Movie Review: “Murder on the Orient Express”

murder-on-the-orient-express

Even if you’ve already read Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel and watched the 1974 film from Sidney Lumet, you’ll want to watch Kenneth Branagh’s $55 million remake of “Murder on the Orient Express.” This new film, released on November 10, features an amazing, all-star cast as well as new and interesting takes on this classic murder mystery. Clearly, Kenneth Branagh, who both directs and plays the role of legendary Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, is at the top of his game with “Murder on the Orient Express.”

“Murder on the Orient Express” features a world-class ensemble cast

Kenneth Branagh has assembled a veritable who’s who from Hollywood for this movie. There’s Johnny Depp, who plays the scandalous American businessman Samuel Ratchett, who is murdered while on the train. There’s Michelle Pfeiffer, who plays a very flamboyant Mrs. Hubbard. There’s Judi Dench, who plays the Princess Dragomiroff. There’s Penelope Cruz, who plays Pilar Estravados. And that’s just the beginning – there’s also Daisey Ridley (as the ingénue Mary Debenham), Josh Gad (as a whisky-drinking personal assistant to Ratchett), and Willem Dafoe (who plays a slightly off-kilter Austrian professor).

Thus, one good reason to go see this film is simply to see this all-star cast in action. Johnny Depp deserves special mention here, primarily because the drama in “Murder on the Orient Express” revolves around his mysterious murder. Clues seem to point everywhere – and nowhere – at the same time. And Depp, always up for eccentric and entertaining character roles, pulls off his Samuel Ratchett character with great dexterity. In this film, he is sporting scars and a thug-like accent, and it’s clear that his character has led a very checkered life. But is it enough to murder him? That’s for Hercule Poirot to figure out.

Of course, the inspiration for having such a talented ensemble cast comes from Sidney Lumet’s 1974 film. Lumet gathered together a similar set of Hollywood luminaries – Albert Finney, Ingrid Bergman, Vanessa Redgrave, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery – to star in Agatha Christie’s acclaimed murder mystery. What makes this casting decision work, of course, is that nearly all the action takes place within the tight quarters of the train itself. Having all of these stars in such proximity while on screen is a real moviegoer’s delight.

We see a new kind of Hercule Poirot in “Murder on the Orient Express”

For Agatha Christie fans, the character of Hercule Poirot has always been somewhat troublesome. His character is filled with so many tics and pet phrases that it’s hard to pull off this role on the big screen without making his character appear campy. And this is where Kenneth Branagh really succeeds – his character of Hercule Poirot is a new kind of Poirot that hasn’t been seen yet.

Yes, Poirot is still filled with odd little mannerisms and pet phrases, but the focus here is much more on his aversion to disorder. For Poirot, solving a mystery is all about bringing order to the world. And the film illustrates this is in the very beginning, when Poirot inadvertently steps into a pile of manure. For anyone else, the next step would be to furiously wash off all the manure and perhaps change into a new pair of trousers for good measure. But Poirot takes a different approach – he proceeds to step with his other foot right into the manure. Why? As he tells the audience, it’s all about bringing order to the world. If the left shoe is soiled, then the right shoe must be as well.

This insight into the mentality of Poirot is essential to the film – and not just an excuse to show the strange mannerisms of this beloved Belgian detective. When he is solving the murder mystery, it is this sense of “order” that dictates his thought process and how he eventually decides to deal with the case.

“Murder on the Orient Express” updates the classic murder mystery

Some critics have noted that this remake has nothing new to say that the first three adaptations of the book – including the 1974 film and the 2001 TV film – didn’t already cover. But that’s not entirely true. If anything, Branagh’s film provides a welcome update to the classic murder mystery.

Here’s just one example: in earlier versions of the story, Poirot assembles all the train passengers into a dining car on the train to tell them his final conclusion. In this film version, though, Poirot leads all the passengers out of the train and into a dark railroad tunnel.

murder-on-the-orient-express-movie

“Murder on the Orient Express” brilliantly integrates CGI effects

This new film also is noteworthy for the way it is filmed. First and foremost, it means providing some stunning visuals. Some critics, in fact, have gone so far as to describe the cinematography of the film as “opulent.” Part of this, no doubt, is the result of shooting the film with a 65mm camera. This is a camera usually reserved for epic, sweeping films – think “Lawrence of Arabia – but here the camera is deftly used to shoot the surrounding landscape of the moving train. It all adds up to making this film feel much “bigger” than one might assume. In short, this is not just a “train movie” – it feels much more cinematic and sweeping.

“Murder on the Orient Express” will keep you guessing until the very end

The hallmark of any great murder mystery, of course, is the ability to keep the suspense going until the very end. Usually, there are plenty of plot twists and assumptions laid bare along the way. And that’s why this new film from Kenneth Branagh is so extraordinary – even when you know the ending to the book – you’re kept guessing until the very end. You keep asking yourself: “Yes, but what if Branagh decides to mix things up a bit?”

In short, this is an excellent film: five stars out of five. It boasts an incredible, all-star ensemble cast, a talented director with a real vision for bringing classic stories to life, and first-rate cinematography. This is a film that will appeal to more than just Agatha Christie fans. In fact, it is quite likely that this film will help to create a whole new generation of Agatha Christie fans!

murder-johnny-depp

How the National Anthem Controversy Is Reshaping the World of Sports TV

NFL

The national anthem controversy is reshaping the world of sports TV for one simple reason: it has muddied the waters between the political world and the sports world. A hot-button issue like the national anthem controversy forced people to choose sides – and it’s now clear that sports TV networks are unwilling to take a principled stand if it means taking a direct hit to their pocketbooks.

As long as cable TV networks like ESPN were literally minting money, they could afford to take sides. But now, at a time when subscribers are down and cable TV viewers are cutting the cord forever, sports TV networks are doing everything in their power to hold on to all and any viewers. In short, ESPN and other sports networks are willing to compromise on the type of content they offer and how they present it, all in the name of ratings and subscribers.

The national anthem controversy goes from sideshow to national debate topic

Starting in 2016, the national anthem controversy – sparked almost entirely by the decision by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick to take a knee during the national anthem instead of standing – had been bubbling over. A handful of other athletes took the similar step of kneeling instead of standing during sporting events, but it was mostly a sidelight – not the main course. These acts of defiance received attention from networks like ESPN, but these networks could take a neutral stance on whether it was good or bad for professional sports.

