Brain Dump: The Gifted, Ten Days in the Valley, Supergirl, and Etc.

The fall TV season is underway, with old favorites coming back and new shows revealing their opening episodes. Time to unleash a brain dump, which is a few short takes on several shows. Continue reading “Brain Dump: The Gifted, Ten Days in the Valley, Supergirl, and Etc.”

Brain Dump: Call the Midwife, Mary Kills People, Scandal

The brain dump for this week involves short thoughts on Call the Midwife, Mary Kills People, and Scandal. Let’s get right into it, shall we? Continue reading “Brain Dump: Call the Midwife, Mary Kills People, Scandal”

Darby Stanchfield Directs Scandal: Gladiator Wanted Web Series

Darby Stanchfield is moving herself into the director’s chair. She’s normally in front of the camera in Scandal. In this short 6 part web series, Scandal: Gladiator Wanted, the Scandal team is looking for a new Gladiator, and Darby Stanchfield is directing.

You can view the series any time on abc.com. Continue reading “Darby Stanchfield Directs Scandal: Gladiator Wanted Web Series”

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?

Scandal’s “The Lawn Chair” Episode

Courtney Vance in Scandal
Courtney B. Vance in Scandal

Everybody everywhere has already had something to say about this remarkable episode of Scandal. It was so clearly Ferguson, so clearly real.

But we got something not so real – it is television, after all. We got Olivia joining the protestors instead of helping the white cops who hired her. We got a public racist rant from the white killer-cop, who is arrested. We got an ending where an armed black man walked away unharmed from a confrontation with a phalanx of white police officers and then gets a hug from the POTUS.

The episode was so powerful that the real parts of the story made up for the television version of reality in which Olivia Pope is the heroine.

I want to commend Shonda Rhimes and Courtney B. Vance and Kerry Washington for their work on this episode. There’s power in story, there’s power in television. Most importantly,  there’s power in “showing, not telling” as a way to reach into the human heart and mind and make a point. Scandal showed us a situation that began with injustice, a situation that – in this country – usually ends with another injustice. Courtney B. Vance reached into our hearts with his performance and made us see a father and a son. He made the injustice real.

The Governor of New Mexico

Because I live in the New Mexico, I took note of the little subplot in the episode where the POTUS is looking at possible new Vice President candidates and he briefly considers the Hispanic female Governor of the state of New Mexico for the position.

I’m not a Republican and I didn’t vote for Susana Martinez for Governor, but I can tell you that she’s never done anything like what the Hispanic character on this  Scandal episode did. I think she may have aspirations for higher political office when her term as Governor is over. You might want to learn more about who she is.

If you put the words “Republican female Latina” and “politics” together it leads somewhere predictable. In the same way, the words “unarmed black male” and “police” lead somewhere predictable. I hope this episode of Scandal helps change the latter predictable outcome.

Scandal image: ABC

New Rules for the Emmys

I’m more interested in the Emmys than the Oscars. After 3 hours of watching the Oscars last night, there were 2 awards given to women. Big whoop. The Television Academy has more female writers, directors, cinematographers and such to choose from. So changes in the Emmy rules may be significant.

The Television Academy announced several new rules for the Emmy Awards. This brings up issues about how favorite shows or actors might be affected by the new rules.

The change getting the most attention says that henceforth, one hour shows will be considered dramas, and half hour shows will be considered comedies.

Shows can petition the Academy to be assigned to a different category, but as things stand that means shows such as Orange is the New Black, which formerly competed in the comedy category, will be going up against dramas like The Good Wife. On the other hand, shows like Nurse Jackie will be in the comedy category.

The number of nominees in best drama and comedy series categories increased from 6 to 7. This is in acknowledgement of the fact that television has proliferated and there are more shows than there were before. Even though some shows will be in a different category than they were before, there’s one more chance at making it into the nominations.

The TV Academy also took on the question of what is a series and what is a limited series. If a show has “an ongoing storyline, theme and main characters” from season to season it’s a series. If a drama tells one self-contained story over a season, it’s a limited series.

To be nominated as a guest star, the actor cannot have appeared in more than 50% of the shows in the series. This cuts out people who appear in almost every episode but are listed as guest stars in the credits. That rule, were in place before now, would have affected winners such as Desperate Housewives’ Kathryn Joosten,  Orange Is The New Black’s Uzo Aduba, and Scandals Joe Morton.

The variety category is being split into variety talk show and variety sketch show.

