Get Down with The Rundown….

BET’s The Rundown with Robin Thede is FANTASTIC!  At last, an intelligent, funny show that covers what I care about as a black woman.  A graduate of Northwestern University and former head writer of The Queen Latifah Show and The Nightly Show, Thede deftly navigates through stories about curvy meteorologists un-bothered by their haters, and how Ann Curry and Tamron Hall need to come back to NBC and “reclaim their time”.  Even the pre-taped sketches are hysterical and relatable.  Time Magazine named her “Hairmaid’s Tale” sketch as one of the top 10 funniest late night TV moments of 2017. Thede also brings a lens to subjects that get little to no coverage (see Cyntoia Brown).   The Rundown is produced by comedian Chris Rock.   I want this show to last a long time.

I was excited to see BET’s “The Comedy Get Down“.  Until I saw it.  I’m sorry but I dont see how this show is funny.  I can’t blame the comedians who star in it because this is a “mostly” scripted series.  Starring D.L. Hughley, Cedric “The Entertainer“, Eddie Griffin and the late Charlie Murphy, the show is supposed to focus on their antics off stage while they’re on tour.  It’s supposed to explore their personal and professional relationships.   The plots are ridiculous and the jokes fall flat.  I don’t enjoy insult humor but it can work if writers know how to cleverly weave a joke into a situation and make it believable.  Look at Kevin Hart’s “Real Husbands of Hollywood“‘s first season.  The premise was that Kevin wanted to make sure everyone knew he was a big deal and deserved attention.  All his friends were at the same level of fame except for Nick Cannon whom he loathed.   This is what made the show work.  It had a theme!  The writers had something to work with!  Charlie Murphy deserved better.

I’m loving Deja the foster child on NBC’s “This is Us”.  Sterling K. Brown makes me care about everything his character Randall does and I love that a realistic light is being shown upon foster care.  Actress Lyric Ross vividly brings an honest portrayal of Deja and what she is struggling through.  I hope we will see more of her.

The Problem with Apu, a documentary by comedian Hari Kondabolu tackles the issue of how the long running Simpsons character perpetuates negative stereotypes and insults the Indian community.  Kondabolu interviews Indian celebrities Aziz Ansari, Aparna Nancherla, and Kal Penn about the impact of the Apu character.  In an early scene, we see Kondabolu performing at a comedy club; a heckler yells Apu’s catchphrase—“Thank you, come again”—after one of his jokes. “You’re the reason I do comedy, sir,” Kondabolu fires back. “You’re the reason I thought to myself, Nobody like us exists, except this cartoon character.  Brown people didn’t just start talking about Apu”,  Kondabolu said, “We’ve been saying shit for almost 3 decades & nobody heard us”.  The Problem with Apu is airing on Tru TV.  It’s worth your time.

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Let’s Take a Look….

Good bye Fashion Police!  The final episode aired last week and NO ONE CARED.  Actually, no one cared after Joan Rivers passed away.  She was savagely funny and knew fashion. E could have saved the show instead of foisting Melissa Rivers and Nene Leakes on viewers.  Comedian Sommore would have been a fantastic host with Lloyd Boston serving as a fashion expert.  Round out the crew with model Ashley Graham and Jay Manuel from America’s Next Top Model.  He’s certainly more entertaining than Brad Goretsky.

I had no intention of watching CBS’s 9JKL .  I couldn’t relate to the premise that someone would want to live sandwiched between their parents and a sibling’s apartment.  Then I found myself watching it because it airs right after “Superior Donuts“, a show I love.  Here’s what I like about 9JKL…Matt Murray.  He plays the handsome and funny Nick, the doorman at the building where the characters live.  Nick steals the show for me.  The producers featured his character and introduced a sister on the Dec 4th episode.  Although it was silly and very predictable, Murray’s performance shone.  I still don’t see 9JKL lasting very long but if it does, it will be because of the supporting cast.

