Friday, September 9, 2016

Blast from the past

I have no internet. How am I posting this you ask? Pre-written then posted when I finally got internet. But yes, it’s been six days that I have been living without internet at my home. Cable companies are actually Satan’s disciples doing his business here on this earth. Originally they were drug dealers but now they handle our internet and cable subscriptions. Anyways, I have discovered a new found respect for living without internet (granted I do have data on my phone, but that is limited and does not allow me to watch Netflix, HBOGo, Amazon Prime, Hulu or any of the hundred ways I consume television). So what am I doing you ask? Me, the devouring, TV characters are my only friends, “television is my hobby, that counts as a hobby, right?” person doing with my time?

Watching television of course.

I could be reading a book. I could be drawing (which would really just be me drawing stick figures). I could, jeez, what the hell did people do with their free time before the internet? Before Netflix! You could say I could go outside. I would counter that I do but that does not fill up my whole day. Plus, I cannot do that at midnight when I get home from work. I could bake or learn to cook something new or do my laundry.

But why do any of that when I can go into the past and watch some great shows?

Luckily, I dove into the depths of my Apple computer from college (not the one I’m using to type the post) and recalled I had a few shows on file using an illegal way to watch them. Those series are: “Boy Meets World,” “Gilmore Girls,” and “Friday Night Lights.”

I’m sure your first thought was, “She started watching GG because the revival is coming out in November and what an opportune time for me to watch the whole series in preparation.” That would make sense, but that’s not what I decided. (Aside, don’t get me wrong, I’m super pumped for the revival and am so ready to revisit Stars Hallow again.) Then you must think I chose FNL, one of the best shows ever created and a perfect time of year to start watching, right as football season is about to start. But that would make too much sense.

No, I decided to truly go back in the past and watch one of the most nostalgic shows of my youth: “Boy Meets World.” Ah, Corey Matthews, how I’ve missed you. Topanga, the first Hermione, smart, ambitious and someone who just goes for it. And good ole Shawn (this is the way the show spells it, I know, it’s wrong). The idiot playboy with one of the biggest hearts. How I missed these characters. How I yearned for them in today’s climate of television. Now to be clear, this show is not the best. And by that I mean it was totally written for teenagers who are in middle school/high school, to help teach certain lessons and rarely have episodes that are actually progressive week-to-week. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if you missed one.

But how I missed it! In today’s world, it’s all these 10 episode mysteries and character studies and creative understanding of the human race. These shows are fantastic. They make you think and make you curious and make you question some of the actions in your own life. But damn, if I just sometimes need some careless, easy to watch, loving TV show. Even today’s sitcoms are dramas. Everything is so serious and thought provoking. That, of course, is great for television and I am a true believer that there hasn’t been a better time for TV than the last five years (I know; I haven’t been alive long enough to be able to truly analyze this, but too bad, that’s my opinion). I don’t believe there is too much TV and the more of these curious shows that are made, the better off we will be.
But that doesn’t mean I could use some more “Boy Meets World.” Is it the nostalgia? Probably. I could never get into “Girl Meets World,” it was laced with too many of today’s problems and teenage issues, which of course is the point. There is an element of BMW that just takes me back. From cords on phones to chalkboards; how can you not love the lesson that Mr. Feeney teaches every episode.
So my lesson in this blog is to learn from my non-internet life and take a minute away from the Facebook and the CNN and the Instagram. Stop reading about Donald Trump and stop watching reality TV and stop watching “The Night Of.” If you can, go revisit your past. Go watch an episode of “Doug,” or “Hey Arnold,” or “Rugrats,” or come over and watch some BMW with me. I think those 20 minutes you might find yourself learning something you wouldn’t expect.

Until next time, live long and prosper.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

What's to happen to broadcast TV?

I recently had an interesting conversation with some of my friends about television. I surprisingly learned that none of them really watched anything that was on the normal broadcast stations, i.e. ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CW. They were all streaming content from cable stations (AMC, FX, USA, Comedy Central), premium cable stations (HBO, Showtime, Starz) or streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime). Not gonna lie, this utterly shocked me. I didn't realize I was the only millennial left still watching shows like "The Big Bang Theory," "The Blacklist," "Grey's Anatomy," "Brooklyn 99," or "Arrow."

