Dearest TV viewers, please watch Dear White People

Netflix is continuing the trend of series with provocative content. Dear White People is a 2014 film which has now been adapted for television,  a format that would have been a good fit from the beginning. Justin Simien writer and director of the film has brought the same cast of characters to the small screen to tell a longer and more in depth tale.

Netflix creates an interesting platform for a series of this nature. A 10 episode binge where social and racial issues are the forefront are sure to begin a conversation and it most definitely should. Dear White People the film created much buzz with just the title as did the show. People were calling the title racist, provocative and challenging of what is to be accepted.  It is a show based on a movie that did push people to think which at times it seems people are afraid of doing. Being offended by a title of a series seems like the perfect distraction so we are not asking for social change but simply having to redirect the insensitive to the nearest wambulance.

It is at times funny and charming and at times it is deeply emotion when connecting the mostly black characters into racially charged situations where they dont have the same privilege as the white student body. It is mainly through the voces of Samantha White and Lionel Higgins that the show progresses. The reason is why is because within the plot these two have media outlets to tell their stories to the student body and therefore it seems to be the filler episodes leading to an episode following Sam or Lionel that hits the hardest and deals with the most controversial subject matter.

We have all heard of Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin and many others who have been victimized by police brutality. Its a damn shame we still live in a society where the color of a persons skin can determine how quickly the police are willing to pull their guns. Its a shame that in 2017 we still need to share a hashtag #BlackLivesMatter as if to wonder how many other races wouldn’t feel like the do unless there is a hashtag to spread around their social media and another reason to take selfies they would not see the importance of it. All lives everywhere matter the same amount. Period. Anyone who follows that with words like “Well, depending on….” or “After years of study one can see…. (insert random crime stat here)” Needs to have a reality check. Anyone who has been neglected for hundreds of years is going to lash out. Anyone who tells me that I dont have to be as afraid because I am a white male is probably correct in saying that. Reasonable people know that the importance of life is not determined by race, religion, sexuality and gender. Yet here we are in the midst of more tensions than ever in the good old US of A where racism is more prominent than ever as the leader of the country has shown blatant disrespect to minorities and women everywhere.

Dear White People like every series has some episodes that are most definitely better than others. Gabe and Reggie for example are two characters that are meant to fill the love interest roles from either race with Reggie serving as the weakest character leading up to the season finale and game changing final moments. This show definitely needs another season to continue the stories and tribulations of the black student body at Winchester University. Oh and who does not want to hear more of Giancarlo Esposito’s amazing voice as the narrator. I sure do. This provocative series has the intelligence, content and characters worth exploring for at least a few more seasons. Netflix you did the right thing with 13 Reasons Why and now please follow suit with Dear White People.

Netflix continues it’s dominance as the leader in edgy television. The format simply just works, whether that be the original content they create, the content they continue from other networks or the content they work closely with Marvel on.  The only poorly scripted original series from Netflix is The Ranch and even still from a fan perspective I understand the need to branch out. I prefer the content such as Thirteen Reasons Why and Dear White People when it comes to drama and realism. Of course the Marvel shows have drawn mostly critical acclaim same with the new seasons of Longmire and Arrested Development that were marketed directly for the streaming service. It works because you don’t have to feel obligated to watch and I generally feel that people are less willing to spoil a show when all the episodes are available in one shot. When it airs on a particular night and the audience needs to tune for that time slot it certainly feels like the rush of being the first to know means you are more likely to want to tell your friends who haven’t seen it and they are more likely to ask because they do not know when they themselves are going to be able to watch the episode. I’m on board for the future and Netflix has a lot upcoming that will hopefully continue to push the boundaries of what is acceptable and can hopefully generate enough conversation that we may actually begin to see somethings change. It’s never a bad thing to have a discussion, it’s how the discussion ends that we really need to be focused on.

