“Carol’s Second Act” Can’t Compete with her Previous Work

CBS has been touting Patricia Heaton’s new sitcom “Carol’s Second Act” as her return to CBS. This is referring to her highly successful starring role in “Everybody Loves Raymond” where she played Ray Romano’s wife Debra for nine seasons. Since then she’s had a variety of TV roles on other networks including another nine years on “The Middle“… a show I never watched but it must’ve been reasonably good to harass that long.

Like last year’s series “The Rookie” in which Nathan Filion becomes a rookie cop in his 40s, in this sitcom Heaton plays a retired teacher who decides to start a second career in medicine. The show picks up on her first day as an intern where she is often mistaken as an attending physician because of her age. She’s also mistaken as the head resident because she’s wearing a long lab coat which she explains isn’t really long, she’s just short.

At times she uses her experience as an evidentiary school teacher to treat her fellow younger interns like they were eight-year-olds which is neither interesting nor funny. It tries to be poignant but fails that that as well.

As I previously noted in my review of “Bob Hearts Abashola“, any sitcom that has to rely on poop or fart jokes does not bode well for quality comedy. Sadly this sitcom suffers the same fate.

It is mildly reminiscent of “Scrubs” in that it is a hospital workplace comedy and although I wasn’t a big fan of “Scrubs” I don’t think this new entry into the genre stands up to even that low bar.

Kyle McLaughlin costars as the chief attending doctor and although he has played somewhat comic roles in the past, the broad comedy of this sitcom and the goofiness of his character doesn’t seem to work very well. The rest of the supporting cast consisting of nurses and other interns is so interesting it’s not worth it to describe them.

As I’ve often stated my ultimate test of a sitcom is “Did it make me laugh?” Unfortunately this one didn’t.

Before I waste anymore of your time or mine let me just say I’m giving it a strong rating of “Skip It“. Move along… Nothing to see here.

“Emergence” Might Emerge On Top of a Overdone Premise

Last January I wrote a review of the new Fox series “The Passage” in which yet another child with some sort of mysterious ability to save the world is on the run from mysterious bad guys and being is protected by a hero.

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

Although I initially gave it a rating of “I’m Watching” I actually gave up after about three episodes and the series was canceled at the end of its first season. I mentioned that it’s been done over and over again in series such as “Heroes“, “Touch“, 2002 TV miniseries “Taken“, and others. ABC’s new thriller “Emergence” is the latest attempt to try this overdone premise.

Our hero this time is small town police chief Jo Evans played by Allison Tolman. She recently played in NBC series “Good Girls” but I remember most from her 2014 season role in “Fargo” where she also played a police officer. A small plane crashes on the beach just outside of town and she discovers a young girl on the beach. She is about 10 years old and is unharmed. The girl has amnesia and doesn’t know who she is or if she was even on the plane.

A series of mysterious events follow which include strange electrical disturbances somehow related to the girl. Agents of the NTSB try to interview the girl in the hospital that she’s being checked out but it turns out they are not really from the NTSB. The FAA and NTSB clear the crash site of debris in 24 hours which of course is unheard of. We also have an investigative reporter who shows up with all sorts of strange conspiracy theories. At one point the girl is kidnapped by some mysterious people. I won’t spoil what happens after that but the story continues to be creepy throughout.

The young girl, who is given the name “Piper” because she doesn’t remember her real name, is played by Alexa Swinton. Her only notable previous performance was 12 episodes as Eva Rhodes in “Billions“. We also have Jo’s daughter Mia who appears to be about 13. She is played by Ashley Aufderheide who had previously been seen as a younger version of Tulip on “Preacher” in 2016. Living with them is Jo’s father Ed played by veteran character actor Clancy Brown. We also get to meet Jo’s ex-husband Mia’s father Alex played by Donald Faison who is most remembered for his role as Dr. Christopher Turk on the 2001 comedy “Scrubs“.

Jo takes the girl Piper into her home rather than turning her over to child protective services because there are all of these strange occurrences surrounding the kid. Her ex-husband Alex gets sucked into helping them protect the child. Friendship develops between Piper and daughter Mia.

The story moves at a good pace. There’s lots of action and the performances are up to par. The problem is with any of these “Something weird is going on and there’s a big conspiracy behind it all” is that you don’t know until late in the season (if that quickly) if any of this suspense is going to pay off. I guess I’m a eternal optimist when it comes to shows like this. I hope this one really goes somewhere. There’s something compelling about the series. So I’m giving it a cautious rating of “I’m Watching“. But keep in mind that’s what I gave to “The Passage” and it fell apart after a couple of episodes and was ultimately canceled. So travel at your own risk.

