Wednesday, May 28, 2014

GENERAL HOSPITAL: How to read between the lines on a soap

Anyone who has spent as much time watching daytime television as I have can easily start to guess how things are going to go on a soap.

Soap writers are never known for their subtlety. Sure, maybe in the past, some stories managed to take viewers by surprise – like Maxie getting BJ’s heart – but that was before the internet and spoilers sites.

General Hospital is reading like a children’s book these days and there are a lot of anvils being dropped in
certain stories.

For example: See Sonny find out Ava killed Connie. See Sonny throw barware. See Sonny fly to his island to confront her. See Sonny threaten to kill her. See Sonny say “you’re dead to me.” See Ava say she’s pregnant to save herself.

Oh, yup, I just went there. Honestly, how else are they going to save Ava? She’s killed Connie. She shot Olivia. She slept with her daughter’s husband. She slept with her boyfriend’s father. She let AJ take the fall for her. And that’s all in like a year.

I predict that Ava either lies about a pregnancy and has to run around trying to get pregnant or she really is pregnant and she’s either carrying Sonny’s child or grandchild (both scenarios skeeve me out).

I was talking about this on a few message boards and everyone started making their own predictions – which was fun. So I thought I would throw the rest of mine out there and track them for the next six months to see how I do.

So, here we go:

1. Baby Towel Drake (now known as Gabriel Drake Santiago) will either die or turn out to be Carlos’ kid. Right now, I’m leaning 75 percent toward the kid dying and 25 percent toward changed paternity. We all know Ron Carlivati doesn’t do straight baby storylines – I honestly can’t think of one that he’s done – so something is going to happen to Towel. Why do I think he’s going to die? It’s just the constant anvils: Emma singing that everything is going to be all right at the Nurses Ball, they gave him the name of an angel, everyone keeps saying he's getting stronger, etc. Also, we all know that Teresa Castillo is going to be departing on her real life maternity leave in the next two weeks or so. I have a hard time believing that the character of Sabrina is going to leave a sick baby to go to Puerto Rico (which is where the character is rumored to be going). And, if she were to take the baby with her, that is an affront to the character of Patrick who would never let his sick son leave. So, yeah, I’m leaning towards Towel taking a turn for the worse now that he’s been named after an angel. If that doesn’t happen, and the baby does survive, I see finding out that Carlos is the father after all – just when Patrick has bonded with the baby. I just don’t see this ending well for Patrick.

2. Levi is more than he appears. Let’s face it, Levi is the most annoying character to be introduced in
years (and that’s saying something since we’ve had to deal with characters like Sabrina, Felix and Rafe in the past 12 months) but he has to be more than just Maxie’s life guru. He’s showing signs of a controlling personality. He’s Australian, which opens the door for him to be related to the Jacks family on some level. I’m just guessing he’s not a good guy. Since Nathan is a cop – and they’re obviously eyeing him for Maxie – I’m going to guess that Levi is a thief or dangerous individual and Nathan is going to have to save her.

3. The Fluke reveal will be old school. Carlivati gets a kick out of using GH’s history – and then warping it. I’m guessing, whoever is masquerading as Luke these days, is going to have a tie to the soap’s history. I think the obvious choices right now are Bill Eckert, Damian Smith or Victor Jerome. My favorite scenario is Damian Smith. We all remember that he acted like he was in heat – and that’s definitely how Fluke is acting these days. I have issues with Fluke being revealed as Bill Eckert – and I don’t see that happening now that Ned has left again. If Ned were around, given his past with Jenny, it might make some (not a lot, but some) sense for Fluke to be Bill. Without Ned, though, that theory kind of flies out the window. Bill Eckert was many things – but he was not a bad father. If we’re to believe that Bill wasn’t killed, that means he abandoned Sly (maybe Sly is Levi?) for years. It’s possible, but I’m still liking the Damian Smith theory (and since Damian had an affair with Bobbie -- that could be all kinds of gross to see play out -- but in a morbid way). As for him being Victor? I think it’s possible, but Julian doesn’t exactly seem to have a family bond with the man – either good or bad. So, I guess I’m going the Damian Smith route (although I admit I could be way off on this one). Also, I might be giving RC too much credit. He might not even know who Fluke is yet -- which is entirely likely.

4. Silas will return to Nina out of obligation – but Sam and Silas will still be the love story. Carlivati
clearly loves Michael Easton’s chemistry with Kelly Monaco. Yes, Michelle Stafford is a big soap actress, but I don’t think that Nina and Silas will ultimately be the story. Sure, she’ll go after Silas and he’ll return to her out of guilt and obligation. I actually look for some revelation about Kiki being Nina’s kid, too, and Madeline giving Kiki to Ava to raise – but that’s probably farther down the road. For now, I expect Silas to return to Nina but pine for Sam. Sam will be the martyr and let him go. Silas and Sam won’t be able to stay away from each other, and we’ll find out Nina may have a little of her mother in her. Quite frankly, Stafford is too big of an actress for them not to at least attempt a chemistry test with Maurice Benard. I see them dumping Stafford in the Carly/Franco/Sonny group rather than the Sam/Silas group over the long haul. Short term? We’ll get Nina and Silas story. Long term? Nina has some sort of pairing with Sonny written all over her.

