Tuesday, May 25, 2021

TV Picks - Week of May 24

I'm looking forward to seeing some old friends this week, but not the ones you think. Let's set the time machine to 1984, but first we'll make a stop in 1994 along the way.

We've been hearing about the Friends reunion forever, and this Thursday on HBO Max the big six have will finally be together again, joined by a plethora of celebs and old pals. I can understand guest stars Tom Selleck, Reese Witherspoon and Elliott Gould stopping by. But Justin Bieber? Lady Gaga? BTS? WTF?

I thought the point of any cast reuniting was to either build upon what made the show so popular or have those involved reminisce about the good old days. Were the members of BTS even born when Friends was must-see TV?

Full disclosure: I was never a fan. Six young beautiful people hanging out in a nice NYC loft and coffee shop in the 90's didn’t hold my interest. I felt it was the right combination of good young actors in the best location you could find on television – NBC Thursday nights. I couldn't identify with these hip single people on any level.

So many people tell me how I'm supposed to like Friends and recognize that it was one of the best comedies of all time. That's like someone telling you a restaurant has really good food because it's packed every night, but the food doesn't appeal to you or just doesn't taste very good. I’ll be tuning because of the spectacle this reunion has become, but honestly I'm not all that interested.

Let's go back a decade earlier to when Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner were busy romancing the stone. These two back together again on screen? Now we're talking. My wife and I were big fans of the first two seasons of The Kominsky Method which returns for its third and final season this Friday.

Alan Arkin, who shined as Norman Newlander, announced he was not coming back this time around. The trailer indicates that Norman is no longer with us, and Sandy Kominsky has to deal with the loss of his best friend and his own mortality.

Norman will not be easy to replace, but casting Kathleen Turner as Sandy's ex-wife Roz is a brilliant move. That 80's chemistry is still evident between these co-stars who make perfect sense as a formerly married couple. She comes to L.A. to spend time with their daughter Mindy (Sarah Baker) and her older, pony-tailed boyfriend Martin (Paul Reiser), and admirably fills the void Norman has left behind. 

The Kominsky Method is about aging not so gracefully and coming to grips with mortality without losing your sense of humor. Getting old sucks, and this Chuck Lorre comedy expresses the sentiment in a brutally honest way that you can't help but laugh at. Michael Douglas, looking more and more like his late father, puts it out there for all of us to see.

My wife and I are on the tail end of the 25-54 demo. We will be celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary this summer. We are starting to lose family members and friends near and dear to us. It's refreshing to watch a program that addresses these issues head on with a sly sense of humor. We aren't there yet, but it's nice to have a roadmap for what's ahead.

Enjoy Ross and Rachel. I'll be laughing with Joan Wilder (the novelist) and Jack Colton. 

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

High On The Hog (NETFLIX) – How African-American cuisine transformed America. Dig in Wednesday.

Press Your Luck/$100,000 Pyramid (ABC) – Things that attract Whammys return Wednesday.

Crime Scene Kitchen (FOX) – Joel McHale hosts a cooking competition. Wednesday reservations.

Ragnarok (NETFLIX) – Magne calls upon the power of Thor in Season 2. Premieres Thursday.

Iron Mike, nail bombs and Israeli school problems…

Mike Tyson: The Knockout (ABC)
Tuesday May 25th 8pm

Mike Tyson has lived one heck of a life. There was the unforgettable climb to heavyweight champ, Buster Douglas, reclaiming the title, Robin Givens, prison time for rape, a comeback and so much more. 

This four-hour documentary airing on back-to-back Tuesdays feels like it should be on ESPN. This week's first part chronicles Mike's rough childhood, his ascent to being the baddest man on the planet, and culminates with the Buster Douglas upset. Part two next week deals with the rape, Don King, and the latter part of Tyson's life.

I hosted a panel with Mike Tyson at San Diego Comic Con some years ago. Mike had a great sense of humor and was a pleasure to hang out with amongst fellow geeks. There was one moment though when things got serious and he had "that look" in his eye. It's a look you never forget.

Nail Bomber: Manhunt (NETFLIX)
Wednesday May 26th

A series of nail bomb attacks were carried out in London in the late 1990's. Over 100 people were injured and three were killed in targeted communities. Tracking down this killer was no small feat.

This latest episode in Netflix's Manhunt series is par for the course, telling the story of how the far-right terrorist was eventually apprehended and featuring interviews with many people affected by his attacks.

Blackspace (NETFLIX)
Thursday, May 27th

There's some excellent TV coming out of Israel these days. This eight-part series follows an investigation into the killing of four high school students conducted by anonymous masked figures.

Blackspace is the app that the students used to communicate with one another that parents and faculty could not see. Teen bullying and social dynamics are on full display as Israelis recognize something they've only seen on American TV is happening in their very own backyard. 


