NBC’s Conjoined Triplets of Comedy

by Quetzelcoatl

Thought about Atlantis lately?  I hadn’t until Thursday night, February 16th.  NBC was airing an episode of “SUPERSTORE,” followed by “POWERLESS.”  For an island that sunk out of sight, Atlantis popped up like an atoll when the subject was raised in both sitcoms, broadcast back to back.

Starting at 8 pm, the crew and customers at “SUPERSTORE” felt a heatwave when the temperature control system broke.  Glenn, the oft befuddled manager, tried calling corporate to fix it but was brushed off in a perky, yet authoritative voice.

Enter Sales Associate Garrett, played by Colton Dunn.  Paralyzed from the waist down, Garrett enters Glenn’s office in his wheelchair.  Garrett might be the first physically challenged sitcom character who seems natural, adjusted to his situation and funny on his own terms.

Remarking that Glenn had turned his small office into a cool oasis with the one working air conditioner, Garret then encourages his manager to go outside to fix the main temperature control system with his own bare hands instead of pleading further with the corporation.

As newly empowered Glenn leaves the room, the opportunistic Garrett encourages him to take his time so he can literally enjoy chilling in Glenn’s office for as long as possible.

Glenn arrives at the roof, accompanied by ditzy, lovable, Cheyenne Taylor Lee, a teen-aged employee. Bracing the cold weather, Glenn embarks on rendering order unto the chaos caused by the infernal machine.

Back inside, Assistant Manager, Dina Fox, walks past Glenn’s office and can hear groaning coming from within.  She opens the door and finds Garrett, moaning with pleasure in air conditioned bliss.  She uses the situation to be offensively authoritative, but soon joins Garrett to chill out with him.

After some boredom, she languidly suggests sex to pass the time and the two co-workers pursue carnal knowledge with a tragic-comic lack of passion and anticipation.

Back outside, Glenn is feeling helpless, (dare I say “Powerless?”) as fixing the heater proves to be overwhelmingly complicated.  Cheyenne tries to boost his morale.  Searching for a means to make his life matter, 57-year old Glenn invites the blossoming young woman to accompany him on a trip around the world.

She makes valid excuses to reject the offer, but Glenn clearly feels hurt.  Guilt ridden, the good-hearted Cheyenne agrees to participate in the globetrotting adventure, after all.   Glenn mentions that it will mean obtaining plenty of vaccinations, causing Cheyenne to grimace with fear and loathing.

Still in Glenn’s office, Dina answers a phone call meant for Glenn in which corporate admits that the malfunctioning air conditioning system was indeed, caused by a glitch in their own all-encompassing computer and that the problem has been fixed.

Glenn and Cheyenne return inside and notice that it’s getting colder. In a celebratory mood, Glenn exposes his disconnect from reality by planning his world trip aloud.  Among his destinations is “Atlantis.”

Cheyenne backs out a second time from the trip, while still allowing Glenn to save face.  She says, “I really wanted us to travel the world together but I feel that the store needs you.”  This makes Glenn’s day.

His dignity is not restored for long.  He immediately slips on the yogurt that had been left on the floor due to heat related labor disputes.

It’s a rough ending for a character we liked.  It didn’t work for me.  Obnoxious Marcus, who had dodged his duty to clean up the yogurt several times should have fallen on his own mess.  Maybe it’s the show’s comment on the way good people at work often pay for the dereliction of others.

A few minutes later, NBC continued its Thursday night comedy lineup with the third episode of the new sitcom, “POWERLESS.” The teaser opens as a broadcast of news taking place in where else? Atlantis.

Coincidence? A certain TV writing guru once said, “There are no coincidences in Art.”  The peacock network has a proclivity toward carrying a joke from one show to another. In this case, the mention of Atlantis on “SUPERSTORE” was meant to whet our appetite for mythical places and heroes in the upcoming sitcom, “POWERLESS.”

The tradition of sharing segments between shows that are not related as spinoff and original series dates at least as far back as November 17, 1994.  On that last Thursday before Thanksgiving, two New York-based shows had a turkey of a time dealing with the Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The “Seinfeld” episode entitled, “The Mom and Pop Store” started off on a high note where Elaine’s boss, Mr. Pitt, had finally won the chance to hold some of the strings for the Woody Woodpecker float.

