Munchman’s Latest TV Musings

Munchman’s TV Musings #6
by Munchman

  1. Everywhere Yer Friendly Neighborhood Munchovy looks on the interwebs he finds reviews of Marvel’s latest film, Doctor Strange. And every one of those reviews the munchy one has read starts out by apologizing for how much the critic has loved the furshluginner thing. Alas, sad as it is to say, Munchmoi is now joining the legion of the damned reviewers and saying, “Yeppers, kids, you’re right. I shouldn’t be so fucken positive but the rep-ruining truth from this particular youngish curmudgeon, “Holy Dread Dormamu, but I really did love this silly movie!” It’s my favorite Marvel comic character brought to life in a way that made me cry when I realized that creator Steve Ditko probably isn’t getting one single cent of the till. What’s that you say? Slammin’ Steve is only the co-creator of Doctor Strange? Well, folks, that depends on your definition of “creator,” doesn’t it? And the way Muncharoni looks at it, if the guy who called him back in the ’60s and said, “Steve, I need a magician character for next Thursday” deserves to be called a co-creator, then Rod Stewart’s ex-wife Britt Ekland deserves to be credited as co-writer of all the songs he wrote while she fellated him. (Yeppers, Britt went to court demanding credit and moola, and Red said what he said about her contribution to the writing, and the judge said, “Buh-bye Britty!”)  Bottom line here: Go see this movie. You’ll have a blast.
  2. On another positive note, I’m pleased to report that a site I never heard of before, called ITVT.Com AKA InteractiveTV Today, is every bit as good as most of the hyperbole on its “About Us” page says. Which come to think of it, means all those words of self-praise aren’t hyperbole at all, just good old self-promotion. Note to ITVT staff: This definitely is gilding the lily. You motherfuckers are awesome. Munchacha particularly is enamored of your new column “Run of Show,” about today’s “star showrunners,” who they are and how they came to be. Although I admit to being a little disappointed in the column title. “Run of Show” sounds just plain awkward to me. Why not something cleaner and simpler, like, say, “Head Honchos?” or “Unsung Heroes?” Wait, scratch that last suggestion. Showrunners aren’t exactly unsung anymore, are they? Thanks for helping with that, ITVT!
  3. Saw an article headling saying, “Why You Need to Change Your Writing Style” at another site I wasn’t familiar with, BaselineMag.Com, and immediately got all freaked out. You know, along the lines of, “Who the hell are you, asshat, to be telling me to change how I write? Munchester is so damned unpopular I’d bet half of Trumpazoid’s billion bucks (but not of me own) that you’ve never even read me!” Then I read the article, and now I’m here to recommend it. Here’s the opening sentence: “If you’re using a writing style that worked a few years ago, it’s probably obsolete.” The rest of this little gem explains why and how to fix it, and every word Mike Elgan puts out there is right on. Especially if your audience is younger than Gen X, the concept that if your examples or language usage is based on samples and usage from 10 years ago or more. Nobody that young has a clue, for example, of what the hell the phrase “right on,” means. Yeah, I snuck that in deliberately cuz like being an anachronistic kinda guy!
  4. Time now to return to the Negative Zone. Munchadario just ain’t buying a how a recent article on inews.co.uk spent about as much verbiage as the rest of us have whining about President Elect Tramp on an article titled “Meet the Visionairy TV Writers Behind the Autumn’s Hottest Dramas. Come on, people! TV show creators aren’t goddamn visionaries, they’re writers! Visionaries are magical beings, people, and, dammit, ain’t no TV writer who’s magic. Put a magical visionary thinker in a room full of TV executives, baby, and believe me, it’ll be like feeding a unicorn the lions. TV is pretty damn good these days, but it ain’t up there at the heavenly heights. Of course, I’m working for a guy who once had business cards claiming he was a “televisionary,” so WTFDIK? (Hope I’m not hurting your feelings, LB.)
  5. Last but not least, another, shorter rant to close my douching mouth. Have you seen the Netflix series, Black Mirror? (Actually, it isn’t a Netflix series, it’s a U.K. series picked up by Netflix and…oh, the hell with it. You get the message, yeah?) Anyway, Black Mirror is getting as many great reviews as Doctor Strange these days, but with one difference: Nobody reviewing it is apologizing for all the luv they’re dumping BM’s way. Methinks this besottedness is a generational thing, by which I mean that nobody I know who has seen both BM and the original oldie but goodie The Twilight Zone has said anything other than, “Hey, been watching a new version of Twilight Zone on Netflicks. It’s called Dark Mirror or Black Reflection or something like that.” In other words, BM is good, but it ain’t all that. Yeppers, I know most of you who’re reading this have no idea what half the words I just used mean. Mike Elgan already told me that. But mind-messin’ is a Munchman kinda thing!

