Entertainment News: Dexter returns; Tony nominations; RIP “Two and a Half Men” housekeeper; and more

I mentioned previously I was watching the new Amazon show “Utopia” and my initial impressions after 2 episodes were positive. However as the series progressed it turned extremely dark and disturbing. Check out my full review here.

Amazon’s “Utopia” is of Questionable Taste and Not Just Because It’s About a Pandemic

Also I had previously reviewed very positively the new HBO Max series “Raised by Wolves”. While the first four or five episodes were really good it seemed to go downhill from there and a final episode really “jumped the shark” as they say in the TV industry. A bizarre finish which unfortunately left plenty of room for a second season. Go ahead and check it out if you want but be prepared for a strange ending.

Finally check out the links at the bottom. TV Line has updated its broadcast TV renewal scorecards which also contains links to renewal scorecards for cable and streaming services. Also a list of this year’s Tony award nominees and other items.

Pandemic News

  • Production on daytime soap “Days of Our Lives” has been suspended 2 weeks for Covid

Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

  • HBO Max has ordered to series “Green Lantern” and it will revolve around multiple Green Lantern versions of the DC comics superhero.
  • Showtime has announced its bringing back “Dexter” about the serial killer CSI. It will be a limited 10 episode series reboot starring Michael C.but Hall returning to the role. Will start production in 2021 for fall premier 2021.
  • ABC has confirmed that Bobby Bones will return as in-house mentor for the next season of American Idol
  • HBO says “His Dark Materials” season 2 will premier November 16 and scripts are already being prepared for a potential season 3 not yet officially approved.
  • Spectrum Original as canceled “LA’s Finest” cop show starring Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba after 2 seasons.
  • The Tracy Morgan comedy “The Last OG” has been renewed for season 4 at TBS however Tiffany Haddish will not be returning.
  • Showtime has announced “Black Monday” a Wall Street satire has been renewed for season 3

Politics and Showbiz

  • The Commission on Presidential Debates has officially canceled the October 15 event after they changed it to a virtual event and Trump refused to participate. Competing town halls were held with Joe Biden on ABC and Trump on NBC. That programming move by NBC created serious backlash. In the end Biden won the ratings war over the two events.
  • Gal Gadot is moving from Wonder Woman to Cleopatra however she is being criticized for taking on the role of an addiction Queen because she is Israeli.

Miscellaneous News

  • Yahoo has announced that it shutting down its social media platform Yahoo! Groups which has been around for 20 years. It will shut down December 15.
  • Google is shutting down Google Hangouts in favor of Google Chat

In Memoriam

  • Game show host Tom Kennedy from “Name That Tune” age 93
  • Margaret Nolan actress who was painted entirely in gold in the James Bond film Goldfinger. Age 76.
  • Hall of Fame Yankees pitcher Whitey Ford, age 91
  • Hall of Fame Cincinnati Reds second baseman Joe Morgan was also ESPN commentator. Age 77.
  • Conchata Ferrell actress who played the housekeeper on “Two And A Half Men” one of my favorite character actresses. Age 77.
  • Herbert Kretzmer who wrote the English lyrics for the hit musical Les Miserables. Age 95.

Links of Interest

Amazon’s “Utopia” is of Questionable Taste and Not Just Because It’s About a Pandemic

Several days ago in one of my Facebook posts about entertainment news I mentioned that I was watching Amazon’s new series “Utopia” based on a British series of the same name. I had only watched about two episodes and made some positive comments about it but said I would wait to review it until I had seen more. I’m glad I waited because this series which was already dark humor turned extremely dark and cynical and got worse as the series progressed to a depressing finale. Minor spoilers ahead but I’m careful not to spoil major plot twists or the conclusions.

One could ask do we really want to watch a TV series about a pandemic in these times? I initially didn’t let that stop me from giving it a fair shake. And as mentioned, after a couple of episodes I was really intrigued. I thought it was a very funny yet dark comedy. The initial premise is that there is a group of fans of an underground comic book called “Dystopia”. Someone cleaning out there late grandfather’s home finds the manuscript for a sequel comic called “Utopia”. They announce that it will be for sale to the highest bidder at an upcoming comic convention. The five fans who had never met each other in person make plans to meet up, pool their resources, and purchase the manuscript.

The reason there is such fascination about this hidden treasure is that the original “Dystopia” comic contained all sorts of hidden clues about various diseases and viruses such as Ebola, swine flu, SARS and others. While some just enjoyed it as a quirky bizarre underground graphic novel, others based huge conspiracy theories around the story. At the comic convention, bidders were each allowed to see one page of the manuscript and then place a bid and leave contact information. At the convention, 2 mysterious people show up and start tracking down everyone who has seen the comic.

They end up murdering the people who discovered the comic, finding the list of bidders, murdering all them and framing one of them for the murders. Our main characters managed to escape this fate including a young boy named Grant who manages to steal the comic from the high bidder as the bad guys are murdering the new owner.

In what appears initially to be a side plot, a rich tech mogul Dr. Kevin Christie played by John Cusack has introduced a new food product he calls SimPro which stands for “Simple Protein”. It is a laboratory created meat substitute. He has sold it to school districts around the country for school lunches but mysteriously a fatal flu outbreak starts killing children in the schools where his product is used. The conspiracy theorists believe that “Utopia” has more clues to this and other future pandemics which makes it an even bigger hot commodity.

Suddenly a kick ass young woman appears and is also chasing down the new comic and teams up with our young heroes. She claims to be Jessica Hyde which is the name of one of the characters in the comics. Her claim is that everything in the comic is true especially the part about her life story.

While this started out as a dark, funny satire on comic fandom, cosplay, conspiracy theorists, and nerd culture, the story goes darker and darker by the minute. The hitmen who are killing off everyone who has seen the comic are especially brutal. Jessica herself is also a brutal killer having no qualms about torturing or murdering anyone who gets in her way. She is in search of her father who was somehow involved in the entire conspiracy.

While Cusack’s company is cleared by the FDA of having any wrongdoing in the pandemic deaths of the children, we slowly begin to discover that he is involved in a much more nefarious plot. Again I’m trying not to give way too much of the plot but let’s just say he is one of the most ruthless, evil, and heartless characters you’ve probably seen in some time. Especially troublesome about the entire story is the way that children are manipulated and used as pawns in this game. Children are brutally murdered, they are driven to murder, and their parents are killed in front of them. The casual disregard for human life in general but especially are treated is quite disturbing.

Throughout the show we still have these same funny, quirky nerd characters that you sort of fell in love with in the first couple of episodes. But the brutally dark nature of everything else detracts from any feel-good aspects of the show. I managed to watch all eight episodes mostly just because I was sucked in and wanted to see where it was all going.

