Brain Dump: Wynonna Earp, Nashville, The Bold Type

Time for a television watcher’s brain dump. This week I’ll offload short thoughts about Wynonna Earp, Nashville, and The Bold Type.
Continue reading “Brain Dump: Wynonna Earp, Nashville, The Bold Type”

Two Momentous Cast Members Join Nashville on CMT

Moving Nashville to CMT brought out even more of the bold in this country music series. Stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere will be joined by Jen Richards and Rhiannon Giddens for the 5th season beginning Jan. 5, 2017. Continue reading “Two Momentous Cast Members Join Nashville on CMT”

Watch This: Nashville Teaser from CMT

I was thrilled when Nashville found a new network so it could carry on for a 5th season. I’ve been a fan of this show from the first – dragged in by a love of Connie Britton, and held in by the other great characters and the music. Continue reading “Watch This: Nashville Teaser from CMT”

Women Led Media Dominate the GLAAD Awards Nominations

The GLAAD Media Awards recognize and honor media for their fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community and the issues that affect their lives. This year the major nominations feature many women led films and series with either lesbian or female transgender characters helming the lead roles. Continue reading “Women Led Media Dominate the GLAAD Awards Nominations”

Review: Ricki and the Flash

Lucky for me I’m not a critic. It seems to me that the main job of a critic is to watch a fun and enjoyable movie or TV show and find things wrong with it so as to make it unenjoyable for anyone else to watch. Which leads to my point: Ricki and the Flash is fun and enjoyable. Lukewarm reviews be damned.

Spoilers ahead. Continue reading “Review: Ricki and the Flash”

Brain Dump: Characters We Love to Hate

A brain dump is a series of short thoughts on this and that. Today I have a theme: characters we love to hate.

American Crime

The cast of American Crime. Photo © 2014 American Broadcasting Companies
Some of the cast of American Crime. Photo © 2014 American Broadcasting Companies

I have not discovered one likeable character in American Crime. Every person in the story – from the cops to the victims to the families to the criminals – is truly fucked up. I can admire the acting. I can say, “Wow, Felicity Huffman (or Timothy Hutton or Caitlin Gerard or Richard Cabral) is doing a fantastic acting job.” Huffman’s character in particular is the most distasteful person. I cannot bring myself to like her.

Since this drama is a reflection on the American legal system, on American racial (in)justice, and on American family values it makes sense that there isn’t much to like. But, dang, I wish there was some little thread to hold on to.

Nashville

Hayden Panettiere in Nashville
Hayden Panettiere in Nashville

Well, they haven’t dubbed her “The Queen of Mean” for nothing on Nashville. Hayden Panettiere as Juliette Barnes has never been a sweetheart, but pregnancy and motherhood have turned her into a complete shrew. Why Avery (Jonathan Jackson) loves her is beyond understanding. Why her employees put up with her is a mystery. That Rayna (Connie Britton) maintains Juliette on her record label is amazing. Hayden Panettiere deserves much credit for being so convincing as a super-bitch season after season.

Scandal

Joe Morton in Scandal. Image © 2014 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
Joe Morton in Scandal. Image © 2014 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.

Everyone in Scandal has questionable ethics. It’s the ends, not the means, that count on Scandal. Let’s face it, neither of Olivia Pope’s (Kerry Washington) parents are good role models. The people who work for her are truly scary. But Joe Morton as Rowan Pope has always been the worst of the worst.

Lately on the show Olivia has needed a white hat, a good guy. As Mrs. S (Maria Doyle Kennedy) said in Orphan Black, she’s hoping for one good person in a corrupt world. Olivia’s having trouble finding even one good person. She’s turned on her dad, hoping to see him jailed for his multitude of crimes, but he’s so powerful he may either kill or destroy everything in Olivia’s world if she persists.

I’d hate to see Rowan Pope eliminated from this show. Joe Morton is outstanding in the part. But once in a while, even in the putrid world of Washington politics, don’t the good guys win? Or are there no good guys in Washington politics?

Review: Orphan Black “Mingling Its Own Nature With It”

This episode of Orphan Black, “Mingling Its Own Nature With It” starts with Sarah (Tatiana Maslany), Kira (Skyler Wexler), and Felix (Jordan Gavaris) sleeping in the woods in the stolen truck. We see Sarah struggle to find safety for Kira, Allison crack under pressure, Cosima do an autopsy on a new clone, and Helena get married. What an episode!