Of course, that's not true. There are obviously people still watching these channels, and this was just a small sampling of my friends (I do still have friends who watch broadcast TV, albeit, not many.) And obviously there are still people watching these shows, Grey's still gets about 8-10 million viewers each episode (which is rather remarkable considering they're in their 12th season.) Nonetheless, this got me thinking on if creators are still itching to get their show on one of the (former?) top dogs.

Are people starting to write shows with the mindset that they'll have to write 13 episodes per season and are able to use more vulgar language and maybe already have a guarantee of having at least two seasons instead of the grind that is broadcast? Possibly. I'm not one of those people but I wouldn't be surprised if that was the case.

That being said, I don't believe people who love television and cherish it, will stop watching broadcast shows. I think it is still a sacred accomplishment to have your show ordered on ABC or NBC. They're looking for fresh, new, creative, interesting content just like all the other networks, Though it could be argued that companies like Netflix or HBO are doing a better job and selecting the ones that seem to do the best; both by critics and the people.

What I will say is I can see how only writing 13 episodes is more enticing. Being able to create a complete narrative, knowing you'll be able to finish it, with a full story arc, that's a great guarantee. And that's what platforms like Hulu and Showtime are able to provide to creators. What I'm noticing more and more is that broadcast has become the place where a procedural lives and dies. From all the NCIS's to the CSI's to the Chicago Fire, PD, Med and rumored Law; those shows can get anyone to tune in week-to-week and they don't really have to had watched last week's episode. There's something special about a show like that, no doubt. My mother just told me show opted to not watch a show she had been following because while she was flipping the channel she got sucked into a story line on one of the Chicago shows. That's where the broadcast platform can continue to survive on, despite how depressing that sounds.

I recently wrote about how great the CW has been the last two years in producing quality, creative shows that you usually wouldn't see on broadcast. I truly hope that doesn't disappear. I hope Shonda Rhimes doesn't find a new home and continues to make unforgettable characters and stories for ABC. I hope the Kings (creators of "The Good Wife") don't get sucked into that 13 episode model as enticing as it might sound and how good the products can turn out, because what they've done with "The Good Wife" is still quality, important television.

Broadcast is important to the survival of television and I do believe there is room for everyone at the table. Some entertainment writers have argued there are too many television programs available for people that it's overwhelming and will eventually be too much. I don't believe that's true. If a show can create interesting, developed characters with intriguing story lines, then why limit where or how we watch it? Let's just embrace how great it all is and enjoy the fact that shows like "Daredevil" or "House of Cards" may not exist because of Netflix, but shows like "Scandal" and "Code Black" are still relevant and deserve to be watched. Not to mention, shows on 2, 5, 7, 9, Fox are free... just something to keep in mind.

Until next time, live long and prosper.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The resurgence of the CW

I may have write this because it feels wrong if I don't. I watch a lot of television shows on the CW. That's right, I actually watch five shows on the CW. FIVE. That ties the network that I watch the most with a depressingly CBS. I always thought I was more of an ABC, NBC watcher. Nope, guess not.

I'm watching new shows "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" and "Legends of Tomorrow." Two shows I have surprisingly unabashedly enjoyed thoroughly. And then I watch the successful "Arrow," "Flash," and "Jane the Virgin." They're all a little cheesy, they're all very unrealistic (considering three are superhero shows) and they're all very well cast, well written and well, pretty creative. Granted, the three superhero shows are not originals, they are a breath of fresh air from the superheroes in the movies.

Green Arrow, Flash and all the Legends have many flaws, many (nonstereotypical) battles with their abilities. I will saw they first two have had their issues, they've had their bad episodes but I cannot deny that I look forward to watching the moment I get home from work.

