Feelin’ TV: November 13-19, 2017

Just when things were starting to look pretty bleak for Netflix’s Marvel shows (Marvel Streaming Universe? Daredevilverse? Defendersverse?), Frank Castle arrived on the scene to single handedly put things back on track. After an unfortunate spring and summer that saw both Iron Fist and Defenders widely panned (I thought both were merely fine), there were legitimate questions about whether or not the universe had lost its magic. But The Punisher, released this past Friday on the streaming service, returned to not only prove that there were good stories yet to be told in this world, but that the best might still be yet to come. After Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of the brutal vigilante became the breakout character of Daredevil’s sophomore season, fans were pleased to hear that Netflix granted the anti-hero his own show. Recent deficiencies in storytelling had me apprehensive about the quick turnaround from breakout character to main player. Those fears proved to be unfounded. Not only did creator Steve Lightfoot create an intense and compelling season of television, they managed to find a cure to some of the ills that have plagued all of the other Netflix Marvel series.

The story is pretty straight forward. Just when Frank Castle believes his quest to avenge the death of his wife and children has ended, as he’s settled in to live a life of anonymity, he discovers that the plot that ended with the destruction of his world goes deeper than he imagined. Along with a few allies that he picks up along the way, Frank sets out on a mission to finish the job. There are two things that really set this simple revenge story apart, the themes and the performances.

The Punisher is brutal. The combat is up close and personal. But the story doesn’t revel in the violence (mostly). It uses the violence to speak to issues like gun control, PTSD and the difficulties our veterans face when they return home from war. It doesn’t simply pay these issues lip service nor does it provide easy answers. No punches are pulled in the series’ attempts to show the miserable care that our soldiers receive when they return home from our country’s perpetual overseas conflicts. The effects of PTSD are seen in the lives of Frank and others in heartbreaking detail. It refuses to provide simple solutions to the issues of gun violence and gun control, but weighs both sides without being didactic.

Jon Bernthal leads a stellar cast that slide into their roles with ease. Castle is the role that Bernthal was born to play. He’s believable in his intensity in focus but also in his portrayal of Frank’s special brand of compassion. Ben Barnes is an actor I’ve never been very impressed with, but he’s outstanding as Castle’s old military buddy Billy Russo. Barnes plays Russo in such a way that you’re never quite sure if he’s friend or foe. He’s charming and slimy all in one. Ebon Moss-Bachrach portrays Castle’s ally Micro (the comic’s Microchip) with an exasperated desperation as he helps Frank to settle a score of his own. Amber Rose Revah mirrors Castle’s driven and obsessed personality as Department of Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani. Deborah Ann Woll returns to the universe as Karen Page and is probably as good as she’s ever been. The breakout performance in my opinion belonged to Daniel Webber, a young vet struggling to readjust to life after war. His story exists outside of the main conflict, but it helps the show avoid the midseason lull that fans of this world are used to at this point. Almost every other season could have afforded to have 2-3 fewer episodes to cut the fat and make their stories tighter, but I never felt that way with The Punisher and a lot of that is due to Webber’s solid performance. He was one of the brightest spots of Hulu’s 2016 series 11.22.63 as Lee Harvey Oswald, and I’m hoping that this role will give him bigger opportunities in the future because he’s really great.

To reiterate, The Punisher is not for the faint of heart. It’s absolutely brutal. But if you can stomach it, you’ll find a surprisingly thoughtful and poignant show that entertains while also having some thoughtful reflection on issues ripped straight from current headlines. If you’re a fan of the character or the universe he exists in, I can’t imagine you won’t enjoy The Punisher. The Punisher is currently streaming on Netflix.

Channel Surfing:

  • I’d like to take some space and talk about the Arrowverse, but I really can’t even remember what happened this week. Slade Wilson came back to Arrow, but it was a pretty bland story that didn’t really go anywhere. The door is open for his return, so maybe there’s more to come with Deathstroke. And Diggle finally came clean with Team Arrow about his shoulder issues. I’m guessing Curtis will have a microchip that fixes the issue installed in his armpit by the end of the next episode.
  • I don’t normally give up on TV shows. Sometimes if I do, I end up catching up anyway (looking at you Gotham) but I’ve got two shows that are on life support. I’ve never hidden my disdain for The Walking Dead in this space, and I’ve decided to give it until the mid-season finale to do something interesting before I quit altogether. I’m not holding my breath. The other show I’m about done with is Riverdale. The first season was outstanding but season 2 has been a total slog. I’m struggling to care about any of the characters and the story is an absolute bore. It’s saving grace at this point is that it’s on Wednesday nights and I have very little to watch on Wednesdays.
  • The Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg penned Future Man starring Josh Hutcherson dropped this week on Hulu and I thought it was pretty good. It’s really funny and has a lot of fun easter eggs for the lover of sci-fi movies. It’s not a show for kids. But you should’ve guessed that when I told you who the creators are.
  • I’m hearing good things about Netflix’s Alias Grace. If you’ve seen it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ll try to catch up with it over the holidays.

That’s all for this week. As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. Next week we’ll get a chance to talk about Marvel’s The Runaways! Happy Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for all of you who read this every week!


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.

Feelin’ TV: October 30-November 5, 2017

I think that a mark of a good show is its re-watchability. Sometimes I’ll love something the first time, but when I have a chance to watch it over again, I have little to no interest. Some shows, like The Office, Parks and Recreation or 30 Rock for example, are shows that I can watch and enjoy, start to finish, over and over again. Then, there’s the rarest of rare shows that get better every time you watch. I’m talking about Arrested Development.

I watched AD for at least the 5th or 6th time this week and I’m still blown away by it. There are set ups in season one that aren’t paid off until season three. There are gags that run further than any other gags in television history. There are things that make me laugh that I can’t even tell if its intentional or not (is it weird to anyone else that they refer to jelly beans as “candy beans”?) In previous viewings, I’ve been blown away by the intricacy of the story, enamored with the ability of Will Arnett and Jessica Walter to take over every scene they’re in as Gob and Lucile, the awkward existence of Michael Cera as George Michael and the creepy energy of David Cross as Tobias. This time though, I couldn’t stop admiring the straight man, Jason Bateman’s Michael Bluth.

