Category Archives: Television

Home Sweet Home Review

The best way to learn about someone who is different from us is to spend a day in their shoes. Though the outcome is not 100% guaranteed, the hope is that we see that person behind the stereotypes and the labels.

NBC‘s new reality show, Home Sweet Home premiered last Friday. Created by writer/producer Ava Duvernay, it is a sort of gentler version of Wife Swap. Each episode follows two families who switch lives and homes for four days. While in the other’s house, they live as that family does and meet their loved ones. At the the end of that period, they meet for a meal and get to know those who they have temporarily shared their lives with.

The participants in the first episode are a heteronormative Caucasian Greek Orthodox couple and an African-American LGBTQ couple.

Though the show could border on schmaltzy or the typical overly dramatic reality television formula, it doesn’t. It has a nice balance of tension and the predictable narrative that the audience has come to expect for the genre. What I found appealing was that it spoke to the humanity in all of us. The connection between the two families was the thing that drew me in. Despite their differences, they not only got along, but they became friends. The hook that will keep me watching was a statement by the father. He realized that it is possible to raise children that are happy and successful without forcing the traditional cis gender two parent structure down our throats.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Home Sweet Home airs on NBC on Friday night at 8PM.

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Rita Moreno & Mental Health: A Revelation That Needs to be Heard

Rita Moreno is more than an icon. She is a trailblazer who opened the door for non-POC performers to not only have a career, but to play roles than were more than the servant or the background character. She also dealt with mental illness and lived to tell the tale.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It premiered a couple of weeks ago on the PBS series American Masters. The documentary follows her life and career from her early days playing “ethnic” characters to her current status as one of the most respected performers in Hollywood. Best known for her role as Anita in 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story, it was one of the first (if not the first) fully fleshed out Latino characters on the big screen. Up until that point, Latinx performers either had to hide who they were (a la Rita Hayworth) or play a stereotypical characters ( e.g. Carmen Miranda).

While I was not surprised that she was sexually assaulted. Then, as now, women are still seen as sex objects to be used and thrown away when our usefulness outside of the bedroom has vanished. What I was surprised is that she has lived with mental health problems for decades and survived a suicide attempt. I found her honesty to be refreshing and comforting. It was as if she was saying “I did it, you can too”.

If I could, I would send an invite to watch this film to anyone whose life is complicated by mental illness. If it provides one person at least a brief respite from the mess in our heads and the push to ask for help, I would be satisfied.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is available for streaming on the PBS website.

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Flashback Friday: Chrisley Knows Best (2014-Present)

There is something curious about reality television. We know that the term “reality” is a misnomer. For all it claims of being true to life, it is just as scripted as any fictional program. But yet, we leave our skepticism at the door, expecting everything that occurs on screen to be released to the public as it was filmed.

Chrisley Knows Best has been on the air since 2014. The series follows wealthy businessman Todd Chrisley and his family as they go about their business. If his wife, his children, and his mother were to ask about his worse qualities, they would say that he is controlling, quick to get upset, and unwilling to see another’s perspective.

A play off of the 1950’s sitcom, Father Knows Best, this show is best described as a low rent version of The Osbournes. Within the parameters of “reality shows“, this program is the worst of the worst. It is brainless, foolish, and I personally find that there is nothing entertaining about this family. It has been on the air for quite a few years, so obviously, there is an audience for it. But I am not part of that audience.

Do I recommend it? No.

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The War of the Worlds Review

Every genre has its founding work and author. In science fiction, that seminal work is The War of the Worlds and the author is H.G. Wells. His story of alien invasion has both thrilled and scared audiences for generations.

One of the most recent adaptions was released in 2019. Starring Eleanor Tomlinson, Rafe Spall, and Robert Carlyle, this version takes place in Edwardian era England. George (Spall) and Amy (Tomlinson) are living happily in un-wedded bliss. Shunned by most of the people around them because he is still married to someone else, their spent much of their time with Ogilvy (Carlyle). Ogilvy is a scientist whose methods and reputation are considered to be questionable by the establishment. George and Amy’s bliss is interrupted by an alien invasion from Mars. Now it is a question of survival, not just for them, but the future of the human race.

I truly enjoyed this three part miniseries. It was suspenseful, riveting, and extremely engaging. I haven’t read the book yet, so I can’t speak to what changes have been made. But I can say with certainty that if this is one of the definitive adaptations (with the most famous being the 1938 radio broadcast by Orson Welles), it has piqued my curiosity about the original text.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Eyes of Tammy Faye Review

Those of us above a certain age remember the late Tammy Faye Bakker for her boundless enthusiasm, her makeup that some might call excessive and how she was portrayed in the press. When she and first husband, Jim Bakker made the news in the 1980’s for the financial scandal surrounding their television ministry, there was no escaping the headlines.

The new movie, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, takes the audience behind the flash and the noise to reveal the real woman. Stepping into the shoes of Tammy Faye and Jim are Jessica Chastain and Andrew Garfield. The film follows Bakker from her early years, where she is an outcast due to her parents divorce to the high of being the face of televangelism for a generation, and finally when she became a late night punchline that revolved around the fiscal mismanagement of the Bakker’s Christian ministry empire.

First of all, kudos to the makeup and hair department. They were able to recreate Tammy Faye’s iconic look without making it look like Chastain was wearing a Halloween mask. What I liked about the film is that the woman on the screen is much more than was in the news back in the day. She has a big heart, genuinely believes in her mission (and her husband), and unlike others in her world, is willing to embrace members of LGBTQ community.