The more surprising shows that I like are the two female leads. When I first heard the title of "Jane the Virgin" I was convinced it would be the first canceled show of the 2014 season. Instead, Gina Rodriguez ended up winning the Golden Globe for the first half of the first season. After that I was immediately alerted to the creative, soft and funny show that was on this network that I used to be ashamed to say I watched ("Gilmore Girls" being the only saving Grace). Once the show came up on Netflix this fall I decided I had to find out what all the fuss was about.

To say I was hooked is an understatement. Despite the unrealistic premise it was a fun watch. It was a show that was original and had a very likable lead character who had flaws. However, it wasn't the shows I had been increasingly seeing; the shows trying to be the next "Breaking Bad." It's refreshing to watch a show that has heart and is actually happy for the most part.

"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" is rather similar except for the fact that when I saw the first trailer I knew I wanted to watch it. I can't say it enough other than the CW is putting together some of the most creative, original shows on TV; at least on broadcast TV. I keep using the words original and creative but that's because this fall TV season was full of the same formula shows. Some sort of strange, different premise but then a procedural that involved a cop and a regular Joe helping the police. It was like everyone was trying to remake "Castle." You have that with the "Blindspot," "Minority Report," "Limitless," "Rosewood," "Lucifer," "The Player," and you have it with established shows like "Person of Interest," "Blacklist."

Don't get me wrong, I watch and enjoy some of those shows listed above ("Blacklist," "Limitless"), but it can be a tiring premise. That's why the CW's lineup is just so great. It has some shows that have an established fan base with the superheroes, but they also have the shows that are utterly just different; just like "Gilmore Girls," was in the 2000s.

With the Netflix revival of "Gilmore Girls" officially announced now, I felt compelled to discuss the fact that the CW (formerly called the WB when GG was on) has had continued success with shows like GG. A rather simple premise that have complicated storylines and character development that keeps you coming back each week. So kudos to the risks they have taken in the last couple of years; the CW is turning around and shouldn't be thought of as the crappy network it once was when shows like "Vampire Diaries," and "One Tree Hill," had on it.

If you haven't yet, try one of the CW shows out, they may surprise you.

Until next time, live long and prosper.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Let's appreciate movies that are nominated

I recently read a column regarding Oscar films and why are they always movies that no one has heard of or movies that succeed at the box office. All I wanted to do when reading the column was punch the person who wrote it. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not always in favor of what movies the Academy nominates, but I will always appreciate the attention I hope it brings to films that are crafted with incredible detail and skill.

Now, would you ever see a movie called "Room" about a girl who gets kidnapped and has a boy living in one room for most of his life? Probably not. Or, if you aren't a movie snob, you might have never even heard of it. Without the attention and creed of the Oscars, how are movies of that stature going to get made? I think the importance of the Oscars is more important as we continue in an age where the box office decides if you have a successful film.

Now, do I base if I'm going to see a movie because it was nominated? Yes, maybe. But that's just how I operate. I love the film industry in my naive way of never having worked in it and unaware of how complicated and competitive it is; so for me I love trying to see all the movies nominated for best picture. Would I have seen "Hurt Locker" if it hadn't been nominated? Nope. I hated it, but I am glad I saw it. I'm glad I was exposed to a movie that told a story on a specific topic I had no knowledge of prior to seeing the movie. 

I'm also not an idiot, and realize that people wish "Star Wars" or "Straight Outta Compton" or any superhero movie made should get more nominations. And I always argue the merit of each film. Granted, it is difficult for someone who has not studied film or have much knowledge of what a quality film means for them not to realize they've seen something masterful. Heck, I don't even know all the time if I've seen something considered a work of art. I'm not going to pretend I understand all the things that go into it (art design, art production, costumes, makeup, editing).

What I will argue is that the Academy is already, albeit slowly, taking in consideration films that are not just released in November/December but summer blockbusters. Look at "Mad Max." That's a very exciting, action-packed movie that I do believe should have gotten nominated. I also think nominating something like "Brooklyn," which does have a simple plot, but is so enriched with character development and in the journey that I'm glad the Academy drew my attention to it. If it didn't, who knows if I would have seen it (and loved it.)

