By Aprille Hanson
Just like the changing tide of the country music genre, ABC’s “Nashville” has evolved over its four-season run, but the rock of the show has always been the drama. Much like a country song, heartache tore the characters apart, backstabbing is the norm, new love has blossomed and the thrill of the limelight has often been overshadowed by the dark side of fame -- drugs, alcohol, mental break-downs, etc.
The show has also tackled political corruption, struggles of the homosexual community in the South, divorce, death, homelessness and conditions like postpartum depression and alcoholism.
Essentially, the show has been a big dramatic message, with a backdrop of the country music industry in Nashville.
On May 25, the show aired its series finale after being canceled. While it’s not the biggest surprise that the show was axed, as it’s been on the bubble for a few seasons now, what was hard to swallow was the idea that the show’s writers did not write a suitable end to characters that fans have grown to love.
But “Maybe You’ll Appreciate Me Someday” was a surprisingly satisfying series finale, tying up almost all the major loose ends … until the last 30 seconds.
Country star Rayna Jaymes and her husband (lesser known, but immensely talented country artist) Deacon Claybourne (Connie Britton and Charles Esten) are working on a fundraiser concert for foster families in New York, coincidentally where their daughter Maddie (Lennon Stella) is working with a new label after emancipating from her parents. When the couple find out on social media that Maddie will be working with a high-powered music producer Vince Pearce (Vincent Ventresca), Rayna shares with Deacon how Vince made unwanted sexual advances on when she was a young artist, explaining that’s how she would be able to get ahead in the music industry. Reaching Maddie via phone or social media is fruitless, so Rayna instead writes and open letter to Maddie, shared on Huffington Post. As he did throughout the season, Deacon tried to right the wrong on his own, racing to Vince’s house to confront him and get Maddie back. Though fans expected him to basically punch him until he bled out -- Deacon is a bit of a “wild card,” as his daughter would sing -- but no punches were thrown. It was a nice wrap-up to see his character exhibit some restraint, especially since he broke up Vince already trying to push himself on a terrified Maddie, who had read her mother’s letter while Vince was mixing up more drinks. Instead of staying with her friend Cash (Jessy Schram), the catalyst to Maddie’s emancipation, Maddie left with Deacon and reunited with her mother and sister. It was an ending to their story that I honestly didn’t expect, instead thinking they’d draw out that story line for many more seasons.
The show caught up with The Exes, country duo Scarlett O’Connor (Clare Bowen) and Gunner Scott (Sam Palladio) who from the very beginning of the show have been the darlings of the series. Their love story often overshadowed other maybe bigger love affairs on the show. Their immense talent coupled with all the twists and turns in their romance was endearing. It was their little moment -- Gunners, glances at Scarlett, Scarlett’s cute little drawl teasing Gunner in some way -- that often times made the show worth watching. The two are touring with superstar Autumn Chase (Alicia Witt) and have just arrived back from a break when Scarlett finally relents, admitting to Gunner she’s still in love with him. Unfortunately, he’s just been vacationing in Aruba with Autumn. By the end though, their story wrapped up in the most perfect fashion, Gunner kissing Scarlett mid-song on stage to a cheering audience, both onscreen and no doubt at home.
For several episodes, country superstar and label-head Luke Wheeler (Will Chase) has been on a crusade to stand up against the homophobic naysayers in the country music world and across the country who are trying to bring down his artist, Will Lexington (Chris Carmack) just for being gay. Fans have seen Will progress from a heartthrob country artist on the way to the top with slew of female fans and even seeing him get married to Layla Grant (Aubrey Peeples) to now, a man who has finally excepted and embraced the fact that he is gay and as such, a spokesman for others in the gay community. In this final episode, Will finally steps into the spotlight, confronting newscaster Cynthia Davis (Mandy June Turpin) who has been railing against Will and Luke for “pushing their homosexual agenda.” It was a perfect way to leave this character, who in his final scene kisses ex-boyfriend/first true love Kevin Bicks (Kyle Dean Massey). Let’s not forget, Will early on tried to kill himself because he is gay, making this final scene something fans should celebrate.
