Netflix Canceled Sense8, So I Tried to Watch It

by Kathryn Graham

As you may have heard, Netflix is cancelling Sense8. Netflix bid them a fond farewell and sent a show with lots of LGBT and people of color packing right at the start of Pride Month.

Hey, Netflix: I know you probably didn’t do that on purpose, but not great timing guys. Just saying.

Sense8 is one of those shows I had meant to get around to eventually. Once I heard it was cancelled, I went full bore into the first season… and only got through the sixth episode.

Now, having seen the show, I can’t say I’m surprised about the cancellation. Here’s the thing with Sense8 at the onset: it’s Heroes but without deep or endearing characters. You know there’s more going on here. You know that the main characters are connected, you’re just not sure how exactly. But it suffers from Heroes’ incredibly slow pacing, and I think that’s ultimately what kills it.

The first six episodes are basically backstory on all of the characters, but the backstories don’t have much to them. An Indian woman is getting married to a guy everyone thinks she loves, but she doesn’t love him. A Korean woman is smarter and better than her brother, but since she is a girl, he gets to take over the company. A transwoman has an unaccepting family, but a great girlfriend. In Heroes, we got to at least watch Claire jump off buildings and run through fire. We saw Hiro time-travel. In Sense8, we see wedding preparation.

Structurally, it’s a lot more like a six hour movie than a television show. Stories progress, but since there are eight of them, plot points that should have taken less than half an episode to get to take literally five episodes to occur.

That’s the other thing about Sense8. It has a lot of different characters, and they are a diverse bunch from all over the world, but the lack of depth destroys my caring about any of them. I also don’t know why they’re connected (which is fine), but when they do cross each others’ paths, it doesn’t seem purposeful. That said…

I think that if I could hang on longer, I might be treated to a show that I really enjoy. That’s what happened with Heroes, and that is a possibility here with Sense8. On the other hand, this is entertainment, and slogging through hours to get to the good stuff is a lot to ask. (Especially with no guarantee there is good stuff coming.)

I know a lot of people are upset that a show that represents LGBT folk and people of color is getting cancelled. I get that. But I don’t wish Sense8 would continue, I wish we didn’t have to put so much weight on every show that throws us a bone.

According to the creators, though, they had a wide and heterogeneous audience, and the exact reason why they were cancelled still remains a mystery. If you’re a fan I invite you to go sign the petition to bring it back. Then tell me why you love the show. I may even go back and watch more if you do.

 

Edit: Looks like Netflix isn’t having any of the petition stuff. Sorry Sense8 fans.


Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and munchman’s secret fav. Learn more about Kate HERE

Diana Vacc sees the Last 2 Episodes of ‘Prison Break’ Season 5

by Diana Vaccarelli

NOTE FROM LB: TVWriter™ critic-at-large Diana Vaccarelli has been covering Prison Break all season, but events conspired against her most recent observations getting up and running here in a timely fashion, i.e., before Prison Break’s short season ended.

So here are her last two reviews of the show,  along with our apologies to Diana for dropping the ball:

Diana Vacc sees Prison Break Episode 7 “Wine Dark Seas”

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT–

On May 16, 2017, Prison Break “Wine Dark Seas” aired.  This episode is one of the most pivotal of the season as it reunites Michael with his long lost wife Sara.

THE GOOD:

  • The emotional tension that actors Wentworth Miller and Sarah Wayne Callies bring to the reunion scene is breathtaking.  Watching it solidified why I remain a Prison Break fan despite its various lapses.
  • The tears Michael (Miller) sheds while Sara shows him pictures of his son are excruciating painful, especially for any viewer who also has missed having time with a child…or parent.
  • Loved – absolutely loved – that Sucre (Amaury Nolasco) returned. He was and remains one of my favorites in the series.

THE BAD:

  • The predictability that Jacob, Sara’a new husband is our main villain Poseidon.  Nothing new here because this fact was revealed a few episodes ago when T-Bag caught him.  And even then, well, of course the new hubby is the Big Bad. Sheesh.
  • I do believe and agree with certain people in the my life (you know who you are) who also watch Prison Break that it would have been a lot more interesting if the villain was someone from the past and Jacob was working with them, or if Sara’s friend Heather was really Poseidon. Either of those events would have given us the missing twist and shock.

THE REST:

  • Prison Break will and still remains one of my all time favs even though this season continues to lack a major strength of seasons past – the shock factor.

EDITED TO ADD: Just as I finished typing this review I learned that Prison Break is not yet renewed or cancelled for another season. Hopefully it ends on a high and returns stronger and better.


