Feelin’ TV: January 30, 2018

“I don’t know how to put this, but I’m kind of a big deal…People know me…I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.” – Anchorman

Sometimes a show or a movie comes along that transcends its own entertainment value and achieves a level of importance based on its subject matter and the time in which it is made. A lot of films (or TV, music, etc.) fall short of the so called “important” label either by abandoning all subtlety and beating you over the head with its message or, like the great Ron Burgundy (quoted above), by coming off a bit too proud of itself for being so damned important. A recent example of the latter is Steven Spielberg’s The Post. The Post is a really good movie with some really good performances by a really, really good cast. It’s also a really important movie in a time when the reliability of the press is constantly under fire. I very much enjoyed it. If you listen closely, though, there’s this little voice, not a loud voice but it’s a persistent voice, whispering “I’m very important” into your ear in every frame. The fact that The Post is a film starring two of a generation’s greatest acting talents and made by one of our greatest living directors serves to illustrate my point that making entertainment that is “important” is not at all simple.

Onto this razor’s edge between relevance and afterthought comes The CW’s Black Lightning. Packed with conflict taken straight from the front pages, Black Lightning tells the story of Jefferson Pierce, an inner city high school principal and retired superhero forced back into the world of vigilantism when the crime and corruption in his city of Freeland knocks on his front door. Through two episodes, the show adeptly straddles that line between preachy and self-aggrandizement to tell a story that is both entertaining and, I’ll go ahead and say it, important.

Black Lightning achieves this balancing act with a combination of solid performances and real-world complex drama. Cress Williams is perfect as Jefferson Pierce/Black Lightning. His physicality commands every scene he’s in. He’s an imposing character who is absolutely believable as both a tough-as-nails inner city principal and as a masked crime fighter to be feared. Aside from Williams, the bulk of the drama has been adeptly handled by China Anne McClain, Nafessa Williams and Christine Adams who play Pierce’s two daughters and his ex-wife, respectively. Adams has been particularly good as the concerned spouse for whom Pierce gave up the Black Lightning mantle in the first place. If she’s the anti-vigilante angel on his left shoulder, James Remar’s Peter Gambi is the superhero enabling devil on his right. Remar hasn’t had much to do through the first couple of episodes, but he’s the kind of actor who you can count on making the most of what he gets and his turn in Black Lightning is no exception. The tug of war on the soul of Jefferson Pierce’s soul between those two perspectives has carried more heft than most anything else being put out there by comic book shows now days (and this is coming from a guy who watches/loves them all).

Bottom line: The heroes are virtuous, the threat of evil is tangible, and the answers to what the city of Freeland needs are not easy solutions. It’s only January, but Black Lightning is already setting itself up to be one of the best new shows of the year. Give it a shot for yourself to see what you think. I’m sure this won’t be the last that we talk about it this season. Old episodes of Black Lightning can be viewed on The CW app and new episodes air on Tuesday nights on the network.


Channel Surfing:

  • Great News ended it’s second season on a high note this week with an episode that may end up being not only the season-capper, but also the series finale. It has not yet been renewed by NBC and it’s looking more and more like it will not be back. Thursday’s show provided a satisfying end to the major arc of the second half of the season while getting off a few biting jabs at the Harvey Weinstein’s of the world. A series that started out as a poor-man’s 30 Rock really stepped out of that shadow to become it’s own thing this season and it would be a shame if it doesn’t return. So go watch it! I’ve never steered you wrong before. Season two of Great News can be streamed on Hulu. 
  • It’s been a good couple of months for Psych fans. First, we get Psych: The Movie in December and January saw the series become available to watch in its entirety on Amazon Prime. It’s not a great show, but it’s a whole lot of dumb fun. Sometimes that’s just what you need at the end of a long day.
  • The Paramount Channel (formerly known as Spike TV) launched their six part miniseries Waco this week about the infamous 1993 standoff between the FBI and the Branch Davidians. Starring Taylor Kitsch as the cult leader David Koresh and Michael Shannon as Gary Noesner (the real life FBI hostage negotiator on whose book the series is based), the series looks to be one that will attempt to tell the whole story without merely playing the blame game. There will be more coverage here of this one in the coming weeks.

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. 

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: Top Shows of 2017

Feelin’ TV is back for 2018! Before we get too far in to the television of the new year, I wanted to take my first week to look back at my favorite five shows from 2017.

