The New “Magnum PI” Lacks the Charisma Selleck Brought to the Original.

The broadcast networks are facing enormous competition from a variety of online streaming services. They seem to be at a loss to come up with anything new or original. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are creating groundbreaking programs that are stealing audiences away from the traditional networks. So rather than come up with something new to compete with the streaming services, the trend has been to reboot popular series from the past. Some of them have been a welcome addition such as “Will & Grace” and “Roseanne/The Connors“. We will soon see if “Murphy Brown” adds to that list of successes.

Unfortunately I can’t say that the reboot of “Magnum PI” is a welcome addition to the string of reboots. I’m not sure we really need a show about a private detective. The private eye genre has been around for decades in literature, film and TV with such memorable characters as Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, and Sam Spade. On TV in the 70s and 80s we had “The Rockford Files“, “Mannix” and of course the original “Magnum PI” just to name a few. In recent years TV has drifted away from the traditional private eye towards the “police consultant” type of private detective. As I discussed in a previous review these have had varying degrees of success and credibility.

The original “Magnum PI” ran for eight seasons from 1980-1988. I used to watch it occasionally, I don’t really recall a lot about the various characters surrounding him. I always felt like most of the success of the show centered on the charisma of Tom Selleck. I recall he drove around in a fancy Ferreri, he had a sidekick who flew a small helicopter, and there was another sidekick who is a British guy named Higgins.

In the opening scene of the reboot we see our hero Magnum jumping out of a stratosphere balloon in a spacesuit and parachuting into North Korea to rescue a scientist and his family. He escapes Korean forces in a stunt filled chase sequence that pushed credibility beyond its limits. I was very concerned that if the show started off in such a ridiculous fashion we were in for a bad experience. It is suddenly revealed that this is a fictionalized version of events which they admit was highly embellished in a book about his exploits in the Navy. So I thought perhaps the show wasn’t going to be as ridiculous as it originally appeared from its opening sequence.

Unfortunately near the end of the show there is a similar chase scene in which he tries to re-create some of the events from his fictionalized exploits. Although it was not as successful as the fantasy version, it was still pretty ridiculous and unbelievable. It was a stunt sequence that has him jumping out of a car, grabbing onto the landing skid of a helicopter just before a truck smashes into his Ferreri destroying it and the truck and sending them all off a cliff. This scene was totally over-the-top and unbelievable in the worst sense of the word.

In between these ridiculous bookends we got just an ordinary detective show as he tries to track down who kidnapped and killed one of his old Navy buddies. The other action sequences and stunts were not half bad. Overall however there just wasn’t anything memorable about the entire experience. He still drives around in a hot Ferreri (although he ends up destroying two of them in the opening episode). He still has a buddy flying the same iconic small helicopter with a black, yellow, orange paint scheme. The theme song is the same. The fact that sidekick Higgins is now a woman doesn’t really add anything significant to the mixture.

Jay Hernandez plays the new Magnum but for me he lacks the charisma that was an important part of Selleck’s portrayal.

There isn’t anything really wrong with the show but it just isn’t memorable or compelling. If you’re looking for a Hawaii based action-adventure show with more memorable characters and more credible action sequences stick with the 2010 reboot of Hawaii Five-0.

For now I’m giving this a tentative rating of “could be watchable” but I won’t be watching.

Bruno Tonioli showed ignorance or disrespect towards blind contestant on DWTS

Last night on the season premiere of “Dancing With The Stars” judge Bruno Toniroli put on a display that was at best totally ignorant and at worst highly offensive. His natural style and critique involves lots of arm waving and gestures often much to the dismay of head judge Len Goodman who sits next to him and occasionally gets an inadvertent backhand as Bruno waves his arms wildly. His antics are part of the appeal of the show. However last night he found it impossible to come up with a better method of critique for a blind contestant.

Danielle Umstead is a bronze medal winning American Alpine skier in Paralympics. She is the first blind contestant to compete on the show. Previous seasons have included contestants who were deaf, amputees, and a former paraplegic who could walk but had no feeling in her legs. The show has always treated these contestants with dignity.

However last night Toniroli tarnished the show’s reputation and displayed a total lack of common sense when he used arm gestures to illustrate his otherwise constructive criticism of the blind contestant. Had it not been a display of abject ignorance it would have been totally offensive. I was surprised that he did not apologize before the end of the show and I would hope that in tonight’s second episode he would address the incident.