However, when President Donald Trump weighed in on the matter, encouraging NFL owners to bench any players not standing for the national anthem during the season, the issue took on a life of its own. Suddenly, it was all over the news. It was front-page news, and people had to take sides. Sports TV networks began building up the drama of any sporting event they televised by pondering aloud, “Who’s going to kneel this week?” And people started debating what the act of kneeling really meant: Was it a sign of solidarity, a sign of protest, or a sign of disrespect?

NFL-national anthem

The Jemele Hill controversy: ESPN vs. the White House

To understand how deeply the national anthem controversy has started to reshape the world of sports TV, Exhibit A has to be the Jemele Hill controversy, involving the African-American host of “SC6,” the 6pm version of Sports Center featuring her and Michael Smith. The two are paid to have strong opinions about the world of sports – but not necessarily to have strong opinions about the world of politics and culture.

Jemele Hill pushed the limits of how far an on-air host could go by publicly tweeting that President Trump was a “white supremacist” who surrounded himself with other “white supremacists.” That, of course, did not go over well with the White House, with President Trump’s press team suggesting that such a comment was a “fireable offense” for ESPN. The strong insinuation was that ESPN should simply fire Jemele Hill.

As if that did not go far enough, Jemele Hill continued to push against the boundary of the permissible. Her next act was to go after Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones after he suggested that any Cowboys player not standing for the national anthem would be benched.

Jemele Hill punched right back, suggesting that outraged fans should start going after Jones’s advertisers – the way you’re going to hit hard against a member of the Top 1% of society is by going after their pocketbooks. Forced to clarify her tweets, Jemele Hill admitted that, yes, she was calling for a boycott to put pressure on Jones. In other words, she wanted consumers to boycott any company doing business with the Cowboys.

That, of course, set off the equivalent of a neutron bomb in ESPN HQ. ESPN has lucrative deals with professional sports leagues – including a $15.2 billion (billion!) deal to broadcast NFL games – and there was absolutely no way that the network could let its on-air talent get away with calling for a boycott via social media. ESPN promptly suspended her for 2 weeks. Moreover, ESPN went on record, saying that the network was “all about sports” and that it was not a “political organization.”

The national anthem controversy and the financial condition of cable TV

So why did ESPN take these extraordinary steps? The first thing you have to know is that the biggest name in sports TV has been hemorrhaging viewers for years. From 2015 to 2017, the number of ESPN subscribers has dropped 7.4%, to below the 88 million mark. In the world of cable TV, that’s a precipitous drop. Things got so bad, in fact, that the parent company of ESPN, Walt Disney, started looking for ways to cut costs at the vaunted sports network. That led to a much-publicized purge at ESPN, during which the network let go of expensive on-air and production talent, all in the name of protecting the bottom line.

So, at the very moment that the national anthem controversy was reaching its apex, ESPN and other sports TV networks were facing a dilemma: they were bleeding subscribers, and could little afford any new controversy that would result in even more losses. And they certainly didn’t want to wade into any Twitter war involving President Trump and the White House. ESPN suddenly had a very strong incentive to stop the politicization of sports.

Owners vs. players: Time for cable sports TV networks to take sides?

Even more awkwardly, the big sports networks (and especially ESPN) have always been first and foremost about the sports personalities – and not the owners. In the world that existed pre-Trump, ESPN actually defended the right of players to take the knee. Popular ESPN sports host Stephen A. Smith, for example, has largely been given carte blanche to say whatever he wanted about the Colin Kaepernick controversy. He publicly came out against the NFL owners, suggesting (or, at least, insinuating) that they were colluding to prevent Kaepernick from ever getting another job in the NFL. Every time a star QB went down with an injury, there was Stephen A. Smith, suggesting that Kaepernick might be a very nice fit.

But those days may be coming to a close. The last thing these cable sports networks want is to be portrayed as liberal and biased. Why? It has to do with the dollars involved. Is the NFL really going to sign another broadcast deal with ESPN if it constantly gets beaten up on the air, day after day? Are sports viewers really going to stick around if they sense that ESPN is pushing a non-patriotic agenda on them?

When it comes to the national anthem controversy, there are a lot of gray issues. There’s nothing black and white about it – except the players involved. What this huge controversy has done is reshape the media landscape, setting up clear “Do not trespass” signs around certain hot-button issues. At a time when people are cutting the cord, and a time when a single tweet can set off a media firestorm that reaches the White House, these are very interesting times indeed for sports TV broadcasters.

nfl-colin-kaepernick

Chris Hemsworth Shines in “Thor: Ragnarok”

thor

After a long and much-anticipated wait, “Thor: Ragnarok” is finally arriving in movie cinemas on November 3. This third installment in the “Thor” franchise is bigger and better than ever, and a key reason for that is Chris Hemsworth in the role of the mythical Thor. In this $180 million blockbuster from Marvel, Chris Hemsworth really shines.

“Thor: Ragnarok” is the funniest and most enjoyable Marvel film yet

The very best Marvel films are known for their superhero characters, the fantastic plot lines, and their wonderful CGI special effects. But one thing that they are not known for are their humor. In short, Marvel films have seemed to follow a very defined template, and a key part of that template has never been humor. That’s what makes “Thor: Ragnarok” so much fun and so enjoyable –it’s perhaps the funniest and most enjoyable Marvel film yet.

Critic after critic has praised “Thor: Ragnarok” as a “breath of fresh air in the MCU [Marvel Cinematic Universe]” and as “the funniest Marvel film so far by no small margin.” And a big reason for that is the comic prowess of Chris Hemsworth. If you are only thinking of him as a huge, hunky Thor figure, then you’re in for a real treat. It is Hemsworth who gets some of the funniest lines of the entire movie.

For example, there is one scene on the planet Sakaar, where the imprisoned Thor must fight to the death with a rival in a gladiatorial combat arena. When he finds out that his rival will be the Hulk, his longtime friend, he bursts out laughing with a huge “Yessss!” and delivers one of the funniest lines of the whole movie, “We know each other… we’re old friends from work.”

Chris Hemsworth shines in “Thor: Ragnarok” by giving us a fresh, new Thor

This is the third “Thor” film (and the fifth film in which the character Thor has appeared), so we’ve gotten pretty used to what to expect from the character. This character has flowing blond locks, a buff body, and a magical hammer. So Chris Hemsworth has decided to shake things up for this film – he’s cut off his hair, changed his costume and, oh yes, he’s lost the magical hammer that made him so powerful.

In interviews, Chris Hemsworth has commented on the new-look Thor. In collaboration with director Taika Waititi, Hemsworth decided that Thor needed to be freshened up for movie audiences. On “Good Morning America,” for example, he told a live studio audience that he wanted to “change things up.” And, oh boy, does it work for “Thor: Ragnarok.” This is a sequel and a franchise film, but it feels fresh and new. No wonder people are talking about Chris Hemsworth and his shining role in this new Marvel film.