I was dismissive of CBS’s “Bull”.  I said it was unrealistic because the average person does not have access to a trial consultant.  Well that’s still true, but doggone it I like the show.  I especially like the diversity of the supporting cast.  I’ve been watching Michael Weatherly since his soap opera days and I didn’t think Bull would be successful for him since people were so used to him on NCIS.  But Weatherly is totally believable as Jason Bull, Trial Consultant and I find myself invested in the outcome of each episode.

Why does the OWN network give us family reality shows like “Raising Whitley“, “Flex and Shanice” and “For Peete’s Sake” only to cancel them after about 3 seasons?     I admit the story lines diverged wildly in their last seasons but viewers can’t get a decent goodbye?  I’m still wondering what’s up with Flex and Shanice.  Did they ever get out of debt?  What about Flex’s comedy career? At least Holly Robinson Peete is bringing her family themed reality show to The Hallmark Channel this February.

The syndicated “Funny You Should Ask” is so bad.  It’s like Hollywood Squares without the x’s and O’s.   Produced by Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios,  A mix of comedians sit on a panel and answer questions.  Contestants then decide which celeb gave the right answer.  The jokes are obviously scripted, it feels like the fun is manufactured and celebs are phoning it in.  Try and get through one episode …

 

 

 

 

 

 

When new showrunners ruin your favorite show

It was recently announced that BET’sBeing Mary Jane” will end with a two-hour movie this February and the upcoming season of CMT’s”Nashville” will be its last.  Why?

In the case of “Being Mary Jane”, I place 75% of the blame on new executive producer Will Packer who replaced creators Mara Brock Akil and husband Salim Akil.  (They are now producing the upcoming Black Lightning for the CW)  Packer and team took a character that was socially conscious, career driven and family focused and turned her flaws into the focus of this last season.  At first, it was cool to see Mary Jane advance into the world of network television, sparring with veteran journalist  Rhonda Sales (played beautifully by Valarie Pettiford) and bumbling through her first few weeks with her bestie Kara on the job.  What ruined my enjoyment was the way the writers turned Mary Jane into an immature superficial emotional mess.  Mary Jane lost her childhood friend to suicide, the love of her life starts a family with someone else and instead of learning from all those experiences, the writers chose to take their fresh start and not explore growth for that character.  It killed the show for me.

I loved “Nashville” when it was on ABC.  I was lured by the rivalry between established artist Rayna James and young upstart on the rise, Juliette Barnes.  I loved the relationship between Gunnar, Scarlett and Avery and their drive to make good music.  There was a lot of drama but the stories were compelling. ABC cancelled it in 2015 and CMT quickly picked it up but not before producers replaced the show runner Dee Johnson with Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz.  Next thing you know,  Rayna gets killed in a stalker plotline and the show shifted focus to a lot of new faces and the psychotic ramblings and antics of Juliette Barnes.  Nashville was mired in too much drama and badly needed a dose of levity.   CMT cancelled Nashville last week.  It didn’t have to be this way.

NCIS has struggled since the passing of Gary Glasberg who ran the show for 5 years.  I used to be a devout viewer but the chemistry of the cast is off due to the departure of Michael Weatherly and the addition of 3 new cast members. I’ve tried to warm up to Wilmer Valderamma but his character is so cocky and annoying, I just want to punch him in the face. Why does it matter when Law and Order SVU changed supporting cast members at least 4 times and no one bat an eye?  Because nobody talks about the plot of any NCIS episode, but folks can remember a chilling story seen on Law and Order and have it be casual conversation at a party.

I’m really gonna miss Being Mary Jane.  At least there’s season 2 of BET’s Rebel…I hope.

 

Oh, The Drama!