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

Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Monday, May 17, 2021

TV Picks - Week of May 17

Therapy is deeply personal. So how can it be televised?

Couples Therapy completed its second season on Showtime. Real couples, real problems, a real therapist, and cameras recording every moment. In Treatment, which is based on actual therapy sessions, is returning for a fourth season on HBO. Those who pay for cable want to see people on the couch reveal their most intimate problems.

These shows confound me. If you've ever been to therapy, one of its most treasured aspects is your privacy. You are confiding in a professional who has absolutely nothing to do with your life. They don't know your family, your friends, your work, or even you to a certain extent. It's an objective slate.

This remains true on therapy TV with one important caveat. These intimate moments are right there for anyone who pays for cable to see. Congratulations, you're a reality TV star. At least In Treatment uses actors instead of actual patients.

Therapists helping therapists is another popular theme on these types of shows. Who helps the ones helping us? Watching a doctor fine tune his or her technique is a peek behind the curtain I'd rather not take.

I understand that these sessions aren't televised live and some view them as educational for those who experience similar problems but would never go to therapy. I'm just not buying it.

The only fictional doctors I want to see are on ER or Grey's Anatomy. There have been documentaries and news magazine segments about what goes on in an actual hospital ward, and frankly, they're tough to watch.

Couples Therapy is eerily reminiscent of the celebrity rehab craze. I know Dr. Drew and he's a good man with a big heart, and he'd argue that putting this stuff out there removes the stigma and helped the falling stars who appeared on these shows. I feel that if you were serious about rehab, you wouldn't need the spotlight.

You won't find my doctor or therapist on television. I'd prefer they be superstars in the medical field and more concerned with their patients than camera angles.

As for the couples, do they really think they're going to solve their problems by putting it out there for all to see? Social media encourages us to put all of our lives on display, but for who and why? Even though the cameras are hidden, their presence has to affect the therapist and patients to a certain degree.

Let's compromise here. A fly on the wall situation could be interesting. The therapist and patients would need to be completely unaware. No one playing to the cameras. Raw emotion on display

To the TV therapists out there, focus on being good at your job. Just don't put it on television so I can see it.

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

Trying (APPLE TV+) – A British couple really wants a baby in this cute comedy. Returns for Season 2 on Friday.

The Bite (SPECTRUM) – COVID creates zombies from the creators of The Good Wife. Debuts Friday.

In Treatment (HBO) – Back for Season 4 after a ten-year break. Sunday appointment.

Master of None (NETFLIX) – Season 3 is all Denise & Alicia with no Dev in sight. Premieres Sunday.

70's music, heartwarming sci-fi and 90's financing…

1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything (APPLE TV+)
Friday May 22nd

The Stones. Aretha. Bob Marley. Marvin Gaye. Joni Mitchell. The list goes on and on from a year in music that literally changed the world. This eight-part docuseries recaptures the tunes that shaped the culture and politics of a very turbulent time in history.

I've been writing a lot about music lately. This pandemic helped me realize how music moves me in a variety of ways. It's comforting, stimulating and a huge part of my life. This deep dive into music from 50 years ago makes you realize why these artists have had such staying power.

Apple TV+ has been on a nice roll with its programming. Ted Lasso and For All Mankind were two of my favorites this past year. Once they stop trying to be everything for everyone, Apple TV+ can really be something special.

Solos (AMAZON)
Friday May 22nd

Excellent actors and science fiction are always a powerful combination for any TV series. Solos explores the present and the future of how we are connected through the human experience.

This seven-part series puts a positive spin on Black Mirror-like tales. Anne Hathaway, Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren lead the stacked all-star cast. These character-driven stories are trips worth taking.

Black Monday (SHOWTIME)
Sunday, May 23rd Season 3 premiere 10pm

Financial scheming has never been more fun on this Showtime series. Each season, the characters keep moving forward and the plot continues to evolve.

In Season 3, Mo steps into the music business in the early 90's while Dawn serves her time and Congressman Blair makes his way through the political world. Don Cheadle, Regina Hall, Andrew Rannells and Paul Scheer lead the fantastic cast who change so smoothly with the times.


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

Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

TV Picks - Week of May 10

Hope you all had a fabulous Mother's Day. This week, it's all about the ladies.

My wife Debbie and I have been digging into Mare of Easttown, Cruel Summer and The Secrets She Keeps recently. Their plots aren't the most original, so the acting needs to be top notch to pull these stories off.

Happily, all three of these programs deliver on that promise. Here’s a look at the actresses who’ve been keeping us glued to the screen.

Kate Winslet, Jean Smart, Julianne Nicholson - Mare of Easttown (HBO)

The best acting on TV is happening in a small Pennsylvania town where young girls aren't faring too well. Kate Winslet is fantastic as the lead character living in the most depressing town in the United States. She has mastered that Eastern PA accent in a place where everyone, and I mean everyone, is dealing with some major issue.