Diana Vacc sees Prison Break Finale “Behind the Eyes”

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT–

On May 31, 2017, Prison Break Season 5 Finale “Behind the Eyes” aired.  The finale follows the continued threat of Poseidon aka Jacob Ness to Michael and Lincoln as they fight to save Sara and young Mike.

THE GOOD:

  • Gut-wrenching surprises kept me on my toes.  The opening of the episode has one of the CIA Agents who is after Michael defend him, and as a result his partner shoots and kills him. My mouth literally gaped in shock.
  • My favorite moment was Michael standing in front of a security camera, holding up his hands to reveal his tattoo is the face of his enemy Jacob Ness. It was cool and original.
  • I loved the change in our original villain T-Bag (Robert Knepper). His character has evolved and grown throughout the season.  In this ep he learns that he has a son, and because of that he decides to help Michael bring down Ness.
  • The greatest moment of the series is the end, when Ness is in our original prison, Fox River, and his cellmate is T-Bag.  After the death of his son, T-Bag is out for vengeance, and all you hear as the shot fades away is Ness’ scream. Perfect ending with tribute to the first season.
  • The conclusion of the show was exactly what it should be. Michael Scofield watching his family in the park, reflecting on his life and how finally is free.

THE BAD:

  • What bad? I never thought I would say this, but this was one of my favorite television finales of all time. Why isn’t it the favorite? Because nothing, absolutely nothing, will beat the last episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sorry, Prison Break producers.

THE REST:

  • Just as I finished typing the above I learned that Prison Break is not being renewed. Sad day for me and fellow fans. I do have hope, however, since series creator Paul Scheuring has said that if there is another story to tell about the Prison Break family, they will be back.  IMHO, there will always be more to tell, so my fingers are crossed.

Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE

Diana Vacc Dances to ‘Once Upon a Time’s’ Musical Ep

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT–

Once upon a time, a musical episode like Once Upon a Time’s’ May 7th episode “The Song in Your Heart” would have been at least a minor “major event.” Here in the 21st Century, though, we’ve already had more TV musicals than in all of the previous history of TV, so this went comparatively unnoticed.

Seeing how few critics took the time to review “The Song in Your Heart” has convinced me to do my bit even though this is a month late. This episode, like the series in general, deserves more attention than it has been getting.

THE PREMISE:

Through flashbacks, “The Song in Your Heart” fills in some missing pieces from the overall series “puzzle” and shows what happens when Snow White makes a wish to protect her unborn daughter from the Evil Queen’s curse. The wish results in a spell that has everyone singing their feelings of love. Meanwhile, in present day Storybrooke, Emma and Hook prepare for their wedding.

THE GOOD:

  • Writers Andrew Chambliss and David H. Goodman focus on hope rather than despair in this episode, an idea that in itself is fresh and unusual in this genre. And hope definitely prevails via the wedding of Emma and Hook, and the existence of the music itself.
  • Speaking of the music, I thought it was wonderfully entertaining. The actors don’t have the best voices, I admit, but the songs were simple and original enough to fill me with emotion.
  • The chemistry between Emma and Hook (Jennifer Morrison and Colin O’Donoghue) continues to dominate the series. To me, it is the show’s biggest strength.

THE BAD:

  • As usual, Jamie Murray’s performance as our villain Black Fairy is so annoying that I just want to slap her each time she comes onscreen. Ms. Murray overacts so much that she makes Al Pacino’s recent performances look subtle. They should rename her character Drama Queen.

THE REST:

Once Upon a Time is a fantastic show in both the admiring and literal meanings of “fantastic.” I have loved it since it started. This, by the way, is the final season. I urge those who haven’t been watching to start bingeing as soon as you can. Even without officially being “musicals,” every episode will fill your heart with emotional songs.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE

Jenny Reed sees ‘Still Star-Crossed’

Shonda Rhimes Expands on Shakespeare Because Why Not?
by Jenny Reed

Welp, I saw the first episode of the new series out of Shonda Rhimes’ ever-expanding corner of ABC aka Shondaland the other night. It’s called Still Star-Crossed and is a kind of sequel to a little play called Romeo and Juliet that all of us have pretty much been forced to read at some time or other in our lives.

Short Version of My Reaction:

Mostly positive, some negative.

And, given how much the early critics seemed to hate this show, I was actually pleasantly surprised by the fact that I didn’t.

Longer version:

Before I go into the content, I absolutely have to mention the costumes.

If you are into clothing, you will love this solely for the eye candy that is the costuming.

HOWEVER, the powers that be who oversaw the pilot did not see fit to care whether all the clothing came from the same time period, so if you are sufficiently educated on these matters to notice, it will drive you bonkers. This aspect of the series, which some of us notice as well as the writing and that thing actors do and all the rest of that, is pretty but historically inaccurate to the extreme.