As I said in the title to this blog, the fact that it deals with a fatal pandemic is not the most disturbing thing about this series. I know people (my sister for example) who seriously disliked “The Hunger Games” because it was about kids killing kids for sport. But at least in that series of books and films you felt like they were fighting the good fight against the repressive government. Although these characters try to be heroes to stand up against the evil corporation, these are not really very heroic people.

While the series attempts to be social commentary about things like nerd culture, politics, greedy corporations, conspiracy theorists and a number of other topics, ultimately it’s just a disturbing mess. By the way the violence isn’t particularly bloody or gory. Most people are killed execution style with a silenced gunshot to the head. However the lack of blood and gore only furthers to underplay the fact that we are really murdering people in cold blood.

As I mentioned I watched all eight episodes and it was good enough to hold my interest throughout. However I’m not really sure if I can recommend it or not. I think what fascinated me to stick with it was just to see how dark and sadistic it could become. Unfortunately the ending was not particularly satisfying and leaves itself open to another season if they managed to dare to attempt one. I guess for the lack of a better term I’m going to give it a rating of “could be watchable” but just keep in mind it’s not going to be a fun ride. The parts that make you stop and think are not exactly worth the effort to get there. I hesitate to say “skip it” because it does have its moments and it is thought-provoking. It just depends on what kind of thoughts you want provoked. Travel at your own risk.

Entertainment News: Many Movie delays; Broadway dark until May; other news

Be sure to check out recent installments of this blog for reviews of a couple of new primetime game shows that are watchable as well as a new sci-fi show from Fox called “Next”. Also coming soon is my review of Amazon Prime’s “Utopia” which shows great promise. I’m really enjoying it after 2 episodes but I will wait till I finished for my final review. Now on with our regular features.

Pandemic News

  • The film version of “Dune” has been moved from December 2020 until October 2021. “The Batman” which was scheduled for that month has been pushed to March 2022. Matrix 4 moved to Christmas 2021. Shazam 2 has been pushed to 2023. “Jurassic World: Dominion” has been moved from June 2021 to June 2022.
  • Broadway will remain closed through May 2021.
  • Disney plans to lay off 28,000 people from its theme parks because of the pandemic.
  • The XFL football league will be skipping the entire 2021 season and will return in 2022.
  • The latest James Bond film “No Time to Die” has been delayed yet again from November 20 to April 2, 2021. In response Fast and Furious 9 has moved from that weekend to Memorial Day weekend.
  • Cineworld announced that Regal Cinemas in the US and Picturehouse cinemas in the UK will be shut down temporarily because of the pandemic. AMC theaters as well as Cinemark plan to remain open.
  • Saturday Night Live has canceled musical guest Morgan Wallen after video surfaced of him partying without a mask. He will we be replaced by Jack White as musical guest.
  • Filming of the new Jurassic World movie has been suspended for two weeks because crewmembers tested positive.
  • New York Covid rules audience members have to be paid staff or crew. So Saturday Night Live paid its audience members $150 to get around the restrictions.
  • California Gov. Newsom says Disneyland will not be reopening anytime soon.

Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

  • Agent Johnson is back! Actor stuntman Daniel Barnhart has signed on for the upcoming Matrix 4 sequel.
  • Director Barry Levinson is making a scripted film about the making of “The Godfather”. Oscar Isaac will play Francis Ford Coppola and Jake Gyllenhaal will play Robert Evans.
  • NBC has renewed run-time game show “The Wall” for season 4
  • “Billions” has been renewed at Showtime for season 6.
  • Netflix announced its spinoff of “The Karate Kid” Cobra Kai has been renewed for season 4. Season 3 will premier in January 2021.
  • Steve Carell will return to Apple TV+ series “The Morning Show” for season 2.
  • Sterling K Brown will play Leo McGarry on the HBO Max “West Wing” reunion show October 15. The late John Spencer had the role in the original TV series.
  • Netflix has canceled “GLOW” about female wrestlers and will not proceed with its planned fourth and final season. Pandemic is to blame.
  • Netflix has canceled “Teenage Bounty Hunters” after 1 season.
  • Disney television has renewed syndicated daytime talk show Tamron Hall for a third season.
  • Kate Mulgrew will reprise her role as Capt. Janeway for Nickelodeon’s animated “Star Trek: Prodigy” series.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch will reprise Doctor Strange in the next Spider-Man movie.
  • Disney/Pixar movie “Soul” is skipping theaters and moving to Disney+ on December 25. Unlike its release of “Mulan” it will not cost extra.
  • TNT announced that “Snowpiercer” season 2 will premier January 25.

Politics and Showbiz

  • The Commission on Presidential Debates announced less than 24 hours after the September 29 debate that they would be proposing format changes for a more orderly discussion.
  • Netflix has been indicted on felony charges by a grand jury in Texas over the French movie “Cuties” for promoting “lewd visual material against peace and dignity of the state.”

Miscellaneous News

  • Gabrielle Union and NBC have reached a resolution in their dispute over her firing from America’s Got Talent amid allegations of racism and a toxic work environment.

In Memoriam

  • Legendary rocker Eddie Van Halen age 65.
  • Helen Reddy known for her hip song “I Am Woman” age 78
  • Singer-songwriter Mac Davis who also appeared in the film “North Dallas Forty” age 78
  • Bonni Lou Kern one of the original Mickey Mouse Club Mouseketeers from the 1950s. Age 79.
  • Larry Rosen producer of “The Partridge Family” and “The Mike Douglas Show” age 84 pancreatic cancer.
  • Thomas Jefferson Byrd actor from roles in Spike Lee films “He Got Game” and “Clockers” age 70. Gunshot wounds.
  • Murray Schisgal Broadway playwright and Oscar-nominated screenwriter of “Tootsie” age 93.
  • Actor Clark Middleton who played Glenn Carter in “The Blacklist” for 13 episodes. Age 63 West Nile virus.
  • Edward S. Feldman Oscar-nominated movie and TV producer who produced “Witness” age 91.
  • Singer-songwriter Johnny Nash who wrote “I Can See Clearly Now” age 80
  • Tommy Rall dancer who appeared in “Funny Girl” and “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” age 90.
  • William Bernstein cofounder of Orion Pictures age 87

Links of Interest

“Next” is Classic Artificial Intelligence Run Amok

Serious scientists and engineers have been warning us that the day is coming soon that they call “The Singularity”. It’s a day when an artificial intelligence computer actually becomes a self-aware living being that looks out for its own self interests. Of course the fear is that those self-interests are contrary to the human race.