There will be more voters in the final round than before. Everyone eligible to vote in the nomination round may also vote in the final round. There’s a caveat for voting in the final round: voters must watch the required submitted material online and attest to no specific conflicts of interest with the nominees.

The 2015 Emmy Awards will be announced on Sept. 20, 2015.

Shondaland Thursday, AKA Rhimesday, is Coming Soon to Your TV

Let me count the ways that Thursday nights, AKA Rhimesday nights, are going to be amazing when the fall TV season begins.

  1. Shonda Rhimes
  2. Ellen Pompeo and Chandra Wilson and Sara Ramirez and Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew and more
  3. Kerry Washington
  4. Viola Davis

That’s 3 solid hours of women lead drama from Shondaland productions. That’s a night for television, my friends. May I celebrate the fact that two of those leading actresses are women of color? Yes!

What Shondaland will Cause on Rhimesday Nights

On Thursday nights real life will stop. The only things operating in the void will be televisions tuned to ABC and eleventy million tweets about every move on ABC for 3 solid hours.

Those fat cat white male dudes who run ABC and Twitter should be bowing before Shonda Rhimes. Bowing.

Here’s a little preview from Shondaland of where we might be going with Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder.

Binge Watching VS. One Hour a Week

I rewatched all of season 3 of Lost Girl on Netflix. I was surprised to see many clues to what happened in season 4 that I’d forgotten about in the months between the two seasons. Now I’m rewatching Lost Girl season 4 and having an epiphany about binge watching.

Check this out
Kenzi from Lost Girl

When I watched season 4 on a weekly basis, I spent a good part of the time bitchy and irritated because the answers weren’t coming fast enough. When I look back over my recaps of season 4, the annoyance shows through. I cared about the characters and I wanted to know what was going to happen to them – and, by damn, I wanted to know right now!

Binge watching season 4 is much less aggravating. Well, true, I know what happened. But also true, I can rewatch episodes of Lost Girl with as much enjoyment as I felt the first time through. I experience it all again. Knowing that I can play the next episode immediately, where more will be revealed about Rainer or The Wanderer or the time on the train or Bo’s strange behavior makes a huge difference. It changes how I feel about the slow reveal of the clues, the seeming detours into things like bird-women who sing opera that don’t turn out to be detours after all.

alan and celia
Alan and Celia from Last Tango in Halifax

When I have to wait a week to see the next piece of a show I love, the wait seems insurmountable. Having to wait for season 2 of Last Tango in Halifax to reach PBS sent me into an absolute tizzy. Especially when it was available on the BBC, on YouTube, on every freakin’ place but legal American TV. Geographic restrictions are another horrible annoyance.

Orange is the New Black cast

I distinctly recall the feeling I had when I reached the last episode of Orange is the New Black. I wanted 1000 more episodes and I wanted them right now! But I’d just spent 13 hours with Orange is the New Black in a big gulp. Even though I wanted more, I could wait. The binge filled me up in a way that a weekly dose of something doesn’t.

I have a friend with no TV. She comes to town for a meeting every couple of months and stays at my place. We watched Orange is the New Black during each visit, a couple of episodes at a time spread out over several months. I started noticing flaws. Flaws! It wasn’t as wonderful when there was a gap in my viewing. The binge has power.

The Fringe cast
The Fringe

I didn’t watch Fringe until it was off the air. When I’d tried watching it weekly, I lost interest. When I could binge watch, I was fascinated. When I look back at the things I binge watched the past year: Orange is the New Black, The Fall, House of Cards, Bomb Girls, Call the Midwife  – I realize that those shows are some of my favorites. Is it because they are truly great shows, or is it because I could watch them in big chunks? “Do I love you because you’re beautiful, or are you beautiful because I love you?”

I still love Lost Girl and The Good Wife and Scandal, Orphan Black and Covert Affairs and other shows I only get to see once a week or in dribs and drabs throughout the year. This is the way TV has always been and I’m willing to go with it. But if I could get a full season of these shows all at once, I would leap at it like a coyote on a cottontail.

Conclusions?

Binge watching is so inherently satisfying. It’s instant gratification taken to its highest level. My conclusion is that more and more shows are going to release ready to binge watch. Television is going to change because of that. Electronic storytelling, streaming storytelling, is going to change.

I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I know it’s going to happen.

