Welcome to Entertainment News


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.

Stephen Denette a modern day Noah? — YouTube channel Acorn to Arabella

Stephen Denette had a dream. He wanted to build a boat and sail it around the world. There were some problems he had to overcome however. He knew nothing about how to build a boat. He’s never been on a sailboat let alone sail one himself. He had only minimal savings and no way to fund his project. But he didn’t let that stop him. On April 23, 2016 he and his friend Alix Kreder uploaded their first video to a channel called “Acorn to Arabella“.

Many people thought that Stephen was crazy for taking on such a project. The boat was to be built in rural western Massachusetts more than 100 miles from the ocean. It would be built in the front yard of his family’s property where he grew up with three generations of his family members. The property is several acres of woods including white oak and pine. He would harvest the wood from the family property, mill it himself using borrowed or rented sawmills, and would be built using some tools handed down to him from his great-great-grandfather. The title of the channel refers to the fact that some of the trees they are using to build the boat were actually planted by his family generations ago. The oak trees of course originated from an acorn.

Initially he only worked on the projects evenings and weekends while maintaining a full-time job. But eventually quit his job to devote full-time to the boatbuilding project. If you think Stephen is crazy, his partner in the project Alix is close behind. He also quit his job, left his girlfriend, and moved from Maine to Massachusetts to be the videographer for this project. Although he had studied photography in college he had never worked as a professional photographer and had not worked in video prior to taking on this project.

With a little help from Stephen’s grandfather and moral support from their trusty dog Akiva the two set out to take on this enormous project. Although the YouTube channel started in April 2016, there had been years of planning and preparation prior to this. According to this timeline on the website he began studying boatbuilding from books in 2011. In 2014 he began harvesting trees and milling the lumber. In 2015 after much research they decided on the design for the boat and purchased plans to build it in 2016. Alix built the website, purchased video equipment, establish themselves on Patreon and the project was underway.

The Arabella is a double ended ketch designed in 1934 by William Atkin inspired by the work of Colin Archer who was a famous Scottish naval architect and shipbuilder from Larvik Norway. Archer designs were used primarily for fishing vessels on the North Sea and polar expeditions. It will displace 25,000 pounds and has berths for up to 5 people however it can be sailed single handed. It measures 37’6″ on deck with a 32 foot waterline. It will carry 816 sqr.ft. of sail and the frame is built out of white oak with planking made of white oak and white cedar. The deck will be white pine. It will have a stove, refrigerator, and bathroom facilities.

I discovered the channel in January 2018 when the video below went viral with 2.5 million views and begin trending on YouTube. It was the story of how they melted 4.5 tons of lead and poured the keel of this 38 foot wooden sailboat. Note that the YouTube channel opened in April 2016 and here we were some 20 months later and all they had to show for their efforts was a ramshackle boathouse they had built in their front yard and a large pile of milled lumber in the backyard. Pouring the keel was the first visible step that they were actually building a boat.

Today the basic frame of the boat is completed and they have begun planking the exterior and are approximately 30% up the side of the boat. At least now it really looks like a real boat but for years it seemed like progress was moving at a snails pace. Progress is still quite slow as they have faced many obstacles along the way.

Soon after building the boathouse, a building inspector came by to inform them that it was an illegal structure. They had not bothered to seek a building permit. The boathouse is a wooden framework covered in plastic. They had to disassemble the boathouse and reassemble it at a different location on the property. Then years later a different building inspector decided that the plastic roof was a fire hazard and they had to take the roof off of the boathouse, rebuild the roof and cover it with a more suitable material.

Also along the way they have purchased and or received donated equipment such as wood planing machines, band saws, and other woodworking equipment. At one point they purchased a junk sailboat called Victoria that they completely disassembled to salvage brass hardware that would be used on their boat. Although they did salvage some nice mahogany wood from the interior cabin of Victoria that will be reused for Arabella, they discovered that most of Victoria was completely rotted and unusable. They salvaged the engine from Victoria but eventually sold it to another boat builder and purchased a new engine for Arabella.

The channel now boasts 135,000 subscribers and a substantial number of Patreon supporters. A new video comes out every Friday and averages about 100,000 views. Not only are they earning enough revenue to fund the project and their living expenses, they also have hired an assistant to manage things like T-shirt sales, social media posts etc. as well as a video editor to free up time for Alix to shoot the video and work on the boat himself.

From time to time they have work parties where volunteers come to assist them. They currently have scheduled a planking party to help speed up the process of planking the exterior of the boat. On occasion fans have taken a weeks vacation just to go help to work on the boat. They’ve got lots of support from professional shipwrights and other people in the amateur boatbuilding community.

Those community connections also recently led them to do some volunteer work in Costa Rica in support of a shipbuilding project in that country. Along with other New England boatbuilders they gathered up woodworking and blacksmithing tools from fans who donated equipment. It was a all loaded into a cargo container and sent to the Sailcargo project in Costa Rica as explained in this video.

After initially discovering the channel in early 2018, I went back and watched every video from the beginning and I have seen every video on the channel up to date. It was interesting to watch how the video skills of Alix evolved in the early days. The videos produced in the past couple of years are of sufficient professional quality that I’m surprised some cable channel hasn’t offered them their own TV show. They produce a new video about 20 minutes per week. Alix also entered a video in the International Maritime Film Festival in late 2017 and was voted the Audience Favorite award. That video is shown here.

Here is the video that is the story of their trip to the film festival. I also recommend the video below which is a 45 minute interview of the two builders to gives much of the back story of how they got into this project. Although it is a bit long, it is a compelling story that you might enjoy.

In the title of this review I describe Stephen Denette as a modern day Noah. Obviously he isn’t going to be collecting animals 2 by 2 for this project. However seeing this driven individual undertake the monumental task of building a boat from scratch I can’t help but think of such a crazy project without thinking of him as a Noah type who is driven to build a boat against all odds.

I think he shares much in common with Martin Molin of Wintergatan building his Musical Marble Machine that I described in my previous YouTube channel review. Both men have taken on an enormous engineering and building challenges and gone on a personal journey to fulfill a dream of building something special. They both serve as an inspirational example of what an individual can do to fulfill their dreams with lots of hard work and determination.

I obviously recommend you subscribe to the channel and watch a few of their recent videos. I’ve learned a lot more about boatbuilding that I ever thought I would and I’ve been entertained along the way.

Martin’s Marvelous Marble Machine — The Wintergatan YouTube Channel

This is the first in what I hope will be a long series of blog posts highlighting my favorite YouTube channels. Note: you can click on the links in this blog for other related content such as Wikipedia pages and other YouTube videos, channels, and playlists that I chose not to embed in the blog itself.