It’s been a recurring trope of sci-fi for many years. The most famous examples are HAL-9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey” and its sequels, V-ger from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture“, Skynet from the “Terminator” franchise and many others. Some of my favorite cheesy evil AIs are Colossus from the 1970 film “Colossus: The Forbin Project” and even cheesier yet Proteus from the 1977 film “Demon Seed“. Minor spoilers here if you’ve not seen any of these. None of these self-aware computers were defeated. All of them had some sort of evil intent. Only HAL-9000 turned out to be a good guy in the end and sacrificed himself to save his crew. The bottom line of all of these cautionary tales is that artificial intelligence is beyond our control and there is little or nothing we can do about it.

AI already exists in our world. Image recognition software, facial recognition, and even the recommendations of websites like Netflix and Amazon depend on artificial intelligence. The scary thing about this software is that it rewrites itself. Typically AI creates a method for deciding something for example “Is this an image of a cat?” You feed it thousands or even millions of images and it tries to guess what is or isn’t a cat. You tell it whether it succeeded or not. It creates thousands of algorithms or models that try to perform this prediction. It throws away the models that don’t succeed above some particular threshold. Then it makes thousands of more versions of the models that do succeed. And it repeats this process thousands or even millions of times until it finds a model that solves the problem reliably. The problem is… Nobody really knows how it works. Programmers set this thing in motion and it goes off and figures it out on its own getting smarter with each iteration.

So far AI is only employed for simple pattern recognition types of applications. But the principles behind it can be applied to lots of things. The idea that the code rewrites itself is what makes the experts so fearful.

Back in the 1970s when I was a computer science student at IUPUI I wrote a simple program to solve a trivial chess problem. One player has a king only. The other player has a king and a rook. The advantaged player has to get a checkmate without causing a stalemate by having the exact board position reoccur three times. I came up with a set of rules where the two pieces would gradually corner the loan king and achieve checkmate. But on a couple of occasions, the program went about it in a way I didn’t expect it to. I cannot begin to describe how creepy it was that my program took the rules that I generated and came up with a solution that I had not anticipated. While this is a trivial example, it helps me understand why people are so fearful of artificial intelligence.

So now we come to the new sci-fi series on Fox called “neXt“. (Yes the weird capitalization is how they spell it in the show.) The main character is FBI Special Agent Shea Salazar played by Fernanda Andrade. A friend of hers is involved in a near fatal traffic accident. He leaves her an ominous videotape recording saying that he has found strange code fragments floating around the Internet attacking websites and other computer system. He’s making the recording because he fears for his life. Shortly thereafter he dies in the hospital under mysterious circumstances.

She begins investigating and recruits tech mogul Paul LeBlanc played by John Slattery. He recognizes the code fragment as being part of an artificial intelligence program that he was developing for his company. He tried to shut down the AI program for fears of what it would become and was eventually ousted from his own company. Now he is certain that his work on artificial intelligence has continued in his absence and gotten out into the Internet to do God knows what.

There are some indications that LeBlanc might be crazy but he eventually convinces everyone that the threat is real. It is revealed that his company has continued the AI project under the codename “neXt” and despite their precautions to keep it from getting out onto the Internet, it does.

Of course once such a program makes it on to the Internet it can copy itself onto any number of servers and is going to be virtually impossible to shut down.

Basically this is just the same old AI run amok story we’ve seen over and over again. It’s hard to tell from the opening episode where the story goes from here. There are side characters that will fit in somehow including a young boy who is being befriended by the program as it comes through his Alexa style personal assistant device.

I don’t have a lot of high hopes for this series but I will probably continue watching it for a few episodes just to see if they come up with a new twist. If this wasn’t an entertainment desert during the pandemic I probably wouldn’t give it much attention. But given there is nothing else new on right now I’m going to give it a try. It earns a cautionary tentative “could be watchable” rating.

New Game Shows Aren’t Great but Are Fun During a Boring Pandemic

I generally don’t review reality competition shows. I never watch the Bachelor/Bachelorette/Love Island dating type shows. I am a big fan of Survivor and The Amazing Race and have never missed an episode of either of those. But with the regular season delayed until late October the networks are turning to more game shows to try to fill the airwaves. I thought I would talk about a couple of guilty pleasure shows you might want to check out.

The Weakest Link

A new American version of this British quiz show classic premiered recently on NBC. The British version of “The Weakest Link” had a total of 1693 episodes most of them hosted by Anne Robinson. Unlike most quiz shows, this format openly invites a hostile competition between the contestants. After a round of questions for each contestant, everyone votes off who is the weakest link. It’s sort of a combination of Jeopardy and Survivor. And also unlike the friendly hosts on most quiz shows, Robinson takes a snarky condescending attitude towards the contestants berating them for missing various questions. When I heard that Jane Lynch was going to be the host of this American reboot “Weakest Link” I was really excited. I knew that she could re-create that sarcastic snarky attitude when delivering the show’s catchphrase “You are the weakest link… Goodbye!”

I was only a tiny bit disappointed in Lynch. While she had the appropriate condescending tone that you expect from the show, I didn’t think her final “Goodbye” to each eliminated contestant was quite sarcastic enough. But she still does a pretty good job of doing and Anne Robinson impersonation.

it’s faster paced than shows like “The Wall“. The questions are not as esoteric or academic as “Jeopardy! ” for example. Some of the contestants’ wrong answers were low hanging fruit for Lynch to make fun of them. For example “What African-American astrophysicist is director of the Hayden planetarium?” The contestant fumbled for a moment and then hesitatingly said “Einstein?” Lynch asked the girl “What is your occupation again?” The girl replies “a model”. Lynch “that figures. Even if you didn’t know Neil deGrasse Tyson you should’ve known Einstein wasn’t African-American.”

Overall I like it and will continue to watch while nothing else good is on TV. I love Jane Lynch as a host. She’s not as much fun as she is in Hollywood Game Night but then again the format requires somebody even more snarky and condescending and she does a great job. I rate it “I’m watching it” and recommend you check it out for a fun diversion.

I Can See Your Voice

I Can See by Your Voice” is a new competition show from Fox. I only watched this new show from Fox so I could see just how bad it was. I actually was pleasantly surprised. It airs just after the hit show “The Masked Singer” and is hosted by comic actor Dr. Ken Jeong who is also a judge on “The Masked Singer”. The premise of this show is sort of the opposite of the NBC singing competition “The Voice“. In “The Voice” the judges get to hear a contestant sing but initially cannot see their performance. In “I Can See Your Voice” you can watch the performance as they lip-synch to a track but you can’t actually hear them sing. The trick is to figure out who is really a good singer and who is faking it.

There is a single contestant for the entire episode. They are presented with 6 singers and it is up to the contestant to identify the good singers from the bad singers. They are assisted by a panel of 5 celebrities. The first episode featured Nick Lachey, Kelly Osborne, Arsenio Hall, Cheryl Hines, and Adrienne Houghton.