I’m loving ABC’s “The Good Doctor“.  Have you seen it?  Freddie Highmore stars as Dr. Shawn Ryan who has autisim and savant syndrome.  He is incredibly smart, at times inappropriate and has charmed this TV head thoroughly.  I think what resonates the most for me is that it speaks to the feeling that problems that don’t seem to have an answer can be figured out.  Executive Producer David Shore, created House which also featured an unconventional character who was gifted and could solve complex problems.  Hill Harper is terrific as Dr. Marcus Andrews and I am loving Nicholas Gonzalez as Dr. Neal Melendez.  Gonzalez played Orlando on the last two seasons of BET’s “Being Mary Jane”. He brings Dr. Melendez to life so much that I have a hate/ respect relationship with the character.

I’m also liking ABC’sKevin probably Saves The World“.  I know I passed it off as another show with a “magical negro” but I was wrong. *hangs head in shame*  Some of my utter disgust with CBS’s “Kevin Can Wait” got flung on this show and for that I am sorry.  Kevin “probably” Saves The World is a cute, funny and kinda sad story about Kevin, an emotional mess of a man who attempted suicide and finds out he is one of 36 righteous souls who have to somehow save the world.  His guide through this is Yvette, played by Kimberly Herbert Gregory.  At first she seems like the all knowing celestial being and in some ways, she is.   But viewers are learning more about her character and how she functions as being one of God’s messengers.  I am enjoying the slow reveal.

When I watch OWN’s “Queen Sugar” I am so immersed in the story of the Bordelon family and the sugar mill they inherited from their father that when the last scene fades to black, I am jolted back to reality.  The characters are rich and complex. Dawn Lyen Gardner’s Charley and her drive to win at all costs, Rutina Wesley’s independent and diverse Nova with her community activism.  The beautiful, yet flawed Ralph Angel’s (played by Kofi Siriboe) relationship with his fiance Darla is some of the most honest acting I have ever seen. And the love between Aunt Vi and Hollywood is what every girl dreams of.   I identify with them in some ways, my heart breaks for them in others.   Queen Sugar blends history, family, love, greed, addiction, redemption and so much more.  If you loved “Soul Food the Series” you will love Queen Sugar.  If you haven’t seen it, you are really missing out.

I tried to watch CBS’s SWAT not just because of  star Shemar Moore and how yummy he looks, but because of the premise.   CBS told us the show would be about Daniel “Hondo” Harrelson who was promoted to team leader in a blatant attempt to ease the tensions between the community and the LAPD.  You saw the promos.  Shemar bursts in a slummy looking apartment saving and comforting a young black kid.  The pilot episode was full of gunfire and killings that I had to change the channel.  First of all, why does it take the leader of a SWAT team to ease the tensions of any community?  It just felt unnecessarily violent and contradictory.    But hey, they chop heads off over on “The Walking Dead” so what do I know?

 

Yes, but is it funny?

Have you seen TBS’s Joker’s Wild game show hosted by Snoop Dogg?  It is hilarious.  The show has been completely revamped with topics that reflect Snoop’s um….interests and takes place in Snoop’s faux casino.  One category is called “name that strain” while other categories feature celebrities like Wiz Kalifa and Seth Rogan giving video clues.  The energy is fun and makes me feel like I should be sipping an adult beverage while watching.

 I still dont like the premise of CBS‘s. Me, Myself and I but I LOVE the fact that Tim Reid recurs as an older version of Jaleel White‘s character and that Tia Mowry plays his wife.  Those three actors are a sitcom waiting to happen. Tia and Jaleel play husband and wife while Tim Reid plays Jaleel’s dad.  Maybe it will happen since CBS dropped Me, Myself and I from their schedule.  You know that means it’s cancelled.

The only show worth watching on CBS‘s Monday night comedy block is Superior Donuts starring the hilarious and magnetic comedian Jermaine Fowler as Franco  The season premiere introduced Diane Guerrero as the owner of an organic food truck that threatens the donut shop’s business.  We also learn Franco is trying to get into college to study Art.  This goal will flesh out Franco’s character, showing he is more than just an overhyped street guy trying to get by.   Sharp and witty writing is what makes Superior Donuts success.  

