A Series That Lives Up To Its Name

Image for post
Image for post
They Sing! They Dance! They… Share Their Inner Secrets! rollingstone.com

How often, even in the world of Peak TV, do you come across a series that truly, remarkably different? Last year, I watched the Pilot for NBC’s tremendous musical comedy Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. To say I was swept away would be an understatement. The series dealt with a coder at a Silicon Valley startup called SPRQIST. She seemed to be an ordinary woman. Then she went into an MRI and was listening to Muzak when there was an earthquake. From this point on, she’s been able to read other people’s innermost thoughts. Except they express them through elaborate and delightful musical numbers. In the Pilot, Zoey befriended a man named Simon, whose dark song revealed that he was severely depressed, even suicidal. She learned that her father, who was in the latter stages of ALS, still had spirit in him. And that her long time best friend, Max, was in love with her. It was one of the most daring and original pilots I’ve ever seen, with an exceptional cast from Jane Levy in the title role to Mary Steenburgen as her mother. …


More Than The End of An Era

Image for post
Image for post
We said goodbye to a legend tvline.com

Last Friday, Jeopardy aired. Alex Trebek wished everybody a Merry Christmas (the shows are taped two months in advanced and the last week has been delayed) He greeted the three contestants, bantered with them about holding on to books, read the categories, was calm and polite, and went about his business as he had for the last several months — and indeed, as he had for the last thirty six years. He congratulated Jim Gilligan on winning $24,401 and then told everybody: “See you next time.”

The big difference was when the credits rolled. The next minute showed Alex Trebek in several wonderful moments over the years of the show — making the contestants laugh, coming out in costume, introducing his children, announcing winners, and finally a montage of his saying “Good Night.” This is how Jeopardy chose to say goodbye to an icon and a legend, a man who seemed to do nothing big at his job and yet for exactly that reason would become one of television’s greatest forces. …


Ted Danson & Tina Fey Together for Mr. Mayor

Image for post
Image for post
Not as funny as it could be, but give it time imdb.com

As I’ve mentioned on numerous occasions, one of the nicer side effects of Peak TV has been watching Ted Danson completely reinvent himself. From the cutthroat industrialist on Damages to the beacon of goodness on Fargo to his incredible work as Michael on the just completed The Good Place, he has revealed more depths than you could’ve imagined. So it would seem that seeing him take the title role on NBC’s new comedy series Mr. Mayor playing a wealthy conservative who becomes the mayor of Los Angeles in the work of that comic masterminds Tina Fey and Robert Carlock (who brought us the incredible 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) would be an instant classic. …


The Top 5 Series of 2020

Image for post
Image for post
The biggest sparks this year were between them nme.com

5. Perry Mason (HBO)

In an era of endless reboots, HBO’s reinvention of Perry Mason may be exactly what this era needs. What was one of the most clichéd series in the history of television got off to a great start by going back to Perry’s origins — a private investigator who believes everybody has secrets, a cynical man who agrees to represent a client even though he’s initially convinces of her guilt and becomes more and more convinced of her insanity. …


Part 1: 10–6

Image for post
Image for post
They didn’t suffer as much as we did ew.com

At this point, saying just how horrible this year has been would just be superfluous. It seems we’ve all spent 2020 locked in our rooms, watching everything fall apart. Television helped keep us going throughout this dreadful, even though not even the series we watched could escape the outside world events, first based on what shows were made, how we viewed the world of television, and how some series ending up getting made at all.

In my own bubble of this year, I turned to streaming services more than ever, looking often for escapism. Sometimes I found it, sometimes reflections of the real world brought their own level of greatness. …


Why Our Cartoon President Was A Bigger Mess Than Reality

Image for post
Image for post
Four Years And THIS is what we get? variety.com

The universal complaint from so many late night comedians was just how difficult it was to find comedy in the last four years. Even the best talents at it — Seth Meyers & John Oliver among them — found it exhausting trying to make fun of the current administration. And if those experts had so much trouble, trying to go directly at it was even worse.