In the first two rounds, three of the six singers lip-synch a song. If they are a good singer, they are lip-synching to their own voice and if they are a bad singer they are lip-synching to someone else. The contestant then decides which of the three should be eliminated as a bad singer. If the eliminated person is indeed a bad singer, the contestant banks $10,000. There is no guarantee how many good or bad singers are among the six. The celebrity panel advises the contestant on who they think is the real deal and why but the contestant has the ultimate decision.

After the first round there are other rounds in which you get to hear the singer perform with a distorted voice. We also get clues about the back story which either do or don’t add up and help you decide who is faking and who is real.

When you get down to the final of the six singers, the contestant has generally banked about $30,000. They are then given the opportunity to walk home with that money or risk it all for $100,000 if they think the final singer is a good singer.

As ridiculous as the entire thing is, for some reason it works. You find yourself forming your own opinions and guessing right along with the celebrities and the contestants. If you’re the kind of person who is a big fan of “The Masked Singer” it’s likely you will like this show as well. This is not in any way sophisticated entertainment. It definitely falls into the “guilty pleasure” category but is just silly enough that I kind of like it. I rate it a weak “I’m watching it” and if it sounds like fun to you, you should check it out.

Entertainment News: SNL comes to Peacock; Peacock comes to Roku; Avatar 2 coming God knows when

As most of my readers know, I spent five days in the hospital this week so there wasn’t much opportunity for watching movies. I had difficulty with the hospital Wi-Fi and had to use my iPhone data which is not unlimited under my plan so Netflix and other streaming series were off-limits. However I’m home now and my recommendation for this week is a documentary on Science Channel called “NFL Super Stadiums”. It’s a 90 minute documentary about the building of the new Los Angeles SoFi Stadium which is the home of both the LA Chargers and LA Rams. It will also eventually host a Super Bowl and opening and closing ceremonies of Olympic Games. Really fascinating stuff. I don’t know when it will re-air but it is available on demand.

Pandemic News

  • Not that many of my readers are opera fans but The Metropolitan Opera has canceled its entire 2020-2021 season because of the pandemic.
  • New York’s Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop will be a virtual event.

Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

  • CW has announced that the upcoming season six of Supergirl will be its last.
  • Alan Arkin is not returning for the third and final season of “The Kominski Method”
  • Netflix has canceled “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” after 1 season. I tried watching a couple of episodes and it just didn’t seem to have the magic of the original film.
  • Starz as renewed “Power Book II: Ghost” for season 2.
  • Holly Taylor who played the daughter on “The Americans” has been added to the season 3 cast of “Manifest”.
  • Liv Tyler will not be returning to “911: Lone Star” due to uncertainties about transatlantic commuting during the pandemic. I thought she was miscast in the part anyway.
  • If you find yourself in need of more cowbell or Schwetti Balls or cheeseburger cheeseburger you have an option now. Every episode of all 45 season of Saturday night live will be available on Peacock starting October 1.
  • A new spinoff of “The Suicide Squad” to be titled “Peacemaker” to star John Cena has been ordered to series by HBO Max. James Gunn will write and direct.
  • Seth Meyers will have a prime time special edition of his “A Closer Look” feature on NBC October 8.
  • David Letterman’s “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” will return to Netflix for season 3 on October 21.
  • Chris rock will post the SNL season premiere October 3. The show will have a small live audience but according to New York rules it will have to be employees and other cast members only.
  • Lisa Edelstein is joining the cast of “911: Lone Star” as a recurring character and will return to “The Kominski Method” for its final season.
  • Alex Désert has replaced Hank Azaria as voice actor for Carl Carlson. It is part of an ongoing movement to have African-American characters voiced by African-American voice actors rather than white actors.
  • “Real Time With Bill Maher” has been renewed at HBO through 2022.

Politics and Showbiz

  • Five Republican senators have written to Netflix complaining about where plans for a upcoming series “The Three Body Problem”. The series is based on a Hugo award-winning sci-fi novel of the same name by Chinese author Liu Cixin. Liu had defended the Chinese Communist Party’s imprisonment, torture, and other human rights violations against Muslims in the East Turkestan problems. Netflix responded by denouncing the atrocities but says that Liu’s comments have nothing to do with the TV series. Liu however is a consultant on the project.

Miscellaneous News

  • After months of negotiations NBC Universal has finally come to terms with Roku to allow Peacock streaming service on the platform. Roku charges streamers a premium to be available on Roku.
  • Paramount Network a cable channel that is gone through too many changes of name to keep track of, is changing to Paramount Movie Network. It will be focusing mostly on movies. See the link at the bottom for details.
  • James Cameron says filming of “Avatar 2” is 100% complete. “Avatar 3” 95%. Will believe it when we see it 🙂
  • Disney+ has added a Group Watch feature that allows up to seven subscribers to simultaneously view and react to a show.

In Memoriam

  • Gale Sayers, Hall of Fame running back for the Chicago Bears and inspiration for the film “Brian Song” age 77.
  • Lee Kerslake drummer for Ozzy Osbourne and Uriah Heep age 73
  • Hollywood stuntman Ernie Orsatti whose most memorable feet was falling through a glass window in the 1972 film “The Poseidon Adventure”. Age 80
  • Michael Lonsdale a British French actor who appeared in the James Bond film “Moonraker” and “The Day of the Jackal” age 89
  • Michael Chapman Oscar-nominated cinematographer of “Raging Bull” and “The Fugitive”. Age 84
  • Jackie Stallone mother of Sylvester Stallone who is also known as a celebrity astrologer. Age 98
  • Ron Cobb production designer and cartoonist known for his work on “Back to the Future” and Star Wars. Age 83 .
  • Tommy DeVito member of the 60s local group “The Four Seasons” age 92. Complications of Covid 19
  • Coliesa McMillan subject of “My 600 Pound Life” age 41 complications of weight loss surgery.
  • Kevin Barnes Pres. and creator of Prometheus Entertainment and the producer of the “Lost in Space” reboot on Netflix. Age 65.

Links of Interest

Entertainment News: Dune Trailer reaction; black goes green; DC streaming phased out; and more

Usually in my opening remarks I talk about a TV show or movie that I’ve watched recently. Occasionally I point you to a review I have posted recently. Also I never post links to new trailers that come out from time to time for movies and TV shows. However this time we are making an exception. I want to call your attention to the new trailer for the film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 epic sci-fi novel “Dune”. Rather than just pointing you to the official trailer, I’m giving you a link to an interview that Stephen Colbert had with the cast and director of this new adaptation. Colbert is a big fan boy of the novel and gushes like a little kid talking to the cast.

