Brain Dump: Supergirl & The Flash, American Crime, Taken, Shots Fired

This and that about a few TV shows: a brain dump. This week I’m thinking about musical crossovers, hidden slavery in America, the ratio of Beals to violence, and the criminal justice system. Continue reading “Brain Dump: Supergirl & The Flash, American Crime, Taken, Shots Fired”

Brain Dump: The Fosters, Supergirl, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Time for a brain dump – a few short thoughts on a variety of shows. Let’s start with The Fosters. Continue reading “Brain Dump: The Fosters, Supergirl, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”

My Favorite Prospects for the New TV Season

I’m watching the news about new TV shows for the upcoming season. A few have caught my eye as hopeful prospects. These series have women in leading roles, or women I like in supporting roles. These are the shows I’ll watch for sure. There may be others that I’ll watch as well, but these are my favorites so far. Continue reading “My Favorite Prospects for the New TV Season”

Watch This: A Look at DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

The ratio of male to female characters in DC’s Legends of Tomorrow is not to my liking. Because  if that, I’ve pretty much ignored any news about the upcoming series on the CW. However, last week something caught my eye that made me think some of my readers here might be interested in the series.

First of all, let’s look at the male to female ratio on this superhero show. Continue reading “Watch This: A Look at DC’s Legends of Tomorrow”

10 Things to Like About Marvel’s Jessica Jones

Marvel’s Jessica Jones is currently streaming on Netflix. This 13 episode season stars Krysten Ritter as the super-powered Jessica Jones. Mike Colter, David Tennant, Rachael Taylor, Carrie-Anne Moss, Eka Darville, Erin Moriarty, and Wil Traval all show up regularly, too.

In no particular order, here are some things I like about Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Beware some mild spoilers.

1. Jessica Jones Forgets It’s a Comic Book

Jessica talks to Will Simpson (Wil Traval), a cop Kilgrave sent to kill Trish.
Jessica talks to Will Simpson (Wil Traval), a cop Kilgrave sent to kill Jessica’s friend Trish (Rachael Taylor).

The opening credits boast a printed-on-cheap-paper quality. The credits are a nice homage to Jessica Jones’ origins. However, once the story starts rolling, it no longer looks so much like iron-on scenes from a comic book. While the noir quality of the series and the occasional framing of the shots suggest comics, overall Marvel’s Jessica Jones stands on its own as a modern thriller. In addition to the opening credits there are early references to “saving the city,” or “the big green guy,” or “the guy with the stars on his shirt” but Marvel touchstones are not an important part of what Jessica Jones is about. Luke Cage (Mike Colter) features large in Marvel’s Jessica Jones. It’s already known that Cage gets his own show, but his part in this series was not mere spin-off publicity. Cage is important to Jessica’s story.

The call-out I most enjoyed was to Dexter, not to anything in the MARVEL universe. Dexter is the former home of series creator Melissa Rosenberg. Jessica gets in the elevator at her apartment and looks up at blood spatter on the ceiling. Hello, Dexter.

2. You Sense Women’s Influence

Rachael Taylor in Jessica Jones
Jessica’s friend/sister Trish AKA Patsy

Melissa Rosenberg is creator and executive producer and writer for the series. You can feel her and all the other women behind the scenes while you look at what’s in front of the camera. @sjmyles said it perfectly.

There are themes of rape, abortion, abuse, consent, equality. All of these issues are dealt with from a female perspective. Matters of concern to women are handled by women.

In an interview at Variety, Melissa Rosenberg was quoted saying,

She was exactly the character I wanted to write my whole career. She was a fully-formed human being, not a one-dimensional character — she was not the wife or the cop partner or whatever. She was beautifully drawn in the comics, in every way — she was just profoundly damaged and deeply flawed and very dry. I love her sense of humor.

But at her core, she’s someone who ultimately wants to do something good in the world, though that is buried under many layers of damage. 

Let’s face it, a room full of only male writers would neither bring this feminist outlook to the table nor get it on the screen.

I want to mention the women directors by name: S.J. Clarkson, Uta Briesewitz, Rosemary Rodriguez.