5. Liz and Nikolas still won’t get an actual romance. I’m not going to lie, Liz and Nik freak me out as a couple. It’s like watching a VC Andrews television movie – all that faux incest gets to me. Still, just looking at the situation, I don’t see them being a couple. Liz is with Ric now, even though Nik clearly wants her. Just a month ago Liz was professing her love to Nik but he told her to take a hike because he loved Britt. Then Britt betrayed him and he’s suddenly in love with Liz. Quite frankly, I see Liz deciding she wants to be with Nik and just when they get together we’ll find out that Britt is pregnant (something she’ll hide from Nik for a while). When he finds out, Nik won’t trust her but the two will slowly start bonding over the baby. Then Carlivati will make Liz insecure and have her go after Britt (we all know RC isn’t above ruining legacy GH characters to prop his creations – just ask AJ and Robin). And, ultimately, Nik and Britt will still be the love story. Also, I see them making Ric crazy again in this story just because they can – which kind of ticks me off.

6. Epiphany and Monica still won’t get airtime. That's pretty much a given.

7. Serena Baldwin is going to swing into town with attitude. The younger set has a few holes in it. I see Scotty and Lucy’s little hellion making her way into town and setting her sights on either Michael or Morgan. Either way, that will be the younger quadrangle.

Okay, what do you think? Make your predictions here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: How I loved (and ultimately hated) the Divergent series

I spent my Memorial Day holiday with a trio of books: The Divergent series by Veronica Roth.

A lot of people had been comparing it to The Hunger Games – and the movie did relatively well – so I thought it would be something I was interested in.

It was. Kind of.

The first book, Divergent, introduces us to Beatrice Prior, a teenage girl that is about to go to her “Choosing Ceremony” to decide which faction she will be a part of for the rest of her life.

The Divergent series is set in a dystopian world that shows hints of our world – but it’s obviously different. The factions include Abnegation (which Beatrice was born into), Dauntless, Amnity, Candor and Erudite.

The government in this world is run by Abnegation – although the thinkers, the Erudite, are constantly trying to find a way to get into power. I'm kind of nutshelling all of this -- because otherwise the blog would be 10 pages long.

Just as a side note, given my love of sarcasm and bluntness, I’m fairly certain I would have been part of the Candor group, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, when Beatrice goes to be tested, she finds out that she has traits of three of these groups – which is practically unheard of – and she soon finds out she is Divergent.

In an attempt to hide what she is – even she isn’t sure why, at this point – she joins Dauntless on a whim and is cast into a whole other world she could never have envisioned.

As part of the Dauntless initiation, Beatrice (now known as Tris) is cast into one crazy antic after another.
You see, the Dauntless aren’t scared of anything – or, at least they try to drum that fear out of their initiatives. The Dauntless are the soldiers of this little world – and only half of the initiates will make it through. The other half will be cast out and become factionless.

The factionless are basically the homeless individuals in this society. They live on the streets. They beg for food. They’re the forgotten faces in the crowd.

Tris is a waif. She’s not strong of frame, but she is strong of heart. Her trainer is Four, a character that catches Tris’ interest right from the beginning – even though she doesn’t believe that he could ever be interested in her.

This first Divergent book really is a revelation. It’s a strong and interesting new world, and I found myself glued to each page to find out what would happen next.

I wouldn’t call Roth a strong author. I would call her a great storyteller, but the book is filled with short sentences and a very matter-of-fact writing style. There were also so many punctuation errors in the book that I found myself wanting to rip my hair out at times. Between that and the constant changing between “blonde” and “blond” (both used incorrectly numerous times) and the insistence on using breaths instead of the correct breath in most instances, the writing started to wear on me. Because the story was so good, though, I pushed it out of my mind.

At the end of the first book – turn around if you haven’t read and don’t like spoilers – we find out that the Erudite are trying to enslave the Dauntless to wipe out the Abnegation and take over the government. Tris and Four – who we also find out is Divergent – manage to mount an offensive to stop them.

Tris’ mother (who has a huge backstory) dies in the offensive, as does her father. At the time, Tris’ brother – Caleb, who had joined the Erudite – seems to be on her side.

By the time we get to Insurgent, Tris and Four are an official couple and they’re working to find a safe place to stay. Tris is mourning the death of her parents and the fact that she had to kill a friend – Will – who was under the mind control of the Erudite.

I started to notice the fraying of some story threads in Insurgent, but it wasn’t bad enough to turn me off the story. I did tire of Four/Tobias and his constant need to talk to Tris like she was a child, but it’s a teen book so you kind of overlook those things.

Insurgent had everything -- including betrayal by Tris' last remaining relative. It had Tris sacrificing herself to try and save her friends, Tobias putting himself in danger to try and save Tris and a new enemy -- one more terrifying than the prior government -- claiming power when the factionless took over.

This was a big cast, so the characters start to get whittled down at a quick pace. And, by the end of Insurgent, an even bigger mystery is unveiled. It seems that the city is really Chicago. It’s a Chicago of the future – but it’s still Chicago. Not only is it Chicago, but the people inside of the city were essentially placed there as a big experiment.

It was a pretty interesting cliffhanger. Sure, I had some questions, but I thought those would be answered in
the third book. I was wrong.

In Allegiant, things pretty much went to crap (in both the fictional world and the narrative).

The books, which had strictly been written from Tris’ point-of-view before, were now being told by Tris and Tobias. That should have been a hint how things would end – but it was also a plot device that didn’t quite work.

The big problem was that, apparently, Tris and Tobias thought in the exact same manner. If you weren’t paying attention, their voices were so similar you would have to return to the beginning of the chapter and double check who was telling the story at this point. Either Tris is really masculine or Tobias is really feminine – and given the way he acted in the third book, I’m guessing that Tobias was a closeted 14-year-old girl.
The problems facing the couple seemed really contrived. And, when the duo left with some friends to see what the “real world” looked like, the books turned into a diatribe on human nature.

I like it when a book has a message, but Roth’s message in these books was really heavy-handed. Essentially, whoever got in power in these books became megalomaniacs. It got old after the fourth or fifth time.

