Tuesday, May 12, 2015

TV Rampage

TV Rampage - Television Reviews

A critical look at some recent television shows.

Justified has been must-see television for six straight seasons. And the main setting is Kentucky, a definite plus. U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens takes his place with Matt Dillon, Andy Taylor, Steve McGarret and Andy Sipowicz as one of TV’s most treasured lawmen. Always quality TV, the show never took a misstep. The recent series finale was one of the best finales I’ve ever seen. There was an Old West-style gun duel, getaways and captures, and a wonderful face-to-face confrontation between Raylan and villain Boyd Crowder. Everyone’s story was wrapped up beautifully and believably, and incredibly (slight spoiler) no series regulars were killed. With as many bullets as were flying around that show, that’s nearly impossible. In addition, the producers knew when to wrap things up, when the show was still at its creative peak. Season 2 was best, with Margo Martindale’s Emmy-winning performance as Mags Bennett, matriarch of a Harlan crime family. I’ll miss the show, but will follow closely what the writers and producers do next. 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars

The Missing (Starz)
This miniseries is one of the best of last year. A British couple and their young son are on holiday in France. Their car breaks down in a small provincial town, which forces them to spend a few days waiting for repairs. When their son disappears from a town celebration, parents Tony (James Nesbitt) and Emily (Frances O’Connor) Hughes tear up the town, and their lives, looking for him. 

What follows is the dissolution of a marriage and the destruction of two likeable people trapped in a parent’s worst nightmare. Flashing back and forth between present day and eight years ago, when the disappearance took place, The Missing tells the story of two people who wouldn’t give up the search for their missing son. Until one did, and the other slid into the madness of obsession. James Nesbitt has become one of my favorite actors, with an incredible range of characters. As Tony, he lights up the screen with his highs, as he discovers a new lead or torn photo that may be important. He makes the screen shudder with his lows as he is led to one maddening dead end after another. He is assisted by the French police, mostly by a French detective named Julien who specializes in finding missing children. Each episode shows a bit more of the story of the disappearance eight years ago and a present day lead Tony has found that may lead to the boy. There is so much suspense built up by the final episode it’s almost as if a real child went missing and viewers are going to learn his fate. 

The Missing features a fascinating story, real characters and a tension factor of 10. Highly recommended, but be warned; it will suck you in like few other shows. And the ending will shock you to the core. 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars 


The Honorable Woman (Sundance TV)
I am amazed by any show that tackles Middle Eastern politics, while still making them clear enough to understand and not getting bogged down or lost in them. 

Maggie Gyllenhall stars as Nessa Stein, the matriarch of a company supplying fiber optic cable to Middle Eastern countries to get everyone connected to the web. To get her construction contracts, she has to maneuver around endless minefields and disparate agendas. She thinks she has everyone pegged and can play the politics game, but has woefully underestimated both her competitors and her opponents. When she and her interpreter are kidnapped and held by terrorists, she becomes involved in a plot that will involve the entire Middle East, the United States and spies from every nearby country. 

The plot to this show is complex, but easy to understand if you pay attention. It unfolds like an onion and viewers can enjoy each delicious part. Gyllenhall is terrific as Nessa, a strong, intelligent woman who just wants peace and understanding. The Honorable Woman shows just how challenging that is when you deal with citizens, leaders and politicians who are all working for their own political agendas. Excellent. 

Rating: ***** out of 5 stars 

The Comedians (FX) 
On The Comedians, Billy Crystal and Josh Gad play, well, comedians who do a late-night comedy sketch show. The show is based on the Swedish series Ulveson and Herngren. Both actors are playing versions of themselves, with Crystal’s imaginary wife being portrayed by Dana Delany. That’s definitely who I’d have playing my wife if I were making the show. If Charisma Carpenter were busy. 

Crystal plays the older “superstar” comedian, continually flummoxed by Gad’s younger actor who also sings and dances. Gad constantly brags about being in Frozen, “the biggest animated movie of all time,” as Crystal rolls his eyes. They constantly find ways to drive each other crazy. 

The Comedians offers some laughs, and the actors are totally game for mocking their own images and exaggerated quirks. But it really isn’t enough. The jokes aren’t funny enough, nor the writing sharp enough, to stand out from the crowd of mediocre comedies on TV. It’s good, just not great. 

Rating: *** out of 5 stars 

Married at First Sight (FYI) 
Shhhhhh. Please don’t tell anyone I watch a reality show, okay? Good; our little secret. Fact is, I’m addicted to Married at First Sight. It’s like a train wreck, I just can’t look away. 

Being into history, the idea of arranged marriages has always fascinated me. I’ve read that arranged marriages throughout history have been successful around the same as love matches; around 50% of the time. On the show, therapists match two people who have never met and they get married, sight unseen, meeting at the altar as they say “I do.” There have been two seasons so far, each featuring three separate couples. They go on a honeymoon, then live together for six weeks. At the end of that time, they decide if they want to stay married or get divorced. A real divorce. In the first season, two out of the three couples stayed together, and as far as I know are still married. This year three more couples tied the knot. The show is in the middle of its second season, so I’m not sure what the current couples will decide. Two of the three seem to be getting along fine. 

It’s funny to be a voyeur as the couples first meet at the altar. Two out of the six couples so far have been repulsed by the other physically—that is the woman has not been attracted to the man. All the women chosen have been extremely attractive; the men have varied from male model to average. It’s also funny that the two brides who weren’t attracted to the groom at first now have the strongest relationships. They were forced to overlook the lack of attraction because they were actually married, and it has resulted in getting to know the person as a person, and because of that they have forged strong relationships. 

The three present couples are fascinating to watch. It looks like one couple will be happy and make it, another has misfiring communications but seem to like each other, and the last are two hot tempered people who can’t communicate and have formed a genuine and healthy dislike for each other. The male in that couple comes off as a real jerk. It’s hard to say for sure because at the end of the day this is a reality show; which is to say nothing about it is real. Are the producers editing the show for drama? Of course they are. Are they editing to make “good guys” and “bad guys?” I don’t think so, but it’s hard to say for sure. I believe the general premise and that the couples either stay together or not, but who knows if their struggles and miscommunications are real or just directed and edited by the producers? Still the journey, real or not, is riveting television. Just don’t tell anyone I tune in though, okay? 

Rating: ****½ out of 5 stars


  1. I did wonder what Crystal's real wife said when she found out Dana would be playing his wife on TV. That's some hard competition.

  2. Uh ... "If you touch her I'll kill you?"

  3. So much good TV, so little time. Makes me thankful that we live in the time of Netflix and such, so these will be easily available when I finally get to retire and the kids are out of the house.

  4. That's hilarious, Michael, I remember those days well. It may not take until retirement--maybe just until the kids go to school. Put 'em to bed at 7:00p and have a life. Kidding!