Whose woods these are I think I know.
Whose woods these are I think I know.

The clones each conducted their own lives without mixing together much in this episode, so I’ll summarize the stories clone by clone.

Sarah

Sarah, Kira, and Felix make the mistake of stealing food from a convenience store in order to feed Kira. This puts a local cop and Rachel’s henchman Daniel (Matthew Bennett) on their trail. Sarah leads Felix to a house in the woods, seemingly empty, where they break in to spend the night. The homeowner shows up and turns out to be Cal (Michiel Huisman), who knows Sarah. Kira, in her prescient way, pegs him immediately with an, “Are you my dad?”

Yes, he is Kira’s dad, and even though Sarah stole $10,000 and his car the last time she was there, Cal lets them stay.

Sarah tries to explain to Kira why she was gone so much, and Kira talks about Mrs. S protecting them and comments that she likes Cal’s beard. Women from Nashville and every other show Michiel Huisman is on fall for his unkempt, bearded look – now even Kira likes it – I guess I should give up wishing he’d get a shave and a haircut.

Felix sees what’s going on and decides there is no place for him there. He leaves to be with Allison at her theater performance.

When the local cop shows up, Sarah is ready to take Kira and go.

Can't you stop running for a minute?
Can’t you stop running for a minute?

Cal says, “Can’t you stop running for a minute?” and the look on Sarah’s face tells a story of wanting to do just that. They end up in bed together. (She must like the beard, too.) Their idyllic morning after is interrupted by the arrival of Daniel who tries to grab Kira, shoots the local cop, and leaves with Sarah driving the car at gunpoint. Kira is with Cal. Daniel making off with Sarah comes at the very end of the episode. The big cliffhanger is that they are t-boned on the road – a hit to the passenger side where Daniel sits – and we don’t know what happens to either of them.

Allison

Allison snipes at Donnie (Kristian Bruun) now that she knows he’s her monitor. The guy will never get any again, I can promise you that. She’s drinking and popping pills. She calls Cosima, but Cosima cannot do much to help her because of her own drama.

Detective Angie Deangelis (Inga Cadranel) simply won’t drop the case, as her partner Art (Kevin Hanchard) keeps telling her to. Angie stalks Allison, trying to befriend her and get information from her. Allison thinks she’s another monitor. Angie admits to being a cop and Allison and tells her to get lost. Detective Deangelis is going to prove to be a wild card in this story, I predict, because she’s relentless in her quest to find out more about Sarah and her former cop friend Beth, and because she’s the mama succubus – oh, wait, wrong show for a succubus.

By the night of the community theater performance of “Blood Ties,” Allison’s spaced out on pills and booze. She can’t remember her lines or sing in tune. (Tatiana Maslany is a pretty good singer if the few notes of real singing we hear are any indication.) Allison falls off the stage at Donnie’s feet and gets taken to the hospital.

Cosima and Jennifer

Cosima follows Delphine (Evelyne Brochu) into Dr. Leekie’s office, where she does a killer imitation of Matt Frewer’s Dr. Leekie by threatening to put an electric eel in a tank so Dr. Leekie will come along and say, “Great Scott! I’ve created life.” A hilarious moment in a very serious episode. The fact that Tatiana Maslany can do a perfect imitation of Matt Frewer reveals something about why she is so masterful at creating so many different women in Orphan Black.

Delphine has other things on her mind. She brought Cosima there to show her videos of another clone, Jennifer Fitzsimmons, teacher and swim coach at Sheldon High, who made a video diary of her illness after polyps were found on her lungs. Delphine says Jennifer was the first clone to show symptoms. When Cosima asks how Jennifer is, Delphine says she died 3 days ago. Cosima is the only clone who knows about Jennifer at this point (unless Rachel does). Cosima watches every video, horrified, seeing Jennifer slowly die of exactly what she herself has.

Delphine and Cosima do an autopsy on Jennifer’s body to try to understand more about the auto-immune disease that apparently killed her. Cosima is partly terrified of cutting into a woman with her face, and partly clear about needing to understand the biology of what’s going on in the clone’s bodies.