Her mother (played by Jean Smart) provides comic relief, but is also a tragic character in her attempt to keep her daughter on some kind of path. It's hard to decipher who the parent really is in this relationship or frankly, in their entire house.

Julianne Nicholson had me since Boardwalk Empire. Few actresses convey grief as well as she does, and there's plenty to go around in Easttown. The storyline is depressing, but the acting is anything but.

Chiara Aurelia, Olivia Holt - Cruel Summer (FREEFORM)

I pegged this one a few weeks back as a hit. Each episode taking place on the same date in 1993, 1994 and 1995 is a bold storytelling choice. There's no way to know who's telling the whole truth, courtesy of the two excellent lead actresses.

The transformation of Chiara Aurelia as Jeanette Turner has been fun to watch. Three different years, three distinct versions of the same gal with plenty of mystery packed in. The looks come off very natural, and her morality will likely remain in question until the end of the series. Can't get enough of the most hated person in America.

Olivia Holt has the more difficult role as the kidnapped Kate Wallis. The blonde from the family who has everything is much more complex than she appears to be at first. And her calling out Jeanette is already etched in our collective memories.

Laura Carmichael, Jessica De Gouw - The Secrets She Keeps (AMC)

This is my favorite "oh, I'm just watching this because my wife wants to" show at the moment. Edith from Downton Abbey is obsessed with very pregnant Meghan, who is about to have her third child.

Laura Carmichael has to be having a blast playing the twisted Agatha. The tragedies in her life put her in a strange mental space when it comes to caring for kids. She's awkwardly charming and vicious when she needs to be.

Jessica De Gouw is the mommy blogger with her own set of issues, including her cheating husband whom I just realized is playing Gordo on For All Mankind. Her vulnerability as an exasperated concerned mother rings true.

These actresses are absolutely crushing it week after week. Can't wait to see where they end up when each season finale airs.

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

Little People: Big World (TLC) – Season 22. Yup, it's still on. Premieres Tuesday.

High School Musical: The Musical: The Series (DISNEY+) – Season 2. Yup, it's still on. Drops Friday.

Pride (FX) – Six-part docuseries focused on the struggle for LGBTQ+ civil rights. Debuts Friday.

Fall River (EPIX) – True crime docuseries about a series of Massachusetts murders. Premieres Sunday.

MTV Movie & TV Awards (MTV) – Leslie Jones hosts the first night of MTV's irreverent annual kudoscast. Sunday.

Drug problems, Wanda, and laughs at any price...

Crime of the Century (HBO)
Monday May 10th and Tuesday May 11th 9pm

Alex Gibney takes on big pharma.

This epic two-part, four-hour, HBO documentary touching on everything affected by the opioid crisis is set to air on back to back weeknights. Rather than focus on the addicts, Gibney tackles the entire system and all that has led to our current state.

You'll think twice about what you take for "pain relief" after learning how these drugs were initially marketed and end up as a form of legal drug pushing. Bank on master documentarian Gibney to get under the lab coats and expose truths in those jagged little pills.

The Upshaws (NETFLIX)
Wednesday May 12th

How long have we been waiting for Wanda Sykes to hold court on another sitcom? The hysterical comedian plays the sister-in-law of Kim Fields (yes, Tootie) who is married to Mike Epps, and their working-class family in Indiana is just trying to get by.

Wanda co-created the series to focus on a family with real issues happening in middle America. Dad wants to be a better husband and father to his family, but has always been a bit of a mess. Leave it to Wanda to clean things up as only she can and provide the laughs.

Hacks (HBO MAX)
Thursday, May 13th

I'll take all the Jean Smart I can get.

In Hacks, she plays Deborah Vance, a long-time comedian who some feel might be getting too old for the comedy scene. Ava, a young talented writer, is sent to Vegas to liven up Deborah's act and prevent her being replaced by someone younger. The real-life analog to Deborah is Joan Rivers, and Jean Smart makes the character shine.

Hacks illustrates what life is really like in the world of stand-up comedy. It's harsh. It's brutal. It's funny. And you have to handle getting roasted if you're even thinking about roasting somebody. Many comedians are angry people — they just have a funny way of talking about their pain.

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

Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.

Monday, May 3, 2021

TV Picks - Week of May 3

I remember it so clearly. July 13, 1985. Scorching hot day. A benefit concert held simultaneously at Wembley in London and JFK in Philadelphia. A fundraiser organized by Bob Geldof that raised millions to battle famine in Africa.

Live Aid.

A few of my closest friends came over and we spent the day in front of a TV watching our favorite bands perform as we tried to stay cool. Queen stole the show (see Bohemian Rhapsody), Phil Collins flew across the Atlantic on the Concorde to play at both locations, and the closest thing you'll see to a Led Zeppelin reunion actually materialized.