The Bluth’s are wildly un-relatable. They’re rich, oblivious, and as characters, they’re ridiculously broad. I love each and every one of them, but I don’t think I would have been able to put up with them for more than an episode or two without Michael Bluth there to keep the show grounded…sort of. Through 3 seasons and 53 episodes (the Netflix season doesn’t count), whenever the rest of the Bluths threatened to take the show too far over the line into Crazy Town, Michael was there with a look or a perfectly timed quip to bring us right back down to earth. One of the biggest failings in Netflix’s attempt to bring the show back for a season four in my opinion is that Michael was as nuts as the rest of his family, losing its tether to normal people altogether. In a show full of perfectly cast characters, there may have been no one more perfectly suited to the show than Jason Bateman. If you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to give it a shot. If you have seen it, watch it again to rediscover its brilliance. Season five is coming in 2015 with a promise of episodes in the vein of seasons 1-3 and less season 4. Here’s hoping that’s the case. Arrested Development is available to stream on Netflix.

Channel Surfing:

  • The Arrowverse had a great week with a crazy fun episode of Supergirl involving Kara and Jonn flying a convertible to Mars, a Legends of Tomorrow that wrapped a tale about Ray Palmer’s childhood into an homage to ET and The Flash introduced Elongated Man into its universe. The best news this week though? MICHAEL EMERSON IS A BAD GUY ON ARROW! His character at this point seems to be the master of manipulation that we saw in Lost’s Ben Linus combined with the tech savy expertise of Person of Interest’s Mr. Finch. There may have been an audible squeal of glee in my living room when he showed up. This has been a stellar season all-around for the Arrowverse, and with Emerson around, it looks like it will continue trending up. The current season of Arrow, Supergirl, The Flash, and Legends of Tomorrow can be viewed on The CW app.
  • Thursday night NFL football is the worst. The games are always subpar because of the quick turnaround and the matchups are typically pretty lame. The worst part though, is that because of NBC’s commitment to Thursday Night Football, we don’t get to see any new episodes of The Good Place or Great News until the new year. Maybe it’s just sour grapes, but I hate TNF. Well, unless the Chiefs are playing. If you’re like me and you can see The Good Place withdrawals in your future, check out this video taken by Kristen Bell of the rest of the cast finding out about season one’s epic twist (spoilers, obvs).
  • I was remarking to a friend this week that out of all of my friends with kids, I don’t know anyone who has ever had a baby without making it to the hospital first (not counting my slightly crazy friends who have had their kids at home on purpose). But if my calculations are correct, roughly 90% of TV children are born that way. A This Is Us flashback added Randall’s oldest child to that statistic this week. It’s a pretty worn out trope, but overall, it was a strong episode that made me cry so I’ll forgive them for going to that well.
  • Oh, and The Walking Dead was awful. I’m going to need someone to spend some time in the Facebook group telling me why I should still be interested in this show.

That’s all for this week. As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. Happy viewing!


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.

Feelin’ TV: October 23-29, 2017

Stranger Things returned last weekend after unprecedented levels of hype for its much anticipated second season on Netflix. I was excited, you were excited, everyone was excited to see the next chapter of supernatural happenings in Hawkins, Indiana. In this viewer’s opinion, Stranger Things 2 lives up to the hype and maybe even surpasses it, providing 9 episodes jam-packed with expert world-building, top-notch story-telling, fantastic performances and loads of 80’s nostalgia. Because of the nature of the shows release, and the knowledge that not everyone has had the chance to watch the entire season yet, our review today will be spoiler free. If you don’t want to know anything at all about the season, I’d slide on down to the Channel Surfing portion of this column, but if you’re just avoiding spoilers, proceed with confidence. And if you’re looking for a place to discuss the show in depth without holding back, let’s chat on Facebook.

Stranger Things 2 succeeds primarily because it succeeds in all of the ways that it did when it took the TV world by storm in 2016. With a story that feels like it could have come straight out of the period, the show plays to our desire for nostalgia without feeling like an appeal to score cheap points with the audience. Like season one, the situation our characters find themselves in feels like it could have come from the mind of Steven Spielberg or Stephen King without being a blatant rip-off of either creator.

To avoid spoilers, I’m going to avoid talking about plot and focus on character. For all of its creepy plot and throwbacks to 80’s movies, to me what makes Stranger Things stand apart is its characters. While most of America (understandably) fell in love with Eleven and Mike (Millie Bobby Brown and Finn Wolfhard, respectively) during season one, I was immediately enamored with the foul-mouthed, wildly enthusiastic spark plug Dustin, played by the incomparable Gaten Matarazzo. Season 2 capitalizes on his irresistible charm by giving us more Dustin early and often. And in a stroke of storytelling genius, much of the season sees him paired up with the character who saw the largest measure of redemption last season, the slimy other-man with a heart of gold, Steve Harrington. Joe Keery is delightful as Steve, who becomes a mentor/reluctant babysitter to Dustin and his friends. The time spent with these two together really sings. I’ve remarked on social media since completing the season that I’m lobbying for a spin-off where Steve somehow becomes Dustin’s guardian. I don’t know what they’d do, some people have suggested that they should be private detectives or just pick-up artists, but I’d be all-in on that show.

The second character highlight to me this season was the addition of Sean Astin to the cast as Bob Newby, the nerdy love interest for Winona Ryder’s Joyce Byers. I’ve heard the Duffer brothers talk about how they didn’t have a large role for the character, but Astin’s appeal and charm caused them to expand the role. I think you’d have a hard time finding anyone who thinks that was a bad decision. Besides the meta aspect of his casting as the former leader of the Goonies, an obvious influence on Stranger Things, Astin brings an earnestness and commitment to the role that puts Bob the Brain in the conversation with Rudy Ruettiger and Mikey Walsh for the second-best performance in his long career (let’s face it, Samwise Gamgee will always be #1).

