by Julian Spivey
It was announced this week that two of Shonda Rhimes’ ABC dramas “Scandal” and “How to Get Away with Murder” would be doing a crossover episode sometime after each show returns from its winter break.
This is a bad idea.
If ever a crossover were to work it would likely be this crossover teaming two of the strongest women characters on television in Viola Davis’ Emmy-winning Annalise Keating on “How to Get Away with Murder” and Kerry Washington’s powerful Olivia Pope on “Scandal,” but crossovers are just too gimmicky and should’ve been retired long ago. It seemed like we were done with crossovers a few years ago, but then they came back roaring. Some make since like this one or any crossover among like-minded series like the “NCIS” trilogy on CBS or the ‘Chicago’ trilogy on NBC, but then you get some like the dumbfounding “Bones”/”Sleepy Hollow” crossover a few years ago that led me to having to watch an episode of “Bones,” which I’d never seen before, just to know what was happening on “Sleepy Hollow.”
And, that’s a big problem with crossovers. They are essentially marketing ploys. They can be fun for viewers that watch both shows, but a pain in the butt for those who don’t. They can also be a pain for viewers like me who watch both “How to Get Away with Murder” and “Scandal,” but don’t always watch them in the same week. For instance, I watch “Scandal” on a weekly basis, but don’t keep up with ‘HTGAWM’ weekly, because it’s just not as good. The first half of the ‘HTGAWM’ season ended almost two months ago, and I still have two episodes sitting on my DVR unwatched. Networks use these crossovers to help boost the ratings for each or one of the shows involved and there’s no doubt ABC is hoping the final season of “Scandal” will boost the ratings of the fourth season series ‘HTGAWM.’
The biggest reason I’m not a fan of this crossover is because it’ll come in the second half of the final season of “Scandal” and will likely waste an important episode that could’ve been used getting us to a conclusion of the series. I would like to see “Scandal” go out on top, not trying to figure up neat ways for Pope and Keating to interact, no matter how much fun it may end up being to see.
by Julian Spivey
1. “This Is Us” (NBC)
NBC’s “This Is Us” continues to be a stunning drama halfway through its second season with the most realistic portrayal of family life currently on television. The fact that it’s told through multiple timelines in the life of the Pearson family adds to the brilliance of the drama. “This Is Us” also features many of network television’s best acting performances from Milo Ventimiglia, Emmy-winner Sterling K. Brown, Chrissy Metz and Mandy Moore.
2. “Blackish” (ABC)
ABC’s “Blackish” is not only one of the funniest sitcoms on television, but likely also its most important. It’s incredibly funny and well-acted, especially by leads Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, but also does a fantastic job at showing part of America the struggles faced by African-Americans, including affluent African-Americans in this country. One of the best episodes on all of television this year was the show’s fourth season premiere “Juneteenth,” a terrific musical episode featuring a “Schoolhouse Rock” type explanation of the date via The Roots.
3. “Orange is the New Black” (Netflix)
When storylines of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” now the longest running success on the streaming platform, got darker a couple of seasons ago it turned a lot of fans of the show off, but I believe made the show even better. This change in a more serious tone led to a terrific fifth season this summer that saw the hour-to-hour (in a “24”-esque timeline) moments of a prison riot/protest. The season also made a star out of Danielle Brooks, who plays Taystee Jefferson, giving the show’s best performance to date.
4. “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Fox)
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine” has been one of the best comedies on television for the entirety of its now five seasons with the current season standing out as one of its best. It’s not common for a show over 100 episodes into its run to pull out episodes as entertaining and funny as ‘B99’ is this season. Unfortunately, despite the excellent episodes the ratings of the show are at an all-time low and it might be in danger of cancellation.
5. “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” (ABC)
“Jimmy Kimmel Live!” is the longest running late night show on television right now when you consider hosts who’ve stayed with the same show the longest, but Kimmel has never been more relevant in the pop culture zeitgeist than he was in 2017 thanks to incredibly touching moments that brought his opinions on controversial political topics like healthcare and gun violence to the forefront. These moments have gained Kimmel a ton of respect and fans, who agree with his opinions, but has also made him a punching bag among many on the right who disagree with his takes.
6. “Will & Grace” (NBC)
I’m not really a fan of reboots of older television shows in general, but NBC’s “Will & Grace” came back this year more than a decade after it ended and instantly became one of the funniest sitcoms on television in 2017. “Will & Grace,” which debuted in 1998 as the first ever television sitcom to include multiple main characters who were gay, was ahead of its time when it began. It’s now no longer shocking, but still as funny as ever.