That’s it for this week. Seeya soonish with less about the interweb and more musings about Love, Money, and popsicles on TV!

‘Designated Survivor’ a hit for ABC

new_series_designated_survivor-624x351

by Doug Snauffer

ABC’s new political thriller Designated Survivor looked like one of the more intriguing new shows coming to TV this season.  The network promised a compelling series that would tap into our fears regarding terrorism and examine what we as a country look for and need in a leader.

Personally I’m also a fan of Kiefer Sutherland and was happy to see him back on TV.  The concept behind Designated Survivor plays out like the type of scenario that counter-terrorism agent Jack Bauer worked to foil each season on 24.  It’s as if we’re getting a look at what might have occurred if Jack hadn’t been so good at his job.

Of course, Jack Bauer would have made a much better president than Sutherland’s character in Designated Survivor.  Here he plays Tom Kirkland, a low-level politician who inherits the office of President after a bomb explodes during the State of the Union Address, effectively wiping out the nation’s political hierarchy.

Tom had been appointed the ‘designated survivor’ and was sequestered away by the Secret Service, watching on TV as the horrific events played out.  He was then whisked away to the White House and unceremoniously sworn in as the new President of the United States, the most powerful man on the planet.

designatedsurvivorab

‘Designated Survivor’ Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) is sworn in as president of the United States after a bomb wipes out the entire political hierarchy.

Now, I’m not sure how a designated survivor is actually chosen, but if this TV series is any indication, it’s not done very logically.  Tom doesn’t come across as being forceful or overly capable.  He was a bespectacled paper-pusher whom the Secret Service had designated “Glasses.”  And evidently he wasn’t very good at that, seeing that the President was about to fire him.

Perhaps someone owed Tom a favor.  It does present the show with the opportunity to follow an underdog as he rises to a challenge.  In this case, Tom Kirkman has to hold the country together and track down those responsible for the bombing, while continuing to project a strong image both at home and abroad.

0317e5c32d81d9526cd94e7d2cdfbba3525cf8f8a91c33a9de5dd88624f1df44

Acting U.S.President Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) cleaned up and dressed for success.

Tom’s wife Alex (Natascha McElhone) is an attorney, a strong woman who seems to have more faith in her husband than he has in himself.  It’s still to be seen how she’ll perform in the role of First Lady.  I see her as a combination of Jackie Kennedy and Hillary Clinton.

34521b1500000578-3596097-image-a-45_1463551221426

Alex Kirkman (Natascha McElhone) watches as her husband Tom (Kiefer Sutherland) is sworn in as Acting U.S. President.

The show failed, however, with the character of Leo Kirkman (Tanner Buchanan), Tom and Alex’s rebellious 16-year-old son.  After the bombing, the Secret Service began sesrching for Leo and found him selling drugs in a local nightclub.  (I don’t understand the need for network dramas to continually go the dysfunctional family route.)  Then there’s younger daughter Penny (Mckenna Grace), who appears more stable.  Of course she still hasn’t realized the seriousness of all that’s happened.

tanner-buchanan-mckenna-grace

The First Children, Leo (Tanner Buchanan) and Penny Kirkman (McKenna Grace).