3. Sex Exists

Krysten Ritter and Mike Colter
Luke Cage doesn’t yet know what Jessica’s past will mean to him

Most superheros appear to be celibate. Not Jessica Jones. She operates with a no apologies attitude toward sex. In that sense, Jessica Jones is more Lost Girl than Supergirl. Like the costumes, the sex scenes are not sexualized – I don’t know if that sentences makes complete sense, but it’s true. Jessica doesn’t use her sexuality to manipulate people or get what she wants. She not “a bitch” in the patriarchial sense of the word. She’s a person who sometimes wants to have sex. Imagine that, patriarchy.

The person she picks for sex is the incredible hunk, Luke Cage. She doesn’t know at first that he’s another special case like she is. What she doesn’t know when it begins will hurt him in a huge way.

Trish has sex scenes as well. The message from her scenes is the lady is in charge.

Same sex couple Jeri (Carrie-Ann Moss) and Pam (Susie Abromeit) do some touching and teasing, but no sex scenes between them are shown.

The sex scenes do not pander. They move the story forward.

4. She’s Smart

Jessica can jump 50 feet in the air with ease.
Jessica can jump 50 feet in the air with ease, but it’s brains not quads that count.

Yes, Jessica Jones has super strength. She can break any lock, toss a man across a room with one hand, or jump 50 feet straight in the air to perch between buildings. But the thing that matters about her isn’t her super power, it’s her brain. She’s brilliant as an investigator. Any bad decisions she makes are meant to serve a greater purpose.

5. The Villain is Relevant

David Tennant
David Tennant as Kilgrave is wonderfully evil.

Jessica’s nemesis is Kilgrave, played with suave and sophistication by David Tennant. His performance is absolutely brilliant. Mind control is his power. He used it on Jessica in the past with horrifying effect. Now she’s trying to gain control over him and his evil doings.

Since he controls minds, Kilgrave’s reach is everywhere. No one can be trusted because they might be doing his bidding. His villainy extends to everyone around Jessica, including Trish.

Kilgrave’s the most culturally relevant villain in a very long time.Kilgrave isn’t the only character of evil intent, but he’s the biggest and baddest in season 1.

I find Kilgrave especially relevant as a villain. We live in an age when our educational system turns out graduates with no reasoning ability and no critical thinking skills. We live in a time when corporate media can convince huge segments of the population science is wrong and greed is good. We support wars based on false assumptions. We allow a secular system of equality to be overtaken by a religious cabal of zealous fanatics. The whole country is under the crazed mind control of a few. Kilgrave is after us all and we’re marching to his drummer.

Kilgrave is charming, convincing. You like him in spite of knowing you shouldn’t. He’s the most culturally relevant villain in a very long time.

6. Her Relationships are Fraught

Carrie-Anne Moss
Carrie-Anne Moss is the lawyer Jeri Hogarth

I like that Jessica is abrupt and socially inept and lives behind thick protective walls. She’s immensely vulnerable yet immensely strong, like many woman living in the modern world.

Jeri Hogarth, a lawyer, sends her work. Jeri is trying to divorce her wife Wendy (Robin Weigert) so she can be with her assistant Pam. The same-sex couple is treated exactly like any other; points for that.

Robin Weigert
Robin Weigert as Wendy looks a bit uncomfortable as Jessica hangs her over the subway tracks – even more so when Jessica lets go.

Not so many points for the way Jessica tries to convince Wendy to sign the divorce papers. Social skills are not Jessica’s forte.

Jeri enlists Jessica’s help as often as Jessica enlists Jeri’s. Through most of the season they work on a murder done by a young woman named Hope (Erin Moriarty) while she was under Kilgrave’s control. In the personal area of her divorce, Jeri insists that Jessica find some dirt on Wendy, who wants to make a killing on the breakup.

Eka Darville as Malcolm.
Malcolm is under Kilgrave’s control until Jessica cleans him up

Jessica’s relationship with her neighbor Malcolm (Eka Darville) is similarly troubled. Kilgrave turns him into an addict and uses him to spy on Jessica. Jessica tries in her own less than cuddly way to save Malcolm. He becomes one of her few allies. And he clearly has the best hairdo in the world once he starts looking neat and clean.