When you finally get to the finale, we’re supposed to believe that Tris would allow her brother to die when there’s a possibility that Tris could survive the scenario. Tobias leaves Tris to go on his mission, never once considering that she would sacrifice herself for Caleb. That just makes Tobias an idiot and so far from the character we were introduced to in Divergent that it’s a little bit of an insult.

I don’t believe you have to have a happy ending to have a good book. I believe, when it moves the story
forward or is important to the outcome of a story, that killing a main character is perfectly acceptable. The problem is, Tris’ death seems like a contrived after-thought. I mean, why did she have die? The group never once tried to think of another scenario to save their city. And, by the time she does die, it’s not really for some greater good. She’s just gone.

When it comes down to it, I think comparing this series to The Hunger Games (and even Harry Potter in some places) is disingenuous. The stories were nowhere near as well written as either of those series and the emotional weight carried by them is just a pipe dream in Divergent.

In the end, Divergent is all about sacrifice – which is a nice message. Unfortunately, it ultimately becomes about sacrifice just for sacrifice’s sake. Tris doesn’t sacrifice herself to save the world, she sacrifices herself to be the hero. That’s a very different thing.

In The Hunger Games, Katniss is willing to fight – and ultimately die – for what she believes in. She’s willing to put herself on the line to save her family. She doesn’t do it for misguided honor. It’s just who she is.

In Harry Potter, Harry is willing to sacrifice himself at the end to save his friends. He doesn’t do it knowing they will survive. He does it because he knows that the only way Voldemort can be killed is if Harry dies (him being that extra horcrux and all). Harry doesn’t go to the woods to sacrifice himself just to sacrifice himself. He does it to give his friends a fighting chance – because it’s the only thing he can do.

Tris could have done a lot of different things. She could have approached David to get the truth. She could have let Caleb sacrifice himself. She could have evacuated people from the city. It’s like the author just wanted to go for a “gutsy” end – it didn’t matter if the facts of the book got in her way.

As for the story in the final book, that’s a mess, too. There’s a lot of retconning going on – and I’m never a fan of that. I also think that most fans guessed The Truman Show aspect of it at the end of the second book.

In the end, I can say that I loved Divergent and would give it five stars. I would say I liked Insurgent and would give it three and a half stars. I can say I wish I had never read Allegiant and give that book two stars.

In the grand scheme of things, the best thing I can say about Tris is that she’s a better heroine than Bella Swan (although that’s not saying much).

What do you think? Does Allegiant ruin the Divergent trilogy?

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

TELEVISION: Why NBC’s Hannibal is too delicious to pass up

I’m fairly certain I never thought a show about cannibalism would be in my top ten for the year – but NBC’s Hannibal has proven me wrong.

The show, which finishes up its second season Friday night, is such a profound mixture of visual stimulation and psychological warfare, it’s impossible to look away.

I’m not particularly happy with NBC these days – the cancellation of Revolution has crushed a little bit of my spirit – but I am profoundly thankful to the network for ordering up a third season of the macabre Hannibal.

I know a lot of people are uncomfortable watching the show, saying it's too disturbing to watch.

Between the gore and the long musical interludes that show Hannibal cooking up something new (which is Hannibal is a show that is really hard to watch. It’s really hard to look away, though, too.
usually a portion of his latest victim)  --

Hannibal had a daunting task ahead of it when it was launched last year. Most fans were familiar with the series of books by Thomas Harris – and even more familiar with the ultra-popular movies starring Sir Anthony Hopkins as the titular cannibal who abhors rudeness.

So, when a relatively unknown actor named Mads Mikkelson was announced as the new antihero, fans were understandably concerned.

We had no reason to be. Hannibal, in Mikkelson’s capable hands, has become a sociopathic killer with a narcissistic bent and a psychopathic penchant for purposely hurting those around him. He’s still fun to root for – which is a credit to Mikkelson.
This version of Hannibal is the ultimate game player -- only you don't want to be selected to play his games.

His foil, Will Graham, is played by the mesmerizing Hugh Dancy. Dancy has a thankless role as the guy that will ultimately bring Hannibal down because fans are torn about whether or not they want that to actually happen.

Rounding out the cast is the stalwart Lawrence Fishburne as Jack Crawford. Fishburne lends a certain level of credibility to a show that can sometimes seem over-the-top.

The truth is, believing that there are that many creative serial killers roaming around at one time is a little hard.
Besides Hannibal, we’ve dealt with a music teacher who tried to play the vocal chords of dead musicians, a killer that built a sand temple of body parts, a man hunting women (and eating them) that looked like his daughter, a band of sociopathic kids and a incarcerated serial killer that knows the truth about Hannibal’s actions and hides it.

As a side fun fact, that serial killer died this season – but only after Hannibal made him dine on his own legs.

Hannibal isn’t perfect. Sometimes he seems omnipotent, which detracts a little from the narrative. And, I’m not going to lie, the women on this show are often marginalized. Beverly found out the truth and was gutted and put on display, Freddie is a typical tabloid hag, Alana has been warned repeatedly that Hannibal is dangerous and refuses to listen and Miriam was brainwashed into killing an innocent man (and we haven’t seen her since).

Still, though, there’s something magical about the show. It’s like a train wreck, only you can’t look away.

The addition of Michael Pitt as Mason Verger has also been a stroke of genius. Fans of the series knew what Hannibal did to Mason – drugging him up and convincing him to cut up his own face and feed it to dogs – but seeing it (versus hearing about it) was so disturbing last week that it haunted my dreams for a night.