Today we are going to feature a YouTube channel called Wintergatan that is one of my favorites of all time. It contains about 200 videos and I would speculate that over the past 4 years I’ve watched all of them. Click here for Wintergatan on YouTube.

Who is Wintergatan

Wintergatan is a somewhat obscure Swedish folk electronic band from Gothenburg, Sweden that has only released 1 album and 14 singles. Amazingly they have 1.69 million subscribers and a video that boasts 135 million views. Playing only instrumental music, the band’s ensemble includes vibraphone, synthesizers, theremin, base guitar, drums, and occasionally a typewriter as a rhythm instrument. They also have a homemade music box that uses punched paper tape to play music. Some of their songs are a bit ethereal or mystical sounding but most have a rather upbeat or happy beat to them that makes you want to tap your foot or perhaps clap your hands along with them. Here is a video of a live performance of their song “Starmachine 2000”.

On their channel you will find a playlist of 6 live performances as well as the audio from their entire first album on a separate playlist.

Although they’ve had a presence on YouTube for many years and a small following of fans of their videos and live performances, they would have to admit they are a fairly obscure group.

Enter the Marble Machine

All of that changed in March 2016 when they uploaded a video titled “Wintergatan – Marble Machine (machine instrument using 2000 marbles)” seen below. We suggest you watch it now.

That amazing video has been seen over 135 million times and skyrocketed them from relative obscurity into one of the most popular YouTube channels available. As mentioned before, they now have 1.69 million subscribers and boast over 4000 paid members and Patreon supporters.

For a computer geek like me this amazing Marble Machine is very reminiscent of the “Animusic” computer animations that were popular in the 1990s. In those videos, robotic machines would drop marbles onto musical instruments and play complex melodies. These videos were immensely popular in their day because they were not only interesting visually and musically, they demonstrated the state-of-the-art of computer animation long before companies like Pixar even existed. There videos were sold on VHS and DVD. By the way they do have their own YouTube channel here. It consists of just 11 videos and nothing new has been uploaded in 7 years. However if you’ve never seen one of their videos we recommend “Pipe Dreams” available here.

Back to the real Marble Machine… it was constructed by band member Martin Molin and documented in a series of a few videos between December 2014 and March 2016. Here is a playlist of 14 videos about building the Marble Machine.

The machine was built out of hand cut plywood with a few metal parts and the programming wheels were made out of Lego technics pieces. Martin later admitted that the machine barely worked at all. They struggled to get it to play the now famous “Marble Machine Song” all the way through in order to make that famous video. Although a marvel of handbuilt engineering, it just didn’t have sufficient precision to hold up to repeated performances.

Martin had always had the dream that he could take the Marble Machine on the road and perform with it live on a world tour. It was obvious the machine just wasn’t up to the task. So in January 2017 he endeavored to build a new machine called the “Marble Machine X”. This new machine would still be built mostly of plywood, augmented by some metal frame parts. Rather than hand cutting the pieces, he purchased a computer-controlled CNC router to cut the pieces. The entire machine has been meticulously modeled in Fusion 360 CAD software. It is such a complicated model that it has pushed that software to its very limits. He has even created a video where he consulted with developers from AutoCAD on how to more efficiently use Fusion 360 for such complicated designs.

From January 2017 until now he has created a series of weekly videos that chronicle the building of the new Marble Machine X. It is a weekly series called “Wintergatan Wednesdays”. These construction videos are amazing. They chronicle the daily struggle of trying to design and build and sometimes redesign and rebuild various components of the machine. We journey along with him as he slowly masters CAD design, tig welding, and other fabrication techniques. Here is a playlist of the entire 120 videos titled Building Marble Machine X.

In the past year or so he has brought on board dozens of volunteers to assist with the project. Engineers, designers, fabricators, musical instrument makers, project management specialists, and just plain fans of his work have all stepped up to contribute to the project despite the fact that some speculate the machine will never be finished. Personally I think it will be completed. I would guess he is about 90% complete at this point after over three years of construction. If his promised world tour ever comes to Indianapolis I will definitely be buying a ticket.

The videos present an interesting dichotomy between this lone maker now living in France and working out of his home workshop as well as the team effort of people around the world who have contributed materially and financially to the project.

The videos themselves are extremely entertaining. They are accompanied by his amazing musical compositions and sprinkled with lots of humor. It’s not just some boring videos of a guy assembling pieces of some weird machine. Case in point this week’s video is illustrating the entire path that the marbles take through the machine and how he had to redesign one section because it was unreliable. But the entire video is in the form of a sporting event that he narrates as the marbles race around the machine.

The weekly videos are so popular that they average over one half million views each week. There are also nearly 5000 paid members to his channel and Patreon supporters. Martin released sheet music of a piano version of the Marble Machine Song for free. Fans of the Marble Machine have honored him by making their own cover versions of the famous Marble Machine Song. He put together a video of himself watching these tribute videos and his reaction is quite heartwarming. I can’t imagine what it would mean to a person to have that much fan support and devotion as he spends countless hours alone trying to create the new machine. Here is his reaction video to all of the other Marble Machine tribute videos.

The description of that video includes a link to a playlist of all the tribute videos used in the compilation.

Music Machine Mondays

In addition to all of the videos about building the Marble Machine X, Martin also produced a series of videos called “Music Machine Mondays” in which he tours a number of museums that feature other mechanical music machines. Most of the videos were shot at the Speelklok Museum in the city of Utrecht, Netherlands. Here is a playlist of those videos. It includes someone playing a clock tower carillon version of his Marble Machine Song.

Here’s another collection of 21 fascinating videos from that museum featuring different instruments. Martin recently visited another museum of mechanical musical instruments and promises more upcoming videos in that series.

Final Thoughts

The saga of Wintergatan and Martin Molin is an inspiring story of what one person with an undying vision can accomplish. We see how his singular vision to create this fantastic musical instrument has inspired millions of followers and thousands of contributors who want to see him complete his dream. There are lessons to be learned in his journey. Spend some time watching these videos and I think you will find these videos as entertaining and inspiring as I have.

Introducing My YouTube Favorites

Those who know me know that I’m addicted to TV. I watch way too many TV shows and I get so far behind on watching some of them that I am often nearly one year behind on several shows. I’ve had to create a Google Docs spreadsheet to keep track of which episodes of which shows I’ve seen.

Not only am I addicted to the broadcast networks, cable networks both basic and premium, I also watch streaming services including Netflix, Hulu, Amazon prime, CBS All Access, Apple+ and Disney+.

As if that was not enough, I’m also addicted to YouTube. I currently subscribe to 445 YouTube channels. Obviously that doesn’t mean I watch all of them every day. Many of them only rarely post content. But some of my favorites post new content at least once a week and sometimes several times a week.

