Wednesday, February 24, 2021

TV Picks - Week of February 22

I have a love-hate relationship with the Golden Globe Awards. Apologies to the mighty Hollywood Foreign Press Association. They never get it right, which used to be really entertaining to watch. Now, it's just plain boring.

Not so long ago, the Golden Globes were considered to be a joke by most folks. Pia Zadora won Best New Star over Kathleen Turner and Elizabeth McGovern in 1982, and many assumed her then husband just bought the award. Unfortunately, the Globes had to contend with that type of reputation for many decades. 

But even under that kind of scrutiny, the Globes earned the reputation of being the best awards show to attend. Drinks and loose conversation always flowed. Movies, TV,  music – all the big names were there. There were no cameras around, so there were no worries. It was what all award shows aspired to be – fun and well attended by big-time celebrities. Thank you Hollywood Foreign Press!

As the entertainment world became "global" thanks to technology, the golden statuettes grew in power and, dare I say it, prestige. Sure most of the nominations still made little to no sense, but sitting at those big round tables with the champagne flowing never got old – even when cable TV cameras arrived. No one misses out on a good A-List party in L.A..

Some things though prove too good to be true, and when network TV got a hold of the Globes, the fun was gone. All of the craziness was reigned in. The celebs were on their best behavior and spontaneity disappeared.  Ricky Gervais tried as hard as he could to keep that renegade spark alive, but you can't fight the system.

Recent Golden Globe nominations and winners have certainly improved. There will never be another Pia Zadora, but that's the most disappointing thing about todays double G's. The crazy nominee or two that the HFPA would dig up was always a treat. Those days are long gone.

The Globes still aren't an accurate Oscar or Emmy predictor, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. This Sunday night, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will make us laugh once again and get in a few good zingers. Awards will be presented and speeches will be made COVID-style. NBC ratings will drop, and the real fun will start when the cameras go off. 

Somewhere, Pia Zadora is holding her Globe...and smiling.

Here's a new feature for the week - SPTINAFOBYME (shows premiering that I'm not a fan of but you might be)!

Superman & Lois - Premieres on the CW this Tuesday. This plot is turning into super Ross and Rachel. 

Punky Brewster - Peacock revives the NBC sitcom Saved By The Bell style

The Walking Dead - Yup, it's still on, and they're still fightin' those pesky zombies.

My attention is drawn this week to a Swedish junior hockey team, Gilmore Girls expectations and a 19 year old pop sensation...

Beartown (HBO MAX)
Monday, February 22nd

This one had me at small-town Swedish junior hockey team has a shot at the national title. But Beartown is anything but Hoosiers (I know it's a different sport)

All the pressure in the world falls on these Swedish teens who can do magical things on the ice. But the off-ice relationships and intensity takes its toll on the small town leading to some major conflict. 

Based on a bestselling novel, this five-parter maintains its intensity throughout. And it's not just the coach who is on edge as the team tries to create its own Swedish miracle on ice. 

Ginny & Georgia (NETFLIX) 
Wednesday, February 23rd

Georgia, a former teen mom, and Ginny, her daughter, live out their lives in a picturesque New England town in this latest tale from Netflix. Sound familiar?

Don't worry...in the beginning of the trailer Georgia declares "we're like the Gilmore Girls, but with bigger boobs". The lead characters names both start with the letter "G". But don't let those similarities fool you.

Georgia will cross any line to provide for Ginny, and challenges await up in the Northeast. The bar has been set with the Gilmore Girls comparisons - these two G's need to deliver on their own.

Billie Eilish: The World's A Little Blurry (APPLE TV+)
Friday, February 25th 

I first heard about Billie Eilish from my daughter, Emily. One of her songs came on and she incredulously asked "Dad, you listen to Billie Eilish?" The song came on randomly, but I pretended like I was cool. It didn't fly.

This 19 year old sensation is the next big celeb Apple wrangled to appear on their streaming service. With RJ Cutler at the helm of this documentary, we get to see Billie in her creative element and dealing with A-List celebrity issues before leaving her teens. 

When Billie came on the Stern show with her brother Phinneas, I was impressed not just by their musical abilities, but their maturity at such a young age. After a two-hour radio interview, I wanted to know more and see inside that house. This doc does that and even more.

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

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

TV Picks - Week of February 15

Britney did it again. She has captured the nation's attention, but this time it's for an entirely different reason. 

Framing Britney Spears originally aired on FX and is now available on Hulu. This New York Times documentary examines the conservatorship Britney's father Jamie currently holds and the ongoing court battle that has ensued. But there's so much more to this doc than that.

Britney has been "away" long enough to draw a fraction of the interest she once held. We all have had our opinions about Britney. She was all over pop music in the 90s, all over the tabloids in the 00s, and an enigma throughout the 10s. The pop star was everywhere yet no one really knew much about her.