“Mixed-ish” is Funny and More Poignant than Its Parent “Black-ish”

ABC’s new sitcom “mixed-ish” is the second spinoff series from their hit comedy “black-ish“. When “black-ish” premiered a few seasons ago, I didn’t think I would like it. Even though I’m a bleeding heart liberal, I’m still an old white guy and I didn’t think I could relate to a show about the struggle of a black family to not lose their African-American identity as the parents both became successful in a white dominated world. But in the end I’ve really enjoyed it because my ultimate test of whether or not I watch a sitcom is “Did it make me laugh?” and this one delivers on a regular basis. It does get a bit preachy at times and I didn’t particularly enjoy last season’s plot line about the marriage difficulties of Andre and Rainbow Johnson. But I’ve stuck with the show through five seasons and plan to continue to watch. I did not watch the spinoff series about their daughter going off to college “grown-ish” because I thought I already had my fill of the Johnson family on the original series. The college adventures of their daughter just didn’t appeal to me. I didn’t bother to watch any of it. When I heard they were doing another spinoff I doubted that I would have much interest in it.

“Mixed-ish” takes us back to 1985 when Rainbow Johnson was 12 years old. By the way I never realized that Johnson was not only her married name it was her maiden name as well. When the government raided the hippie commune where she grew up, her parents moved the family to the suburbs and tried to rejoin normal society. She and her younger brother and sister were totally unprepared for dealing with the challenges of being biracial. Her white father and African-American mother had isolated them from any issues of race while growing up in the commune. Their first day at school found them being forced to choose between identifying as white or black or being left out altogether.

I still cannot identify with what it means to be black or biracial but the story of this family struggling to adapt to this huge culture shift of moving from a commune to the suburbs is entertaining, compelling, and educational. As I have said above and many times before, the ultimate test of a sitcom is “Did it make me laugh?” and like its predecessor, this one did.

Rainbow’s mother Alicia was trained as a lawyer but ran away from the law to join the commune with her hippie husband Paul to raise their family there in peace and harmony. When the commune was shut down the family moves in to a furnished rented house provided by Paul’s father. In order to make ends meet, she trades in her usual tie-dyed clothing for a corporate pantsuit and goes to work as legal counsel for her father-in-law’s business.

Alicia is played by Tika Sumpter whose early career included 239 episodes of soap opera “One Life to Live” and 11 episodes of “Gossip Girl“. Rainbow’s dad Paul is played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar who has had a variety of TV roles but is probably most remembered for “Saved by the Bell” and “NYPD Blue“. Tika’s performance bears little or no resemblance to the older version of Alicia who is played by Anna Deavere Smith in her 9 appearances on “black-ish”. However Gosselaar’s performance is most definitely reminiscent of Beau Bridges version of the character Paul in his three guests starring appearances on the original show.

Gary Cole does a wonderful job creating a new character of Paul’s father Harrison. Young 12-year-old rainbow Johnson is played by Arica Himmel has appeared on stage in off Broadway performances in a few guest performances on other recent TV series. She plays her part quite credibly and you really develop a sympathy for the difficult position she has put in with the culture shock and identity issues she is facing. Newcomers Ethan William Childress and Mykal-Michelle Harris are suitably cute and funny as Rainbow’s younger brother and sister. Alicia sister Denise known to the kids as Aunt Dee-Dee is also a very funny quirky character played by Chicago Second City alum Christina Anthony. She attempts to help the children get in touch with their African-American side.

The characters are suitably quirky. The writing is every bit as good as its parent program and the storylines of these biracial kids trying to make it in the world is actually more compelling than the storylines of “black-ish”.

Despite my already overcrowded TV schedule, I’m going to add this one to the mix and give it a rating of “I’m Watching“. If you like the first show at all I think this one will appeal to you. It risks becoming preachy like the original but if that doesn’t turn you off maybe you should check it out.

“All Rise” has Potential to Give Shondaland Competition

I was skeptical that we needed another legal drama on TV but I decided to give the new CBS series “All Rise” a trial run 🙂 Our main character is Lola Carmichael, a newly appointed LA Superior Court Judge on her first day on the bench. Carmichael is played by Simone Missick who has been recently seen as Misty Knight in several of the Marvel comics Netflix series Iron Fist, The Defenders, and Luke Cage.

In the first couple of scenes I didn’t know whether it was going to be a legal drama or an action show. In the opening scene as Carmichael is getting out of her car in the parking lot, someone tries to steal her laptop. A friend witnesses the theft and stops the guy by hitting him with his car. In the next scene she walks into a courtroom thinking it was hers but it was not. She notices that a woman defendant is standing there in her underwear being arraigned. Outraged, she wraps her coat around the woman and berates the public defender and the prosecutor and the judge for not noticing the woman was standing there half naked. A bailiff is then outraged at the way we kowtow to criminals. He pulls his gun and starts waving it around eventually firing at the judge and missing. Another bailiff shoots the rogue bailiff.