 

Heartbreaking and tragic. 13 Reasons Why tackles youth bullying and suicide

Probably about once a decade we get a movie or show that completely stands a lone in terms of emotional content. Most series or movies have a few moments that are either gruesome or they leave in a seemingly impossible scenario. Most movies and TV over exaggerate death and even life itself. Very few even try and tackle some darker and deeper themes and when most do it is done incorrectly. One show has now changed the complete way in which stories can be told. Thirteen Reasons Why incorporated life, love, bullying, obession, secrets, lies, sex, partying, rape and even suicide into a little over 14 hours of story telling and it sure was an emotional rollercoaster as can be expected. 

Within minutes of the series starting we already knew the outcome for Hannah Baker and we knew it was not going to be a good one or an easy one to handle. That itself creates a very knowingly emotional season finale while creating a mystery cloud around why. Within minutes of the series we knew that Hannah Baker the main protagonist of a new series we were watching takes her own life and we know that 13 people helped cause that in various forms. Thirteen Reasons Why immediately made us feel sad and that was the purpose but quickly through the flashbacks we learn it was a series of events for Hannah Baker that would either be wrong place wrong time or purely an outsider creating a world of pain for Hannah. 

As we learn with Hannah taking your life is rarely ever a spur of the moment decision. It is a decision made over time when things begin to turn completely inversed to the point that the reality you once knew is now a dark place filling your head with the scenarios you wish you could take back. Suicide is devastaingly permanent and changes the life of everyone around you forever. Suicide is something we collectively need to start taking more seriously. Depression, bullying, secrets, lies, Rape and emotional manipulation are all things we as people need to begin to try and understand by speaking with those affected by it and not judge them. 

Thirteen Reasons Why spends a lot of the series detailing the people and scenarios that are leading to the heartbreaking season finale but even though we know the outcome we still hold onto the hope that somehow Hannah was not dead and the tapes were just a cry for attention. However just like life the show has a very intense way of reminding us that just when we are beginning to accept the things we cannot change we finally have the ability to fully comprehend why they are even happening in the first place. 

It was not until the episode that was centered around Justin for the second time and then Clay Jensen that definitely sealed why Hannah did what she did. Justin held onto a secret to keep his friend safe and Clay was afraid to love someone who had a reputation. Which leads me to the cast. Katherine Langford and Dylan Minnette have incredibly chemistry as Hannah and Clay. Minnnete’s Clay was quiet, reserved and introverted. Hannah was always mysterious, confident and definitely quirky. Clay and Hannah were just two people afraid of the world who could have been great together but just did not have the confidence to make it work. Langford and Minnette definitely helped propel the story forward and a long with the rest of the cast helped bring to life a story that perhaps is more culturally relevant than ever. 

As a father of a beautiful 1 year old girl who is my entire world this show was the first show ever in my days of watching TV that actually broke me. It had me balling my eyes out more than once and understandbly so. There were two scenes in particular that broke my heart as a father. Those two scenes were Hannah Bakers rape and suicide. Langford’s look of hopelesness and lonliness during the rape scene was too much. It was never quite clear what to expect from the episode where we see the final moments of Hannahs life. The scene where Hannah steals the razor blades from her parents pharmacy is hard enough but it does not stop there and the show does not shy away from showing it. Again Langfords frantic and lonely look are what create an emotion so overwhelming that the natural reaction is merely to react emotionally. However I knew the scene and the outcome of the season but seeing Katherine Langford act out that scene was too much. When she slips in the tub I still had my eyes on the screen but it is the moment when the blood starts gushing that I could no longer watch. Never in the time that I have been watching movies and shows has any show been so emotionally debilitating that I simply closes my eyes, paused the show and I simply wept uncontrollably at 145 am in my living room. Perhaps it was being a father that made me feel for Hannah Baker. Perhaps it was knowing that people can make others feel that horribly about themselves. Its a shame that women everywhere are made to feel the way Hannah felt in Thirteen Reasons Why. The show is about Hannah Baker and the people that lead her to make that choice but the show is meant to show us that there are people everywhere like Hannah who feel they have lost their mind, spirit and body and the only way out to is to take their own life.