A brief Google search of stories about last night’s performance came up with many articles and videos talking about the performance but none referred to Bruno’s ignorant hand gestures. They quoted Len Goodman and Carrie Ann Inaba but made no mention of Toniroli’s reaction. I find that whitewashing of the episode perhaps more disturbing than the incident itself

Here is a YouTube version of the performance but it does not include the judge’s comments.

Here are a couple of screen grabs of Bruno’s arm gestures in trying to coach the blind contestant.


“Manifest” Has the Potential to Be Good Sci-Fi If It Doesn’t Get Lost

The sci-fi genre is all based on the question “what if?” What if you lived on a desert planet a long time ago in a galaxy far far away and suddenly found yourself thrust into the adventure of a lifetime? What if you are the captain of a starship given the task of exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before? What if time travel was possible? What if there was a zombie apocalypse? There is a contract between the creator of a sci-fi work and the reader or viewer. The contract says “Buy into my premise no matter how bizarre or otherworldly and then let me explore with you what will be the consequences.”

Good sci-fi operates under this contract. It doesn’t cheat. Once you by the premise, everything else which flows forth from that has to be logically consistent. Once you establish the rules of the universe in which you are operating, you really shouldn’t break those rules.

For the most part NBC’s new much advertised sci-fi series “Manifest” does a reasonably good job of playing the “what if” game with its audience. From the massive advertising campaign we thought we knew what that big “what if” question was. “What if a passenger airliner disappeared for five and a half years and suddenly reappeared?” From the perspective of the people on board the airplane, they went through a storm and a patch of rough turbulence but landed normally and hour or so later. However from the perspective of the outside world they had been missing for 5+ years. To my surprise, the premise goes a bit further. The survivors of this bizarre incident also gain a type of psychic ability that is manifested in the form of an inner voice that guides them to rescue people. I’m a bit concerned that this additional premise is a premise too far.

The missing airplane premise alone had the potential to make a really compelling story. It’s reminiscent of the hit TV series “Lost” (2004-2010) which asked the question “What if an airplane crashed on an uncharted island and the survivors had to deal with the harsh conditions, reconcile their past, and trying to understand the meaning behind their survival?” Had that been this sole premise of “Lost” it could have been a very compelling story. But it went further and added all sorts of bizarre supernatural elements, mysticism, unexplained scientific phenomena, not to mention a smoke monster. Initially I thought that the producers of “Lost” ruined what was going to be a pretty good show about survival. But these bizarre supernatural elements were so compelling and such a complexly written mythology that it made the show even more compelling. Unfortunately the ending which tried to explain everything left many viewers including myself quite disappointed.

Another example of the “what if unexplained phenomena occurred” genre was the recent HBO series “The Leftovers“. In that story, 2% of the world’s population vanished from the face of the earth with no explanation whatsoever. After three seasons of that series and a reasonable wrapup and conclusion they never did explain why it happened. If you read about the series, you knew up front that it was the producers and writers intended up front to never explain this unexplainable phenomenon. It was all about playing the “what if” game. Although that series did go astray a couple of times into a dream world that was a parallel reality as well as a death and resurrection of some of the characters, it pretty much played the “what if” game cleanly.

So back to the story at hand “Manifest”… In addition to the “what if a plane disappeared and came back five years later” premise. We soon discover that some of the survivors of this bizarre circumstance suddenly start hearing voices in their heads. These voices are leading them in directions where they save people’s lives. In one case a woman riding on a bus implores the bus driver to slow down and thus saves the life of a child who runs into the street in front of the bus. In another sequence the voices lead the woman to discover the location of two kidnapped children.

My concern is that this additional supernatural element has the potential to ruin the really compelling storytelling opportunities about what your life would be like if you disappeared for five years and then came back. I have to feel a little disappointed that this unexpected additional premise is part of the show. It seems that there are a lot of great storytelling opportunities based on the original missing plane premise. I’m not sure that the guiding voices in one’s head really is necessary.

Can “Manifest” become the next “Lost”? The jury is a long way from coming back on that verdict and we won’t really know unless the show survives multiple seasons and becomes the same sort of cult phenomena of “Lost”.

The encouraging thing about the show is that if you dismiss this add-on supernatural element and only focus on the what if you disappeared for five years and came back story line, it is doing an absolutely brilliant job of exploring that drama.