Even with her sister/friend Trish, the person Jessica probably loves most, she is often off-putting.

7. She Makes Mistakes

Krysten Ritter and Rachael Taylor
Trish tries to convince Jessica not to do something stupid

Jessica is smart. I mentioned that. But she’s hampered by guilt and shame and past abuse.  Those demons influence her thinking. Her battered psyche rules her emotions. She’s desperate to get rid of Kilgrave. She’s willing to do almost anything, no matter how dangerous, if she thinks it will put an end to Kilgrave’s evil.

8. The Costumes and Settings

Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones
Jessica suffers from PTSD after Kilgrave’s attacks on her. She’s suspicious of everything.

Jessica dresses in battered jeans, a black tank top, and a jacket. She wears hoodies and tee shirts. Sometimes she dons a worse-for-wear grey scarf. There’s no spandex, no push-up bra, no cape, not much makeup. Trish (Rachael Taylor) tries to sell her on the idea of a superhero costume and she laughs at the idea.

Marvel offers us an everywoman in Jessica Jones.She looks like a normal person. She’s as troubled as a regular person. She cries about her failings and cares about the people around her. Marvel offers us an everywoman in Jessica Jones. Her wardrobe convinces.

As for the look of the series and the settings, I thought the cinematography was beautiful. (Manuel Billeter was the cinematographer.) There were a lot of scenes at night and outside with interesting lighting, especially in the night scenes. One scene in particular, when Jessica climbs to the top of a bridge and looks over the city was gorgeously done. Jessica’s ratty apartment, Trish’s luxury apartment, Jeri’s office, morgues, houses in the suburbs, bars – it was all well chosen. The lighting and the color palette worked.

9. The Music

Krysten Ritter
Oh, wow, listen to that fabulous sound track.

Great music characterizes this series. Everything from the light jazz of the opening credits to the music written for each scene is mood enhancing. Sean Callery gets credit for the music.

10. The Performances

Wil Traval
Will Simpson has secrets of his own.

Krysten Ritter’s performance turned out to be exactly the right one.As I explored episode 1 “AKA Ladies Night,” I was not convinced that Krysten Ritter was the woman for this job. She seemed awkward. As the episode wore on, I realized she was meant to be that way. Krysten Ritter’s performance turned out to be exactly the right one. Her self-loathing, her distaste for Kilgore, her nuanced dealings with her PTSD, her rape, her drinking – they felt intensely real. Jessica’s yearning to do good and help people was utterly believable.

Carrie-Anne Moss was brittle yet unbreakable steel with her performance. Her morally compromised character was a work of art. Rachael Taylor was the perfect choice as the beautiful former child star. With absolute love for Jessica, Trish has Jessica’s back. In a story where everyone teems with secrets and lies, Rachel Taylor plays the one straight-arrow.

David Tennant, as I already mentioned, was beyond outstanding.  Mike Colter, Eka Darville, Robin Weigert, Erin Moriarty, Wil Traval, Susie Abromeit – all perfect. Random cops and bodyguards and cooks and doctors and parents – wonderful. Rosario Dawson, who doesn’t show up until episode 13 on a little side trip from Daredevil – well done. Well done, to all the cast.

Has season 2 been announced yet? Because I’m ready.

What did you like about Marvel’s Jessica Jones? Did I forget to mention your favorite thing?

All photos ©Netflix & Marvel

Brain Dump: The Women of the New Fall TV Series

A brain dump is a series of short thoughts on a variety of subjects. Today’s topic is the women of the new TV series for fall 2015.

Supergirl

Still of David Harewood, Chyler Leigh and Melissa Benoist in Supergirl

I’m happy to see a short hair cut on Chyler Leigh in Supergirl. The trend toward super long hair like Melissa Benoist is wearing in the show has gone on too long. Let’s cut that hair, ladies. I know, this has nothing to do with the show, but I’m sick of long hair.

First, Melissa Benoist is fabulous as our newest super hero. She’s fresh and enthusiastic and naive and so damn cute. Super heroes are not supposed to be cute, but I’m voting to let this one be cute while she’s growing into her powers. She can be serious and adult later.