7. “Doctor Who” (BBC America)
“Doctor Who” really revived itself for showrunner/lead writer Steven Moffat and The Doctor actor Peter Capaldi’s final seasons respectfully on the show after the previous season, which aired two years ago, was the biggest dud since the show’s reboot more than a decade ago. The stories seemed to have more life in them, the addition of Pearl Mackie as the new companion was terrific and Moffat and Capaldi just seemed to give more in their final showings. Next year should be really interesting with Jodie Whittaker taking over as the first ever female Doctor and Chris Chibnall taking the reigns of the show.
8. “Feud: Bette & Joan” (FX)
Ryan Murphy’s relationship with FX has proven to be quite fruitful with now three successful anthology series on the network: “American Horror Story,” “American Crime Story” and now “Feud,” which debuted this year with the terrific retelling of the old Hollywood feud between Joan Crawford (played by Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (played by Susan Sarandon). It was a delight seeing two old dames go neck-and-neck over Hollywood supremacy for eight weeks.
9. “Bates Motel” (A&E)
“Bates Motel” finished its fantastic five-year run on A&E this year with Norman Bates (the terrific Freddie Highmore, who should’ve been nominated for an Emmy at some point) finally going full-throttle crazy. It was an emotional season and particularly finale for this show as Norman gets an ending that isn’t quite “Psycho,” but certainly fitting for his character and bittersweet for us fans.
10. “Longmire” (Netflix)
“Longmire” was one of the most underrated dramas on television and I can’t tell you how thankful I am that Netflix saved it from cancellation more than three years ago when A&E, which had aired the show’s first three seasons, cancelled it. “Longmire,” about the tough small-town Wyoming sheriff Walt Longmire, got better on Netflix and had its swan song season this year wrapping up a series that often felt like a nostalgic throwback in a good way.
by Julian Spivey
10. Will Forte (Last Man on Earth)
Will Forte’s performance as Tandy Miller on Fox’s “The Last Man on Earth” has been the looniest on television for four seasons now, but at times over the series’ run has been a little too much. Not this season though. Forte’s performance has probably elicited more laughs from me than any other on television this year, particularly during his long monologues like the one he performs while officiating the wedding between Mary Steenburgen’s Gail and Cleopatra Coleman’s Erica.
9. Edie Falco (Law & Order: True Crime – The Menendez Murders)
NBC’s foray into the true crime television miniseries with ‘The Menendez Murders,’ under the “Law & Order” title since it was developed by Dick Wolf was solid, but also a bit underwhelming, except for the role of attorney Leslie Abramson, portrayed by four-time Emmy winner Edie Falco. Falco completely becomes Abramson, the loud-talking, hard-nosed defense attorney for The Menendez Brothers, accused of murdering their parents. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Falco nominated for her 12th Emmy next year for her performance
8. Max Thieriot (Bates Motel)
Freddie Highmore as Norman Bates and Vera Farmiga as Norma Bates always had the shinier roles on A&E’s terrific five-season drama “Bates Motel,” which ended this year. But, Max Thieriot as Dylan Massett, Norma’s first son and Norman’s half-brother, was always consistently underrated. His portrayal of Dylan, who’s entire family is crazy, is heroic as he turns into really one of the all-around good guys on television. His final scene with Norman is one of the most compassionate and yet tragic of any show you’ll see, and he pulls it off brilliantly.
7. Michael Weatherly (Bull)
I’m not sure there’s anybody currently on television, especially network television, that plays smarmy as well as Michael Weatherly does and he’s showing that perfectly as Dr. Jason Bull in CBS’ law drama “Bull.” Bull is the best at his job as a trial scientist, in which he uses analytics and psychology to help his clients, and he knows it. He’s an arrogant, egotistical, smart man, but does occasionally have a heart of gold and Weatherly was born to play these traits. His performance as Bull makes the character a little more in-depth than your typical CBS procedural lead.
6. Benito Martinez (American Crime)
I’m a huge fan of acting through emotion without using words; the show, not tell style and there’s likely nobody who did a better job of this in 2017 than Benito Martinez on ABC’s terrific “American Crime” (which ended this year after three great seasons). Martinez played Luis Salazar, a Mexican father who enters the U.S. illegally searching for his missing son and will stop at nothing to find him. He doesn’t speak much and when he does it’s in his native language, with us reading subtitles, but he says so much with his eyes we know what he’s thinking and feeling the entire time. Martinez’s great performance recently earned him a Critics’ Choice Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series.
