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It’s Been a Long Time…

 

Annalise threatening me to never leave again

 …shouldn’t have left you without some reviews to guide you. I haven’t traversed this landscape in a minute, but for good reason. I recently required a freelance position writing for an actual site. Bylines other than my personal blogs and it’s been great. But I miss the original space here and intend to produce content on a more frequent basis. Let’s quickly run back spring’s televised goodness. 

A fury of new comedies and dramas caught my attention; but a select few remained on my radar. ABC received my most time. New comedies blackish and Fresh Off The Boat shook the table showcasing more non-black actors as well as quality humor. How to Get Away With Murder reignited TGIT as both Greys and Scandal struggled through their respective seasons. The legal thriller topped its predecessors’ ratings ensuring Thursday’s still belong to Shonda. Spring’s midsesson replacement, American Crime, succeeded critically despite some ratings woes. But the mini-series garnered a second season. 

ABC’s biggest surprise came in the action-packed Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD. The expansion of the cinematic Marvel universe crossovered in the televised series garnering some of the best superhero drama this year. It’s two-hour finale opened yet another Marvel franchise fans will eventually explore on the silver screen. 

Speaking of superheroes, Fox delved into the foray with pre-Batman Gotham. While it won renewal, it’s a far representation of the caped crusader. It never consistently delivered the Batman universe with a balance of comic noir and 21st century realism. Hopefully like SHIELD it can become more focused in its next season. In addition to Fox, The CW continued to champion two tour-de-force comic series: it’s ratings cash cow Arrow; and DC Comics newcomer, The Flash. Both cultivated enough viewers for the network to spawn 2016’s Legends of Tomorrow.

This season’s mega hit was Fox’s surprise hip-hop act Empire. The musical family soap captured America by storm and the ratings by the throat. Each hour long episode secured more viewership making it the second highest success story of 2015. So great it’s planned second season for 2016 was transferred to this fall, and totaling a full order of 18 episodes.

Apart from regular cable Netlifx garnered much of my time due to Francis and Claire’s occupation of the White House in House of Cards.The third season may have been the least thrilling, but it etched a perfect storm for season 4. Along with the political mudslinging in fictional DC, Marve began its superhero arc with Hell’s Kitchen’s Daredevil. Aligning the blind crusader with a grittier origin tale, it received rave reviews setting a high precedent for the pending series to follow.

While I await the return of these epic shows in the fall, summer’s series are already rolling out. I’m binging now to witness NBC’s Hannibal, and am eagerly awaiting the third run of Orange Is the New Black. I also need to experiencec The 100, which seemed to be a breakout hit. Whatever else happens, I’ll make sure to bring it hear so you can read along.

Ramblings: Let’s Do the Time Warp ‘Empire’!

What if Fox’s Ratings Smash was Set in the Past…

Fox’s new hit hip-hop drama Empire is the latest ratings powerhouse on television. Two weeks in and it’s already surpassed expectations, coming only second to ABC’sHow to Get Away With Murder’s. It’s Fox’s biggest new show debut in three years and has captivated TVs and Twitter timelines on Wednesday nights. While the success of this mostly-black cast show is brilliant to see, there remains a disparaging air.

Of course there are apparent flaws for any new show. Writing and plot development takes a minute to take shape. But something beneath critics’ apparent love/hate relationship with the soapy-melodramatic peaks and valleys irks me personally. The show is intended to be set in the now, with mentions of Trayvon Martin and a ridiculous Dora the Explorer reference. Yet, everything about the show – from the fashion to the themes – feel dated. It’s as if Lee Daniels cropped moments of black music history from the last five decades, scrapbooked his findings on a vision board/Pinterest, and viola – Empire.

Cookie is released from a twenty-year jail stint, making her year of lockup roughly round 1995. However she leaves prison dressed like Jackie Washington in “Coco’s Revenge.” Cousin Bunkie is threaded like a Fat Boy, Lucious looks like Big Red’s doo wop assistant and Becky gives 60s mod tease. I don’t know whether to do the Nae Nae, Cabbage patch, or the mashed potatoes. In addition to the setting, the strongest narrative – Jamal’s battle for sexual liberation – feels foreign. Homophobia in hip hop and society in general has not been cured, but the rumbles of artists in just the last few years make the staunch oppression from Lucious hard to believe.