Chris Hemsworth shines as the leader of a team trying to save Asgard from the Goddess of Death

“Thor: Ragnarok” is more than just a blockbuster film filled with lots of great action sequences – such as the gladiatorial “Contest of Champions” on the planet Sakaar – it’s also a quest movie in which a band of heroes – Thor, Loki, the Hulk and Valkyrie – must do battle with Hela, the Goddess of Death (played by Cate Blanchett).

And it’s here, with all the interactions between this group of heroes, that Chris Hemsworth as Thor really shines. First of all, there is a friendly, brotherly-like competition with his stepbrother Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston). There is real humor in there. And there is also Thor’s friendship with the Hulk (played by Mark Ruffalo), which allows Chris Hemsworth to become a lovable, hunky character who’s not-so-bright but charming. A generation ago, he’s what movie reviewers would have referred to as a “lovable lunk.”

thor-ragnarok

Chris Hemsworth has some of the best action scenes in a bold and outrageous action movie

What Marvel fans want, of course, is plenty of action and glorious CGI special effects, and it’s here that “Thor: Ragnarok” really delivers. There are scenes in which Thor wields his fabulous hammer, and others in which he wields equally awe-inspiring swords. There are plenty of action scenes of him flying through the air, and doing everything in his power to save his home planet Asgard from almost certain extinction.

The one action scene, by far, that is going to delight fans is the gladiator scene involving Chris Hemsworth (as Thor) and Mark Ruffalo (as the Hulk). This is big-time, over-the-top Marvel fun, and it’s all presided over by the Grandmaster (played by Jeff Goldblum)

And there are plenty more elements of this action quest movie that need to be mentioned – like Hela the Goddess of Death and her unbelievable powers of destruction. And don’t’ forget about Valkyrie (played by Tessa Thompson) or the Hulk – all by themselves, they are scene-stealers

Chris Hemsworth is the biggest star in an all-star cast

As you might have noticed by now, Chris Hemsworth is hardly alone as a big-name Hollywood movie star in this film. In addition, you have Mark Ruffalo, Cate Blanchett, Tessa Thompson, Tom Hiddleston, and Jeff Goldblum. And yet, despite the presence of all these Hollywood luminaries, the one star who shines brightest is Chris Hemsworth.

Whether he is traveling to the Nine Realms in search of the Infinity Stones, trapped on the planet Sakaar, or saving his home planet Asgard from near-certain destruction, Chris Hemsworth really shines. Before this movie, it appeared that the “Thor” movie franchise might be running its’ course, but now, a completely new narrative is emerging: “Thor” is one of the most dynamic franchises in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

In short, we need more Thor, and we definitely need more Chris Hemsworth (preferably with his shirt off). Marvel took a big risk by bringing on the New Zealand director Taika Waititi, until now previously known mostly for small indie films and comedies, but it looks like this gamble really paid off. He’s injected some real humor into this film franchise, and Chris Hemsworth is a big reason why: he really shines in “Thor: Ragnarok.”

thor-loki

TV Review: HBO’s “The Leftovers”

the-leftovers-HBO

HBO’s “The Leftovers,” which recently completed its third and final season in June 2017, continually challenged fans to figure out the true meaning of the show, especially when each new episode seemed to challenge what we thought we already knew. Even when you didn’t actually know what was happening in the show, though, it was clear that you were watching great TV. As one TV critic suggested, HBO’s “The Leftovers” will go down as a “masterpiece” and “one of the all-time greats.”

HBO’s “The Leftovers” was a grand attempt to make sense of this world

The reason why “The Leftovers” was so challenging to watch – and why so many dedicated fans have created “explainer” YouTube videos trying to sort out all the clues and signs – is because the HBO show was really an attempt to make sense of this world that we live in. Why did “The Sudden Departure” take place – and how should humanity try to make sense of its aftermath?

In the show, viewers are seemingly given two very stark choices: either you are on the side of science and rationalism, or you are on the side of faith and mysticism. The cult-like Guilty Remnant, of course, was the belief in faith and mysticism that many adopted to help make sense of why 140 million people died with no apparent reason. It all had to be part of a grand design by some higher being, right?

If you think about it, this is the same choice that has been faced by humanity throughout civilization – do we trust our scientists and rational thought, or do we trust our prophets and organized religion? Somehow, we need to decide on how and why this world was created, and what are the rules for its existence. So you either believe in the Big Bang and the birth of the cosmos developing according to scientific principles, or you believe that the Earth was created by a higher being, with man being made in the image of that creator.

For that reason, so many fans have speculated that Kevin Garvey, Jr. – the protagonist at the center of “The Leftovers” – might be a symbol for the messiah that people are waiting for. Is he a Christ-like figure? Was he meant to die in order to prevent a further apocalypse? So many questions like that have been asked by fans and ardent viewers of this show.

the-leftovers

HBO’s “The Leftovers” kept challenging our notions of “normalcy”

In the wake of the Sudden Departure, in which 140 million people disappeared without a trace, the goal of humanity was to restore some sort of normalcy in the world. And, yet, again and again, the show’s writers kept us searching for that elusive normalcy. Things continued to happen for inexplicable reasons.

The show reminded us that everyone wants to feel “in control” of their own life. Normalcy, then, can be defined as a condition in which we feel like we’re in control, that the Earth is not tottering away in some random direction that we can’t grasp.

And, again, “The Leftovers” resonates so strongly with viewers because, often, the world seems to be losing its sense of normalcy, and that’s when people struggle the most. During the Cold War, for example, people accepted as “normalcy” the fact that two great powers could destroy themselves overnight in a matter of minutes with nuclear weapons – and that it was perfectly normal to keep building more and more of those weapons. Our new normalcy is that an extremist radical might walk down any street in the West and try to blow us up.

In “The Leftovers,” one of the major themes seems to be that “you can lose anyone at any time.” Again and again, we are reminded of that in the show. Over the course of three seasons, it is this sense of loss that continues to stay in our minds and imaginations. We’re shown that characters can’t trust their emotions, and they can’t even trust the way their senses perceive the world around them. So they want an explanation, or something to hold on to, even if the option is not a good one. That is why people embrace false prophets – they are simply looking for an answer.

Along the way, “The Leftovers” made us question the difference between “death” and “departure.” A death gives you a sense of finality, a way to get closure. A departure, on the other hand, is not about finality because there is an expectation of a return. For every “departures” lounge, there is an “arrivals” lounge. And so, by naming the global cataclysm “The Sudden Departure,” the characters in the show told us that they were unwilling to accept the loss of their loved ones as an act of finality. There was a chance that they would return.

