The Musical In My Mind (Television Thoughts, Encore!, Disney Plus)

MV5BOTQ5YWEzOGItZWRmZS00ZmY2LWI2MTctZDJmYWQyODg5ZDYxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_‘Encore,’ on Disney Plus is a bit of a weird show, and it (mostly) works for me.  It’s part musical, part reality, part bizarro. The premise – basically a reunion show for high school theater kids who have to re-mount a show they did in their youth, with them reprising the roles they played then. This produces odd reactions – for the most part we get a bunch of middle-aged people trying to recapture youth, as they try to reconcile with what might have beens, and then add to that the pressure of mounting a show in five days. Of course, a lot of them are out of shape, so there is a bit of a struggle there, but by golly you are with them and triumph as they persevere. At times, there seems to be too much going on, and even other times, it feels a bit cruel – as we see them realize that a lot of their dreams have not been fulfilled, and they try to redeem themselves for  performance, but you know (and they say) they have to go back to their boring hum drum life. I like the musical parts in different ways, although, it was odd to see a middle aged person play ‘Annie’ int hat red laced costume. When a Hackensack high School reprises ‘Grease.’ we see now a fat and balding Danny Zucko doing a hand jive. The musical nerd in me is satisfied, and there is enough reality drama there. But, some episodes are tough watches, as you can tell their musicalities have faded. but, I like this show quite a lot – I feel invested in all these people, and want them to succeed. I wish they released all in one, so you can binge, instead of releasing them week by week – I am four episodes in and want more, more, more.

Her Son (Television/Stage Thoughts: American Son, Netflix)

MV5BMDk1Y2UyMTgtNGQyYi00OGViLWFlODUtMDY3ZmYwYmQ4MWVkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMTkxNjUyNQ@@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_I am really liking this ‘Broadway on Netflix’ trend, and want to support it.  Kenny Leon directed ‘American Son’ on Broadway at he has now also directed the Netflix adaptation of the production of Christopher Demos Brown’s work. All in all, I think this is a pretty good effort, but I also had problems with it. I still recommend seeing it, as I thought the play itself has some things to say, even if at times it feels like the messages are bludgeoned. Kerry Washington is the main draw here, as she plays Kendra, who son has gone missing. She goes to the police station  to find out what is going on, the only information she has is that her son has been detained by the police. Washington plays her role without fear, and damned if her character doesn’t come across as likable. TO be honest, I had some trouble with sympathizing with her character. Kendra acts with so much entitlement at times that it clashes with the idea that she understands the ‘black’ experience.There is fine support with the rest of the cast but it’s Washington front and center here. The play feels very claustrophobic and Leon films it that way – you get the sense of panic and urgency waiting for the ‘inevitable’ here. At times, it really did feel that the action was closing in, and perhaps that was the director’s intent. All in all, I thought it succeeded in what it wanted to do, and hope we get more similar fare from Netflix.

Love Follows (Television Thoughts: Modern Love, S01 E 04-08)

MV5BM2I0NGFiZWItZGM3MC00ZGRhLThhMDktN2M0YjQyZTJlMzUwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyODk4OTc3MTY@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,679,1000_AL_It wasn’t quite a fast binge, but I did finish the whole first season of ‘Modern Love’ on Amazon Prime. Even if I wrote that the first half was uneven,  I loved Episode 2 so much it gave me enough goodwill and hope that I will get something similar in the next for episodes. I liked the fourth episode, starring John Gallagher Jr and Sofia Boutella who go on a date, and ending up at the hospital after – the details are too juicy to spoil, and the plot, though a bit improbable, was effective in conveying the message. And the next episode, where a young girl has a relationship with a man old enough to be her father had some unexpected twists. The ‘gay episode’ int he series centers around a couple who wants to have a child, and it’s cute, but not really that relatable to me. The last one, about a couple finding love in late life, could have been better, though. But the best thing about the last episode for me, are the additional scenes about all the episodes. We get some code of coda about the characters in my beloved second episode, and that was so good for my catharsis. All in all, my view of the series became more positive after watching the second batch of episodes, and I haven;t checked, but it would be great to get a second season.

Top O The Morning (Television Thoughts, The Morning Show S01 E01 E02 E03)

20325944-7625891-image-a-52_1572359159621So who would have thought my new favorite performance among this Faall’s new television shows is Jennefier Aniston’s? Seriously, she is pretty good in ‘The Morning Show,’ from Apple+. There are all these new streaming channels and this show might be a reason for you to add Apple’s new service to your entertainment roster. And Aniston is kind of playing a little against type here – although the role is still very America’s Sweetheart-ish, it shows some edge, and is a strong woman who tries to take control. I am only up to episode three and the storyline is already heating up. It’s basically a retread of the Today Show real-life story – a male anchor has been fired after sexual harassment allegations, and his co-host tries to pick up the pieces. Reese Witherspoon plays an upstart reporter who gets plucked from bumfuck and gets thrust into the co-host seat, after some machination. Witherspoon’s role so far is a little on the familiar side, but this will all depend on her chemistry with Aniston, and it looks like their characters are going to be interacting a lot after the third episode.

