Diana Vacc Sees “Outlander” Episode 6 “Best Laid Schemes”

by Diana Vaccarelli

Outlander Season 2 2016

Outlander Season 2 2016

The “Best Laid Schemes”episode of “Outlander” finds Jamie and Claire trying to stop Bonnie Prince Charlie from getting the funds necessary to start the Jacobite rebellion. If you haven’t viewed this episode yet be warned this review does contain some spoilers.

THE GOOD:

  • The writing of this episode was the most dramatic and emotional to date. Matthew B. Roberts writes an episode that made me both laugh and cry. The drama was so powerful that I don’t think I could have made it through the show without the funny moments Roberts gave the character Murtagh.
  • The hard-hitting dialogue gives the actors so much to play, and they went all the way with it. Caitriona Balfe’s Claire goes through a major betrayal in a performance that made me feel her pain as though it was my own. Sam Heughan’s Jamie is nothing short of fantastic. The scene where he makes Claire promise to go through the stones if anything happens to him would bring tears to, well, a stone.
  • I’m so glad that Black Jack is back! I keep saying there is no one better to play this well written villain then Tobias Menzies, and he proved it again this time out. During the crucial duel scene between Jamie and Black Jack, Menzies taunts Jamie with words far stronger than their swords. To me, that scene was perfect.

THE BAD:

  • Once again, there was one scene I could have done without. That was a scene with Claire and her friends gossiping. It was unnecessary and brought nothing to the episode.

OVERALL:

I’ve said it before and I must say it again. If you haven’t watched “Outlander” you truly need to start. It has everything.

Happy TV watching!


Diana Vaccarelli is the TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large. Learn more about her HERE

Diana Vacc Sees OUTLANDER Episode 5 “Untimely Resurrection”

outlander-season-2by Diana Vaccarelli

This episode of Outlander entitled “Untimely Resurrection” finds Jamie and Claire at odds as the past comes back to haunt them. If you haven’t viewed this episode yet be warned this review may contain spoilers.

THE GOOD:

  • The writing of this episode was the best this show has achieved to date. Richard Kahan writes an episode so full of tension that I didn’t just see and hear it, I felt it in my bones. The dialogue this time around is fantastic and gives the actors so much to play with. The way Kahan wrote the return of the Villain – Black Jack Randall – made it the best scene of the show. Everything about it was perfect.
  • The Acting was topnotch. Caitriona Balfe, who portrays our heroine Claire, demonstrates a true conflict of the heart. She gives everything to her performance in this episode, and I felt her inner turmoil as my own. Sam Heughan, as Jamie, truly owns this episode with his performance. The anger, satisfaction, and, yes, happiness of the character is tangible in every scene. And, as Black Jack, Tobias Menzies is so evil that the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.

THE BAD:

  • There is one scene I could have done without. The scene with Claire and Annalise (Jamie’s Ex). It seemed pro forma, as though the show was following an unnecessary template and and do anything but slow down the episode.

OVERALL:

  • If you haven’t watched this show you truly need to. It has everything.

Happy TV watching!


Diana Vaccarelli is a TVWriter™ Critic-at-Large. Learn more about her HERE

LB: TV Series I’ve Given Up On This Year

"Terrifyingly fascinating" Uncle Miltie plays with Lucy & Desi

“Terrifyingly engaging” Uncle Miltie plays with Lucy & Desi

by Larry Brody

I love TV.

I’ve loved it since the first moment I watched it, way back in 1948.

The show that captured me then was The Texaco Star Theater, starring – and all about, in every possible way – Milton Berle. To my pre-school self, Uncle Miltie was terrifyingly engaging. I couldn’t stop watching…until I discovered The Howdy Doody Show, starring Bob Smith and the puppet called “Howdy,” both of whom were engaging as hell, without the terrifying bits.

Over the years, I’ve had any number of faves, usually drama shows instead of comedies or kid-specific offerings. These days, I don’t have a lot of time for TV watching for pleasure (as opposed to TVWriter™ business), but my wife and I are in the habit of settling into bed fairly early and watching for an hour or two on a flat screen that’s way too big for our bedroom. In a way, its mere existence within the room makes every show we see on it bring back childhood memories. As in they all end up feeling terrifying to one degree or the other.

Last week, however, we realized that right now, in the so-called Golden Age of Television, we were having a problem filling our hour or two a night without resorting to watching missed episodes of old favorites. Seems that over the past few months we’ve jettisoned a ton of current shows, many of which we’d watched for years…and some of which we were trying out and finding…well lame.

For almost all those shows, it’s the writing “what done them in.” Shark-jumping writing for some. Idiotic writing for most. Immature, unrealistic, and just plain incompetent writing for all.

So, in my never-ending effort to raise the bar for both TV writing and TV programming in general, here it is – Larry Brody’s List of TV Shows for Writers to Not Write Like No Matter How Strong the Temptation Seems (and I think you probably should save your sanity by not even watching them either):

11 22 63

I made it through 10 minutes of the first episode. Quit then because although I think Steven King is a wonderful novelist and am a huge fan of The Stand, this script seemed to demonstrate nothing but contempt for the intelligence of anyone who would watch it.