A scene like that should have been hard to sell. It wasn’t, though, and that’s because the cast is both solid and committed. They believe their roles, so they realistically embody them.

In Friday’s season finale, Will and Hannibal’s deadly game is going to come to a head. We know, eventually, that Hannibal is going to get caught.

All that we’re left with right now are the specifics. And I, for one, can’t wait.

What do you think? Do you enjoy Hannibal?

SUMMER MOVIE PREVIEW: Not a lot of excitement this summer

Summer is generally my favorite movie season.

Not this year, though.

While I'm excited for the new X-Men flick at the beginning of summer and the third Expendables flick at the end of summer -- there's not a lot in the middle that's calling to me.

Sure, I'm mildly interested in A Million Ways to Die in the West -- but I'm completely uninspired by this summer's science fiction offerings and big summer blockbusters (I was over the Transformers franchise after the first movie).

Still, there are a few gems out there.

May 22

X-Men: Days of Future Past: This is probably the flick I’m most looking forward to this summer. Mixing the old cast of the X-Men movies with the new cast and bringing Singer back to right the ship has “win” written all over it.

May 23

Cold in July: This thriller about a man (Michael C. Hall) that kills a burglar and then checks out the funeral looks like it has a lot of promise. Don Johnson returns to some serious acting roots in this one – although it’s probably one of those flicks that I’ll wait to see On Demand.

Blended: This Drew Barrymore/Adam Sandler comedy about two families on vacation together proves that – as likeable as both stars are -- their schtick is really old.

May 30

A Million Ways to Die in the West: This Seth MacFarlane comedy western boasts a fun cast (Charlize
Theron, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried, Neil Patrick Harris) and just enough laughs to promise an insulting and hilariously fun time.

Maleficent: This update of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty has Angelina Jolie as the title witch and Elle Fanning as her “arch enemy.” The trailers are appropriately creepy, but Jolie has turned off a lot of viewers. I guess we’ll have to wait and see how things turn out.

June 6

The Fault in Our Stars: This is a sad sack teen movie (reminiscent of that Mandy Moore “I’m dying and different” flick from about a decade ago). This is another sick teenagers in love storyline, this time starring Ansel Elgort and Shaileen Woodley (who I can’t quite seem to like).

Edge of Tomorrow: Tom Cruise tries to prove he’s still an action hero in this time-bending flick that sees Cruise’s character stuck in a time loop.

June 13

How to Train Your Dragon 2: Looks cute and well animated. Nice kid flick.

22 Jump Street: The first movie was terrible, so I’m not expecting much from this Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill follow-up.

The Rover: Everyone’s favorite sparkling vampire, Robert Pattinson, tries to dirty up his image in this movie about murderous carnies and a gang of bandits.

June 20

Think Like a Man Too: Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Michael Ealy and Taraji P. Henson return for this follow-up to 2012’s sleep hit. It’s pretty much just laughs and hijinks – but I’m a big Ealy fan so I’ll check it out on video at some point.

June 27

Transformers: Age of Extinction: You really only watch these movies for the special effects (because the stories are pretty weak). Personally, I’ve never been a fan of Mark Wahlberg’s “acting” – but I know people out there love him. I’ll probably pass on this one.

July 2

Tammy: Susan Sarandon dons a wig to play Melissa McCarthy’s grandmother and the two go on a road
trip. You had me at Melissa McCarthy.

July 4

Begin Again: Keira Knightly and Mark Ruffalo join together for this musical movie that looks fairly interesting – if a bit confusing. It might be worth a look.

July 11

And So It Goes: Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton show that love isn’t only for the young in this Rob
Reiner film. Both leads are likeable – so I’ll probably see it at some point.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Keri Russell and Gary Oldman anchor this follow-up to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. I didn’t like the first one, so I’m guessing I won’t like this one either.

July 18

Jupiter Rising: In this science fiction dud – which looks more like a science fiction soap opera than
anything else – Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis are trying to accomplish something mystical. I can’t muster the energy to care.

The Purge: Anarchy: Last summer a claustrophobic little flick about people having one night to commit any kind of murder they want was a surprise hit. So, of course, the filmmakers decided to give it a bigger budget and make the action (read: violence) as widespread as possible. The first flick was a hidden gem. This one looks like it’s completely missed the point.

June 25

Sex Tape: Several couples try to spice up their sex life with sex tapes and hijinks ensue. As much as I like Jason Segel, I’m pretty much over Cameron Diaz.

Hercules: Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) plays the mythical hero in what looks to be possibly the worst movie of the summer. The good news is, there’s always a chance it will be so bad it’s good.

A Most Wanted Man: In one of his final roles, Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a calculating German intelligence operative who’s stalking a potential Islamic terror suspect. It’s an interesting premise and an interesting actor.

August 1

Guardians of the Galaxy: Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana and Dave Bautista take
on the Marvel super hero group in what could be a big hit – or a really big miss. I’m going to at least check it out.

Child of God: Some deep material for James Franco here – which I will probably check out On Demand in a few months.

August 8

The Hundred-Foot Journey: Helen Mirren stars in this culture-clash tale that looks a little dry for my taste.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The heroes on the half shell are back – but casting Megan Fox in anything makes me leery about checking out the flick.

August 15

The Expendables 3: Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford and Wesley Snipes join the action-packed guilty pleasure
that I can’t help but be giddy for. These movies make me laugh. I’m a child of the 1980s – sue me.

August 22

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For: Mickey Rourke, Josh Brolin, Jessica Alba and Rosario Dawson join Robert Rodriguez for another stylized outing in noir fun.

What do you think? What movie are you looking forward to?