I should note that trying to satirize the Presidency in comedy settings has always been difficult. During George W. Bush’s administration, Comedy Central made two attempts to try and make fun of it: Trey Parker & Matt Stone’s sitcom send-up That’s My Bush which imagined the White House as an eighties laugh-track comedy, and Little Bush which imagined Bush and his inner circle as eight year olds, a la Muppet Babies. Neither worked for the simple reason that they weren’t particularly funny.


Part 2: How Major Crimes Got Right (Almost) Everything The Closer Got Wrong

Image for post
Image for post
The Hat Wasn’t The Only Change tntdrama.com

In my previous article, I indicated just how many things The Closer did wrong during the course of its run. By extension, you would be hard pressed to think a spinoff of the show would be any more wrong-headed. Actually, spin-off is the wrong word, considering that almost the entire cast from The Closer was on the series, save for Sedgwick, Simmons and Corey Reynolds. It would be more accurate to consider Major Crimes a continuation.

(It should also be noted that Major Crimes is what the unit Chief Johnson was heading was called after it seemed likely that Priority Homicide was going to be disbanded. She called it Major Crimes in front of a reporter. Some would call this an action to protect her people; I saw it as yet another example as to how Brenda refused to accept any decision that threatened her authority. …


Part 1: How The Closer Subtly and Damaged Police Drama and the Female Centered Show

Image for post
Image for post
Behind her courtly manner, she was as dangerous as any antihero imdb.com

Given all the protests of the last summer, the police procedural has come under intense scrutiny. I myself took a deeper look at it in August, paying particular attention to the work of Dick Wolf and how his view of police has served as both propaganda and a normalization of some of the more intense police behavior over the past two decades.

I should add I don’t feel the same universal revulsion for so many of the cop dramas that have been seen under a new light; I still feel that Homicide and The Wire did a lot of good work exposing the flaws of the politics of policing and how it has failed the war on drugs. I also believe that The Shield probably took a closer look at the level of brutality we are willing to tolerate for our own safety, and provided no easy answers, even at the end. …


Bryan Cranston Returns to the Darkness in Your Honor

Image for post
Image for post
This Time He’s NOT the one who knocks vulture.com

Has there been a greater performance in the history of television than Bryan Cranston’s work as Walter White on Breaking Bad? It’s been very difficult to argue otherwise even more than seven years after the final episode aired. Cranston has not quite vanished from the medium that launched him to superstardom well before the debut of that series — his work as LBJ on All The Way was a masterwork, and his performance on the undervalued Sneaky Pete on Amazon was appreciated by many.

Now, however, he returns to a role much close to the one that brought him glory in Showtime’s new Limited Series Your Honor. In it, he plays New Orleans Judge Michael Desiato, a widowed father and, as we see in the opening minutes of the Pilot, a bastion of the law. We also see his son Adam, an aspiring photographer, due to an asthma attack accidentally hit a boy about his age riding a scooter. He panics, drives away, and when Michael sees his son, he gently nudges him into doing the right thing and taking him to the police. Then when he reaches the station, he realizes who the child’s father was — Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg, one of the great discoveries of Peak TV), the most vicious crime boss in the city. Knowing full well what Baxter is capable of, he reverses course, and starts covering up the crime his son has committed. …


Why Little Fires Everywhere Worked Better as a show than as a Book

Image for post
Image for post
Trust Me See The Show First amazon.com

I’ve made no secret that I considered Hulu’s adaptation of Little Fires Everywhere one of the premier accomplishments of this year. Led by the exceptional performances of Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, this daring study of two completely different mothers living in a planned community in 1990s Ohio was superbly written, directed and acted all the way through.

I didn’t read Celeste Ng’s original novel before I saw the series. This isn’t strange for me; a lot of the time when films and TV shows based on novels are out, I try to go into them with no knowledge of the source material so that I can make an impartial judgment. After the series was over, I spent a fair amount of time before I finally read the book, hoping it might fill in some of the gaps that producer Liz Tiglear and her staff left out. …

About

David B Morris

After years of laboring for love in my blog on TV, I have decided to expand my horizons by blogging about my great love to a new and hopefully wider field.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store