Bones

After a long hiatus, Bones is back, but without Mr. and Mrs. B. It wasn’t anything we saw in the returning episodes that drove us away. It was, rather, the fact that even though we’ve DVR’d two episodes we just can’t make ourselves get interested enough to turn either of ’em on. Last night I finally deleted the show from the queue. As a wise man once almost said, “It’s dead to me.” Elapsed watching time this year: 0 mins.

Castle

Gwen and I actually watched several episodes this season all the way through. Then came the Castle-Beckett pseudo-separation and its fictional reason, which boiled down to “In order to save you I must inflict the worst pain on you that a loved one can…when all I really should do in this situation is sit down and tell you what’s what.” Like Bones, Castle too went on a hiatus, and when it came back we were so excited that we just did the delete thing without even blinking.

Doctor Who

I know there haven’t been any new Doctor Who episodes this year, but while deleting Bones and Castle we saw that we had all of last season saved on our DVR and ready to go. My wife took one look at the list of episodes, grabbed the remote from my hand, and with a hearty, “Exterminate! Exterminate!” she deleted the entirety of what once was my favorite current show. I didn’t even think of objecting. Some people should never, ever be allowed to be showrunners, no matter how good they are at the writing thing. Steven Moffat OBE (hey, that’s what Wikipedia calls him), is an outstanding example of this simple bit of wisdom.

Houdini & Doyle

The Brodys watch a lot of UK TV, and the premise of this series appealed to us so we gave it a try. Lasted through four episodes, believe it or not, before calling it a day. Strangely, it wasn’t the writing that made me nuts whenever I watched Houdini & Doyle, even though it was nothing more than average. No, what caused me to pull the plug on this baby was the casting. Two likable but totally boring actors who in the past have brought exactly nothing to any part they’ve played (even those that were cleverly written) starred in roles suited to neither one. The producers of this series owe a huge apology to the spirits of both Houdini and Doyle.

Scorpion

For awhile I was mesmerized by this show’s weird ability to make computer crime – or cures for crime – into action-packed all-running, all-jumping, all-flying, no-standing-still except to deliver a quip or a punchline episodes that would leave the most well-conditioned athletes in the world breathless. This year, as the stories got more and more over the top and the characterization thinner and thinner, the spell broke, and “Exterminate!” fever got the better of me.

You’re the Worst

Okay, actually, I’m still watching this one because I want to see how they deal with the clinical depression of one of the leads of this so-called comedy. But, holy Siggy Freud, these characters are absolutely the meanest human beings I’ve ever fallen in love with. Except for – yeah, you know what’s coming – that one particular ex-wife I had who….

12 Monkeys/The Expanse/Time Traveling Bong/You, Me and the Apocalypse/Wynonna Earp

I’m lumping these five shows together because I literally didn’t get past a combined time of five minutes of watching them. The inanity of their opening titles and the first 30 seconds of each of their opening scenes caused me to break out in boils, hives, and frogs – plague signs that even I know to observe. These babies are gone, gone, gone, and I’m doing my best to forget them as well.

Till next time, when I’ll tell you what I’ve been liking,

LYMI LB

LYMI
LB


Larry Brody is the boss at TVWriter™ and has written and produced way more episodes of television than he probably should have. You can find out more about him HERE

John Ostrander: They Grow Up So Fast

H'wood's version of Mr. Ostrander's Amanda Waller of SUICIDE SQUAD

H’wood’s version of Mr. Ostrander’s Amanda Waller of SUICIDE SQUAD

by John Ostrander

I’ve been watching DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow over on the CW. Among the characters that have been appearing on the show are Firestorm and Hawkman and Hawkgirl. Well, not so much Hawkman any more, maybe. I didn’t create those three characters but I certainly played with them a lot and, for a while, left my sticky fingerprints all over them. So it’s interesting watching manifestations of them in other media.

I’ll be experiencing that big time come August when the Suicide Squad movie hits the multiplexes. I created Amanda Waller and I defined characters like Deadshot and Captain Boomerang and it will be exciting to see how they translate for the screen. I hope.

None of the character portrayals will translate directly from the comics to movies or TV. I’m okay with that; none of them have so far. Different media have different needs. That’s why they’re called adaptations. The material is adapted from whatever the source was. My only question about any given adaptation is – how true is it to its roots? Did they get the essence of the character or the concept right? If you’re going to do Captain XYZ Man, there should be a resemblance to what makes up Captain XYZ Man. Right?

OTOH, I haven’t always done that and Suicide Squad itself is a good example. The comic was originally created for DC by Robert Kanigher and Ross Andru; my version shared the title, a character or two, and some history with the original and not much else. Of course, as buddy Mike Gold pointed out in his excellent column this week, Kanigher may have gotten the title (and not much else) from a feature in a pulp magazine called Ace G-Man. What goes around comes around?

