anti-homophobia storylines and the actions/discussions the show inspires, especially for parents of LGBT kids and for everyone about bullying. Excellent PSAs built right into the show.
Keeping

Scandal ABC
Please explain to us why the obviously psychotic and possibly amnesiac ex-Vice-President, Sally, gets to mouth off as if she is occupying some moral high ground when she murdered her own husband? Did everyone else forget that, too?
Plan to keep watching, but where is this going?

How to Get Away with Murder ABC
Glad Viola Davis won the Emmy. She deserved it. Good acting by her and many on this show is not enough to save it, though.
The writers of this show are a weird bunch, for sure.
The production values are so bad and the timeline jumping done so poorly that we have no idea what’s going on most of the time. Filming is too dark and cuts are too quick. Dialogue is not loud enough.
Too dark without much to redeem it.

Blue Bloods CBS
My mom LOVES this show and watches re-runs for fun, mostly because she loves Tom Selleck as the family patriarch and Chief of Police. I watch it, but don’t love it.

Blue Bloods

Keeping

NCIS CBS
Definitely going to miss Michael Weatherby for 2016-17.
Keeping

Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. FOX
Got very dark and too violent. Probably not keep watching for next year.
Not liking it much any more

Bones Fox
Glad they didn’t keep Hodges so crabby.
Keeping

The Blacklist NBC
Glad Lizzie isn’t dead, but this show is off the rails for real.
Keeping, for now.

Madam Secretary CBS
GREAT SHOW! But how can it keep its title if she’s now VP?

MadamSecretary

Definite keeper.

**Hawaii 5-0 CBS
Mom is keeping this on her list for sure.

**Chicago P.D. NBC
Mom is keeping this on her list for sure.

**NCIS Los Angeles CBS
Mom is keeping this on her list for sure.

**Law and Order—SVU NBC
Mom is keeping this on her list for sure.

**Criminal Minds NBC
Mom is keeping this on her list for sure.

**Chicago Fire NBC
Mom continues to love this. One of my CHANGES conversations between authors‘ guests, poet performer, James Gordon, has recurring minor roles on this and Chicago PD!)
Stays on Mom’s list

*Being Mary Jane BET
Excellent writing, sensitive topics [alcoholism, child abuse/molestation, suicide, disfigurement/physical “beauty”/ageism for women (particularly Black women), extortion, drug addiction, dysfunctional parenting, loyalty among friends (or not)], all very well-handled. Great music choices, also.

Being Mary Jane

Mary Jane’s character (played even better, now, by Gabrielle Union) is getting some chutzpah (FINALLY) and growing up (ALSO OVERDUE). Supporting characters (Lisa Vidal, Margaret Avery, Stephen Bishop, Richard Roundtree, Raven Goodwin) are getting more to do, which is great.
Glad to see Loretta Devine on this show, even though her character is so delightfully SCUMMY.
Keeping

The Librarians TNT
Fun and satisfying.
Excellent special effects and well-drawn characters, even the villains.
Don’t quite believe the romance between Noah Wylie‘s nerdy scholar and Elizabeth Romijin‘s former Secret Service ninja (Noah wishes…), but it’s all light and fun.
Miss Bob Newhart and Jane Curtain; John Larroquette just doesn’t have what they have.
John Harlan Kim, Lindy Booth, and Christian Kane round out the “regulars.”

the-librarians-season-2
image from http://www.tvline.com

Good show.
Keeping.

Elementary CBS
We both like this show a lot even though it’s very difficult for us to understand some of the dialogue or to understand Sherlock because of the show’s poor audio quality and his rapid-fire speech in a British accent.
Great to see Lucy Liu, Johnny Lee Miller, John Michael Hill and Aidan Quinn back again.
Keeping

On Netflix, new seasons of Jessica Jones and Longmire are now promised for later in 2016, which we LOVE! And, Grace and Frankie returns on May 6! Yeah!

