TV Review: HBO’s “The Leftovers”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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?

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Have “Grey’s Anatomy” Viewers Had Enough?

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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.

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

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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.

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“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.

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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.

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The Very Best Graphic Sex and Nudity Scenes from “Game of Thrones”

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In just seven seasons of “Game of Thrones,” there has been an incredible amount of nudity and sex – some of it merely titillating and some of it bordering on the pornographic. And these weren’t just your run-of-the-mill sex scenes, either, with many of them at least tangentially touching on some very taboo topics (incest, anyone?). So here are the very best graphic sex and nudity scenes from “Game of Thrones.”

Jaime and Cersei Lannister have sex on a tower wall (Season 1, Episode 1)

The best place to start, of course, is Season 1. If nothing else, this was the season that introduced us to the very sexy milieu of “Game of Thrones” and gave us a good idea of what was going to come over the next six seasons – like the ongoing incest theme involving Jaime and Cersei Lannister. In the first episode of Season 1, we see the twins Jaime and Cersei Lannister having sex high atop a tower wall in a little love nest. Their fun and games are spoiled, however, when little Bran Stark catches sight of them making love. That, of course, ends with Jaime walking over and throwing little Bran over the tower wall, to his almost certain death. “The things I do for love,” he tells Cersei.

Viserys and Doreah have sex in the bath (Season 1, Episode 4)

Whores and brothels play an important role in “Game of Thrones,” so it’s perhaps no surprise that some of the sexiest scenes in the show involve prostitutes doing things that, well, most people only fantasize about. And who wouldn’t want to be having a hot bath with a beautiful woman, as she gets so completely turned on by your power. Doreah rambles on and on about dragons, and how turned on she is by the power of Viserys to command them. Hot girls and dragon talk – very nicely done, “Game of Thrones.”

Daenerys learns to make love and seduce a man (Season 1, Episode 2)

Daenerys, eager to learn the deeper arts of seduction, asks the prostitute Doreah to teach her how to pleasure a man. That, of course, is something that Doreah knows very well. She proceeds to get on top of Daenerys, pinning her hands to the bed, and starts to talk about how important it is to look a man in the eyes directly. She tells Daenerys how it’s possible to “finish a man” simply with her eyes, and then tells Daenerys not to “make love like a slave.”

At which point, Daenerys suddenly plays the role of woman on top, flipping Doreah over. Just when you think things couldn’t possibly get any hotter, guess who enters? Yes, it’s Khal Drogo, completely naked. He tries to take Daenerys from behind, but she slaps away his hands. Tonight, it will be her who will be on top, riding the great Drogo.

Daenerys shows full frontal nudity in a giant fireball (Season 6, Episode 4)

Speaking of Daenerys, has their ever been a hotter, dragon-loving blonde on TV? So it’s understandable that a lot of the hottest and kinkiest scenes involve her. One of the best scenes is when Daenerys has been imprisoned by the Dothraki warlords, and they are debating whether or not to trade her for 10,000 stallions.

She’s brought in to a room lit only by torches, and all the powerfully built Dothraki men start to comment on her body. Rhalko says, “I’d like to know what a khaleesi tastes like” – at which point, it starts to look like this is going to be a mind-blowing gang rape scene, especially when one of the warriors refers to her as a “cunt.” The men, dressed in what could easily pass for bondage gear, say that they will each take turns having sex with her, then they will give her over to their horsemen, who will each have sex with her. Then, they will give her to their horses, “if there’s anything of you left.”

That’s when we learn that “fire cannot kill the dragon.” Daenerys goes berserk, setting the whole area on fire. We see the whole place burning to the ground, in a giant fireball. After a few seconds, we see her emerge, completely naked, with full frontal nudity. She’s been untouched by the fire, and all the men and women in attendance bow down deep to the ground. Wow, mind blown, right?

 

Daenerys and Daario make love (Season 5, Episode 7)

Most people point to this scene as the only real “romantic” sex scene in the entire show, so we’ll be brief here since we need to move on to the spicier sex scenes. But the gold satin sheets are a nice touch, and the tenderness that Daenerys and Daario feel for each other is almost palpable. As far as nudity, we mostly have to content ourselves with bare backs and shoulders, and the rest is left to the imagination. It’s artistic and tasteful.