If Rayna is the lead character in “Nashville,” Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere) is not too far behind. Juliette has been one of the most out-of-control, deceitful and flat-out horrible characters on television. Whether she’s sleeping with people to get what she wants, screaming and often firing her poor manager Glenn Goodman (Ed Amatrudo) walking out on husband Avery Barkley (Jonathan Jackson) who is the one man to truly love her or leaving him to raise their first baby, Cadence, while she’s touring and partying, getting messed up on drugs and alcohol. But last season, it all boiled over for her when she was served divorce papers and tried to jump off a roof in a completely drunken haze. Her manager Jeff Fordam (Oliver Hudson) spots her and pulls her off the ledge only to fall to his death. It was then she entered rehab and was out for a few seasons. After rehab, though still not an angel, Juliette was finally responsible for her actions and willing to rebuild her life with her daughter and Avery. Panettiere did such an amazing job turning a once volatile character into one you can’t help but root for in the end. After Layla Grant tries to take down Juliette to avenge her boyfriend Jeff’s death by leaking the story to the press about how he died and dating Avery, Juliette instead of attending the Oscars as planned for her role as Patsy Cline, she holds a press conference at the awards telling the world what really happened that night on the roof. It’s at that moment that Avery, who realized Layla was a loon and dumped her, finally is willing to give it another shot with Juliette. The two have a beautiful phone conversation and though he doesn’t say he’s willing to take her back, the last scene is Avery and Cadence waiting at the private airstrip for Juliette’s plane to touch down.
For those who haven’t actually watched the finale, do yourself a favor -- stop it right there and allow the series to end that way. And in fact, stop reading this because the final 30 seconds ruined the series finale.
As Avery and Cadence are waiting, a man from the airport tells them to come inside because there was a distress call and communications have been lost with Juliette’s airplane … meaning likely that it has crashed … not so coincidentally like Patsy Cline. So the scene cuts off after Avery’s completely distraught face.
The show literally wrapped up every major storyline in a way that fans can smile about, but leaves everyone thinking that Juliette is dead. The fact that the last scene was not cut by just a few seconds after it was canceled, to leave the two standing at the airstrip is mind blowing and so unfortunate.
As fans will continue to plead with another network or online streaming service to pick it up or I’m sure TV movie buzz will begin, they can at least take to heart that the series finale did bring endings (some too permanent) to these beloved characters.
by Julian Spivey
The 41st season of “Saturday Night Live” wasn’t really one of the all-time great seasons of the show providing hit or miss comedy much of the time with its misses missing big time and its hits coming a little too infrequent and ultimately not much from the entire season standing out above the crowd. There were some real highlights like Tracy Morgan making his return to Studio 8H for the first time following almost losing his life in a horrible car accident in 2014 and some of the show’s all-time lowest lows like letting Republican Presidential nominee (at the time a hopeful) Donald Trump host the show.
10. Fred Armisen’s Monologue
Monologues are something that ‘SNL’ pays too little attention to almost as if the show feels the monologue is archaic and something they just do because it’s tradition. For this reason, the host’s monologue is typically one of the weakest aspects of each show. But this wasn’t the case with ‘SNL’ alum Fred Armisen during the season finale. Armisen provided the audience with a taste of a one-man show about his ‘SNL’ audition and did so in his typically absurd manner. I don’t know if a lot of people enjoy Armisen because he’s not your average “set-up/punchline” comedian, but his uniqueness really cracks me up.
I like it when ‘SNL’ can take something that’s an annoyance in real-life that the majority of us have experienced at least once and play off of it. The show did that brilliantly in the penultimate episode of the season hosted by hip-hop star Drake when Drake and Jay Pharoah played Rent-A-Car employees trying to explain to a honeymooning couple played by Beck Bennett and Vanessa Bayer that they don’t currently have any cars available, despite the couple having pre-ordered one. The set-up for the sketch doesn’t necessarily sound as if it would be one of the 10 best of the season, but the spot on performances by Drake and Pharoah really provide the laughs because it hits home so well for many of us.
8. Democratic Debate
Election years are years that ‘SNL’ writers and cast members always seem to live for – you always expect a little more from those seasons. ‘SNL’ was unfortunately a little hit-or-miss this season with the politics – maybe because the real-life politics were so laughable in their own right that they were hard to lampoon. But, the one thing ‘SNL’ got right every single time this season was the absolute perfect casting of comedian/actor Larry David as Democratic presidential nominee hopeful Bernie Sanders. David cameoed on the show multiple times throughout the season, which included his first ever hosting stint, as well. His first appearance came in the cold open of the season’s third episode hosted by Tracy Morgan and the spot-on performance (it helps that David is curmudgeonly himself) instantly took America by storm.