Let's embrace the quiet films and the loud ones. Let's also remember that movies are supposed to help us escape and explore and learn and if a movie helps us do one of those things then how can you say it was a bad movie? "Sisters" was goofy, crazy and nuts and I loved every second of it. Should it have been nominated because I liked it better than I liked something that did get nominated? Of course not. I just want to thank the Oscars for bringing attention to movies that would otherwise not have as much noise as others.

And if you haven't done it yet, "Spotlight," "Brooklyn," and "The Big Short" have been some of my favorite movies of the year. I have three left to go on the best picture list ("The Revenant," "Room," and "Bridge of Spies.") and I look forward to accomplishing seeing all of them. But also see movies like "Carol" or "Anomalisa" because we are lucky to have an organization that brings to light these movies that are powerfully loud and quiet movies.

Until next time, live long and prosper. (And remember go to the movies, and not just to see "Star Wars" for the fifth time.)

Saturday, January 9, 2016

My hopeful winners the Golden Globes/playoff season

Folks, it's that time of year again, Awards Season! Who's exciting? Obviously this is my favorite time of year. Not only is it award season but it's also playoff season for the NFL; so basically it's the best time of year. Who says January and Feburary are the depressing months? So, in honor of these exciting events, I give my hopeful predictions of what I would like to happen.

Golden Globes winners (disclaimer: I am not even close to have seen all of the movies nominated):
Best film - drama: "Spotlight"
I have only seen this and "Mad Max: Fury Road" (which premieres on HBO tonight and you should all watch) that are nominated for this category but what I've read about the other nominees, I have a feeling "Spotlight" will be my favorite of the choices. I think it's the most important movie of the year in terms of what it is telling and showing how much the journalism industry has changed. It might also be because I'm a journalist, so I suppose I'm rather biased. I will say that I loved "Mad Max" and was pleasantly surprised when I saw it got nominated.

Best film - comedy: "The Martian"
This is a tough one because if we're going strictly by the nominations in this category, "The Martian" is the best choice. It is the most complete film with a great story with a handful of funny moments. When I came out of it (and reading the book first) I would never consider this a comedy. If we are going by which movie I laugh most at, it's a tie between "Spy" and "Trainwreck." But I would be surprised if the winner isn't "The Martian."

Best actress - drama: Saoirse Ronan, "Brooklyn"
There's no chance she's winning, but I would like to see her win. It's most likely my affection for "Atonement" that I want to see this happen, but I think it would be great for the movie (which is on my list to see.) The winner, in my opinion, will be Cate Blanchett (surprise, surprise) or Brie Larson (who is gaining lots of attention for her acting chops in "Room," a movie I don't really want to see but feel like I should after all the rave reviews.)

Best actor - drama: Leonardo DiCaprio, "The Revenant"
Could this be, finally the year Leo gets the credit he deserves. I mean he slept in an animal carcass! Leo isn't without a Globe win but it would be great to see him start winning for this movie in hopes he finally gets his Oscar. Though, he once again has tough competition this year. Eddie Redmayne is like the male version of Jennifer Lawrence.

Best actress - comedy: Amy Schumer, "Trainwreck"
There's nothing more that I want than an Amy Schumer accept speech in front of the Globes audience. I also think she's pretty deserving of this award, but it might also be because she wrote this movie. I laughed probably equally as much as I did with Melissa McCarthy, who finally had a solid performance since her "Bridesmaids" days. I would be cool with either of those winning, but would argue that Schumer's character required a little more than just playing for laughs.

Best actor - comedy: Matt Damon, "The Martian"
I feel like this is a lock, but who really knows with the Foreign Press. I actually secretly hope Steve Carell wins; there's something about him and Ricky Gervais being in the same room that has me excited about this show. But there's no doubt Damon's performance was one of his best, even though it seems he has played this needing rescuing many times in the past.

Best supporting actress: Kate Winslet, "Steve Jobs"
It might be because this is the only performance that I saw in this category, and I'm also very biased toward Kate anyways, but it would be fun to see her and Leo win on the same night. I also thought her performance of Steve Job's right hand lady Joanna Hoffman was quite perfect. This is a tough category with a lot of question marks.

