Living Single (Television Thoughts: SMILF)

9e8226482e5cb624318c353731c71164SMILF is a woman-centric show. It was created and stars Frankie Shaw as Bridget, a single mom struggling to balance everything in her life. She has her baby-daddy who is kind of there, but mostly not, and she has to deal with her mom (Rosie O Donnell) who is eccentric in her own right – kind of a Jewish mother but Italian-Catholic. Set in South Boston, Bridget is always scrounging for cash, and we find out she was a New York struggling actress once (She appeared in Law and Order)

There’s a lot of underscore here – perhaps Bridget is a little bitter about what might been, but at the same time we see how dedicated she is to her son. She behaves badly at times – she takes home an ex for sex in her house while her son is sleeping, or she sleeps with a college student she was just tutoring a year before. But she has a heart of gold. While Bridget is definitely written three dimensionally, I wish it wasn’t in a manner as cliched. Going back to O’Donnell, she is perfectly cast her, and nice to see her doing more in a comedic role,

But maybe because of Rosie, though surely not because of her, I think the show is very gay – well, gay woman skewing anyway. there’s a lot of sapphic touches – the woman Bridget works for (Connie Britton) is a closeted lesbian, and at one point even propositions her for a threesome with her husband. And there are too many references to vagina, and even more scenes of Bridget and her penis envy tendencies.

Five episodes in, I wouldn’t necessarily say I am hooked, but I am certainly interested. I hope this interest does not wane, as I have high hopes for this show to succeed.

A Spring Comeback (Television Thoughts: Will And Grace, The Fall Season)

Will & Grace - Season 1Just finished watching the ‘Fall Finale’ of Will and Grace, and I guess we will not be seeing the show for a couple of months, though I think there is a Christmas episode coming up.  I know I wrote about the pilot, mainly praising it, and thankfully, with each week the show just brought it on. I will not lie and tell you that every joke on every show landed (for me) but the show did one thing for me – it made me want to ‘make an appointment’ with the show every Thursday night at 9 pm, and I don’t even do that with any of my favorite shows. I wanted to support it, and even though I am not a Neilsen household, I wanted my television to be on it on the actual time it was on.

And all four actors just got better and better every week – these characters are all second skin to them, but they even manage to flesh out a little bit something to them. Look at Hayes during the ‘gay conversion’ episode. When he tells his grandson that he is ok, it never sounded prerachy because one can actually see that character say the exact same words. And Mullaly on the sixth episode, when her maid Rosario dies, gives the character just enough pathos and vulnerability amidst the comedy. I know both have won Emmys for their roles, but I can’t see them not getting more next September. I give them special mention but McCormack and Messing both are as good. I know I am sounding like the biggest W &  G fanboy, but I have to say I wasn’t even a big fan of it when it was on. I stopped watching it after its third or fourth season, if I recall, so maybe there’s something here that is touching me – perhaps it’s the times we live in, perhaps it’s the political climate. And speaking of which, it was good to see that the later episodes become almost non-political, although the show is always topical, and perhaps too much at times.  I will eagerly await its return next year.

Sheridan Squared (Television and Music Thoughts: Sheridan, ITV; Sheridan, Sheridan Smith)

SheridanthealbumAny theater fan in the UK has heard of Sheridan Smith, but over here she is not as popular (yet) But I know she did ‘Funny Girl’ on The West End to some controversy – if tabloids are to be believed, she had bouts of unprofessionalism, and drunken outbursts. She makes a passing mention of this on her television special (Sheridan, on ITV) on which she sings songs from her solo album (Sheridan) and I have just watched the show, and have been spinning the album. Simply put, I have become a fan.

There are a lot of people who can sing, dance, and act. There are even people who can do all three. But very rare do we get to see an actor who can do all those with character. Sheridan Smith has one of those presences that are unique, and she oozes with that thing that most people would kill for – star power. In the television special, she sparkles when she speaks, and is honest and candid, sprinkled all with charisma that you will be on her side no matter what. To be honest, I had been unfamiliar with her work, with her British television work in Gavin & Stacey, etc, nor her star turn in the Cilla Black biopic. But she seems to be one of those actresses whose work blend in perfectly with the characters. I loved the special, which, really, when you look at it is an advertisement for her album, but felt a whole lot more.

Now, for the album. This is an unusual one for a Broadway diva. Because while she includes crowd favorites from her past roles (‘Anyone Who Had A Heart’ for Cilla and ‘My Man’ from Fanny) she also shows her eclectic taste. I loved every single track on the album – her heartfelt cover of Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Dinner At Eight,’ her self-deprecating ‘Crazy,’ her own unique take on ‘Addicted To Love.’ Though as a whole, the sound seemed to not really gel well, as individual tracks they soar better. And she is current, with a robust take on ‘For Forever’ from Dear Evan Hansen and a sultry ‘City Of Stars’ from La La Land. The best track for me, though, is her bare-bones version of ‘And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going,’ wherein she strips the song of its usual pageantry. It is an interesting take, and for some people it may not work, but even if you like it or not, you will sense that the singer is a true original. Nowadays, that’s a rarity in a world of sameness.

