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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Murphy Brown” Revival Not As Strong As Other Recent Revivals but Still Should Be a Fun Ride

Given the current political climate, I don’t think anyone was surprised that CBS decided to bring back “Murphy Brown” after a 20 year hiatus. The show ran for 10 years from 1988-1998. Candace Bergen stars as the title character who is an anchor of a TV news magazine show. At the beginning of the original series she was trying to put her life back together after doing a stint in the Betty Ford Center as a recovering alcoholic.

In the opening episode of this reboot we find Murphy is retired but is restless about the current state of politics and journalism. She decides to put the old gang back together and to rejoin TV. Her son who was born amidst a bit of controversy during the original run of the series is now a grown man and a journalist himself. He ends up getting a TV show in her timeslot on a rival network called “Wolf” network (obviously a humorous nod to “Fox” network).

The original series became a topic of public debate when VP Dan Quayle criticized the show as detrimental to family values because Murphy was raising her son as a single mother. After his comments, the show did a special episode in response. Details can be found in this section of the Wikipedia article about the show.

Much of the original cast has returned. Faith Ford returns as perky reporter and former Miss America Corky Sherwood. Joe Regalbuto is fellow reporter Frank Fontana. Grant Shaud returns as their neurotic producer Miles Silverberg. With a couple of exceptions none of the cast has been seen very much except for an occasional guest star running a variety of and comedies and dramas. Bergen had several successful seasons opposite William Shatner and James Spader on Boston Legal, Also faith Ford did have her own sitcom “Hope & Faith” with Kelly Ripa that ran for for 3 from 2003-2006 seasons but was unremarkable.

Missing from the original cast are Pat Corley who played Phil the owner of a diner where the gang would hang out. He passed away in 2006. He has been replaced by Tyne Daly who plays a character called Phyllis who is the sister of Phil and has taken over the diner. Also missing is the very funny Robert Pastorelli as Eldin Bernecky who Murphy hired to paint her home but it took him several seasons to complete the job. She eventually hired him as a male nanny to care for her son Avery. Pastorelli passed away in 2004.

New to the cast are Jake McDorman as her son Avery. He was recently seen in the TV series “Limitless” about a guy who takes a pill that makes him super smart. Also we have Nik Dodani recently seen in a Netflix series “Atypical“. His character Pat Patel is a young tech savvy media consultant who is trying to teach Murphy and the gang how to capitalize on social media. In the opening episode he encourages Murphy to join twitter and she ends up in a twitter war with Pres. Trump. She also reveals that at one point Murphy Brown once dated Donald Trump. This is based on the true story that Candace Bergen herself once went on a date with Donald Trump when she was 18 years old. Here is a YouTube video of her appearance on Stephen Colbert discussing the date with Trump.

One of the running jokes of the original series was that Murphy could not keep a secretary employed. She would have to interview and hire a new person every week. Keeping with that tradition she interviewed a new potential secretary that was played by guest star Hillary Clinton. She wasn’t playing the “real” Hillary Clinton. She was a character named Hilary with one “L”. But there were lots of Hillary jokes thrown in.

Having Clinton guest star continues another tradition of the series having real-life politicians and other TV journalists appear on the show as themselves. We can expect that tradition to continue as well.

The plot of the first episode explored the struggle between being a serious journalist and making compelling high rated TV shows. It’s a little bit difficult to get a feel for the tone of the new series because much of the episode was about getting the old gang back together and introducing the new characters.

I was a big fan of the original series. This revival didn’t immediately impress me in the same way that the revivals of “Will & Grace” or “Roseanne” did. Those other two shows seem to hit their stride immediately as if they had never been off the air. Still there is enough of the old chemistry and ample opportunity for storytelling in the current political climate that this should be a fine ride once it gets going.

I’m giving it a solid rating of “I Am Watching It” and if you are politically center or left and like political humor I highly recommend it.