Sharp and witty is exactly how I would describe season 2 of NBC‘S  Great News.  Who knew Nicole Ritche was a comedic actress?  The writing was sluggish and unfunny in season 1 but in season 2, jokes and pop culture references fly freely, the way 30Rock did.  Blink you’ll miss a joke or two.   A solid premise and writing are what makes a comedy show great.

What shows are making you laugh?

Vintage TV is Good

I salute Emmy winning actor Robert Guillaume.  Though Soap and Benson are not vintage to me because I watched them during their first run, as a TV head, I am fascinated by old TV.   The clothes and pop culture references of the era feed my keen interest in history.  Imagine my delight when I discovered the Decades network is airing what they call “Lost TV” for all of October.   I’d never heard of the ground breaking show Decoy.  Set in the mid 1950’s, Decoy was about a policewoman working cases in NYC.  I watched back to back episodes, and marveled as I saw images of the NYC subway.  It was really cool to see a very young Ed Asner and Larry Hagman before “I Dream of Jeannie“.  Can you imagine that show on TV today?  Heck, Benson would never see the light of day in 2017.  I hope Decades will show episodes of Beulah or The Nat King Cole Show.   It couldn’t get sponsors and was cancelled quickly.  I’ve always wanted to see it.

Over on Aspire, they regularly air episodes of Julia starring Diahann Carroll.  The dialogue reflects the state of race relations after the civil rights movement.  I wonder if Room 222 airs somewhere.  The premise of that 1969 show was about teaching tolerance at a diverse high school.  It earned a Outstanding New Series Emmy.  

I watch vintage game shows too.  The Buzzer network airs “Beat The Clock“, “Card Sharks” and the original “Wheel of Fortune” with Chuck Woolery.    After Jimmy Fallon started playing Password on late night, reboots of To Tell The Truth, The 100,000 Pyramid and my personal favorite, Match Game came roaring back on ABC.  We’re just going to skip over The Gong ShowABC really messed that one up.  

Some Vintage TV can’t ever be re-done.  Could you see “Webster ” or “Different Strokes” on TV now?  

It freaks me out when my young 20 something friends call a show like Family Matters or Fresh Prince of Bel Air old.  Hey!  That’s not old!!!  Next thing you know somebody will say “Flavor of Love” is nostalgia TV. *shuddering*

Random Thoughts II

I really like SNL alumni Chris Parnell as the Progressive Insurance Box.  The career day classroom spot where the box has to avoid inappropriate questions like “where’s your belly button”? And ” do you have a girlfriend”? cracks me up.

That Sargento cheese commercial made me take a good, hard look at the pasturized, processed cheese slices in my fridge.  Sargento says it’s only 51% cheese! I thought Kraft put a milk bottle on their packaging because there is milk in their cheese slices.   Apparently not.  I threw a slice on a piece of bread in the broiler and it never melted.  It became a warm piece of malleable glop.  Thanks Sargento.  

Have you noticed Flo has been missing from Progressive Insurance commercials lately?  Where did she go and who are these youngsters at the Progressive office? 

That Gap commercial with Cher and rapper Future is awkward and weird.  

I’m not sure I like Nia Long on CBS‘s NCIS Los Angeles.  She delivers her lines stilted and cold.  I understand the character is supposed to be this way but I am not feeling her performance.  Hopefully it will get better as the season continues. 

The Roots Crew appeared on the season premiere of ABC‘S “Blackish “.  They wrote and starred in an animated sequence titled “I’m Just A Slave” in the style of “Schoolhouse Rock” to explain the holiday Juneteenth and what it means to black people.  I loved it.

ABC’s The Mayor is so good!  I connected with the characters immediately.  They are so relatable. Star Brandon Michael Hall is a Juliard trained actor and is so engaging in his role as Courtney Rose.  Special shout out to Yvette Nicole Brown who plays his mom on the show.  She makes any show better.

Where is Jake from State Farm?