This time conundrum sparked an epiphany in my mind: what if Empire was set in the past. Rather than 2015 set the scene in the early 80s. Disco is dead and Reaganomics is beginning to shape the decline of the inner city. A collective generation is aching to be heard, and the only way to express the shifts it’s experiencing is hip-hop. Empire could be the story of the birth of hip-hop.

Remember NBC’s American Dreams? The drama reimagined the 1960s through the eyes of a typical family. Music was just as important a character as the cast. Now picture Lucious Lyon ditching his disco bell bottoms and taking a chance on this new sound from the boroughs of Brooklyn and the Bronx. The possibilities are endless. Of course the family drama would be mostly original, but music and social commentary could be factual. Russell Simmons could executive produce for historical accuracy. Artists could appear as hip hop legends, much like they did on Dreams. That’s a story specific to the black experience that has never been told in that nature.

While I’m sure Empire will continue bringing in good ratings, and possibly accolades for Taraji P. Henson, I can’t help but feel we settled for something good when it could be great. Only time will tell.

RTishB: Fox’s “Empire” Brings the Pain

(L-R) Andre, Cookie, Luscious, Jamal and Hakeem make up the Lyons.

For months we heard about Fox’s impending Lee Daniels drama about a music mogul and his family jewels. Another prime time major network showcasing an all black cast not on ABC? Yes please. Despite it airing the same time as the beloved blackish, Empire’s good reviews and successfully drawn-out campaign (original music by Timbaland) drew viewers near for the hour-long premiere.  Read More

RTishB | “Sara” Arrow

The second episode of Arrow is weighed down by the sudden death of Sara Lance. The grieving process affects everyone differently, jilting her sister Laurel the most. Arrangements are cut short however when a mysterious archer arrives.

A masked assassin racking up kills leads Oliver and Laurel to believe he’s responsible for Sara’s murder. Drier research lists Simon Lecroix aka Komodo as the assailant. He and Oliver’s first showdown, a motor-
crossed battle of arrows, leaves Oliver wounded and reeling. As he fails, Laurel takes upon herself to act.

An officer of the district attorney’s office, Laurel pulls strings to vehemently question a survivor of Komodo’s aim. She gets him to spill how he was connected to the other two victims. Illegal activity involving the oil company Ameritek is all she’s warranted, as Komodo finishes the job.

Staying one step ahead, research reveals his next target – a board member of Ameritek – is appearing at Ray Palmer’s donation gala. As Palmer schmoozes for funds as the new owner of Queen Consolidated, Komodo abruptly interrupts. Roy and Oliver tag team the skilled killer, eventually pinning him down for questioning. Laurel arrives gun in hand, ready to avenge Sara’s murder. But Komodo denies even being in Starling City when Sara was killed. Oliver believes him, leaving the identity of Sara’s killer
unknown.

The team decides to quietly bury Sara in her first grave, keeping her death a secret amongst them. Laurel’s attempts to tell her father fail, fearing the news would further damage his already fragile heart. And Oliver’s only other living relative, sister Thea, is still absent altogether. Feeling guilty and vulnerable, his next goal is to find Thea and bring her home. This task is previewed to be easier said than done.

RTishB | AHSFS: “Massacres and Matinees”

AHS: Freak Show proceeded another 90 minutes last night. Our nontraditional family expanded, and loss, as Michael Chiklis’ Dell Toledo and Angela Bassett’s Desriee Dupree arrived. The episode also further fleshed out the deranged mind of Dandy Mott.

With Jupiter on alert by four murders and two missing persons, authorities’ aimed at the circus. Jimmy comes clean about the dead officer and reassures Elsa he was protecting the family. His deed ultimately
has unforeseen and fatal consequences.

Amidst this issue the wind blows in Dell and Desriee. Dell is a Strongman exuding outrageous strength and a shorter temper. He also has a sorted history with Jimmy’s mother, Ethel. Desiree is his hermaphrodite wife with three breasts. Elsa welcomes them as a business investment, but soon regrets her decision.