Sadly, Jerry attends a party thrown by a dentist and his friends in a building overlooking the parade.  As a dentist tries to examine Jerry’s teeth, the comedian inadvertently knocks a replica of the Empire State Building out the window toward the parade below.  The statuette pierces the Woody Woodpecker float with Mr. Pitt beneath it.

On the same evening, Monica and Ross Geller try to have a quiet Thanksgiving celebration at her apartment on “FRIENDS.”  As various peoples’ plans go awry, they all end up crashing Monica and Ross’ supper.

Monica starts preparing a hodgepodge dinner to suit everyone’s sensibilities when Chandler interrupts to say the Underdog balloon had slipped away from its handlers.  The gang goes out to the roof for a better glimpse, causing themselves to be locked out while their meal burns in the kitchen.

Upon first seeing one theme carried over to another show, it came across as a cheap gimmick to make NBC shows seem like a parallel universe.  I wondered if other audience members were as critical.  Today I see it as an intrusion of network “suits” on the scripts to keep the viewer from reaching for the remote after the first show.

The newer shows, “SUPERSTORE” and “POWERLESS,” had more than Atlantis in common:  they both dealt with the powerlessness of the individual against such forces as bureaucracy and privilege.

Just as Glenn slipped on yogurt left on the floor by Marcus in “SUPERSTORE,” the grunt workers at Wayne Security might lose their jobs when “Da Boss,” Van Wayne, mishandles an email sent by the representative of their biggest account, ACE Chemicals.

Trying to apologize to his subordinates, it becomes clear that Van fails to grasp its full significance.  Emily Locke, his new Head of R&D, encapsulates one of the show’s major themes, scolding him with “It’s great that you can mess up and there’s never any consequences but the rest of us don’t have your dad to care for us.”

With further encouragement, Van uses hard work and ingenuity to win a sizable chunk of business from the Island of Atlantis, thus regaining his father’s respect and earning Emily’s admiration.

The episode ends on the reassuring note that seemingly powerless people can actually work with those at the top of the heap for everyone’s mutual benefit.

When I hear writers complaining about the encroachment of corporate interests into their creativity, I as an outsider can at least imagine the relationship between network executives and writers as similar to the Van Wayne/Emily Locke dynamic and hope for the best.


“Quetzelcoatl,” AKA “The Feathered Serpent of Snark” is a frequent TVWriter™ contributor who has chosen to use a pseudonym because why the heck not?

John Ostrander: “My Mysteries are Many for I am TV’s ‘Legion'”

LEGION
by John Ostrander

And you may ask yourself
How do I work this?
And you may ask yourself
Where is that large automobile?
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful house!
And you may tell yourself
This is not my beautiful wife!

• Talking Heads, Once In a Lifetime

Okay, I’ve finally found a TV superhero show I like more than The Flash, which is saying a lot. It’s Legion, Wednesdays at 10 PM (ET) on FX, and it stars Dan Stevens in a role that’s world’s away from his stint on Downton Abbey. He plays David Haller, a man who may be the world’s strongest telepath and, because of his schizophrenia – their diagnosis, not mine – perhaps the most dangerous.

The show is from 20th Century Fox in association with Marvel TV and is the first to link with the X-Men movie franchise which, for contractual and bureaucratic reasons, is separate from the Mighty Marvel Movie Franchise over at Disney. It’s not only unlike any other superhero TV show out there. In fact, it’s different from any other TV show, period.

What makes Legion so different is the use of the concept of the Unreliable Narrator. That concept means the reader/viewer cannot trust the facts of the story as presented. The device is most commonly used in fiction with a first person narrator, but it can be used in film and television and it’s being used very effectively here in two ways.

The show’s creator and showrunner, Noah Hawley (who also wrote and directed the first episode), wants the show to be told from Haller’s perspective. The story is about him, but since he can’t trust his own memories neither can we. His perception of reality around him may be off as well. David is an unreliable narrator.

At the same time, Hawley skews the design elements so that they match Haller’s mindset and are disorientating to us. His way of presenting David’s life cannot be wholly trusted either. Hawley is also an unreliable narrator.

There’s a key moment in the first episode when David’s being held at Clockworks Psychiatric Hospital (which itself seems to be a nod to A Clockwork Orange) where he is drugged, tested, questioned, evaluated. There’s a strong suggestion of a sinister governmental organization – as if there is any other kind – called Division 3 who seem ready to kill Haller.