This doc is well crafted. The first part examines Britney's childhood and how she broke into the industry at such a young age. Her early appearances are reminiscent of the recent Tiger Woods doc - how could this amazingly talented child ever miss? She didn't. 

When Britney hits it big in pop music, she's a young teen thrust into the limelight she (and her parents) craved. I remember my daughters singing Britney songs over and over again. The kid from Kentwood, Louisiana was a global superstar before she turned 16.

The videos in the documentary of Britney at this age are telling. She's mature for her years, seems very much in control, and enjoying every minute of her pop success. At this age I always ask the same question - where are the parents and how are they dealing with their child's success?

The controversy starts to build and no one escapes unscathed. Tabloid reporting. News anchors. Talk show hosts. Boy band lead singers. Misogyny galore. Kevin Federline and the kids enter the picture, and the paparazzi cranks it up a notch. Who needs who? Britney divorces and the custody battle begins. She starts to slip away, but who could hold it together under that pressure?

Britney snaps. She shaves her head wanting to establish some control. Rolling Stone, Us and the rest of the world is there to watch. When the conservatorship is established, it made a lot of sense to the outside world. Britney was out of control and who better to trust than her dad looking out for her best interests. But is that what Jamie is doing?

Britney returns and the money rolls in...to the conservatorship. The Vegas residency is big dollars, until Britney decides to stop and take control. At least that's what we think.

The main drawback of Framing Britney Spears is how we never see the other side of things. It is very one-sided. The Spears family doesn't chime in. Who knows how damaging Britney was to her own cause? To quote the pop star, she's not that innocent, but you get the feeling she never stood a chance with her parents at the helm of her career.

This documentary is must-see and makes you feel for Britney. She's a star, but anything but lucky (I'll stop with the lyrics, I promise). I'm all for #FreeBritney, but let's get the full story first.

This week, we've got a British love triangle, a fake space race, and the Farrow/Allen saga to explore...

Behind Her Eyes (NETFLIX)
Wednesday, February 17th

Another British import adapted from a best-selling book - and this one works from the get-go. A secretary gets caught between love for the boss and a friendship with his wife and awkwardness oozes everywhere.

The "something's not right here" vibe persists through all six episodes. Simona Brown is excellent as the lead Louise, and her boss Tom Bateman (good looking Scottish actor) and his wife Eve Hewson (good looking Euro with a short haircut) play quite the odd couple. 

The end of the book earned its #WTFthatending hashtag, and I look forward to getting to the final episode to learn what's really going on here. Enjoy the ride.

For All Mankind (APPLE TV+) 
Friday, February 19th  Season 2 premiere

Never bet against Ronald D. Moore. All of his shows aren't hits, but there are few who write outer space drama better than the guy who successfully rebooted Battlestar Galactica

The second season of the what-if premise of Russia getting to the moon before America has fun with the different path history could have taken. The astronaut struggles continue as Moore clearly has fun with his fake space race. 

There are stretches where the show gets caught up in its own drama, but when it clicks there's some fantastic television to behold. It's not The Right Stuff, but it sure feels like you're inside NASA when these missions that never happened happen. 

Allen v. Farrow (HBO & HBO MAX)
Sunday, February 21st 9pm

This new documentary uses archival footage and interviews to examine a story we've become all too familiar with. Woody Allen has never been charged of a crime, but claims of his taking advantage of his then 7 year old daughter have persisted. 

Controversy is no stranger to the Oscar winning filmmaker who quoted Dickinson when referring to his relationship with Mia's daughter Soon-Yi – "the heart wants it wants." When I lived on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in the early 90's, I passed Woody and Soon-Yi on a neighborhood stroll. I've always been in awe of Woody's comedy, but his relationship choices leave me shaking my head. I gave a quick wave of appreciation for his work, and they both politely smiled and waved back. They were a happy couple, but I couldn't help think of Mia and her family dynamic.  

This four-part series sheds light on the controversy as it explores Woody's controversial personal choices and Dylan's quest to bring his truth to light. I always preferred Woody Allen's comedies to his dramas. This real-life drama is to compelling not to pay close attention to. 

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

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

Monday, February 8, 2021

TV Picks - Week of February 8

"Hello, Clarice..."

My favorite word to describe network television – "predictable". Network execs are tasked with catering to a mass audience that apparently limits the amount of "niche" programming you can do. For every Twin Peaks or LOST, there are countless titles with exclamation points at the end and quick shelf lives. 

A go-to move for any network is greenlighting a new show based on a popular film. The logic is simple – millions paid to see this in theaters, so if we can grab the rights and maybe even land an actor or two from the movie, it's a built-in audience without an aggressive marketing campaign. 