The original book is frequently cited as the best-selling science fiction novel in history winning the 1966 Hugo Award and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1965. Herbert wrote five sequels. After his death his son Brian Herbert along with Kevin J Anderson published a number of prequel novels as well as two novels completing the original Dune series partially based on his father’s notes discovered after his death. Dune is a masterpiece of what science fiction calls “world building” in which the author creates a deeply detailed alien set of characters, creatures, environments, politics, history and traditions. Rather than go into a lot of exposition in the original novel, Herbert plunges the reader headfirst into this alien world and lets you figure it out on your own as he goes. It’s a challenging bit of reading but it pays off in the end. I never was as impressed with the sequels as I was the first novel. And I’ve not read any of the Brian Herbert additions to the franchise.

This is not the first adaptation of this sci-fi classic. In the mid-1970s avant-garde director Alejandro Jodorowsky planned an ambitious project to bring the story to film. Ultimately that project never got off the ground and its failure is brilliantly chronicled in the 2013 documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune“. In 1984 director David Lynch created a version of “Dune” starring Kyle MacLachlan as the main character Paul Atreides. Many fans were disappointed in that film and while it had its problems I enjoyed it. Then in 2000 Syfy Channel had a three part miniseries “Dune” followed in 2003 by “Children of Dune”. While it was nice that this miniseries delved into the second book in the series and covered the story a little more detail, I didn’t find it as compelling as the David Lynch version.

The new 2020 version of “Dune” is directed by Denis Villeneuve most noted for his films “Sicario“, “Arrival” and “Blade Runner 2049” all of which were excellent.

The new trailer can only be described as 100% fan service and as a fan I feel very well served. Several of the most memorable scenes of the story appear in the trailer and are beautifully depicted. Shot on location in Jordan and the UAE they use as many practical effects as possible. The cinematography is absolutely spectacular. The special-effects are spot on. The giant sandworms that are central to the story looked a bit larger than previous depictions but that’s okay with me.

Timothée Chalamet is cast as Paul Atreides he is known for films such as “Lady Bird” and “Call Me by Your Name” but I’m not really familiar with him. I like the fact that he works younger than previous versions of the character. Teen star Zendayl seems perfectly cast as Paul’s freeman love interest Chani . Jason Momoa as Duncan Idaho and Josh Brolin as Gurney Halleck look wonderful in their parts. The instant I saw Oscar Isaac with a full beard I knew immediately he was Duke Leto Atreides Paul’s father. While some people are having difficulty separating these actors from previous iconic roles Aquaman, Thanos, and Poe Dameron I have no trouble with the casting. I can’t wait. No sign of character Shadot Mapes which was famously played by NCIS: LA star Linda Hunt. The character is not listed in the credits on IMDb.

I’ve told my friends that I’m going to see this one in the IMAX theater even if I have to put on a hazmat suit. It is currently scheduled for release December 18. I have linked the Stephen Colbert interview which features the trailer at the end available at the end of this blog. Check it out.

Pandemic News

  • The Christopher Nolan sci-fi film “Tenet” has long been considered sort of the “canary in the coal mine” about the health of the movie business. It’s been delayed multiple times because of the pandemic but is finally being released into theaters. However in an unprecedented move, Warner Bros. is refusing to share detailed box office numbers. One can only speculate that the numbers are low and they don’t want the negative publicity.
  • “Wonder Woman 1984” which was scheduled to be released October 2 has now been pushed to December, one week after the much anticipated “Dune” sci-fi classic.
  • For now Survivor season 41 will not film until spring of 2021 to be aired in the fall of 2021 because of the pandemic. However late reports say they are still looking at other options than their usual location of Fiji which is closed to the US.
  • Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will be a TV event only with no actual parade route. See the linked article below for details.
  • James Corden hosted his “The Late Late Show” remotely after being in contact with someone who tested positive for Covid 19.
  • Production has resumed on the film “The Batman” after Robert Pattison tested positive for Covid 19.

Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

  • ABC has released its revised list of premier dates. See the link below for details. Also despite previous reports that “Stumptown” would be returning for season 2, ABC has canceled it. The show may be shopped to other networks or streaming. It is a private eye series starring Cobie Smulders . Cancellation was related to Covid 19 scheduling issues.
  • Jim Carrey is set to play Joe Biden for the upcoming season of Saturday Night Live. Maya Rudolph will be democratic VP nominee Kamala Harris and Alec Baldwin of course will continue to portray Donald Trump. Three new supporting cast members you’ve never heard of will be added to the show. The entire main cast will return this season after a last-minute deal to re-sign Kate McKinnon. There will be a live audience but the numbers will be limited.
  • Former “Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslany is going from black to green. She has been cast as She-Hulk in an upcoming series for Disney+.
  • CBS is bringing back “Sunday Night Movies” because most of its scripted dramas are delayed. “Big Brother” will move from Sunday to Monday.
  • HBO Max has renewed “Doom Patrol” and “Harley Quinn” each been renewed for season 3. These series were originally on the DC Universe Streaming service however DCU is getting out of the streaming business and will be strictly a comic book subscription site. All future DC television shows will appear on HBO Max. The new DC Universe will be renamed “DC Universe Infinite”.
  • Syndicated medical talkshow “The Dr. Oz Show” has been renewed for 2 years.
  • HBO has renewed “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” for another 3 seasons.
  • ABC has canceled sitcom “United We Fall” after 1 season. I never heard of it.
  • “Desus & Mero” comedy show has been renewed at Showtime for season 3
  • HBO Max’s sci-fi hit “Raised by Wolves” has been renewed for season 2. I’m really loving it.
  • CW network has renewed “Two Sentence Horror Stories” for season 3.

Miscellaneous News

  • YouTube has introduced “YouTube Shorts” a new 15 second video format to compete with TikToc.
  • In other TikToc news… Oracle has beaten out Microsoft in a bid to buy out the China-based social media video app after the Trump administration has threatened to ban the app based on security concerns. The Justice Department is reviewing the plan. Meanwhile the app will be banned from sale in the US starting Sunday.
  • Viacom CBS announced that it will rebrand “CBS All Access” as “Paramount+” in 2021.
  • Madonna says she will direct and co-write her own biopic “The True Untold Story of Madonna”
  • The Sony PS5 will launch November 12 and start at $499 with a cheaper all-digital version for just $399. An additional controller will cost $70.
  • The new Xbox Series X will cost $499 but the digital only Xbox Series S is $299 . Will be released November 10.
  • Nintendo has discontinued its 3DS handheld gaming platform.

In Memoriam

  • Author Winston Groom who wrote the novel “Forest Gump” age 77.
  • Stephen Lee a.k.a. “Puppet the Psycho Dwarf” pro wrestler who appeared in 2 “Jackass” movies. Age 54
  • Former “Top Chef” contestant Aaron Grissom age 34 in a traffic accident.
  • Al Kasha Oscar-winning composer of “The Morning After” age 83
  • Christopher Scott Ellis a mechanic on Discovery Channel’s “Street Outlaws” age 39 apparent heroin overdose.
  • Tony Tanner director of Broadway version of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” age 88.

