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I love movies! I’m addicted to television! And in order to keep up with everything that’s going on in the world of movies and television I read lots of entertainment news. Not the trashy gossipy stuff about who’s sleeping with who or what latest scandals are going on in the personal lives of celebrities. I’m talking about what TV shows have been renewed or canceled. What our upcoming plot lines of TV shows going to cover? What new movies are coming out or are in production?

So I read lots and lots of entertainment news to find all this stuff and I like to share that information with friends and family who are as addicted to TV and movies as I am. From time to time I would forward a link from an article to one friend or another but assumes I would hit the “send” button I would find yet another article. So finally I just put the mailing list together of all of my TV/movie addicted friends and I just get all the links in one big e-mail and send them to everyone on the list.

This blog is just a collection of those e-mails so that I can post a link from this blog to Facebook and share my entertainment news research with more people. Like I said before you will read about the tabloid gossip stuff. This is just hard-core entertainment news for movie and TV addicts like me.

New “Twilight Zone” Might Make CBS All Access Worth It

Jordan Peele has long been known as a comedian with his TV series “Key and Peele” and his appearances in other comedic roles. But with his feature films “Get Out” and “Us” he is proving himself a master of horror and suspense. So when we heard that he was going to be a part of a reboot of the classic anthology series “The Twilight Zone” we were very intrigued. He is producer and creator of the show and serves as the opening and closing narrator filling the shoes of Rod Serling from the original series.

The original “The Twilight Zone” ran 156 episodes from 1959 – 1964 and is considered a classic and often voted one of the best series in television history. A second version of “The Twilight Zone” ran for three seasons from 1985-1989. A third version of “The Twilight Zone” ran 44 episodes from September 2002 through May 2013. However neither of these achieved the status or following of the original. There was also a feature film “Twilight Zone: The Movie” in 1983. It consisted of a collection of three independent stories.

All versions have been anthology series with different casts and individual stories each episode. Typically the stories are cautionary tales that are a mixture of sci-fi, horror, fantasy, and mystery. Plot twists and irony are an important part of most episodes.

This new incarnation of the series follows well in the footsteps of the original. Two episodes have been shown on CBS All Access streaming platform with a total of 10 episodes scheduled for release in the weeks ahead.

The first episode titled “The Comedian” holds with the traditions of the original series. A mediocre standup comic makes a Faustian deal to forward his career. Without spoiling the plot and telling you the gimmick, the consequences of his deal are quite costly. It draws on themes from other Twilight Zone episodes although it is not a rewrite of any particular episode. My biggest problem with the first episode is that it was way too long at 55 minutes. All but 18 of the original Twilight Zone episodes were a half-hour long. That was just enough time to set up the premise, pull off the plot twist, and show you the consequences. About 20 minutes through this episode I found myself saying “Okay we get the point. Let’s move on.” We will have to wait and see how the other episodes fare for length and pacing.

The second episode “Nightmare at 30,000 Feet” is a reimagining of the classic episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet“. That classic episode starred William Shatner as a nervous man who believes that he sees a strange creature out the window of an airplane. That same story was remade as one of the segments of “Twilight Zone: The Movie” this time starring John Lithgow. Unlike the movie version which was pretty much exactly the same story, this one does not involve a creature but does involve a paranoid man who believes that he and the passengers on the plane are in danger. He stumbles across an MP3 player containing a podcast from the future that talks about the disappearance of the flight he is currently on. This episode coming in at 37 minutes is much more tightly written and directed and has deliciously surprising multiple plot twists highly reminiscent of the classic series.

For fans of the original series there are Easter Eggs galore. I found only two or three but this YouTube video claims to have found 20 of them in the first two episodes.

As mentioned, Peele serves the same role that Serling had in the original series appearing in a scene at the start and end of each episode to introduce and wrap up the story. Of course the conclusion always is that the protagonist of the story has taken a journey into The Twilight Zone. The classic opening and closing theme music are present which adds to the familiarity of the episode. Peele’s delivery is just as mysterious and stoic as was Serling’s. He is a worthy successor.

It remains to be seen if the other episodes are up to the quality of these first two. I sincerely hope they stick with the shorter format. I think had we only had the first episode to review we might not have been as optimistic about this series.

One of the main problems with the series is its limited availability. It is only available on CBS All Access streaming platform. A subscription with limited commercials is $5.99 per month or $59.99 per year. A commercial free option is available at $9.99 per month or $99.99 per year. When the service was first launched, the only original programming was the new “Star Trek: Discovery” this was followed by “The Good Fight” which is a spinoff of the CBS series “The Good Wife” and stars Christine Baranski. She reprises her role as Diane Lockhart now working in a predominantly African-American law firm. There are four other original series on the platform and I’ve only seen one episode of “Tell Me a Story” and was not impressed. I may write a review of it later. I’ve not yet seen the other three series “No Activity“, “One Dollar“, and “Strange Angel“.

“The Good Fight” like its predecessor is one of the most entertaining and cleverly written shows on television. I’ve loved every minute of it as it is currently into its third season. “Star Trek: Discovery” has disappointed many fans of classic Star Trek because it allegedly set in the universe of the original Star Trek series but it breaks so many rules and premises of that series that many people claimed it isn’t really Star Trek. I’m not bothered by the changes and tend to judge it on its own merits. The stories are compelling. The special effects rivals what you would see in a feature film.

The bottom line is that I think that with the addition of “The Twilight Zone” along with “The Good Fight” and “Star Trek: Discovery” this streaming platform now may actually be worth the money. In addition to the exclusive original content you also get access to current and past CBS shows on demand as well as some CBS sports. So if you want to catch up on any other CBS favorites via streaming you can do so. Also available are episodes of Star Trek original series.

I’m giving “The Twilight Zone” a rating of “I’m watching“.

Both Discovery and Good Fight get strong “I really like it” ratings bordering on my ultimate rating of “Must-See”.