How could this fail? Let me count the ways. For every M*A*S*H, Buffy and Parenthood, there are many more turning out like Delta House, Clueless or Ferris Bueller.

The only differences between movies and TV shows aren't the screen size and star power. It's all about expectations. Going to see a movie is a unique storytelling experience as you're immersed in that world for the first time – even if you've read a review. The challenge of the TV program is to build upon that initial experience and maintaining interest for more than two hours. Not an easy task.

Fargo is an excellent recent example of doing this the right way. It has the advantage of airing on cable providing much needed leeway for creativity. Noah Hawley took the Coen brothers universe and created unique storylines that made sense there. Having Billy Bob Thornton star the first season didn't hurt either. 

CBS, having previously come up short with gems like Fast Times and Dirty Dancing, is trying a new recently successful streaming tactic. Take an enormously popular film and create an entire series based on another character!

I don't shy away from my affection for Cobra Kai which is currently airing on Netflix. The main story is based on Johnny Lawrence, the bad guy in the original film. Ralph Macchio is a big part of the current story, but this is Johnny's tale and the mix of nostalgia is just right. This isn't the karate kid's story...it's the other guy's turn.

Thomas Harris' novel The Silence of the Lambs is fertile territory. Many movies have been based on his characters. NBC had a winner in Hannibal which followed the early relationship of the terrifying doctor and FBI profiler Will Graham. This time around, the story revolves around the female FBI investigator made famous by Jodie Foster one year after the Silence took place.

Dr. Lecter was the breakout star of the Oscar winning film, and now it's Ms. Starling's turn on the small screen. Clarice delves back into the world of serial murderers, sexual predators and federal politics in an adjusted mental state. It has been a long time since we've seen Clarice, but CBS has plenty of shows that have thrived in this creepy world involving the FBI.

Hannibal succeeded without Anthony Hopkins. Rebecca Breeds has her work cut out playing a most memorable agent within the confines of network television. The odds are against Clarice, but she has overcome tougher ones before. 

It's a slow week for new stuff, so catch up on stuff you've missed or check out this week's picks.

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at Cecil Hotel (NETFLIX)
Wednesday, February 10th

Netflix has become true-crime central, and now it turns to a L.A. hotel that's well known for its creepy history. 

This four-part miniseries chronicles the death-related events that occurred in the lodging establishment nicknamed Hotel Death. This hotel has quite the track record – home base for serial killers like Richard Rodriguez, multiple murders, many suicides, and even links to the Black Dahlia murder.

The main focus is the disappearance of Elisa Lam whose body was discovered in the hotel water tower back in 2013. Learning about the history of this place makes you wonder why anyone would ever set foot inside. 

American Idol (ABC)
Sunday, February 14th 8pm

This...is American Idol?

Yes, Idol is still on the air with Ryan Seacrest at its helm. No longer the ratings juggernaut it was on FOX, the national search for the next Carrie Underwood keeps chugging along over at ABC. 

Recent mom Katy Perry returns with Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan behind the judges table. Any Idol contestant has much to overcome, and COVID adds yet another hurdle to achieving the ultimate TV singing success. Singing from your home can be a blessing or a curse.

Families continue to gather around to watch fame wannabes sing their hearts out. Never thought I'd yearn for the day to hear Ryan shout "you're going to Hollywood!" once again.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
Sunday, February 14th 10pm

How dare John Oliver take his vacation during the past few weeks of political craziness! The automatic Emmy winner returns this Sunday to a world just as screwed up as it was before he left. 

Last Week Tonight stands out among numerous shows modeled just like this on cable TV. Oliver is a brilliant host with great timing and a wonderful accent. The show is always funny and informative in a way that never feels patronizing. 

Hiatuses are something all TV watchers have to live with. It has been too long, John. Good to see you and that wonderful void of yours once again.

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

Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

TV Picks - Week of February 1

You might have heard that the Kansas City Chiefs will battle the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at their home stadium in Super Bowl LV (that's 55 if you don't know your Roman numerals) this Sunday.

How can you miss the hype?

A ton of preparation goes into any Super Bowl matchup, and I'm not even talking about the game. I'm referring to how to watch the final NFL contest of the year.

COVID took care of any plans to watch with a crew at a Super Bowl party. Fine by me. The crowd often pays more attention to the commercials than the actual game. I care more about what Tony Romo thinks of the Chiefs defensive alignment than the latest way to sell a Skittle. 

This year's big game kicks off at 630pm on CBS, but the hype machine starts rolling much earlier than that. At this point, no one needs nonstop analysis examining every single angle of the Super Bowl matchup. I know more about Tom Brady than some of my closest relatives.

Allow me to plan your Super Sunday on that new big-screen television of yours...

