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: 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: September 18-24

One of my favorite forms of entertainment are the kind that can exist to poke fun at a genre while also being a solid example of that genre. Shane Black movies like The Nice Guys or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang immediately come to mind as movies that revel in poking holes in the tropes of your average buddy action comedy while also being really enjoyable buddy action comedies. It’s difficult to pull off, so I appreciate when it’s done well. There have been several TV shows that have tried to do this with varying levels of success. Psych is the first one that comes to mind. As a spoof of detective shows it definitely leaned heavier on the comedy than the mystery, but it was mostly fun for 8 seasons. Fox’s new Seth Macfarlane vehicle The Orville seems like it has its sights set on straddling the line between parody and homage of Star Trek, although through three episodes, it strangely seems to be leaning more on the side of homage. A few weeks ago, to little fanfare, Netflix dropped a show that in this writer’s opinion is the best example of this type of program to date. That show is American Vandal.

In the past few years, we’ve become obsessed as a society with the true crime documentary. The first season of the podcast Serial was probably the spark that ignited the flame, but Netflix fanned the flame with shows like Making a Murderer as the subjects of these shows, Adnan Syed and Steven Avery respectively, became household names. American Vandal takes the concept of these stories, replaces murder with a hilarious lesser offense, and creates a world of colorful characters to round out a highly amusing and surprisingly insightful “true crime” documentary series. To tell you much more is to ruin the surprise, but suffice it to say the cast is incredible and the story that begins as farce eventually gets crafted into an intriguing mystery that will have you glued to your seat until it’s over. And along the way it gives the viewer a lot to think about as it examines high school culture in the age of social media in a way that both entertains and gives pause. The subject matter might be more than some can handle, but I couldn’t recommend it any higher. American Vandal is currently streaming on Netflix.

Channel Surfing:

  • The Good Place had its second season premiere this week and it started at the very moment that season one left off. Revelations made in the season one finale are really going to allow the writers to expand the world and play with its concept. I’m really excited to see what they have planned. If you haven’t watched The Good Place, I’d suggest you get on it. It was the best new show of 2016 and it doesn’t show any signs of losing that momentum. But don’t start in the middle. The first season is must watch and it’s only 13 episodes (all of which can be seen on Netflix). The season 2 premiere of The Good Place is currently streaming on Hulu.

 

  • I briefly mentioned The Orville before and I’m sure it will come up again in the near future. After 3 episodes, it’s safe to say that it isn’t at all what I was expecting. I don’t care for Seth Macfarlane. His smugness and tendency to take the easiest path to a laugh turn me away from most of his work. But The Orville has shown a significant amount of restraint to the point that I wish that there were more laughs to be had. It’s not that the jokes aren’t funny, they’re just barely there. It has some good pieces, but it’s still figuring out what it wants to be. You can catch up on what you’ve missed of The Orville on Hulu.

 

  • I’m three episodes in to HBO’s Emmy award winning drama Big Little Lies and all I can say so far is “Wow.” The cast is incredible (Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern!) and the story grips you from the moment it starts. With a first episode titled “Somebody’s Dead” I was expecting a whodunnit murder mystery, but thus far we don’t even know who died. I can’t wait to get it finished. You can currently watch all of season one using HBO’s streaming service.

 

  • I’m not a Trekkie, so I’m probably not going to be watching the new Star Trek: Discovery. I know a lot of people are interested in the show, so if you’re watching and you have some quick thoughts, I’d love to hear them!

Well, we’re back after a short hiatus with a new format. We hope that you like it. We’ll be getting into the swing of things as the new TV season really fires up in earnest in the next couple of weeks. 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. As of right now, I plan on covering all of the still running shows we covered at the end of last season with a few new additions (Gifted, Ghosted and Inhumans, among others). Is there anything I’m missing? Come join in the conversation in the Feelin’ Film Facebook group!