Thursday, May 15, 2014

TELEVISION: ABC is making some moves with fall schedule

Sometimes I think ABC is the bane of my existence when it comes to television.

The alphabet network is home to some of my favorite shows of all time -- like Lost. On the flip side, though, they do make some kooky decisions (the Who Wants to Be a Millionaire debacle springs to mind).

This past year wasn’t a great one for ABC – and the network said goodbye to a lot of shows, so they have a decent amount of space to fill. The big surprise for ABC is that Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – which was supposed to be a slam dunk – struggled to be picked up for a second season.

New shows premiering in the fall include a whole clump of comedies, including Selfie, Black-ish, Manhattan Love Story and Cristela - -none of which sound even remotely interesting, at least not at this time.

Then there’s prime time soap opera Forever, which follows a bunch of people doing a bunch of weird things (none of which piques my interest).

Finally, Shonda Rhimes is busy again with How to Get Away With Murder, a drama that boasts Viola
Davis and a premise that no one seems all too clear on yet. Given Rhimes pedigree, though, it’s bound to be a hit (especially since it’s being paired with her other creations).

ABC’s midseason is also confusing. Marvel’s Agent Carter will serve as a bridge for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., while the musical fairy tale Galavant will due the same thing for the creatively struggling Once Upon a Time.

Slated for midseason is a bevy of new shows. American Crime stars Felicity Huffman and Timothy Hutton in what looks to be a high concept look at race, crime and motivation.

Fresh Off The Boat looks to be a racially insensitive comedy that has failure written all over it.

Secrets & Lies features Ryan Philippe, Juliette Lewis, and Kadee Strickland in the story of a man who finds a boy’s body and then goes on a quest to prove his innocents. It’s easily the most interesting casting of the upcoming television season.

The Whispers is about aliens using kids to take over the Earth. It sounds contrived, but the cast (Lily Rabe, Milo Ventimiglia, etc.) is fairly interesting.

Here is ABC's updated fall schedule:


8 p.m. – Dancing with the Stars
10 p.m. – Castle


8 p.m. – Selfie
8:30 p.m. – Manhattan Love Story
9 p.m. – Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
10 p.m. – Forever


8 p.m. – The Middle
8:30 p.m. – The Goldbergs
9 p.m. – Modern Familiy
9:30 p.m. – Black-ish
10 p.m. – Nashville


8 p.m. – Grey’s Anatomy
9 p.m. -- Scandal
10 p.m. – How to Get Away with Murder


8 p.m. – Last Man Standing
8:30 p.m. -- Cristela
9 p.m. -- Shark Tank
10 p.m. – 20/20


7 p.m. – America’s Funniest Home Videos
8 p.m. – Once Upon a Time
9 p.m. – Resurrection
10 p.m. – Revenge

What do you think of ABC’s fall schedule?

TELEVISION: CBS moves things around for fall television season

Of all the big networks, CBS is the stablest.

They’ve built a steady stream of procedurals and comedies that continue to draw in viewers.

As in seasons past, CBS didn’t make any really big moves this fall. They kept the shows that were working – even giving The Mentalist a last-second reprieve in the final week of pickups.

The biggest surprise of the new CBS schedule come in the form of just how many new shows they did pick up (and the one that is glaringly missing from their schedule). The one that didn’t make the schedule was the much touted (and fan derided) How I Met Your Father, which is officially dead in the water. Most fans thought it was a terrible idea in the first place – so it’s probably for the best.

New shows getting shots included Scorpion, a show about a genius that recruits other geniuses to solve NCIS franchise, this time in New Orleans; Stalker, a police procedural about stalking victims and perpetrators (conveniently paired with Criminal Minds); The McCarthys, a comedy about a working class family and their sports bar (which stars New Kid on the Block Joey McIntyre); and Madam Secretary, a high concept drama starring Tea Leoni.
problems; a new entry in the

I will probably check out a few of the new shows. Whether any of them stick, though, is still up in the air.
Mike & Molly, The Mentalist, Undercover Boss, The Odd Couple and Battle Creek are all slated for mid-season debuts.

The Odd Couple stars Matthew Perry from Friends and is a takeoff of the original show while Battle Creek (yes, set in Battle Creek, Mich.) stars Josh Duhamel in another police procedural that I will watch just because it’s set in Michigan.

My favorite thing CBS did this spring, though, was to announce that Two and a Half Men would (finally) be put out to pasture and this would be its final season. It's about time.

Here’s the new fall schedule for CBS:

8 p.m. – The Big Bang Theory /2 Broke Girls (Oct. 27)
8:30 p.m. – Mom
9 p.m. Scorpion
10 p.m. – NCIS: Los Angeles

8 p.m. – NCIS
9 p.m. – NCIS: New Orleans
10 p.m. – Person of Interest

8 p.m. – Survivor
9 p.m. – Criminal Minds
10 p.m. – Stalker

8 p.m. – Thursday Night Football/ The Big Bang Theory (Oct. 30)
8:30 p.m. -- The Millers (Oct. 30)
9 p.m. – Two and a Half Men (Oct. 30)
9:30 p.m. – The McCarthys (Oct. 30)
10 p.m. – Elementary (Oct. 30)

8 p.m. – The Amazing Race
9 p.m. --  Hawaii Five-0
10 p.m. – Blue Bloods

7 p.m. – 60 Minutes
8 p.m. – Madam Secretary
9 p.m. – The Good Wife
10 p.m. – CSI: Cyber

What do you think of the new CBS schedule?

TELEVISION: The CW unveils new fall schedule

The CW had a good year last year, launching hits like The Originals, The 100 and Reign – while continuing to nurture older favorites like Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries.