With many of us stuck at home oo out of work because of the pandemic, I thought I would do a new feature on my entertainment blog where I would highlight some of my favorite channels. I will try to stay away from niche channels that are closely related to my hobbies such as electronics or 3D printing but I may do one review that gives an overview of my favorite 3D printing channels or favorite maker channels.

Where most people are familiar with YouTube and may occasionally watch a YouTube video posted on Facebook or other social media, my guess is most people don’t really take advantage of all the features of the site that make it easy to keep track of your favorite channels and save links to your favorite videos so that you can show them to friends and family. It’s sort of like that commercial for Goodwill Stores where the guy says “To shop you just need a cart… But to compete you need a strategy!” In this blog post I’m going to give you some instructions on how to get the most out of YouTube. I will describe some of his features just for those who want to watch. How to create and upload videos for YouTube is an entirely different topic that we won’t be handling today.

Everything that we are demonstrating today assumes you are watching YouTube on a computer using a browser. We will be using Google Chrome but the screens should look similar on Firefox, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge or whatever you might be using. We will not be describing how to do these things on a phone or tablet because the apps might look different for different platforms and we don’t have access to all of that. We suggest you set things up using a browser and then most of these features should be available on your phone or tablet in some way shape or form.

Creating a Google Account

If you really want to get the most out of watching YouTube, you should create a YouTube account. YouTube is owned by Google so if you already have some sort of Google account then use it to login to YouTube. Examples of Google accounts include a Gmail email account, Google drive storage, Google Play store for purchasing apps for an android phone or tablet. If you don’t already have a Google account it’s easy to create one. If you already have an account you can skip this section.

Start by going to YouTube.com and you will see the YouTube homepage that would look something like this:

Note: you can click on any of the images in this blog to see a larger version.

In the upper right corner click on the button that says “Sign In” and you will see a screen that looks similar to the one below. Because I’ve already used this browser to log into 2 different Google accounts it gives me the option to click on one of those but if you need to create a new account you should click on “Use another account”.

That will bring up the following screen. If you hover over the “Create account” button there will be a drop-down to choose if the account is for personal use or business. We will click on “For myself”

You will be asked to give a first and last name, an email address, and a password that you will use for all of your Google accounts not just YouTube. This should not be your email password or any other password you use. It should be unique for Google services. Then click on “Next”.

You will be emailed a six digit verification code that you will enter into the next screen and then click on “Verify”. Next you will be asked to optionally give your phone number. I see no need. You will also have to enter your date of birth because some Google services are age-restricted. You will also be asked “Gender” but you can choose “Rather not say” if you don’t want to. Then click on “Next” and you will be taken back to the YouTube homepage logged into your new account.

At this point you can browse around YouTube, see what’s on the homepage as recommended. In the upper left corner click on “Trending” which shows you the most popular videos currently showing. Or you can click in the search box and look for any topic or channel name that you want. To the right of any video you will probably see a list of recommended videos based on topics that you have watched before. Of course Google/YouTube keeps track of everything you watch so it can make these recommendations and send you targeted advertisements. That’s just the way the Internet works. Actually it is quite useful because I’ve discovered some great content through these recommendations.

How to Watch Videos

I almost didn’t include this section because most of the videos you just click on them and they play automatically. However there are a few tricks and tips that should help you enjoy the videos even more. First of all, most videos are accompanied by advertisements. There is usually a countdown timer in the lower right corner of the video such that after 5 seconds you can click on “skip ads” and get straight to your video. Sometimes longer form videos have ads in the middle of them and you can similarly skip some of them after 5 seconds. There are also banner ads that pop up at the bottom of the screen and there is a tiny “x” in the upper right corner that you can click on to close them.

There are also a number of very handy keyboard shortcuts that you will find useful. For example pressing the spacebar will pause or play your video. Pressing “m” will temporarily mute or unmute the volume. Pressing “c” turns captions are off and on. Some videos have professionally produced captions but YouTube also has a speech to text feature that will automatically create reasonably good captions for videos that don’t have specific captions or subtitles already created. Click here for a complete list of keyboard shortcuts.

There are also tiny icons in the lower right corner of the video available when you hover your mouse over that area. It allows you to increase the size of your video to something called “theater mode” or to make your video full-screen. There is a slider bar across the bottom of the video when you hover over it that allows you to skip to any section of the video.

How to Subscribe to YouTube Channels

One of the most powerful features of YouTube is the ability to “subscribe” to channels. These subscriptions are free. All it really means is that you are making a list of your favorite channels so that you can see the latest videos from each of them in one handy place. After you have subscribed to a channel, you also have the option to sign up for notifications. That is explained below.

Anytime you’re watching a video there are a number of options in the lower right just below the video that look like this:

If you have not already subscribed to this particular channel you will see the red “SUBSCRIBE” button. If you click on it or if you have already subscribed you will see:

Next to the gray “SUBSCRIBED” button is a little bell icon. If you click on it, you will get notifications every time a new video is uploaded to that particular channel. Only enable notifications on the channels that you really want to be on top of continuously. You will get a pop-up message on your browser and you will get an email telling you about new uploads.

In that area you can also click on a thumbs up or thumbs down icon to express your like or dislike of the video. We will talk about the “SAVE” option later in the section on “Playlists”. The “SHARE” button gives you the option to share the video to Facebook, Twitter, other platforms or just copy a shortened URL address. You also have the option to share it beginning at a particular start time if you only want to call someone’s attention to a particular section of the video. You cannot specify an end time.

Let’s look at the YouTube homepage again. In the upper left corner the third item down is “Subscriptions”. If you click on it you will see a screen that looks like this:

This shows you the latest videos from all of your subscribed channels with the newest videos at the top. Actually if any videos are live streams they will be shown first and then other uploaded videos in chronological order from newest to oldest. So each day when I want to watch YouTube, I go to this page and it shows me everything which is new in one handy place. As I scroll down, once I see something familiar I know that I’ve reached the end of everything that was new since the last time I visited. In the lower left corner you will see a column “SUBSCRIPTIONS” that shows you all of the channels to which you have subscribed. Any channels showing live videos will appear at the top with a red icon. The rest of the list is sorted in alphabetical order by channel name.

About Playlists

If you think of your Subscription list as a favorite channel list you also have the ability to make multiple lists of favorite individual videos. These are called “Playlists” but you should really just think of them as folders to store your favorite videos. You can name these playlists anything you want. Some of my playlists are “NASA and Space”, “Maker Projects”, “3D printing”, “Radio Controlled”, “Science”, “Math”, “Music”, or “Comedy”. Others are more specific for example I have so many favorite videos for TV shows such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Doctor Who, Game of Thrones etc. that they each have their own playlist. Other playlists include “Marvel” and “DC comics”. When you click on the “SAVE” button you are given the option to save it to one or more of your existing playlists or to create a new playlist.