Feelin’ TV: August 21-27

Game of Thrones has often been a bleak affair. Westeros has proven to be a place where good is trampled under the foot of evil and virtue is the mark of the naïve. This idea was hammered home in the first season with the death of Ned Stark. People like myself, someone who had never read George R.R. Martin’s five volume (and counting?) epic Song of Ice and Fire, watched the first season assuming that the story of Game of Thrones was the story of Ned Stark. It’s what made the most sense to those of us who are experienced sci-fi/fantasy viewers. When things are the bleakest, the hero, a man with strong character and conviction, throws himself into the melee to expel the forces of darkness with their unyielding light. It’s the story that Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia and others have been telling, with varying degrees of nuance, for decades. When he was arrested and sentenced to die, my money was still on Ned Stark making it through. I watched him be dragged to the executioner’s block wondering how it was that he was going to get out of this pickle. It never occurred to me that Ned Stark might die until the blade had done its work, separating his head from his body. And Ned was just the beginning. If there’s one thing that has been consistently true in the struggle for the Iron Throne, it’s that you can count on the plans of good men being thwarted.

Over the course of season seven, though, I’ve seen a change in that tone. As winter moves south, hope has started to bloom, and it’s because of the seeds planted by Ned Stark. To the world around him, Ned’s character may have been the weakness that cost him his life. While his time in Kings Landing was marked on the outside by its futility, it solidified something so much more important than political power, his legacy. In many ways, Ned was one of the main players in the season finale. His name was on the lips of Cersei, who knew that she could trust the word of Jon Snow because she knew his father. He was on the minds of Sansa and Arya as they brought the man who tore their family apart to justice (finally!). And his words were in the heart of Jon as he stood to tell the truth in spite of everyone else wanting him to keep it to himself. “When enough people make false promises, words stop meaning anything, there’s no answers, only better and better lies,” said Jon, echoing Stark. Furthermore, Jon’s moral compass, instilled in him by the man he knew to be his father, gave him the inclination to forgive the duplicitous Theon Greyjoy, inspiring him to grow a pair (sorry) and go save his sister. That’s the power of legacy. For all we know, it’s entirely possible that season 8 ends with Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen being buried in a shallow grave while Cersei Lannister ascends the stairs to the Iron Throne. But for now, hope grows as the cold moves in, and it appears that Ned Stark will still have a say on the world that emerges when the winter is over. Game of Thrones is available to stream on the HBO GO and HBO NOW apps. 

 

Sometimes Netflix recommends some dumb things that I wouldn’t ever think about watching. Sometimes I watch one anyway because I’m bored and Netflix blows my mind. The latter happened to me this week when for no good reason at all, I decided to take Netflix’s advice and watch CW’s Riverdale. Riverdale is a reimagining of the classic Archie comic. It feels like Archie, Jughead, Betty and Veronica thrown in to the world of Veronica Mars. That’s not an insult. Veronica Mars is one of my favorite shows of all time. The show subverts its source material’s wholesome vibe by digging into the underbelly of a town run by powerful families hiding terrible secrets. It’s funny, sexy, intense and intriguing. It makes the most of its 13-episode first season order by telling a well-paced story that ends with enough threads dangling to keep viewers on the hook for its second season. If you’re looking for a short little series to hold you over until the fall season launches in late September, you could do a lot worse than Riverdale. Riverdale is currently streaming on Netflix. Season 2 airs on The CW beginning October 11. 

