Feelin’ TV: February 6, 2018

Of the 5 largest comebacks in NFL playoff history, the Kansas City Chiefs have been on the losing end of two. In 2014, Andrew Luck, the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, recovered a fumble by running back Donald Brown and ran it for a touchdown en route to a 28 point second half comeback. Just last month the Chiefs were defeated by the Tennessee Titans, overcoming a 21-3 deficit. At one point, Titans quarterback Marcus Mariotta threw a pass that he then caught when it was batted back in his direction and proceeded to run it into the end zone for an unlikely (and unprecedented) playoff touchdown. The last time the Chiefs won more than one playoff game in the same season, I was 12. They’re 5-14 in the post season in my lifetime. It’s hard to dispute this fact: the Kansas City Chiefs are cursed. I root for a cursed football franchise. Because there’s very little chance that I’ll ever be able to experience championship joy, I find my enjoyment of Super Bowl Sunday in tasty food and in the commercials.

Something that I find interesting is that if you look at all of the Super Bowl ads in a year, you’ll often find that a theme emerges. The 2017 Super Bowl found America at the tail end of the 2016 vicious election cycle that divided the nation in ways that we had never seen before. In response, last year’s ads were quite a bit more subdued than normal and advocated things like unity, tolerance and service. It was fine. Honestly, I don’t remember one of them. This year though, the theme that I saw emerge was one of self-referential parody that aimed to just have a little fun. From Mountain Dew’s decision to give us Morgan Freeman without actually giving us his voice (besides the little stinger at the end) to the weeks long set up of a Crocodile Dundee reboot that was actually just a tourism spot, most of these ads just wanted to cut loose and have some fun. My two favorite commercials/sets of commercials that played around with its format are the Chris Pratt Michelob ads and most everyone’s pick for best commercial(s), the Tide ads.

The Michelob ad campaign is one that I haven’t heard mentioned much in the reading I’ve done about the best commercials since the game. While the first commercial isn’t anything special on its own (unless, like me, you have a large man-crush on Chris Pratt), the payoff is pretty funny as Pratt’s beer commercial training ends up with him being cast as an extra in a beer commercial. What makes the campaign stand out though, is the second ad where we see the actual commercial referenced in the first ad, complete with Pratt in the background of every scene. I like a campaign that rewards you for paying attention the whole game, and this one definitely did that in spades.

 

The easy winner of the night was Tide, which is good because they need a PR win with all of this Tide Pod Challenge nonsense going on. 33 years ago, Apple aired it’s famous 1984 ad during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII and it’s a commercial that is still talked about in marketing classes to this day (well, at least it was in 2016, the last year I was in a marketing class). I have a feeling that this Tide campaign could be one that is talked for years to come as well. What started out as a funny-ish send up of stock Super Bowl commercials then became an unpredictable series of shorts that made you think that any other commercial could possibly be a Tide ad. It’s completely brilliant. I watched every commercial for the rest of the night, regardless of the product, thinking about Tide.

 

And as a bonus, here’s a commercial that I’ll probably forget by next week, but I found it to be really, really funny when it first aired. Kudos to Sprint for breaking out of the mundane tendency of cell phone ads to simply try and up the ante of situations in which it can put a spokesman.

 

What were your favorite Super Bowl commercials? Sound off in the comments or in the Facebook group.

 

Channel Surfing:

  • Did you keep watching after the Super Bowl to see This Is Us? I waited until Monday because I was too busy enjoying the thought of Tom Brady having a good cry to have one of my own. Once I got around to it, the tears started flowing early and often as we finally saw the heroic way in which Jack Pearson died. It was a great episode and the final scene gave us a glimpse into where the show might go from here. This season has been great, but there has also been a long shadow cast by the inevitability of Jack’s death. With that particular plot point having been revealed, I’m excited to see what’s next.
  • I watch a lot of TV, so I can be a hard viewer to surprise. That’s why I’m such a big fan of The Good Place. After a first season finale that caught me completely off guard, the show disrupted the status quo time after time in season two in ways that I didn’t see coming at all. The season two finale was one of my favorites so far (Ted Danson behind a bar? Yes, please!) and set itself up for a hell of a season 3.

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: January 30, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

 

Channel Surfing:

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

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


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

Feelin’ TV: Top Shows of 2017

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

5) The Crown

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

 4) Better Call Saul

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

3) The Leftovers

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

2) Big Little Lies

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

1) The Good Place

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

 

Channel Surfing:

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

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


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

Feelin’ TV: November 27-December 3, 2017

Don’t be sad that it’s over, be thankful that it happened. The week of the Arrowverse’s annual crossover event is now over. And although my heart is a little sad that we won’t see these heroes all working together for another year, what we got in Crisis on Earth X was a wildly entertaining four hour block of television.