5. Kaitlin Olson (The Mick)
Kaitlin Olson’s performance as Mickey in Fox’s “The Mick” is the most unhinged of any sitcom currently on television. It seems there are no limits to what her character and the show will go to for a laugh and I can’t think of a funnier actress for the portrayal of this cunning and incredibly irresponsible person. Olson’s incredible physical comedy will have you mesmerized and doubled over in hysterics multiple times an episode.
4. Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who)
I had grown a little bit fatigued with “Doctor Who” during Peter Capaldi’s reign, through no fault of his own, but due to stagnate storylines. But, “Doctor Who” producer and lead writer Steven Moffat seemed determined to send Capaldi and himself (as both of their tenures with the show end with the Christmas special this year) out on a high note. Capaldi’s Doctor has certainly been the grumpiest of all the Doctor’s iterations, at least since the show’s reboot with Christopher Eccleston, leading to an oftentimes serious tone to the show, that’s worked rather well of late. Capaldi’s performance in “The Doctor Falls,” the series 10 finale, was one of his finest works of his run. I can’t wait to see how his turn as The Doctor ends on Christmas.
3. Amber Ruffin (Late Night with Seth Meyers)
Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon recently tweeted: “Amber Ruffin is amazing! Why doesn’t this woman have her own talk show?!” I completely agree, though I would hate to lose her as a wonderful contributor and writer on Seth Meyer’s ‘Late Night.’ Ruffin’s performance on ‘Late Night’ is the only on this list this year that isn’t a fictional character. Her comedy bits, especially her “Amber Says What” segment, show a new and unique voice in the comedy world that never fails to have you almost in tears from laughter.
2. Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)
Sterling K. Brown’s terrific performance as Randall Pearson may have won the Emmy for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for “This Is Us,” but I believed it’s Milo Ventimiglia’s performance as Pearson patriarch Jack that’s given the best performance on the show through its first season and a half. Pearson is “greatest dad alive” material and Ventimiglia plays this perfectly with the fatherly warmth of an Andy Taylor. But, perhaps even greater is Ventimiglia’s performance in the first half of the second season when we realize Jack does indeed have his demons and isn’t the perfect person we thought he was.
1. Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black)
Danielle Brooks’ performance as inmate Taystee Jefferson has always been good throughout the run of Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black,” but her performance in this year’s fifth season was a revelation and maybe the best single season performance from anybody in the show’s great ensemble during its run. Still grieving from the death of her best friend at the end of season four she essentially takes leadership of a prison lockdown, with the show taking a “24” approach to the season with each episode revealing part of one long day or weekend. Brooks’ Taystee becomes the unofficial face of Litchfield Prison during the protest with her tour de force performance showing all the emotions that comes with an unjust and prejudiced judicial system. If she’s not nominated for an Emmy next season for her performance, it’ll also be unjust.
by Julian Spivey
It’s not every day an echidna comes to your hometown, but it’s likely a good sign Jack Hanna has. The longtime director emeritus of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and television personality brought his “Into the Wild Live” touring show to Reynolds Performance Hall on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Ark. on Friday, Oct. 27 and it was a treat for animal lovers.
Hanna is one of the most noted and popular animal conservationists in the world and has used his Emmy-winning television series “Into the Wild” and appearances on television shows such as “Late Night/Late Show with David Letterman,” “Good Morning America” and currently “Late, Late Show with James Corden” to teach viewers about the importance of our world’s beautiful animals, many of which are endangered.
Before the show started on Friday night Hanna was available at the side of the stage to sign autographs for a long line of fans, which was a nice way to begin the evening. When the show started Hanna gave a little bit of history about himself, including the fact that his father was born in Little Rock and it was his first trip back to Arkansas in many years. He said he felt a bond with the state because of its part in his family history.
“Into the Wild Live” is a mixture of Hanna, along with his talented staff of animal handlers, showing the audience a variety of animals and teaching them about them and showing clips of his television show that are important to him on a big screen above the stage.
Among the animals brought with him to the Reynolds stage on Friday night were a kangaroo, sloth, penguin and cheetah to the excitement of both the children and adults in the audience. Many of these animals are ones you can see at your local zoo, but you don’t get the expertise and terrific stories about them that comes with seeing Jack Hanna live.