It’s not all good news for the CW, though. The Tomorrow People – which was supposed to be their big new hit of the 2013/2014 season crashed and burned and the network also (finally) pulled the plug on struggling shows like Hart of Dixie and The Carrie Diaries.

The network has decided to tinker with their lineup next season, moving The Originals to Mondays (I still don’t understand why they don’t pair this show with The Vampire Diaries) and pairing it with Jane the Virgin, a new dramedy about a religious Latina woman who has her plans of saving herself for marriage thwarted when she is accidentally inseminated by mistake during a checkup. Yeah, Jane the Virgin sounds like a dud before we’ve even seen a minute of it.

New superhero drama The Flash will be paired with Supernatural on Tuesdays – even though it would seem to make more sense to put it with Arrow (but I’m not in charge of these things).

The proposed Supernatual spinoff seems dead in the water (which is a good thing – because that backdoor pilot was terrible.

The network also has two shows slated for midseason when something fails – which Jane the Virgin obviously will. The first is iZombie, a drama about a student-turned-zombie who takes a job in the coroner’s office so she can eat brains. Each brain she eats she inherits the corpse’s memories. Sounds like another dud to me.

The second, The Messengers, is about a mysterious object that crashes to the earth and kills a group of strangers with an energy pulse. Those strangers later wake up and find they’re apparently responsible for preventing the apocalypse. I can’t decide either way how that one sounds – I guess I’ll have to wait to see a trailer.

Here’s how The CW’s schedule is shaping up for next season:


8 p.m. – The Originals
9 p.m. – Jane the Virgin


8 p.m. – The Flash
9 p.m. – Supernatural


8 p.m. – Arrow
9 p.m. – The 100


8 p.m. – The Vampire Diaries
9 p.m. – Reign


8 p.m. – Whose Line is It Anyway?
8:30 p.m. – Whose Line Is It Anyway?
9 p.m. – America’s Next Top Model
What do you think of The CW’s fall schedule?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

TELEVISION: The Game of Thrones pacing conundrum

When it comes to television, I like a lot of different things. I like drama, comedy and even the occasional reality show (as long as it doesn’t involve singing or the Kardashians).

What I truly love, though, is high concept drama that can rock you to your core from episode to episode.

That’s why shows like Lost, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Sopranos, The Walking Dead, Sons of Anarchy and Big Love all have spots high on my “favorite” list.

HBO’s Game of Thrones currently has a spot on that list, too. However, I’m starting to worry about the future of the show.

Before everyone starts attacking me, I still think the show is good. That’s the problem. The show is too good. The cinematography is outstanding, the scripts are scintillating and most of the cast (two noteworthy exceptions) is amazing.

So, what’s the problem? The cast is, quite simply, too big.

Because of the expense associated with producing Game of Thrones, seasons are limited to 10 episodes. Game of Thrones canvas than pretty much any other drama I can think of.
So we basically get about 50 to 55 minutes of story each episode – for 10 episodes a season. And how many characters are there to cover? I’m not sure, but I can safely say that there are more characters on the

There are four more episodes left in season four. As it stands now, we’re only seeing most characters every other episode. And when we see them, this past week’s trial of Tyrion notwithstanding, we’re generally only seeing them in 10-minute increments. So, when you add that up, that means we’re seeing characters for an average of 50 minutes a season. Is that enough for you?

I mean, take a look at Daenerys. Let’s forget for a second that she’s portrayed by one of the weaker acting links in the ensemble. This is a character that is the “Mother of Dragons.” So why do I feel like falling asleep during her scenes? We’ve essentially spent 30 minutes with her this season and she’s done nothing but trudge from one city to the next – and occasionally whine or make vacant threats and pronouncements.

Then you have a character like Stannis – who I’m sure did something terrific in the books – but he is so boring on the show I’ve actually taken to fast-forwarding through him. Since the screen time is so limited for these characters as it is, it seems like a travesty to actually fast-forward through anything.

My other big complaint is Reek. I didn’t care about the character when he was Theon. I certainly don’t care
about him when he’s doing his audition for Fifty Shades of Torture. I’m sure Theon still plays into events to come (I try to stay spoiler free) but he’s done nothing of interest this season.

On the flip side, I think we’ve only got to spend about 20 minutes with Arya. I’m not going to lie, Arya is my favorite character, so I’m always in the mood to spend more time with her. Even when we get to spend time with her, though, the only exciting thing she’s done this season is help the Hound massacre a few of her enemies in the season premiere. She wasn’t in the last episode and the episode before we got four minutes of watching her practice Tae-Bo.

I could go on and on about how little we know Margaery, or how Sansa’s limited air time isn’t making her any more sympathetic, or how only seeing Brandon and his really bad wig isn’t exactly helping me engage in their crow searching.

Like I mentioned above, I try to go spoiler free. And, yes, because of the show’s nature, a lot of people are going to be killed off. More characters are going to be introduced, though, too.

I honestly don’t know what the solution is, but I would start by expanding the episodes to an hour and a half in length. It doesn’t completely solve the problem but it does help. Also, and I know this is sacrilege to book fans, but some of the side stories need to go. Those books are thick tomes. You can’t possibly include everything.

The truth is, hard choices are going to have to be made to fix the show’s pacing problem. I’m just wondering
if anyone will have the guts to actually address them.

Game of Thrones is a show that should be winning every award out there. It's not -- and it's not just because the voting blocks have an aversion to fantasy. The pacing issues are holding the show back in more ways than one.

For every great scene like Tyrion on trial, Joffrey dying, and Arya exacting revenge we are also getting side character scenes with Stannis, Reek and Sansa's crazy aunt.

I just want a better balance.

What do you think? Are there other characters you want to see more of than you do?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

TELEVISION: Did you favorite show survive the final cut?

The big five networks have officially done their fall upfront, which means virtually all of the cancellations and
pickups have been announced.
The big surprise that came out of this final week is that CBS didn't ax The Mentalist as expected, NBC picked up Parenthood for one final 13-episode season, and ABC saved Last Man Standing.
The Parenthood pickup is particularly gratifying since it was always on the bubble. NBC renegotiated contracts with the actors (read: asked them to take a pay cut) to finish up the show with this limited sixth season.
At least the fans were looked out for in this case.
Here is your final updated list of cancellations and pickups for the 2014/2015 television season.


2 Broke Girls (CBS)
The 100 (CW)
The Amazing Race  (CBS)
About a Boy (NBC)
American Dad (moving to TBS)
American Idol (Fox)
America's Funniest Home Videos (ABC)
America's Next Top Model (CW)
Arrow (CW)
The Bachelor (ABC)
The Blacklist (NBC)
Beauty and the Beast (CW)
The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
The Biggest Loser (NBC)
Blue Bloods (CBS)
Bob's Burgers (Fox)
Bones (Fox)
Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
Castle (ABC)
Chicago Fire (NBC)
Chicago PD (NBC)
Criminal Minds (CBS)
Dancing With the Stars (ABC)
Elementary (CBS)
Family Guy (Fox)
The Following (Fox)
Glee (Fox)
The Goldbergs (ABC)
The Good Wife (CBS)
Grey's Anatomy (ABC)
Grimm (NBC)
Hannibal (NBC)
Hart of Dixie (CW)
Hawaii Five-0 (CBS)
Last Man Standing (ABC)
Law & Order: SVU (NBC)
Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
Masterchef Junior (Fox)
The Mentalist (CBS)
The Middle (ABC)
Mike & Molly
The Millers (CBS)
The Mindy Project (Fox)
Modern Family (ABC)
Mom (CBS)
Nashville (ABC)
NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)
New Girl (Fox)
Once Upon a Time (ABC)
The Originals (CW)
Parenthood (NBC)
Parks and Recreation (NBC)
Person of Interest (CBS)
Reign (CW)
Resurrection (ABC)
Revenge (ABC)
Scandal (ABC)
Shark Tank (ABC)
The Simpsons (Fox)
Sleepy Hollow (Fox)
So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)
Supernatural (CW)
Survivor (CBS)
Two and a Half Men (CBS)
Undercover Boss (CBS)
The Vampire Diaries (CW)
The Voice (NBC)


American Dream Builders (NBC)
Kitchen Nightmares (Fox)


Gang Related (Fox)
Night Shift  (NBC)
Reckless (CBS)
Undateable (NBC)
Us & Them (Fox)


Almost Human (Fox)
The Assets (ABC)
Back in the Game (ABC)
Bad Teacher (CBS)
Believe (NBC)
Betrayal (ABC)
The Carrie Diaries (CW)
The Crazy Ones (CBS)
Crisis (NBC)
Community (NBC)
Dads (Fox)
Dracula (NBC)
Enlisted (Fox)
Friends with Better Lives (CBS)
Growing Up Fisher (NBC)
Hostages (CBS)
How I Met Your Mother (CBS)
Intelligence (CBS)
Ironside (NBC)
Killer Women (ABC)
Lucky 7 (ABC)
The Michael J. Fox Show (NBC)
Mind Games (ABC)
Mixology (ABC)
The Neighbors (ABC)
Nikita (CW)
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (ABC)
Raising Hope (Fox)
Rake (Fox)
Revolution (NBC)
Sean Saves the World (NBC)
Star-Crossed (CW)
Suburgatory (ABC)
Super Fun Night  (ABC)
Surviving Jack (Fox)
Trophy Wife (ABC)
The Tomorrow People (CW)
We Are Men (CBS)
Welcome to the Family (NBC)
The X Factor (Fox)


A to Z (NBC)
Allegiance (NBC)
American Crime (ABC)
Angie Tribeca (TBS)
Aquarius (TBS)
Astronaut Wives Club (ABC)
Backstrom (Fox)
Bad Judge (NBC)
Battle Creek (CBS)
Blackish (ABC)
Buzzy's (TBS)
The Club (ABC)
Constantine (NBC)
Cristela (ABC)
CSI: Cyber (CBS)
Emerald City (NBC)
Empire (Fox)
The Flash (CW)
Forever (ABC)
Fresh Off the Boat (ABC)
Galavant (ABC)
Gotham (Fox)
Hieroglyph (Fox)
How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)
iZombie (CW)
Jane the Virgin (CW)
Last Man on Earth (Fox)
Madam Secretary (CBS)
Manhattan Love Story (ABC)
Marry Me (NBC)
Marvel's Agent Carter (ABC)
The McCarthys (CBS)
The Messengers (CW)
Mission Control (NBC)
Mr. Robinson (NBC)
Mulaney (Fox)
The Mysteries of Laura (NBC)
NCIS: New Orleans (CBS)
The Odd Couple (CBS)
Odyssey (NBC)
One Big Happy (NBC)
Proof (TNT)
Public Morals (TNT)
Red Band Society (Fox)
Scorpion (CBS)
Secrets & Lies (ABC)
Selfie (ABC)
Stalker (CBS)
State of Affairs (NBC)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (NBC)
Weird Loners (Fox)
The Whispers (ABC)
Your Family or Mine (TBS)

GENERAL HOSPITAL: Highlights (and lowlights) of this year’s Nurses Ball

The best thing Ron Carlivati did when he took over head writing duties for General Hospital was resurrect the Nurses Ball.