I don’t know why they felt like they had to have 2 big action scenes and what is actually an ordinary courtroom story. The rest of the episode was more along the lines of what you would expect. We fast-forward two weeks to where Carmichael returns to the bench and finds the same female defendant before her for a different offense. Over the objections of her judicial assistant Sherri, she rejects a plea agreement entered on behalf of the young defendant who maintains her innocence of a burglary charge. The assistant sort of plays the role of comic relief in this show… sort of a plucky sidekick to the judge.

Judge Carmichael is a former prosecutor who is young, idealistic, and out to do “real good” in the judicial system. We also have a Carmichael’s boss Judge Lisa Brenner played by former CSI Marg Helgenberger. Other characters include a young public defender and the bailiff who shot the rogue bailiff in the opening scene. He’s going to law school part-time and wants to be a lawyer himself.

The entire thing reminds me of a sort of “Grey’s Anatomy” except in a courtroom instead of a hospital. We’ve got lots of young, idealistic, good-looking people crusading for truth, justice, and the American way. It’s not at all cynical like many legal dramas are these days. It’s sort of a “feel-good” kind of show. Unlike shows like “How to Get Away with Murder” the plots are not so complicated that eventually you give up trying to keep up with all of the twists, conspiracies, and unnecessarily disjointed storytelling methods. My other current favorite legal drama is “The Good Fight” which is only available on CBS All Access. It’s very good but it is also highly political which we don’t get that in this new show.

I don’t really have room in my schedule for another legal show despite the fact that I’m currently watching the series finale of “Suits” as I write this review. If I do pick up another legal show it might be the new Jimmy Smits show “Bluff City Law” on NBC which I have not yet seen.

But if you like stories of people crusading for the underdogs, don’t want the overly complicated stories of HTGAWM, or the political commentary of “The Good Fight” then perhaps this show is for you. If I had room for it on my schedule I would stick with it but I doubt I will watch more than one opening episode. I give it a rating of a strong “Recommended Watchable“. However you might want to wait on my review for “Bluff City Law” if you only have room for one new legal show on your schedule.

Bob Hearts is a Weak Reboot of Mike without Molly

When the opening scene of a sitcom relies on a fart joke, any high expectations you have that this is going to be a good show vanish into thin air. I already had weak expectations of CBS new comedy “Bob Hearts Abishola“. It stars former “Mike & Molly” star Billy Gardell who is basically playing the same character he played in his former show. Sure Mike Biggs was a Chicago police officer and this guy lives in Detroit and owns a sock company but in all other respects this is still Mike Biggs. He retains his Chicago accent that makes him sound like he could be on an SNL sketch sitting at a bar talking about rooting for “Da Bears”.

This “new” character Bob (we don’t learn his last name) is being wheeled into the hospital having a heart attack. He is accompanied by his overbearing mother played by former SNL alum Christine Ebersole, his brother Douglas played by Matt Jones, and his sister Christina played by Maribeth Monroe. Jones has been recently seen in “Mom” as Christy’s ex-husband. Monroe recently appeared in several episodes of “The Good Place“.

After Bob has stint surgery, he recovers and is cared for by a nurse named Abishola who is from Nigeria. She is played by Folake Olowofoyeku. That actress actually grew up in Nigeria so her accent is authentic. Her resume lists mostly bit parts. Bob gets an immediate attraction for her and then offers to give her a pair of his superior socks that his company sells. After leaving the hospital, he tracks her down and gives her the gift. The rest of the episode introduces her parents, her son about 10 years old, and gives you further insight into Bob’s overbearing mother and wacky brother and sister.

Unlike “Mike & Molly”, there really is no chemistry between Bob and Abishola. There is a sort of a cuteness factor about the entire scenario but it just doesn’t have much appeal. The story of their relationship really doesn’t get very far in a half-hour pilot. Perhaps after a couple of episodes the relationship will become more interesting. It’s kind of too soon to tell.

For now I’m giving this one a very weak rating of “Could Be Watchable” but I probably will not stick with it more than another one or two episodes unless it really shows me something special.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Witches” Should Be Left Undiscovered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the links below read…

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

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

Broadcast Renewal Scorecard

Cable Renewal Scorecard

Streaming Renewal Scorecard

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

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

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

    Other Miscellaneous News

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


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

    Linked News Articles

“Deadly Class” Is Neither Deadly nor Classy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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