Best supporting actor: Sylvester Stallone, "Creed"
How great would it be if he won for his role of Rocky he created nearly 40 years ago (in case you didn't know, he was nominated for an Oscar for writing the screenplay for the original "Rocky"). I think it would be very cool to see him win this one. Also, none of the other nominees are very intriguing. I'm thinking it was a weak year for supporting men.

I could go through the rest of the movies categories, but then I feel like I would be writing for the next three hours (though I will say if "Inside Out" doesn't win best animated movie, I will throw something at the TV.) Here's to just hoping there are good speeches and entertaining interactions. But now for television.

Best TV drama: "Mr. Robot"
I, of course, will not be upset if "Game of Thrones" wins, however I'm rooting for this one because after watching only the pilot (I plan to watch more, don't worry), I thought it was a very inventive episode of TV, not only plot but character development. It'd also be good to see USA have a winner. Please, just don't let "Outlander" win, the least deserving of the nominees.

Best TV comedy: "Silicon Valley"
Probably the funniest program on TV, one that I laughed the most at (maybe rivaled with "Veep," which likely will win, and I'm cool with that.) I just think "Silicon Valley" has a great tone and delivery that is unlike most shows, so it would be nice to see it score a win.

Best limited series: "Fargo"
There is no question what the best thing on TV was this year. Maybe TV ever. "Fargo" is the greatest. Go, watch now. What are you doing still reading this. If you need log in info to watch o Hulu, just text me, I'll give you mine. It is the best piece of writing, ever. Season 1 of "True Detective" be damned. Somehow they made it better than the original movie.

TV people I would like to see win: Kirsten Dunst, who was fantastic in "Fargo." She was able to portray a lot of emotions of a very complicated and hilarious character. Viola Davis is a joy to see win and would be no different in this situation. I don't necessarily think she was the best actress on screen but she still needs to be owed for all the times she has been snubbed in the past. Personally, I'm a sucker for final seasons to win, and that's the case this year for Jon Hamm and "Mad Men," would love to see him score the best actor. As much as I love the brilliance of Julia Louis-Dreyfus in "Veep" I would like to see fresh blood win this category again (Gina Rodriguez scored the upset for "Jane the Virgin" last year.) I would love to see Rachel Bloom be the next CW actress to win for "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" a ridiculous but creative show she created. The music performances alone should be reason she wins. Finally, I'm hoping Aziz Ansari wins for "Master of None," and again it is also because he created and wrote most of the episodes. His performance was great and funny, but the show itself was just pure fun to watch, a fresh comedy.

So there you have it. Here's to hoping all my hopes and dreams come true, even though they won't. And while I'll be crying during Gervais' monologue because it won't be muh ladies Tina and Amy up there, I am excited for the start of this awards season. I'm still holding out hope the ladies show up and do something ridiculous (though unlikely.)

NFL playoffs:
Quickly, I'm just gonna say let's all hope there is not another Patriots/Seahawks Super Bowl this year. I swear, it will not be fun. But that's mainly because the Patriots look like a limping horse coming into the final stretch. Everyone loves a good underdog and I believe I'll be rooting for all of them (including Bengals, Chiefs and Vikings.) But, I my hope lies with the Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning, the nicest guy in the league (steroid report be damned.) How great would it be if he led the Broncos to one final Super Bowl win after being out the last six games and rode into retirement on top. So, go Broncos! More than anything I would love just competitive games to occur as any fan does when they're team is not in the playoffs. So here's to good competition and unhealthy amounts of food in the next month.

Also note that the Oscar nominations come out Thursday and all I'll say is that the only nominations I'm hoping for this year is Schumer for original screenplay for "Trainwreck." She, very similarly to Kristen Wiig and "Bridesmaids," reinvented the genre and deserves to be recognized. I mean, look, they included her in this roundtable discussion of screenwriters. I also, like the whole world, have jumped on the Schumer bandwagon.

Until next time, Live long and prosper.