Overall, other than a late standalone episode that didn’t quite feel like it belonged (you’ll know it when you get there), I really have no complaints about the season. It was everything I had hoped it would be based on what we got from season one. There are bigger stakes, a bigger cast and a bigger foe, but it’s all handled wonderfully to create a satisfying second season. Now it’s time to wait impatiently for the third.  Stranger Things can be streamed in its entirety on Netflix.

Channel Surfing:

  • The Walking Dead squandered any goodwill it might have gained during the premiere with one of its all time worst episodes. The only redeeming factor is that rather than sitting around and having conversations that we’ve already had over and over again, they were shooting people while they were having conversations that we’ve already had over and over again.  I think that at the end, we’re supposed to think that something bad is around the corner, but I couldn’t tell you exactly why. There’s someone named Morales who it appears I’m supposed to remember who has gotten the drop on Rick. There was a walkie-talkie discovered by Carol and friends that apparently means something bad. Someone else got shot in the stomach and the music indicated to me that I’m supposed to care. I’m not sure why. I believe that the show-runners think that they have  created a world with many rich and fully fleshed out characters, but in reality there are 6-7 characters that we care about, and everyone else might as well be a walker. I don’t have any idea who Morales is. I think the guy who got shot in the stomach is the husband of the guy with the curly hair. I’m really not sure. And that’s a problem. But at least someone got mauled by a tiger. The current season of The Walking Dead can be streamed on the AMC app. 
  • Can you imagine a show that featured Dana Carvey, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Louis CK and Robert Smigel? Did you know it really happened? It was at the height of Dana Carvey’s career after leaving Saturday Night Live in the mid 90’s and it was a complete and total flop. Airing on ABC, The Dana Carvey Show created 8 episodes and aired only 7 before the plug was pulled by the network that had only recently been acquired by Disney. The story of its failure is now being told in the great new documentary presented by Hulu called Too Funny To Fail. Full of clips from the show and interviews with the cast, the doc provides a fun oral history into the show’s creation, production and cancellation in the spring and summer of 1996. I haven’t seen The Dana Carvey Show (although I do plan on watching it on Hulu having seen this doc), but as a fan of all of the aforementioned cast, I found it to be a really fun way to spend 90 minutes. I highly recommend it. Too Funny To Fail is currently streaming on Hulu.  

That’s all for this week. As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. Join in the conversation about Stranger Things 2 or the Arrowverse there too. Happy viewing!


Jeremy Calcara is a contributing member of the Feelin’ Film team. In addition watching as many movies as he can and writing reviews for Feelin’ Film, Jeremy consumes an unhealthy amount of television and writes about it weekly in his Feelin’ TV column.   Follow him on Facebook and Twitter  to be notified when new content is posted.

Feelin’ TV: October 9-15, 2017

The biggest news in my TV watching world this week is that the CW’s Arrowverse kicked back into action after the summer layoff. These aren’t the best shows that I watch every week, but they’re probably the ones that I most look forward to. Each of them went through spells where they were uninspired and drab, but they’ve also had some impressively high highs. If you haven’t watched before and you like properties based on comic books, I’d suggest giving them a shot. But if you just want to jump right in, the next few paragraphs will give you a bit of where we’ve been and a quick note or two on where the season premieres seem to say that we’re going.

Supergirl ended its second season overall (and first season in the Arrowverse on The CW) in gut-wrenching fashion. In order to save National City and the world from the invasion of the Daxamites, Team Supergirl was forced to take measures that meant the love of Kara’s life, Mon-El the Daxamite, wouldn’t be able to live in the earth’s atmosphere anymore. Our season premiere picks up a few months after that decision with Kara still unable to handle her feelings. She throws herself into her life as Supergirl and neglects her responsibilities as Kara like her job, to her friends and her family. She’s facing an interesting question: If she’s going to continue to have to give up the things that make Kara happy for the greater good, then what is the point of the altar-ego in the first place. It isn’t the first time this line of thinking has been explored in the superhero genre, but it’s handled well because of a predictably great performance by Melissa Benoist. She has the ability to give Supergirl vulnerability without it coming off as weakness that is just a joy to watch every week. Season three brings a few new faces that will be familiar to longtime fans of super-hero TV about as well.  Adrian Pasdar (of Heroes and Agents of SHIELD fame) appears to be taking up the mantle as this season’s baddie Morgan Edge and Erica Durance (Smallville’s Lois Lane, taking Laura Benanti’s role) slides in to a supporting role as Supergirl’s Kryptonian mother, alive only in dreams and holograms, Alura Zor-El. If there’s one thing I didn’t love about the episode, its’s the way that everything gets set back to the status quo by the end of the premiere rather than letting things linger. These are complex issues that Kara is dealing with, so it would be nice to see it take a bit of time to resolve. It’s something that the Arrowverse does pretty often, and this season appears to be no different. It will be a recurring theme this week.

Speaking of a refusal to let things linger, The Flash returned this week as well. At the end of last season, Barry successfully thwarted Zoom’s plot to kill Iris West, but had to exile himself to the Speed Force Prison to keep the universe from being destroyed (it was a whole thing, I’m not sure I could explain it). If I’m being honest, it was kind of a dumb way to get Barry removed from the equation, but I was looking forward to seeing Team Flash in action for a few episodes this season until Barry’s inevitable return, provided the writers had the guts to keep him away for a while. But they did not.  Of course a villain came to town that promised to destroy Central City unless the real Flash faced him. Of course Sisco had been working on a way to bring him back that was just about done (it’s as if the writers totally forgot that the show tried to sell Barry’s banishment as permanent). Of course it worked, admittedly with some side effects. And of course, the side effects were a-okay by the end of the episode. It was an unfortunate development even though I’m a big fan of Grant Gustin’s Barry Allen and I like having him around. But when the consequences of a character’s decisions last for less than an hour in TV runtime, it’s pretty hard to believe that any of the stakes are very high. All of that being said, most of last season (and the season before that) was pretty mediocre to poor, so if hitting the reset button a little too quickly gets us to the fun Flash of season one as the writers are promising, then I’ll eat crow. We’ll need some more context to see if that’s the case.