Our main character is Michaela Stone played by Melissa Roxburgh who was most recently seen in the single-season of the military drama “Valor“. She is an NYPD detective who is trying to escape a personal tragedy. She goes on vacation with her brother Ben, his wife and twin children, and her parents. Ben is played by Josh Dallas whom you will remember as Prince Charming from “Once Upon A Time“. Because of a flight overbooking she, brother Ben, and one of his children Cal decide to take a later flight back from their Jamaican vacation. The parents, sister-in-law, and other child take the original flight and arrive normally. Michaela, Ben, and Cal end up on the infamous flight 828 which disappeared and reappeared. Nephew Cal is a terminal cancer patient. Upon his return they discover that there is a new treatment developed during the five year absence that will offer him good hope of a cure.

Much of the story revolves around Michaela, brother Ben, cancer patient Cal, his twin sister Olive is now five years older, and Ben’s wife Grace. Michaela wrestles with the fact that her mother died during the absence. Her boyfriend moved on to marry another woman. And there are hints that Ben’s wife Grace has perhaps developed another relationship as well.

Despite the bizarre premise, this part of the story plays the “what if” game beautifully. You find the characters deep, compelling, internally consistent. It makes an unbelievable premise all the more believable and that’s what good sci-fi is all about. It illuminates the human condition using extraordinary circumstances and I mean that in the literal sense of the word “extra ordinary”.

One of the key features of the mythology of “Lost” was the symbolism and significance of various numbers. “Manifest” steals from that idea by attaching significance to the number 828. It was the flight number of their airplane. It was the address of the kidnapped girls that were discovered. It even refers to a Scripture quote Romans 8:28 which was often quoted by Michaela’s now deceased mother. So those who liked the mythology and mysticism and “Lost” are likely to be intrigued by this new show.

However if “Lost” left you cold with its over-the-top bizarre storylines, I encourage you to give this new show a chance and we will have to wait and see together if it goes off the rails and becomes unbelievably bizarre or if it could hang onto its core premise of exploring human nature and relationships under unusual circumstances.

For now I’m giving it a “I’m watching it” and my hope is that it doesn’t know too far astray and I can upgrade it to a rating of “I really like it”. I recommend you at least give it a try for a couple of episodes.

“I Feel Bad” Should Feel Bad. It’s Terrible

In my TV rating system typically the lowest rating I give a TV show is “Skip It“. Which means that I didn’t like it and in general I doubt that anyone else would. I do go to the trouble of explaining why. But there is one rarely used rating below that called “Worthless” which means it so bad I didn’t feel like going to the trouble of writing a review or encouraging you to waste your time even reading my review. It was a theoretical rating that I don’t believe I’ve ever used before. I did mention in my description of that rating that it would go to something like The Paul Reiser Show (2011) which should’ve been great but was totally unwatchable and was canceled after just two episodes.

NBC’s new sitcom “I Feel Bad” is earning the distinction of my first actual “Worthless” rating. It’s a combination of a family and workplace comedy about a woman who constantly feels bad about herself. She has a husband, several kids including an infant, overbearing parents, and a goofy collection of coworkers. All of the usual sitcom scenarios. In the first episode she’s worried she’s becoming like her mother. Yawn.

My usual criteria for a sitcom is “Did it made me laugh?” And this one didn’t. So as my “Worthless” rating suggests, I’m not going to waste my time writing a detailed review or making you read it.

Jim Carrey Isn’t Kidding in This Very Dark Comedy

The idea of Jim Carrey playing a “Mr. Rogers like” host of a children’s TV show looks a little bit creepy when you see the previews. Watching the new Showtime series “Kidding” doesn’t alleviate those concerns. I’ve watched 2 episodes so far and I so can’t figure out if it’s a comedy or a drama. Mostly it’s just weird.

Carrey plays Jeff Pickles a.k.a. Mr. Pickles the host of a beloved children’s puppet show on PBS for 30 years. His personal life however is a shambles because is son was killed in an auto accident one year ago. His marriage which was already in trouble falls apart. He tries to make sense of the world and maintain a good relationship with his surviving son who was a twin of the deceased boy.

In the opening episode he tries to convince his producer Sebastian played by Frank Langella that they should do a show about death. The idea is rejected because not only is this a beloved children show, it is a multimillion dollar branding and marketing institution that could be damaged by taking on such a dark topic.

It turns out that Sebastian is not only his producer but his father. Also his sister Deidre played by Catherine Keener works on the show as a puppeteer.

This is not the over-the-top kind of comedy you expect to see Jim Carrey playing. This is no Ace Ventura by any means. Despite the fact that he’s a grown man with 30 years of television experience he comes across with a youthful naïveté reminiscent of his character Truman Burbank in “The Truman Show“. As I said in the opening paragraph I’m not really sure if it’s a comedy or drama. Let’s call it a very dark comedy with ample doses of tragedy and pathos.