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Stannis and Melisandre have sex on a table (Season 2, Episode 2)

One of the kinkiest characters on all of “Game of Thrones” is Melisandre, otherwise known as the Red Lady. In fact, British GQ has referred to her as the “Queen of Kink,” partially due to that twisted scene in Season 3 where she ties up a guy in the bedroom and proceeds to apply leeches all over his body in some kind of bizarre ritualistic sex scene.

But back to the table… Melisandre is ready to seduce Stannis by telling him “I will give you a son.” And what better place to do it than on a giant war planning table, where he has laid out all the positions of his men in battle. It looks like a giant Risk board, and she’s obviously turned on. She’s dressed in nothing more than a very sheer red robe, which she soon discards. All we see are her beautiful breasts and curvaceous figure. As you might imagine, the sight of that turns Stannis into a sex-crazed fiend. He doesn’t even wait to take off his coat or shoes, and takes her right there on the table. That steamy sex scene, of course, is what leads to the Shadow Baby.

Daenerys and Jon Snow have sex on a boat (Season 7, Episode 7)

Just about the only sex scene in what has been described as a strangely “sexless” Season 7 is the famous one involving Daenerys and Jon Snow. On YouTube, people are calling this the “boat scene,” and we seen plenty of skin and nudity here as Jon Snow and Daenerys make love. The bonus here, of course, is that we find out who Jon Snow really is during this scene. For seven seasons, we thought he was a bastard son. But here we find out his true identity: he is Aegon Targaryen, the rightful heir to the Iron Throne.

That’s pretty awesome, right? But then you have to think to yourself: Daenerys is also a Targaryen… so that would mean that a Targaryen is having sex with another Targaryen. So… Did Jon Snow just have sex with his aunt? Oh, hey, this is “Game of Thrones,” so it’s just one more controversial sex scene. At this point, who’s really counting?

Lord Baelish instructs prostitutes how to pleasure a man (Season 1, Episode 7)

This has to be one of the best brothel scenes in the entire seven seasons of “Game of Thrones,” especially because it lasts for so long, getting hotter by the minute. Lord Baelish is somewhat distracted, and we see two girls in the background. But he finally can’t take it anymore, and gives them a quick lesson on how to pleasure a man. He wants them to fake it so well that men will keep coming back to them, again and again, at the brothel. So he watches them talk dirty to each other and get it on at the same time, offering some sagely advice.

As these scenes make clear, “Game of Thrones” has delivered, season after season, a rare mix of nudity, sex and sexual violence. It’s a hot, steamy combination that’s plenty spicy – and it might just be one of the best parts of “Game of Thrones.”

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How “The Carmichael Show” Tackles Social Justice Topics

When standup comic Jerrod Carmichael received his own show on NBC back in August 2015, nobody was really sure what to expect. Just how far would he go with the type of comedic material that he covered on “The Carmichael Show? And, now nearly two years later, we know. “The Carmichael Show” has become one of the most important shows on TV today for its unflinching look at social justice topics, especially those that affect young black Americans.

And for this willingness to take on important topics, the show has received huge acclaim from both viewers and critics. The show has a 7.4/10 rating on IMDb and an 84% freshness score on Rotten Tomatoes. So what types of social justice topics has the show taken on?

Most importantly, there are the race issues that “The Carmichael Show” is helping to shine a spotlight on. In the second episode ever, “The Carmichael Show” looked at the ramifications of what happens when an unarmed black man is shot in Charlotte, North Carolina.

In many ways, this scenario was lifted almost straight from the headlines of today’s newspapers. And, as might be expected, two of the main characters of the show – Cynthia (Jerrod’s mother) and Maxine (Jerrod’s live-in girlfriend) – decide to join the young African-Americans in Charlotte who are gathering to protest. This, of course, raises the very important issue of #BlackLivesMatter, and shows how “The Carmichael Show” is on top of some very important issues.

The topic of racism, too, is one that gets plenty of attention on this NBC sitcom. In one of his standup routines, Jerrod Carmichael says, “You don’t go to Boston for the food, you go there for the enthusiastic racism.” So you know that he’s going to have a lot to say about this topic. He’s the comedian who has made jokes about Trayvon Martin, after all.

One episode particularly stands out, and that’s when Jerrod and his family are discussing slavery. Jerrod’s father, Joe, makes some truly outlandish comments, like the fact that slavery is what saved African-Americans from a terrible life in Africa. And he goes one step further, by saying that, if wasn’t for slavery, today’s Americans would be lining up to sponsor African adults for $0.98 a day, the way they do for malnourished African children.