At least The Flash took a whole episode to press reset. Legends of Tomorrow did it before the first commercial break. When we last left the Legends, they had returned to the present day only to see that time had gone crazy. There were dinosaurs in the streets for crying out loud! But not a minute after the “Previously on” segment, Rip Hunter shows up with his new team of time fixers, who take care of everything effectively and efficiently, and disbands the Legends. Each of our heroes find themselves in the middle of a mundane existence that they can hardly stand (one that looks a lot like yours and mine), but they’re given a reason to regroup when Mick Rory runs into Julius Caesar on his vacation in Aruba. The group proceeds to attempt to take him back to his time, make a mess of things, and then clean it up again. Legends is one show where I don’t mind the quick reset. Each season so far has seemed like its own thing to the show’s credit. It isn’t a show that asks the deep questions. It’s a show about a bunch of heroes that travel through time and screw stuff up. It’s not going to win any Emmy’s, but it might just be the most enjoyable show that I watch every week. Having a season by season arc rather than carrying past seasons worth of baggage keeps the show light and fun.

Arrow returned after an explosive (pun intended because, let’s admit it, all puns are intended) finale that saw Oliver watching in horror as an island with all of Team Arrow blew up before his very eyes. The finale gave us little in the way of hope that anyone other than Ollie survived. But, hey, this is Arrow not Game of Thrones, so season three quickly assures us that everyone is okay (well, Oliver’s son William’s mom died, but we didn’t know her really and Thea is in a coma, but still). That didn’t make me upset because there’s no one on Team Arrow that I don’t like, but again, like The Flash, it keeps the stakes pretty low. The rest of the episode was really solid though with Bad Laurel back from the dead to wreak havoc on Star City’s police department and someone finally outs Oliver as Green Arrow on the news for all to see. Now unless the Legends of Tomorrow show up and use their Men In Black style flashy-thingy on the whole city, things are going to get pretty difficult for Ollie. Throw on the added difficulty that he’s experiencing as a new single father, and you have the makings of a pretty good arc for Arrow’s sixth season. While Arrow has had its issues, I believe that season five really put the show back on track. The biggest difference has been Oliver Queen’s growth as a character. He seems to be in a position to grow even further this year.

Previous seasons for all four shows in the Arrow universe can be streamed on Netflix. Episodes from the current season can be found on The CW app. 

Channel Surfing:

  • Riverdale also returned to The CW this week in a premiere that picks up literally minutes after the finale left off. Riverdale was last season’s most surprising show in that from the outside looking in it appeared to be just another CW drama in a long line of CW dramas that I had no interest in. But by grounding the story in the rich world of the Archie comics and presenting a solid mystery with great performances from a young cast, it completely surpassed my expectations. I’m interested to see if the tension can be sustained now that last season’s arc is complete. The questions about the identity of Fred Andrews’ killer and whether or not Jughead joins the Serpents don’t grab me nearly as much as the mystery surrounding the disappearance and death of Jason Blossom. We’ll see if they can bring in a little more intrigue here in the next few weeks. Mark Consuelos’ addition to the cast as the slimy Hiram Lodge is a good start. The first season of Riverdale can be found streaming on Netflix and the season premiere is now available on the CW app.
  • Halt and Catch Fire ended this past weekend with a solid 2 hour finale. I hesitated to mention it here because I plan on writing more on it later, but it was too perfect not to mention. In the beginning of the episode, Lee Pace’s Joe McMillan recalls a time when he told Scoot McNairy’s now deceased Gordon Clark that the advent of the personal computer wasn’t “the thing” but that it was “the thing that gets you to the thing.” In the context of his speech, “the thing” is the internet. But the finale shows how that idea of “the thing that gets you to the thing” has been weaved throughout the tapestry of the show from the very beginning. In the end we see that the thing at the end isn’t nearly as satisfying as the thing that got you there. In the case of Halt and Catch Fire, that thing is the relationships between the five core characters. While Joe, Cam, Donna, Gordon and Boz have experienced love and hate and everything in between over the course of almost 15 years, they’ve also been constant in each others’ lives, spurring each other on towards growth and maturity. The characters in the finale would be nearly unrecognizable to the characters in the series premiere. But that isn’t the case because of poor writing that isn’t true to the characters, it’s the case because each of them has experienced tremendous growth. It’s not often that I get sad when a show ends because there are so many out there that I keep up with, but I’m going to miss Halt and Catch Fire. Seasons 1-3 of Halt and Catch Fire can be viewed on Netflix and season 4 can be streamed on the AMC app with your cable subscription.

That’s all for this week. That was a long one! Next week, The Walking Dead is back and we’re less than two weeks away from Stranger Things 2! If you’re an Arrowverse fan, come talk about the shows in our weekly Facebook Arrowverse thread. As always, if there’s anything you’d like me to check out that we haven’t covered, let me know in the comments or in the Facebook group. I really do listen! I didn’t start watching Halt and Catch Fire until I heard about it from someone in the group, so keep those suggestions coming.

Feelin’ TV: September 25-October 1

I don’t really care about the Emmy’s. Every year the Oscar’s give me a few movies to add to my watchlist, but the Emmy’s very rarely move the needle for me as far as my viewing habits. I could be wrong, but it always seems to me like once a show or an actor gets honored with the award, they’re continuously honored in perpetuity until the show ends its run while other deserving shows are ignored. And if I’m being honest, I’m a little bitter that Parks & Recreation went 0-16 at the Emmys during its seven seasons. But this year, as I was hearing all of the buzz after the ceremony for Big Little Lies, I looked at the dynamite cast and the well-regarded show runner and decided to give it a try. In doing so, I may have started to care about the Emmy’s.