Playlists are a great way to organize your favorite videos in case you want to watch them again or show them to your friends and family. It would be nice if they would let you nest your playlists like you can nest folders on your computer hard drive. For example it would be nice to be able to have “Music” and then within that “Classical” and “Rock” etc. but unfortunately you cannot do that. You cannot have a list within a list. But as mentioned before a single video can be added to multiple lists for example I might add a video to both it and “3D printing” and “Assistive Technology”.

Professional and Commercial YouTube Channels

My upcoming reviews will focus mostly on channels that are independent efforts of a single person or a small group of YouTube creators. But there are also many channels related to your favorite networks, TV shows, and musical artists. We suggest you do a search for your favorite shows or artists and subscribe to those channels first.

All of the late-night comedy shows such as Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, James Corden, Trevor Noah, and John Oliver have YouTube channels. Significant portions of their comedy routines such as Jimmy Fallon’s hashtags, thank you notes etc. appear on YouTube. Seth Meyers famous “A Closer Look” political commentary is often posted in the early evening before the show even airs. Videos also include some segments of the monologue and excerpts from guest interviews. John Oliver’s weekly show on HBO is a 30 minute show but the major portion of it is about a 20 minute rant on a particular topic of the week. It amazes me that he puts these entire rants on YouTube for free considering that HBO is a premium cable service. It’s been especially fun to watch the YouTube videos these comedians have been posting from home during the pandemic. Be sure to check them out.

I also subscribe to channels for various networks like AMC, BBC America, CW and FX because they include lots of behind the scenes videos about my favorite genre shows. HBO had some great videos behind-the-scenes of the making of Game of Thrones. Other shows such as Doctor Who and The Orville just to name a couple have their own YouTube channels for trailers, interviews, and behind-the-scenes content.

My favorite artists such as Sting, David Gilmore of Pink Floyd, Blue Man Group and others have their own channels. If your particular artist doesn’t have a dedicated YouTube channel, look for a channel from their record label. Some comedians such as ventriloquist Jeff Dunham have their own channel. He recently did some live streaming of him creating a new dummy character for his act. That was very interesting.

Supporting Your Favorite Channels

Creators of YouTube content are supported by ads. However in order to qualify to receive money from the advertising you have to have a minimum of 10,000 subscribers to your channel and I believe there is also a minimum amount of traffic that you have to have before you can share in the revenue that YouTube makes from all videos with ads.

YouTube creators however often have difficulty getting individual videos to qualify for advertising. For example if you are covering a controversial topic, YouTube might choose to de-monetize your particular video. There are also severe restrictions on monetization of videos aimed at children. Because it’s difficult to make a living off of advertising alone, there are other ways you can financially support your favorite content providers. Some channels have a “membership” button that allows you to financially support your favorite channels directly through YouTube. YouTube also gives you the ability to make spontaneous donations during live stream videos.

There is also a site called “patreon.com” that allows you to pledge money on a per video basis to your favorite creators. Typically creators who use this service will encourage you to support them by this method and/or they will thank those who have already supported them through patreon. Some creators provide exclusive content to their Patreon supporters. Channels are also often supported by selling merchandise such as hats, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and posters related to the channel.

Note also that there is a premium YouTube service called YouTube TV that provides premium content such as TV shows and movies similar to the way other streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu work. I believe YouTube TV also occasionally supports cable channels and even local TV channels. I’ve never used it so I can’t really say. YouTube TV is not to support your favorite ordinary YouTube channels. It is all professionally created content from networks, cable channels etc.

My Reviews

Immediately after this blog post I will begin posting reviews of some of my favorite YouTube channels. You can click on the links in my blog to get to the channel and to see some of my favorite videos from those channels. And if you like them you can click on SUBSCRIBE to add them to your subscription list or perhaps add particular videos to one of your playlists. I’m going to be posting several reviews probably one every other day for the next several days to get you through your pandemic quarantine. I will then attempt to write perhaps one per week after that.


Late Night Comedy Does Work-from-Home

Last week both Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Fallon attempted to put on a show with no audience. Both attempts were funny only because they were such terrible failures. On October 29 and 30, 2012 David Letterman did shows without audience just before and after hurricane Sandy as seen here. Telling a joke with only Paul Schaefer with his signature annoying laugh just didn’t work. Colbert’s audience consisted of about 20 staff members. Part of the way through his monologue he asked “Is this going okay?” And they all cheered and applauded. He thanked them and then reminded the viewers “Of course I pay these people so who knows.” Another good line was he said “Each night in my mind the show is perfect. All of the jokes are hilarious. And the only thing that goes wrong is when an audience shows up and proves me wrong. Tonight with no audience to disprove it, this show will be perfect.”

Seth Meyers and James Corden went to reruns rather than go audience free.

Now the late-night comedians have taken to YouTube to do 10-20 minute monologues. Here’s a sampling. Suggest you subscribe to their YouTube channels to see remaining episodes. It’s sort of reminiscent of amateur YouTubers who haven’t quite yet figured out how to do lighting and audio in a home environment. Click on the show title to get to their entire YouTube channel. And then click the links on individual shows.

The Late Show Was Stephen Colbert

March 17 Colbert broadcasts from his bathtub

March 18 Colbert in his backyard fire pit. Includes a very funny parody of “Danny Boy” and a nice piano concert by bandleader Jon Batiste.


Jimmy Kimmel Live

March 17 Quarantine Minilogue. Discovers by staying at home that he actually has children. Says that they watched Frozen 2 more times than the animators who created. Apparently first in a series.


Late night with Seth Myers

March 12: A Closer Look. Seth Myers canceled his Thursday night show but went ahead and recorded his “A Closer Look” segment that they had already written the night before. He hasn’t done any additional YouTube since then.


The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon

March 17 Home Edition (The First One). Shot by his wife on an iPhone apparently from his kids play room. Wonderfully amateurish 🙂


LastWeek Tonight with John Oliver HBO

March 16: Did his regular show without an audience. Could not do it in his regular studio because it had been contaminated by someone who tested positive. Clearly the most successful non-audience show of the group.


The Late Late Show with James Corden

He is showing reruns on broadcast and has not contributed anything to YouTube



Overall I’m giving the entire collection a rating of “I’m watching”. It’s really nice that I don’t have to record the entire show and fill up my DVR. I could just watch these monologues on YouTube whenever they come up. Hope you are staying safe and healthy during this crisis.

“Devs” is a Creepy Reflection on the Nature of Reality.

