“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.
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.
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
Weeks ending 7/22/16
The A Word (Sundance)
“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
*The Good Place NBC
Miranda’s Rights NBC
Shots Fired Fox
Great News NBC
**Chicago Justice NBC
Emerald City NBC
The Death of Eva Sophia Valdez ABC
Pure Genius CBS (10/27)
Bunker Hill CBS
Marvel’s Most-Wanted ABC
Time after Time ABC
Imaginary Mary ABC
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
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!
Got very confusing, very dark, and now, completely off the rails (killing off two main characters). Why?
May not watch Season 2
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.
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
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.
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.
*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.
Good to see Sonya Walger in another eveil beauty role: she’s so good in these!
*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?
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!!!
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.
RETURNING SHOWS Reviewed previously
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!
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, on her own Instagram account.
**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.
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.
Definitely going to miss Michael Weatherby for 2016-17.
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
Glad they didn’t keep Hodges so crabby.
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?
**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.
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.
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.”
image from http://www.tvline.com
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.
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!
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.
*Call the Midwife BBC
Excellent characters, based on real-life stories. I love this show.
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
*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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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