Big Little Lies, the adaptation of Liane Moriarty’s 2014 novel of the same name, tells the story about a death at an elementary school fundraiser in Monterey, California. The story is presented on two fronts. The primary way is through the main narrative that follows Madeline, Jane, Celeste and Renata (Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern, respectively) from student orientation day at Pirriwee Public School all the way up to the fateful night of the murder. The secondary narrative is what we hear from ancillary characters describing the escalating tension between our four main characters over the time periods in their statements to the police. What makes Big Little Lies stand out from other murder mysteries is that not only is the audience unaware who the killer is, we’re also kept in the dark as to who the victim is. It’s great storytelling technique pulled off with near perfection by one of the most impressive casts I’ve seen in a television series. The four leads are fantastic. They’re confident, catty and delightfully willing to speak their minds to each other. The drama between the women always feels like the kind of actual real-world problems that mothers deal with every day. Make no mistake, these are women who are well-off living in paradise, but their issues are abuse, bullying and work life balance. As a parent, this helped me buy in immediately because I’ve dealt with the pain of a child being hurt in a manner that leaves those in charge of keeping him/her safe without any clue as to who caused the harm. I’ve gone the wrong way in the drop-off line and felt the condemning stares. I’ve seen little issues between parents become big issues because of the wrong thing said at the wrong time. Now no one is getting murdered at the fundraisers I attend, but I get the stakes. This isn’t your average network TV drama where every conflict could be solved if the characters involved took the time to have a 2-minute conversation.

The main cast, as you’d expect with names like Witherspoon, Kidman and Dern, is spectacular. Witherspoon’s Madeline stands out and reminds me of a grown-up Tracy Flick. She’s smart, dedicated, and she’ll play dirty if you cross her. Dern shines as Renata who is put in the unenviable position of being the villain of the story, at least where the interpersonal relationships are concerned. The men in the cast are great as well with stand-out performances by Adam Scott and Alexander Skarsgard. It’s also important to point out how solid Zoe Kravitz performs in a small but vital role as Bonnie, the young wife to Madeline’s ex-husband.

I don’t want to get into too many spoilers in this space because I’d rather you just watch the show. But my favorite thing about the series is the way shines a light on the strength of women. From little hiccups to giant problems, these are women who are more than capable to handle what life puts in their way. When the men in their lives attempt to fix these delicate issues like a man does, they serve to escalate things further. The men suffer from the classic dilemma of treating every problem like a nail because their only tool is a hammer. This show celebrates strong women and their ability to protect each other and get stuff done. It’s a phenomenal series that deserves every bit of praise it has received. Big Little Lies is currently streaming on the HBO GO and HBO NOW apps.

Channel Surfing:

  • Halt and Catch Fire had a devastating episode this week that absolutely wrecked me. No matter how much time is left in a series (H&CF has only 3 episodes left until its series finale) it takes some guts to make a move that totally changes the direction of your show and that’s what creators Christopher Cantwell and Christopher C. Rogers did this week. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,  is the best show that you’re not watching. These next three weeks promise to be can’t miss TV. Past seasons of Halt and Catch Fire can be seen on Netflix and the current season can be streamed on the AMC app.
  • Speaking of shows that are unafraid to throw a wrench into the machine that totally changes the show, The Good Place did just that for the third time in its last three episodes. My favorite new show from last season is quickly becoming my favorite show on TV. If you haven’t watched it yet, I can’t express how much you’re missing out. Catch up on season one on Netflix and season two is streaming on Hulu and NBC.com.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine has occasionally ended their season by upsetting the apple cart, but typically they get everything back to the status quo by the end of the next season’s premiere. This season though, it appears that they’re willing to play with the Peralta and Diaz in prison storyline for a little while. And the show is the better for it. The season five premiere was among the best episodes the show has ever produced. Look, Jake and Rosa aren’t guilty and they’re not going to stay there forever, but with the amount of fun that Dan Goor and his writers were able to have with those scenes in particular, I hope it ends later rather than sooner. Brooklyn Nine-Nine can be seen on Hulu or at FOX.com
  • For all you Trekkies out there, we’d be remiss not to mention that Star Trek: Discovery launched last week with a two-part premiere. In the opening episodes we are introduced to Captain Philippa Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh), First Office Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) and the crew of the  USS Shenzhou. Life in the Federation is pretty chill until the Klingons show back up and chaos ensues. These first two episodes serve as a great primer to the world we will be seeing in Discovery, and though I didn’t particularly love them, they made me curious enough to stick around for episode #3. In this week’s episode the show begins to reveal more of what the episodic storytelling nature may be going forward. This is an intense Star Trek, with a mysterious Captain in Gabriel Lorca (Jason Isaacs), horror-like moments reminiscent of the video game Doom 3, and an intriguing crew with vastly different personalities. It was great to finally be aboard the USS Discovery, as well, and see some of the interesting technology of this universe. I came away from the third episode fully onboard with the show and am now quite excited about where it goes from here. – Aaron  Star Trek: Discovery can be streamed through CBS All-Access

As always, if there’s anything you’d like to see covered that we’re not yet covering, let me know in the comments or on the Feelin’ Film discussion group. Thanks for reading!

Feelin’ TV: August 14-20

In the current entertainment landscape, super heroes rule the world. Quietly, as the critical world lamented the comic book film’s overtaking of the box office, Marvel and DC were busy taking over the small screen as well. There are over a dozen programs based on comic books or graphic novels currently airing today. There are no fewer than nine new properties that will debut during the 2017-2018 television season. Netflix’s Defenders, which dropped this past Friday, arrives on this landscape having the advantage of a solid foundation of two years and five seasons of television worth of developed characters and a fully realized setting. For the most part, it serves that foundation well.

Defenders follows Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist as they team up to fight a mysterious group known as The Hand. The Hand existed quietly behind the scenes in the first season of Daredevil, took a step forward in season two, and was the primary antagonist of Iron Fist. It’s an ancient organization that exists to keep existing, or something. When their continued existence is threatened, their leader, a chilling Sigourney Weaver, enlists the help of the Black Sky to ensure their survival. For some reason that was never entirely clear to me, the plan involves levelling New York, which our heroes cannot abide.