Among the “best of” clips shown from the “Into the Wild” television program were Hanna and his family spending an hour with gorillas in the mountains of Africa and spending a day raising baby elephants at an elephant rehabilitation center also in Africa.
Hanna’s “Into the Wild” can still be seen syndicated on local television affiliates around the country, usually on Saturday mornings, and in 2016 the show won its fourth Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Travel and Adventure Program.
I developed a fascination with Hanna as a huge fan of David Letterman. Letterman had Hanna on his ‘Late Night’ and ‘Late Show’ programs more than 100 times during his 30-year tenure on television, making Hanna one of his most frequent guests. The two had a great report with each other with Hanna being his wacky personality and Letterman playing the curmudgeon seemingly often annoyed by Hanna’s antics and always having the perfect one-liner when something went wrong during these segments. They truly made a great pair. One of the highlights of “Into the Wild Live” on Friday night came at the end of the show when Hanna showed a blooper real from his show and times on Letterman’s show really highlighting their on-air comradery.
I’d highly recommend seeing Hanna live if you get the opportunity. His appearances can be seen on his website and he will be appearing in Tulsa, Okla. and Woodlands and Austin, Texas later this month. The only thing that would probably make his live road show better would be if he added a Q&A segment to the end. It would really make the audience feel even more a part of the show.
My only complaint about the evening has more to do with Reynolds Performance Hall than the actual show and it’s a frequent complaint with the venue – the ticket prices are almost always too high. The show did sell out, but $40 for a ticket is a little much to ask of people, especially for an event with families bringing their children.
by Julian Spivey
I’ve never been a big superhero fan. I can count the number of superhero movies and television shows I’ve ever seen on one hand. A few years ago, I decided to give Fox’s “Gotham” a shot after seeing good reviews of it and I started to enjoy it because it worked on two levels: superhero and cop show. The cop how aspect of it worked for me, along with its talented cast. The superhero moments at times have made me roll my eyes. I’m sure I’m in a large minority here. I decided this fall to give another Fox superhero series “The Gifted” a chance. My decision was mostly because of how much I enjoyed Amy Acker’s performance on the highly underrated CBS series “Person of Interest.” I also enjoyed Stephen Moyer this past spring in Fox’s limited series “Shots Fired.”
I feel about “The Gifted” much the same way I do about “Gotham.” It works on two levels and the superhero one at times bothers me. I prefer realism in much of the fiction I watch and a mutant gene giving those that have it an individual quality that makes them different is somewhat laughable to me. I didn’t realize until I started watching the premiere of this series that it was in the ‘X-Men’ universe and while that won’t keep me from watching (I entered “Gotham” obviously knowing it was in the Batman universe) it does bother me somewhat. I was kind of hoping that “The Gifted” would be an original in its own universe, but that simply doesn’t seem to be something that happens in the superhero genre. They’re all based on previous comic book universes.
Throughout the first three episodes I can say that the main reason why I began watching this show – Amy Acker – has been somewhat disappointing because 1) she’s being underused as the worried mother of two children with the mutant gene who are being hunted like animals (that will hopefully change) 2) she’s too good for this show.
Back to the second level of “The Gifted” that works for me and will keep me going for at least the time being. It’s “us vs. them” storyline of the mutants being sought after and persecuted by the non-mutants is very relevant in our current world. I’m not sure I would’ve cared as much had the show premiered a few years ago, but in Donald Trump’s America it really does hit home. The mutants obviously work as a stand-in for any group of people being persecuted in this world. But, don’t worry too much if you don’t want politics in your TV shows because you can also easily take this simply as “mutants vs. non-mutants.” You shouldn’t. But, you can.
The show also works well on a family trying to stay together against all odds level. The mutant gene is something that can rip families apart and when Moyer and Acker’s parents find that their teenage children Lauren (Natalie Alyn Lind) and Andy (Percy Hynes White) have this gene it makes them realize that life can change in an instant and family is the most important thing.
I feel like most people who like superhero type shows and especially the ‘X-Men’ universe will find “The Gifted” to meet their expectations and needs. But, if you’re like me and you don’t really care about that kind of stuff there is still something worth viewing in this series and Fox and the showrunners of “The Gifted” have done a fine job in crafting a series that works on multiple levels.