Another quick series that I’d highly recommend is Amazon’s The Tick that dropped on Friday. It’s an easy watch, 6 twenty-minute episodes, and it’s a lot of fun. I’ve been a fan of The Tick since I started watching the cartoon when I was in high school. Peter Serafinowcz plays the titular character, a large, naïve, seemingly indestructible bloviating blue man who may or may not be wearing a costume. He’s great. He’s long been a reliable comedic character actor in films like Guardians of the Galaxy, The Spy and Shawn of the Dead, and he slides into the lead role very easily. Griffin Newman plays Arthur, Tick’s reluctant sidekick, who has done tireless work trying to prove the continued presence of the presumed dead villain, The Terror, played with a knowing wink and nod by an unrecognizable Jackie Earle Haley. It’s a delightfully funny send up of all things super hero with a lot of room to grow. The first season sets a great foundation for more. The only disappointment was the absence of classic Tick characters like American Maid and Batmanuel. Hopefully we’ll get to see them when the second season comes around. The Tick is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

That’s all for this week! Fall TV is just around the corner. What new shows do you want us to cover? Leave your comments below!

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: August 7-13

There’s an episode of Netflix’s new comedy Friends from College where Lisa (Cobie Smulders) tells her husband Ethan (Keegan-Michael Key) that they need to talk when she gets home from her business trip. Ethan knows, as everyone does, that when someone says you “need to talk” that it rarely means anything good. When someone tells me that we need to talk, I get a sick feeling in my stomach until we’re able to get it over with. A year from now when I think about Friends from College, I’ll probably remember a few of the many laugh out loud moments, but mostly I’m going to remember how for 8 episodes, I had that same anxious feeling in my gut that I get when someone tells me that we need to talk.

The show follows the lives of Lisa and Ethan as they move from Michigan to New York City, where the rest of their friends (played by Fred Savage, Nat Faxon, Annie Parisse and Jae Suh Park) from their days at Harvard also happen to reside. The main cast is very good and they have a chemistry that makes you believe that they’ve known each other a long time. The scenes we get together with Key and Savage were particularly fun. But it’s also a series whose plot is driven by miscommunication, and that tends to be more frustrating to my taste than enjoyable. My favorite performance and the cast member I identified with most was Felix, the boyfriend of Max (Savage), played with surprising restraint by Billy Eichner. He’s amiable at first as he gets to know the college friends of his paramour, but he slowly becomes more and more exasperated as he witnesses the immature and destructive behavior of the group. At first, it’s a little disappointing as an Eichner fan to see his character be so subdued, but his gradual transformation to the Eichner we’ve come to know and love is tremendously satisfying, mostly because, at least for me, the main characters really started to grate on me too. That’s not to say that it isn’t an enjoyable show. There’s too much comedic talent involved for it not to be. But it definitely is less than the sum of its parts. Friends from College can be streamed on Netflix.

In case you were wondering, Netflix’s new series Ozark wasn’t produced by the Missouri Division of Tourism. The series promises to increase boat enthusiast traffic about as much as Deliverance raised the number of weekend canoe trips in Northern Georgia.  It paints a bleak picture of the picturesque lake in Southern Missouri and the people who call the area home. I can’t imagine that many Missourians, especially those south of St. Louis, would find much about the setting of Ozark to love. But I have a feeling that the other 49 states are going to love it.

Ozark tells the story of Marty Byrde (Jason Bateman) and his wife Wendy (Laura Linney) and his two children as they relocate from Chicago to the Lake of the Ozarks, where Marty has the summer to launder 8 million dollars for a Mexican drug lord. If he succeeds, he’ll get more money to launder. If he fails, well, his family will suffer the consequences that befall people who cross Mexican drug lords. To put it simplistically, it’s Breaking Bad invading the world of Justified. It’s too good to be reduced to that, but it should give you a pretty good idea of the setting and the tone. Bateman, who is also credited as a producer and director on the project does great work as Byrde, a well-meaning family man in over his head who inadvertently ruins the lives of everyone he comes into contact with. It’s an interesting role for him as the nervous energy, unearned cockiness and barely contained exasperation we’re used to is present in his performance, but it’s in a role that isn’t at all comedic. Linney is as reliable as ever as the wife who has her own skeletons to deal with. Julia Garner steals every scene she’s in as Ruth, the young leader of an area family of small-time criminals. She did great work earlier this year in The Americans and she’s only gotten better here. It’s not a perfect show by any means. As mentioned before, it’s treatment of Southern Missouri natives is overly harsh and some obstacles to our antagonist’s success exist only to complicate things in a situation that was complicated enough to begin with. But if you loved Breaking Bad and can handle some darker material (which, of course you can, you loved Breaking Bad), it’s a good story that’s worth a viewing. Ozark is currently streaming on Netflix.