The best parts of Defenders coincide with the strongest parts of its established universe. Matt Murdock and Jessica Jones are a match made in heaven. Charlie Cox and Krysten Ritter play off of each other well and seem to be having a lot of fun with their roles. Mike Coulter as Luke Cage is good as well, providing the moral center of the team. Danny Rand is as annoying as he was in Iron Fist earlier this year, but I think that’s a writing problem, and not necessarily Finn Jones’ problem. It takes a while for the crew to get together, but I think that’s a strength. Matt Murdock and Finn Jones’ story lines already intersect heavily with The Hand, but Jessica Jones and Luke Cage’s narratives need time to connect to that universe. I wouldn’t change a thing about how they find each other, but my main complaint is that the rest of the story feels rushed. The main quibble that people have had with Netflix’s shows in the past is that they tend to be 2-3 episodes too long. All of the previous seasons in this universe have been 13 episodes, but each could’ve been pared down to 10 without sacrificing story. Defenders has the opposite problem. The season is only 8 episodes long, but would probably be better served with at least 2 more. I guess if I was a producer, I wouldn’t be too upset if people’s main complaint is that they wanted to spend more time in your story, so I’m still pretty excited about the franchise. Next up is the Daredevil spin-off The Punisher, which drops in November. Defenders can be streamed on Netflix.

Game of Thrones delivered another action packed episode with a lot of forward momentum on Sunday, but there are some issues with the pacing that are getting much too big to ignore. Listen, I’m not a scientist. I don’t know how fast ravens fly. I don’t know how fast dragons fly. But the turnaround from being hopelessly stranded north of the wall to being rescued by dragons was pretty unbelievable, even for a show with zombies and Three-Eyed Ravens. It started out as a nitpick, but it has become a serious storytelling issue. I should be talking about ice dragons and warring sisters and the return of Benjen Stark, but instead I only remember Gendry running several 4 minute miles in sub-zero temperatures and birds that apparently fly with the speed of modern day jets. I’m trying to ignore that and just enjoy the ride, but that’s getting a little harder every week. Game of Thrones can be streamed on the HBO NOW and HBO GO platforms.

Briefly, I wanted to mention that AMC’s stellar but criminally underwatched Halt and Catch Fire returned this week for its fourth and final season. It’s the fictional story of four tech pioneers set among the backdrop of the 80’s and early 90’s technology boom. If you’re looking for a show to watch while you wait for the 2017-2018 seasons to debut in mid to late September, I’d suggest catching up with it on Netflix. Seasons 1-3 of Halt and Catch Fire on Netflix and the premiere of season 4 is available to watch at AMC.com and on the AMC app.

That’s all for now. If there’s anything you’d like to see covered, as always, let me know. Happy Thrones Finale Week!

Feelin’ TV: July 17-23

Season seven of Game of Thrones has been a lot of talking bookended by two scenes of pretty intense action. While I didn’t enjoy the action at the end of Sunday’s episode, I really enjoyed all of the talking. I don’t know how to describe why I didn’t enjoy the naval battle that ended the episode other than to say the whole thing felt small. It reminded me of something you might see in a well-produced stage play. That’s fine for a show on The CW or ABC Family (I refuse to call it Freeform), but HBO has shown us some epic, sweeping battles in the past and this one was subpar. If, however, it turns out that this was the end of hearing about Dorn though, I’ll retroactively refer to it as the greatest moment in GoT history. The decimation of the iron fleet was the second thing about the episode that greatly surprised me. I wasn’t completely disappointed in the result of that battle, as it seems like it will propel Daenerys to take Grandma Tyrell’s advice and act like the dragon she claims to be.

The first surprise and the one that I found disappointing is the enthusiasm Jamie showed in recruiting people to Cersei’s cause. I thought that he seemed to be growing weary of his power hungry sister last week. It’s still entirely possible that he’s doing this out of self-preservation rather than sincerity as he awaits his opportunity to leave Cersei in his past, and I hope that is where his story is headed. There isn’t always a lot of redemption to be had in the world of Game of Thrones, but Jamie’s journey from a guy who we first met as he was pushing a pre-teen out of the window of a tower into a sympathetic character has been a high point in the series for me.

The other parts of the episode that really stuck with me were Littlefinger and Varys both being put in their place. Jon holding Littlefinger by the neck up against the wall in the crypt at Winterfell was pretty satisfying. Littlefinger is a snake, and I hope winter comes for him pretty soon. The scene where Varys is confronted by Daenerys served as a good history lesson about how far he, she and Tyrion have come in the last six seasons. When Varys talked to Ned way back in season one about his scheming being for the good of the realm and the people, I never bought it for a second. But now with the benefit of having spent time with Varys, I do. And I found myself wanting to speak on his behalf like Tyrion as the Breaker of Chains questioned his loyalty. Has he always had the best intentions? I don’t know. But I believe he does now. Daenerys’ reservations were valid, but I’m glad she chose to show him mercy both because I think he’s a good man and because selfishly, as a viewer, the scenes that feature Emilia Clarke, Peter Dinklage and Conleth Hill together really sing.

So Jon is on his way to meet his aunt, Good Queen Gravejoy has been captured by Uncle Gravejoy, and Theon is going swimming. What happens next is anyone’s guess. What did you think about the episode? Leave your thoughts in the comments or in the Facebook group. Game of Thrones can be streamed on the HBO NOW app or on HBO GO with an eligible cable subscription.

I didn’t watch anything else this weekend because it’s July and there aren’t a lot of things on. But thanks to San Diego Comic Con, there was lots of TV news to share and trailers galore. I thought I’d close out this week’s column with a few trailers for shows that will undoubtedly be covered on Feelin’ TV soon.

Netflix: Stranger Things and The Defenders

AMC: The Walking Dead

Disney: Ducktales and Inhumans

Fox: The Gifted

CW: Black Lightning, Supergirl, Arrow, Legends of Tomorrow and The Flash

For a comprehensive roundup of all the trailers to come out of San Diego over the weekend including movies and shows that I don’t cover or plan on covering, Screen Rant has you covered here. Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to chime in over on our Facebook group.