As for the plot, I found it satisfying. The episode begins with Romeo and Juliet’s actual wedding and rolls forward from there. As you surely know from having to listen to teachers bang on about the original, these two characters both die.

For some reason, many of the critics had a problem with the concept that the dead people are NOT the main characters. But we already know all there is to know about these two kids. Still Star-Crossed doesn’t need to feature them. It can, and does, show how the wedding and suicides affected those left behind. And in the opening, things do get ugly as tensions in Verona come to a head.

Fortunately, the new ruler of Verona has a solution: to marry a Montague to a Capulet in order to make the two houses one by blood. It’s an intriguing idea, and future episodes, specifically the next one, look like they’ll present an interesting perspective re how things pan out.

As you would expect from the people who created Grey’s Anatomy and the rest of Shondaland, Still Star-Crossed promises to have lots and lots of illicit sex and people sleeping together. In this first episode, you get definitive hints that this is a big part of the future of the show – in fact, probably the main part. You know, pretty much like all of Shondaland.

There are a lot of details I could comment on, but so will everybody else who reviews this show. So I’d like to get right to the absolutely biggest problem I had while watching:

Every single actor had a bad case of the Mumbles. They were like people speaking a language that sounded vaguely like English except that the words weren’t really words.

Because I am anal about hearing everything and because my spouse doesn’t kill me when I do this, I rewound to catch the missed dialog a whole heck of a lot – more than any other show I’ve watched, ever.

If you don’t like the idea of rewinding to catch stuff and your hearing isn’t loads better than mine, perhaps you will want to consider skipping the whole series unless you hear that the actors have been taking articulation lessons.

I’m quite sure it would get confusing if you missed all that stuff that I had to work so hard to catch. Then again, your hearing may be better than mine, or you may have terrific $5000 a pair hearing aids, so things could go better for you.

All in all, I think I can safely say is that Still Star-Crossed  is definitely not a show that you can half-watch and expect to follow. In a world filled with no-concentration-needed entertainment, be very aware that for this thing you need to PAY ATTENTION!

Hmm, thinking about it again, I find myself wondering. Maybe, just maybe, having to focus on what we’re watching is a good thing after all?


Jenny Reed is a freelance writer living on the East Coast. Munchman wants her to know that he envies her!

The Hudsonian Tells Us About ‘The Reign of Underwood

House of Cards Season 5 Review
by Joshua Hudson

(This article contains spoilers!)

Season 4 was redemption for House of Cards. But the thing I loved most was the rise in importance of Frank’s wife Claire. Season 4 laid the groundwork for Claire’s rise and season 5 completed it. It just took until the fifth episode for you to firmly realize it.

Once again starting slow, Cards took its sweet ass time getting to the point. Season 4 left off with Frank wanting to declare war on ICO after an affiliated terrorist cut off a US citizen’s head on live TV. He thought this was his ticket to winning reelection over the Republican golden boy Will Conway, played by Joel Kinnaman. It took Frank an eternity to realize the American public didn’t exactly adore him, but they sure loved his wife, which is why he begrudgingly put her on his ticket as VP in an effort to get reelected.

Season 5 hit Netflix last week, and the drag of this season is the election itself, which goes on far longer than it should. We’ve witnessed enough election snafus in real life to know that it shouldn’t take a TV show 4 episodes to fully process it.

What bingeing Season 5 really did for me was open my eyes to some little known amendments that could happen in the darkest of times. Yes, for all practical and boring purposes it became a PBS docu-series.

This wasn’t what I bargained for, but I powered through. Well, “moped through” would be a more apt description. Things didn’t pick up as far as I’m concerned until about episode 10, when you see that cunning, manipulative, devious Frank come through in the clutch.

The feeling I got this time around was that the writers found them stymied when they should have been energized and rather than work hard for those big TV writing bucks they just tied up all the loose ends in one big Frank Underwood bow. As a dedicated member of the House of Cards audience, I felt that all of us viewers had been insulted.

I’ll definitely be back for more next season. Because I’m intrigued. Thanks to various calculated plot turns, for all practical purposes, Claire emerges as the real star this season. She takes a Lady MacBeth Meets Frank Underwood turn, and lo and behold, finds herself on top.

Of a dead guy, no less.

Hey, I warned you there would be spoilers.


Joshua Hudson is a producer, writer, and actor. Find out more about him at Hudsonian Productions. Hi, Josh!