Helena

Helena is still in bad shape, but recovered enough to sit up in bed and talk to Gracie Johanssen (Zoé De Grand Maison), Henrik’s (Peter Outerbridge) daughter. Gracie is not with her dad’s program to fertilize and breed Helena. She’s another wild card who may gum up the works later on. Her dad thinks he has Gracie under his control, but he may be in for a surprise.

The ties that bind
The ties that bind

Henrik has Helena dressed in a white wedding dress, even though she lays in bed stupified by drugs, and marries her in a strange ceremony involving tying their hands together with ribbons while talking about God’s will. Then Henrik carries his bride off to begin his fertilization program. Helena is too drugged to fight back. If she ever gets clear headed, Henrik better watch out. At this point, we have no idea what Henrik has in mind as a fertilization technique. We did see him artificially inseminate a cow in the last episode.

The title is another quote from Francis Bacon:

“The human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it”

 Francis Bacon, Sr. quotes (English Lawyer and Philosopher. 1561-1626)

All photos by Steve Wilkie via IMDB

The Brain Dump: Random Short Thoughts

A brain dump is one of those things I do when I have just a thought to share on something. It’s a random mess.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is so genial and agreeable on Cosmos. He states the science in the friendliest possible way. But, underneath his low-key style is the knowledge that he’s showing all the misguided fools who don’t believe in science the truth. It’s very effective.

The Bletchley Circle
The Bletchley Circle image © World Productions 2013

The Bletchley Circle from PBS is brilliant. I wish there were more than 4 episodes to a season. It captures the time and place with perfect clarity and the women are smart and courageous.

Divergent was good. Not as good as The Hunger Games, but good enough to create a new young female heroine and to guarantee that the next movie in the series will be well attended. Going out to see it was my birthday present to myself, and it was the perfect gift. It felt too long, but that was mostly because there were at least 30 minutes of previews of coming attractions before the film started. THAT was definitely too much.

20 Feet From Stardom is an absolute delight! Wonderful music, fascinating women with so much talent and who are so under appreciated. You must watch it.

Pink: The Truth About Love Tour – Live from Melbourne. Spectacular film! I’m glad I wasn’t there with all the yelling and screaming. I completely enjoyed seeeing it on film, however. A concert for elders via the TV! What a performance and what brilliant stunts and athletic feats. And, hey, I’d just watched 20 Feet From Stardom so I gotta tell you that I looked up Pink’s backup singers and learned their names.

Last night’s live concert in Nashville from the cast of Nashville was fabulous. Missed Connie Britton, but it was great to see these actors just sing. So much musical talent.

It’s my week for music, because I also watched The Punk Singer, a film about Kathleen Hanna. I’d heard of her but didn’t know much more than that she was associated with a women’s movement and made music. The film was my education into both Kathleen Hanna and the Riot Grrl movement. An inspiring woman and a great leader. I wish her well and hope her health continues to improve.

 

Nashville: Hayden Panettiere Evolves in a Good Way

Last night’s episode of Nashville, “It’s All Wrong, But It’s All Right” finally showed the very long evolution of Juliette Barnes, played by Hayden Panettiere, in a light that makes her a more likable character.

For a long while, Juliette Barnes has been the antagonist, the bad girl we love to hate. At the same time, we’ve peered into her troubled and broken life, her drug-addicted mother, her penchant for choosing the wrong men, her desire to achieve success with her music. The way she’s dealt with all those issues hasn’t always endeared her to us.

The precipitating plot that drove this evolution of Juliette Barnes went like this. She said something that was video edited to put her in a bad light. The video went viral and her fans, her label, and everyone else turned against her. Concerts were cancelled, CD sales tanked. She was maligned by bad media.

In the midst of this media storm, she is inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Her label insists that she use her moment on the stage accepting her award to apologize to everyone on the planet for being a terrible person.

Instead she writes a new song with Deacon (Charles Esten) that tells everyone on the planet they can shove it.

It’s a move that could wreck her career. As soon as she walks off the stage her label drops her. People with the power to move products decide to deny her shelf space in stores. Nevertheless, it was a great move from my point of view.

In past episodes, Juliette has struggled to be independent, to make the kind of music she wants, to direct her own life and career. She hasn’t done it well. She made a lot of bad decisions and alienated a lot of people. In all her efforts to grow up and take control of her own destiny she’s mis-stepped and manipulated in all the wrong ways.