 

 

Feelin’ TV: June 19-25

There’s a reason that only kids repeat the little rhyme, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It’s because It’s complete garbage. While many have experienced physical pain, careless words are what often leave the most lasting scars. Through three seasons of Better Call Saul, we’ve watched as Jimmy McGill slowly but surely transforms into Saul Goodman. While the show has taken its time to get there, this week’s season finale moved the transition along with a jolt. And it did so with one sentence, spoken to Jimmy by his brother Charles. “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but the truth is, you never mattered much to me.” With these words, Charles, whose approval and respect was the motivation behind Jimmy’s quest to be a lawyer, paves the way for Slippin’ Jimmy’s rebirth Saul. And if it ends up that we don’t hear from Chuck again, it was one crushing final blow to our main character. I can’t imagine that Jimmy recovers from this. Occasionally, because of the likeable and charming way in which Jimmy is portrayed by Bob Odenkirk, it can be easy to forget that Saul Goodman doesn’t end up the good guy. He’s not the hero of this story. But until this point, he’s meant well. I’m not sure that will be the case anymore heading into season four. Previous seasons of AMC’s Better Call Saul can be found on Netflix.

It takes a lot of confidence for writers to do what they did on this season of Fargo. There were a lot of threads dangling from the season that one might assume would be wrapped into a little bow in an anthology series like this, but they would be wrong. Instead what we got was an open-ended finale that allows the viewer to decide how they want it to end. It was a wonderful twist to a season that has really played with the idea of the nature of truth. Does it matter what really happened if everyone believes something else? Do you believe that justice will be served like Carrie Coon’s Gloria Burgle does? Or will David Thewlis’ Varga be let off the hook due to the strength of the alternate story he’s created? You choose. It’s bold and I think it’s a perfect ending to this season. Prior seasons of FX’s Fargo can be found on Hulu Plus.

GLOW, which dropped on Netflix this week, is a fictionalized take on the beginnings of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling television show from the mid-1980’s. It stars Alison Brie as Ruth, a struggling actress who stumbles into an audition for the show and Marc Maron as Sam Sylvia, the B movie creator who they hired to direct it. It’s a fun take on an origin story as the wrestlers live and train together, getting ready for the filming of the pilot episode. We get to see them adopt and hone their personas as they learn about the world of fake wrestling. It’s only 10 episodes that are about a half an hour a piece, so it’s not a huge commitment. If you’ve ever been a fan of wrestling, I’d assume that you’ll enjoy this fictionalized peek behind the curtain. Thanks to Steve Clifton for giving me a heads up about the show. All 10 episodes can be streamed on Netflix. 

As always, if there’s anything you’d like to have covered, leave it in the comments or on the Facebook page. There will be no Feelin’ TV next week on Independence Day. Turn off the TV, enjoy your family and practice fire safety.

Feelin’ TV: June 12-18

The 2nd season episode, “The Injury,” is a favorite of many fans of NBC’s The Office. The laughs produced as Jim and Michael accompany Dwight to the hospital to be checked and eventually treated for a concussion are some of the show’s best. Among the memorable moments crammed into the episode’s 22 minutes are Michael wrapping his foot in bubble wrap after burning it on a George Foreman Grill, one of the all-time most awkward conference room meetings as Michael invites the handicapped building manager to speak when he feels he isn’t getting enough sympathy for his injury, Jim using a spray-bottle to keep Michael and Dwight under control in Meredith’s mini-van, Michael getting angry as Dwight gets off one of the show’s best “that’s what she said” jokes and the closing seconds when Michael trying to sneak his foot into Dwight’s CT scan. It’s a tight episode with a lot of laughs and character moments.

But none of those are the moments that stand out most to me. There’s a small conversation between Toby and Ryan after the former witnesses the latter biting his string cheese that I think about quite often. “Wow, you just dive right in!” says Toby. Ryan replies, “You know, around age 12 I just started going for it.” It’s the kind of moment that isn’t at all funny or interesting, but I think it’s what endears the show to a certain segment of its fan base. It captures the kind of meaningless chatter that someone who works in a cube experiences every single day. Person one says something because they can’t handle silence. Person two responds with the most benign and mildly amusing comment they can muster because it would be rude not to respond. Both persons laugh to be polite. I may not think scenes like this are funny and at times, they even get on my nerves, but it’s where I live. We may visit The Office for Michael Scott’s incompetence and the high jinks of Jim, Pam and Dwight, but it’s these little interactions that make us feel like we already work there. The Office is currently streaming in its entirety on Netflix.

Something that tends to surprise people who know my viewing habits is that my wife doesn’t really like to watch TV. There aren’t any TV dramas or sit-coms that I’ve been able to find that interest her. The one exception to this rule has been that we both enjoy the Food Network and we both absolutely love Food Network Star. Chef Bobby Flay (my #1 celebrity crush) and Giada De Laurentis host this show where 13 finalists compete to get their own Food Network show.  Bobby and Giada eliminate one contestant every week until one winner is crowned. It’s a perfect summer show. It’s fun, interesting, and ultimately as mindless as a beach novel. My favorite thing about the show are the guest judges that show up every week. As a connoisseur of Food Network shows, it warms my heart to no end to see folks like Robert Irvine, Anne Burrell, Alex Guarnaschelli (my #6 celebrity crush), Ted Allen, etc., have a seat at the judges table from week to week to critique the competitors who vary in their skill levels from TV ready to grossly incompetent. There are still 9 competitors left this season, so it’s not too late to jump in. Food Network Star airs on Sunday nights on Food Network. Prior episodes can be streamed on the Food Network app with cable subscription info.

Season 3 of Netflix’s The Ranch dropped last week, and like the other two seasons, it’s a lot of fun. Former That 70’s Show cast-mates Ashton Kutcher and Danny Masterson, as Colt and Rooster Bennett, anchor this sitcom about brothers living and working on the family ranch that delivers on the laughs you’d expect while also showing a surprising amount of heart. Elisha Cuthbert is delightful as Abby, Colt’s on again, off again love interest. Every episode is stolen by Sam Elliott who plays the patriarch of the Bennett family. His deep voice and old school cowboy personality is comic gold when paired with Kutcher’s goofiness and Masterson’s sarcasm. Debra Winger rounds off the cast as Maggie Bennett, the matriarch of the clan who resides in an Airstream outside of the bar she owns in town. She’s the only part of the show I’m not a big fan of. There’s a lack of comedic timing and chemistry with the rest of the cast that makes her stick out a bit, but it’s a minor quibble. It’s well worth the watch. The Ranch is currently streaming on Netflix.

