Wednesday, April 28, 2021

TV Picks - Week of April 26

NFL Draft day arrives this Thursday – and it brings back fond memories. The Draft has become a three-day heavily marketed extravaganza with the first two rounds taking place in primetime on ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network.

When I was growing up, the NFL Draft was barely a blip on the cable TV screen. It also happened to break my perfect school attendance record.

ESPN approached the NFL after being on the air for six months in 1980 asking to televise the Draft. NFL owners wanted no part of it, but Commissioner Pete Rozelle foresaw the power of TV and told ESPN to cover it as a "news event." And so they did.

When Draft day came around the next year, suddenly I wasn't feeling so well and couldn't summon up the energy to go to school. I pretended to be sick, but my mom caught on to my fake temperature pretty quickly.

Mom did the math and realized that my illness coincided with Draft day, but she played along and made sure I got plenty of rest for a miracle cure the very next day. I was a good student, so if this was my "cut day" she was onboard. Thanks, mom.

The NFL Draft took place live on a late weekday morning in the Sheraton ballroom, and this event was anything but made for TV. There was a small stage with a podium for the commissioner, and a room full of folding tables with men in suits sitting behind NFL helmet phones. I felt like a fly on a wall watching those lucky guys preparing to write a secret name on a blue card the commissioner would read.

My dad was a New York Giants fan, and I called him at work the second Big Blue made their pick. He cared as much as I did, and since there was no internet or 24 hour sports radio, I was the most reliable source he had. Thankfully, he wasn’t a Jets fan.

The appeal of the Draft back then was simply the information. It was clunky and discombobulated which made it feel so real. Pundits would flip through papers and pontificate on who would be taken when, and a camera would follow that blue card from the helmet phone to the stage where the Commissioner announced the pick. The excitement of trades, the general awkwardness — it felt like being part of something only NFL staff got to see.

These days, the Draft is way too polished. The NFL hype machine is on overdrive. The hats, the jerseys, posed photographs... it's a blatant showcase for the players, teams and the league in general. All the posing and pre-taped montages feel so overly produced. Those hugs from the Commissioner are cringeworthy.

And taking three days to televise the entire draft is ludicrous. This is not, and should not be, a primetime event. Let's leave that time slot for the games. The NFL will never go back to the awkward hotel ballroom, but this isn't a rock concert. I guarantee there will be a band performing at some point during the broadcast. Substitute some real fan reaction like the Jets fans booing in the 1980's, and you'll get plenty of fireworks.

The crossover between sports and entertainment will be on full display during the NFL draft. Never lose sight of the fact that this is a special night (or two, or three) for a couple hundred college kids waiting to hear their name called. That's all the excitement that’s needed.

All the glitz and glamour actually makes me feel a little bit sick. Mom would understand.

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

Exposure (HULU) – A photography reality competition show. Yup. Premieres Monday.

The Handmaid's Tale (HULU) – It's the 4th season of this award-winning drama. Real life is too depressing for me to tune in. Three episodes drop Wednesday.

Sexify (NETFLIX) – A Polish comedy about a student who wants to invent an app for female orgasms. Wednesday.

The Innocent (NETFLIX) – Another Harlan Coben book gets a Netflix adaptation. If it ain't broke... Debuts Friday.

Pet Stars (NETFLIX) – Explore the ins and outs of the talent agency for the world's most popular pets. My dog Molly will be tuned in. Debuts Friday

Girlfriend Experience (STARZ) – This kinky award winner profiling high-end call girls is back for a third season. Sunday night.

Muppets, mosquitos and late night…

Sesame Street: 50 Years Of Sunny Days (ABC)
Monday, April 26th 8pm

I've raved about this life-changing children's series many times. Be a kid again and look back on five decades of meaningful television programming with some of the world's most important people.

The Mosquito Coast (APPLE TV+)
Friday, April 30th

Apple might not be thrilling the world with their latest computers, but there's some good programming coming out of Cupertino. Defending Jacob, Ted Lasso and For All Mankind are well worth the watch.

Justin Theroux brings his uncle's novel to the land of the iPhone starring as Allie Fox who has many doubts when it comes to the American dream. Allie will protect his life and his family at any cost. No one is going to tell Allie what to do.

Theroux excels at playing this type of character, but it'll be a challenge to live up to his uncle's book and the Harrison Ford film.

The Story of Late Night (CNN)
Sunday, May 2nd 9pm

Here's a tale told many times that I simply can't get enough of. Late night gets the CNN treatment, breaking down the history of shows that help us laugh as we try to get some sleep.

This six-part docuseries covers 60 years of late night TV. There's plenty of focus on Johnny, Jay, Joan, the Jimmys, and of course, Dave. We know all the players by now. The television audience has dwindled over time, but the effect on our culture remains just as pronounced as it was decades ago.


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 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.