Carrey’s character is a complicated person and is well portrayed. The supporting cast is excellent as well and there are some other dark comic moments surrounding the supporting cast. But don’t expect a lot of laughs in a show whose primary theme is dealing with the death of a child.

I watched these episodes several days ago but have not bothered to write this review because I really wasn’t sure what to say about the show. I’m going to give it a very weak “I’m watching” rating mostly because I’m curious to see where the story will go. Don’t count that as a very ringing endorsement however. Check it out at your own peril.

“Rel” Shows Potential to be Funny but Only Time Will Tell

So we have a guy who is a standup comedian that gets his own sitcom. He has a male and female sidekick who come in and out of his life. We’ve seen this formula dozens of times before. It all began with Seinfeld but no one has been able to recapture that magic that we had between Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer. The new multi-camera half-hour comedy “Rel” starring Lil Rel Howery is another such attempt that at least initially falls short. Then again it’s probably unfair to compare a newcomer to what is one of the most successful sitcoms of all time.

Lil Rel Howery has appeared in the recently canceled “The Carmichael Show” which I enjoyed. However he is most famous for his role in the hit movie “Get Out” as the comic relief sidekick TSA agent who gives Daniel Kaluuya advice over the telephone as he faces his bizarre future in-laws. He is now capitalizing on that success with this new sitcom.

The premise of the show is that he is a nurse living on the south side of Chicago whose wife had an affair with his barber. She takes their two kids and moves to Cleveland. He tries to get over the shame of the loss. He is supported by his best friend Britney played by Jessica “Jess Hilarious” Moore and his ne’er-do-well brother Nat played by Jordan L Jones. Nat is recently out of jail and is constantly denying that he was a meth dealer. It wasn’t meth it was ecstasy like that makes a big difference.

Their father is played by veteran comedian Sinbad who is disappointed in both of his sons. In one scene where they go to church, dad tries to be supportive of his recently divorced son but he insists that he not sit near him because he doesn’t want to be associated with a guy who could lose his wife to a barber. The preacher in the church is also played by Howery made up in a bald cap and a beard.

My ultimate test for a sitcom is “did it make me laugh?” And on several occasions this one did. The first episode was pretty much a one joke story about the shame of losing your wife to your barber. It remains to be seen if the show remains creative and funny or just becomes a string of well-worn clichés.

Admittedly because I’m an old white guy I not going to have as much appreciation for some of the cultural context of an African-American cast and story. I probably will not continue to watch. I already enjoy “black-ish” and found it to be funnier than “Rel”. Don’t let my lack of enthusiasm for the show turn you off. It does have some very funny moments and I suppose once I got used to the characters I might appreciate it more. But in an already crowded space I will not be adding it to my watchlist.

Because I did laugh I will give it a very strong rating of “Could be watchable“. If you’re looking for a good African-American comedy you should check it out for yourself.

That show appears on Fox. The pilot episode was shown September 9 as a sneak preview and is available on demand. Regular episodes premier September 30.

Big Bang Ending; Hamill goes from Jedi to Templer; Legend is legendary EGOT; Reviews and more.

Here’s the latest in entertainment news. We started out with a couple of reviews from this blog in case you missed them.

“Carter” Is the Least Credible of the Overdone Consultant Detective Genre

You Should Purge “The Purge” From Your DVR

Anarchy Fans Rejoice. “Mayans MC” is Everything You Loved about SoA

Here is a calendar of premiere dates courtesy of TV line. Or follow me on Facebook where I will post daily updates for new fall premieres.

In the links below read about:

  • Chris Hardwick returns to “Talking Dead” but several producers resign in protest.
  • Spoilers from Inside Line dated August 14
  • The story behind the decision to end The Big Bang Theory after 12 seasons
  • Spoilers from Michael Ausiello dated August 29
  • Spoilers from Michael Ausiello dated September 11