David is eventually rescued by his sort of girlfriend named Sid and people connected with a place called Summerland run by Dr. Melanie Bird. There’s running and people shooting at them but, in the middle of the escape, David stops and begs of Sid, “Is all this really happening? Are you real?” She reassures them that it is happening, she is real, and they must run.

Those questions, for me, are the center of the episode and maybe of the series. Is this real? Is this happening? Can David trust it? Can we?

In the second episode, David – now safely (?) at Summerland, is being helped by Dr. Bird and her associates. Dr. Bird insists that David is not crazy; the voices he hears are part of his telepathic powers manifesting and always have been. One of her associates helps guides David through buried or forgotten memories but, again, we’re not certain how reliable those memories are and neither is he.

As I’ve been thinking about the show, I’m now questioning even what I think I know. What if Summerland is not the beneficial place we’ve been told it is? What if kindly Dr. Bird is not all that kindly and the evil Division 3 folks are really the good guys? What if David Haller himself is not a “hero” but more of an anti-hero or even an outright villain? He’s is the Legion of the title and I’m put in mind of the gospels of Mark and Luke where Jesus meets a man possessed of demons who says “My name is Legion for we are many.” David has a lot of voices inside him.

If you know my work, you can see why I’m fascinated by the show. It may not be for everyone; you may prefer your heroes and villains a little more clearly identified. Me, I’m fascinated by it. I like murky.

The character of Legion was created by Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz in Marvel’s The New Mutants #25 where he was the son of Charles Xavier, Professor X of the X-Men. The TV show doesn’t precisely follow the comics’ continuity but I think it’s very true to the concept, re-interpreting it for this day and age. I’m fine with that.

The show demands attention and some thought. I hope that it has some answers for the questions it poses, unlike such shows as Twin Peaks and The X-Files). Right now, I’ve settled in for the ride.

And you may ask yourself
What is that beautiful house?
And you may ask yourself
Where does that highway go to?
And you may ask yourself
Am I right? Am I wrong?
And you may say yourself, “My God! What have I done?”

Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.


John Ostrander quite simply is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared.

John Ostrander: TV ‘Flash’

by John Ostrander

My favorite superhero TV show these days is The Flash. Heck, it may be my favorite TV show period. Grant Gustin is doing a great job as Barry Allen/The Flash and the stories have wonderful “Easter eggs” for those who know DC continuity. One of the best is casting John Wesley Shipp, who played Barry/Flash in the earlier TV incarnation of The Flash, is in this version first as Barry’s dad and now as Jay Garrick, the Flash of Earth-2.

What also is great is the supporting cast on the show. On The Flash, they’ve even increased by one to include Tom Fenton (perhaps best known as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) as Barry’s “frenemy”. He’s also joined “Team Flash” as it’s called, even on the show.

This is where the TV versions of the Flash (and the other superheroes) differs from the comics. In the comics, the hero is usually a lone wolf type; others in his circle don’t know his/her double identity and keeping that secret is considered vital. On TV, however, the superhero needs a circle of friends to help them function. Just as it’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child, on TV shows it takes a team to make a superhero. Actually, more than a team – the supporting cast acts a lot more like a family.

This isn’t true just on The Flash – it also holds true on Supergirl and Arrow as well. Legends Of Tomorrow is a team, as is Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. There are good reasons for this – any TV show needs a good supporting cast for the main character to act with (or against). Those interactions provide drama, comedy, their own storylines and, with a continuing series, that’s necessary. It also lets the lead not be in every scene which can really burn out an actor. As an audience, we invest emotionally not only with the lead character but with the supporting cast. (I’ll be honest – on Arrow I’m not all that invested in the lead actor; often it is the support characters that I like better, especially Felicity.)

On Flash, for example, they have a wonderful conceit; there’s the character of Dr. Harrison Wells, played by Tom Cavenaugh. He’s the same character in each of the three seasons so far but he’s also very different as each season we get a new Harrison Wells from a different dimension. In the first season, he was a villain, in the second season he was something of an asshole, and in the current season he’s a bit of a goof. That must be a lot of fun for Cavenaugh and it creates a different dynamic with the team for each season.