A new sci-fi thriller called “Devs” is available on Hulu. This eight part miniseries is released under the branding of “FX on Hulu” however the series doesn’t appear to be available on FX network at least as of yet. Nick Offerman plays a billionaire genius Forest who runs a computer company that has made major breakthroughs in quantum computing. If you’ve not heard of quantum computing it’s a new type of computer processor that takes advantage of some of the bizarre properties of quantum mechanics. Pundits currently claim that it has the potential to create the most powerful computers we’ve ever seen. It could be a disruptive technology that could unlock any current encryption techniques rendering all computer security obsolete. In real life quantum computing has yet to deliver on its promises but in this series it has delivered way beyond expectations.

The story follows Lily Chan played by Sonoya Mizuno works for a computer company called Amaya along with her boyfriend Sergei. Sergei gets promoted to the company’s top-secret division known as “Devs” but disappears the next day. She goes on a quest to uncover what really happened to him and to try to figure out what’s really going on in the company she works for.

The entire show has a very creepy feel to it. The Amaya company campus is in a wooded area featuring a giant 60 foot statue that looks like a two-year-old girl dressed in a dress. It sort of looks like a giant baby doll. No explanation is given why they have this bizarre monument. We get lots of creepy looking shots of this figure towering above the trees. The soundtrack that runs continuously beneath the show also adds a very creepy feeling to the entire thing.

At this point I will just say that after 3 episodes I’m really enjoying it and giving it a strong rating of “I like it“. It is being described as a miniseries of 8 episodes so don’t expect a second season. If I’m going to continue to talk more about it I really need to get into some spoilers. If you read on, I don’t think it will ruin your enjoyment of the show but some people are especially sensitive to any spoilers so if that’s you… stop reading now and go watch the show.

spoilers below




In the opening episode, Sergei is taken on a tour of the Devs facility by CEO Forrest played by Nick Offerman. It is housed in a completely separate building on the Amaya campus. A giant quantum supercomputer is housed in a vacuum sealed building that hovers inside the building using magnetic levitation. The entire thing is completely sealed from the outside world. Sergei is invited to sit down at a workstation, look at the code they are developing and then he will realize what the Devs project is all about. After several minutes of staring at the screen he suddenly jumps from his seat, runs into the restroom, and vomits violently.

We don’t have to wait long to find out what disturbed him so much. Forest explains to him that indeed this quantum computer has proven that the entire universe is deterministic. Every event in the world is the inevitable consequence of chemistry and physics working on the conditions prior to that moment. Everything is total cause and effect. Essentially free will does not exist. Everything that we do is 100% the inevitable consequence of what has happened prior to that. So this computer has the ability to accurately predict the future as well as run the equations backwards and look into the past.

In subsequent episodes we see them looking in on the crucifixion of Jesus, the burning of Joan of Arc at the stake, and then more personal items such as Marilyn Monroe having sex with her husband Arthur Miller. The latter was done so in violation of company policy and earns the programmers a reprimand. One of the female scientists Katie played by Alison Pill bemoans “Why do male techs always feel the need to caricature themselves? Step one: Create a new technology that reinvents the nature of human existence. Step two: Use it for porn.” Personally I would’ve gone for Marilyn and JFK.

One of the other consequences of the revelation that the universe is completely out of our control means that the enigmatic CEO feels no sense of guilt over anything. If one is not responsible for one’s own actions then one can do whatever they want because that choice is not theirs. It is inevitable.

The main part of the story is Lily trying to uncover Sergei’s disappearance. She is shown a video of him committing suicide but she doesn’t believe it’s real. She comes to discover that he is in fact an industrial spy for Russia. She had no idea. This furthers her feelings that everything isn’t what it seems to be. I’ve only seen the first 3 out of 8 episodes sort remains to be seen how deep the conspiracy goes or where the story will turn after this.

The questions raised by this strange technology and the bizarre revelation that the universe is not what it seems to be along with the mystery of the boyfriend spy and a hidden agenda of the company make this very compelling viewing. As stated before it gets a rating of “I like it” and if you like creepy technology shows sort of like Black Mirror then I highly recommend it.

“Star Trek: Picard” Shows Great Promise

The much anticipated “Star Trek: Picard” premiered on streaming service CBS All Access today. Only the first episode is available and a total of 10 episodes will be released on a weekly basis. The story revolves around former Enterprise Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in his retirement from Starfleet.

There’s no way I can really describe what’s going to happen in future episodes without giving some major spoilers as to what happens in this opening episode. So if you don’t want to know what happens in the opening episode I will just say that I like what I’ve seen and if you are at all a Star Trek fan you definitely want to check it out. One suggestion I will leave you with is you should watch “Star Trek: Short Treks” season 2 episode 6 “Children of Mars” also available only on CBS All Access before watching this premier episode.







The series takes place 14 years after Picard has left Starfleet. It opens with a dream sequence where he is playing poker with Cmdr. Data. Brent Spiner returns to play the role and somehow doesn’t look a day older than we last saw him years ago when he sacrificed his life to save Picard in the film “Star Trek: Nemesis“. One little bit of nitpicking, Data’s eyes didn’t look quite right to me. I don’t know if it’s the fact that we are seeing him in HD compared to the analog TV in “Star Trek: The Next Generation” or what the reason was. It just seemed that during the close-ups it was more obvious than usual that he was wearing yellow contact lenses.

The dream ends when they look out the window and you see the destruction of Mars. You might not immediately recognize it unless you’ve seen the Short Trek “Children of Mars” that I mentioned earlier. That short subject depicts an attack on Mars that devastates the planet but doesn’t really explain who is attacking or why.

Picard is living in a French château surrounded by vineyards that are being cared for by robotic machines. He’s accompanied by a pet bit bull which he affectionately refers to as “Number One”. He is tended to by what appeared to be a butler and maid who I initially thought were Vulcans but on further reflection they are probably Romulan. They show great affection for the retired admiral.

Picard is about to be interviewed for a news program and through the course of this interview we get a lot of back story about what has happened in the days since we last saw him. In short, the Romulan sun was going to go supernova. Picard persuaded Starfleet to help with a mass evacuation of the entire planet before it was destroyed. This was despite the fact that the Romulans were a long time enemy of Starfleet. Picard makes it clear he was there to save lives… the fact that they were Romulan lives was immaterial.

The rescue effort was aborted when Mars colony was attacked by so-called “synthetics” which are apparently androids. The reporter points out that Mars is still burning yet to this day. The end result is that synthetic life forms have been completely banned and all research into creating them has been terminated. By interplanetary treaty they are forbidden.

Intercut with Picard’s story we meet a young woman named Dahj played by Isa Briones. She is celebrating with her boyfriend that she has been accepted to a position at the Daystrom Institute in Okinawa to do artificial intelligence research. Suddenly three black clad assassins transport into her apartment, murder her boyfriend, and try to take her captive saying along the way “She hasn’t activated yet”. Suddenly she does “activate” and despite having a hood placed over her head she quickly attacks the three assassins and with almost superhuman moves ends up killing them all. It is obvious she has no idea how she obtained the skills to save her own life and kill these three assassins. As she wanders the streets in a daze, she sees Picard being interviewed on TV and is irresistibly drawn to seek him out.