Not linked but still of interest…

  • Marvel’s Runaways will return to Hulu with 13 episodes starting December 21 and will pick up within hours of the first season’s finale. There are hints it will somehow connect to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. No details yet.
  • At one time there were rumors of up to 5 Game of Thrones spinoff shows but it appears that 4 of them are dead and one is going forward. It’s the one we previously reported will take place over a thousand years before the current series.
  • Hulu announced that “Castle Rock” based on stories by Stephen King has been renewed for a second season.
  • A Marilyn Monroe nude scene from the John Houston film “The Misfits” that was believed to have been destroyed has been rediscovered.
  • From Jedi to Templer… Mark Hamill joins the cast of History Channel medieval drama “Knightfall” for season 2. I watched season 1 which was just okay and probably wasn’t going to watch season 2 but with him on board I will have to check it out.
  • John Cleese will guest star in the upcoming season of disability sitcom “Speechless”.
  • TLC network has renewed “Dr Pimple Popper” for season 2 starting in January. Reality documentary show follows a dermatologist who operates on gross looking cysts. Started out as a popular YouTube channel and then moved to TV.
  • RIP actress and singer Morgana King who played Marlon Brando’s wife in the Godfather I & II.
  • USA Network has canceled “Shooter” after 3 seasons. The show is being shopped around to other networks.
  • Madonna recently turned 60 years old.
  • RIP singing legend Aretha Franklin age 76
  • TNT has ordered a limited series “The Angel of Darkness” which is a sequel to “The Alienist” with many of the stars returning to reprise their roles including Dakota Fanning, Luke Evans, and Daniel Bruhl.
  • Star Wars: Resistance animated TV series will premiere on The Disney Channel October 7.
  • Stephen Ogg recently seen the “The Walking Dead” will be a recurring character in the TNT sci-fi drama “Snowpiercer”.
  • “Watchmen” comic to be adapted to TV series for HBO.
  • Netflix has renewed female wrestling comedy GLOW for season 3
  • A six part miniseries of John le Carre’s “The Little Drummer Girl” is coming to AMC network November 19.
  • CW network announced a three night crossover of its superhero series “The Flash”, “Arrow”, and “Supergirl” will start Sunday, December 9 and will introduce new character Batwoman.
  • Lip-Synch Battle has been renewed for season 5 by Paramount Network.
  • This season will be the final season of The Big Bang Theory.
  • Timeless which was canceled yet again by NBC will have a two hour movie to wrap up the plot. It will air sometime in December.
  • RIP musician Ed King who is guitarist for Leonard Skynyrd and cowriter of “Sweet Home Alabama”.
  • RIP entertainment journalist Robin Leach host of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” age 76
  • RIP playwright Neil Simon age 91
  • John Goodman reveals that the Roseanne character will be killed off in the spinoff show “The Connors”.
  • Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood will be killed off to eliminate him from the final season of “House of Cards”.
  • Matt Smith a.k.a. the 11th Doctor Who will appear in Star Wars episode 9 in an undisclosed role.
  • HBO has dropped all erotic programming from its lineup including edited adult movies and unscripted series such as “Real Sex” and “Cathouse”.
  • Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ana Inaba will host next year’s Miss America competition.
  • USA has announced Mr. Robot season 4 will be its last.
  • Release of the new sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” has been delayed one year until June 2020
  • Emmy Rossum announced this will be her last season on Shameless.
  • The new season of Doctor Who will premiere Sunday October 7 in both the US and UK.
  • Jack is back! Not Jack Bauer but the next best thing. “Designated Survivor” recently canceled by ABC is been renewed by Netflix.
  • HBO has renewed “Ballers” and “Insecure” for a fifth and fourth seasons respectively.
  • A Broadway musical version of “Beetlejuice” will premiere March 2019 at the Winter Garden Theater.
  • RIP 70s film icon Burt Reynolds age 82.
  • 20th Century Fox has deleted a scene from the film “The Predator” the latest in the alien sci-fi series after it discovered one of the actors was a registered sex offender.
  • After Brooklyn Nine-Nine moved to NBC its order has been expanded to 18 episodes.
  • RIP actor Bill Daley who played Maj. Healy on “I Dream of Jeannie” age 91
  • Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, and John Legend are now EGOT winners. This means they have won an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards. The latest Emmys for producing “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert”. John Legend is the first African-American man to achieve the status. Only 12 other people prior to this had won EGOT in competitive categories.

 

“Appreciative” Chris Hardwick Returns To ‘Talking Dead’; Co-EP + Others Quit

Matt’s Inside Line: Scoop on NCIS: LA, Grey’s, This Is Us, The Resident, The Gifted, Runaways, SEAL Team and More August 14

‘The Big Bang Theory’: Behind The Sudden Decision To End Series After 12 Seasons

Ask Ausiello: Spoilers on Good Place, Empire, 9-1-1, Lucifer, The Flash, Supernatural, NCIS, TWD and More August 29

Ask Ausiello: Spoilers on Grey’s, Walking Dead, Power, Young Sheldon, Riverdale, House of Cards and More September 11

 

Anarchy Fans Rejoice. Mayans, MC is Everything You Loved about SoA

For those of us who have been morning the loss of the hit drama “Sons of Anarchy” our sadness has been vanquished. The anarchy universe has been reborn in the new FX series “Mayans, MC”. Kurt Suter who created “Sons of Anarchy” brings us yet again complex, nuanced characters placed into impossible situations that test their loyalty, morality, and self-image. Known for his surprising plot twists, Suter brings his creative magic to the small screen yet again. Fans of the original “Sons of Anarchy” will find themselves completely at home in this new incarnation. If you’ve not seen Anarchy we highly recommend you check out this new series that shows every indication of being just as compelling as our previous visit to this world.