PREGAME

Noon - Weather Forecast (The Weather Channel)

Determine whether you'll be inside all day or have the option to venture outdoors and throw a football around or even do some errands (wearing a mask).  Your local forecast is a key ingredient for a successful Super Sunday. Plus you can laugh at the weather in other parts of the country that is worse than your own.

1pm - Food Forecast (Food Network or one of the many Discovery Channels)

Your first lesson in counter programming. I'm sure you've determined what you'll be having for dinner and any Super snacks. Be sure to take the opposite route for lunch. If it's pizza at night, have a burger or hot dogs for lunch and take it easy considering what lies ahead. Watching your favorite food channel can give you some excellent ideas.

2pm - Puppy Bowl XVII (Animal Planet) or Kitten Bowl VIII (Hallmark)

Counter programming lesson number two – these housepet battles have been going on for years. If you're a degenerate, it's a great way to get the gambling rolling. Both of these championships are the perfect break from analyzing what Andy Reid will wear and the wind shifts in Tampa, Florida. It raises awareness to great causes, and these animals are really cute. 

3pm - Super Bowl Highlights (NFL Network, NBC Sports, ESPN)

The NFL Network, soon to be gone NBC Sports Network or one of the ESPNs will be showing old Super Bowls. Watch and remember when this Sunday was just about the game. Get that NFL Films special feeling. If it's one of the Steelers six wins, I'll be locked in for sure. 

4pm - Movie Time

Probably the most controversial move I make on Super Bowl Sunday. I work on one of these sports channels and respect what they do, but it has been two weeks of debating the ins and outs of this game. Time for a break, but not a break from football. 

There are many football movies, but this is the Super Bowl, so you should watch one of the best. My go-to is the original version of The Longest Yard starring Burt Reynolds and the Mean Machine. Other options include Friday Night Lights (movie or TV show is acceptable), Brian's Song if you want a good cry, Remember The Titans with Denzel leading the way, or last but not least, Rudy to make you feel like you can play. Any Given Sunday is too heavy and we'll save Draft Day for the NFL Draft. 

Bottom line – you've killed two hours and stayed in football mode.  

6pm – Actual Pregame Show (CBS)

We're almost at kickoff. Use this time to set up snacks, take a bathroom break, walk the dog, and take out the garbage. Get all of that stuff out of the way so you can focus on the game. 

The R&B/Country national anthem will be outshined by H.E.R. performing America the Beautiful. Both teams enter. A coin will be tossed (tails 6 of the last 7 Super Bowls). This is acceptable pregame chatter. Even casual conversation is welcome until...

GAME TIME

630pm – Kickoff

Time to focus on the Chiefs and the Bucs playing for the title. The first half is typically boring, but these offenses have the potential to explode at any time. Ads have been disappointing since they became available before the actual game telecast, so just laugh at the amounts of money wasted by companies all over America. 

Approximately 8pm  – Halftime show (Dinner/Bathroom Break)

Time to take a break from football and get to the entertainment...for some. For me, it's time for the bathroom and to grab some quality food since everyone else is busy watching the spectacle. No offense to The Weeknd, but he's not exactly The Rolling Stones. And, oh yeah, this is a FOOTBALL game. What are the players thinking as they wait for double the amount of time they normally do during this extended break? 

POSTGAME

Approximately 10pm – The Trophy Presentation

The game has ended and the Gatorade has been poured. Hopefully it was a battle to the end and one of these great QB's orchestrated a last minute drive for the victory. Confetti is everywhere and I wonder how they clean it all up as the Vince Lombardi trophy is awarded to the Super Bowl LV champ.

Next up, it's Queen Latifah as The Equalizer! No thanks, I need to go to bed. 

February is actually here. It's a new month, with lots to watch this week. And not just football. Super!

The Investigation (HBO)
Monday, February 1st 10pm

A Swedish journalist boards a small submarine back in 2017 to interview a Danish entrepreneur. She doesn't make it back, and the world renown submarine case is born.

This six-part Scandinavian drama focuses on the team that investigates this gruesome murder gathering evidence from a sunken sub. This takes true-crime to a new level. (Game of Thrones fans...Euron Greyjoy is the good guy in this!)

HBO has been all over true crime lately, and they've gotten more active with foreign acquisitions. This series reminds me of Bordertown on Netflix, but Kari Sorjonen was a fictional investigator on the Finland/Russian border. This chilling investigative series is based on events that actually occurred, and that's just plain scary. 

Fake Famous (HBO MAX)
Tuesday, February 2nd

Three people in L.A. with small social media followings want to be influencers. Fake followers and bots help boost their numbers as this documentary chronicles their journey towards what we call fame these days. 