After a pretty poor start this week, Game of Thrones settled down and turned in a really solid table setting episode to carry us through the rest of the season. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one disappointed to see Eastwatch begin with Bronn and Jamie safely out of the water and down river from Daenerys and her dragons. While neither of those characters are on my list of characters I want to die, having the ending of last week’s cliffhanger end without any consequence of note was a pretty big letdown. Thankfully, the rest of the hour more than made up for that.

Last week’s sisterly reunion in Winterfell was sweet and all, but it felt a lot more like Arya was actually back when her and Sansa had a nice tense argument, just like old times. Sansa is headed down a dark path with Littlefinger having her ear. Here’s hoping she’ll realize where that road is taking her before she does something that hurts the other members of her family. Speaking of family, Gilly unearthed some big news this week involving Jon’s parentage. We’ve been all but told that Jon is indeed a Targaryen, but now it sounds like Rheagar and Lyanna Stark actually got married prior to his birth which would make Jon, not Daenerys, the next in the line of secession to the iron throne. The dynamic of the relationship between Snow and the Mother of Dragons will be fascinating when this all comes to light, especially if it turns out that Jon can ride dragons too. For now though, I’m looking forward to watching more of their tenuous alliance. We’re only 2 episodes from the end of Season 7 already. Sunday is this season’s equivalent of the 9th episode, so some pretty exciting things could be in store next week on Game of Thrones: The Avengers. Game of Thrones can be seen on the HBO GO and HBO NOW platforms. 

That’s all for this week. Next week we’ll have the highly anticipated series The Defenders from Netflix and the season 4 premiere of Halt and Catch fire to discuss, along with the penultimate episode of season 7 of GoT.

Feelin’ TV: July 24-30

In the spring of 2002, a group of comic actors including hardworking character actor Paul Rudd, new Saturday Night Live cast member Amy Poehler and Hollywood newcomers Bradley Cooper and Elizabeth Banks, now all household names, got together with director David Wain to make the 80’s summer camp comedy spoof Wet Hot American Summer. The film, which also stars such comedy mainstays as Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Michael Ian Black, Joe Lo Truglio, Ken Marino, Christopher Meloni and the great H. Jon Benjamin (who lends his voice talents to a talking can of vegetables) was a box office and critical flop at the time. Since that spring though, the film, penned by Wain and Michael Showalter, has aged like a fine wine. It’s a glorious, self-aware little movie that chronicles the last day of summer camp in 1981. It’s relentless in the number of jokes it throws at the wall, not taking the time to come back and see which ones stick.

While a lot of the content that Netflix has found it necessary to revive has been mediocre (Fuller House) to poor (Arrested Development Season Four), the 2015 revival of Wet Hot American Summer that chronicled the first day at Camp Firewood in a short 8-episode season was inspired. It took everything that worked well about the film and gave us more. It added the talents of Jon Hamm, Chris Pine, Jason Schwarzman and many others. It worked well enough that last week, Netflix gave us 8 more short episodes to hang with our campers. Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is completely insane. To outline the plot here in a way that made any sense at all would be impossible. Suffice it to say, it’s a lot of poking fun at early 90’s nostalgia (seriously, the number of times we hear about B. Dalton Booksellers is astounding) mixed with the exaggerated versions of the tropes we’ve come to expect from movies and TV shows about reunions. If that isn’t enough, there’s a good bit intrigue in the B plot involving Ronald Reagan, the first President Bush and a nuclear warhead. The humor is as broad as the Atlantic Ocean but has the depth of a baby pool, but man, is it a lot of fun. Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later is currently streaming on Netflix.