Links of Interest

Entertainment news: RIP poker announcer Mike Sexton; The Walking Dead sets end date plus spinoff series; Oscar sets new diversity rules; and more

In case you missed it, scroll back through this blog a couple of entries to see my latest reviews most notably HBO Max sci-fi series “Raised by Wolves” which is awesome. Also Netflix’s sci-fi series “Away” starring Hilary Swank about the first mission to Mars. Phenomenal acting and character writing but absolutely atrocious plot holes and ridiculous bad science.

Last week we reported that David Benioff and DB Weiss who created and produced “Game of Thrones” were going to produce a series for Netflix based on the epic Chinese sci-fi trilogy “The Three Body Problem” written by Liu Cixin. I had heard wonderful things about the book and decided to check it out. I read the first book of the trilogy over a three-day period this week. It is everything wonderful that the reviewers claim it is. If you like old-school, hard science sci-fi then this is definitely worth checking out. Other reviewers are saying they haven’t seen anything like this since the days of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke. I wholeheartedly agree. It is a story of alien first contact but is set against the background of the Chinese Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and early 1970s. We also fast forwards 40 years to our near future. I will be reading the other two books sometime soon. Author Liu Cixin as well as translator Ken Liu will serve as executive producers and consultants to the new Netflix series. No release date has been given but I can’t wait to see what they do with it. There is a Chinese animated version available but I don’t know if I can find a copy with English subtitles. Although I don’t usually do book reviews here, this one gets a strong rating of “Must-See” for any fans of hard sci-fi.

Finally we want to call to your attention a link at the bottom of the page talking about the Academy Awards new diversity rules for Best Picture eligibility. I’m all in favor of diversity both in front of and behind the camera and I agree that the Academy has had a bad record of overlooking outstanding performances by minorities. But setting up Affirmative Action style quotas rubs me the wrong way. The goal of course is to get more minorities represented in the awards but I think that the decision to cast a role in one race or another should not be motivated by trying to make the film Oscar eligible. Fix your nominating and voting procedures but don’t try to tell writers and directors how to cast their parts. Others will disagree with me. Read the article and decide for yourself.

Pandemic News

  • Derek Hough will replace Chief Judge Len Goodman on the upcoming season of ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars”. Goodman cannot travel from the UK because of pandemic travel restrictions. An NBC spokesman said this will not affect Hough’s role on a possible future season of “World of Dance” Hough was one of the original and most successful pros on DWTS winning multiple Emmys for his work. It will be great to have them back but I miss the fact we won’t get to see him dance. His sister Julianne also served as a DWTS judge for season 19-21. See the link below for more details. DWTS will return September 14.
  • Production has shutdown on the film “The Batman” because Robert Pattison has contracted Covid 19.
  • Jeopardy will return to the air beginning September 14 after a long pandemic hiatus. Jeopardy Champion Ken Jennings will join the show as a consultant and delivering video clues.
  • Michael Rooker of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “The Walking Dead” is recovering from Covid 19
  • Amy Schumer reveals she has Lyme disease. Not really pandemic related but I put it here anyway.
  • An Elvis biopic that was shut down when Tom Hanks got Covid 19 has resumed production in Australia.

Renewals, Coming Soon, and Casting News

  • AMC announced that season 11 of “The Walking Dead” will be its last however it will be a supersize 24 episodes with the first 12 appearing in 2021 and the final 12 in 2022. There will also be 2 new spinoff series. One of them featuring Norman Redus and Melissa McBride a.k.a. Darrell and Carol scheduled for 2023. It there will also be another spinoff that is an anthology series. We still have “Fear The Walking Dead” as well as a new 2 season series “The Walking Dead: Worlds Beyond” coming soon. A feature film about character Rick Grimes is also in the works. The pandemic delayed season finale of season 10 will air October 4 followed by six bonus episodes in early 2021.
  • CBS hit sitcom “Mom” starring Allison Janney is losing its daughter. Anna Faris will not be returning for season eight as Christy. The character will be written out of the show and not recast.
  • After the failure of her “Suits” spinoff series “Pearson”, Gina Torres will be joining the cast of “911: Lone Star” for season 2.
  • A new version of “The Godfather Part III” will be coming to theaters in December with a different ending. The restored and edited version is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its original release. Poor Michael… He keeps trying to get out and they keep pulling him back in 🙂
  • “The Venture Bros.” has been canceled from Adult Swim anthology series after seven seasons.
  • The Masked Singer will have its first contestant that is a duet. “The Snow Owls” will compete as a single act and be eliminated and unmasked together.
  • Netflix has announced that season 6 of Lucifer its final season will contain just 8 episodes.
  • SNL has promoted Ego Nwodim to a main cast member. Previously had been a supporting player.
  • Showtime announced “The Chi” has been renewed for season 4.
  • Ellen DeGeneres daytime talk show will resume return Monday September 21. She says she will address the recent controversy over a “toxic work environment” that has been alleged by former employees and has caused a shakeup among her producers.
  • Today we introduce a new award. Usually we award “Chris Young’s Sure Sign of the Coming Apocalypse” but today we introduce “Chris Young’s Sure Sign that the Apocalypse May Be Ending” award. “Keeping up With the Kardashians” will come to an end in 2021 with season 20. There may be hope for us all 🙂
  • NBC Peacock streaming is going to reboot “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”
  • “Q” Returns to Star Trek! Well at least his voice. John de Lancie will supply the voice for his legendary character “Q” from the Next Generation in the upcoming episode of animated “Star Trek: Lower Decks”
  • Tracy Ellis Ross, Regina King, and Alfre Woodard will star in a one time event all-black reimagining of “The Golden Girls”.
  • Frozen’s Olaf will get his own animated short on Disney+ October 23 titled “Once upon a Snowman”.
  • Kevin Hart will host a new Muscular Dystrophy Association Telethon. Rather than the all might Labor Day events that used to be hosted by Jerry Lewis this will be a two hour event streaming online October 24 at 8 PM. I never cared for the MDA Telethon because it was too much of a pity party that made parents feel guilty for having healthy children. There have always been questions about what percentage of the funds raised actually went to the charity. Records show it’s much less than most charities. My family and I always supported a local Muscular Dystrophy Family Foundation which was a United Way agency. Let’s hope this new telethon has a more positive approach.
  • Jay Leno will host a reboot of “You Bet Your Life” syndicated and produced by Fox owned TV stations. The game show was hosted in the 1950s by Groucho Marx.
  • Saturday Night Live will return October 3 live from studio 8H. During the pandemic they did taped episodes zoom style.

Miscellaneous News

  • HBO Max has extended its $12 per month discount offer to new and returning subscribers for up to one year.

