The best thing about Supergirl is likely Supergirl herself. Benoist is on point in a star-making role. She makes Kara likeable, believable and worthy of rooting for. She is a breath of fresh air in a superhero universe dominated by men… not to mention the vanguard of a number of series/movies with women in prominent roles (Jessica Jones on Netflix, the Wasp in the upcoming Ant-Man sequel, and Wonder Woman in Batman vs Superman). Supergirl is a great and long overdue start to the Superhero Ladies Revolution, and she should soar for years to come.
Scott F. Evans
It’s short-sighted to call HBO’s new comedy series Ballers some form of ‘Entourage on the Gridiron.’ Sure there are similarities. The shows share a network and are produced by the same company. And yes, they both showcase the lives of the rich and shameless. But where Entourage hammers viewers over the head with how awesome white male privilege is within the entertainment industry, Ballers shows us the other side of fame and wealth.
The show stars Dwayne Johnson as Spencer Strassmore, a retired player turned financial advisor. Ballers is a good showcase for Johnson. He gets to be an actual human being here and not another one of the larger-than-life characters he normally plays in feature films. Johnson has always had loads of charisma and a strong screen presence. But with Ballers, he gets to truly act. The show is built around him, and he carries it with relative ease.
Rob Corddry co-stars as Joe, Strassmore’s partner at Anderson Financial. Corddry is funny, and plays it fairly broad. Sometimes he goes a bit too far in that direction, and feels like he’s part of a different program. But so far he’s kept to the show’s edges and isn’t too much of a distraction. Omar Benson Miller plays Charles Greane, another recently retired player. In many ways Miller is the heart of Ballers. We watch him struggle with being a car salesman who misses the game and the glamorous life that comes with it. John David Washington rounds out the supporting cast as Ricky Jerret, a spoiled star player who cannot get his personal life together. Washington is decent, and gives Jerret just enough charisma and humanity to keep viewers rooting for him (even though he doesn’t really deserve it).
Four episodes in, and without a doubt the shows biggest weakness is the use of actual athletes in several key and minor roles. They’re not actors, and it shows. Ballers is about football players, so having real players pop up occasionally might actually add authenticity. But watching them struggle to deliver lines with any semblance of talent is distracting, sometimes to the point of frustration.
Despite that, it’s worth your time to give Ballers a shot. It’s only a half hour, and it doesn’t insult your intelligence or beat you over the head with its opulence. Plus, Dwayne Johnson is actually putting in the work to become a better actor, one role at a time. And his effort is evident on this particular playing field.
All grown up now, Murdock makes his living by day as a lawyer in a fledgling practice with best friend Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and murder-suspect-turned-indespensibe-right-hand Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). At night, he gears up and hits the streets as DareDevil, to clean up the mess in constant creation by Russian, Chinese and Japanese criminals. They all flock to one man (he who shall not be named) who claims it’s his desire to clean up the streets… even as he leaves a bloody trail of death and destruction in his wake. As DareDevil is but a mortal man, he cannot survive without the help of Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), who faithfully patches him up as he expertly survives one epic beating after another.
Marvel’s Daredevil is more grounded and realistic than anything we’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to this point. It’s not an extension of the big screen action (like ABC’s Agents Of SHIELD), but still a part of that world through mention of events that occur on both the big and small screen in real time.
Daredevil fully embraces the Netflix binge mentality, with the release Season One in its entirety. Season Two has already been greenlit, so there’s bound to be a lot more Marvel goodness coming down the pipeline. Comic book fan or not, this series is a must see. Do yourself a favor and block out a day (or two), shut off the phone, order in, and enjoy.
Christopher M. Enis
From the the first moments in ABC’s American Crime, you know you’re in for something beyond the standard TV cop show. If the title is any indication, the core elements will be dual; that is, both criminal and racial.
The series centers around the murder of Matt Skokie, a military veteran living in Modesto (CA)… and the assault/rape of his wife, Gwen. The story isn’t as much about the young Skokies, as it is about the three people who are quickly captured and accused of the crime:
The first two are Mexican gangster Hector (Richard Cabral), and Black drug addict Carter (Elvis Nolasco). The third is Tony (Johnny Ortiz), a Latino teenager who’s made a habit of rebelling against his father (Benito Martinez). This crime gets them both caught up in the system and in way over their heads.
On the other side are the victim’s parents, played by Timothy Hutton, Felicity Huffman, W. Earl Brown and Penelope Ann Miller. As the story progresses, all of the parents involved will share some of the same sentiments as we find out who’s really behind this American Crime.
The show’s creator, the Oscar winning screenwriter, John Ridley (who is no stranger to controversial thoughts/opinions on race) doesn’t hesitate to get right down to brass tacks. He shows how the (legal) system swoops in and sucks in the suspects, at least one of whom is almost certainly innocent. The story plays out as an unforgiving, cold, indifferent, and mostly undignified look at what happens when one winds up behind bars and how it affects their families. For the victim’s families, the grief and outrage is understandable and treated in a dignified manner (even if they’re not always worthy of it).