Secondly, Laura Benanti who is playing both Kara’s kind mother and evil aunt is killing it!

Finally, I was fearful from the previews that Cat Grant (Calista Flockhart) would be a horrible, overwrought caricature. Refreshingly, Flockhart is playing her as a close to  normal human.

Blindspot

Ashley Johnson and Jaime Alexander in Blindspot

Jaimie Alexander is starring in Blindspot and doing a fantastic job at it. However Ashley Johnson as the geeky Patterson has stolen my attention because of her relationship with her boyfriend David (Joe Dinicol). Patterson took home photos of all of Jane Doe’s tattoos and worked to decode the meaning of them with David’s help. It’s a huge security violation for her to do this and implies she might not be as smart as she should be when it comes to real life. I also worry that David is just with her because he’s a spy who is only there to see the tattoos.

This week her security lapse was discovered by the boss, Mayfair (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). Patterson wasn’t fired, but she broke up with David. We’ll see how that works out in future episodes.

Code Black

Still of Marcia Gay Harden and Luis Guzmán in Code Black

Who needs another medical show, right? Code Black turns out to be pulse pounding, crisis mode emergency room medicine. Everything is urgent and frantic. Amid all this chaos is Marcia Gay Harden as Dr. Leanne Rorish who is calm and kind and dedicated to teaching her charges how to save lives. She’s the eye of a hurricane. She’s grieving the loss of her family while guiding the life savers she’s training.

Dr. Rorish is one of the most powerful and vulnerable characters to come along in a while. And she is flanked by several other interesting female characters. I’m digging Code Black.

Quantico

Still of Priyanka Chopra, Brian J. Smith, Johanna Braddy and Yasmine Al Massri in Quantico

At first it looked like Quantico was mainly a vehicle for Priyanka Chopra, but it’s turned out to be a true ensemble show with moments for many female characters including those played by Johanna Braddy, Yasmine Al Massri (who plays twins Orphan Black style), and Aunjanue Ellis. The male characters on the show are equally well done. The plot of this series is as complicated as How to Get Away with Murder. There are plenty of twists and turns and surprises to egg you along.

What are your thoughts about the women of the new fall TV shows?

Trailers for New TV Series with Women Leads

There are a number of TV shows being announced now. Some star women in leading roles, some have more than one woman out in front, and some even boast women of a color other than white. Let’s have a look at them.

Supergirl

Supergirl begins this fall on CBS. We’ve been given a rather lengthy first look at the series. We may be able to skip ahead to the second episode, this trailer tells so much. As a bonus, if we start the season with episode 2, the whole wardrobe problem will be solved.

Melissa Benoist is Supergirl. Chyler Leigh plays her sister Alex. Mehcad Brooks is Jimmy (sorry, James) Olsen. Calista Flockhart plays Supergirl’s boss. The boss is some kind of horrible parody on every bitchy boss ever imagined by a male writer since the beginning of the Planet Krypton. (Really, fellas, can’t anyone do better than that?)

I’ve mentioned Supergirl a couple of times previously on this blog, if you want more in depth details check out Big Casting News for Supergirl and Brain Dump: Supergirl, Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Blacklist.

So here she is, the female superhero we’ve long awaited. If I were inclined to mangle famous poems, I might say,

so much depends
upon

a red skirt
with cape

glazed with pop
culture

beside the endless
patriarchy.

The Catch

Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers are behind The Catch, which was created by Jennifer Schuur. This is a thriller centered on the brilliant Alice Martin (Mireille Enos). She’s a fraud investigator who’s about to be the victim of fraud herself. It sounds like a season long hunt for the bad guy, mixed in with other cases.

The Catch also stars Alimi Ballard as Evan, Damon Dayoub, Jay Hayden, Jacky Ido, Bethany Joy Lenz, Rose Rollins and Elvy Yost. Props to The Catch – although the star is white, there is ample diversity in the rest of the cast.

Although Mareille Enos is capable of super intense acting, I’m most looking forward to seeing Rose Rollins on my TV again.