Some comics have family – the Fantastic Four functioned best when the writers and editors realized the FF were not just another team; they really were family. Also, I remember when DC would publish large giant comics for the “Superman Family” or the “Batman Family.” Superman, for example, had his best friend, his girl friend, his cousin, his dog, other super-pets, and the kids from down the timeline, a.k.a. the Legion of Super-heroes. However, it’s not quite the same thing as the TV shows. There’s a central location where they all meet and work out of – S.T.A.R. labs, the Arrow cave (or whatever they’re calling it), the DEO HQ, the Waverider. Home.

Needless to say, the TV shows and the comics are different animals, each with their own needs. It costs less to produce the comic books and the special effects and locations are limited only by what the artist can draw. Yet, I will admit that I’ve come to prefer the TV versions in most cases. I think that, overall, they’re a bit better thought out. OTOH, they don’t have to justify decades of continuity; they’re re-interpreting and re-inventing everything. There’s more freedom in that.

It’s good to keep in mind that no man is an island.

No metahuman is, either.


John Ostrander quite simply is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared.

The Ghost and the Bonaduce

Mrs. Muir and the Ghost

by Dawn McElligott

A few days into my new job, a fellow employee stood behind me and introduced himself. When I turned around to see him, I was astonished. He looked just like Captain Gregg from “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” the late 1960s TV sitcom. The captain, by the way, was a very handsome Irish actor, named Edward Mulhare (1923-1997).

My co-worker, who shall be nameless, reminded me of a show with oodles of chemistry between the actors. First there was the chemistry between Captain Gregg and one of his new housemates, Carolyn Muir, played by Hope Lange. As a little girl watching the show, I aspired to look like Hope Lange when I grew up. The actress’ beauty in her thirties, made me look forward to mid-life.

Her character, Carolyn Muir, was the perfect blend of refinement and friendliness. The actress had a regal bearing. Every week, Carolyn Muir presented herself in classically chic outfits by Evan-Picone. She had enough mettle to manage life as a single mom (before we started calling them single moms). Carolyn Muir never gives in to self-pity and won’t let her children do it, either.

As a man, (masculine entity?) the Captain’s ghost finds her pluck attractive, but as a remnant of a bygone era, he is also repulsed by it. Her strength seems masculine to him and unbecoming. Their arguments were high spirited but always ended with a deepening, mutual fondness.

Captain Gregg also had an ongoing battle with his nephew, Claymore Gregg, played by the inimitable Charles Nelson Reilly. Considering the Captain appears to have died in about the 1860s’ and the show is taking place 100 years later, Claymore Gregg seems too young. He should be at least 70 years old but he appears to be in his late 40s. The numbers didn’t add up and it always bothered me as a viewer. Claymore Gregg is stuck with the maintenance of the house, Gull Cottage. To save it, Claymore rents it to Carolyn Muir and her children, thus upsetting the ghost.

Claymore Gregg is a type of seaside Ichabod Crane. He is the town clerk and Carolyn’s landlord. He has bookish authority that comically tries to replace strapping masculinity. The actor, Charles Nelson Reilly, played effeminate and nervous to the hilt. While never flirting with Mrs. Muir, he still showed an interest in her.

Claymore was often scheming to pilfer Mrs. Muir out of whatever funds she could scrape together. Whenever Captain Gregg caught on to one of his nephew’s schemes, he’d make his displeasure exceedingly well known and the audience would see Charles Nelson Reilly at his best as the fumbling, neurotic conniver, running for his life from Gull Cottage.

Danny Bonaduce on PARTRIDGE FAMILY

Carolyn’s two children were the impossibly cute, 9-year old Candace and six-year old Jonathan Muir, played by Kellie Flanagan and Harlen Carraher, respectively. The children were scripted to behave a tad too well to be believable but they added a reason for Carolyn to worry and for the ghost to show himself as a caring partner for her. In real life, the former child actors reported to various sources that they garnered fond memories of their time on the set.

In a May, 2014 article by “Remington S” on Madmen Entertainment.com, Kellie Flanagan said “My primary memories working with the two wonderful actors, Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare are that everyone smoked, all the time and everyone laughed a lot.”

Close to fifty years after the show’s cancellation, it remains popular. Flanagan volunteered an explanation. “I believe part of the reason for the show’s popularity is simply that it’s a really good show. Well written, intelligent dialog, a female character lead who was living on her own as a writer, raising two kids, a sassy housekeeper and nutty Claymore and that hot, unattainable Captain!—the mix of talent in the show is delicious. “

One of the writers was the late Joseph Bonaduce. In an episode by Bonaduce, entitled, “Jonathan Tells It Like It Was,” Jonathan Muir wins an essay contest at school for his composition on the relationship between Benjamin Franklin and John Adams.

