Monday, April 19, 2021

TV Picks - Week of April 19

"Oscar, Oscar, Oscar."

No, I'm not quoting a line from one of Billy Crystal’s opening medleys at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

I'm quoting the great Felix Unger (Tony Randall) as he so frequently shrugged his disappointment to roommate Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) on The Odd Couple.

That encapsulates my feelings regarding the Academy Awards.

The 93rd annual ceremony airs this Sunday on ABC, and I cannot think of a time where this marquee event had any less hype or excitement.

Can you name three Best Picture nominees? The comic relief Best Supporting Actor/Actress contender? Any of the Best Songs? Two animated films? 

What in the name of Irving J. Thalberg is going on here? 

It wasn't all that long ago that The Oscars were the pop culture event of the year. Next to the Super Bowl, nothing generated ratings like this three-hour presentation of golden statues to big screen stars and those responsible for putting them up there.

Like so many others, I would plan my Sunday around this broadcast. Sure, part of it was about being right about who would take home the awards, but more of it was about the thrill of the movies! A peek inside Hollywood in all its finest decked out to give and receive awards and celebrate themselves.

In 2000, over 46 million people tuned in to the Academy Awards. Last year, it was 23.6 million. The quality in filmmaking hasn't dropped off that much. There are other key factors contributing to this steep decline…

Accessibility - Back in the day, The Oscars were one of the few times you could catch a glimpse of your favorite star off screen. Today the Hollywood elite are always at our fingertips. And it's not just social media that’s to blame. Those wonderful magazines have lined registers for years showing how our favorite celebs "are just like us!" Movie stars should not be just like us.

Films - People go see blockbusters, which almost never win these awards. It's the more "artistic" films that often take home the golden statuettes. You know, the ones hardly anyone besides film critics see. I'm one of those critics, but an award-winning performance should not be limited to small budgets or limited distribution.

Choices - The random number of Best Picture nominees is a cop out. Make the tough choices. Select the five best films, and that's it. No more "up to ten" movies making the final list. Controversy is a good thing. Getting nominated for the most prestigious Oscar is not as big of a deal as it used to be.

Hosts - The Academy decided we don't need one. It’s always been a thankless job, but a completely necessary one. No one wants to stumble around on Hollywood's biggest night. Provide a master of ceremonies - it's really all that people remember about this awards show anyway.

Red Carpet - Thanks to E!, this night has become more about the fashion than the film work. Apologies to you fashionistas, but I do not care who is wearing what on Sunday night. The big show should be about the movies, and there is way too much attention paid to the fashion designers. Focus on the films and the stars and not the clothing on display.

COVID - Can't blame the Academy for this one. A non-existent box office delayed countless films and left the others for us to watch at home. Quality films are now just good TV.

It's not too late for the film industry to clean up its act and make this night more special. It's a situation where less is actually more and exclusivity matters.

Then we can all be happy and peppy and bursting with love on Oscar night.

(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)

The Secrets She Keeps (AMC) – Edith from Downton Abbey stalks a fellow pregnant Aussie in this psychological thriller. Airs Monday (already premiered on Sundance Now). 

Deadliest Catch (DISCOVERY) – It's season 17 for those who love to fish up in the cold, cold north. Premieres Tuesday.

Hustle and Tow (A&E) – The one-time Arts & Entertainment network premieres a series about tow truck drivers. Golden age of TV, huh? Drops Tuesday.

Cher and the Loneliest Elephant (PARAMOUNT+) – This one’s about animal rescue - which means no unplugged version of "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves." Thursday.

Shadow and Bone (NETFLIX) – Welcome to the Grishaverse in this fantasy thriller with a title that conveys imperial Russian darkness. Airs Friday.

Bigfoot, a summer kidnapping and a problem-causing statue…

Sasquatch (HULU)
Tuesday, April 20th

I know what you're thinking. No one has cared about Bigfoot on TV since Lee Majors ventured into that cave on The Six Million Dollar Man. (Great episode, by the way.)

This Hulu series offers an interesting take. In 1993, a journalist hears the story about three men torn limb from limb in a savage attack. 25 years later, he's back to find out what really happened. Nessy will be watching from a Scottish loch (they get Hulu there).

Cruel Summer (FREEFORM)
Tuesday, April 20th

You're likely to dismiss this new series just from the title and the network, but that would be a mistake.