The big question is – are they really famous? What does a "like" really mean, and why is it so important to so many of us? Fame can be lucrative, but how you earn it has dramatically changed with the influence of social media. Make money is one thing, but being famous is something else.

There's nothing I respect less than someone who is famous for the sake of being famous. Show some accomplishments or some sacrifice. I don't begrudge anyone their followers, but the price of fame today is downright depressing.

Firefly Lane (NETFLIX)
Wednesday, February 3rd 

Two female best friends have been there for each other for decades and carry an unbreakable bond. Getting older will provide the ultimate test of friendship. Looks like I'll be watching this one with my wife. 

Katherine Heigl and Sarah Chalke star as the unlikely pair of Tully and Kate in this Netflix series. Both actresses have show great senses of humor in previous roles. Heigl is an EP, so this one is near and dear to her heart. 

Firefly Lane slips right into the sweet spot of one of Netflix's many algorithms. Adapt a bestselling book about friendship, and let the binging begin.

Al Davis vs The NFL (ESPN)
Thursday, February 4th 9pm

The late Al Davis was always a fighter. His football team, the Oakland Raiders have always reflected that defining characteristic. The mighty silver and black.

Al's legacy is tailor made for an ESPN 30 for 30. I wonder why it took so long to make considering all the subject matter this Emmy winning series has covered. 

The Raiders have a beautiful new stadium in Las Vegas that they now call home. Al would be very proud. It only took 40 years to get it. 

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

Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Monday, January 25, 2021

TV Picks - Week of January 25

"I watch a lot of TV, but that's my job." 

I've been using that excuse for decades. The truth is, I loved watching TV before I learned how to walk. I'm fortunate to have made a career of it, but I'd watch just as much even if I was never paid a single dollar to do so.

I never bought the "too much TV is bad for you" argument either. You'll often hear that from elite pseudo intellectuals who feel books and museums are the only way to go. Once they get off their high horses, they'll see TV is a low-cost all-inclusive medium . If you've got an interest, there's a program out there for you either free or for a reasonable price.

Plenty of programs that fall through the cracks as I flip through all of these channels. When I was running jumptheshark.com, I didn't miss a thing. Viewers from other countries would contact me about shows I had never heard of. My viewing was updated on a nightly basis for a decade. 

Since I sold the site in 2006, the number of channels and offerings have dramatically increased. Netflix only mailed DVDs back then. It's almost impossible to keep up with everything that's on with all the options out there today...but I try. 

The good news is that I get to play catchup and watch series that I missed during their initial run. I keep an ongoing list (who doesn't) of TV that I need to see. It's nice to have quality stuff in the hopper.

Here are some shows that were on my radar but I never got to the first time around. I was able to avoid spoilers before checking these programs out, so I will extend the same courtesy in my reviews. 

Imposters (NETFLIX)

Missed this one because it originally aired on Bravo in 2017. Let's just say I've never been a big fan of the programming slate on that particular cable channel. Shame on me. 

Imposters starts with a simple con, but evolves into so much more. The acting is really good, there are plenty of laugh out loud moments, the plot twists are surprising, and the morality tale never gets too preachy.

Everyone in the cast looks like other more famous stars, except for Uma Thurman and Brian Benben (from Dream On) who are actually on the show. Lead actress Inbar Lavi (no, not Maggie Siff) is the glue who holds it all together and is mesmerizing to watch.   

Money Heist (NETFLIX)

I've started Lupin (great pilot), but had to get through Money Heist first. No issue here watching with subtitles and hearing the drama play out in its native tongue. Dubbing has improved, but if you want to capture the essence of any drama, listen and read along.

The Money Heist pilot plays like a feature film, but I expected something else for the remainder of the series. Happy to be surprised. Great character development, plenty of intense drama, and of course, the heist happening during it all keeps you hooked. 

The Wilds (AMAZON)

I recommended this show months ago when it debuted. The pilot feels like Lost for young women and potential Olympic gymnasts. There are plenty of Lindelof-style flashbacks as family drama oozes in this island mystery. 

This one is tough to review and remain spoiler-free, so let's just say some elements work well and others are a bit contrived. Overall, it's a good show with plenty of conflict that keeps you guessing all the way through. 

Don't worry, I haven't forgot about the new stuff. Here are my picks for this week...

The Price Is Right At Night (CBS)
Wednesday, January 27th 8pm

Yodeling. Golf. Plinko. The highest rated daytime show returns to prime time once again. And as always, it's all about the game. 

Bob Barker was irreplaceable, until Drew Carey came along. Bob's spayed and neutered charm is no longer there, but there's enough nostalgia in the current TPIR to satisfy anyone who wants to come on down. Drew's eternal love for this legendary game show always comes through. 