Sherlock BBC
Yippee! Yahoo! Best BBC return-to-season EVER! Fabulous reunions and loved the “premise” (No spoilers, here). How great is Benedict Cumberbatch?
Also, great mystery to be solved.
Not liking the addiction story line in this or Elementary’s Sherlock (or any show, for that matter), but I guess it is part of the Sherlock character.
Keeping!

*Call the Midwife BBC
Excellent characters, based on real-life stories. I love this show.
Keeping

Suits USA
Michael (played well by Patrick J. Adams), is going to prison? Rachel, played well by Meghan Markle (but still dressed inappropriately vampy), is often too whiny, juvenile and ridiculous (and repetitive).
Sarah Rafferty as the impossibly perfect Donna and Gabriel Macht as the complicated Harvey still have the greatest tension (and are decades-long friends, which shows) and lines but not much to do.
Gina Torres as Jessica still wears too much white and is also too vampy in her costuming but is righteously angry and protective, both. Louis is still the most richly drawn and has the most fun stuff to do, and all done very well by Rick Hoffman.
Best unexpected gift acting as Donna’s alternate assistant to either Harvey or Louis is enlivened by Aloma Wright, who is funny, strong and interesting all the time. Also glad to see D.B. Woodside back as Jeff: he’s FIERCE! Appearances by other former characters give the season the feeling of “ending” as well, so we’re happy to enjoy Shelia Sazs, Stephen Macht (yes, Gabriel’s IRL father), Abigail Spencer and others’ returns, even if only for a few minutes.
Keeping, but not happy about it.

*When Calls the Heart Hallmark
Erin Krakow is great as the lead character, Elizabeth Thatcher, a rich young woman who leaves her safe, city family life to become a Canadian prairie teacher in a one-room school house, with an adorable Daniel Lessing as her Canadian Mountie/ love interest. Yes; hers is one of my alternate reality jobs.

When calls the heart

Lori Loughlin is cast as her typically maternal and saccharine character but she does play the best friend/ cafe owner/ widow/ adoptive mother/ landlady well. Other characters are also “stock” and mostly two-dimensional, but I blame the Hallmark Channel’s writers (Janette Oke and Derek Thompson, most recently, but there are 18!) more than I fault the actors. Also has Cat Montgomery, played well by Chelah Horsdal.
KEEPING