CBS All Access has a two-week free trial so perhaps you should check out a couple of episodes of each of the above and see if you think it’s worth the money.

“Witches” Should Be Left Undiscovered

Recently BBC America debuted a new series “A Discovery of Witches” that originally appeared on Sky One network in the UK. Season 1 runs for eight episodes. There will be a season 2 and 3 but no word on if they will be aired in the US.

The premise is that various “Creatures” namely witches, vampires, and demons live among us and hide in plain sight. The main character Diana Bishop is the last in a long line of distinguished witches. She however rejects her abilities and tries to avoid using magic of any kind although it occasionally leaks out of her. It’s not just that she is worried about being revealed for who she is. She just doesn’t want to belong to the whole community of creatures. She works as a historian with a special interest in alchemy and how it eventually led to scientific inquiry. S he visits Oxford to research some of Elias Ashmole’s papers. When she checks out a particular manuscript she discovers it is somehow bewitched and triggers some series of strange events. The manuscript believed to be long-lost may hold the key to the origins of vampires and other creatures.

Along the way she encounters a vampire named Matthew Clairmont. Apparently in this particular universe vampires are day walkers. Although vampires and witches are not supposed to get along, they team up to uncover the mysteries of this lost manuscript. From what I’ve read about the series there is eventually some sort of romantic attraction develops between the two of them. Unfortunately I didn’t see any evidence of that. In my opinion the characters do not have any chemistry between them.

Bishop is played by Australian born actress Teresa Palmer. Although she has appeared in a few movies I have seen, I did not recognize her. So for me she’s pretty much an unknown. Vampire Matthew is played by Matthew Goode who I recall from his role as Ozymandias in “Watchmen” but also appeared in “The Good Wife” and “Downton Abbey“. Bishop’s mother is played by Alex Kingston who is most famous as River Song the wife of Doctor Who. She only appeared briefly in the first episode so even though I’m a fan of hers, she doesn’t play a big enough part to keep me watching.

I found nothing particularly interesting about the entire first episode. I’ve seen glowing reviews on IMDb but I don’t get it. As I said previously there is little or no chemistry between the main characters. The idea of some mysterious manuscript that holds the key to everything just didn’t excite me. It’s not funny. It’s not dramatic. It’s not romantic. There is little or no action. I suppose if you stuck with it you might get interested in the characters but a show has to grab me in the opening episode if I want to invest in it and this one just didn’t. I’m giving it a strong rating of “skip it”.

“Gone” Will Be Gone Soon but Plot Twists Save It from Being Just Another Police Consultant Show

In previous reviews, I lamented the fact that apparently TV police departments are incapable of solving crimes without hiring outside consultants, detectives, mystery authors, fake psychics, magicians, and actors to help them. I can’t say that I know any police officers or detectives personally but I seriously doubt that the job of “consultant to the police department” is as common as it is on TV. I seriously doubt it exists at all or if it does only in the very rarest of cases.

Gone” is the latest in this way too large genre. It tells the story of an FBI unit that handles missing person cases. The unit is led by FBI agent Frank Novak played by Chris Noth. However the main character is a young woman named Kick Lannigan who survived being abducted and held for five years as a child. Agent Novak was the agent who had rescued her years ago. After a long recovery from her ordeal she became a martial arts expert and self-defense instructor. She is also an expert marksman. Novak recruits her to help in a child abduction case because she understands the mind of abductors having lived under one of them and survived. Her friend James is a computer hacker and also a survivor of a child abduction. He comes along to join the team not as a volunteer but under the threat of being arrested for some of his hacks. They are also accompanied by a guy named Bishop who is a former soldier that Novak has recruited for the team however his past remains a bit of a mystery.

Kick is played by Levein Rambin who has had small parts in TV shows “The Path” and “True Detective” as well as one of the contestants in “The Hunger Games“. She is an attractive, athletic actress who looks at home in many of the fight scenes throughout the series. She seems to be well cast in the part. Chris Noth was most recently seen in “The Good Wife” as Julianna Margulies‘ cheating husband but is most known as “Mr. Big” in “Sex and the City” and as Mike Logan in “Law & Order: Criminal Intent“. Agent Bishop is played by Danny Pino who is most recently seen as drug cartel leader Miguel Galindo in “Mayans MC“. Kelly Rutherford known for her roles in the Gossip Girl and Melrose Place also recurs as Paula Lannigan, Kick’s mother who has become a famous author and TV commentator capitalizing on her fame from her daughter’s abduction.

The show was produced by NBC Universal International as a joint production of French and German television networks. It has played in France, Germany, Australia and the UK in 2017 and 2018. The US rights were purchased by WGN America and it premiered a few weeks ago. It ran for only one season of 12 episodes. So don’t get too attached to it. After these 12 that’s it.

I’ve seen three episodes so far and I’m enjoying it enough to keep watching. The plots are reasonably interesting and have some very unexpected plot twists. In some respects these unexpected turns are sort of like “Law & Order” where the guilty party is never the first person they suspect. But the twists are a little more complex and a little more surprising then that.

The action sequences and fight scenes are fun and well done. The mystery of the various characters backgrounds doesn’t get in the way of the storytelling as it does in some shows. One assumes as the show develops we will learn more of their background. What are the details of James’s abduction? What is the mystery behind Bishop’s story and how he met Frank?

As in all police consultant shows you have to suspend your disbelief a bit to think that an outsider with no formal police training can really contribute to these investigations better than the best the FBI has to offer. Even if you buy the premise that Kick’s knowledge of child abductors is useful to the team, not all the cases deal with abduction of a child. They handle adult missing persons cases as well. Are we going to buy the idea that her experience is relevant there as well? The team flies around the country from case to case in a private jet that is way bigger than necessary. It would be one thing if they flew around in a little Learjet but this thing looks like a hollowed out jumbo jet with a couple of computer consoles, some fancy furniture, and a bunch of unnecessary floorspace. Maybe they just couldn’t afford the difficulty of filming inside a small airplane so they built some huge set. Other than those problems, the show works for me. It may be that after 12 episodes I will be glad that “Gone” is gone but for now it’s holding my interest and I will give it a strong rating of “I’m watching it“.