7. Bar Talk
Another political highlight from ‘SNL’ this season came in the show’s premiere episode hosted by pop star Miley Cyrus when Kate McKinnon, probably the show’s MVP at the moment, got the chance to show off her terrific Hillary Clinton impression. No disrespect to Amy Poehler or Ana Gasteyer, but McKinnon’s is the all-time great ‘SNL’ Hillary Clinton impression. The great part about McKinnon’s first appearance as Clinton this season was she got to face off against the real-life Hillary Clinton, who played a bartender listening to Clinton’s woes as she was having to face a hard-charging Bernie Sanders. The real-life Clinton was shockingly pretty good at playing dress-up on a comedy show.
6. Brian Fellows/Astronaut Jones
The best thing about former ‘SNL’ cast members returning to the show to host episodes is the hope of seeing recurring characters they played while on the show for the first time in many years. Tracy Morgan had two lovable recurring characters during his time on the show – Brian Fellows and Astronaut Jones. Morgan’s hosting stint on ‘SNL’ this season was a bit of an emotional homecoming for the comedian, who almost lost his life in a tragic car accident in the summer of 2014. Seeing Morgan come back home to ‘SNL’ and kickass with these hilarious characters we’ve always loved seeing him play was perhaps the show’s greatest moment of the season. By the way, I still know every word to the Astronaut Jones theme song by heart.
5. FBI Simulator
Every now and then there is something on ‘SNL’ that you know you shouldn’t laugh at or enjoy, but is so ridiculous that you can’t help but love it. One of these sketches occurred this season during the episode hosted by Larry David when the comedian known for his grumpiness played a fake criminal in a FBI simulator named Kevin Roberts. Seeing David dressed in a bright orange suit with matching tie and orange-tinted shades and spouting off lunacy like “Can a bitch get a donut?” was just too outlandish not to hit me right in the funnies. What really set the sketch over the top though was something that didn’t even air live on ‘SNL,’ but was released a few days later online when the show released the blooper reel showing that David couldn’t get through the bit one time without cracking himself up all through rehearsals – he performed it perfectly on the live show.
4. Thanksgiving Miracle
Everybody loves Adele. That’s the premise of this laugh out loud bit that aired right before Thanksgiving last year in an episode hosted by Oscar-winner Matthew McConaughey. A family has gathered for their annual Thanksgiving dinner, but like with many family get-togethers things go array with discussions of politics, racial issues and the like. That’s where Adele comes in. A child, upset with the family fighting, goes to a CD player and turns on Adele’s newest album and voila everybody at the table is instantly in a good mood. The truly hilarious part of the sketch is the family members lip synching to “Hello.”
3. Mercedes AA Class
Every season ‘SNL’ throws out a fake commercial or two that can rival the all-time great fake commercials throughout the show’s legendary history. The one that was hands-down the greatest this season came during the episode hosted by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, which was unfortunately the only funny bit of her entire episode, when it mocked both electric cars and car commercials with a car completely powered by thousands of AA batteries. It’s the all-at-once ejection option when all the batteries need to be replaced that will really have your side splitting.
2. Close Encounter
Kate McKinnon is a national treasure. She’s the one cast member on ‘SNL’ that seemingly can make you laugh every time she takes the stage, even if the sketch she appears in isn’t particularly great. She not only has a habit of cracking the audience up, but also her cast mates, which often makes for truly memorable moments like with the Close Encounter sketch during the Ryan Gosling episode. The sketch itself really wouldn’t have been anything special without McKinnon’s outlandishness, which forced everybody else in the scene with her (Gosling, Cecily Strong, Aidy Bryant and Bobby Moynihan) to lose it at least a little bit during the sketch. McKinnon, Strong and Gosling play people who’ve been abducted by aliens and are answering questions from Bryant and Moynihan about their experiences. McKinnon’s experience wasn’t so great – but leads to the performance of the year by a ‘SNL’ cast member. The bit was so great they brought it back again in a later episode hosted by recent Oscar-winner Brie Larson.
1. The Standoff
The third episode of the ‘SNL’ season that marked Tracy Morgan’s comeback to comedy after the horrific car accident in 2014 that almost took his life was potentially the most anticipated ‘SNL’ episode ever for me and it truly did live up to that anticipation, something that isn’t always the case. Morgan is at his absolute best when he takes the approach of playing a tough guy and then turns it on its head. This was the case during a pre-taped bit called “The Standoff” when his character hits on a woman at a bar (Sasheer Zamata) and offends her boyfriend (Taran Killam). Killam confronts Morgan, who gets all tough and asks, “you want to tango or something?” Killam’s character obviously think he means to fight, but Morgan’s character actually just wants to dance. The way it all plays out and Morgan’s all-in performance truly made this the funniest sketch of the season for me.
What was your favorite sketch from “Saturday Night Live” this season?
by Julian Spivey
I shouldn’t be surprised that Ziva David factored into the choice of NCIS Special Agent Tony DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) to leave his position for a new life, but the way in which it all came about is something that was truly surprising. In fact, it was so surprising I’m not completely sure what to think of it.
When it was announced midway through the 13th season that Michael Weatherly would be leaving “NCIS” at the end of the season I knew it would be a moment worth dreading. Weatherly always seemed, to me at least, to be one of two “must-have” characters on the series, along with Mark Harmon’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs. It’s understandable that an actor would want to go on to different projects after 13 years of playing a supporting character on one show, even if it’s still the most watched drama on television. And it seems Weatherly has already found his next role as a lead in the recently picked up CBS series “Bull,” in which he will play a character based on Dr. Phil McGraw.
I seem to be the only “NCIS” fan who never really got behind the DiNozzo/Ziva “will-they-or-won’t-they” that ended abruptly a couple of years ago when Cote de Pablo decided to leave the show. I’m certainly not against characters developing a relationship with each other on television shows, but this one never seemed to sit right with me – perhaps because it took so long to develop or just seemed like the easy thing to do.
But, it was clear DiNozzo had a thing for Ziva, even after the character was written out of the show by returning home to Israel. This is why it didn’t come as a surprise that she would factor in his farewell.
At the very end of last week’s penultimate episode, we saw footage of the farmhouse in Tel Aviv in which Ziva was living on fire after a terrorist attack. The finale opens with Tony set to fly to Tel Aviv to get answers before he’s given the horrible news that Ziva died in the attack. Weatherly’s distraught performance in the next scene ended up being one of his best acting performances in his entire run on the series.
One would think that Ziva’s death would be the big surprise from the finale, but what happened next was truly jaw-dropping, and I can’t figure out if it’s really in a good way either.
It turns out that Ziva had a daughter, who conveniently survived the massive fire that killed her mother, and the daughter is, of course, DiNozzo’s offspring. Ziva didn’t want to mess with Tony’s career at NCIS so she never told him about their daughter.
Fans of the show, me included, didn’t want DiNozzo to be killed off in the finale. “NCIS” has already killed off multiple characters in its long run, plus our relationship with DiNozzo was too long and important to the fan-base to have him go out in that tragic manner. Those in charge of the series must have agreed leaving writers searching for ways to write the character out without killing him. This is certainly one way, but it doesn’t necessarily seem right that the two would’ve had a child together and especially the fact that Ziva wouldn’t have told Tony about it. It seemed a little too convenient on the part of the show.
That being said, by the time the finale ended I didn’t really have as big of a problem with it as I did in the moment of the big reveal. Maybe this means it wasn’t such a bad plot point or maybe I just wanted to enjoy Weatherly’s farewell so much that I quickly forgave it.
By the end of the episode our favorite NCIS agents had solved the case that took place during the show’s last four episodes and killed Ziva’s murderer and Tony said his goodbyes to his friends and left to raise his daughter.
Now that one of the show’s original characters is on to his new life it’ll be interesting to see where the show goes from here. Some people decided they could no longer watch the show when de Pablo decided to leave. I think this could be magnified quite a bit with Weatherly’s departure. I’ve been with the show since day one and will stick with it no matter what. I thought the addition of Emily Wickersham’s Ellie Bishop when Ziva left the show was terrific and the show went on without missing a beat. That likely won’t happen as easy with DiNozzo leaving, but I’m willing to give it a shot.
“NCIS” has already introduced us to the two new cast members that will be staying on full time in season 14 next fall. Duane Henry’s MI6 agent Clayton Reeves is already very likable with his wit and all around charm and could make Weatherly’s departure from the show a little less painful. Sarah Clarke’s FBI agent Tess Monroe doesn’t yet seem necessary to the show and will need a little bit of character development early on in season 14 to entice fans to care about her.
Weatherly’s run on “NCIS” was incredibly entertaining and believe it or not the character matured over those 13 seasons maybe more than just about any other television character I’ve ever seen. Tony DiNozzo is definitely going to be missed.
by Preston Tolliver
“The Last Man on Earth” has spent two seasons showing us the light side to a dark world, but Sunday’s finale reminded us how grim the world can be for the world’s last known survivors.
The episode starts with the obvious follow-up from the penultimate episode, with Phil (Will Forte) trekking to find his younger brother Mike (Jason Sudeikis) after Mike left at the end of the last episode, sick and all but exiled by all members of the surviving group not named Phil. There’s also some follow-up to the mysterious drone that appeared before a drunk Gail (Mary Steenburgen) two episodes ago that proves to the rest of the group they’re not alone in the world, and, perhaps more importantly, validates Malibu’s resident village drunk’s finest quality and saves us from a sober Gail.
The scene between Mike and Phil in the yard, where Mike learns the extent of the true terrors his older brother endured while he was in space, is for sure one of the best of the series so far, but perhaps better than that was one a little less obvious. The scene when Mike awakes in his bed after passing out to find Phil coughing blood, seemingly infected, getting drawn in to find that his brother was still holding on to their usual pranks, even in dire situations, was a blatant telling of what the show’s become so good at – in post-apocalyptia, things are only serious until they aren’t, and the writers have mastered drawing us in only to sell the punchline even better (for example, the scene in which Carol (Kristen Schaal) consoles Phil, only for the camera to pan to Melissa (January Jones) in the stockades right after).
That’s why the virus-fearing Pat (Mark Boone Junior) and the anonymous two other survivors, decked out with their hazmat suits and rifles, don’t concern me too much. Sure, as the writers have shown, while it’s a comedy show, it’s still a comedy show about the end of humanity. But by the same token, it isn’t the ‘Walking Dead.’ We’re not going to get headshots and gore, and if (in all reality, when) someone’s card gets punched, we know it won’t take long for Tandy and Co. to lift us back up again.
The second season was full of transformations. While the first season was full of masturbatory jokes and the biggest conflict surrounding Phil was his desperate attempt to sleep with Carol, Melissa, Erica or Gail (or all of the above), the second was one in which the realities of an infected world without doctors really come to light, as seen with the other Phil’s death on the operating table, and the grim position we see Mike in as Phil pulls out of the driveway of their childhood home.
We also see a lot of transformation among the survivors. From Phil starting the season as the not-so-lovable screw-up, seemingly destined to become cast out by the group almost immediately after rejoining it at the beginning of the season, only to end it as more of a leader than anyone else in the group, or from Melissa starting the season as the group’s mouthpiece to a jaded woman left in shackles after nearly blowing Carol to smithereens with a shotgun, or Todd (Mel Rodriguez) going from lovable teddy bear to male gigolo, the season proved that even in a world that’s just about ended, change is still the only constant.
The possibilities for the third season go sky-high. What danger is the crew really in once Pat and Friends reach the Malibu shore? And as we know from television shows like The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, no character’s story is concluded until we see them go on-screen, so will we see Mike again? (Though I’m betting that the shot of Phil driving by a sign sprayed with “Alive in Tucson” on his way to Malibu is an indication that Mike is anything but). All we know for sure is that change is coming in some way, and the writers proved with the second season that in “The Last Man on Earth,” the road to change is paved with arguably the best humor Fox (or network television, for that matter) has to offer.
by Julian Spivey
I miss Jed Bartlet. It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since the greatest President of my lifetime left the Oval Office and the world quickly went to Hell (mostly through the fault of those outside of the White House).
Is it unusual to call a fictional character the greatest President of my lifetime?