How are we supposed to interpret these remarks? That’s where the humor of “The Carmichael Show” can be so powerful – it’s a way of having black characters utter impossibly untrue statements as a way of shining a light on the types of irresponsible statements made by white people. In the same way that white people can’t use the “N” word, they also can’t publicly say that they support slavery. So Jerrod has one of his characters say these kinds of things, to start a conversation.

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Most recently, in Season 3, “The Carmichael Show” has looked at the very controversial topic of euthanasia. In the episode, the decision is whether the Carmichael family members should help sick Grandma Francis, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease, kill herself.

This topic of euthanasia is one that shows how “The Carmichael Show” is willing to take on just about any controversial topic. This is not a black issue, as one might expect from a show with an all-black cast and a black star. Instead, the topic of euthanasia is one that impacts millions of America, especially as the country continues to “gray” with older demographics.

And, finally, consider the whole topic of transgender youth. In the show, the topic comes up in Season 3, where the Carmichael family gets into a very awkward conversation about the difference between being gay and being transgender. The general consensus seems to be that it’s Ok for a black youth to be gay, but it’s impossible in today’s social climate to be transgender.
And there are plenty of outrageous statements made by all the Carmichael family members. Both Joe and Cynthia say some crazy things. For example, Cynthia talks about how “it’s just too fast” the way society has embraced gay and now transgender youth. And then Joe chimes in, “Too fast, too furious.” That may be hilarious, but it also points to an important issue for modern society.

It’s no wonder, then, that NBC has been unsure of what to do with this show. Yes, the show has great viewer response, but the show also makes NBC a bit too uncomfortable. The network has looked for ways to make the show a little more family-friendly, and a little less awkward. When it came to renewing the show for Season 3, NBC had a hard time making up its mind.

In terms of the show’s style and message, it has been compared to “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Critics have called it a “100 percent old school sitcom.” By that, they mean that the show has the look and feel of the types of uncomfortable shows in the 1970s and early 1980s that really pushed the boundary on topics like race and racism. That’s what made “The Jeffersons” such a classic – it was about a black man who had “made it” – but it also opened up all kinds of questions of what that really meant.

Going forward, it’s likely that “The Carmichael Show” will continue to push the envelope in terms of what topics are talked about on network television. Don’t forget – this is an NBC show, not a show on cable or on Netflix. Thus, there’s a much lower threshold for just how uncomfortable the show can make people feel.

The good news, of course, is that it looks like Jerrod Carmichael has really arrived as a star. If you loved him for his standup comedy routines, you’ll love him on “The Carmichael Show.” Whether he’s talking about race, gun control, transgender teens or #BlackLivesMatter, he’s one of the freshest and most original voices on primetime TV.

The Vulture blog famously predicted that the show would become “the next Jerry Seinfeld,” and it’s easy to see why – the show is able to take everyday events and turn them into very incisive looks at modern society. We have a cast of characters that may seem strange or eccentric at times, but who are, at the core, people just like you or me. And what they have to say matters, especially when they are taking on social justice topics.

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Why Viewers Love “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee”

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The first queen of late-night TV is the comedian Samantha Bee, who has become one of the most important voices in the pop culture mainstream with her “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” on TBS. The once-a-week late-night show has become must-watch TV for anyone wanting a sharp, satirical point of view on current events, especially in the new era of Trump. Here are just a few of the reasons why viewers love “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee.”

Reason #1: She’s not afraid to go after President Donald Trump

One of the hallmarks of “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” is her irreverent and scathing criticism of the Trump administration. In 2016, her “Trump Conspiracy Theory” segment was named the #1 video clip of the year in a popular survey of the Top 10 Most Important Late Night Moments of 2016. That just gives you an idea of her willingness to question the policies of the current administration, using comedy as a tool to get people talking.

On April 29, she hosted the “Not the White House Correspondents’ Dinner,” which was both a chance to lampoon the Trump administration and to take a few swings at the mainstream media as well. The show, which was counter-programming for both the real White House correspondents’ dinner and the Trump rally taking place in Pennsylvania, include a cold open that featured a satirical press room briefing with the “real fake news.” It also included a piece on “Fox News in memoriam” and a roast of NBC’s Jeff Zucker.