Her statement with the song did two things. It proved her talent. It told everyone they had to take her as she is, that she had to be what she is and not something manufactured. Her refusal to cave to the demands of her label ultimately set her free. As far as picking the right man, she’s still working on that one, but a character can’t solve ALL her problems in one episode.

Her character arc can develop now in new, more positive ways.

Kudos to Hayden Panettiere for her willingness to play that character we all love to hate for two seasons. Kudos to writer Callie Khouri for the way she’s slowly moved Juliette being into a better, stronger person.

Photo by Mark Levine – © 2013 American Broadcasting Companies

3 Top Shows From the Fall TV Season

What if you picked the top 3 shows from the fall season that you were the most excited about, the most eager to see, and most wanted to recommend and talk about? That’s the question I asked myself. Here is my answer.

Last Tango in Halifax

Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid in Last Tango in Halifax
Derek Jacobi and Anne Reid in Last Tango in Halifax

Choice number 1, and an all time favorite, is Last Tango in Halifax. This BBC series was shown in the U.S. on PBS.org, where you can still watch all six episodes of season 1.

Last Tango in Halifax is built around Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid). They were in love as teens, and probably should have married but did not because of an interesting plot twist. Sixty years later they find each other again via Facebook. They realize they are still in love and decide to get married. Their story by itself is warm and wonderful and a real treat.

We get more story than just an adventurous Alan and Celia from Last Tango in Halifax, however. The children and grandchildren of these two charming, Facebook using elders get into the mix.

Celia’s daughter Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) is headmistress of a school. She’s brilliant and snotty and sarcastic and positively luminous. Her husband of 18 years (Tony Gardner) recently ran off with another woman. In his absence, Caroline began a relationship with another teacher at her school, a woman named Kate (Nina Sosanya). When the series opens, Caroline has yet to tell anyone in her family that she’s seeing a woman. Her coming out affects each person differently and causes mayhem in several episodes. Caroline, her two sons, and Celia live in a big house with a cottage for Celia. As the season begins, Caroline’s husband arrives and wants to come back home.

Alan’s daughter Gillian (Nicola Walker) is a farmer in Halifax. She’s been a widow for 10 years and runs the farm on her own. Alan and Gillian’s teen aged son live on the farm with her. She builds rock walls, drives tractors, replaces clutches and generally is the perfect self-sufficient woman. Well, except for her habit of choosing inappropriate sex partners like 20 year old boy toys of questionable character who are already engaged to someone else. Gillian’s sexual choices cause mayhem in every episode.

The love stories of this extended group of northern England’s most engaging characters are riveting and often run parallel as everyone in both families gets a second chance at love. The best part? They are already filming season 2.

Nashville

Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere in Nashville
Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere in Nashville. Image from ABC TV.

Give me music and I’ll love you. My favorite episode of Grey’s Anatomy? The musical one. My favorite episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer? The musical one. I love Glee and Smash (is that even still on?) and I love Nashville.

I’m also pretty darn big on Connie Britton, and she’s the star of this drama, playing country music legend Rayna Jaymes. Connie Britton isn’t a great singer, but she’s good enough. Hayden Panettiere (who is a very good singer) plays Juliette Barnes, a young country star who is trying to unseat Rayna from her throne as the queen of country. There is plenty of  musical talent on this show from many other characters. A special favorite is Clare Bowen, who plays Scarlett O’Connor, and possesses a wonderful voice. Lots of guys with guitars and big hats fill out the singing contingent. Rayna’s family is into politics so there’s political drama along with all the music industry goings-on. Rayna and Juliette both have rather messy love lives, further adding to the weekly drama.

I love the music, I love the characters (even Juliette, who we are supposed to hate) and I love the soapy melodrama of Nashville.

Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D

Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast.
Marvel Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. cast. Image ABC TV

I am so not the target demographic for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., but I love it anyway. I mostly love it because it reflects Joss Whedon’s sensibility about what makes a good story. That means that the gender balance is perfection, the women are as powerful and smart as the men and no concept is too ridiculous a stretch of science fiction to entertain.

I happen to believe that we need more geeky female role models for young girls (who are part of the target demographic for this show). Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. has a female jet pilot warrior commando, a female scientist, and a female hacker. Role models everywhere.

These are the 3 shows I get the most excited about seeing each week from this year’s fall TV season. What are your three?

NOTE: This post was syndicated on BlogHer.com.