It Takes Two (Television Thoughts: The Deuce, HBO)

deuI just finished watching the whole first season of ‘The Deuce,’ and I must say I really liked it as a whole, and honestly, after watching the first pilot, I thought I wouldn’t, and almost gave up on it. I think what works best for me is that I need to watch these episodes right after each other, especially in a show like this where the plot is mostly slow burn, and is more character-centric. I know this comes from David Simon, who is very renowned for both ‘The Wire,’ and ‘Breaking Bad,’ two shows that I tried very hard to get into, but realized just not for my tastes.

The subject matter in ‘The Deuce’ was more interesting for me: prostitution and porn in New York City circa late 70s. This is a period in time I ‘romanticize’ in my mind. I got to New York in the mid 80s and only got the tail end of the sleaze and trash period of the city. I did see some, mind you, and compared to the Disneyfied New York of nowadays, I think that period of time definitely had more character.

James Franco, of whom I am very fond of as an actor, lured me in as well. And here he plays twin brothers caught in the maelstrom of the times. Although, honestly, did we really need twin characters – I guess it would be more in line with the ‘deuce’ idea – dual life of people’s paths crossing, intersecting, and passing by. Maggie Gylenhaal plays the emotional heart of piece, playing one of those prostitutes with a heart of gold kind of role, but also a tough cookie, and destined for both good and bad times. I think she is tremendous here, her big beautiful blue eyes doing a lot of the work: wariness, vulnerability, hope.

The series is supposes to be about the foundations of how about porn came to be, and I was waiting for it to happen, and that story only starts on the last third of the episodes. It spends a lot of the ear;y parts building on all the characters, and by the time the storyline came along, we find that we are already invested in these people.  As I said before, I enjoyed getting to know these characters, and look forward for a promised second season.

Down Below (Television Thoughts: Below Deck Season Five, Bravo)

dimsI have just watched all episodes of Season Five of Below Deck, and I must say I thoroughly enjoyed this season. There was a time when I watched this show religiously, and I have a skipped a season or two, but it still feels right for me – I like the aspirational quality of watching charter after charter, and at the same time the drama of the deck crew always sucks me in. That said, I think there is a lot more ‘manufactured’ drama now than before – situations are set up much too obviously now, but at the same time there’s fun in the familiarity, and it is kind of fun to see these people fall in the ‘traps.’

Captain Lee is still affably difficult. I don’t know if he is my favorite person in the world, but I have accepted how he is by now. Kate Chastain, I feel the same way. She is petty and bitchy, but thoroughly enjoyable to watch. In here, sometimes I cringe when she is mean to Jen, but Jen totally deserves it most times. Nico brings a whole lot of drama this season – he is brooding because he is dealing with the sudden death of his brother, but he is human enough to break up temporarily with his girlfriend as he embarks on a fling with Brianna, one of the stews. The chef Matt doesn’t have much of a personality, and it even showed in the food he prepared. And they probably thought they would get drama with Bruno, the deckhand from Portugal, but his Instagram feed now is more entertaining than anything he did this season. But all in all, the show was much fun to watch, and I am not even that shameful about it being a guilty pleasure.

The Bakery Down The Street (Television Thoughts: Vegas Cakes, Sundays on The Food Network)

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One of the main reasons I checked out Food Network’s ‘Vegas Cakes’ is because the bakery where the show is set, Freed’s Bakery, is down the street from me. I certainly have been there, and do think their pastries and cakes are yummy, but I actually did not realize they do all these elaborate cakes. When I recently celebrated my 50th birthday, I had a master baker friend do a gold cake for me. Had I known, I would have probably checked them out.

I thought the show itself is a docu-drama type of reality show. But this is from the Food Network, so it is actually a weekly showcase of the elaborate and unique cakes that they do. On one episode, they concocted an elaborate cake for the s\celebration of Cirque de Soleil KA’s 6000th performance, and they recreated the intricate masks from the show. On another, they had to think of a baby shower cake where they put together the celebrant’s interest: yoga (her hobby) and Alaska (where she is from)

It’s a fun show, but kind of not for me. Perhaps if I were channel surfing (but I don’t anymore) I would stop and watch. Otherwise, I don’t think I would seek this.

Funny X (Television Thoughts: Ghosted, FOX)

ghostedI started chiding a friend because he told me he started watching Law & Order, and I told him – well I guess that means you are showing your age, only old people watch procedurals. Truth be told, and yes this may even be old age speaking as well, but I have started to watch them too, though I think (or hope) that I am attracted to more sophisticated ones: like ‘The Good Wife,’ or ‘Madam Secretary,’ for example. But whatever, I started to put this new show ‘Ghosted’ on my to-be-watched list, and I have no explanation why – perhaps because I kind of sort of like Adam Scott, one of the leads? He plays Max, a former Stanford professor who is an expert in multiverse. On the pilot episode, maybe for laughs, or maybe not, he says that this wife has been abducted by aliens. He is partnered with Leroy (Craig Robinson) a former LAPD detective whose partner was killed. They are called on to find a missing person, because said person named the two of them in some sort of video. The set up is there, but it never caught on to me. There are some paranormal things there – a levitating car, and some other stuff, but they are just too foreign for me to comprehend, and relate to. Some have called this as a more comedic X-Files, and that’s fine and well for the demographic, which really should not include me. Pass.