Once you get your Price Is Right fix, the next night celebrities spin the Wheel of Fortune on ABC. I love Wheel, but TPIR has a wholesomeness that will never go away. I look forward to the $1 bids, spinning the vertical wheel, and guessing how much that Showcase Showdown is worth without going over. 

The Great Escapists (AMAZON)
Friday, January 29th

Who doesn't love a great escape? Two buddies who are very good with their hands are stranded Gilligan style in this docuseries. 

Richard Hammond from the UK's Top Gear and Tony Belleci from Mythbusters only have their intellect and shipwreck scraps to survive a desert island. These two believe in science - and their skills get put to the ultimate test. 

This island is so beautiful you wonder why the two of them would ever want to leave. Watching them come up with engineering feats that the Professor could only dream of as they one-up each other is the highlight of the series. 

The Lady and The Dale (HBO)
Sunday, January 31st 9pm

In the 1970's, a woman fooled the country with her fuel-efficient three-wheeled car. This four-part documentary profiles Elizabeth Carmichael who rose to prominence during the oil crisis with her believable scam. 

The Dale was a three-wheeled two-seater vehicle marketed as a revolutionary machine powerful enough to take down the big three automakers. It promised 70 miles per gallon fuel economy at a low purchase price. 

If something seems too good to be true, it often is. Carmichael is more interesting that the car she created, and watching her company fall apart and the subsequent court case is a cautionary tale worth catching.

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

Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

TV Picks - Week of January 18

"Live from New York...it's Saturday Night!" Saturday Night Live is still on holiday break this coming week, but with the change in the Oval Office, you have to wonder what will happen when the show returns for its first live episodes of 2021.

SNL ratings peak during every Presidential election season, and 2020 was no exception. It was a good year for Lorne’s baby. Dave Chappelle's episode drew over 9 million viewers making it the highest rated entertainment show since the Oscars. Chappelle is no fan of the Trump administration, but we all wanted to see his take on the state of our country.

But the times they are a changin’. Alec Baldwin is thrilled on multiple levels that Trump will soon be out of office. Many tuned in to see Alec’s Trump and what A-list FoL (Friend of Lorne’s) would cameo as that week’s politician in the news. Alec has his own issues to deal with, and as great as he is at playing the President, it’s time to have that character head out to the golf course. He can always come back.

Jim Carrey has also said his goodbye ahead of Joe Biden's inauguration. The cast is more than capable to portray the Washington elite, but are viewers as likely to tune in if Larry David or Ben Stiller aren’t dropping by?

The transition out of an election season has always been tough for SNL. Our country is in flames right now, and that’ll help keep viewers coming back for some much needed laughs even if the "live" in Saturday night no longer brings an edge of danger and excitement. That will be reserved for the occasional Weekend Update joke that generates a bit of controversy.

It’s a crazy time in the U.S.A. for a variety of reasons, and SNL will have a plethora of material to work with when it returns — it’ll all come down to the execution to keep viewers coming back week after week.

My picks this week include searching for ancestors, trying to find yourself later in life and a return to an Irish goodbye.

Finding Your Roots (PBS)
Tuesday, January 19th 8pm

Everyone loves to explore their family tree, but be careful what you wish for. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. returns for the seventh season of exploring the ancestry of influential people with diverse backgrounds.

I've yet to dig up the roots of where I come from as I can only go back to my great grandparents. There's a natural curiosity to learn where we stem from. Everyone wishes for blue blood, but we are often begat by regular folk who had much tougher lives during their time on this planet.

Andy Cohen, John Lithgow, Glenn Close and Mandy Patinkin are just a few of the celebs who take the journey into their past this season. Can't wait to see what they dig up on this PBS mainstay. Prepare for some surprises.

Losing Alice (APPLE TV+)
Friday, January 22nd

A 48 year-old film director feels she doesn't matter much after raising her family, so why not look to a younger woman to deal with her fear of aging. This psychological thriller uses flashbacks and flash forwards as it explores the minds of its main characters.

The Israeli program is triggered by a brief encounter on a train. Drama on the rails has been popping up as major plot device on a lot of recent cable dramas. I didn't realize there were so many exciting things happening on the local choo-choo.

Apple TV+ has invested heavily in the Israeli TV pipeline following the success of Fauda, Shtisel and Unorthodox on Netflix. It's all about the storytelling, and this one might be too cinematic for most, but worth checking in on.

Bridge and Tunnel (EPIX)
Sunday, January 24th 9pm

Ed Burns had early success with his mid-90's hit film The Brothers McMullen. The similarities are there in his new TV series as a group of six tries to figure out life as they pursue Manhattan dreams while battling their working class Long Island roots.

The cast is young as Burns returns to a formula that worked well for him in the past. College grads chasing their dreams decades ago is familiar territory. This time, though, he's the dad espousing advice instead of the headstrong kid receiving/ignoring it.