HBO’s “The Leftovers” was a brilliant rumination on religion and cults

It’s hard not to bring religion into the picture when analyzing “The Leftovers.” The cult-like Guilty Remnant is surely one of the most memorable creations on TV. In fact, the Guilty Remnant (or just “The GR” for true fans) was such an indelible part of the show that when HBO threatened to terminate the show, fans dressed up in all white just like the members of the cult, created signs similar to the ones created by the GR, and marched on HBO headquarters in New York City.

And there were so many great scenes that made us re-think everything we thought we knew about organized religion and cults. The two, in many ways, are the same. And we see that in “The Leftovers” – the same people today who might join a church and attend service on Sunday are also the same people who might panic and join the Guilty Remnant.

And the show did not waver in taking on concepts like purgatory, resurrection, the after life, or the feeling that someone must eventually suffer for all of our sins on this Earth. It made us realize that part of what makes us human is the fact that we must grope with “loss” in our lives.

**

Through it all, HBO’s “The Leftovers” gave us some brilliant flashbacks, many of the completely without dialogue – like the flashback in Season 3 of the impending apocalypse in the year 1844. The show gave us some completely unexplainable signs, symbols and clues – and asked us to make sense of it all. Were the flashing red traffic signals some kind of sign sent from above – or just a random, unexplained occurrence?

And here’s the thing – even after watching all three seasons, and then re-watching them again, it might just be the case that your analysis of what it all means will change again. That’s the mark of a great show, and one that has elements of true profundity. It’s clear that HBO’s “The Leftovers” was one of the best TV shows ever.

the-leftovers-trailer

Categories TV

Why Viewers Love “The Good Place”

the-good-place-kristen-bell

With every new TV season, there seems to be one new show that’s so fresh, so original and so thought-provoking that it immediately wins over audiences. In 2016, that show was NBC’s “The Good Place,” a fantasy-comedy series involving four characters trying to figure things out in a version of the afterlife. And now in 2017, Season 2 of “The Good Place” is shaping up to be just as good – if not better – than Season 1. Here’s why viewers love “The Good Place.”

“The Good Place” is a startlingly inventive TV show

The fundamental premise of “The Good Place” is that four human characters are stuck in a form of the afterlife that is modeled on a pseudo-utopia (and which looks just like suburban California). What these characters find out at the end of Season 1 is that they have actually been tricked into thinking that they are in “The Good Place,” when they are actually in “The Bad Place.” To put that into religious terms, they thought they were in heaven, but wake up to find out that they’re in hell.

“The Bad Place,” though, doesn’t look at all like what you’d expect. There is no fire, no brimstone, and no tormented souls, as you might expect after spending a Sunday in church. Instead, there’s a sarcastic, self-serving demon named Michael (played by Ted Danson) who has created “The Good Place” as an even more fiendish version of “The Bad Place.” He keeps working on versions of it, to get it just right.

You see, what he has figured out is that what is hellish about our existence on earth is “other people.” And he has figured out exactly the right combination of “souls” who will make each other’s lives miserable. Thus, he has figured out that the key to making the life of Eleanor Shellstrop (played by Kristen Bell) miserable is by pairing her with her eternal soulmate, a Nigerian ethics professor named Chidi (played by William Jackson Harper) who loves to talk philosophy and toss around the names of great thinkers. In contrast, Eleanor describes herself as “an Arizona dirt bag.”

“The Good Place” features a wonderfully talented cast led by Kristen Bell

The star of the show, of course, is Kristen Bell. She’s a hard-drinking, foul-mouthed gal who winds up in “The Good Place” by mistake. It turns out that someone else with the same name was supposed to get her place, but she was selected instead. In Season 1, she then makes a vow to stay forever in this (apparent) utopia.

But it is not just Kristen Bell who is wonderful on “The Good Place.” Her eternal soulmate, Chidi Anagonye (played by William Jackson Harper), is also amazing. What is so fascinating about the show are all the levels involved – in many episodes, the two appear to be fighting and feuding. But then in another, they appear to hook up and have a relationship together. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s happening, because the demon Michael (played by Ted Danson) keeps re-booting “The Good Place” to get things just right.

If there’s mega-star power in “The Good Place,” it’s Ted Danson, who plays the bowtie-wearing demon. In Season 1, he was amazing. But in Season 2, he’s really taking things to a whole new level. Now that the audience is in on the big plot twist from Season 1, he’s able to take on a new, more deceitful role. He’s basically an evil scam artist masquerading as a basically well-intentioned good guy. Which is why the four humans in his sector of the afterlife fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

“The Good Place” is intellectually challenging and thought-provoking

Can a 30-minute primetime sitcom really be thought-provoking? NBC’s “The Good Place” proves that it is possible. Just the whole premise of the show will stretch your mind. This premise is actually inspired by a famous French play, “No Exit,” by Jean-Paul Sartre. In that play, three characters find themselves trapped together in a room. They get on each other’s nerves, and by the end of the play, the verdict is clear: “Hell is other people.” You’ll recognize this basic concept immediately in “The Good Place.”

And there’s one more thing – the creator of this show, Michael Schur, is also the creative genius behind “Parks and Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” He has said in an interview that he was always inspired by the show “Lost,” and was looking to create a similar type of show, with plenty of cliffhangers, plot twists and meta-level storytelling (stories inside stories inside stories).

the-good-place

Thus, Season 1 basically followed the template created by “Lost” – it featured cliffhangers in every episode, it included a major plot twist in the finale of Season 1 (what has been called “one of TV’s best finale twists ever”), and it includes plenty of clever scriptwriting that some critics have interpreted as being a form of meta-storytelling. In short, the show’s creators are having a second, private conversation with the show’s fans, at the same time as a casual TV watcher has no idea of what’s really going on.

Here’s just one example: at the beginning of Season 2, the demon Michael explains the rules of the road to his group of helpers: “We’re keeping everything from version one (of “The Good Place”) that made them miserable, but adding a whole bunch more that’s new.” You can read this on two levels – as a way of explaining what’s happening on the show, or as a form of coded communication with fans (“we’re going to make Season 2 even better, just wait”).

“The Good Place” never crosses the line with religion

As the show’s creators have pointed out repeatedly, this show is about ethical behavior, not religious dogma or religious salvation. The show is non-denominational, and does not explicitly take on religion. And that’s been a key to the show’s success: it’s more about ethics and doing the right thing, and less about trying to be preachy.

Thus, “The Good Place” has quickly become one of the most original and inventive shows on TV. It features an engaging cast, it has plenty of twists and cliffhangers, and it’s fun to watch on several different levels. Those are all the reasons why viewers love “The Good Place.”

the-good-place-nbc

Why “Young Sheldon” Will Never Measure Up to “Big Bang Theory”

young-sheldon-iain-armitage

It’s fashionable among TV critics and viewers to immediately hail any new prequel or sequel as superior to the original. As a result, it was almost predictable that after just a single episode, TV critics were rushing to proclaim “Young Sheldon” as better than “Big Bang Theory,” an all-time great CBS sitcom. But here are all the reasons why “Young Sheldon” will never measure up to “The Big Bang Theory.”

Reason #1: “Young Sheldon” is a spinoff with nothing new to say

Yes, “Young Sheldon” has been touted as an “origin story.” And, yes, it promises to shed light on how the older Sheldon Cooper grew up to be who he is. But let’s face it, “Young Sheldon” is a spinoff with nothing new to say. It is, to be quite cynical, just a cash grab by the folks at CBS.

Even TV critics appear to be baffled by what exactly “Young Sheldon” is trying to be. It’s not a true sitcom (more of that later), and it’s not a family drama, either. What we have is a show based around the antics of a 9-year-old kid (Iain Armitage, playing the young Sheldon Cooper) and a voice over by Jim Parsons (who plays the older Sheldon Cooper in “Big Bang Theory”). But is this really capable of becoming a mega, 10-season hit like “Big Bang Theory”? At some point, the cuteness wears off.

Reason #2: “Young Sheldon” isn’t even the best single-camera comedy on TV

The one thing that’s important to note is that “Young Sheldon” has the look and feel of a made-for-TV movie, and less of a true network sitcom. It all has to do with camera angles and how it’s filmed. “Big Bang Theory” was a classic multi-camera sitcom filmed live in front of a studio audience. There is laughter from the audience, and the show has the quality and feel of a play or staged drama.

Contrast that to “Young Sheldon,” which employs a single-camera format. This might not sound like a big deal to non-cinema buffs, but it has a huge impact on how you process the show. The pacing of the show is different, and the look and feel is different. It has much more of the look of a film. And that was intentional – show creator Chuck Lorre said it was because he didn’t want to subject his young child stars to the potential trauma of a live studio taping.

But, as one TV critic has pointed out, that results in “Young Sheldon” looking like “an episode of ‘One Life To Live’ that’s trying to be funny.” Yikes! That’s not exactly going to make “Young Sheldon” one of the all-time best shows, is it? Moreover, as other TV critics have pointed out, there are at least two other single-camera shows that are superior to “Young Sheldon” – “The Goldbergs” (on ABC) and “The Middle” (also on ABC). In other words, what chance does “Young Sheldon” ever have of measuring up to “Big Bang Theory” if it’s not even the best comedy of its type currently on TV?

Reason #3: “Young Sheldon” falls flat when it tries to joke about science

Let’s face it – the reason why everyone loved “Big Bang Theory” was because of the nerdy characters and the jokes involving science. Remember the scene where Sheldon and Leonard are trying to push a piece of furniture up a flight of stairs, and are making jokes about physics and gravity? And the nerdiness of Sheldon and his friends was what made the show work – it was amusing to see how they dealt with every day concerns like dating, relationships and being an adult.

With “Young Sheldon,” though, we lose all that. The funniest jokes thus far have involved a toy train set and Newtonian physics. But there’s nothing really funny about a 9-year-old kid with punch lines involving physics – it just sounds like a lot of forced humor from a really overworked scriptwriting team and a cute kid memorizing his lines. Really, how hard did they have to work to set up a joke involving trains and physics?

young-sheldon-show

Even worse, little Iain Armitage has admitted in an interview that he’s never really watched any episodes of “Big Bang Theory.” WTF? When asked which of the episodes was his favorite, he couldn’t even name one. Later, he claimed that he enjoyed hearing Jim Parsons (as the older Sheldon Cooper) use the word “Bazinga!” a lot. So we’re asking a young kid who has never watched the show in his life to really give us the true Sheldon Cooper?

Yes, Iain Armitage is fabulously cute and wears a bowtie quite nicely. But this is really a show for a certain type of audience that likes “cute family comedies.” It’s not for fans of “Big Bang Theory.” It might win over a new type of audience, but it’s hard to see hard-core fans of “Big Bang Theory” hanging around once they see how CBS has essentially pulled a bait-and-switch with them.

Reason #4: “Little Sheldon” lacks the freshness and inventiveness of “Big Bang Theory”

Ten years ago, if you had asked anyone whether a TV sitcom featuring nerdy Cal Tech scientists and no proven star was ever going to be a hit, how many people would have raised their hands? All “Big Bang Theory” really had going for it at the time was a fresh, inventive premise and the track record of Chuck Lorre. Other shows might had a lone scientific genius, or some nerdy character. But an entire show built around nerds and nerd jokes? That was fresh and new.

In contrast, “Young Sheldon” is much more in the vein of “The Wonder Years.” It’s been done before. It’s just a nice family comedy. Seen there, done that. It might get some nice ratings for a few years, but it’s unlikely to become a decade-long comedic favorite.

As a result, “Young Sheldon” will never measure up to “Big Bang Theory.” It’s really just a spinoff that CBS is hoping to mine for ratings gold. (They ordered a full series after just one episode!) Yes, the iconic photo of a cute kid wearing a bowtie has been a big hit, but will the show really turn out to be a big hit as well? Long-time fans of “Big Bang Theory” know the answer to that.

young-sheldon-cooper

Categories TV

What Amazon Gets Right With “Brad’s Status”

brads-status

It’s easy to mistake “Brad’s Status” as just another movie about a white, privileged male having a mid-life crisis. But this new film from Amazon Studios is far more than that – indie filmmaker Mike White has transformed a deceptively simple story – a father takes his son on a tour of East Coast colleges and begins to question every aspect of his own life – and transforms it into the story of an entire generation. Here’s what Amazon gets right with “Brad’s Status.”

Amazon absolutely nails Ben Stiller in the role of the neurotic Brad Sloan

Quick, name a 50-something male actor known for playing a neurotic navel-gazer or a lovable loser. You’d probably name Ben Stiller, and that’s why the choice of Ben Stiller to play the neurotic, navel-gazing Brad Sloan is perfect. In many ways, Brad Sloan seems to have made it – he’s happily married, he lives in California, he enjoys his job, and his 17-year-old son Troy (played by Austin Abrams) just might end up getting accepted by Harvard.

But when he starts comparing himself to others, that’s where the problems start. He’s essentially going through a mid-life crisis, all while being forced to endure the (perceived) humiliation that four of his college classmates are all fabulously wealthy and successful. Everything seems to come easy to these four (one is a hedge funder, one is a Hollywood film mogul, one is a political commentator and writer, and one is a tech entrepreneur) – but nothing comes easy for Brad. And that leads to him moping around for much of the film, trying to make sense of his life.

Amazon sets up a great father-son dynamic to drive the narrative forward

The focal point of the movie is the father-son tour of East Coast colleges, including a visit to Harvard. And it’s here that the movie really shines. Ben Stiller and Austin Abrams turn in remarkable performances, and their interplay is what moves this film forward. In many ways, Ben Stiller’s character begins to view his son as a mirror into his own life. And that, in turn, creates all kinds of complications – like when he finds himself falling for one of Troy’s new female friends. It also forces him to reassess how successful his life was, and how he should even begin to measure success.

In many ways, it’s hard not to think of another Amazon Studios movie – “Manchester By the Sea,” starring Casey Affleck as a washed-up loser tormented by deep memories of his past. Casey Affleck’s character only begins to put his life together when he becomes the guardian of his deceased brother’s teenage son, who also happens to have an attractive girlfriend as well as an affinity for music. And, in many ways, “Manchester By the Sea” was a similar kind of uncomfortable film in that it made you dig into the meaning of life and see that there are no easy answers.

“Brad’s Status” explores each generation’s fixation on status

Some film reviewers have rolled their eyeballs at the premise of this movie. They have noted that it focuses too much on “white male entitlement” and “white privilege.” After all, it’s hard to feel too sorry for someone who has a nice home, a nice job, and a loving family.

But there’s something very profound going on in America right now. It’s no longer expected that your kids will lead a better life than you did. It’s no longer a given that you will have a job for life, a nice home and plenty of career success. The world is much more complex right now – and it’s easy to see how the discontent felt throughout middle America is starting to seep its way to the two Coasts, where Brad Sloan and his wonderful friends hang out. For every tech boom, there’s a tech bust. For every bull market rally, there’s a profoundly shattering market crash.

Until recently, people who hadn’t “made it” (as Brad’s friends certainly have) kept it to themselves. Brad is continually humiliated when his friends can’t even remember what he does – they just call it his “little thing” – and leave it at that. For more than two decades, Brad has been able to keep his status to himself. He wasn’t forced to define it, or even think about it.

But in today’s digital era, your status follows you around constantly. As a result, “Brad’s Status” perfectly gets the current zeitgeist, where “status” is something that we broadcast every day on Facebook with status updates. What’s your status? Why aren’t your photos getting enough likes? You see, status is all around us – and it’s there for all to see.

As a result, it’s wrong to see “Brad’s Status” as merely a focus on the status of the older generation – it’s also a referendum of sorts on the current, millennial (and post-millennial) generation, If guys like Brad Sloan are having mid-life crises right now, just imagine what’s going to happen to their kids.

Amazon’s “Brad’s Status” shows us the complexities of real life

The reason why viewers will love “Brad’s Status” is because it will force them to re-assess and think about their own lives. It can be uncomfortable, and more than one film has referred to this film as “squirmy.” Yes, you’ll squirm in your seat as you watch it because, most likely, it will cut a little too close to your own life.

The film will make you consider: Are you living out your adult dreams through your children? How exactly are you dealing with the everyday envy you experience? For Brad, even boarding an airplane can become an issue, when he sees that others are enjoying first-class status and he’s not. The same is true when he goes to an upscale restaurant and is denied a seat.

In many ways, Brad Sloan is just like you or me, whether you choose to accept that fact. It’s easy to dismiss Brad Sloan as an egocentric, narcissistic, neurotic white guy – but all of us have to deal with the “unfairness” of life around us. Why are some promoted and others not? Why do some people get to live in huge McMansions and others don’t? Why are there still class divisions in America?

**

Brad’s Status” is just the latest evidence that Amazon is making its mark on Hollywood. In many ways, this film is cut from the same cloth as “Manchester By the Sea.” It has the feel of an indie film, but boasts an A-list actor like Ben Stiller. So don’t be surprised if people are talking about this film long after it has disappeared from the box office.

brads-status-ben-affleck

4 Things You Need To Know About the New “Star Trek: Discovery” Universe

star-trek

Even the casual “Star Trek” fan is well aware of the assorted heroes, villains and alien species that inhabit the Star Trek universe. Vulcans and Klingons are now very much a part of our everyday vocabulary, and even the mission statement of the Star Trek Federation – to boldly go where no one has gone before – is something that has become a part of the pop culture mainstream. But here comes “Star Trek: Discovery” and it already looks like it is going to change some of what we thought we know about this Star Trek universe.

Klingons are a lot more complicated than you ever imagined

Let’s start with the Klingons, since they appear throughout the first two episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery.” In fact, the pilot begins with a Klingon point of view. We see them as different kind of antagonist. If, in earlier iterations of the Star Trek series, they were uniformly presented as evil, war-like and obsessed with values like honor and tradition, here we see a much more nuanced type of Klingon.

In many ways, it starts with how they look, which some critics have described as “Afro-futurist.” Others have described them as having a “gothic” look that wouldn’t be out of place on “Game of Thrones.” They definitely come with a new look, everything from their faces (both their nostrils and mouths) to the armor they wear (which looks much more impressive, filled with spikes). And the language they speak is also different. It used to sound much more Slavic, but now it has the rhythm and cadence of a tribal language.

Moreover, we see their battle against the Federation as being motivated by much more than just martial aggression or avarice. It has become almost a holy war, in which they are avenging the loss of one of their spiritual leaders. We still do not want to root for the Klingons, but we also realize that they might be more complex as a species than we ever gave them credit for. It’s hard not to think of them as a modern-day version of Islamic extremists, only set in outer space.

The Federation is not exactly a shining beacon of democracy and freedom

One linchpin of every Star Trek film and TV show is that the Federation is some kind of monolithic entity dedicated to bringing peace and understanding to the universe. It is a force of optimism and hope, and full of the wonder of mankind exploring the cosmos.

But “Star Trek: Discovery” seems to ground the Federation in much more of a contemporary ethos. From this perspective, the aims and motivation of the Federation might not be as pure of heart as we would like. And it is not monolithic – it is filled with tension, conflict and doubt. And it is also polyglot, no longer offering a single view of mankind and what its goals should be as it explores the universe.

You can think of this as the difference between a Star Trek for the Cold War world and a Star Trek of the post-9/11 world. In the Cold War world, America was a dominant superpower, bringing peace and prosperity to the world. It was very easy to discern the power of good and the power of evil.

However, in the post-9/11 world, the whole element of Islamic radicalism, combined with the rise of multi-polar world and emerging markets, has changed the equation. In many ways, “Star Trek: Discovery” is grounded in contemporary geopolitics, showing us how all of the fundamental tensions and conflicts in today’s society will inform, ultimately, how we explore the universe.

The Vulcans are no longer a purely rational species capable of perfect decision-making

Perhaps one of the most fascinating and most compelling characters ever to appear on Star Trek was Dr. Spock, the legendary Vulcan. He came to symbolize pure scientific rationalism. He was able to think and reason about emotion, and with limited exceptions, never let these emotions influence his decision-making.

But now it looks like “Star Trek: Discovery” is willing to challenge some of what we thought we knew about Vulcans. For example, consider the “Vulcan hello.” This term quickly becomes shorthand for acting very emotionally and irrationally when meeting someone – as in the Vulcans opening fire on the Klingons before ever trying to establish rational, diplomatic contact with them. It is offered up as a symbol of the hypocrisy found within the Federation.

star-trek-klingons

And there’s another angle here, and that’s the role of First Officer Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green), who herself has a Vulcan past, being raised on the planet Vulcan by Spock’s father Sarek. Part of the two-part pilot episode, in fact, has shown us her struggling with this Vulcan background. You might expect her to be calm, rational and un-emotional when making decisions (especially since she attended the Vulcan Science Academy) – but nothing could be further from the truth. This is clearly a new take on the Vulcans.

“Star Trek: Discovery” shows us a brand new alien species

One of the new characters in “Star Trek: Discovery” is the Discovery’s chief science officer, Lt. Saru. As a Kelpien, he has hoof-like feet and is also biologically capable of sensing impending death. We are told that the Kelpiens are largely raised like cattle on their home planet, and that they are essentially a race that’s been doomed to become food for a more dominant predator species. There’s a whole plotline in the pilot episode, in which Saru senses the impending death and destruction brought on by the Klingons. He also reveals the tragic back story of the Kelpiens.

**

And that’s not all – this new “Star Trek: Discovery” offers plenty of new characters (including the first openly gay character), plenty of high-tech Hollywood special effects, and plenty of fascinating back stories to bring us up-to-date with the first ever version of “Star Trek,” which appeared in the 1960s. It’s futuristic and yet retro at the same time, and that means there’s a good chance that “Star Trek: Discovery” is going to absolutely blow your mind if you’re a Trekkie.

star-trek-klingons

Categories TV

Have “Grey’s Anatomy” Viewers Had Enough?

greys-anatomy

It’s hard to believe, but we’re getting ready for the 14th season of the primetime medical soap opera “Grey’s Anatomy,” which will officially launch on September 28. The show is still going strong after all these years, and still ranks as the #1 ABC primetime drama. Show creator Shonda Rimes and star Ellen Pompeo (who plays Dr. Meredith Grey) have said repeatedly that there are no plans to wind down the series, but there are starting to be signs that the “Grey’s Anatomy” viewers have had enough.

“Grey’s Anatomy” is an anomaly in a Netflix world

Keep in mind, “Grey’s Anatomy” premiered way back in 2005, before the whole idea of binge-watching shows on Netflix became popular. Back then, primetime TV – and especially primetime TV on a Thursday night – was just about the biggest thing that could happen to a show. 14 years ago, it was perfectly normal for a big primetime drama to order 24 episodes and pace them out over a full season.

Flash forward to 2017, though, and the rules of the game have changed. Netflix has made “the binge” a huge part of the cultural mainstream. Shows are meant to be consumed over a lazy weekend, not as “must see TV” during the week. The newest shows coming out of Netflix these days are all 8-, 10- and 12-episode shows. That makes “Grey’s Anatomy” an anomaly in a Netflix world.

Of course, ardent fans of “Grey’s Anatomy” would debate this. Fair enough. There have been plenty of stories documenting how “Grey’s Anatomy” has gotten a second wind after being picked up for streaming by Netflix. The demographics of the show had started to skew older, but the embrace of the show by younger female fans on Netflix has been a godsend. “Grey’s Anatomy” is now the #2 series among viewers 18-to-34, suggesting that the “Netflix effect” has been very real.

In short, viewers who might have been too young to watch the show back in 2005 have heard all the hype and buzz about the show and decided to become fans. With past seasons available on Netflix, it was relatively easy to get “caught up.” Thus, even if “Grey’s Anatomy” had been losing viewers due to general show fatigue, it was more than making up for it by gaining new Netflix viewers. But that leads us to another very important point…

Show creator Shonda Rimes just signed a major new deal with Netflix

See? It is impossible to ignore Netflix in today’s TV world. And that’s exactly what happened in August 2017, when Netflix locked up “Grey’s Anatomy” creator Shonda Rimes in an exclusive multi-year contract. According to the terms of the deal, Shonda Rimes has agreed that any new shows she creates will be for Netflix as a Netflix Original series. Not only that, but also Shonda Rimes has said in recent interviews that she really likes the idea of creating a 10-episode show, and not a full 24-episode show.

Watch out, here come the “Grey’s Anatomy” spin-offs

The surest signal that a show might have reached its “sell by” date is when the spin-offs start coming. It means that viewers are getting tired of seeing all the old characters and all the old settings over and over again. They want something new. And that’s exactly what’s coming in 2018, with a “Grey’s Anatomy” spin-off featuring Seattle firefighters. The show (“Firefighters”) is already attracting buzz, and could be a telling sign that “Grey’s Anatomy” viewers have had enough.

But wait! Haven’t we seen this happen before? Back in 2007, there was a spin-off of “Grey’s Anatomy” called “Private Practice” that ran surprisingly strong from 2007 to 2013. Yes, but that was before actors started to defect from the show. Some of the big-name departures from “Grey’s Anatomy” have included Sandra Oh, who left after 10 seasons, and Patrick Dempsey, who was killed off after 11 seasons.

From what we know, even the show’s actors think that the current version of “Grey’s Anatomy” is getting too “dreary.” Yes, that was the word dropped in an interview about “Grey’s Anatomy” by one of the show’s actors. The idea is that the show is starting to get too focused on death and loss.

From this perspective, the finale of Season 13 – when Seattle Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital got partially destroyed in an explosion – is going to serve as the perfect way to “refresh” the set so that things look younger and lighter. There is a growing realization that the only people who are going to be watching the show very soon are going to be older people with their own medical problems and situations, and that’s something “Grey’s Anatomy” needs to avoid.

“Why walk away from a hit?”