A nice counterpoint to Tammy Faye is her mother, Rachel, played by Cherry Jones. Rachel is down to earth and practical. She does not exactly want to burst her daughter’s bubble, but wants to bring Tammy Faye back to reality. What I did not realize is that in her own way, Bakker was a feminist. She was not the typical wife of religious leader who quietly stays in her lane. Tammy Faye was an equal partner in sharing their message with viewers and fans. My only complaint is that towards the end of the film, a few minutes could have been cut from the final presentation.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Eyes of Tammy Faye is presently in theaters.

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La Brea Review

The science fiction and fantasy genres are fascinating. There seems to be no limit in the stories that can be told.

La Brea premiered earlier this week on NBC. On an average day in Los Angeles, a sink hole opens, swallowing everything and everyone its path. Among those that have fallen in are Eve Harris (Natalie Zea) and her son Josh (Jack Martin). On the surface, Eve’s daughter Izzy (Zyra Gorecki) and her estranged husband Gavin (Eoin Macken) are trying to figure what happened. Gavin is having visions of the fate those who have disappeared into the sinkhole, but, no one believes him.

Thousands of miles below them, Eve, Josh and the other survivors have found themselves in ancient world, populated by animals that have not been seen alive for a millennia. The first task to figure out where (and when) they are and pull through. The second is to get home. Neither will be easy.

I like this show. It reminds of both Lost and The Lost World. Among the new series of this season, it is certainly a unique concept. I like both the family dynamic and the creative twist to a narrative that we have all seen in one form or another. Though the special effects leave a little to be desired, I’ve seen worse.

As good as I think it is, the reception from both audiences and veers toward the negative. Only time will tell if the full season is released or it is cut short. Either way, it is worth at least, a chance.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

La Brea airs on NBC on Tuesday night at 9PM.

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Flashback Friday: Secrets of the Dead (2000-Present)

When someone dies, it may appear that everything they knew was lost when they passed. But if we look closely enough, what they left behind speaks to us as much as the person themselves.

Secrets of the Dead has been on the PBS schedule since 2000. In this documentary series, each episode examines one person or moment in history using the known facts and the objects that stand in for the subject. Part scientific/archeological study and part true-life story, this program is ideal combination of educational and entertaining.

I find this series to be fascinating. It balances the history and the drama to present as much as a complete story as possible. Bringing these people and these worlds back to life, the audience is treated to a compelling drama and a time in history in which they may not have not had all of the facts.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Throwback Thursday: Confessions of Matchmaker (2007)

It would be nice to say that love finds us without any effort. But for every person whose soulmate just walks into their life, there is another person who needs a little help.

Confessions of a Matchmaker aired on A&E in 2007. Set in Buffalo, NY, the audience follows matchmaker Patti Novak as she helps her clients find their perfect partner. Her no-nonsense attitude allows those who have hired her to work past their issues and if all goes well, there is a possibility of a bright future for the couple.

What I liked about this show is that unlike other reality dating shows, it was not as slick or pretty looking. Patti was willing to help those who came to her, but she did not coddle them. She also dropped them if she felt that they were unwilling to do the work needed to walk into the sunset.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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The Big Leap Review

Life does not always give us second chances. Sometimes, we make a decision and our path is set.

The Big Leap premiered last week on Fox. The show follows a group of underdogs who audition for a reality dance show. At the end of the season, the chosen cast will be performing a modern remake of Swan Lake. Nick Blackburn (Scott Foley) is the producer trying to repair his reputation after his previous show did not go over well. Among the contestants is Julia Perkins (Teri Polo), a middle aged former dancer who has once last chance of glory. Gabby Lewis’s (Simone Recasner) world in high school was dancing. Then she got pregnant and had to grow up. Paula Clark (Piper Perabo) spent years climbing the corporate ladder before realizing that she wanted to do more than push paper for the rest of her life.

As cliché as this program is, I liked the first couple of episodes. I like that is also exposes how far the creative team will go to get a story, even if it is not 100% accurate. But if there was one thing for me that clinched is that Gabby is not a size two. For all of us who believe that our clothing tags have to list a specific number, it is lovely and far too uncommon to see the average American woman represented on television.

My only question is, how long this show can last. If it lasts the full season and we get to the final performance, where does the narrative go? Is there enough story to proceed to further seasons?

Do I recommend it? Yes.

The Big Leap airs on Fox on Monday night at 9PM.

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The Wonder Years Review

The Wonder Years is one of the most beloved television series of the modern era. The story of growing up from the perspective of Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) speaks to the 12 year old in all of us.

The reboot of the series premiered on Tuesday on ABC. As in the original program, the story is set in 1968, but in Montgomery, Alabama. Our protagonist is 12 year old Dean Williams (Elisha Williams). Narrating the story from decades in the future as the adult Dean is Don Cheadle. As Dean starts on his journey from childhood to adulthood, the Civil Right movement plays on in the background affecting everything and everyone around him.

The Wonder Years is one of the best new series of the fall. It has the charm and nostalgia of its predecessor, while feeling relevant with the issues that African-Americans and other people of color are still dealing with. It hits both the heart and the head, making the viewer think while reminding us of the joys and perils of being on the precipice of our teenage years.

Do I recommend it? Yes

The Wonder Years airs on ABC on Tuesday at 8:30 PM.

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