Last week upon a recommendation from Patrick Hicks (if the guy that runs the site you write for recommends something, is it really a recommendation?), I worked my way through three seasons of AMC’s Halt and Catch Fire. The series takes a look at the advent and boom of the home computer through the eyes of fictional characters Joe McMillan (Lee Pace), Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), Gordon’s wife Donna (Kerry Bishe) and Cameron Howe (Mackenzie Davis). The first season has its pacing issues, but it’s never less than interesting as the dialogue and chemistry among the cast is always on point. It really hits its stride in second and third seasons as our characters go their different ways and occasionally find their way back to each other again. The genius of the show is the use of fictional characters put in a real-world setting. We get to feel the urgency put upon entrepreneurs to innovate without the revisionist history that would most likely come with the territory of using historical figures. That’s not to say that there aren’t any similarities between our characters and historical people. I’ll let you figure out who those people are. The fourth and final season hits AMC in August, so there’s plenty of time left to get caught up. The first three seasons of Halt and Catch Fire is currently streaming on Netflix.

That’s all for this week! But remember if you have a show you’d like to have covered that we haven’t, let us know in the Facebook group or in the comments. Next week we’ll talk about the season finales to both Fargo and Better Call Saul!

Feelin’ TV: June 5-11

I’m not sure what I was expecting when I started watching Better Call Saul. As a fan of Breaking Bad who very much enjoyed Bob Odenkirk’s portrayal of the slimy lawyer Saul Goodman, I was all in no matter what. I guess I was expecting something resembling a modern lawyer show, only funnier because the main character doesn’t care about the rules or decorum or justice or, you know, the law. What I didn’t necessarily expect, though, was a more deliberate, thoughtful and, dare I say, better version of Breaking Bad.

In 1988, Alan Moore and Brian Bolland published the famous Joker origin story, Batman: The Killing Joke. The story of the birth of the Joker was told in flashbacks as the Clown Prince of Crime put Jim Gordon through the ringer in the present day. The Joker’s hypothesis was that, much like his experience, even the best of men could be rendered insane through just one bad day. That’s the nature of the story of Walter White. Sure, through five seasons of the show we saw White go deeper and deeper into the darkness, but the truth is that Walt broke bad after one really bad day. By the end of Breaking Bad’s pilot episode, Walt has purchased an RV for the purpose of manufacturing crystal meth and he and Jesse already have two dead bodies to deal with. It was a quick trip to moral bankruptcy for Walt. This is not a complaint about Breaking Bad. I love Breaking Bad. I think it’s brilliant. But with few exceptions it was loud and bombastic and in your face storytelling. Better Call Saul is completely different. If Breaking Bad was the story of how someone can go dark because of one really bad day, Better Call Saul is the story of how the every-man, disillusioned by the often-bitter reward of attempting to do the right thing, slowly learns to embrace compromise as the fruit of those decisions yield more desirable immediate results. Over the past two and a half seasons, Vince Gilligan and his team have succeeded in turning the Breaking Bad’s comic relief into a tragic figure. We’re slowly watching the young man who put himself through law school to earn his brother’s respect become the lawyer/con-man fans of the character already hated to love. There are two episodes left in this season that has been equal parts fun and devastating. If you’re not watching, I’d recommend you start. For my money, Better Call Saul is the best show on television. Breaking Bad and the first two seasons of Better Call Saul are currently streaming on Netflix.

Since we’re talking about shows that may or may not be the best shows on TV, it’s only fair that we bring Fargo into the conversation. The Coen Brothers are my favorite filmmakers. And Fargo is my favorite Coen Brothers movie. The setting, the juxtaposition between the brutal ineptitude of the hit-men vs the polite hyper-competence of Chief Gunderson and Jerry Lundegaard’s slow descent into madness all mixed together perfectly to create one of the best films in my lifetime. FX’s take on Fargo has been able to expertly take a lot of these ingredients and mix them together to form their own unique stories that definitely feel flavored by the Coen’s unique sensibilities. This past week’s episode was a Coen lover’s dream. We got beautifully brutal shots that looked like they could have come straight from its namesake film, a Serious Man style Jewish folktale, a call back to season 1 of the show and, for good measure, half of the episode takes place in a bowling alley where characters receive advice from a mysterious stranger with a velvety smooth voice a la The Big Lebowski. It was a standout episode in what has been a very solid season of television. Each individual episode has stood apart well on its own as well as slowly building a great story. On top of that, it’s themes about the way we perceive what is true and what is false being largely based on who it is that is telling the story are supremely relevant in the age of “alternative facts” and “fake news.” Seasons one and two of Fargo can be viewed on Hulu Plus.

Finally, we have a little bit of good news to end our column. This week it was announced that a 5th season of BBC’s Luther will begin filming next year. Long-time fans of the show have been waiting since December of 2015 for new episodes. I recently caught the first four seasons on Netflix upon the recommendation of a reader (Thanks Phillip!). So, I’ve only been waiting for new episodes since last Thursday. But that already feels like it’s taking too long. Luther is unlike any detective show I’ve ever watched. It’s so much more about Idris Elba’s John Luther than it is about any of his cases. He’s a detective who occasionally plays a little fast and loose with the law, but always in the interest of justice and not to serve his own interests. There’s something to be liked for people who like the whodunit style detective show as well as those who would rather know who the bad guy is and figure out how the detective is going to nab him. And it should go without saying, but Elba is great. All four seasons (or series, sorry BBC) are currently on Netflix.

As always, if there’s something we’re not covering that you’d like to see covered, let me know in the comments, on Twitter or in the Facebook group.