“FBI” Is Another Potential Hit for Dick Wolf

Producer Dick Wolf is responsible for creating at least two of the most successful series of TV programs on the air today. He is responsible for all versions of the “Law & Order” franchise as well as the various “Chicago…” programs which occupy the entire NBC schedule on Wednesday night this year. His new series “FBI” appears to have the same high level of drama, action and compelling entertainment as all of his other offerings.

This police procedural covers the agents of the New York office of the FBI. The major characters are two field agents. One is Maggie Bell played by Missy Peregrym who is been recently seen in the Syfy Channel series “Van Helsing” and “Ten Days in the Valley“. The other is Special Agent Omar Adom ‘OA’ Zidan played by Zeeko Zaki who has recently been seen in the military drama “Valor” and “24: Legacy“. The field agents are backed up by Assistant Special Agent in Charge Jubal Valentine played by Jeremy Sisto.

The opening sequence has the agents appearing on the scene of an apartment building explosion and realizing that there may be more bombs. Agent Bell orders the evacuation of all rescue personnel. As she expected, another explosion occurred a few moments later and brought down the entire building. The special-effects of these bombings sequences are state-of-the-art and quite dramatic.

Some of the drama comes from the fact that she refused to let a mother go back into the building and look for her missing son. Throughout the episode she is haunted by that mother’s grief and the loss of the small boy.

The remainder of the show is pretty much a typical police procedural story trying to figure out who is responsible for the bombing. There are other bombings and other bombs found before the case is solved. The urgency of the need to find the people responsible is palpable and keeps the story flowing well.

Basically everything you like about any other Dick Wolf produced and created procedural show you will find in this one. Do we really need another of these considering how many other programs he produces? That’s a question you will have to answer for yourself. But if you like his programs, this is definitely worth looking into.

You’re not going to get the overly complicated plot lines of recent shows like Quantico in which the storytellers seem to deliberately mislead the audience by hiding people’s motives. This is a basic straightforward police procedural but it is very well done.

I’m giving it an initial rating of “I’m Watching It” but it might slip to a similar “Recommended Watch” if my schedule gets too crowded.

“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.

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.

ABC’s “Castaways” is not a “Survivor” clone. May be worth checking out.

ABCs new reality series “Castaways” on paper would appear to be a ripoff of CBS’ long-running reality competition show “Survivor” but apparent from the fact that people are stranded on an island, the shows could not be more different.

Castaways drops 12 people on a series of tiny islands in Indonesia separately from one another. It’s as if they were survivors of a ship wreck. They are dropped off in the ocean just offshore where they will find scattered supplies and luggage that may or may not be their own. They know that there are other contestants out there with them but they don’t know where they are or even how many others there are. It is up to each of them to decide to try to make it on their own or to seek out the other castaways.

There is no post like Jeff Probst on Survivor. There are no competitions or tribal councils to vote people off. Unlike the 39 day duration of Survivor, these participants have no idea how long they will be out there. You either survive to the end or you give up and they take you out of the game.It’s filmed documentary style and includes a peak at what the individuals lives are like in real life. It’s all about surviving and has nothing resembling the game show atmosphere of Survivor or Big Brother. I suppose if you were to compare it to any other reality show it would be more like Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid” without the ridiculous nudity.

The participants in some cases bear little resemblance to the typical Survivor contestant. For example the first person we meet is a food addict who weighs 390 pounds. Another 61-year-old woman struggles to care for her parents who have Alzheimer’s. Others such as X military man, an aspiring Nashville singer, a crab fisherman, seemed to be the more typical Survivor types.

it’s probably too soon to tell just how compelling or entertaining series will be but it’s definitely worth checking out. You can catch it Tuesday nights on ABC at 10 PM. The first episode which is already aired is available on demand. For now I’m giving it a rating of “I’m watching it

Fans of “Castle” or “The Mentalist” Should Enjoy “Deception”

Deception” is a new crime procedural from ABC that is a bit unoriginal but might be worth watching anyway. For me it seems like a cross between “Castle” and “The Mentalist”. The main character is Cameron Black who is a world-famous magician whose career is ruined when it is revealed that many of his tricks involve the use of his twin brother Jonathan. Both parts are played by Jack Cutmore-Scott who has been seen recently in Kingsman:The Secret Service and Dunkirk but not much else. The secret is revealed when his brother is in an automobile accident in which a woman is killed. The brother is arrested and jailed but the whole thing may have been a setup.