Once nerdy Jeanette becomes her high school’s new "it girl" after queen bee Kate goes missing. Fingers point to Jeanette who rides the roller coaster of high school popularity. Heard it all before, right? 

In Cruel Summer, each episode depicts the same day in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and its effect on all who are involved. Compressing these years into a couple of days is a unique way to cover this ground and worth the watch.

Rutherford Falls (PEACOCK)
Thursday, April 22nd

The creator of Parks & Recreation and The Good Place brings his latest comedy to NBC (sorry, I mean Peacock). This show screams NBC Thursday night comedy, but the network doesn't do that on Thursdays anymore (mistake). 

Ed Helms stars as the town founder's descendant who does not want an ancestral statue removed. This is an issue, because cars keep crashing into it. The local Native American population gets involved and the small story turns into a very big deal.

Creator Mike Schur has earned my trust. The comedic sensibility of his previous creations are all over this show. Plus it's nice to see Ted from Schitt's Creek as a bearded reporter on the scene.


If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

Wear two masks. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Monday, April 12, 2021

TV Picks - Week of April 12

The wonderful world of Disney can be a polarizing place. There are the fanatics, and there are the haters. Most people fall somewhere in between.

Disney is for the child in all of us, but don't kid yourself into thinking that only the little ones believe there's a great, big beautiful tomorrow. The parents (and many adults without kids) are fully on board with their favorite mouse. One of my best friends made annual trips to Disneyworld well before meeting his wife and having kids, and he's proud to tell you about it. And don’t think he was spending all his time in The Hall of Presidents.

The world that Walt built has always been a special place. I'm a fan. The best vacation my family ever took was a VIP trip to Disneyworld in Orlando. I'm no fanatic, but I do know what a hidden Mickey is. I enjoy the theme parks, movies, and especially the streaming channel lately.

Disney+ was as sure of a thing as you could find when it premiered. The Disney library, Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar and more... that's can't-miss stuff. I remember back in the day when the Disney "vault" would open up and release videotapes my kids couldn't get enough of.

It always comes down to content, and Disney+ has plenty of that. Their new content is getting people's attention. Disney is parsing out that vault in a variety of ways and creating new programs featuring familiar characters in brand new situations.

The Mandalorian set the bar high early on. Star Wars spinoffs are as difficult to pull off as entertaining movie sequels, but Jon Favreau created one of the best shows of recent memory with the right mix of creative thinking and nostalgia.

WandaVision had a slow burn with twists that got even non-Marvel fans to pay attention. The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers is an entertaining chapter in that puck-loving saga. The Falcon and The Winter Solider is true to Marvel’s winning formula. The Right Stuff took a swing and missed (you're better off with For All Mankind from AppleTV+), but that’s a strong original programming track record for Disney.

The latest Disney+ offering is a comedy starring one of those aforementioned mouse fanatics. Big Shot stars John Stamos who has always loved Disney and isn't shy about it. He's got Walt's phone, a doll from It's A Small World, and other Disney memorabilia right at home.

In Big Shot, America's favorite uncle plays a former men's college basketball coach who loses his temper (and his job), and his only opportunity to stay in the game is at a girls private school in Southern California. The gruff coach learns lessons from his young females and rekindles his spirit of why he got into the game in the first place.

David E. Kelley, who’s been on a roll recently with Big Little LiesThe Undoing and Big Sky, provides a scenario that is poignant and self-aware. Every member of the team comments on how cute the new coach is. Stamos thoroughly enjoys himself as his team and his life improve with each episode.

Disney knows when it has a winning formula, and Big Shot fits its "after-school special with a little bit of edge" niche. It gives its audience exactly what it's looking for, the same type of feeling you get when traveling to Disneyland or Disneyworld. See you on Main Street U.S.A.!

(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)

Pray, Obey, Kill (HBO) – Five-part documentary about a bizarre Swedish murder back in 2004. Follows The Investigation as part of HBO's global mysterious murder campaign. Premieres Monday.

Dad Stop Embarrassing Me! (NETFLIX) – Super-talented Jamie Foxx plays a sitcom dad in a series inspired by his relationship with his daughter. Drops Wednesday.

Younger (PARAMOUNT+) – Back for its seventh season and a reason to get the latest streaming service. Thursday.

Wahl Street (HBO MAX) – It's Mark Wahlberg's world – we’re just lucky to be living in it. Premieres Thursday.

56th Annual ACM Awards (CBS) – Another awards show during COVID, but this one features the biggest stars in country music. Airs Sunday.