I'm a sucker for anything set in the 80's since that encapsulates my teenage years. Many relate to the desire to leave home and make it in the big city. You can take the kid out of Long Island, but it's awfully hard to take the Long Island out of the kid. Just ask Ed himself.

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

Wear a mask. Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Monday, January 11, 2021

TV Picks - Week of January 11

"The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." — Albert Einstein

When it’s time to change, you need to rearrange.” — Peter Brady

All geniuses know that if you want to grow, you need to change. Television has morphed so much that almost anyone under 30 watches on their phone or computer. The 58-inch Panasonic plasma I bought after selling jumptheshark.com feels like a relic (and weighs like one too) — and that's only 15 years old.

Cable was the first sign that television programming would never be the same. New networks continue to pop up every year. Streaming services led to another wave of shows and events, and now we've reached the point where it's nearly impossible to keep up with everything TV has to offer.

Change is everywhere, and this industry should never be afraid to take chances. Sometimes it leads to spectacular failure (can you say Cop Rock?). Sometimes it leads to groundbreaking success. You’ve got to shoot your shot.

I waxed poetic (pun intended) last week about Cobra Kai. Creating a series based on a kitchy movie from the 80's was a huge gamble, but the creators and actors pulled it off. It can be done — with confidence, talent and persistence.

Content always rules. It really doesn't matter which network is airing your favorite show (as long as you can get it) or even what time it's on. A majority of late night programming is recorded and watched the next day. Most shows are cut up into consumable segments to be viewed online.

TV just isn't the same anymore. And at the end of 2021, it will be different once again. And that's okay — because change, although sometimes painful to endure, is a good thing for the long term.

An interim game show host, championship viewing options, a remixed stand-up special, and a Marvel family sitcom… change is everywhere, as you’ll see in my picks for this week.

Jeopardy! (SYNDICATION)
Monday, January 11th

Ken Jennings steps in as the show’s first “interim” guest host. Katie Couric will reportedly soon follow and others will try to step into Alex Trebek's Canadian shoes.

It's going to be weird, but the game play of Jeopardy! is so strong that the host probably doesn't matter all that much as long as they keep things moving along. (Don't tell Ken that.)

No one wanted to see Alex leave the planet, but Ken, Katie and others will bring a new flavor to the classic game show. The core of Jeopardy! will remain the same, but a new host means change is in the air.

College Football National Championship Game (ESPN et al)
Monday, January 11th 8pm

The National Championship game will played as long as COVID doesn't get in the way. The two best college football teams, the Alabama Crimson Tide and The Ohio State Buckeyes, will settle things on the field ending a season that really wasn't much of a season.

This is one of my favorite broadcasts of the year, because ESPN rolls out its MEGACAST which provides a least a dozen different ways to watch the game. There's the traditional (boring) way that every college football game is presented. On the other ESPNs, there's Command Center, Skycast, Data Center, Spanish, National Radio, Hometown Radio and a return of the Film Room.

If you're watching your first game of the season, the standard broadcast is for you. If you're a college football nut, watching the Skycast to see the entire field or listening to coaches explain the game in the Film Room will provide a better viewing experience. If you went to Alabama or Ohio State (my condolences), listening to the hometown call adds another level of excitement.

In today's TV world, the viewer should be in control. Providing these options makes so much sense, and the ratings will be there to cash in on. Even something as traditional as college football benefits from switching things up a bit.

Total Blackout: The Tamborine Extended Cut (NETFLIX)
Tuesday, January 12th

Chris Rock is putting out an extended cut of his 2018 stand-up special Tamborine. Rock calls it "a remix" with almost 30 minutes of additional new material that complements his prescient act he recorded in Washington, D.C.

We rewatch stand-up specials all of the time. Adding a "commentary track" and interspersing updated material and reflective interviews is worth the try. The brilliant comedian is repurposing material and taking a chance putting it out there again – love that.

WandaVision (DISNEY+)
Friday, January 15th

Is a new series starring minor characters from The Avengers really taking a chance? You bet it is. WandaVision features superheroes Vision and Scarlet Witch (aka Wanda Maximoff) living a quaint suburban life where everything is not exactly how it seems.

It helps if you’ve seen all 23 related Marvel Avengers movies to follow the plot here, but it's not entirely necessary. There are a ton of comic book storylines to pull from and many characters will show up from different universes. At the core will be the relationship between two Avengers working off 50's/60's sitcom premises.

There's a built-in fanbase, and Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany are major leads. This just needs to avoid feeling like an ad for the next Doctor Strange or any other Marvel flick.

I'm not sure it'll work, but I respect Disney trying something different here.

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

Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.