Away from the Closet of Curiosity, Dandy Mott’s freak flag is raised full mast. self-harming sociopath with tendencies of violence, he’s enraged when denied membership to the circus. Seeking help Gloria Mott brings her boy a new toy – a clown. Dandy and Twisty abruptly hit it off as Dandy becomes his apprentice. The two joyously debunk Twisty’s prisoners’ escape foreshadowing a ungodly friendship.

Tensions at the circus peak after a failed diner sit-in pit Dell against Jimmy. Dell’s idea spotlighting the twins over Elsa makes matters worse. Elsa and Jimmy devise a plan to rid of their new guest. The police return with a warrant to search the premises and find the dead officer’s badge. Unfortunately, it’s not where Jimmy left it. Planting the evidence in Dell’s trailer, the plan backfires as Dell in turn places the badge on adolescent bird boy Meep. Once carted to jail, Meep becomes the circus’ first casualty, blood
on Jimmy Darling’s hands.

Elsa seething green with envy of Dot’s newfound fame targets her feeble-minded appendage Bette. She’s betting a Cain and Abel situation arises.

RTishB: Sleepy is Just Good As IchAbbie Stop the Pied Piper

Last night’s Sleepy Hollow ventured into more historical fantasy noir linking the Pied Piper to the Revolutionary War. In an episode which felt more like filler from season one, Ichabod and Abbie seek to destroy a deep-rooted curse.

A child goes missing and clues point to an ancient evil. After scavenging the woods for clues, a bone-made flute is found. Ichabod recants the tale of a mysterious mercenary hired to murder a troop of redcoats. In the still of night, a melodic tune lured the soldiers from their barracks. Once relieved of defenses, the mercenary struck swiftly. However, the assassin was betrayed by his employer, and in death cast a curse on the family name – Lancaster.

For centuries Lancaster children were abducted, all lured by the sounds of a flute. If a child was saved however, the curse sought to murder any remaining Lancaster children. They rescue Sara, but ultimately decide the Piper has to be executed.

In the end Abbie and Crane together defeat the Piper and assure the end of the Lancaster curse. With no Piper and no flute, they can momentarily take a breather. However, little do they know of the evil that’s about to be unleashed.

We see the return of Nick Hawley in this episode as he aids in Sara’s rescue. But the money-monger refuses to assist any further, only helping to score a price for the rare flute.  He turns the now damaged artifact in for money. Unbeknownst to him the buyer of the flute is Henry.

Meanwhile Frank Irving discovers what Ichabod spoke of Henry is true. He is to not be trusted. In an attempt to end their partnership, Frank discovers he unknowingly singed his soul to Henry. A part of his diabolical plan, Frank has no other choice than to serve willingly or risk his family’s lives.

RTishB: Gotham introduces Arkham in Best Episode Yet

After three episodes hovering around potential Gotham finally struck producing its best episode yet. While prior showings had been entertaining, something actually menacing had been missing. The unwavering war preluded in trailers and teasers arrived in keen fashion.

The narrative shifts with Gordon and Cobblepot’s agreement. Left with no other option for an upper hand against crime, Jim accepts Cobblepot as an ear to the streets. As long as he is believed to be dead, he’s in no one’s way. This also aids Oswald in his ultimate plan.

This understanding comes in handy as someone begins picking off crooked councilmen. The targets are in bed with Falcone, a warning to loosen his stock in the enterprising of Arkham. The 26 blocks of land is being renovated in the name of the Wayne’s wish to aid Gotham’s mentally ill. Unfortunately the philanthropic cause is a pawn in corrupt politics.

While Maroni and Falcone battle, both Fish Mooney and Cobblepot calculate behind the scenes. Mooney hires a beautiful weapon in young lass named Liza. And Cobblepot, as the one witness to a violent robbery at Maroni’s restaurant, is promoted to the joint’s manager for his loyalty.

Consequently thinking Falcone is behind the robbery, Maroni’s hired help targets the mayor. A tip leads Gordon to the official’s house, warning him of impending danger. As they rush to leave, danger answers the door. A battle ensues as the muscle has Gordon cornered when Bullock arrives. With a gun to his back, the assassin lets Gordon go, but not before attempting to finish the job. As he aims to kill the mayor, Jim and Harvey riddle him with bullets.

Last night’s episode finally took off its training wheels and settled into introducing Gotham to the villainous power struggle that ignites a war. It was the perfect mix of grit and comic noir.

