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:

Diana Vacc sees “Prison Break” Season 5 Premier

by Diana Vaccarelli

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

April 4, 2017 was the day Prison Break returned to our screens after a seven year “hiatus.” 

Fox television has brought back the infamous brothers Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows. If you weren’t a fan, or if you were but life has gotten in the way of your memory, I’ll try to catch you up, or at least remind you of where we left off. As in:

When last we saw Michael Scofield and Lincoln Burrows, they had broken out of prison and gone on the run, just in time for Michael to die from a terminal illness, the tragedy ending with a touching scene where Lincoln and Michael’s wife and son mourned at his grave.

Now, however, with the show becoming as popular as ever thanks to Netflix, the show has returned with fan faves Wentworth Miller and Dominic Purcell reprising the leads. How does a dead man return to life? In TV there are two usual ways – supernatural intervention ala a little show called, aptly enough, Supernatural and new info giving the mourners the wonderful formerly missing fact that whaddaya know, Michael is alive after all and being held in Yemeni prison.

Which means – oh, how did you guess? Now it’s up to Lincoln to break him out – again.

THE GOOD:

  • Writer/Creator Paul T. Scheuring brings us an episode full of intrigue that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I loved the scene in which Lincoln literally digs through Michael’s grave and discovers that only Michael’s jacket and pants remain. The body is gone.

    In another well written scene we find Michael in the prison and Yemen, only to hear him state that he doesn’t know Lincoln and is not Michael Scofield. As he walks away, the look on his face tells us he is lying, trying to protect his brother, although we don’t yet why and what or whom from.

    My favorite scene by far in this episode, though, is when Michael’s son asks his mother Sara what his father was like. The dialogue here is extraordinary and sensitive as Sara talks about her late husband as though he was the hero of a fairy tale.

  • The performances of all the actors are brilliant. Each one seems to genuinely become each character, giving us the souls of everybody we meet.

    Dominic Purcell brings makes the moment when Lincoln falls to the ground in tears, begging Michael to tell him what is really going on truly heartbreaking. And Wentworth Miller shocks us with his perfect – and in its way horrifying  response, demonstrating that he has become a far different – and much colder – man than the Michael we loved all those years ago.

  • By going international in scope, the writing exceeds my expectations. I love how Prison Break is now focusing on contemporary world events, especially with respect to the war against terrorism.

THE BAD:

  • The premier episode left many questions. Lots of blanks to be filled. After having been let down by so many recent series that never delivered the answers to questions raised in opening episodes, I’m concerned that viewers may never get the satisfaction we need…and that I believe all viewers deserve. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for lots of new information in the nine episodes of the show that remain.

THE REST:

  • As things stand after the opening, this revival may well be the best TV series opener in years. I thoroughly enjoyed watching it, and if the writers deliver this new version of Prison Break could well become not just must-see but iconic television viewing. I hope you try out the show and join me as a fan.

Diana Vacc sees the ‘This is Us’ Season Finale

NOTE FROM LB: The week before last, TVWriter™ Contributing Writer Kate Graham wrote a very positive review of the This is Us season finale. A few days ago, without knowing about Kate’s review, our Critic-At-Large, Diana Vaccarelli sent us her perspective. They’re a bit different, but then, so are Diana and Kate. 


by Diana Vaccarelli

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

Tuesday March 14, 2017 was a big day in television for me.  

It was the season finale of This is Us.  This show has become one of my all-time favorites because of both its originality and its performances, which have been of highest quality each week.

Each Tuesday of this, the show’s first season, I have been glued to my television, and this episode was no exception. I have been looking forward to the finale in the hope of seeing Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) step up to make things right with Rebecca (Mandy Moore) and the Big Three, Jack and Rebecca children, make important decisions regarding their futures.

Unfortunately…   

THE GOOD:

  • The performances of Ventimiglia and Moore couldn’t have been any stronger. The scene where the two characters fight was like a powerful blast of pure emotion.

THE BAD:

  • It truly pains me to say this because I do love this show and everything it represents: Family, love, commitment, and truth.  But this episode did not live up to the rest of the season.

    I was shocked at the writing, and not in a positive way. Dan Fogelman, the creator of this series, partnered with Isaac Aptaker and Elizabeth Berger to bring us an episode that was moved like a daytime soap opera from the 1950s, and which did absolutely nothing to further the overall story. It didn’t merely drag, it dd rr aa ggg ee dd.

    But that wasn’t the big problem. Like many fans, I was aching to know more – much more – about the death of Jack, which has been the subtext of the entire season. Yet the finale told us nothing we didn’t already know, leaving me frustrated, angry…and very disappointed at best.