Last year, the long beloved tradition was dusted off to pay tribute to Robin Scorpio, a girl that grew up on the soap and contracted HIV in her teens. Fans knew Robin was alive, but her husband and daughter were still mourning her “death.”

The move was actually a way to celebrate GH’s anniversary.

Some of the most popular actors from the show’s history were dusted off and reintroduced to the canvas, including Jack Wagner’s Frisco and Lynn Herring’s Lucy.

Now, most fans will agree that last year’s Nurses Ball was a mixed bag. Seeing Frisco croon to Felicia was
a win for everyone – but Carlivati turning the Nurses Ball that was supposed to be dedicated to Robin’s memory into a coming out party for Sabrina was fairly insulting.

Still, most fans were just glad to have their show back.

This year is a different story, though.

Carlivati has had some time to perfect his craft and make this year’s Nurses Ball better. It was markedly worse – which is a commentary on Carlivati’s writing and not the actor’s involved with some of these numbers.

So, what worked and what didn’t?


5. Obrecht steals the opening. I’m one of those people that thinks Obrecht has worn out her welcome, but I couldn’t help but laugh at how she managed to slide in and steal the entire first act of the Nurse’s Ball in a campy little number that was all about fun and nothing about seriousness. Just funny all around. That being said, the second time she did it towards the end of the ball was too much.

4. Eddie Maine returns. Timing Wally Kurth’s visit with the Nurse’s Ball was a stroke of genius. As a Kurth fan, I was happy to see him take the stage again – and it didn’t seem out of character for him to do it. That being said, they could have picked a better song that wasn’t so repetitive and Ned constantly gesturing to the woman in the band was kind of off-putting. Still, it had more elements of awesome than bad, though, so it was a win.

3. Epiphany belts out a winner. The truth is, there’s not a lot of actual singing talent on the GH cast these
days. Sonya Eddy is one of the few exceptions. Letting Epiphany close the show with such a poignant and well produced number was a smart move. The only other move I could see them making was the number one entry on this list for the closing, but that would have changed the end too much. Bravo on the song choice and Eddy’s talent.

2. Lucy ends up nearly naked. Again. Sure, this time Lucy was caught making out with Scotty while her husband, Kevin, was watching. It was soapy greatness, though. Lucy is such a vital and important character that she should be given more to do (how about she reopens the Brownstone so all these young people have some place to live?). Lynn Herring’s performance when caught in the act by her husband was both poignant and spot-on.

1. Emma Drake sings. As the daughter of GH’s beloved Robin, Emma has a special place in everyone’s heart. Emma’s number, a simple song about being happy and everything being all right, was juxtaposed with her possible (I still think he's going to turn out to be Carlos' kid) half-brother's  medical battle. While I didn’t like Sabrina being propped again, I did like Emma’s easy performance. This is what the Nurse’s Ball should always be.


5. The Red Carpet was lame. I don’t know about anyone else, but I find the red carpet arrivals for the
Nurse’s Ball cringe-worthy they’re so cheesy. As an actual reporter, I cannot imagine asking the local mobster at a public relations event what he’s importing these days and who he’s killed. Okay, that didn’t really happen, but it was close enough. That being said, Brad, Britt and Maxie watching the arrivals and commenting on them – including Britt and Brad rewinding Sam’s fall multiple times for laughs – was actually pretty funny. If you could do more of that, it might be worthwhile to keep the red carpet.

4. There were too many mangled performances. I get that we are supposed to look at this as a local fundraiser and these characters are amateurs, not professionals (for the most part) but some of the performances were so cheesy it almost hurt to watch them. I’m including Brad’s really odd song for Lucas, Emma and Cameron’s unfortunately awkward tango, the girls singing about being dogs in heat (yeah, think about it a second) at a fundraising event, Obrecht interrupting again, that random guy late in the show, Mr. Marbles, TJ and Molly’s really forced . . . whatever that was, and Luke’s serenade to Tracy. Sure, we know that’s not really Luke, but when they referred to him as a “staple” of the Nurse’s Ball I practically choked. I remember him participating twice with Lucky as a child. That doesn’t make him a staple.

3. Mac and Mr. Marbles. I didn’t get the whole point of Mac bringing that stupid puppet out again –at a
somber, yet fun event – and then having his act get interrupted. It just seemed really out of place and forced. There were other things the writers could have done – like having Mac join the Magic Milo act as a dancer. The truth is, TJ’s inclusion in that event was kind of out of place. The actor may be in his twenties, but he’s playing a teenager (and while we’re at it, the song choice for Molly’s little dance with the other girls was also inappropriate). He shouldn’t have been included with the older stripping men. Mac would have been a lot more fun there.

2. Felix makes the Nurse’s Ball about Sabrina. Again. Here’s the thing, the Nurse’s Ball is about raising money for AIDS and HIV awareness. So why, with that in mind, did Felix take to the stage and go on and on about Patrick and Sabrina’s out-of-wedlock baby? Isn’t that counter intuitive? I know that Carlivati is obsessed with propping Sabrina, but sometimes enough is enough.

1. John Stamos hate. I don’t know what Carlivati’s deal is with Stamos, but what he pulled this year was just
juvenile. Stamos, who got his start on GH back in the day as Blackie Parish, has said that he would do a limited return to GH if he had an actual story and wasn’t just a face in the background at the Nurse’s Ball. Carlivati didn’t like that so a big pronouncement was made that Blackie was at the ball and then it was announced he was a no-show – as a way to embarrass Stamos. That’s not clever Carlivati. It’s bitter and pathetic. Grow up.

What do you think? What were the best (and worst) moments of this year’s Nurse’s Ball?