Picard does not know the woman and has no idea why she would come to him even after she recounts the story of the attack and her unusual ability to easily dispatch her attackers. Through a series of events, Picard concludes that not only is she an android despite the fact she appears completely human (she bleeds real blood), he also theorizes that she is somehow the daughter of Cmdr. Data. Data had once painted a portrait of a woman exactly resembling her and titled the painting “Daughter”.

There are a couple of plot twists I have not revealed. So I didn’t completely spoil the story. I hope I just set it up for you to anticipate what comes in future episodes. The rest of the series will cover Picard trying to figure out who this woman is. Unfortunately (sorry spoiling) she is killed in a subsequent attack by more assassins who are revealed to be Romulan. Picard then goes on a quest to go in search of her twin sister.

Previews for upcoming episodes reveal that we will see Jonathan Frakes reprise his role as Cmdr. Riker a.k.a. Number One and his wife Deanna Troy played by Marina Sirtis. Although these will only appear in a single episode, it doesn’t appear that this is a flashback or dream sequence. Frakes is also listed as the director of 3 of the episodes. We will also see Jeri Ryan reprise her role as former Borg “Seven of Nine” from the TV series “Star Trek: Voyager“. Unfortunately IMDb.com does not yet list her as part of the cast so we don’t know how big her role will be. But the previews indicate it might be significant. There may be other cameo appearances from other previous Star Trek series.

Overall Patrick Stewart credibly re-creates an older version of his most famous character. We also look forward to seeing more of Alison Pill in her role as an artificial intelligence researcher named Dr. Agnes Jurati. I’ve been a big fan of hers ever since her role in “The Newsroom“. Apparently Picard will spend the next episode recruiting a crew and a ship for his quest so we will have new characters introduced soon.

With the exception of one brief shot, the special effects are state-of-the-art. The stunts and action sequences were well done. The plot has great promise leaving many mysteries to be solved over the course of 10 episodes. The show has already been approved for season 2 as well. What is the origin of these extremely human looking androids? Why did the androids attack Mars? And what are the surviving Romulans up to?

I’m sure somewhere along the way Star Trek fans will nitpick a variety of issues. I’ve loved every episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” for the past 2 seasons on CBS All Access but some fans say it’s terrible. I seriously disagree.

I’m giving it a strong rating of “I Really like It” and suggest you check it out. Together with the third season of “Star Trek: Discovery” and the excellent series “The Good Fight” CBS All Access is well worth the money. I’ve also been using it to watch current episodes of CBS programs because I am typically many weeks behind and I don’t have room on my DVR to record them all. Although I’m endorsing the service, of course I have no financial connection to it and the opinions are all my own.

Is Broadcast TV Dead? Part 2.

A few days ago after the Golden Globe awards I posted this blog asking the question “Is Broadcast TV Dead?” The reason I asked was that no broadcast TV shows were nominated let alone actually win. I made a chart breaking down the awards between streaming services, premium cable such as HBO, Showtime etc., basic cable such as FX, BBC America etc., and broadcast TV. The grand totals for the Golden Globes were as follows:

Streaming 31 nominations, 5 wins. Premium 18 nominations, 5 wins. Basic Cable 8 nominations, 1 win. And as mentioned Broadcast TV 0 for 0.

Last night the Screen Actors Guild awards were presented and the results were only trivially better. Broadcast TV only earned one nomination for Actor in a Drama Series for Sterling K. Brown in “This Is Us“. He lost to Peter Dinklage for “Game of Thrones“. Click here to see a complete list of nominees and winners. Here is a chart I put together showing how the nominations were split up among various kinds of media. A “w” in a column designates that’s the category for the winner.

Category Streaming Premium Basic Broadcast
Ensemble Comedy Series 3w 1 1 0
Ensemble Drama Series 3w 2 0 0
Actor Comedy Series 4w 1 0 0
Actress Comedy Series 4w 0 1 0
Actor Drama Series 3 1w 0 1
Actress Drama Series 4w 0 1 0
Actress Movie or Limited 3 1 1w 0
Actor Movie or Limited 1 3 1w 0
Totals 25 9 5 1
Wins 5 1 2 0

As you can see only one nomination for a broadcast TV show and it did not win. Nothing for a traditional live audience sitcom in the comedy category. Even basic cable was only represented by 3 networks with only 3 shows nominated.

The only conclusion that we can draw from this information is that if you want to see quality television, you are going to have to pay extra. So we have to ask the question: Is broadcast TV dead? If things don’t change they will be.

“The Morning Show” Best New Drama of the Year — Says Me

When I heard that the new Apple TV+ series “The Morning Show” starred Jennifer Aniston and Steve Carell, I naturally assumed it was a comedy. I knew that it revolves around a morning network talk show similar to “The Today Show” or “Good Morning America“. Seeing the two of them sit behind a desk and crack jokes or perhaps a sort of ripoff of “The Office” that went behind the scenes at such a show just didn’t appeal to me.

Then I heard it was nominated for three Golden Globes in the drama category. Perhaps there was more here than I initially believed so I decided to check it out. I ended up binge watching all 10 episodes in a little over two days and at times it took my breath away. Jennifer Aniston and her costar Reese Witherspoon well deserved their Golden Globe nominations as well as the series nomination for best TV drama. Aniston, Carell, and Billy Crudup have also received Screen Actors Guild nominations.

Late Update: Aniston won the SAG award for Female Actor in a Drama Series.

There will be very minor spoilers ahead but I don’t believe it will ruin the show for you. If you are worried about spoilers just watch this show because it gets my highest recommendation.

Aniston plays Alex Levy and Carell plays Mitch Kessler. They are the anchors of a network morning news talk show called “The Morning Show” or TMS for short. In the opening episode it is announced that Kessler has been fired for sexual misconduct paralleling the true life story of Matt Lauer being fired from “The Today Show”. Note however that this is not at all intended to be a thinly disguised telling of that story. It is very much complete fiction.

Initially there is a scramble by the network to decide how to deal with this disturbing situation. Aniston’s portrayal of Alex is exceptional as she tries to express sensitivity towards the accusers, outrage towards Mitch, and her own personal hurt that such a thing could happen to someone who is her friend and with whom she has had a great working relationship for 15 years.

In the next few episodes Alex is in a fight with the network to keep her job and to try to have a say in who will be her replacement cohost.