Grace & Frankie (on Netflix) Season 2 (May-June)
My mom and I enjoyed Season One and looked forward to Season Two a lot. We saw Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda on talk shows in the month prior and anticipated its return with glee.
Watched Episodes One, Two and Three, so far. Many laughs and poignant situations in One, but again, funnier/sillier rather than believable writing and more performing than acting by the four main characters. By Episode Three, we were looking at each other and shaking our heads and din’t go on to Episode 4.
Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston are still wooden and unbelievable and passionate lovers. Lily Tomlin is still performing a hippie character trope. Jane Fonda is the only one of the four who actually inhabits a realistic version of a character via acting.
Brooklyn Decker and June Diane Raphael are given, as Sheen’s and Fonda’s adult daughters, mostly comedy bits and one-liners to enact, but they are getting the sisterly relationship better this year. Baron Vaughn and Ethan Embry (Tomlin’s and Waterston’s adult sons) are not given even that much to do until Vaughn sits with Sheen’s recuperating character for a while and they have a few brief scenes together.
An impressive array of talented older actors parades through as dates for Lily or Jane and friends of any of the main four, including Episode Two’s Rita Moreno (completely wasted in this), but I have yet to see any of them be given anything interesting to do or show.
Most of the supporting characters are written as stereotypes of whatever group they are purported to belong to by ethnicity, age, job or other status, which is sloppy and lazy writing and disappointing for the talents of these actors. Ernie Hudson returns as Lily’s friend, Jacob, in two episodes; Sam Elliot comes back for Jane’s dating scene in two episodes; we get Swoosie Kurtz and Marsha Mason in Episode Five; Episode Six brings back Joe Morton and Mary Kay Place: I hope these great actors get to do more than mug, crack jokes and be cardboard cutouts.
This show could be SO MUCH BETTER! But, the writing trivializes what few actual issues there are, going for silly and getting sillier even though the topics are significant. For example,
—What kind of gay are the characters of Sol and Robert? They apparently haven’t discussed this, yet. Are they even the same kind as one another? Are they flamboyant “queens,” political/marchers in gay pride parades, attendees and singers at Broadway Bingo called by a Transvestite (or Transgender: the show didn’t even bother to make the distinction, or…?
—How do older or inexperienced entrepreneurs like Frankie avoid getting conned/fleeced by unscrupulous business people (even supposed “friends” and “family,” like Brianna [who now runs Grace’s company]) who make low-ball offers and confuse them with “net” and “gross” talk when they have a lucrative innovation, invention or product to market?
—How do women enduring medically risky pregnancies that require bed rest (in this case, Mallory, having twins, which is not automatically risky…) deal with the demands of their daily lives when they can’t afford to hire help?
—How do couples who based their entire relationship on infidelity deal with their infidelitous leanings? When Sol has sex with Frankie on the eve of marrying Robert, he is convinced not to tell Robert before marrying him because Robert has had a heart attack and needs open-heart surgery to survive. Frankie is also having trouble not telling Robert, who is her life-long friend. She, however, didn’t seem to have any trouble cheating with Sol on Robert….Where is the moral compass’ arrow pointing when no one seems to have any sense of “true North” except for Grace?
—How do senior citizens deal with relationships and sexual issues (vaginal dryness, erectile dysfunction, shyness/awkwardness (newly dating after being married for decades), lack of interest?
–How do/can addicts “make amends” when they’ve lied, stolen, destroyed property and relationships/trust for many years and still can’t be readily trusted?
—Do children ever “get over” sibling rivalry? Do in-laws ever get along? How do jealousy and competition and affect adult relationships?
—How could adults deal effectively and respectfully with children’s phobias and anxieties rather than patronizing or minimizing?

Wish the writers would tackle these and other issues head-on rather than with one-liners and sit-com scenarios. The actors would then actually have something to do and the viewers would probably be feeling that their time had been well-spent instead of wasted.
Will keep watching, but so far, disappointing.

*The Americans TNT
I like this show, but the content is quite disturbing, for sure. The morality, ethics, honesty and deception issues are quite seriously depicted, there is a lot of violence (which I don’t like), and people are very screwed up, on all sides. Multiple complexities and grey areas are not shied away from, and they include many key events/issues from the USA’s 1980s: bravo to the writers, actors, director, fact-checkers/researchers!
I hate to read subtitles, but having the Russians speak Russian adds verisimilitude, for sure.
Both Matt Rhys (Phillip) and Keri Russell (Elizabeth) give nuanced, fascinating performances, especially when interacting with their now-“read-in” daughter, adolescent Paige (played admirably by Holly Taylor).
Remarkable performances also by the great Frank Langella, with key moments played by Callie Thorne, Noah Emmerich, Annet Mahendru, Lev Gorn make/made this a show well-worth watching. So do Keri Russell‘s and Matthew Rhys‘ real-life romance and child together!
Frank Langella gave such a moving speech when he won a Tony (June, 2016) for best actor, referencing Orlando and gay rights, support for diversity and for all, etc., that it gives me a new perspective on him for his role in this show.
Cringing, but keeping

*Orphan Black BBC
Cool return.
Tatiana Maslany is amazing. She deserves every acting award, ever.
If you haven’t seen this show and love great acting, tune in (but it does get quite gruesome and violent, sometimes; I close my eyes).