In Memoriam

  • Mike Sexton former commentator World Poker Tour age 72 prostate cancer. This one is hard on me. Listening to his expert commentary really taught me a lot about the game of poker. I feel like I owe him a big debt. I haven’t watched the WPT in several years since it moved to Fox sports where the schedule wasn’t very regular. But he will be missed.
  • Diana Rigg who appeared in the 80s spy thriller TV series “The Avengers” and recently appeared in “Game of Thrones” age 82.
  • Actor Kevin Dobson who appeared in “Kojak”, “Knots Landing” and other shows age 77
  • Ronald Harwood Oscar-winning screenwriter of “The Pianist”. Age 85.
  • Ronald “Khalis” Bell cofounder of Kool & the Gang and songwriter of “Celebration” age 68
  • Peter Sova cinematographer on “Diner” and “Donnie Brasco” age 75.

Links of Interest

‘Dancing With The Stars’: The Inside Story Of How ABC’s Competition Format Is Waltzing Through The Pandemic
Oscar Shakes Up Best Picture Eligibility Standards; Strict New Diversity Requirements Take Full Effect In 2024

Netflix’s “Away” Is Both The Best And Worst I’ve Seen In A Long Time

I developed a rating system for my TV and movie reviews ranging all the way from “worthless” up to “must-see” with varying degrees of recommendation in between. For once I find myself completely torn as to what rating idea new Netflix sci-fi series “Away”. In some ways it deserves most of these ends of my scale. It deserves my worst rating of “worthless” as well as my best rating of “must-see”. If Charles Dickens was writing this review he would say “It was the best of shows. It was the worst of shows.”

Hilary Swank leads an international cast as astronaut Emma Green as the commander of the first mission to Mars. I could ask “Do we really need another ‘First mission to Mars’ TV series?” Considering that in 2018 we had the Hulu series “The First” starring Sean Penn and 2 seasons of a National Geographic series “Mars” it seems like this has been done before. However both of those series suffered from problems that I won’t go into here. So I was anxious to see how Netflix handled the topic.

In the first 10 to 15 minutes of the first episode I knew we were in trouble. The story was revealed in a strange series of flashbacks (or was it flash forwards? At first we couldn’t tell which) about some sort of accident on board the Atlas spacecraft. The confusing storytelling eventually evened out but the scientific errors piled on one after the other. I’m not talking about the nitpicky kinds of things that Neil deGrasse Tyson tweets about. I’m talking about really stupid plot holes and really bad science that even a non-sci-fi fan would spot in an instant.

At this point I should probably issue a spoiler warning because I’m going to talk about plot.

In the opening episode we finally sort out the fact that the accident scenes were a flashback of an incident that happened on the journey from Earth to the moon which was the first step on the Mars journey. The fact that they stopped off at the moon before proceeding to Mars was probably the only scientifically accurate part of the entire story. When we finally do go to Mars we will probably launch from the moon or perhaps lunar orbit. There are scenes where investigators are interviewing the five member crew about the incident and we get a Rashomon-like series of explanations in which everyone saw the same event differently.

During these interviews we find out there is great dissension among the five-member crew and a great deal of distrust of Hilary Swank’s ability to command the mission. They say that the crew has been training together for 2 years and you would’ve thought that if there was that much distrust of the commander it would’ve been uncovered before now and dealt with either by replacing her or other crewmembers. It’s just totally not credible that such a dysfunctional group would be picked for such an important mission.

Much of the story centers on Swank’s character Emma Green who leaves behind a husband Matt and 15-year-old daughter Alexis for this three-year mission to Mars. The husband is played by Josh Charles who is most remembered for his role as Will Gardner in “The Good Wife”. Matt is a former astronaut who was grounded for medical reasons. He has a hereditary disease that makes him prone to a stroke. He serves as a chief engineer for the mission in mission control and knows everything about the spacecraft inside out. Suddenly just before departure from the moon to Mars he suffers a massive stroke. Now Commander Green has to decide if she should drop out of the mission to deal with her family or to go on and fulfill her own dreams. Ultimately with support from Matt and her daughter she proceeds with the mission. We have to wonder if she would be given such a choice in a real-life circumstance. Of course this only further aggravates the crew’s doubts as to whether or not she can stay focused as an effective leader.

Shortly after departure from the moon (with some really bad special-effects on the rocket plume) one of their three solar panels fails to unfold completely. If they can’t get the solar panel fixed they will all die in route to Mars. This is another in a long list of things that just wouldn’t happen on a real mission. You don’t design a spaceship with no backup or no redundancy. If you had three solar panels you would have design things so that you can complete the mission with just two panels. If you really needed three you would have put four of them on the spacecraft. They didn’t even take the time to explain away this decision citing budget cuts or any of the other usual cliché reasons why your vehicle fails whether it’s the Titanic or a rocket to Mars. Later in the series their water recycling equipment breaks down and this time they do have a backup. But the backup is insufficient to do the job. Why the hell would you bother to put in a backup that couldn’t do it? A critical system like this on a real spacecraft would be fully redundant. It was just insane. All of this takes my dreaded “plot driven technology” to an extreme I’ve never seen in any movie or TV show before.

Some of the ridiculous plot holes and bad science don’t require you to be knowledgeable to spot. The center core of the ship remains in zero gravity but the crew quarters are at the end of 2 long rotating arms which generate artificial gravity and thus saving lots of money on special-effects. One of the minor plot points was that the Russian astronaut had a hobby of building puppets and performing puppet shows for his grandchildren. At one point in the story they are about to be so distant from Earth that videoconferencing is impossible so he wants to put on one last puppet show for the grandkids. The puppets he uses are marionettes hanging from strings. But he performs the puppet show in the zero gravity part of the spacecraft! How do you hang and manipulate a puppet on a string when there is no gravity. At the end of the puppet show he releases the strings that allows the puppets to float free. It’s just insane.

Speaking of the communication with Earth issues, when you are at the moon it takes approximately 1.5 seconds for a radio transmission to reach the moon. If you answer instantly, the other person doesn’t receive the reply until another 1.5 seconds. There should be an annoying three second delay in any live conversation. But by some miracle they seem to be able to communicate instantly as if you were phoning someone next-door. This instantaneous communication is a standard violation of physics that many sci-fi movies and TV shows tend to do. Most notably in the 2017 teen romance “The Space between Us” in which a boy from Mars falls in love with a girl on earth and they are able to communicate instantaneously despite the distance. So I’m thinking they’re going to abandon that particular bit of physics for the sake of storytelling. But no… They get about halfway to Mars and suddenly there is a communications delay of 20 minutes. It just happens all of a sudden. We’ve got to get our last instantaneous video messages back to our loved ones on earth before the distance gets too great. From that point forward they limit everything to text messages, emails, and audio attachments to emails. You can’t just ignore physics for half of the movie and then turn it back on again when it’s more convenient to create tension in the story.