Fall TV Roundup : the Good, Bad and Canceled.

As the summer heat dwindles to a warm chill, bodies find solace in front of the television. Couches are filling as the fall TV season is in mid swing. Here at #nsontv, I’m picking my front-runners, runners-up and those who may struggle to get over the hurdle. Let’s start with the newbies.

How To Get Away With Murder

The house that Shonda Rhimes built delivers another Twitterlicious series in the Viola Davis led legal thriller. Davis is Annalise Keating, a criminal law professor whose teaching methods may or may not have lead her students to commit murder. The old-fashioned whodunit in the fashion of Matlock and Murder She Wrote gets a modern spin. It’s sexy, salacious and smart. Davis is playing a role she’s always coveted –  a complicated woman.

Red Band Society 

I haven’t been able to keep up with this heartfelt dramedy, but I enjoyed what I’ve seen. Starring Octavia Spencer Red Band follows the patients of a children’s hospital through the eyes of a comatose patient. Imagine Glee without the singing meeting Grey’s Anatomy with a dash of The Breakfast Club. It’s touching and funny but I just hope the stories tend to go beyond the usual teenage high school fodder.

black-ish

ABC seeks to win with the Modern Family lead in for Anthony Anderson and Laurence Fishburne’s comedy of cultural identity. Black-ish views an American family living the quintessential dream. With suburban success aside, the father (Anderson) can’t help but feel pieces of them, their blackness, are being lost for those substantial gains. The comedy is funny and tackles a touchy topic exclusive to the African American community. However I think it can overcome the hump of being foreign to a wider audience. Its also an issue many minorities encounter.

 Gotham 

One of the most-anticipated shows of the season is the heavyweight prequel tale of Batman’s Gotham City. Rather than be another superhero retelling, the show focuses on the early years of Detective James Gordon and the various individuals who would become heinous nemeses of the Dark Knight. While the idea gathered fans all over the world, the execution has been somewhat shaky out the gate. It’s rather simple and has difficulty of choosing to be campy or gritty. Hopefully it finds its footing because Arrow started better in its first season.

Now the returns

Sleepy Hollow

Ichabod Crane and Abbie Mills are back to fight the powers of evil in Fox’s fantasy adventure. Season one concluded on a tense cliffhanger: Crane buried alive, Abbie trapped in purgatory; and, Henry – the Horsemen of War – conjuring a plan to finally unleash Moloch into our world. The second season promises new characters as our dynamic duo meet a new captain, an explorer from Mills’ past and a new foe in the Horsemen of Death.

Scandal

Season 4 of ABC’s hit began last Thursday and picked up where it left off. Olivia Pope’s hiatus from D.C. was abruptly cut short as the death of a gladiator brings her back to Pope and Associates. Three months have changed everyone. The Grant’s continue to mourn their son’s murder differently. Abby is the White Hosue’s press secretary. Huck works at a hard drive store. And Quinn is just Quinn. The departure of Columbus Short’s Harrison is written as a death, and unites our team once again. Things feel like old for a glance, but I’m sure a new dilemma will challenge our colorful cast. While I enjoy the show for it’s “OMG” moments, the series is ticking on a short life span. Hopefully it wraps up this season. Unlike it’s hour-prior counterpart.

Grey’s Anatomy

In it’s 11th season, the doctors and residents of Seattle Grace are once again being pushed to their limits. Meredith meets another new sibling in Maggie, Dr. Weber’s lovechild with Mere’s mother. She’s also experiencing the void of Yang and the on-again/off-again feud with Derek. Elsewhere new challenges arise: Bailey and Karev are battling for Yang’s seat on the board. Arizona and Callie are seeking another child. April and Avery are too cute its annoying. At this point viewers are hoping the show ends in the spring. Grey’s magic got lost a few seasons back, somewhere between Meredith’s near-drowning and the plane crash that killed everything. Hopefully Rhimes senses an endgame soon.

Those are just a few of the shows my viewership. Next week actually adds another slew of subjects including The CW’s The Flash and Arrow; and, FX’s fourth installment of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story.

RTishB | BAPs v. B.A.P.S.