Amanda has appeared several times, including the TV show Arrow, lots of animated series, the Green Lantern movie, video games, the TV series Smallville, and probably more. I may need to double check my royalty statements. Any number of actresses have portrayed her and voiced her. She doesn’t always look the same. In Arrow and some of the comics, she’s built like a model. However, in all the variations I’ve seen there have been certain aspects that are kept – she’s female, black, and she’s ruthless as hell.

Even with other characters, I don’t always keep to how they were conceived. My version of Firestorm changed (evolved?) throughout my run. At one point when we decided he was a Fire Elemental (the Elemental idea was popular for a while starting with Alan Moore making Swamp Thing the Earth Elemental) and Ol’ Flamehead’s look was drastically altered, not always to universal approval.

Still, I think I kept to the essentials of the characters and, when I changed things, I kept within continuity as established although sometimes I picked and chose within the continuity.

All that said, I (mostly) enjoy seeing the variations and permutations of these characters. It’s like watching your kids grow up and moving away and seeing what they become. It’s not always what you expected but, hopefully, you can still see your DNA in them.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. This post is specifically about getting started in writing comics, but it applies to every other form of writing we know about as well. It originally appeared in his blog at ComicMix.

Diana Vacc Sees Outlander Season 2 Premier

by Diana Vaccarelli

hbt1Everyone that knows me knows that I’m obsessed with Outlander. And right now my obsessed self is so glad that what Outlander fans call “Droughtlander” is over.

While reading the second book of Diana Gabaldon’s series I had reservations about whether its complexities could be adapted to television.

If you are not familiar with the story, know that it follows WWII Combat Nurse Claire Randall, who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1700’s Scotland where she is immediately in danger. She is forced to wed Scottish Warrior Jamie Fraser and a passionate relationship ignites.

THE GOOD:

  • My faith in series Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore has not been shaken.  He did the book so much justice in the premier episode that I’m thrilled and hopeful about what will come next.
  • In other words, the writing is fantastic.  The dialogue the actors have to work with is topnotch, emotional, nuanced, and realistic, breaking all the stereotypes of “romance novels.”
  • The editing is much more cinematic than TV usually gets, especially in regard to the transitions between time periods. It’s more Lawrence of Arabia than, say, NCIS.
  • The acting is in this series remains excellent. Caitriona Balfe plays lead Claire Randall Fraser and brings the kind of heart and strength rarely seen in a female TV character.  Sam Heughan as James Fraser wears the results of the trauma that his character experienced last season so believably that you feel is pain. Tobias Menzies plays the dual role of Frank Randall and Black Jack Randall magnificently, tugging at our heart strings as the first character and chilling us to the bone  the other.

THE BAD:

  • There is nothing bad about this series. Nothing. Toldja I’m obsessed.

Over All:

If you haven’t seen Outlander before, I highly recommend setting your DVR to it on Starz. It you have, well, no matter how much you already love it, I think that this season you’ll love it even more.

‘Empire’ Has Always Known What TV Is Just Figuring Out

The secret is out!

And we are sooo glad:

empire-wowBlack Culture is Mainstream Culture
by Lara Zarum

Empire co-creator Danny Strong has likened his show to Game of Thrones, remarking that the two hour-long dramas are both centered on “kingdoms at war.” The comparison feels particularly apt considering the colossal viewership of both series: Game of Thrones has famously become TV’s most pirated show, and HBO’s most-watched ever, while last year Empire knocked The Big Bang Theory off its throne to become broadcast television’s #1 rated series.

The dominance of Empire, the music biz drama that returns to Fox on Wednesday to finish off its second season, feels particularly apt right now. Lately, an important conversation about race and heritage in America has taken place at the cinema, on the Grammy stage, and in Broadway theaters, and it courses through the series like adrenaline. The show’s popularity is a force to be reckoned with, a testament to the mainstreaming of black culture.

Empire is an unabashed soap opera, which means following its narrative strands can make you feel like a TV cop squinting at a “theory board” plastered with mug shots and lines of string. In the December mid-season finale, Hakeem voted Lucious out as Empire Entertainment’s CEO, and Camilla swooped in to replace him as Cookie looked on in horror. Meanwhile, Jamal kissed a woman (his musical hero Skye Summers, played by Alicia Keys), and someone pushed a very pregnant Rhonda down the stairs, a move that was surely meant to take her and Andre’s baby — and Empire’s heir — out of the mix.

Of course, Empire’s soapiness also means that characters appear and then disappear like mirages; you may be wondering what happened to rapper Becky G, who had an arc earlier this season as Valentina, who joins Cookie’s Lyon Dynasty label — before signing a contract with Lucious at Empire. She was replaced by the virginal Laura (Jamila Velazquez), a Mexican-American singer and Hakeem’s new love interest. Alicia Keys’ Skye appears to be gone, at least for now, but Brownsville rapper Freda Gatz (Bre-Z) is still around; in the new episodes, she and Jamal bond over their shared disappointment with Lucious….

Read it all at Flavorwire