Orphan Black 2

Saving Hope (ION, from CTV) (Season 4 and series ended in 2016, but I’m catching up)
I used to watch this show online and then “lost” it after Season 2. So glad I found it again! It’s a medical drama with a twist (Dr. Charlie Harris sees and talks with the spirits of dead and comatose/anesthetized people), with all the Grey’s Anatomy soap opera romances and medical procedures. I seem to like these types of shows a lot, and this one is especially good because of the paranormal aspect.
Starring Erica Torrance and Michael Shanks (he’s the one with the visions) and a great supporting/otherwise starring cast make this fun to watch.
Fascinating looks into being an intern and having to choose a “specialty; lesbian/bisexuality in the context of Orthodox Jews; when to “pull the plug” and how one would know (clues embedded into Broadway show tunes, once); organ donating; problem pregnancies; medical heroism; divorce, dating, (in)fidelity and amnesia (twice; you have to watch); and parent-adult child issues.
Keeping until I catch up

The Night Shift (Season 3 started 6/1/16) (NBC)
Yet another medical drama, but this one is set in Texas, which is unusual and inspired the casting directors to include many more Latina/o and African-American actors to play key roles. That is excellent (most other dramas are very Anglo/a).
Starring Eoin Macken, Jill Flint (loved her in Royal Pains and The Good Wife), Ken Leung, Brendan Fehr (been watching him since Roswell, into Bones, and now, here), Freddy Rodriguez, Scott Wolf (recently from Perception), Robert Bailey, Jr., J.R. Lemon and now, Tanaya Beatty.

The Night Shift

Similar soap opera romances, intern/resident issues, family dramas and interpersonal issues, but adding in the wars the USA is engaged in (several Vets and Rangers among the medical staff, some who are re-deployed), addiction/recovery, pregnancy and fidelity issues abound.
My mom actually started watching this one with me 2016, summer.
Keeping

*Devious Maids (returns June 16 for Season 4) Lifetime)
This show is delightfully silly but also, quite insightful about race and class and the oppressions suffered and visited upon Latinas in the LA region(and elsewhere, I’m sure) who are working as domestic servants for the very wealthy. Has Ana Ortiz, (a professor who posed as a maid), and Dania Ramirez, Roselyn Sánchez, Edy Ganem, and Judy Reyes as ongoing maids, with Susan Lucci, Rebecca Wisocky, Tom Irwin, Brianna Brown, Brett Cullen, Mariana Klaveno, and Grant Show in other main roles. There a great many other guests and recurring stars who came from other daytime or evening soap operas and/or Desperate Housewives making appearances.

Devious Maids 2

By some of the same producers and writers (notably, Marc Cherry) of Desperate Housewives, and with a funny cameo by co-producer, Eva Longoria, the creation loop is this: The plot is based on the Mexican TV series, Ellas son la Alegría del Hogar, which translates in English as “They Are the Joy of the Home,” and which itself was heavily influenced by Cherry’s previous series Desperate Housewives.
Guilty pleasure; Keeping

Rizzoli & Isles TNT
R & I‘s last season! So sad!
My mom and I both like this show a lot: Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander (we loved her on NCIS as well) are great as a sister-like collegial team, and the supporting cast, while somewhat stock, are fun to see them engage with during each crime-solving journey. Jordan Bridges is a great also-Detective (now), younger brother, with Lorraine Braco as their caring, somewhat hovering and funny mom/surrogate mom.

Rizzoli and Isles cover

The new (final) season’s storyline, of Isles’ TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is very realistically and well-written, but ‘way too close to home, for me (I suffered one similar to Isles’ about two years ago; still recovering).