Couples Therapy (SHOWTIME) – The real-life couples are back, and now it's therapy during COVID. Isn’t there enough depression going around? Sunday.

Everlasting love, shifty European spies and Kate Winslet loses her accent...

Tuesday, April 13th

Who doesn't want to know the secret to everlasting love? These six profiles of long-lasting true love are intended to set us all on the right path.

Six couples from all over the world who have been together a minimum of 40 years get the When Harry Met Sally treatment in this six episode Netflix series. My wife and I celebrate our 30th anniversary this summer, so we didn't qualify for this year's shoot.

A peek into their lives reminds you how much the little things can mean and what it's like to have someone who knows you better than yourself. This is a documentary, and the struggles that await all of us in old age are on full display.

Spy City (AMC+)
Thursday, April 15th

Dominic Cooper plays Fielding Scott, a MI6 agent who goes to Berlin in the early 60's looking for a double agent hiding in plain sight. The Berlin Wall is being built and no one is to be trusted – we are talking prime spy territory.

Cooper continues the sharp-looking James Bond legacy breezing through Berlin in an attempt to get to the bottom of things. I wonder why this six episode series is airing on AMC+ considering what's currently airing on their main channel.

Mare Of Easttown (HBO)
Sunday, April 18th 10pm

There has been a murder in a small Pennsylvania town that needs to be solved, but the locals are more intriguing that the killing itself. Detective Mare Sheehan is on the case which is a welcome diversion from her usual duties.

An almost unrecognizable Kate Winslet is the tough detective determined to figure out what happened. You'll be asking where that accent went the entire series. The star here is Jean Smart who plays Mare's mother Helen and keeps in her place (or at least tries to).

The pacing is slow. I'm talking The Outsider kind of slow, but without the supernatural stuff. Winslet gives a powerful performance as she works through her own trauma and questions all that she knew growing up... or what she thought she knew.

If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

Wear two masks. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Monday, April 5, 2021

TV Picks - Week of April 5

Thirty years ago, if it was Thursday night, there was only one TV place to go… the stacked NBC lineup. The Cosby Show, A Different World, Cheers, Wings and L.A. Law. As the decade progressed, Mad About You, Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier, and ER joined the party. You could count on the Peacock network for quality programming every Thursday night.

There's nothing better than a bankable TV time slot. Turning on the TV on a certain day of the week without even knowing what program is coming on, but feeling assured that the entertainment will be there waiting.

Until The Apprentice came around, it was Thursday nights on NBC for me. For others who are younger, it was TGIF on ABC. You knew exactly what you were getting, and you were assured of enjoying every single week without giving it a second thought.

The most recent "sure thing" was Sunday nights on HBO. The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Deadwood, Boardwalk Empire, Game Of Thrones... a powerful list that is far from complete. The HBO Sunday bar has always been set high, and despite an occasional John from Cincinnati, the network came through.

HBO Sundays were a great launchpad for comedy, documentaries, or really anything else the network wanted to put on. The steady stream of popular shows kept the audience coming back for more.

This Sunday, HBO takes a crack at its next epic with The Nevers. Joss Whedon created this sci-fi drama about a gang of Victorian women... a superhero period piece with the ladies kicking some ass across the pond.

On paper, it's a logical move for HBO. Powerful female leads, old costumes and sets, end of 19th century London, and some science fiction mixed in… potent stuff.

What's missing though is the Sunday HBO mainstay to launch this type of fantasy show. The classic HBO shows listed above had other successful programs to build off of. Succession could be that show now, but Season 3 is not ready to roll.

The Nevers has already had to deal with issues before airing a single episode. Joss Whedon had to exit being "unable to meet challenges that impacted his life" during the pandemic. The title itself is a huge opening for critics with negative reviews (picture the "never had a chance" headlines).

Whedon excels at building fantasy worlds (Buffy, Firefly) populated with unique compelling characters. There's always a great sense of humor and plenty of empowerment to go around. This good and evil battle of women with extraordinary abilities is right up his alley.

The first season is split into two six episode parts courtesy of COVID. The trailer looks good, but let’s face it, most HBO trailers look good. The proof will be in the program itself, and hopefully it will provide a reason to not have to think twice about HBO on a Sunday night.

Even in this era of streaming and watching what you want whenever you want it, I still yearn for those bankable Thursday nights.