Along the way she happens to interview Bradley Jackson portrayed by Reese Witherspoon. She is a local TV reporter that has a slightly embarrassing viral video moment where she gets into a shouting match with a protester at a coal mine. The network tries to intimidate Alex by hinting that she could be replaced by someone like Bradley Jackson at the drop of a hat. Alex reverses the tactics by publicly announcing that Bradley Jackson will be her new cohost starting Monday morning. Of course neither the network nor Bradley herself have any idea that this is going to happen. Rather than fire Alex for making an unapproved announcement, they decide to roll with it thinking that if it fails they can blame her. Although Bradley realizes she’s a pawn in a big chess game she goes ahead and takes the job.

While all of this politics of network TV makes for fairly interesting drama, the real story is the #MeToo issues about the firing of Mitch Kessler. Throughout the 10 episodes, we the viewers ride a roller coaster of emotions in regard to his character. He insists that although he had affairs with coworkers, everything was 100% consensual and that he doesn’t deserve to have his career ruined or to be lumped in with sexual predators the likes of Cosby and Weinstein. You can’t help but believe him that in some ways he is a victim of these accusations.

Along the way as he’s trying to fight for his reputation, he reaches out to a friend who is a filmmaker whose career has been similarly ruined by #MeToo allegations. This part is brilliantly played dramatically by Martin Short. But they are not far into the conversation where Mitch is trying to say “We aren’t like Weinstein or the other perverts out there” when he begins to discover that his friend really is a sexual predator. The contrast between Mitch and his predatory friend makes you more still sympathetic for him.

However in later episodes as we hear the other side of the story from his accusers, we get a different perspective of the whole thing. You begin to see in a very dramatic way that although Mitch can accurately say that everything was “consensual”, the power dynamic of the situation puts him in a much more negative light. You begin to feel deeply for his accusers. Although not the same kind of despicable sexual predator as the Short character or other Weinstein types, Mitch is not at all an innocent victim in the situation.

Bradley Jackson is a fascinating character as well being thrust into a national limelight overnight and basically being in over her head. Yet when presented with the opportunities to investigate the story deeper and perhaps uncover how the network brass had long known about and covered up Mitch’s affairs she has to run with the story. She ends up in a sort of conspiracy to overthrow the network president with the help of the head of the news division played by Billy Crudup. Also is the noteworthy performance of Mark Duplass as the show’s producer who assists in this network coup when he realizes that he is going to be the fall guy for allowing Mitch’s behavior to continue unchecked.

A brief aside for a moment… When looking up Mark Duplass on IMDb.com I came across this video interview in which he reveals that originally “The Morning Show” was supposed to be a quirky fast-paced comedy… the show that I didn’t want to see. But then they realized they could do something significant with #MeToo and they completely scrapped their original scripts and rewrote the show. Many of the episodes were written just in time to be filmed. I still find it amazing that shows like this and “The Watchmen” can be written on the fly like this.

Aniston has many outstanding dramatic performances throughout the series but the most touching revolve around the subplot of Alex’s family life. She has been separated from her husband and he asked for a divorce. Naturally the publicity people are worried that the public will think it’s related to Mitch’s departure when in fact it’s not. Her concerns about the effects of the divorce on their teenage daughter are also quite dramatic and well portrayed by Aniston.

At times this series is reminiscent of the Aaron Sorkin series “The Newsroom” which ran on HBO for three seasons from 2012-2014. This is especially true in the flashback episode where they go to Las Vegas to cover the mass shooting that occurred there. We also go on location to cover California wildfires.

The writing is superb. The performances by Aniston, Witherspoon, and Carell are all top-notch. Although there are a few funny moments it is mostly breathtaking drama throughout. It is very much the single most thought-provoking TV series I’ve seen in a long time. In a recent review of Netflix’s “The Messiah” I described it as the most thought-provoking show I had seen in some time but this one clearly eclipsed it.

On a variety of talkshows and news programs ever since the wave of allegations that launched the #MeToo movement, pundits have been saying “We need to have a national conversation on this topic.” As far as I’m concerned, these 10 hours of dramatic television are an excellent attempt to have that conversation. You really get an in-depth and personal look at the issues from all sides. Anyone who has any interest in understanding #MeToo or anything concerning sexual dynamics in the workplace absolutely must see this program.

In fact anyone who enjoys good dramatic television should consider watching this. I’m giving it my highest rating of “Must-See“.

I previously had high praises for 2 other Apple TV+ series “See” and “For All Mankind” and even said that the latter was almost worth subscribing to Apple TV+ on its own. But those both are fantasy or sci-fi genre shows that might not appeal to a wide audience. This however is an important TV series that needs to be widely viewed.

I got my subscription to Apple TV+ because I recently purchased a new iPhone and iPad. There is a seven day free trial which should be enough that you could watch the show if you set aside time to binge 10 episodes at about an hour each. The subscription is $4.99 per month which is very cheap compared to other services but note that their catalog is quite small containing only original programming. They’ve announced no intent to license outside TV shows or films that are not exclusive to their service.

The bottom line is you should sign up and binge this. It’s well worth $4.99 if you can’t get it all watched during the seven-day free trial. And if you have time check out some of the other series from this service. Links to my reviews below.

Related reviews.

“For All Mankind” is almost worth subscribing to Apple TV+

Fans of Dystopian Action Should See “See”

Would You Recognize Jesus If He Arrived Today? “Messiah” on Netflix Seeks the Answer.

Would You Recognize Jesus If He Arrived Today? “Messiah” on Netflix Seeks the Answer.

Theologians and pundits have often wondered what kind of reception Jesus might’ve had if he had appeared in modern times or what would happen if the promised second coming came in modern times. The new Netflix series “Messiah” gives us a glimpse into what might happen if that occurred. Some spoilers included below.

A charismatic figure who looks like a stereotypical image of Jesus begins preaching in Damascus initially to a mostly Muslim audience. He claims responsibility for a giant dust storm that wipes out the terrorist organization ISIS. The crowd gives him the name “Al-Masih” Arabic for the Messiah. He then leads approximately 2000 refugees to the Israeli border demanding to be let in. As he crosses the border, he is immediately arrested leaving his followers alone in the desert creating a political and humanitarian crisis. Al-Masih is played by Mehdi Dehbi.

The story mostly follows an Israeli interrogator presumably Mossad named Aviram Dahan played by Tomer Sisley and an American CIA agent Eva Geller played by Michelle Monaghan. While being interrogated Al-Masih seems to have secret knowledge of his interrogators that gives him an air of mystical power that shakes them up considerably. He escapes the Israeli prison by an unknown mechanism and Aviram is suspected of releasing him although he did not. After appearing briefly in Jerusalem and miraculously healing a young boy of a gunshot wound, he disappears again and then reappears in a Texas border town that is wiped out by a tornado. Only the small church run by a troubled pastor and his family survives the devastation. Although he originally preached to a Muslim audience he claims to have no particular denomination affiliation and speaks openly to this Christian community challenging them reform their lives to live out their life in peace and harmony with their fellow human beings.