We like seeing strong, intelligent, competent women working as a team instead of competitively. Thanks, TNT! Should be more shows like this one.
KEEPING

Major Crimes TNT
Excellent show. It’s back again 2016, summer, strong as ever.
However, we find the “romance” between Captain Sharon Raydor (Mary McDonnell) and Lt. Andy Flynn (Tony Denison), to be completely unbelievable. No chemistry at all!
With Michael Paul Chan, G.W. Bailey, Raymond Cruz, Graham Patrick Martin, Robert Gossett, Phillip P. Keene, Jon Tenney and many others from its predecessor, The Closer, which we loved.
Keeping

Royal Pains (final season, summer, 2016) (USA)
Mostly silly, now, but we’ve watched every season before this so have to finish it out. Like Scorpion, we put in quarters for every absurd street-side medical improvisation they feel compelled to include (favorites are restaurant tracheotomies [with ball-point pens, of course]; and poolside or beachfront thoracotomies [with drinking straws and pocket knives], both of which I’m sure I could do at this point)!
Stars Mark Feuerstein, Paulo Costanzo, Reshma Shetty, Brooke D’Orsay, Ben Shenkman and recurring roles filled somewhat stiffly by Henry Winkler, Campbell Scott and Jill Flint. Not very well-written or credible, but somehow the scenery (The Hamptons) force us to watch.
Finishing

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My Responses to the mid-year “Scorecard” for USA Primetime TV shows, 2014-15

My Responses to the mid-year “Scorecard” for USA Primetime TV shows, 2014-15

As some of you know, my mom (82) and I (60) watch a lot of TV shows together and some separately since I moved here in August. We usually have the same or similar tastes, but, once again, we are apparently not the target demographic for primetime USA TV shows.

Execs repeatedly cancel what we like (intelligent, entertaining, even unusual dramas, romantic dramas or dramadies, some with a touch of the paranormal), often without tying up loose ends or finishing an ongoing story (which is just plain RUDE to viewers of a series). These networks’ “brain trusts” continue to add on or retain what we detest (most half-hour sitcoms, “reality” shows, and other drek).

Sigh.

Here are the lists of RENEWED, “ON-the-BUBBLE” (meaning, fate is uncertain), and CANCELLED shows for the 2014-15 season’s shows, from TVLINE: http://tvline.com/2014/10/28/renewed-tv-shows-2015-renewal-scorecard-cancelled-series/, and my responses (with some of her comments as well).

I’m only reporting on the status of shows we watch. If you want to know more about other shows, go to the link, above.

Also, TVLINE doesn’t include cable networks’ shows, such as TNT‘s, USA‘s, BBC‘s, VHI‘s, A&E‘s or ABC Family‘s, some of which we watch, so I list them below.

ME = Only I watch this one.
MOM = Only Mom watches this one.
The rest, we both watch.

TVLINE uses this list of status possibilities, in descending order:

♦ Officially renewed
♦ A sure thing
♦ A safe bet
♦ Could go either way
♦ A long-shot
♦ Essentially cancelled
♦ Officially cancelled
♦ Too early to tell

Allegiance: Officially cancelled. WHY? This is an excellent show, with great writing, original characters and excellent acting. Stupid Execs.

Allegiance

ME TNT’s The Americans: Don’t know. Currently running a new season. I like this show a lot but I have to fast-forward through the torture and gory stuff. Amazing acting and great writing.

Ascension: Don’t know. Mom didn’t like this at first, but I got her into it and then she got hooked. Now, of course, she’ll be mad if they don’t continue, since they left it all unresolved.

Battle Creek: Premiered March 1. Don’t know. My mom and I were both unimpressed with this but will watch one more Episode, just to see if it really is that mediocre.

Bones: A sure thing. We LOVE this show: great writing, great relationships, fun to watch (but Mom doesn’t look at the gory parts).

The Blacklist: Officially renewed. We liked this a lot at first, but it has gotten darker and bloodier every week, it seems. I fast-forward through a lot of it, now.

Blue Bloods: A safe bet. We both like this, but Mom LOVES this show so much that she watches re-runs multiple times. Is it Tom Selleck’s moustache?

Castle: A safe bet. We LOVE this show: great writing, great relationships, fun to watch.

ABC Family’s Chasing Life: Don’t know. Currently running a new season. I got Mom to watch this (I watched Season 1 last year) and she likes it, usually, when the show doesn’t devolve into soap opera-type adolescents’ and young adults’ dramas.