(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)

Chad (TBS) - Endless promotion during the NCAA tournament and I still don't know what it's about, but SNL’s Nasim Pedrad stars as a 14 year-old boy. Premieres Tuesday.

Kung Fu (CW) – I’ve lost count of the number of reboots. Airs Wednesday.

Fear The Walking Dead (AMC) - Those zombies keep creeping around. Sunday.

(For the sports aficionado or compulsive gambler)

NCAA Basketball National Championship (CBS) - The last college basketball game of the year tips off in Indiana Monday to complete everyone's already destroyed brackets.

An art heist, Erin Brockovich inspiration and suburban rot...

This Is A Robbery (NETFLIX)
Wednesday, April 7th

Art fans aren't the only ones familiar with the Gardner Museum in Boston. In 1990, one of the largest unsolved art thefts in history took place there.

This new four-part docuseries chronicles how 13 works of art were stolen from the museum in the early morning. Guards admitted two men posing as police officers who proceeded to loot the museum over the next hour.

30 years later, the world's biggest art theft remains unsolved and there's a $10 million reward for any information that leads to the prized paintings. $500 million in artwork gone missing is definitely worth looking into.

Rebel (ABC)
Thursday, April 8th 10pm

Katey Sagal, welcome back to network television. Katey plays Annie "Rebel" Bello, a woman without a law degree who fights for noble causes and defends those who can't defend themselves against big corporations.

Sound familiar? It should, because it's based on the life of Erin Brockovich, who Julia Roberts won an Oscar portraying in a Steven Soderbergh film.

Sagal is a powerhouse who thrives in this role. 

Friday, April 9th

In 1953, a black family moves from North p>Carolina to Los Angeles migrating across the country for a better life. Over a ten-day span, the family encounters terror they couldn't even imagine would happen.

Lena Waithe and Little Marvin have created an anthology series that is intense and mysterious. The family's problems aren't only outside their new home. This new house just doesn't feel right, and they quickly find out why.

The title sounds familiar. Hmmm…..

If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

Wear two masks. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Monday, March 29, 2021

TV Picks - Week of March 29

This Thursday night, it’s time for Law & Order: Organized Crime. That's right, another spinoff from the drama that first premiered in 1990. That’s one heck of a shelf life, and if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

We just keep coming back for more helpings of this Law & Order comfort food. The "ripped from the headlines" mantra generates ratings, and that's what the game is all about. "True crime" documentaries haven't gotten in the way at all as some prefer good looking actors to the real thing.

NBC is pulling out all the stops by reuniting their top team... at least for one night. Organized Crime isn't about a new hot city or reuniting some minor characters. This is a biggie — Christopher Meloni is returning to the franchise.

It’s been a decade since Meloni left amid a contract dispute. The hot-headed detective was a Special Victims Unit staple and a big loss. Now Detective Stabler returns to the NYPD with a series all his own. Sure he's an all-too familiar character in a brand new landscape, but will his ways work in today's police environment?

Naturally, there's no better way to kick things off with a SVU crossover episode featuring, you guessed it, captain Olivia Benson (the character Taylor Swift named her cat after). This is a reunion all L&O fans are excited about. Stabler resigned from the sex crimes unit and Benson was completely devastated. They won't be together every week, but something tells me this won't be the only time they meet on the job.

Don't even question if the ratings will be there — they will. NBC is giving the audience exactly what it wants. The spinoffs will keep coming if the viewers keep on tuning in. Sadly, there are way too many stories to rip from the headlines these days.

Thursday at 9, Stabler returns to make things right with Benson. At 10, he's back with the NYPD going after organized crime. Plenty of comfort food to go around.

(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)

Pooch Perfect (ABC) - Rebel Wilson hosts a dog grooming competition — yup. Premieres Tuesday.

Supergirl (CW) - How did we get to Season 6 already? Airs Tuesday.

SAG Awards (TBS/TNT) - Awards shows have not been getting the ratings, and this one will likely keep that streak alive. Sunday.

(For the sports aficionado or compulsive gambler)

NCAA Basketball Elite 8 & Final 4 (CBS, TBS) - The Final Four will be determined on Monday and Tuesday, and the national semifinals take place on Saturday night.

Sunday Night Baseball (ESPN) - Spring is officially here when baseball is back. It's the Chicago White Sox vs. the Los Angeles Angels at 8:30 PM ET, and it counts!

Cristin Milioti attempts to exit a bad romance, a serial killer on the Hippie Trail, and a new Hulu doc tackles WeWork.