Monday, January 4, 2021

TV Picks - Week of January 4

Happy 2021! 2020 was an all-around disaster capped off by a masked Ryan Seacrest standing in an empty Times Square. No more looking back...it's time to look forward to 2021.

This is going to be a challenging year for television. Thanks to last year's events (I know, don't look back!), production schedules were a complete mess. But just like our planet, TV marches on with new offerings and some hope for the future.

Everyone gets inspired at the start of a new year. How do you think all those gyms and weight loss plans stay in business? It is a new beginning that we should all make the best of. 

I believe there's going to be some breakthrough TV happening this year. Creators have had months to come up with unique ways of getting through their COVID days. One good thing that can come from a lockdown is creative solutions to everyday problems. There will be the reality dating shows and profiles of humans out of control, but I'm anticipating some out-of-the-box thinking showing up on our small screens. Have faith.

With that, here are my inaugural TV picks of the new year...!

Cobra Kai (NETFLIX)
Season 3 available now

Cobra Kai is my guilty pleasure. It would be so easy to get this wrong, but the producers really nail the balance of nostalgia in a contemporary tale. The first season was fantastic - lots of throwbacks peppered in with young Miguel following in the great Daniel Larusso's footsteps behind the training of rival sensei Johnny Lawrence.

The second season is not as good, but still does a good job of harkening back to the original films and letting you enjoy the ride. Johnny and Daniel-san experienced their highs and lows as karate became a bad word in the home of the All-Valley Tournament.

My expectations were lowered for season three, but the prized all grown up pupils of Mr. Miyagi and John Kreese deliver in a big way. When the show sticks to Johnny and Daniel, it's a lot of fun. When it diverts to other storylines, it slips into cliched plots worthy of a fast forward.

I will not spoil who returns to The Karate Kid universe this season, but if you're a fan of the franchise, you will be more than satisfied. Now I have to go wax my floor and paint my fence.

History of Swear Words (NETFLIX)
Monday, January 4th 

Nicolas Cage hosts a six-part series centered around the origin of our favorite curse words. Welcome to 2021!

The series is loud, profane and somewhat insightful. It's also straight out of the Drunk History playbook. Comedians you'd expect to see along with etymology experts you've never seen give a thorough examination of the words you're not supposed to say or you'll get in trouble.

Cage is the perfect host for this sort of thing. Always curious and never holding back, he explains why a simple expletive was created in the first place, and illustrates clever uses of each word. 

Mr. Mayor (NBC) Series Premiere
Wednesday, January 6th 8pm

The backstory on the latest Tina Fey comedy offering provides me with some faith. The original premise was to bring back 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy as the mayor of New York City, but contract negotiations with Mr. Baldwin fell through. 

The show shifted to L.A. and was recast, and Tina should have retitled it The Likeables. Beloved Ted Danson, Holly Hunter and Bobby Moynihan lead the way. Ted plays a wealthy businessman who runs for mayor to win the respect of his teenage daughter and awkwardness ensues.

Ted has been stellar on network TV, most recently shining as Michael on The Good Place. Here's hoping that traditional sitcom hokeyness gets avoided and who knows, maybe the Beeper King can make a cross country trip.

Jeopardy! (SYNDICATION)
Friday, January 8th 

Alex Trebek says goodbye as host of the best game show on television. It will be bittersweet watching Alex give the answers (not the questions) to contestants for the final time. 

This signifies the end of the lucrative Trebek/Sajak host combo, but Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune will live on for many years. It's the peanut butter and jelly of dinnertime TV. 

First "guest host" Ken Jennings will settle in to the role over time. No one knows this show like Ken, and any celebrity host would be a disaster. Jeopardy! is all about the game itself as the late mustached Canadian would tell you. 

Prepare for a tearjerking Final Jepoardy!.

Tiger (HBO) Part 1
Sunday, January 10th 9pm

HBO profiles the rise, fall, and comeback of one of the most pivotal figures in modern-day sports in this two-party documentary. Tiger Woods was the can't-miss kid. His father and some god-given golfing ability ensured that. But does anyone really know what Tiger is all about?

We saw the championships and the demise of one of the greatest golfers who ever walked the fairways. This Alex Gibney produced doc digs in to the early years of Tiger Woods and focuses on how he became "Tiger". 

Tiger's dad was everything to him and seeing their relationship play out as his achievements stack up is a curious study. His destiny was clear early on as a child golf prodigy appearing on Mike Douglas and other talk shows. But unlike many child stars, Tiger got better as he got older and lived up to all the early hype. 

Fellow golfers, his caddy and the women in Tiger's life paint a detailed picture integrated with lots of never seen before footage. Last year, Michael Jordan had The Last Dance - this year, it's Tiger's turn.

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

Wear a mask. Stay healthy and safe.