If one were judging the merits of an episode of Game of Thrones based on the number of memorable scenes, this week’s episode would have to be one of the best of the series. Arya’s return to Winterfell and her sparring session with Brienne, Bran’s interaction with Littlefinger, Dothraki soldiers in battle on the open field and, of course, large amounts of dragon fire, were all moments that brought waves of satisfaction to long-time fans of the show. But “The Spoils of War” is an episode that didn’t add up to the sum of its parts.

Last week I discussed the hastening of the action of Game of Thrones and mentioned how I was enjoying the change of pace. This week, I’ll admit, I’m beginning to change my tune. It isn’t even taking characters an entire episode to travel across continents. They’re going ridiculous amounts of distance, from Dragonstone to Casterly Rock for example, in between scenes. It’s all becoming a little too convenient for my taste, and I don’t think I’m alone. So while it was pretty cool to see the Mother of Dragons ride Drogon into battle and Arya’s long awaited reunion with Sansa, overall, this was my least favorite episode of the season.

What say you? Do you think that GoT needs to slow its roll? Who saved Jamie from the wrath of Drogon? What will become of him when he surfaces? Leave your thoughts in the comments or our Facebook group. Game of Thrones can be viewed Sunday nights on HBO or streamed on the HBO NOW and HBO GO platforms.

That’s all for this week! Leave us your thoughts in the comments. If there’s anything you’d like to see covered that hasn’t been yet, let us know.

Feelin’ TV: July 24-30

Game of Thrones has burned through a season worth of material in three episodes. We’re used to our characters slowly moving from Point A to Point B. During season one, you could say that we learned just how long the journey from Winterfell to Kings Landing was right along with Arya and Sansa. This is not a complaint. I was not in the back seat asking, “Are we there yet?” like a bored child. We grew to know our characters along the journey. That time that we invested early on has paid off handsomely. Take an example from this week. When Jon arrives to Dragonstone from Winterfell, he immediately gets in a quip at the expense of the diminutive Tyrion. It’s a moment that made all involved pause, including the audience, before cracking a smile. If Game of Thrones were a show that was only concerned with the destination, that scene would have been out of place. Because we spent so much time with Tyrion and Jon on the way to the wall, the moment was perfect. But those days are gone. We don’t spend an episode or two (or three) with Jon as he travels to Dragonstone. The last episode ended with Jon leaving Winterfell, the beginning of this one finds him at the Mother of Dragons’ door. The last time we saw Bran, he was at the wall. This week, he’s arrived at Winterfell. It’s a good thing. Someday, when most of us are dead and gone, George R.R. Martin will release Winds of Winter and undoubtedly fill us in on the details of the journey. But the show has so much to do and so little time. I love it.

This week, Fire and Ice finally met and for this viewer, it was every bit of fun as I hoped it would be. There wasn’t a lot of action, but the interactions were tense and full of juicy dialogue that really allowed all parties involved to shine. Kit Harrington and Peter Dinklage were predictably great. Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys is oozing a regal confidence this season that fuels every scene she’s in. The MVP though was Liam Cunningham’s Davos Seaworth. Every look and every line portrayed a sense of world weariness  A manthat had no time for the pleasantries and decorum expected for those in the presence of royalty. He’s seen the imminent threat and he’s come to do something about it, not to make friends. Ser Davos has consistently been one of my favorite characters, and this may have been his best episode.

There were a lot of other moving pieces too. Cersei and Jamie aren’t just going to roll over for the Breaker of Chains! She also didn’t forget what the women of Dorn did to her daughter! Bran is back! Sansa has as hard of a time understanding the Three-Eyed Raven as I do! What did Davos mean by Jon getting stabbed in the heart? Theon’s back from his ocean getaway! Littlefinger is still the worst! And last but not least, Lady Olenna sure knows how to go out in style.  It all added up to a fantastic episode that is the leader in the clubhouse for my favorite of the season so far. Game of Thrones can be seen on HBO on Sunday nights and on the HBO GO and HBO NOW apps with a subscription.