Diana Vacc sees ABC’s Dirty Dancing

by Diana Vaccarelli

Let’s play Spot the Embarrassment…hint, it’s the source of the pic on the right

May 24, 2017 will go down in history for sure – as a day of genuine showbiz infamy. On that date, ABC released a remake of the 1987 classic film of female coming of age Dirty Dancing, with catastrophic results for all involved.

THE GOOD:

  • I’m going to be blunt and real, there was nothing good about this film. Not one single thing. If there had, I might have been able to write about it without having to wait a week for my stomach to settle.

THE BAD:

  • Everything. No aspect of filmmaking was left undefiled. The writing, direction, acting, even the re-done music all were, well I’m sorry but they really did leave me gagging.

THE REST:

  • There are some films that should not be touched. Dirty Dancing was one of them.  This film should have never happened.

  • Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE

Robert Glenn Plotner sees ‘Twin Peaks’ 2017

by Robert Glenn Plotner

Two episodes in to the Twin Peaks Revival I find myself still giving it a chance. I love David Lynch. I get the metaphysics — we construct an artificial reality over a quantum universe which is the ‘real’ universe(s), but I am increasingly irritated by the seeming conclusions — that we have no real agency or responsibility for our actions in this world, and that agency is but an in-habitation from a mysterious meta-reality.

While that paranoia anchors the foreboding of TP and has been the subject of Lynch’s work since Eraserhead (which is echoed in much of the new TP), it is never anchored in much beyond stream-of-consciousness associations. One is constantly left with the feeling of an auteur professing something profound in the margins but not actually having a core epiphany.

Yes, consciousness is akin to a nested Russian doll, elusive and receding, and yet the leap to a quantum explanation for agency does nothing to resolve the dilemma. It just reassigns it, and while that idea is appealing in a spooky way, it disconnects the problem from behavior, an evolutionary process. Specifically, primates exhibit both violence and altruism as a product of their social evolution. We don’t need a meta-dimensional possession to explain our tendency toward nasty behavior.

Any idea of quantum agency also comes with the problem of translation. How does the time independent universe of the quantum world translate its intentionality into the time-dependent world in which we exist? Hence, the weird time reversal communication in the Black Lodge and the mystical conversation that takes place in metaphors and riddles. Entities in that realm do not dwell in our linearly processed world so they make known their intentions through concentrated metaphors that have to be unpacked before they can be understood. Cool stuff because it makes for a cinematic dialogue of clues and mystery. It is also philosophically flawed because intentionality itself is a time dependent function between agency and its desire. It ends up being just another reassignment from our thoroughly physical world.

Perhaps then, Lynch is not addressing anything but is himself searching through his works for an answer that never develops, hence the meandering nature of his art. Open the next doll. Open the next doll. Open the next doll. I take that for what it is and can still be provoked by his artistic journey even though I agree with the criticism on a filmmaking level. After all, Lynch is embracing these questions in terms of an artist. If he were a painter or a multi-medium artist exploring these themes over a body of work, chances are his art would not incite such ire and bewilderment. It would be contemplative, take it or leave it.

But like the quantum universe in which all particles can only exist in terms of their mirror opposites (matter and anti-matter, for instance), David Lynch has chosen a medium in which he is his own doppelganger. He is both an artist and a narrative filmmaker, and these two roles can stand in opposition to each other. The artist who expands on his inner speculations is constantly confronted by the filmmaker who attempts to translate that fancy into a narrative language. He is telling a story to an audience rather than just presenting a single object metaphor to be unpacked. It is that struggle with narrative which can so frustrate his audience. The linear story veers, dissolves, and is sometimes intentionally confronted.

Witness the odd and painful use of amateurs in acting roles (ex. the woman with the little dog in the hotel is the worst of these throw-ins). These non-actors seem designed to kneecap the constructed reality of the show itself so that the viewer is constantly aware that this exercise is ultimately a farce. This is Lynch realizing the trap of his opposite selves, the nonlinear artist and narrative filmmaker, and attempting a superficial resolution with his inner self and the outer audience. He wants you to be aware that he is aware of the contradiction. If that’s his point, it is a weak one. As a viewer, I don’t need to be reminded; I’m more savvy than that, and ultimately, the stagnant mechanical deliveries destroy rather than enhance the experience. It is frustrating to witness because it strikes the viewer square out of the narrative, a narrative in which one roots for Lynch to succeed because one craves not only the rarefied story but also the artistry of questions and thought. Much like quantum theory, one craves unification rather than unresolved conflict because otherwise something is missing and one is aware of it.


Robert Glenn Plotner is one of the most inventive (and funny) indie film directors around. His web TV pilot, Let’s Get Spunky!, is a classic that already should have made him famous and a household name.

Hmm, speaking of Let’s Get Spunky: