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.