“The Gifted” airs on Fox on Mondays at 8 p.m. The first three episodes can be seen on Fox OnDemand and Hulu.
by Julian Spivey
Best Drama Premiere: This Is Us
“This Is Us” knocked us all off our feet in the season one premiere with a reveal that instantaneously put it on the map as the network show to watch. The second season premiere certainly couldn’t shock us all that way again, but it did put forth another thing we’re already accustomed to seeing from this show – all around dramatic perfection. Every story line in the premiere was great from the trouble in the previously seemingly perfect marriage of Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore), the adoption drama causing a rift between Randall (Sterling K. Brown) and Beth (Susan Kelechi Watson) and the fight for Kate’s (Chrissy Metz) attention between her twin brother Kevin (Justin Hartley) and her fiancé Toby (Chris Sullivan). The episode showed well that every single character on the show is perfectly crafted and incredibly well-acted. The premiere also gave us insight into one of its big secrets we’ve been dying to know for a while.
Best Comedy Premiere: Will & Grace
I’ve been fairly cynical when it has come to the latest television fad of rebooting classic television shows with the original casts. “Will & Grace,” which aired on NBC from 1998-2006, returned last week to uproariously laughter from our original four friends: Will (Eric McCormack), Grace (Debra Messing), Jack (Sean Hayes) and Karen (Megan Mullally). The show hasn’t missed a beat in the more than a decade it’s been off our televisions and has brought with it a great bit of political humor upon its return giving our gay and feminist heroes a major punching bag in the current Presidential Administration.
Best New Premiere: Ghosted
Fox’s new comedy “Ghosted,” starring veteran TV comics Craig Robinson and Adam Scott, is a unique idea for a television comedy pitting two completely different strangers together to take on the supernatural and paranormal. “Ghosted” could easily become “The Odd Couple” meets “The X-Files” and after a pilot that wasn’t just the funniest of the new fall sitcoms, but one of the funniest sitcom premieres of the fall in general I have high hopes for this one.
Worst New Premiere: Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Despite the “Law & Order” series of NBC crime procedurals being on television for nearly 30 years and airing more than 1,000 episodes between them I had somewhat managed to never catch a single hour. I decided to change that with “Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders,” NBC’s foray into scripted true crime after the success of FX’s ‘The People v. O.J. Simpson’ in 2016. Frankly, ‘The Menendez Murders’ didn’t really need to be part of the “Law & Order” brand it’s just that it was created and produced by Dick Wolf. I have hopes for the remainder of the eight-episode limited series, but the premiere introducing us to the Menendez brothers and the murder of their rich parents was frankly the most boring hour of TV I saw all premiere week. Maybe it’s just the Menendez bros. aren’t as interesting as O.J.?
Biggest Reveal: This Is Us
I’ll never forget how stunned I was at the end of the pilot for “This Is Us” last season when it was revealed that the story was being told of one family in two different eras. Then the series would throw another shocker at us midway through the season when it was revealed that Jack had died somewhere during his children’s teenage years. Since then we’ve been waiting to find out what exactly happened to him and a big reveal toward that was shown at the very end of the season two premiere when it’s revealed that the Pearsons home had caught fire and burned down. The how and why is still to be seen and knowing this show it will be done in the most emotionally dramatic way possible.
Worst Reveal: Kevin Can Wait
Anybody that had paid attention to news surrounding “Kevin Can Wait,” the now sophomore CBS sitcom, during the summer months knew that the show was going to be writing off Erinn Hayes’ character Donna, the wife of Kevin James’ lead. James’ old “The King of Queens” co-star Leah Remini had guest starred toward the end of season one and people liked the chemistry so much they decided to reboot the show after just one season to bring her along. The most obvious way to write Hayes’ character out of the show would be to kill the character off – this was no surprise – but the show decided to do so in essentially the most callous and least emotional way ever with a one-line bit of dialogue about how it had been a year since Donna passed away – telling us the show had a bit of a time jump, as well. It was basically a 101 on how not to kill off a character.
Best Performance: Michael Weatherly (Bull)
The network premiere week was filled with numerous emotional performances this week that knocked viewers off their feet. In fact, I could easily give this honor to the entire cast of NBC’s “This Is Us,” it really was a perfect premiere. Donnie Wahlberg of “Blue Bloods” mourning the loss of his wife Linda (Amy Carlson) in the CBS crime drama showed a bit of emotional range I previously didn’t know the actor had in him. Then you have the duo of Freddie Highmore and Richard Schiff just absolutely chewing up scenery in the tear-jerking pilot of ABC’s “The Good Doctor.” There was almost so much emotion on TV this week it was hard to choose one great performance. My choice is, frankly, even a surprise to me. I’ve always found Michael Weatherly to be an entertaining and likable actor whether it was his decade-plus spent on CBS’ “NCIS” or his new series “Bull,” which just entered its second year. Weatherly has this suave, pompous charm to him that can both be a winning characteristic and at times make his Dr. Jason Bull someone you want to smack in the back of the head like Mark Harmon used to do to Weatherly’s character on “NCIS.” The season two premiere of “Bull” where Dr. Bull tries to prove that a woman shot and killed her husband and stabbed herself to make it appear like self-defense for his billions was one of the show’s best yet and showcased Weatherly’s smugness in all its full glory. It’s easy to play emotionally drained or sad and get the audience to fall in your lap. It’s not always easy to play pomposity the way Weatherly can and make it so damn enjoyable.