American Crime has been compared to the 2000 film, Traffic and the 2004 film, Crash. While there are some similarities, I feel that American Crime has the potential to be better. The small town locale and racial component points towards similarities in the on-going tensions in Ferguson (MO). That aspect of the story hasn’t been a major part of the series in the first two episodes, but will likely change with the arrival of Regina King’s character, Aliyah Shadeed. She is a driven woman determined to help her brother Carter, and to provide us a polar opposite to the ultra conservative/racially biased Barb.
I think that American Crime, due to its subject matter and adult nature, would have been a much better fit on premium cable. But it still has potential on ABC. I look forward to see how things develop.
Christopher M. Enis
The CW’s Jane The Virgin is the current darling of the season. Although fellow newcomer The Flash received the most hype for the network, Jane got both the critical praise and the ratings needed to boost the show’s prestige. That meant a Golden Globe win (the first for the network), and a second season pickup. It’s fair to say the future is looking pretty bright for the little series that could.
Jane The Virgin is a loose adaptation of the Venezuelan telenovela Juana la Virgen. It tells the story of Jane Villanueva (Gina Rodriguez), a 23-year old Latina in Miami who lives with her Mother (Andrea Navedo) and Grandmother (Ivonne Coll). Jane’s strong religious conviction and strict upbringing drive her decision to remain a virgin until she’s married. Things are working out well (she’s engaged) until Jane is accidentally inseminated during a checkup.
The premise of Jane The Virgin has the potential to be chaotic. In addition to the main storyline, there are lots of subplots and subtitles (Grandma does not speak English). There’s also the matter of the narrator (Anthony Mendez), who teeters dangerously close stereotype.
The good news is, show runner and head writer Jennie Snyder manages to corral all those elements and mix drama, comedy and romance… all while retaining the show’s telenovela roots.
Gina Rodriguez helps carry this show beautifully and effortlessly, and is definitely one to watch. Her proverbial star is the rise and she’s easily in the running for an Emmy, with that Golden Globe now gracing her mantle.
Jane The Virgin’s first new episode of the year airs tonight on the CW (9 PM EST/8 PM CST).
RATING: Must See
Christopher M. Enis
My Fall TV preview featured the latest installment from Shonda Rhimes: How to get Away with Murder. The series, which stars the incomparable Viola Davis, was one of my top picks for must see tv. So when the pilot episode debuted… I settled in for the lesson. Teach me Viola… I’m here for you!
In the pilot episode, there is A LOT going on. The story jumps from present day to 3 months prior… and back again. There’s little to no warning for these time jumps, except for a series of images that play back like someone got their finger stuck on the rewind or fast forward buttons. Add to that new character introductions, classrooms, court rooms, competitions, bonfires, trysts, and shady next door neighbors…
And that’s just the first 15 minutes.
If your head is spinning from everything that you just read, imagine how I felt watching it.
This epileptic brew is nothing new if you’re a regular Scandal viewer. But if this is your first trip to Shondaland, your rewind button is in for a workout as you navigate what I like to call ‘The Rhimes Style.’ It goes a little something like this: Strong female lead and diverse cast of characters that transcend traditional stereotypes. There’s talking… lots and lots and LOTS of fast talking. There are one liners, zingers, plot twists, and all manner of madness designed to keep you engaged (and struggling to keep up). Rhimes continues to prove that she’s not content with the status quo, and so far it’s working out very well for her. Now, she’s wrapping that style snugly around her biggest talent yet… 2-time Tony Award winning (and Oscar nominated) actress Viola Davis.
With all of that going for it, is ‘How to get Away with Murder’ worth watching?
That… my friends… is the question.
Davis plays Philadelphia Law Professor/Criminal Lawyer Annalise Keating. She’s the final word in everything… and everyone around her has no problem taking orders. What makes Annalise complex is that she often combines her dual positions as professor and lawyer. It’s an ethically ambiguous pattern with potentially explosive consequences, but Keating seems to have no issue shaking up the volatile mix.
Keating has a husband who adores her, a boyfriend who will do anything for her, and assistants who are at her beck and call. She’s not interested in explanations or excuses in the courtroom, the classroom, or the bedroom. That attitude inspires an interesting mix of fear, loathing and admiration from everyone around her, and Keating uses it to her advantage. After watching Annalise win a case, one of her student interns says “I want to be her.” But not because Keating is a role model or mother figure. Quite the contrary. Instead of Prada, the Devil wears Oxblood leather, and she’s not up for any of your bullshit. And despite your best efforts, you’re here for it.
My primary complaint about the show is that we didn’t get ‘enough’ Keating. The story is mainly built around the effect that she has on her interns and her employees. This may change (it needs to), as news of Davis’ incredible performance grows. Hell, maybe one day… Professor Annalise Keating will be on the list of the top television anti-heroes. I can dream.