“Sons of Anarchy” was about a Southern California motorcycle club whose stock in trade was gunrunning, pornography, and prostitution. They often collaborated or sometimes collided with an Hispanic motorcycle club called the Mayans. That club is the basis for this new series. In Anarchy, the president of the Mayans was Marcus Alvarez played by Emilio Rivera. He appears in the opening episode not as the president and as the “Godfather” or sort of president emeritus of the organization. IMDb says he will appear in a total of 3 episodes. None of the rest of the members of the Mayans are carryovers from Anarchy although there are some cameo appearances (such as Robert Patrick) of other characters from Anarchy.

The lack of carryover characters does not in any way make this new incarnation unfamiliar to fans of the original. The complex relationships between characters, the moral dilemmas they face, the test of loyalties, the mind blowing plot twists, phenomenal action sequences, and gut wrenching violence that were the hallmarks of Anarchy are in full bloom. Let’s face it… This is a reboot but it’s a wonderful reboot.

Our main character is Ezekiel “EZ” Reyes played by JD Pardo whose credits include TV series “East Los High“, and “Revolution“. Here’s a prospect or you might a pledge trying to join the MC. He is sponsored by his older brother Angel. Their father Felipe who is a butcher in the town is played by Edward James Olmos. The club president Obispo “Bishop” Losa is played by Michael Irby who has been seen recently in “SEAL Team” and “True Detective“.

The club is in business providing security for the Galindo drug cartel. When one of the shipments gets hijacked it sets off a chain of events that has them doing battle with a rival Samoan club. We also meet a Mexican vigilante group made up of survivors of cartel violence who are trying to take down the cartel because the authorities seem powerless to do anything.

The hijacking reveals that there has to be a traitor among the group which adds to the tension of the situation. It’s bad enough when you are hired to protect a drug shipment worth $2.5 million. But then to try to weed out the traitor among you makes things even more complicated. I won’t go into any more plot details because it would spoil some big surprises. Let’s just say that everything is not as it seems. Nearly everyone is carrying some sort of secret. And a tremendous amount of detail is revealed about secret agendas in the first episode alone.

There is action galore throughout the first episode. The hijacking involves a stunt where a truck flips and explodes. There is a bloody shootout in a cemetery when they confront the Samoan gang about the hijacking. They eventually capture, torture and kill the Samoan leader in ways that will make you cringe. This is a violent adult drama not for the squeamish. And much to my surprise for a basic cable TV show they dropped at least three F-bombs. I had heard that the rules for basic cable were one “F-bomb” per season. At least that’s the rule for AMC’s “The Walking Dead“.

If you were a fan of Anarchy you are already watching this show. If you never saw the original, you don’t need to have seen it to jump into Mayans. Highly recommended show that earns a strong rating of “Must See” on my rating system.

You Should Purge “The Purge” from Your DVR

In our current political climate when Congress seems unable to act and presidents from both parties have taken to the use of executive orders to try to get anything done, the idea of the government run amuck is a ripe topic for a horror/thriller TV series or film. The Hulu series “The Handmaid’s Tale” does a brilliant job of showing us in near future America when the government holds terrifying control over the population. Last season’s outstanding “American Horror Story: Cult” was its first ever season with no supernatural elements but quite effectively drew its terror from the current political climate. Unfortunately the new USA Network 10 episode limited series “The Purge” fails to deliver as either a political commentary or a horror story.

We’ve already had four feature films in the franchise based on the same premise. The basis of the entire franchise is that it takes place in the near future or perhaps an alternate version of America present-day in which one night per year in which all crime including murder is illegal. From 7 PM until 7 AM next morning anything goes. The government has declared this to be a fundamental right that people may exercise. The premise being that if you let people experience total chaos and anarchy once a year to get it out of their system, you can justify more significant oppression and control of their lives the other 364 days. It also serves to thin the herd of some of society’s less desirable and less prosperous people.