Chasing Life TV

MOM Chicago Fire: Officially renewed. One of my upcoming guests on my almost-weekly (Wednesdays, 10 – 11 AM Eastern USA time) CHANGES conversations between authors talk show (https://sallyember.com/changes-videocasts-by-sally-ember-ed-d/, poet James Gordon, is also an actor who has a guest-starring role on this show (which is the reason we changed his show date from 3/11 to 4/1!), so I guess I’ll watch his Episode, but otherwise, this one is Mom’s.

MOM Chicago P.D.: Officially renewed. I’ve never watched this but Mom is loyal.

CSI: Cyber: Premiered March 4. Don’t know. It’s not getting good reviews, but we really liked the first Episode. Probably cancelled, then, right?

ME BBC’s Downton Abbey: Don’t know. Probably renewed; even though Mom doesn’t watch most BBC shows, many do and it’s very popular. Disturbing look into last century’s English elite and their servants: classism at its best/worst.

Elementary: Could go either way. We like this show a lot, but sometimes it’s very hard to understand Sherlock because he talks so softly and quickly and with a British accent.

Forever: Season 2 is a long-shot. Of course it is; we really like this show, especially the relationships between the lead character, Henry, and his son and Henry and his detective partner.

Galavant: Season 2 could go either way.

The Good Wife: A sure thing. We LOVE this show. I worked with Julianna Margulies’ mother back in the mid-1980’s, so I feel related.

ME Grey’s Anatomy: A sure thing. Really? I thought this was its last season…. Mom stopped watching it years ago, but I’m loyal.

MOM Hawaii Five-0: Could go either way. I never got into this, but Mom loves it.

ME Hart of Dixie: Season 4 finale airs March 27; Season 5 is a long-shot. This is mostly an awful show, but an acquaintance/author friend of mine’s older son is one of the stars (and, even though his part is hugely ridiculous, he does an awesome job!), and I like Rachel Bilson (usually), so I still watch. It is so insipid, though…. Sigh.

VHI’s Hindsight: Don’t know. Mom watches this with me because I like the premise, but it has devolved into a soap opera with twenty-somethings; neither of us likes it now all that much. Great music, though!

Hindsight TV

How to Get Away With Murder: Season 2 is a sure thing. We like this, but it’s a bit like watching a train wreck in the dark which keeps reversing and starting over. The writing could be less confusing and the production values could be better (MORE LIGHT!): We need to SEE, please. And, stop using text messages to advance the story, because we can’t read them!

TNT’s The Librarians: Don’t know. Started out strong and we really liked it, but it did get even weirder than we expected. We hope it continues, though. We loved Warehouse 13, and this is very similar. Fun cast.

Librarians2014Intertitle

A&E’s The Listener: Don’t know. Seems to be cancelled, but we watch re-runs on an off-channel, hoping we’re wrong. Great show with original and very Canadian crime-fighting.

Longmire: Cancelled, but continued on Netflix (which we do not have). Too bad; we liked this show a lot, but we didn’t want the apparent romance between those two main characters to actually occur. Hope it doesn’t.

Marvel’s Agent Carter: Too early to tell. We like this show a lot, especially the lead character. Probably means it’s cancelled.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Too early to tell. We watch this but it’s harder to understand with the new season’s just beginning again. We’ll see if we continue (even if does, we may not).

Madam Secretary: Officially renewed for Season 2. This show is EXCELLENT! Glad it’s continuing. Awesome acting and writing.

TNT’s Major Crimes: Don’t know. Season is in two parts. First part just ended; second part starts in June. Then, Don’t know. We like it a lot. Liked The Closer even more, which this spun off from a couple of years ago.

Major Crimes

ME Modern Family: A sure thing. I mostly fast-forward through this since it’s devolved into silliness, but some of it is still funny.