I had a chance to catch up with Netflix’s Castlevania this week, the animated series based on the video game with the same name. Castlevania tells the story of Dracula vowing revenge on the people of Wallachia after his wife is burned at the stake for witchcraft. A mysterious stranger, revealed early on to be the disgraced demon-hunter Trevor Belmont, must contend with Dracula’s minions and also the church to save the people of the region. It’s an intriguing story with great animation and top-level voice work from the likes of Richard Armitage, Matt Frewer and others. It’s also really dark and bloody and not for the faint of heart. If you can stomach it though, it’s an excellent example of world-building that serves as an origin story; perfectly setting itself up for the second season that Netflix announced that would be forthcoming. If you’re still on the fence, it’s a quick watch with only four 22-minute episodes in the season. I watched it all at once like a (short) movie.  If you’ve watched the show and are itching for some good discussion about the questions the show raises about faith, science, superstition and the role of the Church, I’d recommend listening to our Feelin’ Film friends Tyler and Reed talk about it on More Than One Lesson’s podcast, found here. Castlevania is streaming in its entirety on Netflix.

That’s all for this week! Let us know what you think about Game of Thrones and Castlevania in the comments or in the Facebook group. As always, if there’s anything you’d like to see covered that we haven’t covered yet, let us know!

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: July 10-16

Parks and Recreation is the greatest sitcom of all time. That’s not scientifically provable or anything, but I believe it with all my heart. I spent the last month watching the series all the way through for the sixth time. Even if you disagree with me about it being the best ever, I doubt you’ll be able to point to a comedy that had as perfect of a two-season run as Parks and Rec did for seasons 3 and 4 of its run. Even when it wasn’t great, it was still really good. Because at Feelin’ Film, we really like making lists, I decided that I would submit my picks for the best five episodes of Parks and Recreation:

5. One Last Ride (S7E12) – The final couple of seasons might have relied a little too heavily on giving its characters everything they ever wanted, and that shortcoming is definitely on full display in the series finale. But, man, it’s so good that I just don’t even care. I get tears all around as we get to see what Leslie (Amy Poehler) and the gang are up to in the future, especially when it comes to the fate of my spirit animal, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman).

4. Practice Date (S2E4) – This is the only episode on my list from before Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) and Chris Traeger’s (Rob Lowe) arrival in Pawnee. The A story provides a lot of comedy as Ann (Rashida Jones) takes Leslie on a practice date to help calm the nerves she’s feeling about her first date with Dave (Louis CK). While hearing about all of Leslie’s nightmarish first dates is a lot of fun, what makes this episode so memorable for me is its B story, where all of the other members of the parks department are having a contest to see how much dirt they can dig up on their co-workers. It’s our first introduction to Duke Silver and its where we really start to get to know Jerry Gergich (Jim O’Heir) as the office punching bag. It’s a lot of fun.

3. Fancy Party (S3E9) – My favorite couple on Parks is April (Aubrey Plaza) and Andy (Chris Pratt), hands down. April’s perpetually annoyed demeanor plays off of Andy’s wide-eyed man-child to a form a relationship that managed to feel both inevitable and wildly implausible at the same time. That they would invite their friends and family to bring components of a party to their house (Ben’s items to bring: Avatar, 50 pair of 3-D glasses and a 3-D capable TV) for the purpose of having a surprise wedding is sweet and hilarious and perfectly encapsulates April and Andy.

2. Ron and Tammy: Part Two (S3E4) – I couldn’t make this list without including at least one of the episodes where we get to see Ron interact with his second ex-wife (and real-life spouse Megan Mullally) Tammy 2. I picked a second one because of the ridiculously amusing gag of seeing Ron with corn rows and a mustache with a bald spot in the middle from “friction.” What puts this version of the Ron and Tammy saga on the list over the others is the B story where we learn about Ben’s paralyzing fear of policemen as he and Leslie position themselves to get a favor from Pawnee’s chief of police. It’s this episode where Ben starts to really learn what Leslie is all about. When he asks the police chief why he says that Leslie Knope gets all the favors she wants and he responds, “Because she’s the kind of person who uses favors to help other people.”