 It’s a message to all of us watching to please be more perceptive of the people who are around us everyday and to acknowledge our feelings even when we are scared to do it. Its a message to all of us watching to be closer to the ones we love and embrace them when they are struggling. We should never shy away from telling someone we love them. We should never take someones soul from them. We are humans and built on emotions much stronger than any other life form can comprehend and yet we choose to use it to manipulate people. I just want to know the world is not capable of the things depicted in Thirteen Reasons Why but I already know they are because of the way the show made me feel.
Netflix you have created the most culturally relevant show in years. I definitely feel this needs to be shown and discussed within schools. This show is scripted but this stuff really happens and until it stops we cannot be afraid to discuss it and help those in need. We need to find a way to stop this in the real world and make sure our loved ones never feel a lone. Lonliness is a hard place to escape from. My daughter is my reason for life. Please find yours. In all seriousness to anyone feeling like taking their own life please reach out. Dont wait. 

Best of Television 2016

With the ever growing landscape of Television it becomes more of a challenge each year to create a list of the best. It creates a mad dash where each episode could make or break the chance at the list. This year was especially tough. We have such a great list of newcomers and perenial favorites jockeying for the coveted number. Without further ado lets countdown the years best from the small screen.

10- Pitch (Fox)- This show immediately earned itself a spot with the presentation of the Major League broadcasts. Despite the low numbers Pitch has an amazing cast.The praise for Kylie Bunbury has been high but it is the overall cast that really helps the show shine. Pitch is a show that really deserves a long run but that is looking more and more doubtful as the ratings have yet to raise.

9. Gotham (Fox)- This is a show that since day one has been really hit or miss but in early season three it really hit a stride thanks to Benedict Samuel as Jervis Tetch. Michael Chiklis also added some much needed refreshment even if these story lines concluded quickly. Gotham is a show rich with potential story lines and so far in season three the writers have done a fantastic job giving us some fresh thoughts and new adventures with some familiar foes. 

8. The Walking Dead (AMC)- This show has really taken a turn downhill and it has slowly seen the show drop on the list. The only real reason this show is making the list is because of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his intro and follow up episodes. The rest of the season 6 finale set no expectation and ruined my anticipation. However Walking Dead still gets a place on this list this year and who knows what the future has in store so it very well could find itself on the list again next year.

7. The Path (Showtime)- Aaron Paul and Hugh Dancy are two of my favorite actors and to pair them together in this series was phenomenal. There was so much tension and emotion in this drama. It led to a thrilling season of building the showdown and revelations. Season 2 should be just as good so fingers crossed.

6. Suits (USA)- The story took a creative turn this year sending the lead to prison and making it one of the most compelling stories yet on the show. Plus the show lead up to the departure of Gina Torres who’s fiesty Jessica Pearson will always be missed. Here is to hoping she will return for a guest stint. 

5. Atlanta (FX)- Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino once again finds a unique way to show us he is a unique personality with a fresh perspective on social culture. His music continues to showcase his raw writing talent and TV allows him to display another part of him that means so much. His history.

4.The Flash (CW)- This show continued to do everything it has done right again. It slipped a little during the beginning of season three leaving out key components of the Flashpoint paradox and opting to be less daring and very predictable in the story telling. The acting is probably the series strongest point and Tom Felton has been a key contributor this season during the first half.

3. Daredevil (Netflix)- Season two was amazing for one major reason. Jon Bernthal. He has set the bar high for his own solo series as The Punisher but he is the main reason season two continued to push the envelope of character development and gritty storylines. His presence added a much needed sense of realism that was evidently lacking during most of the seasons second half. 

2. Empire (Fox)- This is one of the juiciest shows on television. The drama and the music are always sizzling hot. Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard are amazing on screen together. The chemisty is just off the charts. However this season the praise has to be given to Jussie Smollett for his wide display of emotions both through Jamals music and his expressions as a human being struggling to cope with what happened to him. Empire continues to be one of the highlights of my viewing experience. 

1. This is Us (NBC)- This may go down as the first and only time a rookie show will ever win this spot. No other new show has been as emotionally engaging as This is Us in my viewing experience. Everyone plays their role to perfection creating an ensemble of people who all have their own pain and past that still leaves them searching for answers. Lead by Mandy Moore and Sterling K. Brown This is Us thrives on the raw talent the cast has. One of the most realistic shows in all of TV. That mid season finale had me on the verge of tears all the way through and very few shows evoke that kind of response especially during this time of year. This is Us sure has found a weaving narrative that works. I see this show competing for this number one spot for quite a few years. An amazing show. 