Tom is frequently challenged by General Harris Cochrane (Kevin McNally), who has no confidence in his new commander in chief.  The General’s apprehension at answering to Tom is perfectly understandable, so it wasn’t necessary to write the character as a loud, war-crazed, one-dimensional stereotype.

The rest of the staff is often just as cliched:  Seth Wright (Kal Penn) is the new presidential speechwriter, initially a skeptic, but now one of Tom’s closest confidants; Chief of Staff Aaron Shore (Adan Canto) is working behind Tom’s back to have him ousted from office; and FBI agent Hannah Wells (Maggie Q) is leading the investigation into the bombing.   

In the second episode, it turned out the Republicans had chosen a designated survivor of their own, Congresswoman Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen).  She’s certainly knowledgeable, but has no legal claim to the office.  At their first sit-down, Kimble seemed to fully support Tom’s presidency, but in time, and with the backing of those opposed to President Kirkman, she may very likely become a powerful rival.

DESIGNATED SURVIVOR - "The Confession" (ABC/Ben Mark Holzberg) KIEFER SUTHERLAND, VIRGINA MADSEN

The ‘Designated Survivors,’ Tom Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) and Kimble Hookstraten (Virginia Madsen).

Designated Survivor has a lot going for it – a timely premise, a talented and appealing cast, and a network that truly believes in it.  ABC was so high on creator David Guggenheim’s pilot script that they ordered Designated Survivor straight to series last January.  After the first two episodes aired to impressive ratings this fall (Wednesdays, 10:00 p.m.), ABC quickly increased their episode order from 13 to a full-season of 22.

With the events of 9/11 still so vivid in the minds of most Americans, Designated Survivor has the ability to touch viewers on a very personal level.  The images of Capitol Hill in ruins instantly brings back images of the decimated Twin Towers.

designated-survivor-season-1-episode-2-36-433a

President Kirkman (Kiefer Sutherland) inspects Ground Zero.

Designated Survivor holds too much promise to wind up being saddled with storylines from daytime TV.  If it were airing on HBO, Showtime, or even A&E, the bar would be much higher.  We’ve come to expect much edgier fare from those providers while the broadcast networks remain unwilling to break free of their cookie-cutter approach to series TV.

Designated Survivor has tough competition in its timeslot against CBS’ Code Black and NBC’s Chicago, P.D.  But thus far, it’s holding its own.  After four weeks, its averaging 7 million viewers.  So perhaps Tom Kirkman will give Jack Bauer a run for his money in the hero department yet.

Although… (Possible Spoiler)….

300x169-q100_7c095ecb6b7b240f0a095489857efbab

Just look at those shifty eyes.

I’ve got a suspicion that Tom Kirkman is behind the whole thing.  A man with obvious ambitions – no matter how unlikely – of being a leader who never made it past being a lower-level cabinet member.  Then he learns the President is planning to dismiss him, to steal away even that small segment of his dream.  Yeah, it has to be Kirkman.  Just has to be.

Munchman: “Red Oaks” is Back!

by Munchman

It is with great glee that I inform one and all that Red Oaks, that cute little web series about a teenage boy and his privileged, country club life back in the halcyon days of 1986 will be back on the interwebs November 11th.

Not familiar with the series? Here’s some blurb verbiage:

For assistant tennis pro David Meyers it’s been a year of upheaval. In a freefall following his parents’ divorce, forced to drop out of NYU and forego dreams of becoming a filmmaker, his one silver lining has been his budding romance with Skye, the daughter of club president Doug Getty. But when Skye returns home from a year abroad in Paris with more worldly ways and a newfound independence, David finds himself caught in the middle between his strong-willed girlfriend and her equally stubborn father….

The series is written by Gregory Jacobs, Joe Gangemi, Karey Dornetto, Shawn Harwell, Tom Papa, Max Werner and Daisy Gardner.

Lightweight, meaningless, and derivative as Red Oaks may be, it’s as solid a series as you’ll find on the web and a good escape from contemporary conflicts, and Yer Friendly Neighborhood Munchadorio recommends it whole-heartedly–

Wait. What?

Red Oaks isn’t a web series? It’s a presentation of Amazon Studios with Steven Soderbergh and David Gordon Green? You sure about that?

Shazbot! Munchy’s been snookered!

My apologies to all. Judged by professional standards, which I wasn’t doing because Indie TV and all, Red Oaks is bottom of the barrel slime. Stay away! Stay away!

Dammit, I gotta start watching my TV on a bigger screen than an elderly iPhone 5 so I can actually, you know, see the damn credits.

John Ostrander: Making a Better Superman

by John Ostrander

supergirl-season-2As of last Monday night, Warner Bros grew a Superman problem. That’s the night that Supergirl started its second season on its new home, the CW… where one could argue that it always belonged anyway. The show guest starred Supergirl’s cousin, Superman, embodied on TV by Tyler Hoechlin.

If you don’t already know, DC – unlike Marvel – does not link its movie universe and its TV universe. Since DC Comics is currently in the Multiple Universe concept once more, it might help to think of their TV and movie universes as alternate dimensions. So we can have two Flashes, two Wonder Women – and two versions of Superman.

The DC movie version of Superman, as shown in Man of Steel andSuperman vs. Batman: Dawn of Justice Whaddee Do Dah, is played by Henry Cavill and is a darker, more brooding, somewhat more Batman-ish Superman. His costume is also darker, almost a blue-black. He is, we are told, a more “realistic” Superman. And that’s where I think the trouble is going to lie.

Supergirl’s Superman is a more traditional Man of Steel. He’s a brighter, more confident, more hopeful vision. And, not to slam Henry Cavill, Tyler Hoechlin is a better actor. As a kid he held his own with Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig in Road to Perdition where Hoechlin played a starring role as Michael Sullivan, Jr. (Sidenote: not everyone realizes that Road to Perdition is also a “comic book movie” based on the graphic novel by Max Allan Collins and Richard Piers Rayner. Work that little factoid into your conversations. Amaze your friends. Go out and get a copy. Great read. End of plug.)

The Superman appearing on Supergirl is more my idea of who Superman is – confident, capable, friendly, powerful and, according to one character on the show, smells good. When he walks into the DEO, the government facility where Lara’s adopted sister Alex works, people just stop and stare. Superman works the crowd, smiling, shaking hands, setting people at ease not like a politician or even a celebrity but like a nice guy from Kansas which, for all his powers, he is.

Hoechlin also does a great Clark Kent, reminiscent of Christopher Reeve’s great turn, having a deft sense of humor to the portrayal and making the bumbling aspect work. When his cousin secretly congratulates Clark on a well executed file fumble in the elevator, he tells her it wasn’t an act. That’s endearing.

Also, in the TV aspect of the DCU, there isn’t the underlying mistrust that the DC movie universe has for this strange person from another world. Batman wants to kill Superman because the Kryptonian could be a threat; one of the arguments leading to the creation of the Suicide Squad was who could stop Superman if he decided to burst through the roof of the White House and grab the President? On Supergirl, people trust the Man of Steel. Seeing him, or his cousin, inspires hope. While the darker portrayal may be more “realistic,” it’s not what the character is about.

I’m not looking for a return to the Superman of the Fifties as seen in either the comics or the TV show. To be honest, that one bored me even as a kid. The movies, however, makes him more angsty, more dour, and less Super. Hoechlin is only scheduled to appear as a guest star on the TV show for right now but he wears the tights and the cape – and Clark Kent’s glasses – quite well.

I know that in BvS: DoJ (spoiler alert, I guess) Superman dies at the end of the film but we all know he’s coming back for the Justice League movie. I, for one, wouldn’t mind if the movie Superman uses the grave as a chrysalis and pops out as Tyler Hoechlin. Or maybe they can have Tyler spin off into a series as Superman. I’d watch it. And I bet lots of others would as well.