Entertainment News: Renewals, Cancellations, Obituaries, and Other News

My last entertainment news was dated in September 2017. So obviously some of what I found on my entertainment websites was so outdated it could hardly be classified as “news”. Some of the spoilers are likely things that are ready happened. But if you’re like me and you’re weeks behind maybe some of it is news.

Since my last general entertainment news blog I posted over a dozen reviews of individual TV shows. Most of them were Fall premieres but a few of them were midseason premieres. There are about five new midseason premieres that I’ve not yet had an opportunity to review and I don’t know if I will get caught up on them or not.

You can browse through these reviews by looking at older posts in this blog. I really want to call your attention to a YouTube channel called “DUST” which has over 100 science-fiction and horror short subject films. They are collected from filmmakers over the world. There is also a Facebook fan group called “DUST Portal” which discusses not only the films they present but sci-fi in general. Here is a link to my blog post about that YouTube channel and Facebook group. There are multiple associated links in the blog post. If you like science-fiction it is HIGHLY recommended you check it out.

“DUST” — An Amazing Source of Short Sci-Fi Films

Since my last report I’ve seen three movies. Mild spoilers ahead…

“First Man” is the biopic about astronaut Neil Armstrong starring Ryan Gosling. I saw it at the White River IMAX which is Indiana’s largest movie screen. Not only were the visuals and special-effects spectacular (they won the Oscar for special-effects this year) the sound was totally immersive. You really felt like you were riding the rockets with the astronauts. It was an interesting portrait of a very reserved and humble man. While your Blu-ray or cable viewings won’t do it justice like 70 mm IMAX, it’s still highly recommended if you haven’t seen it.

“Aquaman” is the latest comic book film from DC Comics. Although the character appeared in the Justice League movie this is his origin story plus very compelling action filled plot. I saw it in 3D and I felt it was the greatest 3D film I’ve seen since “Avatar”. Considering how much I loved Avatar that is high praise. Of particular note all of the underwater scenes in which people’s hair was flowing. This had to be a CGI special effect and it was so flawless even someone who takes a very critical eye towards special-effects found himself completely forgetting that I was watching CGI. The action was awesome. The plot was pretty good. Highly recommended.

“Capt. Marvel” is the latest from Marvel Studios. Again this is an origin story of what is a lesser-known superhero who is obviously going to play a major role in the next film “Avengers: Endgame”. It is Marvel Studios first standalone film with a female superhero. While I appreciate the significance for female fans, there wasn’t anything particularly feminine in my opinion. Carol Danvers is a fighter pilot who through a series of events gains superpowers, goes to an alien planet, loses her memory, regains it, and defeats the bad guys. Tom Cruise or any other male action hero could’ve easily played the part. As recounted in this article https://nerdist.com/article/9-captain-marvel-comics-history-shazam/
there have been nine different characters over three different comic companies to use the name Capt. Marvel and they did not have a female version until 2012. So this is hardly a direct comparison to a character like Wonder Woman on the DC Comics side of things. I saw this one in 3D as well and enjoyed it a lot. There were good 3D effects although it wasn’t quite as spectacular as “Aquaman”. Given my status as an old white guy I can’t really say what kind of role model she makes for young girls. All I can say is I like the movie. I look forward to seeing the character in the next Avenger film. One other great plus for the movie is gives us a deeper look at the early days of Nick Fury as portrayed by Samuel L Jackson. In some ways it’s as much his origin story as it is hers. We also get brief glimpses a young Agent Colson portrayed by Clark Kellogg was a little help from a CGI facelift. If there were CGI effects to make Jackson look younger, they were so good you didn’t notice like you did for Colson. Highly commended.

In the links below read…

  • Spoilers from Michael Ausiello dated November 20
  • Spoilers from Inside Line dated November 29
  • Spoilers from Inside Line dated January 25
  • Spoilers from Michael Ausiello dated February 12
  • Spoilers from Inside Line dated February 20
  • Interview with Ethan Peck about playing Spock in Star Trek Discovery
  • Postmortem interview with producers of “The Gifted” about season 2 finale and going forward.
  • Postmortem interview with producer of “Suits” about season finale and going forward.
  • Spoilers from Michael Ausiello dated March 7

Most of the entertainment news I found consisted of renewals and cancellations of various TV shows. You want to just skip the renewals and cancellations section below and use the following links to TVLine’s renewal scorecards.

Broadcast Renewal Scorecard

Cable Renewal Scorecard

Streaming Renewal Scorecard

Here are a selection of renewals and cancellations I found noteworthy. They are sorted by broadcast network followed by cable network followed by streaming service.

