TNT’s Good Behavior Gives As Good As It Gets

goodbehavior02-533x400TNT’s dark and filthy drama Good Behavior ― aka “Lady Mary’s Come Undone” ― wrapped its high-tension 10-episode run with the same heart, black humor and shenanigans that made its pilot so compelling.

Michelle Dockery’s explosive breakaway from the staid walls of Downton Abbey, as an alcoholic con artist with more wigs than Sydney Bristow, proved worth the binge ― and the hangover! Recently released jailbird Letty Raines, who gets off on stealing, loves to get high, and just wants her biracial son, Jacob, to love her is no scheming noble. She’s painfully honest, unable to be anything but herself, and when she meets a hit man who’s accustomed to wearing dozens of different identities ― played by Argentine hunk-and-a-half Juan Diego Botto ― it’s the catalyst for adventure, growth…and more than a few missteps. All of which make for riveting TV.

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2015 Emmy Snubs and Flubs: The More Things Change…

The many faces of Maslany

The many faces of Maslany

Award nominations are always a crap shoot. As someone who’s been involved in several smaller-scale award slates, I can testify to how complicated and idiosyncratic the process can be. But all of my knowledge—and the world-weary acceptance of a long-time TV and movie fan— doesn’t help when the Emmy and Oscar ballots come out and some stellar performances get overlooked for tired always-haves.

The 2015 Primetime Emmy nominations were announced today and the list saw some joyous inclusions — like Orphan Black‘s Tatiana Maslany, who plays several distinct clones with a mind-blowing talent and Taraji P. Henson, overlooked and underused on CBS’ Person of Interest and a force to be reckoned with on FOX’s Empire as Cookie Lyon.

Praise Cookie.

Praise Cookie.

I am beyond thrilled for Tatiana, Taraji and How to Get Away With Murder‘s Viola Davis. But the status quo hasn’t really changed. Where are the nominations for Orphan Black and Empire as shows? The latter brought in unprecedented numbers and had viewers riveted. Was Mad Men sincerely better this year? The Academy continues to rely on the Homeland/Modern Family/whatever-we-did-last-year model of nominations. We again see premium cable and Netflix cleaning up, without any recognition some of the year’s most breath-taking performances on network and basic.

 

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Justified, My Love (Sorry! Couldn’t Help Myself!): Saying Goodbye to the FX Series

JustifiedlogoAfter six seasons, FX’s Justified came to a perfect close this week. Though buckets of blood bathed the episodes leading up to the finale, the last hour was all about quiet, hard-won farewells. Viewers said goodbye to so many memorable characters. Timothy Olyphant’s Raylan Givens, the gunslinger who, despite his white hat and noble intentions, was never quite the good guy he hoped to be. Joelle Carter’s Ava Crowder, the fierce survivor who struggled to look out for #1 and damn the consequences. Walton Goggins’ Boyd Crowder, the charismatic black hat to Raylan’s white and the other side to his coin. Tim, Rachel, Art, Wynn,  Loretta…this season’s Big Bad, Sam Elliott’s Markham. Justified was a veritable community of personalities, almost impossible to leave — just like Harlan County itself, constantly drawing its residents back into damnation.

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The CW’s The 100 Knows How to Make It Count

the100promoimageWhen The 100, based on the book of the same name by Kass Morgan, premiered midseason in spring 2014 I—like many others—was on post-apocalyptic teen angst overload. Though a longtime supporter of The CW network and its mixed bag of shows, I had a full belly of Hunger Games-eque dystopian fiction and mediocre sci-fi television shows. No thanks, I thought. I’ll pass.

It’s amazing how, when you suddenly find yourself with a lot of time on your hands, you start to second-guess that kind of decision. Less than a year after shrugging off The 100, I found myself marathoning 24 episodes in two days. It took me four days total to catch up to the second season as it aired. “I’ll pass” became “I’ll pass out if I don’t find out what happens next.” Why? Continue reading

Game of No: Why Rape is Not the Answer to Your Story Question

Writing a sexual assault into your canon? Take a look at this handy-dandy checklist first:

When is it Okay to Use Rape as a Plot Device?
Never.