That tells you all you really need to know about Samantha Bee’s ability to take a wide angle view of what’s happening in the media and political space. In the current era, the line between news and entertainment continues to blur. To connect with the young millennial viewer, as Samantha Bee clearly has, requires the ability to turn weighty, important matters into entertaining video clips.

Reason #2: She goes “full frontal” with field reports

Another major distinguishing feature of the show is the reliance on field reports, rather than just having a host sitting behind a news desk. That’s a sharp departure from what you typically see with other late night shows, which are long on sit-down interviews and sketch comedy bits, but not so much on field reports.

By getting out into the field and out of the studio, Samantha Bee can often expose the ludicrousness of certain views. For example, a feature on the “Deepest State” promised to reveal “malicious government employees” at work. What ensued was hardly anything but.

As an example of the type of field reports that Samantha Bee does is an investigation into the Veteran’s Health Administration (VHA) and the fate of female soldiers coming back from combat. Samantha Bee has also filed field reports from outside the U.S., like a popular piece she did that was filmed in Jordan.

The show does interview guests occasionally – an interview with President Barack Obama in late 2016 was a notable exception – but Samantha Bee pulls heavily on her previous work as a correspondent on the “Daily Show.” Bee’s goal is to arrive at important truths by getting out into the field.

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Reason #3: She presents a woman’s point of view on news and culture

Let’s face it – the late night TV landscape is relatively barren of female voices. Think of all the late night TV hosts – they are all men. And even when it comes to “The Daily Show,” Samantha Bee was completely passed over as a potential host for the show when Jon Stewart announced his retirement. So Samantha Bee decided to launch her own show on a different network.

It’s the type of perspective that TBS likes to tout somewhat irreverently. On the show’s website, TBS proudly hails the show as a welcome addition to “late-night’s all-male sausage fest.” While not all the segments are women-centric, there are definitely some that are focused on women (like on the segment about female soldiers). And she also enjoys dropping the “V” word as often as possible.

Reason #4: Samantha Bee focuses on stories at the edge of politics and culture

While other late night TV show hosts focus more on Hollywood and pop culture, Samantha Bee has her sights set much higher: on the current political scene. Take the example of the recent alleged hacking of the U.S. election by the Russians. That led to Samantha Bee doing a feature on Russian hacking and Russian trolls. But it wasn’t just the obvious take on the Russian hacking scandal – it also mocked the gullibility of people who would actually believe any of the clumsy attempts to change American views.

And, given all the Trump-fueled paranoia about the “Deep State” trying to take him down, Samantha Bee now features some merchandise on her website with “Deep State Alumni” emblazoned on the front. Just as someone might walk around with an Ohio State Alumni or Michigan State Alumni sweatshirt, you can now wear a Deep State Alumni sweatshirt!

Reason #5: Samantha Bee has mastered the art of creating viral content

In today’s digital world, what matters is being able to get your content shared and picked up by others. In other words – it’s important for that content to go viral. And that’s something that Samantha Bee has mastered, making it easy for her fans to package up her content and share it widely. At times, the weekly show almost feels like a pre-packaged collection of viral YouTube clips, all ready to travel out into the ether and win over new fans. And it’s exactly her brand of “full frontal” content that is best able to go viral. It’s at times shocking, other times hilarious, and still others, shockingly hilarious. But it is always pure Samantha Bee.

It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that “Full Frontal With Samantha Bee” has picked up some stellar reviews from fans and critics alike. The first season of the show, which started in February 2016, has a perfect 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That made the decision by TBS to renew the show for a second season a no-brainer. Samantha Bee is a comedic force on late-night TV, and her rapier-like wit is only getting sharper each week. She has clearly figured out a way to offer a relevant, satirical analysis of current events and the political agenda.

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Why You’ll Love “Anne With An E”

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There are certain stories that stay with us throughout life, and resonate especially clearly in adulthood. They are stories that have been placed firmly into our memories and we are unable to dislodge them. One of those stories most certainly is “Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maud Montgomery; it’s a timeless coming-of-age story of an orphan who maintains her imagination and positive outlook in the face of all adversity. For that reason alone, you’ll love “Anne” on Netflix. It brings the classic novel to life in a brand new way.

Classic and timeless

For so many young girls, Anne Shirley (played by Amybeth McNulty) is their heroine. She’s an orphan coming of age on Prince Edward Island in Canada, and learning how to make her way in the world. Along the way, she must overcome her own tragic past and deal with a host of other problems as she confronts them.