When Cameron hears the story that the FBI lost a key witness to a case when a private plane explodes in a hanger, he recognizes that in fact the plane did not explode. It was actually a re-creation of one of his illusions where he had caused a plane to disappear. He ends up becoming a consultant for the FBI

The mysterious illusionist who faked the plane exploding is also connected to his brother being framed. He uses his skills as an illusionist to help the FBI catch criminals at the same time working to prove his brother’s innocence.

Black is partnered with FBI agent Kay Daniels played by Ilfenesh Hadera who has been recently seen in Baywatch and Billions. Like “The Mentalist”, our hero uses his skills of deception to con suspects into revealing themselves. But the overall tone of the show is much more lighthearted. Where Patrick Jane was a somewhat mysterious and introverted brooding character, Black is much more gregarious and charismatic. The overall tone seems more like “Castle” in which the hijinks of the outside consultant are often played for laughs. It remains to be seen if Black and Daniels will develop the same sort of chemistry that we saw between Richard Castle and Detective Kate Beckett.

Unlike Castle and Patrick Jane, Black has a team of assistants who help him create the illusions. His main designer is Gunter Gustafsen played by British character actor Vinnie Jones. He is more often cast in the role of a tough guy criminal because of his appearance so it is interesting bit of casting to see him in a part where his big burly stature and rough appearance seem a bit out of place.

As I said in the beginning, there is nothing really new or original here but if you are a fan of “The Mentalist” and or “Castle” then you will probably enjoy this show as well. I’m giving it a very strong rating of “I’m watching it”.

“The Alienist” is Well Done Period Crime Drama

The Alienist” is a new period crime drama set in the late 19th century New York City. In that era, people who were mentally ill were thought to be alienated from their true selves so the word “alienist” was given to one who studies such conditions. In other words a psychologist or psychiatrist. Our main character is Dr. Laszlo Kriezier who is investigating a serial killer beginning with the murder of a boy prostitute.

Kriezier is played by Daniel Brühl who was recently seen in “The Zookeeper’s Wife” and “Captain America: Civil War”. He is assisted by his friend John Moore who is a newspaper illustrator and Sara Howard who is the secretary to police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt. Although fictionalized, her character is inspired by a real-life person who was the first female to be employed by the NYPD. She’s played by now grown child star Dakota Fanning. Moore is played by Luke Evans who is probably most famous playing Owen Shaw in the “Fast and Furious” film series.

Although this series is filmed in Budapest, they have gone to great lengths to re-create 19th-century New York in beautiful detail. The costumes, props, and sets are also top-notch. The performances are nuanced and intricate in the mystery of who is responsible for not only the killing of this boy prostitute from the opening episode but apparently this is just one of several children who’ve gone missing.

Like other period crime dramas such as “Copper” and “Ripper Street” we get a look at the early days of forensic science. Think of this as CSI New York set in the late 1800s. Like those other period crime dramas which I liked, I’m not sure how accurate they are vis-à-vis the level of forensic science available at the time. But it does add an interesting twist to an otherwise ordinary crime procedural.

We also get some insight into the state of psychology and psychiatry at the time with a little bit of preachy plot lines as our hero battles against prejudice over things like homosexuality, masturbation and other taboo subjects. If there’s anything unbelievable about the show is that the doctor has a very enlightened 21th century attitude towards the subjects. Of course we also get to see how female employees in a male dominated institution are treated in those days .

Overall it is well-written and well acted and it really transports yo might have u to this particular time and place while telling an interesting ongoing story. It runs for 10 episodes on TNT network. As of this writing 2 episodes have aired but are available on-demand. I’m giving it a solid “I’m watching” rating.