1. Flu Season (S3E2) – I realize that three of my five picks are from season three, but you have to understand that I believe that season three of Parks and Rec is the best season of TV sitcom ever. And Flu Season is 22 tight minutes of laughs and the crew splitting off into perfect comedic parings, Tom (Aziz Ansari) and Ben, April and Ann, and my personal favorite, Ron and Andy. Oh, and it also contains what show creator Michael Schur has called, and I agree with him, the funniest one liner in all seven seasons of the show, seen here.

I’m going to restrain myself from giving honorable mentions because I might list every other episode. What say you? What did I miss? What are your favorite episodes? Parks and Recreation can be streamed on Netflix. 


In the age of digital streaming, everyone has a show they want you to watch. Depending on how many seasons you’ve already missed, this can be a daunting proposition. This is why I’m always excited when someone recommends I watch a show and it has less than 20 episodes. I was able to watch Luther in a week! It happened again this week when a friend recommended I watch ABC’s Downward Dog. Downward Dog had a lot going for it. First, it stars Allison Tolman who is probably best known for her role as Molly Solverson on the first season of FX’s Fargo. Tolman is great. I’m a big fan. The conceit is also pretty intriguing. Picture a Modern Family/The Office/Parks and Recreation style mockumentary style sit-com, but the only character that does the talking head portions and the narration is a middle-aged dog who is going through an existential crisis. It’s fun in a way that, as my friend put it, it will never last. And my friend was right. It’s already been cancelled. But the best thing about it is that there are only 8 episodes. I watched the whole thing in an afternoon. It’s the perfect show to begin and finish watching over the summer while your other shows are on hiatus. It’s light, it moves quick and it’s really, really funny. It’s been cancelled by ABC, but the producers are reportedly shopping it around to other networks. It’s unique and different and every viewer counts. Downward Dog can be streamed on Hulu.


Shall We Begin? After what seemed like a lifetime but really was only a year, HBO’s Game of Thrones is back! Once the dust settled from a bloody first few minutes, the rest of the episode was spent moving the pieces into place for the rest of season seven and next year’s climactic season eight. By the looks of it, they’re not going to spend much time messing around. Cersei wants her kingdom back and isn’t going to take no for an answer. Jon needs dragon glass to defeat the Night’s King and, thanks to Sam, he’s about to find out that there’s a whole mess of it at Dragonstone. It looks like we’ll get to see the family reunion that we’ve all been looking forward to but Jon and his Aunt Daenerys don’t yet know is a thing, as the Mother of Dragons has just landed at, you guessed it, Dragonstone. You’ve also got Arya and Bran doing their thing, Sansa paying a little too much attention to Littlefinger and whatever it is that Uncle Greyjoy has up his sleeve. There are a lot of moving pieces and only 12 episodes left until it’s all over.

So what do you think is going to happen? Are Ms. Breaker of Chains and Mr. Snow going to kill the Lannisters on their way to defeat the White Walkers? Or do they need to form a tentative truce with Cersei to survive the winter? And what side is Jamie going to be on? My plan for Game of Thrones is to give a weekly, mostly spoiler free recap on Feelin’ Film TV with the opportunity for more in depth, spoiler-filled discussion in the comments and on our Facebook page. Game of Thrones airs Sunday nights on HBO and can be found streaming on the HBO Now and HBO Go platforms.

That’s all for now! As always, we want this to just be the start of our discussion. Feel free to contribute your thoughts in the comments or our Facebook group. Leave us your thoughts on my list or your predictions for this season of Game of Thrones. See you next week!