Made For Love (HBO MAX)
Thursday, April 1st

This one takes getting out of a bad marriage to a new level. After ten years of being wed to a suffocating tech billionaire, Cristin Milioti is on the run. The only problem is the monitoring device he had implanted in her brain to monitor her emotional levels. This is one bad romance.

Cristin Milioti has become one of my favorite actresses. Her strength and vulnerability was on full display in memorable roles in Palm Springs, Modern Love, Black Mirror and Fargo, making her must-see TV for me.

Made For Love kicks off in the thick of things and features flashbacks showing how the couple arrived at this moment. This storytelling device has become commonplace, and putting the pieces together can be a distraction. Sometimes a linear story is best.

The Serpent (NETFLIX)
Friday, April 2nd

If you traveled down the Hippie Trail in Southeast Asia during the 1970's, you did not want to run into Charles Sobhraj. The serial killer preyed upon tourists and beatniks and often got caught. He would drug guards and fake illness to escape his sentences earning his nickname "The Serpent."

This crazy story is a true one, and that's the most frightening aspect of this eight-parter on Netflix. Sobhraj's problems start in the late 1950s and increase in severity and tragedy as time goes on. Keep reminding yourself that this is non-fiction that you're watching. 

WeWork Or The Making And Breaking Of A $47 Billion Unicorn (HULU)
Friday, April 2nd

I can't remember my first meeting at a WeWork facility. Self-employed contractors needed a place to meet, and the modern look and comfy furniture were a nice touch. I had no idea leasing an office could potentially be so lucrative.

The idea of a capitalistic kibbutz led by a super charming CEO quickly became a tech darling. WeWork transformed simple office space rentals into an inspirational cult-like place to work. A very big foreign check started the engine that could... until it couldn't.

This Hulu documentary chronicles the rise and demise of WeWork, and (spoiler alert) it wasn't COVID that did it in.

If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

Wear two masks. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

TV Picks - Week of March 22

Who doesn't love a good documentary about a music superstar? This week sees two new profiles of two generational pop stars who climbed to the top of the mountain in their own unique ways.

Stardom at a young age. Millions of adoring fans. Dealing with their own personal demons.

One is 28 years old and from Albuquerque. The other is 81 years old and from Nutbush.

The four-part docuseries Demi Lovato: Dancing With The Devil premieres this Tuesday on YouTube. The pop sensation recalls her relapse and overdose in such a direct manner you feel like you're in rehab with her.

Over the years plenty of pop stars have put out documentaries giving fans unprecedented access into their private lives. But they never seem too vulnerable or out of control, which is to say you always know they had final cut. Demi Lovato takes things to a new level describing how she danced with the devil.

Lovato tackles her demons head on in a refreshingly honest way. Sexual assault, family issues, self-harm, and failing to stay sober are covered with unflinching clarity. Her first trip to rehab was as an 18 year old who had already amassed a lifetime of secrets. Mix in a Disney star background with her pop hits and you've got some must-see TV.

Lovato still has her entire career in front of her and she knows it's going to be a bumpy road. Tina Turner is looking back at a life that was anything but nice and easy.

Turner says, "look what I've done in a lifetime with this body." The HBO doc Tina premieres this Saturday at 8pm and chronicles her journey from the cotton fields to super stardom.

Tina Turner is one of the most exciting live performers to ever grace this planet. Mick Jagger stole her dance moves. She is a ball of energy whose spirit is infectious. And she had every reason in the world not to become that person.

The 1993 film What's Love Got To Do With It details Turners' rise from Nutbush and her struggles with her husband Ike. She dealt with a much different form of abuse than Lovato, and then had to go on stage and perform with the devil himself. Ike and Tina Turner are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their live performances which are best described as "intense".

Tina dealt with Ike and disappeared for a bit in the late 70's, but came back with a vengeance in the 80's. She always maintained that voice and those moves, and the world applauded her Private Dancer success. This is another profile of a female artist who had to battle so much to achieve her success. These props are long overdue.

This doc features Angela Bassett, who played Turner in her biopic, Oprah Winfrey, and countless others who tell her story and pay their respects. It's directed by Oscar and Emmy winners Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin. HBO hit it out of the park with the Bee Gees documentary, and this one is right up there with that.

The film coincides with Turner's solo Rock Hall nomination which would put her in the Cleveland shrine without Ike. She's simply the best.