The original film “The Purge” (2013) followed an upper-middle-class family who believed they would be safe during the purge thanks to a newly installed home security system. It starred Ethan Hawke as the father. The mother was played by Lena Headley known for her role as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones. It wasn’t a great film but it was watchable on cable. You felt the peril that the family felt as their home was attacked and their lives threatened. They explored the moral dilemma that they faced when someone begged to be let into the house to escape attackers. Can you trust a stranger in need under such circumstances?

While it was a reasonably good thriller, it failed to explore the political landscape which allowed such a situation to rise. You never did get a good feel for why the government instituted such a practice. Had we not already experienced a franchise such as “The Hunger Games” in which the government promotes chaos in order to counterbalance its oppression, the film would have made even less sense.

I have not seen the other three films “The Purge: Anarchy” (2014) which seems a little bit redundant in its title, “The Purge: Election Year” (2016) which probably failed to be any more terrifying than what really happened in 2016, and the recent prequel “The First Purge” (2018). In my opinion the premise barely held up for one film. I can only suppose that the other films were just a way to capitalize on the mild success of the first one and to have an excuse to make really violent movies. I would hope that the “Election Year” version went a little more into the politics of this universe and the prequel similarly filled in some of the back story but I can’t say for sure.

Now we come to the topic at hand which is this new 10 part series based on the films. The episode presumes that you understand either from the films were from the advertising of the show just went is “The Purge”. They didn’t even bother to put up a title card explaining the premise. It’s a little bit difficult after one episode to figure out exactly who are the main characters and who are just supporting roles. We have a young couple who are attending a purge party of political bigwigs who are celebrating the event. They seem to feel uncomfortable being there despite the fact that the venue is under strong security from outside chaos and everyone involved has signed a waiver giving up their right to purge that night. Another woman from some large corporation is forced to work all night on an upcoming merger deal. She and her colleagues are similarly isolated, protected, and have signed waivers not to purge. However near the end of the first episode she sneaks out for purposes yet to be revealed.

The only mildly interesting subplot is of a man looking for his sister. He finds that she has joined some sort of cult in which they are basically a suicide pact which offer themselves up as a sacrifice to the chaos of the purge. They dressed in robes and go out as a group on a bus to an area where they know they will be slaughtered. However this subplot, like the entire plot, seems like a one note story. Once you say “Wouldn’t it be interesting if one night per year all crime including murder was legal?” There really isn’t a lot to explore. Similarly “Wouldn’t it be interesting if there was a religious cult who took that opportunity to commit suicide by offering themselves as a sacrifice to the purge?” Okay so there’s a premise but what of it.

The TV series stars no one you ever heard of before so I won’t bother listing their names or credits. You can always follow the IMDb links if you are curious.

One could be hopeful that some of the back story on how the purge came about or what are the political motivations and consequences of it might be explored in the remaining nine episodes. But that’s a long way to go on nothing but hope. Unless you are a huge fan of the films and have gotten something more out of films 2 through 4 then I got out of the original, you would probably agree with me that this deserves a very strong rating of “Skip It“. If you do want to check it out, the only saving grace might be that it is only 10 episodes. I think your time would be better spent watching “The Handmaid’s Tale” or some other better done dystopian future franchise than this one.

“Carter” is the Least Credible of the Overdone Consultant Detective Genre

I wish that I knew someone who worked as a detective in a police department to ask them a simple question: “Did you ever hire an outside consultant to help you solve a crime?” I would be willing to bet large sums of money that the answer is a resounding “No”. Yet if we were to take TV shows at their word, we would presume that it was an everyday occurrence. We used to have lots of private detective shows like Magnum, P.I. (which is being rebooted this fall by the way) or Mannix and of course classic movies and mystery novels are full of PIs such as Sam Spadeor Mike Hammer. But we seem to be flooded with police consultants these days. The most ridiculous of these just premiered on WGN America in the form of a procedural called “Carter

Of course the most famous outside please consultant from literature is Sherlock Holmes created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in 1887. He has been adapted and re-adapted many times on film and TV. The most recent Sherlock incarnation is Johnny Lee Miller in “Elementary” which will air its seventh season this fall. This reimagines the character in a modern-day setting with a further twist that his companion Dr. Watson is female. Even before that, Edgar Allen Pro perhaps invented the murder mystery genre with his character C. Auguste Dupin who first appeared in 1841 in Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue“. In the case of these classic characters they are such geniuses that we can believe that the police might consult them on a case. On a much lighter note we had “Monk” who was a neurotic super detective played by Tony Shalaoub for eight seasons. He was a Sherlock Holmes style super detective character but at least he had the credentials of being a former police detective.