From there he leads a cross-country caravan to Washington DC but no one is sure exactly what his agenda is.

Eva spends much of the series trying to figure out who he really is. Is he a con man? What is his political agenda? There are hints of Russian connections and connection to a known terrorist who hacked Wall Street. All the while she and Aviram struggle with their own personal demons and are haunted by Al-Masih’s mysterious ability to know their life story.

The entire 10 episode series explores the nature of faith, fame, politics, and what it means to really live out one’s peaceful religious convictions. I suppose the main spoiler that I will include is that although his true past is revealed and there is ample evidence that he is a charlatan, there is also ample evidence that there are some supernatural forces involved and that he may in fact be legitimate. He never claims to be the Messiah himself only saying that that’s what his followers call him. He claims to be “The Word” sent from the Father which is a reference to the Gospel of John which describes Jesus as “the Word made flesh”. The series pretty much leaves you to make up your own mind about who or what he really is. Were the supernatural events simply illusions of a skilled magician or was something real happening?

Overall it is extremely well written and well acted by all involved. It is one of the most thought-provoking TV series I had seen up until the time I completed the 10 episode binge which took me just two days. However the title of “most thought-provoking TV series I’d seen in a long time” was eclipsed just a week later by another show that I will review soon.

I highly recommend this series to anyone of faith or those who are interested in religion and its role in modern society. I’m giving it a strong rating of “I really like it“. Check it out and form your own opinions. Would love to hear from you on Facebook about what you think of the series.

“The Mandalorian” Is the Best Star Wars Since “The Empire Strikes Back”

Moving along to our next review of a streaming TV series we have to take a minute to discuss the new Disney+ Star Wars series “The Mandalorian“. If you’ve been on social media at all the last few weeks you’ve already seen hundreds of memes about this series most of them featuring a character that has come to be known as “Baby Yoda”. This adorable little green creature is the same species as the Yoda character from the original Star Wars series. Unfortunately George Lucas never did tell us the name of the species of this iconic character. In this series he is only referred to as “the child” but immediately the Internet has dubbed him “Baby Yoda” even though the original Yoda is already dead at this point in the timeline of the Star Wars universe.

While Baby Yoda is central to the 10 episode plot of this series, it really is about the journey of the title character. Mandalorians are a race of fierce warriors who have a rich history throughout the Star Wars novels and especially the various Star Wars animated TV series. Our title character, often referred to as Mando is played by Pedro Pascal who is most known for playing Oberyn Martell in “Game of Thrones” and 30 episodes of the Netflix series “Narcos“. He is, as many of his people are, a bounty hunter and mercenary. He is given an assignment to retrieve dead or alive (preferably alive) an unknown subject. All he knows is that he is 50 years old and he has a tracking device which can locate the subject.

When he finally battles his way into a compound to retrieve the subject, he discovers it’s an infant Yoda like character. Star Wars fans know that when we met the original Yoda he was 900 years old. So a 50-year-old infant is not out of the question given what little we know about the species. Being duty-bound to fulfill his mission, he turns the child over to the client magnificently played by documentary filmmaker Warner Herzog. After turning over the child and fulfilling his contract, he begins to worry about what their intentions are for the creature and decides to steal the child back again to rescue it from whatever nefarious purposes the client might have. This sets off a whole wave of consequences in which his Mandalorian friends have to help him escape at the expense of revealing their secret hideaway. The entire rest of the series chronicles their journey to try to escape a horde of bounty hunters who are trying to retrieve the child.

Along the way we have a number of notable guest stars such as Nick Nolte who voices a CGI character that marginally resembles him named Kuiil. In later episodes we see Giancarlo Esposito as an imperial officer named Moff Gideon, Amy Sedaris as a spaceship mechanic and Ming-Na Wen as an assassin. Gina Carano also appears in three episodes as a former rebel soldier who accompanies the Mandalorian on a couple of missions.

Each episode is approximately 30 minutes and includes a great mixture of action and story. The Baby Yoda character is undeniably so cute he is irresistible but is not just about his cuteness. The real story is the personal journey of the Mandalorian who is trying to make his way in the universe and protect his new adopted charge Baby Yoda. Through a series of flashbacks we learn that Mando is not a native Mandalorian but is a so-called foundling who was adopted as a child by Mandalorian warriors. That helps explain his empathy for the child who is caught up in circumstances not of his own making.

I suppose if you’d never seen any Star Wars, you could enjoy this on its own as an action-adventure sci-fi series. But the real fun comes from all of the references to the original Star Wars stories and even deeper and more obscure Easter Egg references to the extended Star Wars universe especially the animated series which gives you much of the back story of the Mandalorian people. Along the way we visit Luke’s home planet of Tatooine including Moss Eisley spaceport and a familiar booth in a familiar cantina. A plethora of classic Star Wars characters including sand people and Jawas make appearances. There is a hilarious scene in one of the later episodes where a couple of storm trooper scouts are killing time by taking target practice and famously missing horribly. They are portrayed by Adam Pally and Jason Sudeikis.

As the title of this review suggests this is the best Star Wars we’ve seen since “The Empire Strikes Back“. All of the characters, not just Baby Yoda, are interesting and have memorable moments. The action sequences and special effects are state-of-the-art and worthy of theatrical film. Because these are essentially new characters, the fans don’t have a backlog of expectations about what they want to see so they have been free to enjoy the series on its own merits. The show has already been renewed for a second season and I suppose the fan fiction writers are already hard at work trying to guess what’s going to happen and unless it meets their predictions they are going to be disappointed. That’s a shame because such practices have destroyed the latest Star Wars films. Expectations about what the fans want to see have been so high that when they aren’t met exactly, the fans rebel as if they owned the franchise. Perhaps this new series will inspire fans to just sit back and enjoy it and not try to impose their own expectations on the plot lines or characters. It also helps that creator/writer/showrunner Jon Favreau has done a wonderful job extending the Star Wars universe to these new characters while maintaining a deep reverence for the rich traditions of everything that has come before.

I’m giving it a strong rating of “I Really like It” and it is recommended for any fans of action-adventure, sci-fi whether or not you have a deep knowledge of the Star Wars franchise.

Overall the Disney+ platform may be the most cost-effective streaming subscription service because it includes not only the entire Star Wars catalog but the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the entire Disney and Pixar catalogs. At just $6.99 a month or $69.99 per year it is quite reasonably priced. There is also an option to bundle Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ for just $12.99 per month which is a significant savings for what it would cost to subscribe to those individually. A number of Disney+ films and series are planned. We’ve already got the “live-action” version of “Lady and the Tramp” and more Star Wars series are in the works as well as season 2 of “The Mandalorian”. So there’s a lot to like here. By the way none of my reviews are sponsored by anyone and the opinions expressed are entirely my own.