The Mysteries of Laura: Too early to tell. We did not like this at all, at first, but kept watching and it kind of grew on us. Wouldn’t miss it if it got cancelled, though.

ME Nashville: Could go either way. I really like this show, but the writers seem to have painted themselves into several corners and the music hasn’t been consistently great.

NCIS: A sure thing. We both like this a lot, especially the characters/actors. Miss Ziva, though.

MOM NCIS: Los Angeles: A sure thing. I never got into this one, but I like the original.

MOM NCIS: New Orleans: Officially renewed for Season 2. I didn’t like this (tried a couple of Episodes).

BBC’s New Tricks: Probably continuing. Just got into this recently (it’s been on for several years already) and enjoy the “cold cases” these retirees and their kick-butt female boss(es) solve. Some of the British-isms are hard for Mom to understand, but I translate (she’s not as into BBC shows as I am).

The Night Shift: Season 2 premiered Feb. 23. Too early to tell. A medical drama I just got Mom into, so we’ll see if she likes it. I watched the entire first season and enjoyed it immensely: great writing, acting, unique situations.

ME BBC’s Orphan Black: New season starts this week. Too early to tell. Very oddball show with amazing, Emmy-awarded acting by the lead actor, Tatiana Maslany, who plays multiple roles (some simultaneously!?!), and the show has awesome hairstylists!

Orphan Black

Perception: Too early to tell. New season just started. We really like this show. Interesting, likeable characters and unusual crimes to solve.

Person of Interest: A safe bet. More and more bizarre each season, and we miss Shaw, now, but well worth watching. We do wish the main character, John, would STOP WHISPERING.

Red Band Society: Too early to tell. Essentially cancelled. This was a great show but they didn’t capture the younger audience well enough; it’s too bad they didn’t continue it.

ME Resurrection: A long-shot. But, I probably won’t continue watching even if it continues. It got too Christian-y for me.

Revenge: Could go either way. This show was good for a while but it got repetitive and stranger each year. Deserves to go.

TNT’s Rizzoli and Isles: Too early to tell. New season just started. We really like this show: great writing, not too bloody, fun interplay among characters.

Rizzoli

MOM Rookie Blue: Season 6 premieres Summer 2015.

USA’s Royal Pains: Restarts Season 7 or 8 (I can’t keep track) this summer. Fun, very weird medical dramedy, second only to The Night Shift for doing medical procedures in odd places (“in the field”) with jerry-rigged equipment and found objects.

Scandal: A sure thing. This show has gotten into some horrible areas, but last week’s Episode (with Courtney B. Vance as the grieving Dad) was amazing. Glad it’s continuing.

Scorpion: Officially renewed for Season 2. We LOVE this show.

USA’s Suits: Season is in two parts. First part just ended; second part starts in June. Too early to tell. Not sure how they’re going to continue with things they way the left them this week with Donna and with Mike’s ongoing untenable situation.

ME BBC‘s Sherlock: Next season is scheduled to start soon. BBC just started running the entire series again this week, if you want to catch up! Very different take on the Sherlock-Watson relationship than previous British or American Sherlock’s and not the same at all as Elementary‘s, either. Plus, Benedict Cumberbatch. Yes.

Sherlock BBC

State of Affairs: Season 2 a long-shot. Also liked this show a lot, at first, but it’s gotten very dark and convoluted. Difficult to see where they’re going with it, now. Probably deserves to be cancelled, but it’s had some great acting, especially by the President (Alfre Woodard) and Katherine Heigl with several unique situations.

ME Under the Dome: Officially renewed for Season 3. But, I probably won’t continue watching. Didn’t like where this went towards the end of Season 2 and too few of the remaining characters are likeable. Also, the premises are quite bizarre, even for Stephen King.

Unforgettable: Officially cancelled. Possibly renewed by A&E for Season 4. We really like this show and if it does continue on A&E, that will be this show’s third network! Amazing tenacity of producers? Poppy Montgomery is adorable.

unforgettable