by Julian Spivey
The 43rd season of “Saturday Night Live” kicked off on Saturday (Sept. 30) with a somewhat uneven episode hosted by Ryan Gosling, in his second stint as host.
Gosling in just two hosting stints already seems a favorite among the cast and has become known as a giggler with the Oscar-nominated actor breaking character in most sketches he’s involved with – though you can’t really blame him when he’s essentially being molested on live television by Kate McKinnon.
It’s highly unusual for a host’s monologue to be the biggest highlight or funniest moment from an episode of ‘SNL,’ especially a season premiere, but that’s exactly what happened last night. Gosling was hosting ‘SNL’ to promote “Blade Runner 2049,” which opens next weekend, but he hilariously spent the monologue bragging about how “he saved jazz music” playing off the slight controversy his film “La La Land” garnered last year about a white man basically reviving the mostly African-American genre. The funniest moment of the monologue was Gosling pronouncing “New Orleans” as “Nerlens.” In the night’s most surprising cameo Gosling was joined by “La La Land” co-star and Oscar-winner Emma Stone at the end of the bit.
Bad: Henrietta and The Fugitive
Sometimes a bad sketch can cause at least a few slight giggles. This one certainly caused some giggles out of Gosling and cast member Aidy Bryant, which in turn allowed us watching at home to do the same. Overall, the concept is of a classic movie where a fugitive is hiding out in a barn from the law and falls in love with a chicken (yes, you read that correctly). How do the writers come up with this crap? And, why do they feel a season premiere is the right time to showcase it?
Ugly: Guy Who Just Bought a Boat on Dating
The season opening Weekend Update guests were weak for the occasion, though McKinnon’s German Chancellor Angela Merkel did provide some decent laughs. But, I don’t ever want to see Alex Moffat’s Guy Who Just Bought a Boat on Dating ever again. Apparently, it’s his second appearance; the first must have been so bad I wiped it from my mind. The character is basically every rich douche overcompensating for a small penis wrapped into one highly-annoying person.
Recently off his Emmy Award win for his portrayal as President Donald Trump, Alec Baldwin rejoined the show to poke fun at the President – who had an even worse week than usual. There were funny moments to the cold opening, but I’ve got to say the Trump performances and constant airings on ‘SNL’ have gotten a bit stale and I don’t even think it’s the fault of the show’s writers or Baldwin. It’s just that many of us are so sick of Trump that we’d rather not see him anywhere, even being lambasted on a comedy show.
When Gosling made his hosting debut in 2015 he starred with McKinnon and Cecily Strong as a group of people abducted by aliens and being interviewed about it by government officials. Gosling and Strong’s characters have glorious experiences with the extraterrestrial, but McKinnon’s character always seems to be taken advantage of sexually. That first sketch two years ago is probably already among the show’s all-time greats. This was just basically a rehashing with most of the jokes coming when McKinnon using Gosling’s backside to show those at the Pentagon exactly how the aliens touched her.
The highlight of the episode other than Gosling’s monologue was the pre-recorded “Papyrus” sketch featuring Gosling as a man distraught by the use of the Papyrus font for the “Avatar” title card almost a decade after the movie’s release. It allows Gosling to use his dramatic actor chops to thoroughly blast through a bit that’s so “how in the hell did this enter anyone’s mind?” that it becomes genius.
by Aprille Hanson
It’s been 11 years since the on-air antics of best friends Will and Grace have played out on the small screen. On Sept. 28, Karen’s string of questions sucked fans right back in: “What’s going on? What’s happening? Who won the election?”