And, yet, it persists. So many television shows, both daytime and primetime, revert to rape as a “deep” or “edgy” stunt to move a story forward, reveal a piece of characterization, etc. The latest being HBO’s Game of Thrones. Sonia Saraiya at the AV Club wrote a brilliant takedown of the show’s insistence on changing consensual sex scenes to rape scenes here and there’s not much I can add to that but my anger. And my exhaustion.

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ABC Family Spells “Must-See POC TV”

My defection to ABC Family began years ago, with Greek (2007), The Middleman (2008) and Make it or Break It (2009). Now, it’s the channel I turn to first for smart, fun, diverse youth-oriented programming.

If you still think ABC Family is the “Family Channel” of yore, rife with conservative, preachy, Seventh Heaven-esque shows run back-to-back with The 700 Club, you’re missing out on some great TV. The network’s tagline is “a new kind of family,” and it delivers on that promise: putting forth fresh projects and taking risks on stories that might not get traction anywhere else. For instance, weekly sitcom Melissa & Joey is refreshingly adult, Who’s the Boss for a new generation, with fast and flip sexual banter and teens who can more than hold their own. But it’s the dramatic field where ABCF really shines.

PLL's Fields family

PLL’s Fields family

When I was growing up, Beverly Hills, Sunnydale, Capeside and Roswell were very white, heteronormative enclaves. It didn’t matter if their corresponding real-life geography boasted more diversity, the shows were pretty homogenous. If you weren’t fair-skinned and straight, you didn’t really see yourself on teen TV. By and large, if there were characters of color, they’d be wacky sidekicks, the first to die in a murder mystery or part of a brief Afterschool Special arc wherein somebody fell for a person from The Wrong Side of the Tracks. ABC Family changed that. Lincoln Heights, about a black family in LA, ran for four seasons. Greek had a college-age cast, with black characters Calvin and Ashleigh each getting their own love interests. Calvin, black and gay, actually had two — complete with onscreen smooches and implied sex. Got any pearls? Feel free to clutch ’em. The Middleman featured Natalie Morales as lead character Wendy Watson. The flighty bestie? A blonde. How many times does that happen? Then there’s Pretty Little Liars‘ lesbian teen Emily Fields (Shay Mitchell). Her parents are portrayed by Eric Steinberg and Nia Peeples, and you don’t sit around wondering, “What are the Fieldses?” because you already know: a family trying to support each other while crazy crap happens around them. And ABCF continues to…you know, I don’t want to say “push the envelope.” Because it’s not scandalous. They’re just putting a bigger, better envelope on the table! This summer’s Twisted and The Fosters are prime (pun fully intended!) examples.

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Come to the Dark Side, We (Don’t) Have Cookies

As a long-time soap viewer, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to hear a character on General Hospital declare that, “Sonny is a good man.” They could record that line and just play it back as needed — and if I had a dollar for every utterance, I could retire in Fiji. But, while early retirement sounds nice, the problem is that Sonny Corinthos is not a good man. He’s a flawed man, a broken man, stubborn and selfish and violent. He’s abusive to women, a bully and an asshat. No amount of telling us “he’s a good man” changes what we’ve seen him do onscreen. You know what does? Other stuff he does onscreen, without fanfare or a Greek Chorus pointing out how awesome he is. Sitting by Stone’s bedside, helping Connie when Trey was dying, having sane conversations about his kids with his ex-wife — that’s what explains to the viewer that this guy is worth keeping around.

It’s the basic rule of writing: Show, don’t tell.Spike-and-Angel

“You asked for a soul,” vampire Angel points out to his protégé, Spike in season five of his eponymous series. “I didn’t. It almost killed me. I spend a hundred years trying to come to terms with infinite remorse. You spent three weeks moaning in a basement, and then you were fine. What’s fair about that?” Not much, that’s for sure! Especially since Spike’s reappearance on Angel undercuts his genuine self-sacrifice in the series finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — the ending Spike earned, after nabbing his soul didn’t really work out.

Truly effective redemption arcs happen without incentive, without characters spelling it out for the reader or viewer and waiting for the redeemed at the finish line with a gold medal. They aren’t quick fixes.

[Spoilers for Game of Thrones and Once Upon a Time below the jump]

 

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