Oh well, I can’t help but thinking Bartlet will always be my favorite President – fictional or otherwise. Hell, I even have a Bartlet for America T-shirt hanging in my closet that is sure to get a lot of wear time between now and the actual Presidential election in November. If I were a voting man I’d be tempted to write his name in on the ballot (do they actually allow that anymore in the times of electronic voting?)
The thing about the legend of Bartlet is that he seemingly gets better throughout the years. With the way the political climate is now where if you’re a conservative you have to hate all liberals and vice versa and the fact that Donald “Bully” Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee and is actually polling close to Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democrat candidate, in some polls makes me like and long for a Jed Bartlet Presidency even more 10 years after “The West Wing” aired its series finale, or seven or so years after I first watched the series – which I binged on DVD after catching a few random episodes in syndication and quickly fell in love with. The show aired its series finale my senior year in high school, when like most 17-to-18 year olds I didn’t care much for nor followed politics. When I got to college, started paying more attention to the real world and its many issues that’s when Bartlet became my political hero. Like many of my heroes he wasn’t a real person, but a creation or really a dream of what might one day be.
It wasn’t just Bartlet, as portrayed by the marvelous Martin Sheen, either but his entire staff consisting of Leo McGary (John Spencer), C.J. Cregg (Allison Janney), Joshua Lyman (Bradley Whitford), Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff) and Sam Seaborn (Rob Lowe). If anybody cares I’m probably most like Toby of any of the show’s characters. You can determine for yourselves whether you think that’s a good or a bad thing.
I admired all of these fictional political figures greatly and they all both allowed Bartlet to be Bartlet and made him the great, admirable President he was.
The truly amazing thing about President Bartlet is that he is seemingly liked, if not even beloved – but maybe not to the same extent – by even conservative viewers of the show. I’ve shared conversations with conservatives over a mutual liking of “The West Wing” and then wondered silently or even a time or two aloud why they were actually conservative if they loved this fictional liberal so much.
I believe the answer is because he’s fictional and this show isn’t close to being about the real world. It’s almost fairy-tale-ish in how beloved Bartlet is – though that’s with viewers and not necessarily the fictional Republicans in the show. Though it should be noted even the vilest Republican politicians on “The West Wing” are nothing compared to the actual ones who ran for the Republican Presidential nominee this past year.
It may seem fairy-tale-ish, but ‘West Wing’ is meant more to be a tutorial on what can happen with politics, rather than a mirror of real-life – even when it aired from 1999-2006. “The Newsroom,” Aaron Sorkin’s brilliant HBO drama from 2012-2014, was similar in the way it approached both journalism and conservatives, with news anchor Will McAvoy, an Emmy-winning performance from Jeff Daniels, both being a conservative while also going after conservatives after tiring of their bullshit. McAvoy was probably more of a liberal hero while being a conservative than Bartlet was a conservative hero being a liberal, but “The West Wing” undoubtedly would have a more mass appeal than “The Newsroom,” which I’d be shocked if it had a conservative following, at all.
Sorkin, the creator of both series, is an idealist and that’s something I greatly admire in his work and why I’ve enjoyed all of his television series (also “Sports Night” and “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”) whether they failed or not. Many seem to be over Sorkin’s idealism and also his ideology, which no doubt leans liberal, in addition to his grandiosity when it comes to writing dialogue that just doesn’t exist in the modern world, if it ever even existed at all – think modern day Shakespearean soliloquies about the wrongs of the world needing to be righted or the way characters would’ve shot dialogue back and forth to each other in ‘30s screwball comedies.
Hell, Sorkin is such an idealist that his version of a Republican Presidential nominee in Arnold Vinick (an Emmy-winning performance by the brilliant Alan Alda) would’ve potentially been the greatest President of modern times and certainly would’ve been deemed either a liberal or a third-party candidate today.
Sorkin creates characters bigger than the real world because he knows either what we are capable of or the kind of hero we need to help actually make America great again. That hero isn’t Donald Trump – though I’d like to see Sorkin take a stab at writing the screenplay that has been Trump’s rise from billionaire to reality TV personality to potential President of the United States. That hero is Jed Bartlet. But unfortunately he doesn’t exist in the real world and probably never will.
He’s still the greatest President of my lifetime regardless.