NBC’s reboot of the popular late ’90s sitcom that brought gay characters to a mainstream audience, found Will (Eric McCormack), a gay lawyer, once again living with his best friend, Grace (Debra Messing), an interior designer. Jack (Sean Hayes), beloved for his flair, still lives across the hall and Karen (Megan Mullally), Grace’s rich assistant is still the snobby caricature of a politically incorrect socialite who is just as sassy and loved as ever.
The show opened with the foursome playing a game, but Karen has spaced out while holding a drink. One shake of her pill bottle and she’s back with that beloved string of questions.
The series ended in 2005 after eight seasons, with Will and Grace having significant others and children. Because the reboot wanted to erase the children, fans find out that finale episode was simply Karen’s daydream. As she pointed out, “Nobody wants to see you two raise kids.”
Instead of spending much time on what’s happened in the past 11 years – aside from the mention of Grace’s divorce and Jack’s string of failed entrepreneurial endeavors – it took aim at the big Cheeto leading the United States.
Almost the entire episode poked fun at President Donald Trump and though some fans were shocked and outraged that the typically light-hearted show got political, it was a stunning and hilarious episode. Despite its political humor, it never strayed from its roots.
Will winds up in the Rose Garden to protest a senator who is against environmental rights, but is just too cute for him to resist. As Jack points out, “You want to hook up with a power gay. It’s called an Anderson Cooper. It used to be called an Elton John. And before that an Abraham Lincoln.”
Jack was able to get Will in since, as most should know, all secret service agents are gay because “who better to read a room?”
Grace and Karen wind up in the Oval Office at the same time, as Karen gets Grace a shot at redecorating the Oval Office. Karen is of course a good friend of First Lady Melania, who called her during a night terror saying, “the hubster’s been pouting cause his office is a real dump.”
While Will and Grace both compromise some moral integrity, when the two discover that they’re both at the White House, a hilarious pillow fight ensues in the Oval Office.
It wasn’t deep or overly hateful humor per say, like Grace trying to find the perfect coloring for new drapes in the Oval by holding up a Cheeto to the curtain.
The most cutting joke came from Grace, who standing in the Oval says, “I am awed by the majesty of this office. Just think of the great minds that sat at this desk, shaped the course of history” and opening a box on Trump’s desk deadpans, “A Russian-English dictionary and a fidget spinner.”
In general, it was cutesy jabs that made absolute sense for these characters. The show could have easily returned with a few punchlines about the president, but the fully-loaded one liners were masterful. The show has never been for staunch conservatives and it was a chance for their fanbase to laugh in the midst of all the hate being spewed daily.
This episode was important, topical and on point, one that the writers should be proud to have written.
It will be a thrill to watch upcoming episodes that get back to that fun, punchy humor and maybe just a jab here or there at the leader of the free world. The writers seem to elude to that with the final scene of the episode:
Karen: “When you two talk about politics you get too preachy.”
Grace: “We should just be what we’ve always been.”
Jack: “A sad middle-aged lady. And Grace.”
by Julian Spivey
Even though it has become staid at times in the last few seasons, “NCIS” has always managed to do season premieres and season finales right. That’s pretty impressive 15 years into its run.
Season 14 ended on a major cliffhanger with NCIS Agents Gibbs (Mark Harmon) and McGee (Sean Murray) left behind in Paraguay on a humanitarian mission to save children from the Revolutionary Armed Council. The children were saved, but only Agents McGee and Torres (Wilmer Valderrama) reached the helicopter evac in time. McGee jumped out last second to not leave Gibbs behind alone. This is where season 15 picked up on Tuesday (Sept. 26).
Season 15 picks up two months after Gibbs and McGee are left behind. Hearings are ongoing because NCIS underwent the Paraguay mission without proper consent. The DOD has banned NCIS from investigating the matter further, but the team, now being led by Agent Bishop (Emily Wickersham) is, of course, doing so on the down-lo. We see that Gibbs and McGee have been kept prisoner for two months by the RAC and are about the meet the head honcho in charge of the group. The big boss wants something out of the agents, but are fearless heroes obviously aren’t going to give in. This leads to Gibbs being tortured via waterboarding.
Back in D.C. a drug mule has been killed while trying to contact NCIS and mysteriously his hair is falling out. It turns out he had radiation positioning. The team quickly finds out the drug mule was smuggling in uranium being made by the RAC in Paraguay. Yes, this is convenient, but that’s a network crime procedural for you.
In Paraguay, Gibbs and McGee devise a plan to take control of their dire situation though the audience isn’t privy to this leading to a moment where you wonder if a plan is in place or if Gibbs and McGee are really at each other’s throats after spending two months held captive together.