Jonathan’s essay was based on the notion that the United States prospered as a result of a strong friendship between Benjamin Franklin and John Adams. In the show, Jonathan’s told he will be presented with an encyclopedia set at a ceremony in town. A few days beforehand, Captain Gregg gently tells Jonathan that Adams was antagonistic, to say the least, toward Franklin.

Drawing upon his personal knowledge of Franklin’s grandson, Temple Franklin, Captain Gregg imparts this information gently on Jonathan Muir, in a private chat. It’s an exquisite “father” and son moment.

(A quick fact check shows that William Temple Franklin, a/k/a Temple Franklin, died in 1823, in Paris. If the Captain died in his 40s around 1860, then he would have had to have gleaned all this information, in Paris, from Temple Franklin, by the end of 1823. Sorry, once again the numbers still don’t add up.)

Having firmly and willingly suspended disbelief, viewers can discern that Captain Gregg is using his real life perspectives from the past to discount Jonathan’s book learning that had cast the rapport between Franklin and Adams in a cozier light.

Learning from Captain Gregg of Adams’ antagonism toward Franklin, Jonathan Muir tries to revise his essay publicly with the truth. When Jonathan recites his redacted version of the composition, Rutledge Adams, a distant relative of John Adams, hears Jonathan refer to his ancestor as a “fink.” Joseph Bonaduce’s son, Danny Bonaduce, playing the runner up in the contest, also hears the insult and tries to capitalize on it. Only about ten years old at the time, Danny Bonaduce steals the scene as the prototype of a character he would play later; a scheming, ambitious child.

Rutledge Adams, a man with connections, starts shaking things up for the young essayist, Jonathan Muir, his family, the school and the town of Schooner Bay. Jonathan is sent home from school and called “un-American” by the children. It is decided by the judges that he will not win the encyclopedia set unless he recants his newly discovered facts and reads his original version at the town’s upcoming ceremony.

This conflict opens the door to two possibilities. First it poses a moral dilemma, something not done enough in today’s sitcoms. Secondly, it creates an opportunity for a moment of reflection for the main characters. Towards the end, Jonathan, Carolyn and Captain Gregg take a stroll along the beach to compare the values of truth and gain. It’s another element missing from current sitcoms because it’s a cinematic scene where some portions have no dialogue, only music and silhouettes of people against the seashore gilded by the setting sun.

After the cancellation of “The Ghost and Mrs. Muir,” Danny Bonaduce made his debut as Danny Partridge in “The Partridge Family.” As a growing viewer, I immediately noticed the chemistry between his character, the scheming young boy and the band’s manager, Reuben Kincaid, played by Dave Madden. I took a solemn vow to reunite the two actors for my own sitcom, when I grew up.

With the passing of Dave Madden in 2014, I lost that opportunity forever. Yet as I watch vintage TV on YouTube, I’ve been wondering. Lately, I’ve been watching episodes of “Get A Life,” starring Chris Elliott. I sometimes wonder if Elliott could be the new Dave Madden? Could he play opposite Danny Bonaduce with similar chemistry for a sitcom? What would I call it? A thoroughly unoriginal thought and title comes to mind: “Grumpy Old Men.” They’re approaching that age. Planning is still speculative but I guarantee one thing: They’d make a helluva lunchbox!


Dawn McElligott is a graduate of the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Her screenplay, Lady of the Lake, recently placed 2nd in the Feature Length Screenplay category in the 2016 Terror Film Festival.

Lew Ritter TV Review: MAD DOGS – The Vacation from Hell

By Lew Ritter

CAUTION: HERE LIE SPOILERS!

Have you ever dreamed of getting an invitation to visit a tropical getaway from an old friend? As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you wish for.”

MAD DOGS was adapted by veteran showrunner Shawn Ryan from a British show of the same name created by Chris Cole.

In the U.S. version, which ran on Amazon Prime, Milo (Billy Zane) is the embodiment of the American Dream. He’s young, retired and wealthy. He’s invited four old friends to join him for some fun and the sun at his palatial villa on the sun -drenched beach in Belize, an island off the coast of South America It’s a luxurious villa that even Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg might envy.

