Monday, October 29, 2012

New Network Dramas

I think it is getting harder and harder for the networks to produce quality dramas for their prime-time schedules.  The cost is prohibitive and they are always competing with cable and premium cable, a skirmish in which the networks are at a distinct disadvantage.  There are four new network dramas this season that I think are pretty good.

VEGAS (Tuesdays, 9pm, CBS)
This CBS crime drama, set in Las Vegas in the 1960’s, offers up the best cast.  It’s hard not like Dennis Quaid as the crusty, curmudgeonly Sheriff Ralph Lamb, and rancher/lawman, working to keep his hometown clean.  His mobster counter part is Vincent Savino, played by a personal favorite Michael Chiklis.  Jason Mara and Carrie Ann Moss fill out this nice cast.  

The program has thus far ignored most of the glitz and glam of Vegas in the 1960’s.  We are seeing only a tiny bit of the Strip.  Such star power as the Rat Pack and Elvis may not have even existed if we didn’t already know they did.  The show treats Las Vegas as a barely more than provincial, backwater, two-bit town, with its sheriff who rules wearing his signature cowboy hat and boots.  The storylines have focused thus far on only one casino, Savino’s Savoy.  This approach is all right for now but the show needs to expand its focus in the coming weeks so it doesn’t become stale.  There was a lot going on in Las Vegas at this time and it would be nice to see that. 

It is mostly about the characters and their battle of good versus evil.  Not much is new but with two fine lead actors such as these, I am willing to give time to Vegas to improve.

NASHVILLE (Wednesdays, 9pm, ABC)
This program takes a look into the country music business while following the careers of two female singers.  Connie Britton plays Rayna James, a classic country star who has fallen behind in popularity with a new, younger generation of country fans.  Hayden Panettiere portrays the younger, less talented singer, Juliette Barnes, who is supplanting Rayna as the top Nashville star (Reva vs. Taylor???).  Britton is perfect as her industry’s reigning matron, who just can’t believe she is being seriously challenged by the youngster – and she is losing.  Panettiere has been terrific as the up and comer who can’t wait to knock the Queen of County from her pedestal.  Panettiere flashes between flirty vixen to hateful villain, seamlessly without effort.  She flashes a beautiful smile one minute and a fearsome frown the next. 

Both characters have skeletons in their closets and a myriad of family problems.  Rayna comes from a wealthy family but is struggling financially.  Juliette comes from nothing is always trying to put her past, and her drug addicted mother, behind her.

Solid acting and good writing gives Nashville a legitimate chance of success.  The back drop of country music gives this show a current feel and I am enjoying it thus far.

REVOLUTION (Mondays, 9pm NBC)
The premise behind this program is a bit apocryphal.  Something happens in the present that shut down all electricity all over the world and, of course, chaos reigns.  The program is set fifteen years in the future and we get the past through brief flashbacks.  The fall out is that during the chaos, militias arise and take over the county, by force in most cases.  The leaders of these militias become warlords and eventually whittle themselves down to one.  Of course, the one wants to rule everyone and everything with an iron hand. 

The underlying plot here, though, is that some electricity exists.  A small number of mysterious pendants seem to control a limited amount of electricity and our friendly local warlord, Sebastian Monroe (David Lyons) wants to find out where the electricity comes from and wants to control it.  He spends all his resources tracking down and cajoling a scientist Rachel Matheson (Elizabeth Mitchell) into showing him how it all works.  He kidnaps her son and kills her estranged husbands to get her to obey.  Billy Burke is Monroe’s former right hand, now gone rogue, and brother to Matheson’s dead husband, and is trying to rescue his nephew.

Convoluted enough for you?  It’s really not that bad.  The program has its moments of intensity and action, and is seldom boring.  Two actors have been especially terrific.  Veteran actor Giancarlo Esposito and fresh face Tracy Spiridakos both just chew up the scenes they are in, easily out shining their co-actors in vastly different ways. 

Revolution has any number of plot lines it can explore over any number of seasons and I look forward to a long run for this program.

CHICAGO FIRE (Wednesdays, 9pm, CBS)
Fire and mayhem always make for good entertainment fodder.  Good looking actors in high drama, high intensity situations is always a fun way to spend an hour.  This program is no different.  Since this is a Dick Wolfe production, I am looking for controversial storylines with not always expected outcomes.  So far, that has not been the case.  While there are several likable characters and the action is been fine, the story lines have been canned, unimaginative, rehashed plots we have seen dozens of times.  Because of Wolfe’s history of on the edge programming (the Law & Order franchise), I am willing to give Chicago Fire sometime to find its artist legs.  The actors are, for the most part, little known or flat out no names but they are playing intriguing characters with some possibilities.  The fires and intense situations are enough to keep this show alive for a while.  I would like to see more meaty storylines though.

There you go.  Four network dramas that worth watching and all have a really nice upside.  All could be improved but I am willing to allow them some time for that improvement.  I think they could be worth it.

On another note completely, I would like too thank all of my loyal readers.  I have gone past the 5000 mark for page views for my two blogs – and  I know not all of those hits are from people seeking to read my thoughts specifically but I do know many of you do read these blogs on a regular basis and I thank you for reading.  I have received a lot of support and positive feedback on my writing over the past year and a half and I want you all to know how much that means to me.  Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 13, 2012


When I first saw the trailer for Argo, I found the topic intriguing.  I also wondered what kind of audience it would draw.  I doubted this film would draw the audience that should go see it.  As I sat in the theater, I couldn’t help but notice that nearly every person at this particular screening was older than I am.  That was unfortunate because younger people are going to not only miss a taunt, explosive thriller but also a very important chapter in recent American history.

As I sat through the opening half an hour or so, my mind began to refresh itself on the events from over thirty years ago that made up the subject matter of this film.  In 1979, I was thirteen years old.  I was old enough to remember the events but not old enough to comprehend what led to them.   I remember the images of these events and the anguish that accompanied them.  I can easily recall the news reports and the yellow ribbons tied around trees, fence posts, and telephone poles.  As I have gotten older, I have learned more about the chain of events that led to the fall of the Shah of Iran and I believe it to be important and relevant to current world events.  Unfortunately, I doubt as many of our country’s youth will find this movie interesting enough to go see.

It is my opinion that Ben Affleck has become a much better director than he ever was an actor.  In Argo, he was adequate in the lead role but was brilliant as the director.  He did a great job capturing the mood and the images.  His attention to detail was incredible.  He was passable as an actor because this wasn’t role that required greatness.  It wasn’t about the individual characters but the events themselves.  Affleck kept the pace brisk and the drama constant.  He was patient in not only telling the story but educating the audience on the cause and the background.  He maintained the edge-of-your-seat intensity right up to the end, drawing out the drama and excitement with dragging it out too far.

I am all for going to the movies for entertainment purposes.  I am also thrilled when I can thoroughly enjoy and movie and also learn some things too.  It was great to see what really happened during a historical event from my lifetime and getting a peak at how they unfolded.  I look for Ben Affleck to get an Oscar nod for his direction of this film and it will be well deserved.  I am gaining more and more respect for him as a film maker and it appears he is building his niche in Hollywood. 

Whether you are old enough to remember these events or not, do yourself a favor and go see this film.  As I mentioned, it is relevant to current world events and it a terrific true story thriller.  Encourage any younger people you may know to see Argo.  No one will be disappointed.

Thank you for reading…