Music truly can bring the world together, and MTV proved it more than three decades ago. It was a television event of epic proportion.

Vax Live: The Concert To Reunite The World is this year's attempt at a global concert event. The cause is a noble one. Harry and Meghan are campaign chairs. J Lo, Eddie Vedder, Foo Fighters and many more will perform before a fully vaccinated crowd in Los Angeles. Letterman, Kimmel and Gayle King will be there. Sean Penn and Ben Affleck will show that they care.

But why doesn't it feel like the television event it should be?

Almost every festival, including Live Aid, tries to be Woodstock. That magic of 1969 can never be recreated for a variety of logistical reasons. But that grass roots feeling at Yasgur's farm is what every festival aspires to be. Many have tried, but few have come anywhere near recapturing the magic of those three summer days in upstate New York.

The big problem with Vax Live is that there's nothing grass roots about it. Don't get me wrong, I respect what Global Citizen is trying to do. But it feels so "produced." The best musical moments have always been organic performances, and a lot of the acts involved are responsible for some of those. But I'm not getting the feeling I had back in the summer of my senior year in high school.

Live Aid was a television event for sure, but it felt more special than just that. Every band, and I mean any act you can think of, was part of it. It was larger than life. If you didn't know who The Boomtown Rats were, you knew their lead singer's name by the time summer rolled around. Everyone got caught up in Bob Geldof's crusade and felt really good about it. You felt the power of music.

By the way … where the heck is MTV? Vax Live is airing on ABC, CBS, FOX (delayed) and YouTube, but the cable channel originally named Music Television is not one of them? That's a sad state of affairs.

The selfish struggle I have with these concerts is wanting acts to do more than just a few songs. Variety is fantastic and a great way to discover music you might not listen to, but if a legendary act is on stage, let us hear more.

I commend everyone involved with Vax Live and hope it helps get some needles in the arms of people who need it. Do your part. Get vaccinated. Tell your friends and families and let's get COVID under control.

Then we can all go back to enjoying concerts live in person, the way it's supposed to be.

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

Star Wars: The Bad Batch (DISNEY+) – Animated tale of Clone Force 99. Premieres Tuesday, May 4th (of course it does).

Selena: The Series (NETFLIX) – Netflix is dropping Part 2 of its biographical series, covering the singer’s rise to superstardom and her tragic death. You know, just in case you missed the movies, documentaries or TV specials. Drops Tuesday.

Girls5eva (PEACOCK) – A 90's one-hit wonder girl group reunites after getting sampled by a contemporary rapper. Pops on Thursday.

The Drowning (SUNDANCE NOW) – A mom catches sight of a boy and is convinced it's her son who disappeared 8 years ago. UK import debuts Friday.

The Damn Michael Che (HBO MAX) – Sketch series taking on social issues Che style. Premieres Thursday.

Shrill (HULU) – Aidy Bryant is back for a third and final season. Returns Friday.

.44 caliber killers, stage moms and superhero families...

The Sons Of Sam (NETFLIX)
Wednesday, May 5th

The 1977 New York shooting spree of David Berkowitz haunts New Yorkers to this very day. Author Maury Terry is convinced that he didn't act alone.

This four-part docuseries explores the killings and how "The Son Of Sam" potentially was not the only shooter. If there's a killer like this in the newspapers, expect a conspiracy right along with it.

These murders and shootings engulfed New York City over 40 years ago. The Son of Sam law prevents convicted killers from collecting any media profits from their stories. This deconstruction in today's volatile environment opens your eyes to what was really going on in late 70's New York.

From Cradle to the Stage (PARAMOUNT+)
Thursday, May 6th

Dave Grohl's mom wrote a book about rock stars and their moms, and Dave decided to make a television show out of it. Dave's TV track record is solid, and it's enlightening to follow the relationships of musicians with contrast styles and the women who brought them into the world.

Pharrell Williams, Miranda Lambert, Brandi Carlisle, Dan Reynolds (Imagine Dragons), Tom Morello, Geddy Lee and their mothers are featured in this series which the Foo Fighters frontman directed. It's nice to see how each mom supported and shaped their kid's career. Consider it a guide to when your child tells you they want to get into the music business. Hopefully he or she is as talented as this group. Happy Mother's Day! 

Jupiter's Legacy (NETFLIX)
Friday, May 7th

My first thought was that Josh Duhamel needed a haircut and a shave. He helps bring this eight episode graphic novel adaptation to life as the world's first generation of superheroes expect their children to carry on their legacy.

The graphic novel comes from Mark Millar whose other comics gave us Kick-Ass and the Kingsman films. He tells a good story. Expect plenty of social issues to be examined along with a variety of superpowers. Like any good parents, these larger than life legends just want what's best for their kids.


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

Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.