At first, the friends frolic in the warm tropical waters on the beaches adjacent to Milo’s palatial estate. It seems to be a perfect weekend getaway. They eat at a magnificent four- star restaurant. And to the amusement of the other friends, Cobi (Steve Zahn), brings one of the local girls back to the estate for a night of unforgettable sex.

However, after the initial bonding has worn off, the friends start to notice subtle changes in Milo. Despite the appearance of wealth and luxury, all is not well with him. Below the tranquil surface, quiet tensions and hostilities make themselves felt,l especially after he makes an eerie promise that if anything happens to him, the friends will become owners of the estate. To further complicate things, he begins receiving menacing calls.

Each of the main characters has suffered misfortunes in their personal and business lives. Lex (Michael Imperioli) is a lifelong screw-up with addiction problems. Cobi works in finance and appears to be the only one still happily married. Gus (Romany Malco) is a former lawyer who has been disbarred and apparently works in the antique business. Joel (Ben Chapin) is the wariest member of the group. He senses early on that something is amiss with the reunion.

In a shattering conclusion to Episode One, the friends are assembled for an evening of innocent fun. Suddenly the calm is shattered by an arrival of a mysterious character dressed as a cat. The cat sneaks into the dining room and pulls his gun. Before anyone can stop him, he splatters Milo’s brains all over the dining room table.

In shock, the friends realized that they have become involved in something truly deadly. Each of the following episodes depicts their desperate attempts to extricate themselves from Milo’s tragedy, leading to them diving deeper into the morass and further into trouble.

They attempt to return the yacht Milo has been using and discover a hidden trove of stolen drug money. They attempt to rent a car and find a safe place to hide the money and wind up being observed by the local police and involved in a car accident. Lex end up in the hospital from an overdose, Joel and several others find themselves in a local jail.

THE GOOD:

The cast is energetic and enjoyable. Standouts are Billy Zane who makes the perfect smiling cobra of a villain and Michael Imperioli (Lex), who has been a personal favorite of this writer since playing Tony Soprano’s cousin. (He also was a standout as a detective in two short lived detective shows LIFE ON MARS AND DETROIT 187.) Here, he has the penetrating gaze and manner of a police detective and dominates every scene that he is in. And Steve Zahn, who normally plays the sad sack or comic relief character in big screen comedies or rom-coms, shows surprising dramatic depth in MAD DOGS as the tragic Cobi.

Some of the best moments of the show are during the quiet moments as the characters reflect on the shambles of their lives. As they face the wrong turns they took that led to their predicament, they, and we, realize that the four characters are much further from each other than first believed.

THE BAD:

The show would work better as a spirited two-hour movie rather than a ten episode mini-series. In every episode, the friends engage in some desperate attempt to remedy their situation. Each of the characters chooses one bad option after another, which further complicates their already tenuous situation. This works for the first few episodes, but soon feels repetitious and predictable and works against any need a viewer might have for binge-watching.

The fact that at the end of the series, we learn that the usual suspects – the CIA, corrupt police, and drug gangsters – all were involved with Milo is a major creative letdown…a reason to be glad I didn’t binge on this show.

To me, the biggest betrayal to viewers, though, stems from something I really liked – the discovery that the characters’ lives have been deeply troubled and that they aren’t nearly as close as they’ve liked to think. This fact flies in the face of Milo’s motivation for wanting to ruin their lives

CONCLUSION:

There is one saving grace to this version of MAD DOGS. The irony inherent in the fact that Milo’s motivation for wanting to ruin the lives of his friends has been that he thought they were all so much happier and better off than he was. In the end, his revenge proves to be – nothing.

Speaking of the ending, it’s structured so that most of the characters have escaped back to America. Only one of them remains in Belize and appears ready to take over where Milo has left off.

In context, this creates a somewhat interesting cliffhanger. Will the others be lured back to help their friend? Amazon clearly hasn’t become interested enough. The show has been cancelled.



Lew Ritter is a TVWriter™ Contributing Writer. Learn more about him here.

GOLIATH: A slingshot loaded with compelling legal drama

TV Series Review by Lew Ritter

GOLIATH is an old fashioned legal drama created by David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro. It is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.

Both co-creators are veteran writers with extensive legal and TV writing background. David E. Kelley is the veteran writer/producer with extensive credits going back to the 80’s with shows such as L.A. LAW, PICKET FENCES and more recently BOSTON LEGAL.