And, along the way, she has an unquenchable zest for life and a high-spirited imagination. That’s why you’ll find the cinematic updating of this novel so thrilling – you’ll be thrilled by the made up worlds that Anne has created for herself, and you’ll view each new episode as a fun adventure as Anne learns more about herself.

So many of the themes and ideas in the new Netflix series are timeless, classic and enduring. Whether it’s making sense of the first pangs of true love (in classic Anne fashion, she clumsily whacks her future lover over his head while at school), or making sense of impending womanhood (such as all the signs of female puberty), Anne is truly making her way in the world.

A more realistic updating

The one point where purists are going to come to blows is how much Netflix should have updated this series. From what we’ve seen from released scenes and the trailer, the overall look of the series will be somewhat moody and gray. This is in sharp contrast to the typical way that “Anne of Green Gables” has been adapted for TV. In those version, the series is usually very bright and cheery, in order to convey the optimism of Anne.

So fans of the 1908 book are already having online debates about just how realistic this series should be, especially in its treatment of Anne’s past life. She is an orphan after all, and throughout history, orphans have been cast as bringers of woes and troubles. But dwelling too much on this side of “Anne” might make the series too downbeat. It should be positive and full of imaginative storytelling power. So we’ll have to see how the new Netflix series deals with this issue.

The good news is that there are still plenty of scenes of dreamy romanticism. For example, there’s one particularly thrilling and uplifting scene where Anne is standing on a cliff, with her hair blowing in the wind, and staring out at the sea.

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A real Canadian gem

It should be pointed out that, since this was a Canadian book, the series is premiering first on Canadian TV (CBC) before coming to Netflix. And all of the scenes were shot in Canada – that includes some gorgeous scenery from Prince Edward Island and Southern Ontario. There’s beautiful scenery of Green Gables, of course, which leads Anne to exuberantly declare, “It’s so easy to love Green Gables, isn’t it?”

This is a far superior remake of a former 1985 TV version of the show, which many point to as the definitive version of “Anne” until now. The Netflix version (known as “Anne With an E”) has been adapted by Emmy Award-winning writer and producer Moira Walley-Beckett and boasts some really first-rate dramatic talent, including Amybeth McNulty (as Anne), Geraldine James (as Marilla Cuthbert), R.H. Thomson (as Matthew Cuthbert), Lucas Jade Zimmerman (as Gilbert Blythe), Dalila Bela (as Diana Barry) and Corinne Koslo (as Rachel Lynde).

Eternal childhood friendship

In childhood, it always seems like there is someone who is destined to be our friend and supporter forever, and in this case, it’s Anne and Diana. In the Netflix trailer, we see them pledging their eternal love and devotion to each other, and that’s something that makes us feel good inside. This story may be more than a century old, but it still resonates with today’s girls.

Anne takes on all adversity as she approaches womanhood

In many ways, Anne is fearless. She can take on any challenge, even those that might appear impossible to others. One example is where her new schoolmates start to bully her once they find out that she’s an orphan. One girl says to Anne, “I won’t eat next to dirty trash.”

And, in the very first episode of the show, Anne must deal with the fact that her adopting family originally wanted a boy, not a girl. This is a farm, after all, and a young boy who can grow up to take care of things is always more valued than a girl. At one point, Anne actually tries to run away, so you can imagine how hurt and rejected she initially feels.

The wonderful Green Gables

As the final episode (Episode 7) of the series makes clear, the farm is the symbol of friendship and love. It is something that unites generations of family, as well as something that brings friends closer together. So we can’t wait to see all the scenes of early twentieth-century farm life. That lifestyle may seem quaint today, but all of us can identify with the enduring themes of rural life. It’s the reason why people today are enamored of spending the day at the local farmer’s market. The farm stands for hard work, dedication and a certain purity of soul. And these become enduring values that we associate with the Cuthbert family, including Anne.

Once these 7 episodes of “Anne” hit Netflix on May 12, it’s easy to see how people are going to be binge-watching them to catch up with their favorite red-headed heroine. Anne has been a favorite and a role model for generations of girls, and now they will have a chance to see her in a Netflix series. It will help to bring their dreams and imagination to life. And thus the cycle of a timeless classic will be continually renewed, as the next generation of young girls learns about Anne of Green Gables.

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