And that’s going to be WB’s problem – the better Superman isn’t on the big screen; it’s on the small one.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium and the writing brain behind the most successful run of Suicide Squad in comics. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix.

Munchman Bitches Again!

What we do for luv – and money!

What we do for luv – and money!

Munchman’s TV Musings #1

More thoughts from Yer Friendly Neighborhood Munchman, a guy acknowledged the world over (or at least within the room in which this is being typed) as a penetrating and trenchant observer and occasional conspirator in today’s TV scene:

  1. Word around the interwebs is that Disney, Amazon, and Apple are all looking into buying Netflix, which tells you bud Muncholo here that those of us who lurve the fact that Neflix is all about entertainment and nothing but (yeppers, I mean me! me! me!) could be in deep schitt because becoming part of just another diversified portfolio means the end of excellence as we know it. Think about it, y’all.  Every time the “our shareholders don’t care about the product, all the want is immediate profit” boys have moved in, audiences have suffered. Why, I remember back when I was Euripedes’ go-fer….
  2. Didja know that Black Sails is coming back for a fourth season on Starz? Do yez know why? Me neither, kidz. And I remember when Starz boss Chris Albrecht was a programming genius! Of course, he was also bopping his girlfriend in public back in those halcyon HBO days, so maybe his lost touch means he’s a better human being now, hey?
  3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is being developed for TV by Universal Cable Productions. Munchhausen was all thumbs-up on the Charlie Kaufman-Pierre Bismuth feature film, but this version’s going to one of the geniuses behind Human Target, Mad Dogs, and Forever, credits much more suited for a certain male member that rhymes with the aforementioned “genius” word but starts with a “P.”
  4. Speaking of Schitt, as in Deep Schitt, sorry Canadians, but no matter how hard I try I can’t find a single thing to laugh at in that very rapturously reviewed fraud. Like the old saying sez, “Schitty is as shitty does.” (Come on, there must be some old saying that says that…or at least something like it, yeah?)
  5. To end on a more positive note, the interwebs have been showing Amazon Prime’s first trailer for The Grand Tour and – wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles, shockarooney – looks like the old Top Gear gang of Clarkson, Hammond, and May are gonna pull it off. Damn show looks and sounds glorious. Hmm, maybe things won’t be so bad if Amazon buys Netflix after all. But don’t believe my munchin’ mouth. Have a look-see for yerself:

That’s it for this week. Seeya next time with more TV joy!

munchman’s Take on the Fall 2016 Season so Far

TOSHIBA Exif JPEG

What we do for luv – and money!

by munchman

More thoughts, munchites, from a guy acknowledged the world over (or at least within the room in which this is being typed) as a truly penetrating and trenchant observer:

  1. Okay, yer munchy one made absolutely my best effort to binge his way through Woody Allen’s Crisis In Six Scenes. Thanks to the magic of fast-forwarding, I made it through the first ep (well, more or less), but after that – whoa? Skinny, boring, old neurotic dude’s ready to trade in Elaine May for Miley Cyrus? This show is Allen’s biggest piece of crap since his last big piece of crap, and believe me, that was a tough act to follow.
  2. Anybody out there watching Amazon’s I Love Dick? No? I knew TVWriter™ attracted a smart crowd. Yer Friendly Neighborhood munchman’s advice: Keep away. Keep far, far away. I mean, how many shows about neurotic, self-obsessed, unhappily married and all-around unfulfilled 40-something housewives does any world need? And even if there was room for one more, I Love Dick wouldn’t be the one. (Lurve the title though. It never fails to bring a nice, sneery, smirk to me face.)
  3. Amazon’s also ready to assault us with a new version of The Tick. The first live TV version was heavenly satire. This one actually seems to be taking itself seriously. Sorry, Amazon, you won’t be kicking Netflix’s ass with this kind of crud. (Do you know what “crud” really means? Trust me – it’s definitely a word worth looking up. Oh, wait, they’ve fucking changed it. Now it means “an incrustation of filth or refuse.” Back when I was in 6th grade it was a guaranteed giggler because Webster’s said it was “a crude synonym for smegma.” And smegma is what The Tick is, through and through.)
  4. Ooh, at last, a half hour – more or less – of pleasure. Just watched the season opener of Blunt Talk, which is Woody Allened (you know, created and run by) Jonathan Ames, a skinny, neurotic, not old or boring neurotic dude who also created, produced, wrote, etc. the late lamented Bored to Death. For my moolah, such as it is, Blunt Talk is currently one of TV’s least-watched but most brilliant comedies. Orgasmically blissful (take it from somebody who, well, knows.)