GOLIATH is about a down and out lawyer taking on a simple case that uncovers a far more deadly conspiracy. The stakes are higher than expected not only for the client but for the protagonist, Billy McBride, who needs the win in order to jumpstart his career and give him back his life.

Billy Bob Thornton plays Billy, a onetime powerhouse lawyer, whose career has fallen on hard times. At the beginning of the series, he has just been released from jail. As a Public Defender, he is too drunk to even remember his client’s name. He even wears a sleep apnea machine in bed. He lives in a dilapidated suite of rooms in a seedy motel in a once trendy section of Santa Monica and spends his days drinking in a dive bar and chasing small civil cases to earn a living.

The irony is that McBride was a co-founder of Cooperman-McBride, a Goliath of a law firm with branches all around the world. This time out, he is hired to handle a simple civil suit to obtain modest damages for a family whose husband committed suicide aboard a boat.

Billy, however, quickly uncovers discrepancies in testimony that expose a more sinister conspiracy by Cooperman-McBride. Its client is Born Tech, a defense contractor with deep pockets and even darker secrets. The official report indicates that the man’s boat blew up. However, the video captured by a nearby fishing vessel indicates a multi- magnitude explosion that created a huge tidal wave which nearly capsized the fishing boat.

The story features Billy and his spunky band of legal eagles as David taking on Goliath. Billy takes the case in order to get back at Donald Cooperman, his former partner. Cooperman had suffered some unexplained accident that left burn marks on half his face. He rarely leaves the confines of his office and spends most of the day spying on his employees.

The series is full of terrific scenes depicting complex legal maneuvers and sparring over the testimony of witnesses. The lead attorney/partner on the case argues with Cooperman to drop the case and settle before the case explodes. At every turn, she is overturned by Cooperman’s hatred and disdain for Billy.

The disdain proves to be totally unfounded. Every time the Cooperman lawyers attempt to place a legal stumbling block in Billy’s path, he outmaneuvers them. At the end of Episode Two, the judge dismisses the case on a legal technicality. Billy lambastes the judge for bias. The enraged judge charges Billy with hefty fines for contempt of court. However, there is a method to Billy’s madness. It allows Billy to introduce new evidence and keep the case open.

Thornton is at the top of his game as Billy McBride. Thornton is an A-List actor, who dominates any scenes that he is in. He brings a surprising depth and aura of menace to his role. He is capable of dealing with the same unscrupulous tactics needed in order to defeat his adversaries at the Cooperman firm.

The standout cast includes Maria Bello, as Billy’s embittered, ex-wife and Nina Ariana as Billy’s spunky partner. She’s fearless and hilarious as a low- rent lawyer/real estate agent who brought Billy into the case. Tania Raymond is winning as the vulnerable Brittany Gold. Harold Perrineau is a standout as the judge who manages the courtroom circus with his dignity intact.

GOLIATH never stops providing surprising plot twists and great episode ending cliffhangers. At the end of Episode Two, after winning a small victory, one of the characters is struck down by a hit and run meant for McBride. At the end of Episode Three, the reclusive Cooperman lures one of the young associates up to his penthouse office to seduce her. And at the end of the series, the mega law firm is served a well- deserved defeat.

The show is a solidly entertaining legal thriller that benefits from Billy Bob’s strong lead character. The writing gives us as many compelling characters as plot twists, and even a happy ending, with Billy McBride seemingly back on course as a successful lawyer.

There are, however, other plot threads left dangling that support a potential Season Two. The show doesn’t break new ground, but it delivers a good dose of binge-watching pleasure that I look forward to re-experiencing when Amazon brings it back.


Lew Ritter is a TVWriter™ Contributing Writer. Learn more about him here.

‘Longmire’ Proves Hard to Kill

by Doug Snauffer

As the TV landscape continues to diversify, it’s nice to know there’s still room for an old-fashioned show like Longmire — even though it’s survival has included a number of last-minute reprieves.

Based on the novels by best-selling author Craig Johnson, Longmire is best described as a modern-day Western. It’s protagonist, Sheriff Walt Longmire (Australian actor Robert Taylor), upholds the law in Absaroka County, Wyoming. Walt is a widower who lives in a small secluded cabin on the edge of the Big Horn Mountains.