Swing Batta Batta Swing! Walking Dead returns for season 7. 

Walking Dead is back. I won’t say with a vengeance or with full force because that implies that it is still a top tier show and it just simply is not. It did set the tone for season seven as rather grimm and depressing and sure did make Rick look like a different person altogether. That being said the season seven premiere was exactly what it was expected to be and that is a big reason why Walking Dead will most likely never again hold the title of TVs number one drama.

From this point going forward in the review there will be major spoilers. You have been warned. This is the last sentence you should be reading. If you are still reading then you probably already know whos lives Lucille claimed. If not then please I urge you to stop here. 

Abraham did not need to go in this manner. Glenn made sense as he is the one from the comics who suffered the same fate. Abraham was just simply not the character we waited six agonizing months to watch die. Impact wise for Rick it should have been Daryl and Glenn starting with Daryl. Long time fans may call me Savage but that is the direction I was hoping for. Norman Reedus will always have my support as an actor but this was his time to. The writers had a huge opportunity to create a flash back sequence for him over the years and after being the first person to stand up to Negan that would have been a huge moment for all the fans to realize just how much this world no longer belongs to Rick and co.

The best decision made from the writing stand point was not to bog down the episode with Morgan and Carol soap opera inspired scenes. The entirety of the episode focused on Negan and the new world order he is establishing and Jeffrey Dean Morgan killed it with a homerun of a performance. Puns definitely intended. 

Negan will obviously be the opposing force to the Alexandrians moving forward but it was an interesting performance from Andrew Lincoln and there was a crucial moment that it seemed Rick may never actually come back from this. Walking Dead needs to get back to being a character driven drama with meaningful story. Jeffrey Dean Morgan could easily be the catalyst for this as the screen time he had in the premiere was used most effectively.  The crucial moment with Rick was when Negan had him almost chop off his own sons arm. Andrew Lincoln was sobbing uncontrollably and this made the scene both powerful and uncomfortable to watch. It would have a bigger message had the writers made him go through with it. What greater way to be brought to your lowest point then to be constantly be reminded of the brutality in which you were forced to partake. Even without the loss of a limb this scene still managed to evoke some of the most intense emotions since the end of season 2.

Its not clear when the decision was made that it would be both Glenn and Abraham that would meet Lucille but these two will surely be missed on a weekly basis. Michael Cudlitz was an actor I enjoyed watching even before his stint on TWD and Steven Yeun is an actor I will most definitely look out for in his future projects. Having been a fan of Walking Dead since day one a death scene to exit the show is not uncommon and it definitely was not wasted here. Even if these were the two names most frequently thrown around all summer the emotion in this episode was definitely the strong point. The predicitability was typical Walking Dead nature and it did slow the momentum of the episode slightly because it was not as devestating it was meant to be. 

With everything that happened in this episode and all the set up for the season it does not escape the critcism. Walking Dead through out the first three years it was on Television was almost a lock for the top drama of each year but now it is stale and predictable. An actor like Jeffrey Dean Morgan is sure to breath some life into the show and he is essentially the reason why season 7 will be worth watching from an acting stand point. Negan is going to bring a lot of change and mark my words Jeffrey Dean Morgan will steal every scene he is in this season and could possibly score an emmy nomination. Its long overdo that a Walking Dead actor does get a nomination. 

Best Television Shows of 2015

Top 10 Best Shows of 2015

10. Bloodline (Netflix)- The dark portrayal of Ben Mendolsohn made this show more mysterious, add in that he created drama with almost everyone he interacted with and you have one of the most engaging shows of 2015. His chemistry with Kyle Chandler was downright phenomenal and as the season progressed you knew it was heading to something chilling.

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9. Fear The Walking Dead (AMC)- Touted as the next big zombie show Fear did a fantastic job spreading the paranoia and panic of the early days of the apocalypse. It was fresh to see people struggling with their morality as they made questionable decisions and it was even more fun to be on an abosultely fun ride that did come pre-packaged by a neat comic book story. The cast was good, not great in their respective family roles which is what kept this show from going higher on the list.