There are two schools of thought when it comes to pop culture (or for just about anything, for that matter). One is that you should keep things going as long as possible, as long as things are working. The other is that you should always try to go out on top.

Think of it from the perspective of professional sports – yes, it’s nice to see the graying 40-year-old hang on for one last season in baseball, but it’s also sad to see the deterioration in skills. From that perspective, it’s better to hang up the spikes when you’ve just had a stellar, MVP season. That’s the way fans want to remember you – not as some injury-riddled part-time player riding out a long legacy.

The same thing is true of “Grey’s Anatomy.” This show is still a primetime juggernaut. It’s still #1 in so many ways. But all the telltale signs are there that things might be falling apart. There are the big star departures (god, we still miss Katherine Heigl!), the upcoming spin-offs, and the changing TV landscape created by Netflix.

Star actress Ellen Pompeo has publicly questioned, “Why walk away from a hit?” Well, the answer is simple: it’s better to go out on top. 14 years is an incredible run, and huge props go to show creator Shonda Rimes for creating one of the best shows ever to appear on primetime TV. But “Grey’s Anatomy” viewers are starting to disappear, and some of them have simply had enough.

greys-anatomy-season-14

Categories TV

Why We Don’t Need Another “Fuller House” Season

fuller-house-john-stamos

The first thing that you need to know about the upcoming Season 3 of “Fuller House” on Netflix is that it has almost been 30 years since the premiere of the original “Full House” on ABC. Netflix, of course, is turning this 30-year anniversary into a cause for celebration, even going so far as to time the release of Season 3 for exactly the right anniversary date (September 22). But here’s why we don’t need another “Fuller House” season…

“Fuller House” is trying too hard to press the nostalgia button

Of course, everyone loves a small dose of nostalgia. It makes us remember the past fondly, and it helps us create a sense of context and structure around our lives. But Season 2 of “Fuller House” was just crammed too full of early 1990s nostalgia, including a cameo appearance by New Kids On the Bock.

And the word on the entertainment blogs online is that Season 3 is also going to dig deep into Netflix’s bag of nostalgia tricks. There will be more cameo appearances, more meta-references and more people talking about those Olsen Twins. But, really, wasn’t two full seasons of the show enough?

“Fuller House” is no longer as relevant as it once was

When “Full House” premiered in 1987, the concept for the show was unique: out of all the shows on television, this was the only one that focused on men and parenting. And so it was very unique to build a show around Bob Saget, Dave Coulier and John Stamos: “Full House” brought out the comedy of a household of men trying to raise kids. You could argue that “Full House” led to a whole new genre of comedies involving men trying their hands at parenting.

“Fuller House” just doesn’t seem as fresh or new – it swings the focus back to women and parenting. Yes, it touches on the difficulties of raising kids as single moms, but that automatically turns “Fuller House” into just a standard melodrama you could find elsewhere on primetime TV. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how Netflix even gave the green light to Season 3 unless…

Netflix wants us to over-binge on TV with “Fuller House”

There’s something rewarding about binge-watching a TV show in a single weekend, but “Fuller House” is taking this to extremes. Is Netflix trying to turn us into a couch potato with this show? Consider that Season 1 had 13 episodes. Season 2 had 13 episodes. OK, so far, so good. But now comes Season 3 and Netflix has commissioned 18 episodes for the season. Eighteen! “Fuller House” is getting even fuller!

And, making matters even worse, according to actress Candace Cameron Bure (who plays D.J. Tanner-Fuller), the entire season will be dedicated to one entire theme: “summer fun.” This strains credulity. Other episodes have tackled the holidays and vacations, but is it really possible to build 18 seasons around summer fun?

There’s something strange going on here – especially if you consider that the show will debut in the fall and extend into the winter. Unless – and this is just speculation here – Netflix is taking the long view on this and planning to build up a vast archive of Netflix Originals that people can binge on during the summer when there’s nothing really new on TV. From this perspective, Season 3 of “Fuller House” is not really about developing programming for Fall 2017 – it’s all about developing programming for Summer 2018!

“Fuller House” makes us depressed

If you think about the original “Full House,” it was a fresh take on comedy and it made you laugh. But there’s something about “Fuller House” that makes us sad. After 30 years, people are still living in the same childhood home they grew up in? A generation of single dads gave rise to a generation of single moms? And so the cycle repeats itself. (Wipes away tear)

Let’s face it, we all appreciated the big stars of “Full House” when they were young and spry. We still remember John Stamos when he was a sex symbol on the cover of magazines like “People” and “Us.” Now, nobody reads magazines, and it makes us depressed to think how old Stamos must be these days. (He’s 54, if you’re keeping track.) Lori Loughlin is 53. Bob Saget is 61. Heck, even Mary-Kate Olsen is 31! Unfortunately – and it really pains us to even think of this – but John Stamos is old enough to start appearing in Viagra commercials these days.

fuller-house

“Fuller House” makes us realize how Netflix Originals are just like regular TV

Just 24 months ago, it seems like every time Netflix created a Netflix Original, it was time for celebration. The vaunted Netflix content studio always figured out a way to create a show that was far superior to anything you’d find on network TV! Shows like “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards” were truly game-changers, and unlike anything you’d find on ABC.

But now we’ve reached a point where Netflix is spending so much on “originals” that it is starting to resemble the broadcast TV networks. Instead of leading us forward into the “golden age” of TV, Netflix is creating the type of television that people in their “golden years” (age 55+) will enjoy watching on the couch.

“Fuller House” was only intended to be one season, not three!

The exasperating thing about Netflix is that they don’t release ratings for their shows, so nobody really knows how various shows are doing at any point in time. You have to keep your ear close to the ground of social media to get a sense of the ratings. After Season 1, Netflix was so pleased with the performance of the show that it commissioned a Season 2.

But here’s where things get interesting, because the rumors are out there that Season 2 completely bombed. According to data from Symphony Advanced Media, total viewers from Season 1 to Season 2 were down a spectacular 60%! Of course, Netflix won’t admit it, but it now looks Season 3 is hobbling to the finish line. We’re going to get 9 episodes to binge on in September and then another 9 seasons later (date TBD). So it all boils down to the following: Netflix could really have a mess on its hands if Season 3 doesn’t turn it around quickly in September. That second set of 9 episodes could be dead-on-arrival.

**

For all of the reasons listed above, we don’t need another “Fuller House” season. Thank you, Netflix, it was great to relive the nostalgia in Season 1. And it was nice to binge-watch Season 2. But we were already getting “full” – and now Season 3 is shaping up to be the “fullest” yet. That might not be a good thing after all.

fuller-house-bob-saget

Categories TV