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 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.


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 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. 


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'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 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.


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...


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...


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? 


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. 


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

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