Quantico

I think Quantico is going to take the lead on diversity. The main character is played by Priyanka Chopra, an award winning veteran of a number of Indian films. Aunjanue Ellis also has top billing on this FBI story. The plot centers around a number of recruits at the FBI training center in Quantico. Jake McLaughlin plays Ryan Booth.

Of all the previews shown in this post, I like this one the best simply because of the diversity issue. But why is there only one show like this? (I’ll mention Proof later, it helps.)

Blindspot

Blindspot is going to be one of those season long searches for the truth like Blacklist or Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.. It’s about a woman who “wakes up” with no memory of her past life. She’s completely covered with fresh tattoos.

Jaimie Alexander stars as Jane Doe, with Ashley Johnson and Sullivan Stapleton backing her up in this tale about a vast international conspiracy.

Heartbreaker

Heartbreaker is a medical drama starring Melissa George. Other doctors surrounding the brilliant heart surgeon are played by Dave Annable, Don Hany, Shelley Conn and D.L. Hughley.

Jill Gordon and Amy Brenneman are among the producers for Heartbreaker.

Angel from Hell

Angel from Hell starts on CBS this fall. Jane Lynch looks happy about it, judging from her Twitter feed.

The show will be on Thursday evenings, a tough slot for any show of interest to women, especially a half hour comedy. It stars Jane Lynch, Maggie Lawson, Kevin Pollak and Kyle Bornheimer. Other information is a little skimpy at this point, but the only names I can find for writers and directors are male names.

Angel from Hell doesn’t premier until November, so there will be plenty of time to fill in the details.

I love that wild hair on Jane Lynch. Perfect.

Elsewhere on Old Ain’t Dead

There are other female-led series I’ve talked about before on the blog. If you missed those posts, here they are.

I don’t think this is a complete list of the new shows with female leads, but it gives you some female-led shows to consider for your next few months of TV watching.

The Diversity Countdown

Looking just at the starring role in these women’s series, how do we stack up on diversity?

We have

  • Melissa Benoist
  • Mireille Enos
  • Priyanka Chopra
  • Jaimie Alexander
  • Melissa George
  • Jane Lynch
  • Jennifer Beals
  • Dark Matter names the men first, so I’m not listing anyone from it
  • Emma Ishta

I’d say that is a less than outstanding rundown if you’re counting diversity points.

It’s not that I don’t want Melissa Benoist or Jaimie Alexander or the other white women on the list to have great parts. I do. Lots of great parts. I also want lots of great parts for the rest of the female human race.

Brain Dump: Supergirl, Exotic Marigold Hotel, The Blacklist

It’s a brain dump day. Short thoughts on big topics.

Supergirl’s Costume

Just released photos of Supergirl’s costume show a muted color palette. But the costume is not over-sexualized. I love that. It looks like Supergirl, but a serious super hero, not a sex object.

Melissa Benoist in the Supergirl costume.
Melissa Benoist in the Supergirl costume.

I was hoping for brighter colors and mentioned that on Twitter. Heard back with this:

Fingers crossed that Willie is right!

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Maggie Smith and Judi Dench
Maggie Smith and Judi Dench

I went to The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel on the first Saturday it was open. The theater was crammed for the 4PM matinee with a crowd of mostly older people.

The film was charming and very funny. There were many laugh-out-loud moments. The cast was fabulous – every one. The performances from Maggie Smith and Judi Dench were particularly interesting. There was an intimate feel to them. Maggie Smith showed a side I’ve never seen from her before. There was the trademarked acerbic wit but she went beyond that into something quietly profound at the end of the film.

Go see it.

The Blacklist

The famous James Spader neck tilt.
The famous James Spader neck tilt.

Is it just for The Blacklist Red Reddington character, or has James Spader always tilted his head toward his shoulders to deliver his lines? Maybe I’m just noticing it because he gets so many close-ups on the series. Or maybe his neck is failing him and he can’t hold his head up straight. It isn’t always the left side like in the photo. It’s the right side, too.

I don’t remember him doing the head tilt on Boston Legal or The Practice. It’s driving me to consider buying him a neck brace. Does it distract anyone else but me?

Maggie Smith & Judi Dench photo credit: AP. Supergirl image: CBS. Scandal image: ABC.