In the past, the crossover has been much like similar comic book scenarios where a three or four hour story is broken down to three or four different portions that take place from the lens of the show they’re on, for example, during Supergirl, Supergirl takes center stage, and so on and so forth. It worked pretty well last year, my only real squabble was that while we were promised a four-part crossover, Supergirl’s (the show, not the character) connection was only tangential as the connection to the rest of the universe came in the closing moments of what had been a standard episode of the show. This year, though, they went all in, even going so far to eschew the normal opening credits of each program for the crossover specific Crisis on Earth X name.  The result was a more unified story with a singular vision where every character was given the opportunity to shine. Even non-super characters like Felicity and Iris, normally regulated to speaking into the ears of Green Arrow and the Flash, respectively, had much of the resolution of the plot on their shoulders as the story went on. After doing this for the past couple of years, you can also sense there’s a comfortability with the casts of all four shows, which only added to the enjoy-ability of the event.

The plot of the crossover is simple. Oliver Queen crosses dimensions to steal the heart of Supergirl. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about romance here. In this scenario, the Oliver in question is a Nazi führer from Earth X who actually needs to steal the beating heart of Supergirl to save his wife, also Kara, known on their earth as Overgirl. It’s a fairly straight forward plan, which works in the crossover’s favor as it gives us a chance to get to the action. And the action is a real treat. By the time everyone in the Arrowverse is suited up in battle, I’ll admit to having goosebumps and a tear in my eye. It was a feeling similar to the ones I had when I first watched Avengers or a few weeks ago when I saw Justice League. The event built to its climax perfectly and the payoff was spectacular. Sure, it was cheesy and some of the CGI was poor, but I honestly can’t imagine it being pulled off any better.

I believe what put the event over the top, and I’ve talked about this before, was that the crossover had real stakes. That’s something I wasn’t expecting. When I began watching Supergirl on Tuesday, I had the thought, “This is going to be fun but ultimately the TV equivalent of empty calories because they surely won’t do anything to throw off the status quo of any of these four shows.” I’m happy to report that I was completely wrong. Before Crisis on Earth X was over we had not one, but two couples get married and one main character was dead. On that latter point, I was completely stunned. I expected someone good to die, but I expected it to be someone on the periphery to give the event the appearance of stakes without actually giving it any. Besides adding emotional depth to the entire undertaking, it also made the danger that our heroes were facing feel real. It was a brave choice, and while I’m sad to see the character go, it raised Crisis on Earth X from good to great. I totally can’t wait until next year! The Crisis on Earth X four-part event can be streamed on The CW app.

Channel Surfing:

  • Agents of SHIELD is BACK! And it was great! The two part season premiere of AoS aired this Friday with an opening act straight out of the Twilight Zone and a mystery that has the potential to really carry the season. The thing that impressed me the most about Agents of SHIELD this week was its production value. As I watched the cold open, I couldn’t help but think that it felt like I was watching a movie, not a network TV show. AoS gets a bad rap from a lot of people who never watched past the first season. Over the past few years it has matured into a pretty darn great show that deserves your attention if you’re into the drama. The new season of Agents of SHIELD can be viewed 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. Programming note: I’m going to be taking a break from Feelin’ TV for the next 4-6 weeks while most shows are on break for the holidays and my wife and I prepare for the birth of our child. I appreciate you reading and look forward to returning in a few weeks. Happy Holidays, and I’ll see you next year!


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: May 7-14

I’ve long been intrigued by the idea of high-concept movies. For the uninitiated, a high-concept movie is one that can be pitched in one sentence. The most famous semi-recent example is the doesn’t-even-need-a-sentence-to-be-pitched-just-listen-to-the-title movie from 2006, Snakes on a Plane. While some, if not most, films that fit into this subset are easily forgotten or are memorable only for the name and a few lines of dialogue, others like Jurassic Park (“What if dinosaurs were real…TODAY!”) find the legs to transcend the conceit and achieve staying-power. High-concept TV is trickier. While an interesting hook can get people to the pilot, it is character and story that will keep people coming back week after week. Eventually the show has to transcend the concept to survive. The way this has been done well in the past is by using the high concept as a hook and then over time turning the show into a low-concept vehicle that concentrates on character and story. Breaking Bad immediately comes to mind as a recent example (“What if a high school chemistry teacher got cancer and had to start selling meth to pay for his treatment!”) of a show that did just that. Recently, NBC premiered the sitcom Powerless (“What if there was a show about the people in the comics who don’t have powers and who are getting saved all the time!”) that failed to move past the original hook and thus, was quickly canceled. When people don’t have something to grab on to after you grab their attention, even the comedy stylings of people like Alan Tudyk, Danny Pudi and Ron Funchess can’t keep mediocrity at bay.

