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: 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 16-22, 2017

I want to start off this week’s Feelin’ TV with a confession. I don’t really like The Walking Dead anymore. I watch it because I’ve been watching it this long so I might as well finish it. I watch it because people around me watch it and I don’t want to be out of the loop at the water cooler (at my office, it’s an ice machine). I watch it because I hope it will get better, but as I sat down to watch the season eight premiere, I was finding it hard to be optimistic. I say all of this because I want to let you in on my head space when it comes to TWD. It’s currently a show that has to win me back.  And it’s going to take more than one episode to do so. But after watching the premiere, I think it’s on the right track.

The best thing that this week’s episode did was that it jumped right into action. One of TWD’s biggest issues has been pacing and taking a ridiculously long time to work up to inevitable conflict. There have been times, like in season two, where I’ve thought the writers were trying to make the audience feel as miserable as the characters with its plodding pace. So I took the promise of all out war this season with a grain of salt. From the opening minutes though, we see the preparations for war, as Maggie and Ezekiel, leaders of the Hilltop and the Kingdom, respectively, join Rick in giving a (only slightly expository and on the nose) speech before heading off to war against Neegan and his Saviors. Before the episode ends, we see them pull off a well-planned and methodically executed plan to do so. It stands in stark opposition to Rick’s typical reactionary nature. It was something different, and for a show that tends to get stuck in the same rut, anything different is good. It was also fun to see everyone working together again. There was so much segmentation last season that we rarely got to see the shows best characters interact with each other.  But seeing Carol, Daryl and Morgan working together was great, and I hope that can be something that continues over the next few months.

I didn’t love everything about it. Carl still exists. He hasn’t gotten a haircut. Michonne is left back at home and not a part of the action taking down the Saviors. Maybe there’s a plan for her, but I fear that she will continue to be criminally under-utilized as she was in season seven. Much of the dialogue are lines that look way better on paper than they sound spoken out loud. But there’s enough about it to like that I’m cautiously optimistic for the future. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead and want to dig deeper into its themes from week to week, I’d suggest following Gene Gosewehr’s weekly recaps here at Reel World Theology (He’s also quite a bit more positive about the show than I am. He still likes Carl). Seasons 1-7 of The Walking Dead are currently streaming  on Netflix, and episodes from season 8 can be viewed on the AMC app.

Channel Surfing:

  • Arrow dropped a bombshell this week when Oliver invited John Diggle to take the mantle of the Green Arrow. I’m quite interested to see if they’re able to pull that trigger or whether Oliver will find a way to balance his family, public and nocturnal lives in a way that satisfies his conscience as a father and remain the Green Arrow after all. If he indeed does pass the hood to Dig, I’ll be quite impressed with the show-runners, as having your main character make a change of that magnitude is rare. The first hurdle will be the effects of Diggle’s nerve damage and if he’ll be able to physically pull off the transition. But Ollie doesn’t even know about that yet, so we’ll see. The current season of Arrow can be streamed on The CW app.
  • I had heard enough good things about NBC’s Great News that I decided to give it a watch this week. Created by Tracy Wigfield and produced by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, all of 30 Rock fame (among other things), it definitely has the DNA and frenetic 100-jokes-a-minute pace of 30 Rock. It would be easy to label it as 30 Rock in a newsroom, but I think that’s a bit too dismissive. It stars Briga Heelan as Katie Wendelson, a young producer for a struggling news cast called The Breakdown. Her mother, played perfectly by Andrea Martin, is hired as an intern for the same newscast after being inspired to go back to school to follow her dreams, and as they say, hijinks ensue. John Michael Higgins plays self-absorbed co-anchor Chuck Pierce with all of the flare that you expect from the reliable comedy actor. If you love him as the a capella podcaster extraordinaire in the Pitch Perfect films, and of course you do, you’ll love him here. The biggest surprise to me has been Nicole Richie as Higgins’ co-anchor, Portia Scott-Griffith. Her comedic instincts and timing are nearly perfect as the young, hip (at one point she shares that she spent her weekend seeing The Weeknd at a new club called Weekend) and oblivious yin to Higgins’ old-school, stodgy and oblivious yang. The show takes aim at the ridiculous world of cable news and hits a lot more than it misses. The second season has been especially sharp as Tina Fey joined the cast as the network CEO who takes our main character under her wing as a mentee (ok, maybe it’s an awful lot like 30 Rock). If you’re a 30 Rock fan, I can’t imagine you wouldn’t also very much enjoy this show as well. The first season was only 10 episodes long and the second has only aired 4 so far, so you’re not too far behind if you haven’t started yet. All of Great News can be streamed on Hulu.
  • And we’ll close with your weekly reminder that you should be watching The Good Place. This past week was probably the funniest and sharpest that the show has been as they tackled the classic thought exercise, the trolley problem, with hilarious results. Everyone aspect of this show is currently firing on all cylinders. Get on board now before you’re too far behind. The current season of The Good Place can be streamed on Hulu.That’s all for this week. Next week we get to talk about Stranger Things 2! It’s all happening! 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.