Ah, nuthin’ like spreadin’ the joy. Seeya next week with more TV joy!

Doug Snauffer sees “MacGyver”

tv_macgyver_main1a

This is MacGyver?

by Douglas Snauffer

CBS’ reboot of MacGyver (Fridays, 8 p.m.) is another freshman series I was curious about all summer.  

Not that I had high hopes for it.  The odds are typically against recycled TV shows.  MacGyver, though, is being used as a lead-in for Hawaii Five-O, another title resurrected by CBS that is now entering its seventh-season.  So if CBS believed in it that much (if they didn’t, they would’ve had McGarrett & Company be the lead-in instead of the follower), I didn’t want to completely discount Mac’s chances.

My optimism, however, turned out to be short-lived. Just five minutes into the premiere episode my mind was already made up – I hated it. I dutifully sat through the rest of the hour, but that merely reinforced my initial opinion.  MacGyver is another case of a TV classic receiving a modern make-over with disastrous results.

First, a bit of history for those who fall into TV’s most-desired demographic (ages 18-34) and missed the original series.

MacGyver ran on ABC from 1985-92. Its hero (Richard Dean Anderson) was an incredibly resourceful loner who was (initially) a freelance intelligence agent. By the second season, he was employed by the Phoenix Foundation, a think-tank which worked closely with the U.S. government.

Richard Dean Anderson portrayed MacGyver with the perfect combination of cool and nerdy

(Richard Dean Anderson portrayed MacGyver with the perfect combination of cool and nerdy.)

What made Mac unique is that he detested the use of violence (especially guns) and typically won his battles by out-thinking his adversaries.  He was a master of invention and ingenuity and could jury-rig his way out of any scrape with nothing more than the materials at hand.

Sound a bit familiar? It should. Not only was MacGyver a long-running hit, but the quick-witted hero’s moniker actually became a part of the American lexicon.

Some may argue against comparisons to the original series. But if CBS is going to use the title, the concept, and the characters, the nostalgia comes with it.  And the new MacGyver just isn’t true to its origins, in execution or in spirit. Instead, its basic structure reminds me most of another CBS hit – Scorpion.

This time around, as might be expected on CBS, Mac (X-Men‘s Lucas Till) is part of a team of operatives including old friend Jack Dalton (former C.S.I. co-star George Eads), paroled ex-hacker Riley Davis (Tristin Mays), and their handler, Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt).

And while Mac resorts to the occasional trick in the guise of ingenuity, he and his compatriots rely even more heavily on high-tech gadgets.

In the pilot, Mac was betrayed by another fellow team member, Nikki Carpenter (Tracy Spiridakos), who sabotaged a mission and then faked her own death.  She and Mac had also been lovers, so he now has both personal and professional reasons for wanting to find her.

Mac also has a roommate, Wilt Bozer (Justin Hires), whose purpose seems to be comic relief.  But I think it’s safe to assume, given the genre, that should the show survive long enough there will be more to Bozer than meets the eye.

Right now, I don’t think it’s likely to get that far. I predict the same fate for MacGyver that befell previously reimagined series’ like The Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, Charlie’s Angels and Ironside.


TVWriter™ and its visitors enjoyed Doug Snauffer’s first appearance here so much that we tied him up in the garage so he’ll give us more. But he’s far from inexperienced, as you can see:

Douglas Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Check him out on IMDB.