8.Longmire (Netflix)- The once canceled cowboy drama found a new home on Netflix and the format sure did help. It began right where the third season had left off and took us to new levels as story lines were ended and new ones began which lead to another thrilling cliffhanger. Robert Taylor is very subtle in portraying the slight nuances that make Walter Longmire who he is and the rest of the cast fits in nicely, taking on more screen time due to the almost 15 minutes extra run time they received per episode.

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7. Ray Donovan (Showtime)- Probably the only element of this show that can’t be criticized is the casting. Leiv Schrieber is very emotionally disconnected as Ray, having bottled his emotions for too long and now he cant run from them any longer. Ray Donovan combines the absurdities of an upper class California lifestyle with enough family drama to keep the story flowing at a good rate and to keep the emotional scenes coming at us with intensity.

6. The Walking Dead (AMC)- This show was once a shoe-in for a top 5 spot, but recently the survival element has not been enforced as hard as it should be. This show once praised itself on no one being safe and there was not been a death that was surprising since Lori died in season 3. Lennie James returning as Morgan has provided some reassurance that there is still potential story lines for characters who think differently than the core group, and the upcoming second half promises to have a much needed change in pace with Negan being introduced before seasons end. 2016 could lead the Walking Dead back into it’s old unpredictable and violent territory.

5. Empire (Fox)- Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson are electrifying and it is so crazy to think that all episodes of this show have aired only 2015, which makes it one hell of a debut. Any other year this show debuting this strong could have possibly garnered it the number one spot. Empire features dope musical guest stars from Courtney Love to Alicia Keys and the drama is hot enough to start a fire in any room. Empire is straight up one of the best produced shows on television on all fronts, from story telling to editing to acting, this show will have a perennial top 5 spot as long as it airs and as long as it continues down this path.

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4. Daredevil (Netflix)- One of Marvels most deep heroes, Netflix took a much darker approach than the disappointing 2003 Ben Affleck film. Another show with top notch production value and the selling point to it all was the choreography for the fight scenes. Every punch, every bruise felt real and you could feel it watching as no single character dominated every fight and no one character looked more badass than the next. Couple that with a fine performance from Vincent D’Onafrio as Wilson Fisk and you have perhaps the finest Marvel production to date and that includes the cinematic universe.

3. Halt and Catch Fire (AMC)- Early computer creations, early gaming platforms, set in the early to mid 80’s, AMC has one of the most original time pieces of all time in this show and they made a smart decision to pick it up for a third season despite the low ratings. Season 2 was much better than season one, allowing the strong female characters to take the forefront. Lead by Kerry Bishe and Mackenzie Davis the Mutiny story line created put the two women on a dangerous path as one tried to move on after a tumultuous relationship and the other tried to keep a family together.

2. The Flash (CW)- With a cast full of relatively unknowns, The Flash has taken on some fairly emotional content and every cast member has had the chance to be brilliant. Grant Gustin has depth and shows his emotional range on a fairly regular basis and the villainous guest stars have been incredible efficient in creating dynamic villains for the Flash to engage with. Season 2 has introduced the multiverse and that opens up many new story lines and it is only a matter of time before the back half of season 2 begins to allow them to unfold.

1. Hannibal (NBC)- There probably is not a single positive word that has not already been used to describe this show. Every time I sat down to watch it my mind was blown by the psychological themes on display and the undertones were even darker and twisted. Season three took on perhaps the most grim Hannibal story lines with the Verger farm in the mid season finale and then time jump to include The Red Dragon in the back half. Mads Mikkelson continued to excel and make Hannibal his own with such a deep performance. Every word spoken to him and Hugh Dancy’s Will Graham brought the show to new levels and left you wanting more each week. It’s a shame probably the best produced show in the past decade has ended so soon after what was probably the best story line to date. As a fan of this show, I can only imagine where this show would have gone next, but the one that was a guarantee is that it would have been emotionally and visually satisfying.

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