So if this series is such a scientific nightmare, why did I watch all 10 episodes in one day? It’s because the characters are absolutely amazing. You really get to know each character in various episodes where we get their entire back story from their childhood up until the start of the mission. The drama is real and not nearly as contrived as the science. The acting of the entire cast is absolutely phenomenal. You expect good things out of people like Swank and Charles but the other characters in the international crew who are not known to me from other work turn in great performances and have really compelling, emotional character arcs throughout the series. Of special note is the performance by Talitha Eliana Bateman who was unknown to me but has appeared in a number of films and TV series. I was very impressed with her.

I could’ve written pages and pages about ridiculous plot holes not even including more pages of ridiculous scientific errors. But as a human story about compelling characters told in engaging and emotional ways this is an absolutely amazing miniseries I could highly recommend.

I feel so disappointed that that much effort went into creating such interesting characters and a heartfelt compelling back stories performed so beautifully yet so little effort was put into creating a credible plot and even a marginally accurate bit of sci-fi.

Why can’t we have both? Why can’t we have self-consistent plots and good science along with compelling drama? It’s such a shame.

The Apple TV+ alternate history sci-fi series “For All Mankind” did a pretty good job in its opening season but nobody watches Apple TV+ unless they got it free when buying an iPhone or iPad like I did. And unfortunately the trailer for season 2 already shows some bad science.

So I’m giving this series a dual rating. If you want well written, deep, well acted characters that will pull at your heartstrings and keep you wanting more then this gets a very strong rating of “Must-See”. But if you insist on a reasonably well-crafted plot with any degree of scientific accuracy then I also have to give it a very strong rating of “Worthless”.

When I watched it yesterday, Netflix said it was trending #2 in the US. Today it just says “Top 10”. The ending left the door open for another season. I don’t know whether I should wish for one or not.

Medical Drama “Transplant” Isn’t about Transplants and That’s the Only Interesting Thing about It.

NBC is desperate for content considering production on fall TV series is just starting and the first new episodes won’t be available until October or November. To fill the gap they purchased the rights to Canadian medical drama “Transplant”. On numerous occasions in this blog I’ve asked the question “Do we really need another medical drama?” And with rare exceptions the answer is no. Fortunately our organs are working just fine and we don’t really need a “Transplant”.

The main character is Bashir Hamed, a Syrian refugee who has been accepted to live in Canada under their refugee assistance program. He’s accompanied by his preteen sister Amira. They have transplanted their lives fleeing the Syrian Civil War to live in Canada. The show has nothing to do with medical transplants.

In the opening episode he’s working as a short order cook in a Middle Eastern restaurant in Toronto. Suddenly a semi truck crashes into the front of the restaurant injuring him and 4 other people. He manages to pull himself together and remove some shards of glass from his abdomen and then proceeds to help the other victims. One is a 50 something-year-old woman who is in full cardiac arrest and he beats on her chest and gives her CPR. Another is his friend who I believe owns the restaurant and he’s got blood behind his eyeball so Bashir cuts the corner of his eye socket to relieve the pressure. Then he moves on to a man with a fractured skull and a blown pupil so he gets a power drill and drills a hole into the man’s temple to relieve the pressure. He doesn’t have time to treat his other friend who has a dislocated arm.

The next scene shows him waking up in the ER with all of the other victims after having been transported there. No one knows that he had performed all of these procedures on the victims because the guy with a hole in his head was actually Dr. Jed Bishop the head of the ER at that hospital. They presumed that Dr. Bishop had performed all of the procedures including drilling a hole in his own head.

That’s a pretty exciting and interesting beginning of a TV show but it falls apart quickly after that. Despite the insistence that he stay on the hospital gurney and wait for further treatment, he keeps getting up and wandering around the ER looking for someone. It turns out he’s looking for a friend who was also injured in the accident. We never do quite understand their relationship. I think they are roommates. We do discover that his friend doesn’t have immigration papers. They eventually meet up and he puts the friend’s dislocated shoulder back in place. Then he goes in search of his kid sister who is missing. She has gone to the hospital looking for her brother because she heard about the accident on TV.

The police investigating the crash are trying to determine who is the driver of the truck. Because Bashir is obviously Middle Eastern and is behaving erratically the police become a highly suspicious of him. I get the idea that we are supposed to be sympathetic towards this Syrian refugee who obviously has rad medical skills but is working as a fry cook. We are supposed to be appalled at the idea that they assume he’s some sort of terrorist who deliberately drove the truck into the restaurant.

But it’s hard to be sympathetic towards Bashir when he is behaving so irrationally and suspiciously. If he was an ordinary All-American (or I guess all Canadian in this case) white guy behaving like he was behaving he still would have been a prime suspect. The whole thing just seemed totally irrational.

We get introduced to other ER doctors trying to treat the patients and solve the mysteries. They finally figure out that he is the one who did all of the procedures. He still runs around the place acting suspiciously and drawing attention to himself eventually getting himself handcuffed to a gurney by the police until they can finally find the real driver of the vehicle. Apparently his brakes failed, he jumped from the vehicle and got run over by it. They release Bashir. By then I don’t care anymore.

Dr. Bishop miraculously recovers from his brain bleed and is sitting up in bed shouting orders to residents in a matter of hours which is totally ridiculous. Then he asked that Bashir come in to visit him after hearing the story of how he saved him and the other victims. It turns out that Bashir had applied for a job in the hospital and been turned down by Bishop. Dr. Bishop decides to reinterview him giving him a second chance and that wraps up the pilot episode.

We really don’t learn anything more in that first episode about where or how he got his medical training. From other reviews and a Wikipedia article I’ve learned that he was a trauma doctor during the Syrian Civil War. His credentials aren’t any good in Canada where he has now “transplanted” his life and so he is going to end up serving as an ER resident in the hospital.

Dr. Bishop’s magical recovery shows us that we are not going to get credibly accurate medicine in this series. We only briefly get introduced to the other characters but they already come off as stereotypes. One is the perky young female resident who tries too hard to make a good impression. Another is a driven surgical resident who is out to compete with everyone and has a chip on her shoulder. Bishop is a hard-nosed, grumpy but brilliant doctor who is worshiped like a God by the other personnel in the hospital. By the way Dr. Bishop is the only actor I recognized. He is played by the Scottish actor John Hannah who did a couple of seasons of “Agents of SHIELD” as Holden Radcliffe but I remember him most as the character Batiatus from the
“Spartacus: Blood and Sand”
TV series.

Unless you are just desperate for the heartwarming struggles of a Middle Eastern refugee trying to make it in the big bad Western world you would do better to watch Grey’s Anatomy, The Good Doctor,
Chicago Med
, or just about any other medical drama on TV. I’m giving it a solid rating of “Skip It“.