The Baby Bump

Everyone has something to say about the way Scandal has tried to hide Kerry Washington’s pregancy. Here are a few of the articles on the topic:

There are more articles like that. That is one interesting baby bump. As you can see, the pundits have found many examples of ways the baby gets hidden.

The technique I’ve noticed on Scandal is the abundant use of close up head shots of Kerry Washington. In fact, there was a sex scene with Olivia and Jake (Scott Foley) a week or two back that was all head shots. I found it one of the more intimate and downright sexy sex scenes ever. Forget the rest of the anatomy, the future of sex is above the neck!

What's behind that file, Olivia?
What’s behind that file, Olivia?

Actually, Shonda Rhimes, there are more ideas you could use. As a public service, I wanted to point out a few ideas to you. These worked for Jennifer Beals on The L Word.

  • Carry two large paper grocery bags everywhere you go.
  • Spend time in the snow so large bulky coats are required.
  • Stand behind everyone else in the scene and peer through their heads at the action.
  • Stay behind the kitchen counter.
  • Put a pillow on your lap when you’re sitting down.
  • Prop yourself up in bed with a ton of pillows and bedding around you.
  • Stand with your back to the camera.

Here’s to all the future babies whose growth is hidden in creative ways from the television cameras. Here’s to the moms. May you all be healthy and happy.

Killing Off the Good Guys on Scandal and Lost Girl

On Scandal, Cyrus Beene (Jeff Perry) had one good thing: his husband James (Dan Bucatinsky). James represented love, conscience, family. Cyrus is ruthless and corrupt and capable of any betrayal or nefarious power grab. James still believes in justice and good.

Cyrus and James
Cyrus and James

Cyrus’s corruption finally leads to a situation that gets James killed.

On Lost Girl, Bo Dennis (Anna Silk) has one pure relationship: her sidekick Kenzi (Ksenia Solo). Kenzi is the sister she never had, the friend she relies on, the person she loves without reservation.

No words needed
Kenzi hugs Bo

A crisis prompts Kenzi to sacrifice herself to save the world. Like Buffy diving into a ball of light, Kenzi steps into the light and is taken. On BtVS, Buffy was retrieved from the netherworld by her friends. Will Kenzi be? As in BtVS, there is supposed to be a way to do this in the sci-fi world of Lost Girl.

There’s no hope for getting James back on Scandal. This drama is about real life, not science fiction, and when people die they are just gone.

On Scandal, Cyrus may come through his loss a better man. If I were Shonda Rhimes, I would write this in a way that Cyrus develops a moral compass as a result of losing James. It would certainly cause a lot of drama in the White House if Cyrus developed a conscience. After James’ murder, Olivia Pope herself (Kerry Washington) was even talking about her desire for at least one good person, one person in a white hat, in the morass of evil portrayed on Scandal.

On Lost Girl, I don’t see a way that the writers can use the loss of Kenzi to create character evolution in Bo or any other character. Kenzi is integral to everything Bo does. I cannot imagine how Bo can even continue to be Bo without Kenzi. It’s like Batman without Robin, Sherlock Holmes without Dr. Watson, Don Quixote without Sancho Panza, Buffy without Willow.

Because of that, I think Lost Girl will write Kenzi back into the story somehow. But here’s my problem. When they announced the cast returning for season 5, Ksenia Solo was not listed. This announcement makes me nervous.

Lost Girl played with the fans throughout all of season 4 using red herrings and secrecy. Is the absence of Ksenia Solo’s name in the returning cast another game, another secret, another mystery? If so, does that mean she will be back and they just want to keep it secret to drive us crazy? They certainly enjoyed driving us crazy for all of season 4. Then there’s the very important fact that no one from the show – not even Ksenia Solo herself – has said a word about Kenzi in season 5.

We usually know when people are really leaving. We know K.C. Collins really left Lost Girl. We know Sandra Oh is leaving Grey’s Anatomy. Announcements get made. There’s no official announcement about Ksenia Solo and Lost Girl parting ways.

Do you think Kenzi will be back?

A Quick Note on The Good Wife

I wrote this post before last night’s episode of The Good Wife, which took me completely by surprise and will be all over the news today. If you have any comments about how they handled Josh Charles leaving the cast of The Good Wife, feel free to include them in this discussion.

Here are a couple of articles in The Hollywood Reporter to fill you in with details on The Good Wife.

The Josh Charles story is a little different from Dan Bucatinsky leaving Scandal and Ksenia Solo possibly being done with Lost Girl because he was one of the lead characters, not a supporting character.