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 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.

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: 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.