The plan succeeds and Gibbs and McGee reach el jefe and take control of the situation. In another convenient, but what are you going to do moment, Bishop calls a satellite phone number and it’s answered by McGee. The team is thrilled to hear he and Gibbs are still alive. They devise a plan to get Paraguayan military to the top of the ship where the two have been held captive. The only problem is Gibbs and McGee must get to the top deck without being killed by the terrorists of the RAC.
I was a little bit surprised that “NCIS” decided to wrap this storyline up in one episode. It seemed like one they might draw out to two episodes and honestly, I wouldn’t have been bothered by that one bit. This series has always been at its best during multiple episode arcs.
The relationships among characters on the show have always been one of its highlights and it’s nice, but not surprising, to see McGee – who’s newly married and expecting a baby – would put his life in danger to save his longtime boss and mentor Gibbs. Harmon and Murray really were the stars of this premiere.
Really the only awkward part of the season premiere was the writing off Jennifer Esposito’s character Quinn, the rare one-season-and-done “NCIS” character. Esposito announced she was leaving the show over the summer and the show wrote her off with a one-sentence explanation about how she left to take care of her sick mother. CBS shows are having somewhat of a bad premiere week when it comes to writing off characters as sitcom “Kevin Can Wait” took some heat for killing off Erinn Hayes’ character (the way of Kevin James’ lead) with an emotionless one-sentence reveal about how the show has moved forward a year.
by Julian Spivey
The fall network television season is upon us and thus far the critics don’t seem too highly on it. Some critics have been referring to the new fall slate of television as the weakest in quite a while. But, there are still a few shows debuting this fall that have my interest piqued.
Here are the top 5:
1. “The Good Doctor” (ABC)
It’s been an awful long time since there has been a network medical drama that I’ve enjoyed and I hope ABC’s “The Good Doctor” can feel that void. “The Good Doctor,” starring Freddie Highmore (who was fantastic in the recently ended and underrated “Bates Motel”), is about a young autistic doctor with savant syndrome who goes from a small, country hospital to a big city one. The series is from producer David Shore, who successfully led Fox’s “House” to a long tenure. “The Good Doctor” premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 9 p.m.
2. “Me, Myself & I” (CBS)
CBS is usually the least creative when it comes to sitcoms, but a few years ago debuted “Life in Pieces” which uniquely told the story of one family in vignettes. This fall comes “Me, Myself & I,” which similarly will show the life of one man – Alex Riley – through three periods of his life. Jack Dylan Grazer will portray Riley as a 14-year in 1991, recent “Saturday Night Live” alum Bobby Moynihan will portray the modern-day Riley and award-winning TV vet John Larroquette will portray the retired Riley of the future. Moynihan and Larroquette are actors I greatly enjoy and on that alone makes me look forward to this one, which premieres Monday, Sept. 25 at 8:30 p.m.
3. “Ghosted” (Fox)
“Ghosted,” premiering on Fox on Sunday, Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m., is another unique idea for a sitcom as it takes on the world of the supernatural. The series stars television sitcom veterans Craig Robinson (of “The Office”) and Adam Scott (of “Parks & Recreation”) as polar opposites who are recruited to investigate paranormal activity in Los Angeles. The two series leads also co-created this series, which should mean they are completely invested in making it a hit.
4. “The Mayor” (ABC)
ABC has a good track record when it comes to successful sitcoms and the network, as well as myself, are hoping “The Mayor,” which premieres Tuesday, Oct. 3, will be the next big hit. “The Mayor” stars relative newcomer Brandon Michael Hall as Courtney Rose, a struggling hip-hop artist who runs for mayor of his hometown to promote his latest mixtape. Of course, Rose somehow wins the election and I’m sure hilarity will ensue from there. “The Mayor” will also co-star “Glee” alum Lea Michele and “Community” alum Yvette Nicole Brown.
5. “Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders” (NBC)
I’ve admittedly never seen a single episode of any of the “Law & Order” crime series, which is quite the feat as the multiple series have totaled 1,105 episodes (no kidding). However, the new ‘True Crime’ take from producer Dick Wolf inspired by the popularity of FX’s “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson” from 2016 has me at least somewhat interested. ‘The Menendez Murders’ tackles the case of Erik and Lyle Menendez accused of the 1989 murder of their parents and the ensuing trial. The eight-episode limited series stars the talented Edie Falco, Julianne Nicholson, Anthony Edwards and Josh Charles in various roles.