The Highs & Lows of Love (Television Thoughts: Modern Love, Amazon Prime)

modern-love400Amazon Prime’s new show ‘Modern Love’ seems to be this generation’s version of the 70s anthology ‘Love American Style,’ but the stories on this show are culled from The New York Times column of the same title, and these are stories about New Yorkers, and the way they live and love in these modern times. Sounds like a fantastic idea to me. I have seen the first four (out of a total of eight) episodes and there are great highs, and also some lows. The first two episodes are tops: it starts with one starrign Christine Millotti as a NewYorker who has a ‘special’ relationship with her doorman – as a father figure who guides her in her life choices. It’s nice and sweet, and sets the tone for the show. I liked that it was a little irreverent, and featured situations that are real, and obviously showcases the heart and humanity. And the second episode is my absolute favorite so far. Starring, Dev Patel and Catherine Keener, it shows a pair of parallel stories of following your heart in the midst of the turmoil of life. Keener is great here as an author who reconnects with the ‘man that got away’ who was supposed to meet her in Paris seventeen years ago. But the third episode was disappointing even as it starred the charismatic Anne Hathaway. As a bipolar young woman strugglign with life, Hathaway was game, but I felt the story went nowhere. And Tina Fey and John Slattery had chemistry for days in the fourth episode (written by Sharon Horgan) but the story abotu a couple trying to reconnect did not connect with me.  Of course I am already hooked with this and will surely finish all the episodes shortly. For now, I’ll just say that the second episode is one of the best I have seen on any series so far.

The Great Perhaps (Television Thoughts: Pilot, Looking for Alaska, Hulu)

de237b2b-f39a-437a-ab5c-610c50298c20I didn’t realize until I already started watching Hulu’s ‘Looking for Alaska’ that it stars Charlie Plummer. Plummer was excellent in last year’s ‘Lean On Pete’ and I have had my eye on him ever since. So it was great pleasure to see him land in this series. And based on the first episode which I watched, he is just one of the assets of the show.

Created by Josh Schwartz and Jessica Savage (they did ‘O.C’) this looks like it’s not just another teen drama. Plummer stars as Miles, a teen who asks to go away to boarding school to look for the ‘great perhaps.’ The term is coined from poet Francois Rabelais’ last words – Miles is a collector of them – he voraciously reads biographies to learn the last words famous people say before they die. (Rabelais’ was ‘I go to see a great perhaps’) Once he arrives at his school, he connects with his roommate Colonel and Alaska, a young girl he instantly falls for. So goodie, we get a coming of age story with unrequited love – my favorite genre of young people’s stories. By the end of the first episode, we see him trying to be Switzerland in class war, at the same time starting to nurse his newfound feelings. It’s going to be a bumpy but (I suspect) meaningful ride.

Let’s Get Political (Television Thoughts: The Politican, Netflix, Pilot Episode)

ThePolitician_Vertical_GeorginaPayton_RGB_UK20190815-6077-1bxw55I always say that I want to dig in my long long list of television to-be-watched pile, but I couldn’t resist vaulting all of that in favor of Netflix’s ‘The Politican,’ only because Ben Platt. I kind of like his work, even if at times I disagree with his artistic choices (a lot of his overwrought singing exhausts me)  And this was so heavily advertised on all the things that I am interested in that I feel like I am its target audience, for better or worse. Plu it has Bette Midler in it somewhere, so what’s the harm?

Well, the verdict is that I will keep watching. There’s a lot in the pilot that interested me – it’s glorious to watch, first of all, with beautiful people (David Corenswet, where have you been all my life?) and its slickness is addictive. But I wonder if I will hate watch it as well, as there are a lot of things that bothered me. First of all, I saw a lot of similarities with ‘Glee.’ Is  Payton Hobart just a variation of Rachel Berry, someone who manufactured all her life so she can achieve a certain goal? And the high school setting feels as familiar, albeit with actors who look like they are in their 30s. There is even an identical disabled character here, and musical numbers with songs that are so ‘obviously chosen’ they make me cringe. Yes, I thought Ben Plat singing ‘River’ was fine, but singing that song about a character named River? Well, even Stevie Wonder could have seen that a mile away. But for sure, it has already lured me enough to want to go back. Jessica Lange is always a treat to watch but Gwyneth Paltrow playing a caftan wearing Gwyneth-Paltrow like character alone is worth the monthly Netflix subscription. Most importantly, I think the show will inspire me to write more about what I think about it.