(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)

Seaspiracy (NETFLIX) - A documentary on the environmental impact of seafood. Drops Wednesday. 

John Wayne Gacy: Devil in Disguise (PEACOCK) - A docuseries on one of the more notable serial killers of our day. Drops Thursday

Cocktails & Tall Tales with Ina Garten & Melissa McCarthy (DISCOVERY +) - The Barefoot Contessa chats with the always hilarious actress. Drops  Friday.

(For the sports aficionado or compulsive gambler)

NCAA Basketball Tournament (CBS, TNT, TBS, TRU TV) - Round two of the Madness ends on Monday night, then the Sweet 16 keeps you busy all weekend.

The Day Sports Stood Still (HBO) - Antoine Fuqua chronicles the moment COVID arrived in many star athletes' lives this documentary airing Wednesday night.

The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers (DISNEY +) - We know the formula, but this time it's Lauren Graham standing up for the not so popular kids and she enlists Emilio Estevez back to the ice. Long live Coach Bombay! Premieres Friday.

This week features parental stress, an animated superhero's son struggles, and a return to racist Boston...

Breeders (FX)
Monday, March 22nd 10pm Season 2 premiere

Everyone wants kids, and then you have to raise them. And as your frustration boils over you wonder why no one ever created a show chronicling these wonderful challenging times.

Breeders was born out of Martin Freeman's parental hell. We love our kids, but there are many moments when they drive us insane. The first season of this FX dark comedy went to places you'd never thought you'd go as a parent.

Overwhelmed parental anxiety continues in the second season. You want to give your kids the freedom to make mistakes as you struggle to protect them at all costs. And let's not forget the grandparents who chime in with their two cents and lessons to be learned. If you've had kids, you've lived this show. If not, you can just laugh at all of us fools.

Invincible (AMAZON)
Friday, March 26th

Father son relationships are tough, but when dad is the world's most powerful super hero, it's all the more difficult to follow in his footsteps.

Robert Kirkman had some success with his first program involving zombies on AMC who are still walking around. This 8-episode animated show is based on another Kirkman comic, but this one is all about superheroes.

Walking Dead alum Steven Yuen voices lead character Mark Grayson, the teenage son of the world's most powerful super hero voiced by JK Simmons. The star-studded cast also features Sandra Oh, Seth Rogen, Mark Hamill and Mahershala Ali. It's a tale worth checking out.

City On A Hill (SHOWTIME)
Sunday, March 28th 10pm Season 2 Premiere

Kevin Bacon returns to Boston for a second season. This time, it's Roxbury that's understandably distrustful of local law enforcement. Tensions run hot in the 90's, and sadly it reminds us how times really haven't changed all that much.

A coalition leader for a federal housing project gets undermined by some local gang activity. Kevin Bacon's FBI agent looks to exploit Boston's horrendous criminal justice system. An assistant district attorney catches on and it's war between the US and local attorneys.

Bacon gets things done in the most corrupt way possible and makes no apologies for his actions. He's an anti-hero in a blatantly racist world on a show that's all about fighting the system. It's awkward watching this one, and it should feel that way.

If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

Wear two masks. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Monday, March 15, 2021

TV Picks - Week of March 15

The inevitable Netflix documentary about the 2019 college admissions scandal involving actors, masters of the universe, admissions counselors and Photoshop has arrived. Everyone will want to dig in to Operation Varsity Blues.

There's a distinct formula for most docs these days. An outlandish story involving privilege and deceit ripped from the headlines that features lots of talking heads, reflections from involved parties, archived footage, and last but not least, reenactments to fill in the blanks.

Chris Smith, who directed the Netflix Fyre Festival doc, handles Operation Varsity Blues in a unique way. There's plenty of news footage from the scandal and the prerequisite talking heads, but the reenactments do not consist of shadows or no-name actors.

Matthew Modine stars as Rick Singer, the mastermind behind the admissions scandal, and his dialogue is entirely based on FBI wiretaps. You might recognize some of the other actors in the reenactments, but let's face it, this story tells itself.

Modine is very good reciting his Feds dialogue as are the actors portraying the parents who pay to walk through "side doors" to get their kids into high profile colleges. I respect trying something different to bring those Bureau conversations to life, but it's simply not necessary when you consider the subject matter.

The interviews with former Stanford sailing coach John Vandemoer are jarring because the actual person (not an actor playing him) is explaining his interactions with Rick Singer. The coach's recollections coupled with actual footage of Singer, Olivia Jade, and the other parties involved in the scandal overshadows any reenactment.