5) The Crown

If there is one thing that I hate more than British costume drama, it’s the obsession that a large portion of American society has with the comings and goings in the British Royal Family. The fact that The Crown manages to be both while also being one of my favorite shows that I watched last year is absolutely astounding to me. It succeeds because of its performances (John Lithgow as Winston Churchill is astounding) and the way the writers include significant historical intrigue into their telling of the story of the longest serving British monarch. My favorite episodes thus far have been “Assasins” (S1E9) in which Churchill befriends an artist painting his portrait and “Vergangenheit” (S2E6) that sees the Queen consult a young Billy Graham as she weighs her personal desire to forgive against her positional responsibility to the appearance of justice. The first two seasons of The Crown can be streamed on Netflix.

 4) Better Call Saul

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Better Call Saul could have easily and lazily coasted to several seasons of solid ratings based solely on the success of Breaking Bad and it’s built in fan base. That Vince Gilligan and his crew have instead created a show with rich, fully realized characters, intricate stories and a lived-in setting is a remarkable achievement. Bob Odenkirk anchors the show as the sad sack Jimmy McGill who really did just want to go straight. Michael McKean steals every scene as his arrogant and cold older brother Chuck. My favorite episode from season three was “Chicanery” (S3E5) which managed to be satisfying and heartbreaking at the exact same time. The first two seasons of Better Call Saul can be streamed on Netflix

3) The Leftovers

One gets the impression that with The Leftovers, Damon Lindelof explores all of the things he wanted to with LOST without the restrictions put on storytelling in a network show. The Leftovers, much like LOST, provided many more questions than it did answers. Unlike LOST though, viewers of The Leftovers were never led to believe the answers were there to be had. The Leftovers is a show about moving on when there are no easy answers. It’s about coping with grief when the answers are unknowable. The Leftovers ended its run with one of the greatest series finales ever as characters resolved to love each other even in the mess. The Leftovers can be streamed with your HBO subscription.

2) Big Little Lies

There’s not much I can say about Big Little Lies that hasn’t been said elsewhere. It is deservedly one of the most awarded and critically acclaimed shows of 2017. The cast is fantastic. Reese Witherspoon is as good as she’s ever been. More than any show I’ve ever watched, the relational conflicts feel real because they’re rooted in actual, real-world issues. The central murder mystery, which not only leaves the viewer guessing about the perpetrator but also the victim, is never less than edge-of-your-seat tense. In a year that saw so many strong women stand up to inequality, harassment and abuse, Big Little Lies was the perfect show of 2017. Big Little Lies can be streamed with your HBO subscription. 

1) The Good Place

If I had been writing about TV in 2016, this would’ve been my #1 show back then as well. Here’s the thing, I’m an unashamed Michael Schur fanboy. Parks and Recreation and The Office are my two favorite sit-coms of all time. I’ve watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine from day one. I listen to his podcast about baseball every week. Shur’s work just speaks to me. I was predestined to love The Good Place no matter what. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that The Good Place is the best sit-com on TV whether you’re a Michael Schur fan or you’ve never heard of the guy (I’ll bet you have, in addition to being a writer and one time show runner on The Office, he also played the role of Dwight Schrute’s cousin/roommate Mose). The Good Place arrived with a completely realized setting in a way that you don’t see often. Most shows take a bit of time to figure out what they are or what they want to be, but you get the feeling that the writers of The Good Place knew everything about the world they built from the word “go” and anything we don’t yet know is because they don’t want us to know it, not because they haven’t figured it out yet.  On top of the setting The Good Place boasts two solid main characters in Kristen Bell and Ted Danson who are every bit as great as you’d expect them to be. And then you get to add the four other members of the main cast (William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, D’Arcy Carden and Manny Jacinto), each of whom have emerged from relative obscurity to breakout character status, as the cherry on top. Season one ended with a twist that I thought the show could never top. Season two has shaken up the status quo every week to the point that I have no idea what is going to come next. It’s my favorite show of the year, and it’s number one on my list of shows you should be watching if you’re not already. Season one of The Good Place is currently streaming on Netflix and season two episodes can be found on Hulu.


Channel Surfing:

  • Runaways has been renewed by Hulu for a second season after a solid freshman debut. In my opinion, it fizzled a bit at the end, but there’s still quite a bit of promise for some good stories to be told in the future. I think later episodes showed some of the limitations of the young cast members, but the older members of the cast and the intriguing source material make it a show to continue to keep an eye on while the younger actors find their footing. Season one of Runaways can be viewed on Hulu.
  • Black Lightning premiered on The CW this week and it was a hell of a debut. The major theme of this superhero drama is racial injustice and it doesn’t appear to be interested in easy answers and mustache twirling villains. With plot lines ripped straight from the front pages of 2017 news, it’s a show that’s always going to be in danger of being soapbox-y, but the premiere managed to sidestep that pitfall. And even if it does slide to the preachy side of the pendulum from time to time, Black Lightning‘s point of view is one that we can always use more of. Give it a shot. Black Lightning airs on Tuesday nights on The CW

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. 

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: 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.