This brings me to my current favorite comedy on television, Last Man on Earth on Fox. You don’t have to be super creative to have an idea of what the pitch meeting for the show looked like. “Picture this: everyone on earth is dead except for one idiot played by Will Forte!” I don’t say that disparagingly. That’s all I knew about the show when I tuned in for the first episode in 2015. It was a good hook. But over the past 3 seasons, it has consistently risen above its concept and become a really solid look at what it means to be a survivor, forge community (Spoiler: while Forte’s Phil Miller is the titular “last man on earth,” he wasn’t actually the last man on earth) and rebuild after tragedy. The show could have been just a funny look at what it would be like to be able to do whatever you wanted simply because no one else was around, but instead it’s been tragic yet joyful, dark yet silly and always very funny. It has somehow found the perfect combination of lowest common denominator laughs, biting humor, subtle character development and heart. Season three wrapped this week with a bang as we saw a complication filled child birth, a nuclear meltdown, a change of location, a fire, the death of an old character and the introduction of a new character all in two 20 minute episodes. If you haven’t seen the show, I highly recommend it. If you quit watching because it didn’t transcend it’s high-concept conceit soon enough for your liking, I’d suggest you give it another try. All three seasons are currently streaming on Hulu.

  • Do you like high-concept shows that go deeper than their concept like LMoE? Does “Ok, Kristen Bell goes to heaven; only she’s not supposed to be there” sound funny to you? Give The Good Place a try. I can’t think of many shows I’ve watched that had a stronger first season than this comedy from one of the creators of Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn 99. You can catch up over the summer on Hulu.
  • New to stream this week on Netflix is season two of Aziz Ansari’s show Master of None. It picks up where season 2 left off with Ansari’s Dev pursuing culinary training in Italy. While the story arc of the season is nice, the stand out episodes take a detour into the lives of other friends of Dev and, in one stand out episode, the lives of random New Yorkers. The thing that makes Master of None stand out to me is that Ansari and co-creator Alan Yang could have simply created a standard sitcom based around Ansari’s comic persona, but instead they went deeper to create a show that, while funny, takes the time to examine tough issues about being an adult, falling in love, relating to your parents, etc. Season two wasn’t quite as strong for me as season one, but there are some stand-out episodes, including a season premiere that’s an amusing homage to the 1948 film Bicycle Thieves.
  • Did you binge Master of None, get sad and end up wanting to watch something similar? Does Master of None sound intriguing but you don’t like it’s TV-MA rating? I’d suggest giving TV Land’s Jim Gaffigan Show a try, also on Netflix. Like Master of None, it would have been really easy for Jim and his wife and co-creator Jeanne Gaffigan to create a standard sitcom about a husband and father of 5 who is a slob and eats all the time. Fortunately, they dive deeper and offer thoughtful reflection on celebrity, religion, fatherhood, friendship and being a husband in 2 seasons of great television. Sadly, the Gaffigan’s decided they didn’t have the time to put into making more TV, but instead of being sad that it’s over, I’d suggest being thankful that it happened by watching the show that they did have time to make.
  • This week in the Arrowverse: While Arrow and Supergirl focused mainly on table setting and moving the pieces into place for the last couple of the episodes of the season, The Flash pulled out one of its best episodes of the season. By using the old super hero standby of amnesia, the show was able to help us remember the earlier days of Barry Allen’s story where he was light-hearted and fun instead of the brooding hero we now see every week. Doing so allowed them to add some meta-commentary about why things have become so dour in Central City as opposed to the way things used to be. It was a lot of good fun.

Episode 058: 13 Reasons Why

This week, on episode 58, we are deviating from the Film aspect of the show and diving into something that gripped us both on the Feelin’ part of our viewing experience. That’s right. Don’t adjust your device or whatever you are hearing this on. It’s us, in stereo, talking about the latest Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. We approach this series from the place of two people who were emotionally impacted by it and not from that of clinical mental health professionals or counselors. It’s a passionate, difficult conversation, but one we felt strongly that we needed to have.

WARNING: We understand that this show can pose a danger to some viewers. Please, if you’re feeling down or questioning the value of your life, stop now and call 1-800-273-8255. There are people here who want to help and listen to you. You can also send a text to 741741. It’s that quick. Don’t think “it’ll never happen to you”. Talk to someone today.

Lastly, there many more resources available for you or to share with others at 13ReasonsWhy.info.

Download this Episode


Intro/Outro Music – “Air Hockey Saloon” by Chris Zabriskie

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