When he’s not on the job, he spends his free-time drinking Rainier beer and pining over his recently deceased wife. When he’s on the job, Walt Longmire is a force to be reckoned with. He’s a large man who — as far as Western lawmen go — is reminiscent of Gunsmoke‘s Matt Dillon (Although at 6’7″, James Arness had 5 inches on Taylor.). Walt is capable, strong-willed, dedicated, and has proven to be hard to kill — even by short-sighted TV executives.

Robert Taylor stars as Sheriff Walt Longmire in the Netflix original series Longmire.

Longmire debuted on A&E in June of 2012, and continued to play as a summer series the following two seasons. It was A&E’s highest-rated scripted program, pulling in an average of 3.7 million viewers each week during it’s third season.

Then in August of 2014, just as it’s third season was coming to a close, A&E shocked Longmire devotees by cancelling the show. They explained that despite it’s impressive numbers, “the series found its largest audience amidst a specialized demographic.” In other words, 3.7 million people may have been watching Longmire, but they were the wrong 3.7 million people. They were over the age of 34.

They proved to be a surly lot, however. Fans rallied back in one of the most comprehensive protests ever geared towards the cancellation of a TV series. Meanwhile, Longmire‘s production company, Warner Horizon Television, began looking for a new home for their show.

Lou Diamond Phillips as Henry Standing Bear, best friend and confidant to Sheriff Walt Longmire.

They sent proposals out to all the major players, but from the start they were eyeing either Amazon or Netflix. Their efforts were soon rewarded. Just a scant three months after A&E’s surprise cancellation, Netflix picked Longmire up for a fourth season, which premiered in the fall of 2015.

A fifth round of episodes in the fall of 2016 received a warm welcome by fans, who binge-watched the season in large numbers. Rumors had begun to circulate over the summer that these would be the final batch of episodes, but once again the program persevered, and the streaming service officially announced a six go-round of Longmire was in the works for 2017.

(Left to right) Adam Bartley, Katee Sackhoff, and Robert Taylor take a knee in Longmire.

Walt’s posse includes sassy deputy Victoria ‘Vic’ Moretti (Katee Sackhoff), who harbors romantic feelings towards her boss, deputy Jim ‘Ferg’ Ferguson (Adam Bartley), a dedicated officer often inapt in his duties, Walt’s daughter Cady (Cassidy Freeman), an attorney who is every bit as pertinent as her dad, and Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), owner of the Red Pony bar and Walt’s best friend and confidant.

Absaroka County is also home to a Cheyenne Indian reservation, where local businessman and resident villain Jacob Nighthorse (A Martinez) has just opened a gambling casino that Walt fears is a front for illegal activity. Malachi Strand (Graham Greene) is Chief of Security for the casino, and Mathias (Zahn McClarnon) is head of the tribal police.

Robert Taylor (left) and A Martinez (right) in a scene from Netflix’s original series Longmire.

Rounding out the Longmire universe is Ruby (Louanne Stephens), Walt’s office manager and dispatcher, Travis Murphy (Derek Phillips), a naïve, near-do-well deputy-wannabe who has somehow managed to steal Victoria’s affections, and Dr. Donna Sue Monaghan (Ally Walker), a psychiatrist introduced in season 4 who has awakened feelings of passion in Walt for the first time since the death of his wife.

Longmire is a far cry from most TV crime procedurals. It’s filmed largely on outdoor locations at a deliberately slow place, and the scripts rely heavily on character development. It consists of 10-episode seasons (with the exception of it’s second year, which contained 13). But the writing is above par and the story arcs (typically one major thread per season) are intriguing and satisfying.

The characters are all multidimensional and exhibit self-destructive behavior. They’re as much a threat to themselves as any of the contemporary outlaws they go up against. Walt has a need to do things his own way, whether he’s acting within the bounds of the law or not — and his deputies tend to take their leads from him.

Longmire (Netflix). Walt’s best friend, Henry Standing Bear (Lou Diamond Phillips), is taken into custody by Mathias (Zahn McClarnon), head of the Cheyenne tribal police.

I do have one problem with the series, however. With Walt, Vic, and Ferg so wrapped up in their cases, I have to wonder who is handling other police business. Don’t they ever write speeding tickets?

Production on Longmire is set to resume in March, and the new season should begin streaming this fall. But word has already begun to float that these next 10 episodes will be — yeah, that’s right — the series’ last. We’ll see what Walt Longmire has to say about that.


TVWriter™ Contributing Editor 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. Learn more about him HERE