  • ABC
    • ABC announced that Agents of SHIELD has been renewed for season 7 even though season 6 does not premiere until May 2019.
    • ABC has canceled cop comedy “Take Two” after one bad season. I gave it a terrible review. It was very worthless.
    • ABC has renewed “The Good Doctor”, “A Million Little Things”, and “Shark Tank”.
    • ABC has renewed “Modern Family” for a final 11th season.
    • Dancing with the Stars is skipping its usual spring season after the controversial win by DJ Bobby Bones. He clearly was not the best dancer but won the competition on his popularity around. They usually have two seasons per year.
  • CBS
    • CBS announced the final episode of “The Big Bang Theory” will be May 16. We sure will miss it.
    • CBS has canceled end of the world drama “Salvation” so we never will figure out what that asteroid really was and why it stopped before hitting Earth.
    • CBS has canceled “Code Black” after 3 seasons. I guess there were just one too many medical dramas.
    • CBS announced “Criminal Minds” has been renewed for a 15th and final season. I quit watching about three seasons ago because it was just too dark. How many psychopath serial killers can a person stand?
    • CBS has canceled “Elementary” after seven seasons. I really like it but I think it has run its course.
    • CBS has renewed “Mom” for season 7 and 8 and we are well pleased.
    • CBS has renewed “Young Sheldon” for at least seasons 3 and 4 although I gave it mixed reviews initially it has grown on me and now I really like it.
    • CBS has renewed “God Friended Me” for season 2. I didn’t care for it.
    • CBS has renewed “FBI” for season 2 as well as ordering a spinoff “FBI: Most Wanted”. I kind of like the original. But I don’t know if we need a spinoff.
  • FOX
    • Fox has renewed “So You Think You Can Dance” for season 16. I never watched it even though one a big fan of “Dancing with the Stars” and “World of Dance”
    • “The Masked Singer” has been renewed for season 2 by Fox. This was a guilty pleasure this season. Mildly pleased it’s coming back. Had lots of fun arguing on a Facebook fan page about the show.
    • Fox has renewed “The Simpsons” for season 31 and 32. It is the longest running scripted TV series in history with 713 episodes surpassing “Gunsmoke” at 635.
    • Fox has renewed “Hell’s Kitchen” for seasons 19 and 20. I never watched it.
  • NBC
    • NBC has renewed “The Good Place” for season 4. I really enjoyed the first two seasons but it was just too weird and I dropped it this season.
    • NBC has canceled “Midnight Texas”. I never watched it.
    • NBC summer comedy “Trial & Error” has been canceled. I’m surprised it got a season 2.
    • NBC has canceled “Reverie” which was a not too bad sci-fi show. I will miss it.
    • NBC has announced “New Amsterdam” has been renewed for season 2. I don’t watch it. Too many medical dramas.
    • “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” is moving from NBC to NatGeo.
    • NBC has renewed “American Ninja Warrior” for season 8. I only watch the Indianapolis episodes.
    • NBC has renewed Chicago Fire, PD and Med each for a new season. I’ve never watched any of them.
    • “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has been reviewed for another season by NBC after moving there from Fox
    • NBC has renewed “Superstore” for season five. Never watched it even has a character in a wheelchair.
    • NBC has renewed “The Blacklist” for season 7. I like it. I watch it. But I’m surprised they are keeping it going.
    • Daytime soap opera “Days of Our Lives” has been renewed for season 55!
  • CW network
    • CW network has announced that “Arrow” will end next year with it eighth season of a shortened 10 episode run. Rumors are that Oliver Queen will bite the dust.
    • CW network has renewed Black Lightning, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Supergirl, Charmed, Legacies, Riverdale, Supernatural and Dynasty.
    • CW canceled “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” the series finale airs soon. I kind of liked it but never followed it closely.
    • Previously reported “iZombie” final season will be this year. I’m way behind on it but I kind of like it.
  • AMC
    • AMC announced that “Preacher” has been renewed for season 4 and will relocate production to Australia.
    • AMC announced “The Walking Dead” has been renewed for season 10.
    • AMC announced “Into the Badlands” upcoming season 3 of eight episodes will be its final as will season 2 of “The Son” starring Pierce Brosnan.
  • BBC America
    • BBC America announced season 5 of “Luther” will premier June 2.
    • Doctor Who is officially renewed for season 12 with female doctor Jodie Whitaker set to return in early 2020
  • Freeform

    • Freeform has announced “grown-ish” has been renewed for season 3.
  • FX
    • FX network has announced that “Legion” season 3 will be the final.
    • FX network announced Fargo has been renewed for season 4 to appear in 2020.
    • FX network announced Mayans MC has been renewed for season 2.
    • FXX network renewed Archer for season 10
  • HBO
    • HBO has canceled comedy “Crashing” after 3 seasons. I’d never seen it.
    • HBO announced the final season of Game of Thrones will premier April 14. A prequel series is in development and is set 1000 years prior to the original series.
    • HBO announced Westworld has been renewed for season 3.
  • History Channel
    • History Channel says that “Vikings” will end with season 6 but a follow-up series is in development.
    • History Channel has ordered 10 episode season 2 of “Project Blue Book”.
  • Showtime
    • Showtime has renewed “Our Cartoon President” for season 2
    • Showtime has renewed “Ray Donovan” for season 7.
    • Showtime has renewed “Shameless” for season 10 however as previously reported Emmy Rossum will not be returning. The rest of the cast will be.
    • Showtime has canceled “SMILF” after 2 seasons. I never got around to watching it.
    • Showtime is bringing back lesbian drama “The L Word” with most of the original cast returning.
    • Showtime announced that “Homeland” final season premier has been pushed back to the fall rather than this summer as previously expected.
  • Starz
    • Starz announced that “Counterpart” has been canceled and although they wrapped up plot lines as if it was the end, I’m going to miss it. Word is it is being shopped around to other networks and I hope he gets picked up.
  • Syfy Channel
    • Syfy Channel has canceled “Z Nation”. Season 5 will be the last and we are very disappointed.
    • Syfy Channel has renewed “The Magicians” for season 5 and we are very pleased.
  • TNT
    • TNT has canceled “Good Behavior” which I really enjoyed for two seasons.
  • USA Network
    • USA Network says that “Suits” will end with the ninth season of 10 episodes.
    • USA network has renewed “The Purge” for season 2. I tried a couple of episodes and didn’t care for it.
  • Amazon Prime
    • Amazon has renewed “Jack Ryan” for season 3. I didn’t know there was a season 2 already. Still haven’t watched season 1 but I hear it’s great.
    • Amazon has announced that season 4 of “Man in the High Castle” will be its last.
  • CBS All Access
    • “Tell Me a Story” has been renewed by CBS All Access for season 2. I have seen one episode and the jury is still out.
    • Star Trek: Discovery has been renewed for season 3. Season 2 currently airing is excellent.
  • Hulu
    • We are sad to learn that Hulu has canceled “The First” which is a drama about the first mission to Mars starring Sean Penn. I really liked the first season even though it moved very slowly.
  • Netflix
    • Netflix has canceled “Daredevil” after 3 seasons. It has canceled “Luke Cage” after 2 seasons. They announced “Punisher” will not return for season 3 and the upcoming season 3 of “Jessica Jones” will be its last. That will officially sever the relationship between Netflix and Marvel Studios.
    • Netflix has canceled “The Good Cop” starring Tony Danza and Josh Groban after one season.
    • Netflix series “Stranger Things” will return July 4 for season 3 of eight episodes
    • Netflix has renewed “Grace and Frankie” for season 6 to be released in 2020
    • Netflix comedy “The Kaminski Method” starring Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin has been renewed for season 2
    • Netflix announced “Orange is the New Black” will end after season 7.
    • David Letterman’s “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” series on Netflix has been renewed for season 2. The first season was pretty good.
    • Netflix has renewed “Fuller House” for a final fifth season
    • Netflix has renewed “Sex Education” for season 2.
    • Netflix has canceled sci-fi series “Travelers” after 3 seasons.
    • Netflix has renewed “The Hunting of Hill House” for season 2
    • Netflix has canceled the reboot of “One Day at a Time” after 3 seasons. I really liked the original but then I had a crush on Valerie Bertinelli so I never watched the new reboot.

    Other Miscellaneous News

    • Netflix has ordered a four-part animated drama set in World War II titled “The Liberator” which is described as “The riveting true story of the bloodiest and most dramatic march to victory in the Second World War: the battlefield odyssey of maverick U.S. Army officer Felix Sparks and his infantry unit as they fought for over 500 days to liberate Europe” based on a 2013 book by Alex Kershaw.
    • Jon Cryer will play Lex Luthor in upcoming episodes of Supergirl. It seems like strange casting but I’ve seen the photos and I think I might like it.
    • CBS is developing a revival of the quirky series “Northern Exposure” with Rob Morrow returning to star. The original ran from 1990-95 and wasn’t too bad as I recall. I was a regular viewer.
    • A satanic temple is suing Netflix and Warner Bros. for copyright infringement because they’ve used a demonic statue in the series “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”.
    • Hulu is going to adapt George RR Martin’s anthology series “Wild Cards” into multiple TV series.
    • Author Lee Child is working on producing a TV series based on his Jack Reacher novels. This probably means no more Tom Cruise films playing that part. Cruise was somewhat miscast because the book describes Reacher as a big hulk of a man so they will be looking for an actor who fits the book character better.
    • Author Margaret Atwood says she is writing a sequel to “Handmaid’s Tale” to be published in September 2019.
    • Stephen King’s “The Stand” is being reimagined as a 10 episodes limited series for CBS All Access.
    • Ben Affleck definitely will not play Batman in the new “The Batman” film slated for 2021
    • NBC has dropped its plans to have a live musical version of the 60s classic “Hair”.
    • Danai Gurira a.k.a. Michonne is leaving “The Walking Dead” during season 10.
    • Carson Daly is leaving his late-night show “Last Call” after 17 years. No replacement yet named.
    • NBC news will host the first democratic debate of 2020 election in June and CNN will host the second one in July. DNC will not allow Fox News to host a debate.
    • Season 2 of “Cosmos” was scheduled to begin March 3 but has been delayed because of sexual misconduct allegations against host astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson.
    • Chris Hemsworth will star as Hulk Hogan in an upcoming film for Netflix.
    • Netflix has obtained the rights to a Chinese sci-fi movie called “The Wandering Earth” which is the second biggest movie ever in China earning $600 million. Interestingly enough in China people who go to the movie earning “social credits” that allow them freedom as they wouldn’t otherwise have such as freedom to travel. Someone on Reddit suggested that a film about a dystopian society where the government granting freedoms based on attendance to propaganda films. The plot sounds like a ripoff of the old “Space 1999”. In order to avoid a supernova let our sun, earth is fitted with thrusters that propel it away from the sun and goes in search of a new star to orbit. Just as ridiculous as the wandering moon premise of “Space 1999”.
    • Natalie Dormer and Nathan Lane have joined the cast of the new Showtime sequel series “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels” If we needed another reason to watch it this should seal the deal.
    • Amy Schumer canceled the remainder of her standup comedy to in mid February because of her complicated pregnancy.
    • DreamWorks Animation announced there will be a “Puss in Boots 2” to be directed by Bob Perschetti who just won an Oscar for best animated feature for “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”.
    • Pollyanna Macintosh who played the leader of the garbage people on The Walking Dead will have a recurring role in next season of “Lodge 49”.
    • Will Smith will not return as Deadshot in “Suicide Squad 2”. Idris Elba is rumored to be in the running to replace him.
    • AMC is working on yet another spinoff series for The Walking Dead but has not released any details.
    • Netflix has ordered a series called “The Baby Sitters Club” based on the books of the same title consisting of 10 episodes.
    • Syfy Channel has ordered drama “Resident Alien” based on the Dark Horse comics to star Alan Tudyk.
    • 83-year-old rocker Jerry Lee Lewis had a minor stroke but is expected to recover.
    • After the Netflix film “Roma” won multiple Oscars, Steven Spielberg who is part of the Academy Directors Board is proposing changes to the rules to prohibit films that are primarily on streaming services from being eligible. He says they should be competing for Emmys not Oscars. To be eligible for an Oscar you only have to appear in theaters for one week in New York and LA.
    • The much delayed reboot of “Mad about You” being developed by Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt has finally been picked up by a new service called “Spectrum Originals” a channel of original programming for Spectrum Cable customers.
    • Jeopardy host Alex Trebek announced he has staged 4 pancreatic cancer but vows to fight it. He has already returned to work dictate new episodes. His contract was recently extended through 2022.
    • Sandra Oh will host SNL March 30. Her series “Killing Eve” returns April 7 to BBC America
    • AMC is developing a spinoff series of “Orphan Black”. No details available.
    • To celebrate the 80th anniversary of Batman, Warner Bros. is rereleasing the Dark Knight trilogy of Christopher Nolan Batman films in a single night event in 70 mm IMAX format. Manuscript
    • Disney has announced that its takeover of 21st-Century Fox will be finalized March 20.
    • Netflix is creating an animated zombie show “The Last Kids on Earth” featuring the voice talent of Mark Hamill, Rosario Dawson, and Catherine O’Hara.
    • Kit Harrington a.k.a. GOT’s John Snow and Emma Stone will be SNL hosts on separate weeks in April.
    • This year’s Oscar-winning documentary “Free Solo” is available on Hulu.

    Obituaries

    • RIP screenwriter William Goldman who wrote “All the Presidents Men”, “The Princess Bride”, and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” he was 87.
    • RIP magician Ricky Jay who appeared in many films and TV shows including Deadwood. He was a master card mechanic who could deal a winning hand anytime he wanted to. He often played con men or card sharks in his roles. I always admired him because he was the real deal not just playing a part.
    • RIP Italian film director Bernardo Bertolucci who directed “Last Tango in Paris”. Lost his battle with cancer at age 77.
    • RIP comic book pioneer Stan Lee age 95. There aren’t enough words.
    • RIP actress Katherine McGregor who played in “Little House on the Prairie” as talent gossip Harriet Oleson. She was 93.
    • RIP country singer and host of TV’s “Hee Haw” Roy Clark. He was 85
    • RIP Stephen Hillenburg creator of SpongeBob SquarePants. He was 57.
    • RIP actor Ken Barry known for “F Troop”, “Mayberry RFD”, and “Mama’s Family”. Age 85.
    • RIP actor Bob Einstein who appeared on Curb Your Enthusiasm and is most noted for his character bad stuntman Super Dave Osborne. Age 76 had cancer.
    • RIP musician Daryl Dragon a.k.a. “Captain” from the 70s era musical duo The Captain and Tennille. Age 76
    • RIP Tony award-winning actress Carol Channing age 97
    • RIP Oscar-winning composer Michel Legrand who wrote “The Windmills of Your Mind” for “The Thomas Crown Affair”. He was 86.
    • RIP actor Scott Wilson who played Herschel on “The Walking Dead” he was 76
    • RIP Oscar-winning composer Francis Lai who wrote the theme to “Love Story” age 86.
    • RIP director and actress Penny Marshall age 75. Will be sorely missed.
    • RIP soap opera star Kristoff St. John who played Neil Winters on “Young & the Restless”. Official cause of death not yet released but it is believed alcohol poisoning. He was 52. Had been depressed over the loss of his son.
    • RIP British actor Albert Finney who was 82. He was no1minated for Oscar five times.
    • RIP former member of “The Monkeys” Peter Tork age 77
    • RIP actor Vinny Vella known for playing tough guys in The Sopranos and the film Casino. Age 72
    • RIP director Stanley Donen known for directing movie musicals such as “Singin’ in the”, “Funny Face”, and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” age 94.
    • RIP actors Beverly Owen who played Marilyn on “The Munsters”. She was 81.
    • RIP actress Lisa Sheridan who appeared in “Halt and Catch Fire” age 44 undisclosed causes.
    • RIP actor Luke Perry who suffered a stroke and died a few days later. Known for 90210 and Riverdale he was 52.
    • RIP Oscar-winning composer and conductor Andre Previn age 89. I particularly enjoyed some concerts and documentaries of his on PBS.
    • RIP actors Katherine Helmand who appeared in “Soap” and “Who’s the Boss?” Age 89.
    • RIP singer Janice Freeman who appeared on season 13 of The Voice age 33 complications of pneumonia.
    • RIP actor Jan-Michael Vincent most noted for the TV series Airwolf. Age 74

    Linked News Articles

“Deadly Class” Is Neither Deadly nor Classy

We’ve seen many books, films, and TV series in which teens or young adults are put in life or death situations sometimes requiring these young people to use deadly force. Of course we have “The Hunger Games“, “Maze Runner“, and “Divergent” books and films that fit this category. On television we have “The 100” and to a lesser extent “Marvel’s Runaways” just to name a few. With the exception of Runaways all of these are in a futuristic dystopia or post-apocalyptic setting in which everyone faces life-and-death situations and the teens have no choice but to occasionally use deadly force just to survive.

However the new series “Deadly Class” from Syfy Channel is set more or less in the real world of 1980s US. This is not really science fiction or fantasy at all. It is based on a graphic novel by Wesley Craig. Our main character is Marcus Lopez. He’s a homeless teenager who escaped from a boys facility after a fire which killed most of the other residents. He gets recruited into a private high school called Kings Dominion Academy which is an underground school for assassins. Various gangsters, yakuza, and other nefarious types send their children to the school to learn “deadly arts”. He gets recruited because it is mistakenly believed that he murdered the other residents thus making him an experienced killer.

The Academy is run by a mysterious Oriental character named Master Lin whose family founded the organization to help poor people fight against the establishment. It’s based on the premise that some people just deserve to die. Marcus decides to go ahead and join to get off the street and perhaps learn skills so he can seek revenge against Pres. Ronald Reagan whom he blames for the death of his parents. Reagan cut funding for mental health programs releasing thousands of mentally ill patients onto the streets. A crazy woman jumped off a building, landed on his parents, and killed them.

In some ways the Academy sort of reminds you as a very dark and dangerous Hogwarts if the only class they taught was a dark arts class. However it wasn’t “defense against the dark arts” rather it was dark arts itself. Except remember these aren’t wizards. This isn’t sci-fi or fantasy. Despite being based on a comic book (excuse me graphic novel) there are no superheroes or supernatural elements. This is allegedly the real world.

When we look at terrific events of the dystopian young adult franchises, we can tend to set aside a bit our revulsion of kids killing kids even in something as dark as “The Hunger Games” because it’s the corrupt evil adults who are forcing the kids into the situation. However in this series, there seems to be no redeeming value to the entire situation except for the standard rationalization that they are only killing really bad people.

The thing that makes the dystopian franchises palatable apart from the necessity of the circumstance is that the storylines and the characters are compelling. We can’t say any of that about “Deadly Class”. The characters aren’t memorable. The situations aren’t compelling. Their struggles with moral dilemmas seem completely contrived even more that in the dystopian franchises. It seems as though we’re telling a story about killer kids just for the shock value of it. If there’s some deeper metaphorical meaning behind the entire concept, it is lost on me. If we want to tell a coming-of-age story about how difficult it is to grow up as a teenager these days in a violent world, then just tell the real story and don’t contrive some bizarre teenage academy for assassins.

I’ve not bothered to detail any of the characters beyond the main one or even tell you the actors names because none of them are anybody you’ve ever heard of and none of them are very interesting characters to begin with.

By the way if you’re looking for action in this series you’re going to be disappointed as well. Although they are supposedly being trained as killers, you’re not going to see spectacular fight sequences or action set pieces like you might see in a show like “The Badlands”. That’s why I said in the title that the show is neither deadly nor classy.

I waited until I had seen two full episodes before the writing this review because I wanted to see if there was some deeper meaning or some redeeming quality to the entire series but I haven’t discovered it yet. I gave this one every opportunity but in the end I give up and I’m giving it a very strong recommendation of “skip it“.

Can a Young Girl Save the World? Better Question Why Is This Show Called “The Passage”?

The Passage” is a new sci-fi thriller that premiered on Fox this winter. After watching 2 full episodes I still can’t tell you why it’s called that. This series is based on a trilogy of novels by Justin Cronin but I’ve never heard of it before.

The premise is that a group of scientists are experimenting on vampires in order to harness their healing properties. They want to combat a Chinese avian flu that could reach the United States soon and cause massive casualties. After experimenting on a variety of death row inmates by turning them into vampires, they conclude that they can modify the virus (or whatever it is that makes you a vampire) in such a way to harness its healing properties without actually turning you into a monster. Tests revealed that the younger the test subjects, the better the process works. So the mad scientists working on this project decide that they need to experiment on a child. They go in search of an orphan whom they believe no one will miss. Posing as government officials from the CDC they take into custody a 10-year-old girl Amy Belafonte. She provides a voiceover narration as if she is telling the story of what happened to her in the past.

Mercenary Brad Wolgast is in charge of retrieving the girl but his conscience gets the better of him because she reminds him of his own young daughter who is deceased. He goes on the run with her which of course pisses off his employers who will spare no expense trying to recover him and the girl.

The idea that “the fate of the world” depends on a young child is a well-worn sci-fi theme. We’ve had “Heroes” whose tagline was “Save the cheerleader… Save the world.” Kiefer Sutherland stared in a TV series called “Touch” where he was on the run with his young daughter who had some sort of mental superpowers. At age 8 Dakota Fanning had one of her first roles as the superpowered daughter of an alien in a sci-fi miniseries called “Taken“.

The weird thing about this particular “girl upon whom the fate of the world rests” scenario is that there is nothing particularly special about this girl except for the fact that she’s an orphan and has no known relatives so she won’t be missed if we kidnap her and turn her into a vampire. The scientists have not yet got their hands on her so there’s nothing they could know about her that makes her especially suited to their devious plot. The only real reason they are going after the girl and her abductor/rescuer is they don’t want it to get out what they are doing. In the second episode one of the characters says to Brad “They are more interested in keeping you quiet then they are the little girl. They can always just get another orphan.” So even the characters in the show are admitting that the premise is kind of weak.

Amy is played by Saniyya Sidney who has recently appeared in “Fences” and “Hidden Figures“. She’s a talented young actress who handles the role well. Brad is played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar who is known for a variety of TV roles including “Franklin & Bash” and “NYPD Blue“. The only other recognizable face in the show is Henry Ian Cusick who plays one of the scientists Dr. Jonas Lear. He is most remembered for his role as Desmond Hume on “Lost” and recently was on the CW sci-fi series “The 100“.

Except for the fact that this girl is going to save the world is a rather weak set up, it’s not a bad show. You got mad scientists, secret experiments on death row inmates, creepy vampires who can project their mind into your dreams, and a cute girl and her savior on the run from the bad guys. It remains to be seen where the show is really going.

For now I’m giving it a mild rating of “I’m watching” with a sort of wait and see attitude. If you can believe the advertisements it’s getting lots of critical rave. It might be worth checking out if you like this sort of thing.

“DUST” — An Amazing Source of Short Sci-Fi Films

I want to call your attention to a YouTube channel called “DUST”. It is an amazing collection of several hundred sci-fi short films ranging from about 5 minutes up to 20 minutes each. Here is the channel trailer video.

The description of their channel reads “DUST is the first multi-platform destination for binge watchable sci-fi. We feature science fiction short films and other content from emerging filmmakers with stunning visual effects, captivating plots and complex character explorations. Robots, aliens, space exploration, technology, and human experience are all a part of DUST. New uploads every week with DUST exclusive premieres and original series. Explore, subscribe, #getdusted, and follow for more.” That is a bold claim and it certainly lives up to it.

I’ve watched four or five of them and they are really amazing. They feature state-of-the-art special-effects, dramatic cinematography, and good hard-core sci-fi content. They upload one or two new videos every week. I’m going to have to go back to the very beginning and binge watch the entire channel at some point. If you are a fan of sci-fi at all you definitely need to check out this resource of great content. Check out the links below.

Suggest You Play Hooky from “Schooled”

The next new sitcom of the winter season is “Schooled” on ABC. I will cut to the chase and say that he gets my lowest rating of “worthless” which is even worse than “skip it”.

It’s described on IMDb as “A spin-off of The Goldbergs, Schooled is set in the 1990s and follows the faculty of William Penn Academy – led by Principal Glascott, Coach Mellor and Lainey Lewis – who, despite their eccentricities and crazy personal lives, are heroes to their students. ” Apparently “The Goldbergs is set sometime in the 80s so you could call this a sequel of sorts. I never watched “The Goldbergs” so if you’re a fan of that show you might have some mild interest in this one but don’t get your hopes up. This is a real snoozer. As always my ultimate test of a sitcom is “Did it make me laugh?” and this one gets a resounding “no”.

Lainey Lewis is apparently a character from “The Goldbergs” again played by AJ Michalka. She is a former student of the high school who goes back to teach even though her heart is not in teaching. She is probably the weakest link in the entire show. I found her acting to be absolutely atrocious. Principal Glasscott is played by SNL alum Tim Meadows who also appeared in 22 episodes of “The Goldbergs”. At times he is mildly funny. Coach Mellor is played by Brian Callan who did 42 episodes of “The Goldbergs”. While not especially funny, at least he is a reasonably likable sympathetic character in a pathetic kind of way.

I’ve already wasted more time writing this much than the show is worth.

If for some reason you absolutely adored these characters on “The Goldbergs” then by all means waste your time on this show. Otherwise move along… Absolutely nothing to see here.

“Fam” is Contrived Family Comedy

The first new sitcom of the winter season is “Fam” on CBS. The premise is Clem is a young woman who is recently engaged to her adoring fiancé Nick. Just as they begin to make wedding plans her ne’er-do-well out of control 16-year-old half-sister Shannon shows up and moves in with her. Clam is white and Nick is African-American but race is never brought up the entire first episode. So this isn’t “blackish” or “The Neighborhood“.

Clem is played by Nina Dobev who was most recently been seen in “The Vampire Diaries“. Her fiancé Nick is played by Tone Bell who appeared on one season of the sitcom “Whitney” but was most recently seen in “Disjointed“. The sister played by Odessa Adlon recently seen in “Nashville“. Her quirky character is the only bright spot in this otherwise ordinary sitcom. We also get a few laughs from Clem and Shannon’s father played by Gary Cole recently seen in “Chicago Fire” and as Christine Baranski’s husband on “The Good Fight“. He is a stereotypical bad father who makes all sorts of lame excuses for how he was never there when the girls were growing up. He brings a couple of laughs here and there.

The opening plot is full of sitcom clichés. The girls had told everyone that their father is dead because he’s been such an ass. Of course he shows up and spoils the lie. Also Nick accidentally eats some pot laced nuts right before a family gathering.

The laugh track is obviously fake and overdone as is usual for a new sitcom.

If you have read any of my other sitcom reviews you know that my ultimate test of any comedy is “Did it make me laugh?” I have to admit I did get a couple of chuckles out of the teenage girl but for the most part there’s nothing special about this. If you’re desperate to pick up a new sitcom on your schedule you might give it a try and see if it grows on you. But for me and my household, I’m rating this one a mild “Skip It“. Nothing special here. Move along.

“All American” is Friday Night Lights from an African-American Perspective

All American” is a new drama from CW network that tells the story of a young black man who transfers from his inner-city ghetto school to a Beverly Hills high school because it will offer him a better chance at eventually playing football in the NFL.

I almost didn’t review this show because I’m not sure I’m qualified to give it a fair report. As my title suggests, it seems like at its core this is simply a black version of the hit show “Friday Night Lights” which dealt with high school football in Texas. Although by all reports it was a quality show, it just didn’t appeal to me and so I never watched more than one episode. Given the fact that I’m an old white guy, it is going to be difficult for me to fully appreciate this urban African-American based show with any kind of empathy or appropriate context. It’s not that I can’t enjoy shows with a predominantly black cast. I enjoy “black-ish“, “Black Lightning“, and before my schedule got too full I was a pretty big fan of “Empire“. Of course saying “some of my favorite shows are black” is like any white guy saying “I have a number of black friends”.

I’ve pretty much summarized the entire premise of the show in that opening paragraph. Our main character Spencer James is a star receiver on his high school football team in a predominantly black inner-city school named Crenshaw. He gets recruited by the coach of a Beverly Hills high school who is also black and who grew up going to Crenshaw. The coach is played by Taye Diggs who has had a variety of quality roles in “Empire” and “Private Practice” just to name a couple. The coach is a former NFL player whose career was cut short by injury. While he claims to want to help the boy escape the ghetto and give him an opportunity to have a shot at the NFL, his motives are mixed in that he needs this quality player to prop up his failing team in Beverly Hills. Without giving away too much he also apparently has other motives yet to be revealed.

Spencer’s story is a bit of a typical “Stranger in a Strange Land” type of story in that he doesn’t quite fit in with the upper-middle-class Beverly Hills crowd even though they are racially mixed. He also faces pressure from his own people in the hood who are critical of him abandoning them and/or they are jealous of his opportunity. So he is caught between two worlds.

This is one aspect of the show that did resonate with me and my own experiences. I left and all special education school for the handicapped and transfer into a regular high school. This sort of left me as an outsider in both places. There were no other disabled kids in the regular high school so I stood out as unusual. And my friends back at the handicap school treated me a bit strange because it looked as though I thought I was better than them and that the handicap school wasn’t good enough for me. I did not have a feeling of superiority (at least not knowingly) but it was entirely true that the old school truly wasn’t that I’ve for me. So in that part of the story I do empathize. But I can’t properly emphasize with what is like to be poor and black.

Although the coach initially tells him that he can get the authorities to waive the rules that prohibit recruiting students from other schools, that effort fails and the only way to keep him in Beverly Hills is for him to move there. So he ends up moving in with the coach and his family. The coach has a white blonde wife and a teenage son and daughter who also attend the school. The coach’s son is the quarterback of the team.

The show seems reasonably well written and well acted but it just isn’t my cup of tea. I just don’t think I have the appropriate context to judge whether the show is any good or not. So I’m going to give it a strong “could be watchable” but I just can’t say for sure because neither the high school football aspect nor the African-American aspect of the show appeal to me.