THE REST:

This is Us has been a wonderful series, and I highly recommend watching the whole season. Twice. However, this finale did not come close to measuring up to previous episodes.  Come on, TIU writing staff, would it have killed you to tell us how Jack died and why his daughter Kate (Chrissy Metz) felt responsible? Are you ever going to tell us? Or don’t you want me to watch the show anymore?


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and one of the finest people we know. Find out more about her HERE

LB: 3 Shows I Just Can’t Watch Anymore

by Larry Brody

I  don’t watch a lot of TV these days, but when I do watch, I become very committed. I don’t watch anything twice, but that one time…ah! I savor every minute, giving each episode 100% of my current attention span. When Larry Brody watched TV he’s definitely in the moment.

This week, I’ve dropped three shows from my commitment list. Instead of soaring as they once did, they’ve been flailing around for weeks, and I can stand the agony of their dying spirits no more.

Here they are, three TV series that for all I know will continue to go on for decades to come, but which for me have lost all vitality. They are existences without essences. Zombies walking all over without their souls.

LEGION: I loved the first 3 episodes of Legion for the same reason so many critics and fans (including my #1 Favorite Writer John Ostrander as he expressed his thoughts HERE), the fantastic look of the series and the mindfuck it gave not only the heroes (and villains, as it’s turned out) but the audience as well.

However, the last few episodes have just been more and more of what’s become the show’s same-old-same-old, and instead of feeling more intrigued, or even as intrigued as I was at the beginning, I’m getting bored at the limited bag o’writing and cinematography tricks.

Besides, the damn show keeps giving me nightmares! And at my age I’ve got enough bad real memories to terrify me and sure don’t need to be overwhelmed by fake ones.

(See, if you’ve been watching Legion you know what I just did there…the whole fake memories thing, I mean. If not, well, that’s not nearly as spoilery as it might sound. We know by the end of the pilot that the fakery is afoot. Which is why now the whole business is just a drag to me.)

SHADES OF BLUE: I was all gung-ho about this series its first season. Loved the less-than-perfect (to say the  least) lead characters. Loved hating the even more less-than-perfect villain who thought he was so much better than they were.

But now that we’re into Season 2, everyone’s total lack of comprehension of even the most basic ethical values of human behavior, combined with the way the characters’ limited intelligence seems to have slopped over onto the writers, creating an overall storyline that lacks the slightest bit of credibility or sense of even “TV reality” has finally gotten to be too much for me.

It’s with great sorrow that I say avoir to Jennifer Lopez, who is always so wonderful to look at, but saying good-bye is much better than her character probably would do to me. No, Shades isn’t giving me nightmares, but it has reminded me of my longtime aversion to being shot by beautiful women and then – no, I’ll stop here before I do get too spoilery.

NCIS:

Buh-bye Legion and Shades of Blue. Maybe your makers can take comfort in the fact that I’ve also decided to abandon my formerly favorite bad, bad, bad-but-so-what? TV series ever. That’s right, I’ve had it with NCIS at last, after 13 1/2 seasons, of which that last half feels, well, it feels like it’s been going on even longer than all thirteen years that preceded it combined.

Leroy Jethro Gibbs walking around smiling? WTF?

Have You Seen this Trailer for ‘Duck Tails’ Return to TV?

Art from the upcoming DUCK TALES TV series

by Larry Brody

Phooey!

Donald Duck’s Uncle Scrooge McDuck has been one of my favorite comic book characters since, well, since I first saw him in a comic book when I was 5 or 6 years old. (What? You expected me to give you the year that was? No way.)

He was smart. He was flawed. He was, of course, rich. Most importantly, he was perfectly – yes, I said perfectly – drawn and written by Carl Barks, a true genius of comic art. And, fortunately for all concerned, especially fans of the fantastic everywhere, Barks’ comic book successors have kept the level of Uncle Scrooge’s adventures almost as high. Even today’s versions are beautiful enough to frame.

Art from current Uncle Scrooge comics by IDW

Because of the above, I was as excited as a kid myself when I heard that Duck Tales, a Disney TV series about the adventures of Scrooge, Donald, Huey, Dewey, and Louie, and the rest of the WD gang that I’d watched with my children was coming back.

I assumed that the reboot would be as good as the original and that I could share the new show with my youngest grandkids.

But, from the look of the new trail for the new show, I’m now assuming I’m in for a disappointment. Ain’t nothing here that’s even close to the glory that is the real Uncle Scrooge:

Did you watch? Am I right, or am I right?

Where’s the glory? Where’s the travel? The treasure? The glorious greed that made Scrooge…Scrooge?

Maybe I’ll be proven wrong when the show starts this summer. Maybe there will be something magical there. I sure hope so. But until then, all I can say, once more screwing my mouth up into a spit-soaked version of Donald Duck’s voice is “Phooey!”

Oh, mighty god of TV, why must thou promiseth us so much and then delivereth so…little?