I know a thing or two about the college admissions process. The last job I held before joining The Howard Stern Show was Vice President of Marketing at The Princeton Review. We helped students raise test scores by teaching them to understand the nature of the test. The only thing the SAT (or any so-called aptitude test) measures is how well you take that exam on that day.

My former employer, and other test prep services, do not come off well in this doc as they've long been a tool for those who can afford them. The real problem is the SAT and standardized testing itself which should have been abolished a long time ago. Test preparation companies provide an advantage, but it's nothing compared to what Rick Singer was up to.

Talking heads in this doc point out how the admissions crunch is really about the parents. They couldn't get into Stanford or Yale, but their financial success enables them to use Singer to get their child into the college of the parents' dreams. The prestige of "name" colleges and its perceived value in today's society are also rightfully called into question.

The crafty and despicable Singer details three ways to get into the college of your choice. The front door is merit-based, the back door is a multi-million dollar donation, and the side door is his way in. The willingness of parents to walk their kids through that side door gives new meaning to doing anything you can for your children.

Operation Varsity Blues provides an education in taking advantage of the tremendous pressure high school kids are put under by their parents. Cyndi Lauper sang it best… "money changes everything."

(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)

Waffles and Mochi (NETFLIX) - Michelle Obama, two puppets and a score of celebs teach us all how to eat better. Yes, I'm serious. The ten-episode series drops Tuesday.

Keeping Up With The Kardashians (E!) - The final season premieres Thursday, don't let the door hit you…

Overserved with Lisa Vanderpump (E!) - The first season premieres Thursday, don't let the door hit you…

Country Comfort (NETFLIX) - Katherine McPhee is an aspiring country singer and… you can fill in the blanks. The complete first season drops Friday.

Q: Into The Storm (HBO) - This QAnon profile is the perfect depressing follow up to Allen vs Farrow Sundays at 9.

This week features two actors at home, phone calls, the next Marvel series and the queen of soul…

Staged (HULU)
Tuesday, March 16th Season 2 premiere

David Tennant and Michael Sheen return in arguably the most compelling programming created during the pandemic.

In the six-episode first season, Tennant and Sheen play fictionalized versions of themselves bickering as they try to rehearse for a play via videoconference. The saga of the furloughed actors is reminiscent of Larry David in Curb - how much of the real guys are we seeing here?

Back for an eight-episode second season, the "real" Tennant and Sheen find the first Staged season was a big success and is being brought to America, but they have not been asked to reprise their roles. A litany of well-known actors pop in for season two as you question once again who is acting or really being themselves.

Calls (APPLE TV+)
Friday, March 19th

Yet another adaptation with a big name cast for Apple's streaming service, but this premise is truly a unique one.

Based on a French TV series, this compilation of short stories has no visual element. It's voices and subtitles...that's it. After figuring out which actor is playing the part, there are some scary stories to listen to and imagine the worst in your mind.

I'm all for shaking things up on TV, but having no visual component lends itself to a different medium. I make my living on the radio, and these would be really interesting to hear on the air. On my TV screen, well, I'm just going to have to see what I'm missing.

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier (DISNEY+)
Friday, March 19th

Bucky and Sam step out of Steve Rogers' shadow to take the lead in the newest TV chapter in the Marvel universe. Time for them to grab the shield.

The success of Wandavision raised the bar for this twosome. The mind of the Scarlet Witch was not what people expected as it generated tons of buzz during the pandemic.

This six-episode series shapes up to be more traditional in the Marvel sense and picks up right after Avengers: Endgame. Expectations have been set, but bank on the creators shake things up a bit in phase four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Genius: Aretha (NAT GEO)
Sunday, March 21st

The first genius was Einstein. Next was Picasso. Now it's Aretha Franklin's turn

Cynthia Erivo steps up as the queen of soul. The long anticipated eight-parter chronicles Aretha's career and influence on culture around the world. The award-winning actress will perform many of the songs, and her singing can make or break the latest chapter in the Genius series.

We all know the tunes, but this is a good reminder of how Aretha affected civil rights and other causes during her storied career. Not only was she arguably the greatest singer of all time, but without knowing how to read music this gospel prodigy taught herself how to play the piano.

Nat Geo will air two episodes nightly for four consecutive nights, with each episode available to watch on Hulu the next day.


If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.

Wear two masks. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.