The cast of BAPs (l-r) Kristen, Gina, can’t remember, Anisha’s friend, Anisha, Anisha’s boo, Riccarda I believe, and Jason.

I was utterly surprised to learn Lifetime had added another reality show to their lineup. Casually catching up on the addictive dance series Bring It, I saw the Blackstreet-tuned advert for BAPs. Immediately I imagined Neicey and Mickey parading around Rodeo Drive to Inner City’s “Good Life.” I felt a hint of nostalgia as well as apprehension. What exactly did Lifetime know about Robert Townsend’s urban gem? And then I was reassured – absolutely nothing.

These Black American Princesses or Princes (Yeah. Right) are le creme de le creme of black suburbia. Think if BET’s Baldwin Hills took a detour to the streets of St. Louis, minus the Hollywood connections. These folks are “Cosby” black. They would have rubbed ELBOWs with Regine’s uppity wives’s council and sought out internships from Greg Bougie. (If you don’t know those references, you may be a BAP) As a matter of fact, the way the show’s subjects describe themselves, I’d be more inclined to think they wouldn’t have watched B.A.P.S.

Our guide to the world of the rich and melanin-induced is Anisha, a recent divorcee and mother of little Jean Baptiste. While a little aloof and dramatic, she seems to be kindhearted and genuine. Through Anisha we are introduced to the rest of the cast: her best male friend; the other guy Jason; the independently-successful Gina; the spicy Riccarda; and, finally, Anisha’s frenemy, Kristen. The entire episode focuses on Anisha and Kristen’s diffused friendship because of a squabble two years prior.  Allegedly they both were talking behind each other’s back (and the re-enactments at the salon sorta proved that (?)) and Kristen dealt Anisha a low blow denouncing her as a bad mother. Anisha retorted with cursing Kristen’s womb barren.

I think we all have been watching  women squabble on TV long enough to know motherhood and children are the two no-nos in reality fighting, next to talking ill of Kandi’s mother and calling men “bitches.” Fast forward to present day, Anisha shares joint custody with her ex-husband and Kristen has had a child, so neither of those statements rang true. Yet the grudge is being held like a Japanese horror film. And it’s quite exhausting. Their friends force reconciliation at numerous gatherings to only beget an explosive bout of words and shade. Even in the most heated discourse, in the middle of a posh kitchen, the zenith of the argument results in Anisha actually spitting in Kristen’s face. The last time someone tossed a loogie in the name of reality television, Pumpkin was almost smashed by New York.

Hands weren’t thrown. A weave wasn’t snatched. A cuticle wasn’t scratched. Are they too cultured to reduce themselves to the normal coming of the hands; or, they just ain’t about that life. I’m going to choose the latter. Being it was only the first episode, the show has room to grow. Especially once it introduces new players to the scene. And I understand it’s direction of showcasing a different blackness than viewers are used to digesting. I just hope it gives us what we all want and expect to a certain extent: drama and a reason to care. Or else they should have taken their cameras to East St. Louis.

Coon In | “Hotwives” Gets a Bravo from Me

Viewers have become enraptured with the many highs and plentiful more lows of the women that star in the various ‘housewives’ reality shows. As daily soaps lost their thrills, the affairs from NYC to OC became the new daytime/primetime water cooler fervor. Despite the success, it’s evident to see the unreality in these extreme situations, and what better way to celebrate this grand rise in popular culture than to turn it into a parody i.e. “Weird Al” Yankovic them.

Hulu exclusively picked up The Hotwives of Orlando this summer, a hilarious satire of the reality titans. Grabbing quips from all the whimsical wives’ series – mainly Bravo’s biggest cash cows – the show depicts the trivial happenings of Florida’s elite imbeciles. Every caricature is highlighted to the 100th power: the Long Island-accented bad chick; the ethnically-loud nicknamed token; the friend striving for a peach next season; even Bravo’s Andy Cohen gets ripped at the end of each episode. Which usually consists of cat fights igniting at the mere drop of a wildly-tossed “calm down.”

The show has a great cast including Happy Endings alum Casey Wilson. She plays Tawny, a svelte gold-digging socialite who wastes her time contributing to charities to remind her why she’s better than her cast mates.  If you like watching the real wives or not, Hotwives is a slam dunk in hilarity. Peep the trailer below.