Slightly less credible as the non-police super sleuth we had Patrick Jane played by Simon Baker on “The Mentalist” for seven seasons. He was a fake psychic showman who was adapt at reading people’s tells and understood the psychology of how to manipulate them into confessing or revealing themselves as the guilty party. The FBI was aware he was not really psychic but just observant. The show also featured the romantic tension between him and his FBI partner Teresa Lisbon played by Robin Tunney. Taking a much more comic approach to the same fake psychic routine was “Psych” in which a super detective actually convinced the local PD that he had psychic powers that he could contribute to police cases when in fact he was just a gifted observer. “Psych” is played strictly for laughs and the show didn’t hesitate to “jump the shark” many times including an all musical episode in its final season. Despite its ridiculous premise, it ran for eight seasons and there have been follow-up TV movies. It’s great for a laugh but extremely far-fetched as a serious detective show.

Unfortunately the trend these days is for people from less credible professions who cross over to take up the role of police consultant. The most successful of these cop consultant shows was “Castle” in which mystery writer Rick Castle played by Nathan Filion who consulted with NYPD to help them solve crimes because he knew so much about criminals from writing novels about them. The premise is ridiculous but the stories were fun and the chemistry between Castle and the detective Kate Beckett whom he later married in the show was genuine. The show was a hit for eight seasons.

In the past year we’ve had several more entries into the genre. First we have “Deception” in which a disgraced stage illusionist teams up with the FBI to use his skills as an allusions to trick criminals into revealing themselves. He also is able to uncover when the criminals are using the art of illusion to throw the police off of their crimes. Again there was a hint of romantic link between the consultant and a female detective that given enough seasons probably would’ve gone down the road of Castle. I liked the show but it only lasted one season.

This year also brought us “Instinct” in which the outside consultant is a former CIA agent, turned author, turned college professor. He gets pulled into a case by the NYPD when a serial killer uses his best-selling book on abnormal psychology to leave clues to his next victims. This character portrayed by Alan Cumming was also paired with a hot young single female police contacted but they avoid the romantic connection because he is gay. His background in psychology and abnormal behavior as well as his CIA background lends some credibility to the story. The show was successful enough to get picked up for a second season. I’ve enjoyed it enough to keep watching.

Finally we come to the most ridiculous cop consultant stories of the bunch. The first is ABC’s new series “Take Two” in which a washed up actress who played a detective in a TV show teams up with a private detective supposedly to prepare for an upcoming film role where she will play a PI. Rachel Bilson plays the actress turned PI and Eddie Cibrian is her PI buddy. The idea that she knows a lot about police work or has some sort of special insights just because she played a TV detective stretches credibility to the breaking point. There is even a ridiculous scene where the bad guy has her gunpoint, forces her to put down her gun and she ends up kicking the gun in the air and hitting him in the face with it thus re-creating a scene from one of her TV episodes. I’ve only seen one episode out of the nine that have aired. There will be a total of 13 this season and it’s too soon to tell if it would get renewed for another one.

As if this genre wasn’t already overloaded to the breaking point, this week WGN America premiered a new series called “Carter” in which Jerry O’Connell plays an actor from a popular cop TV show. As in “Take Two” the actor has suffered a public meltdown although it hasn’t yet ruined his career. He is on hiatus between seasons so he goes home to Canada to get away from the limelight. While on hiatus he teams up with a childhood friend who is a police detective. She is played by Sidney Tamila Poitier. She is the daughter of famous actor Sidney Poitier. This one is played a little bit more for laughs in that they at times poke fun at the TV cop genre. They are still taking the ridiculous approach that being a TV detective somehow trained you to do the real thing. This is mitigated only by the back story that he has been a semi-famous boy detective in his childhood apparently having to do with the case of his mother who went missing. We will have to see where that story goes in future episodes.

Even the TV series “Lucifer” in which the devil himself becomes a police consultant has more credibility than these actor consultants because Lucifer has a certain hypnotic ability that can coerce people into nearly confessing their crimes. The show was canceled by Fox after three seasons but has been picked up for a fourth season by Netflix. Although a bit silly at times, I do enjoy it.

In summary I sort of liked “Deception” even though it lacked a lot of credibility. “Instinct” with its Sherlock-like consultant and “Elementary” with its reimagined actual Sherlock Holmes are both worth watching. But I can’t recommend either of the actors-turned-consultant shows “Take Two” or “Carter” and unless you are more interested in a RomCom than a real cop show. They both get “skip it” ratings from me.