Friday, 28 August 2015

The Carmichael Show - Review (NBC)

The Carmichael Show is a very, very promising show. It has the potential to be a very profound, controversial and contemporary sitcom trough its successful combination of old school and modern. However, the sitcom has some way to go before it becomes a must-see show...

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Life In Pieces CBS' own Modern Family

LIFE IN PIECES (single camera)Picked up to series
STUDIO: 20th TV/Kapital Entertainment
TEAM: Justin Adler (w, ep), Aaron Kaplan (ep)
LOGLINE: A single-camera comedy that follows the daily ups and downs of one multigenerational family, but is told in four independent, short stories.
CAST: Colin Hanks, Betsy Brandt, Thomas Sadoski, Dianne Wiest, James Brolin, Zoe Lister Jones, Angelique Cabral, Dan Bakkedahl
Do you remember that family sitcom Modern Family? Of course you do! It's one of the most popular sitcoms currently on air. If you tune into CBS' new sitcom Life in Pieces, the first thing you will think is 'hey, this reminds me of Modern Family!'. And it seems as though that's exactly what writer/executive producer Justin Adler and executive producer Aaron Kaplan to think.
The second thing you will notice is how big the cast of the show is. There are eight main characters to meet in the pilot episode and all are meant to have their own quirks, stories and relationships which intertwine to create an overall story.
Although Life in Pieces has a few funny moments, I feel as though this show is merely emmy bait. Some aspects of the pilot are more depressing and tiring to watch than entertaining, like James Brolin hosting his own funeral. I won't be surprised if CBS suffer through bad ratings in order to gain a few primetime emmy nods next year. A show does not need to be popular in order to win lots of awards, which is all well and good because I doubt this raunchy, blunt comedy will manage to find an audience in CBS' packed schedule.
One thing which is striking about this show is that it is produced by 20th Century FOX. As networks start to greenlight more shows from sister studios rather an outside studios, the fact that CBS has given Life in Pieces a fall berth and a good place on the schedule suggests the network's confidence in the show. However, maybe the show would be even more appreciated on FOX, which has struggled to find a hit comedy as of late. New Girl was a hit for the first season or two, apart from that, FOX has lost its unique brand for progressive, unique comedies. If Life in Pieces happened to premiere on FOX in Fall 2007, before Modern Family I'm sure it would have been a hit.

Angel From Hell CBS's conflicted new sitcom

ANGEL FROM HELL (single camera)
Picked up to series
TEAM: Tad Quill (w, ep)
LOGLINE: When Amy enters Allison’s life and claims to be her guardian angel, they form an unlikely friendship, and Allison can’t be sure if Amy is an angel or just nuts.
CAST: Jane Lynch, Maggie Lawson

Well, what do we have here? Now that Jane Lynch's starring role on Fox's formerly prosperous musical dramedy Glee came to a tragic end earlier this year without anyone taking any notice, Lynch has transitioned from a grumpy old football coach to a weird old, possibly mad, Angel From Hell. Maggie Lawson, whose last starring role was in the bland ABC family sitcom Back in the Game, plays Allison, and another familiar face from other quickly cancelled sitcoms Kyle Bornheimer create a ensemble in this CBS sitcom.
Angel From Hell is definitely not an amazing pilot. Nor is it a funny one. The pilot tries way too hard to be quirky and different while remaining bland and predictable. Single-Camera comedy is not known to be successful on CBS, which has found success in multi-camera, throwback style sitcoms like How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men. While watching the show, it's difficult not to imagine how the concept would translate to a multi-camera format. It might have made the show funny.
Unfortunately, the Angel From Hell is a conflicted sitcom. On one hand, it is off-brand due to it being single-camera but manages to be dull at the same time. The chemistry between Lynch and Lawson is the only saving grace for the show. Lynch's possibly drunk, possibly mad, possibly holy character, who is more or less a hippy-ish, carefree laidback woman contrasts Lawson's rigid and workaholic character. Once you take away any aspect of it's "high concept", Angel From Hell is merely a fairly standard odd couple comedy.
I don't believe Angel From Hell will be a hit for CBS. Recently, they have made a push to try and find a single-camera hit, possibly to attract a younger generation of viewers. On the other hand, much like The Crazy Ones, I think this show will face an early sacrifice without the possibility for a resurrection (translation: expect Mike and Molly or 2 Broke Girls to replace the show after three or four episodes...)

Sunday, 23 August 2015

"The Grinder" buddy lawyer comedy unites Rob Lowe and Fred Savage

TEAM: Andrew Mogul (w, ep), Jarrad Paul (w-ep), Rob Lowe (ep), Nick Stoller (ep), Jake Kasdan (d, ep)
LOGLINE: When TV lawyer Dean Sanderson’s (aka “The Grinder”) long-running hit series comes to an end, he finds himself at a crossroads in life and decides to move back to his small hometown thinking he has the experience to take over his family’s law firm, where he butts heads with his brother.
CAST: Rob Lowe, Fred Savage, Mary Elizabeth Ellis, Natalie Morales, William Devane

The Grinder is definitely not the type of sitcom I am usually interested in. Modern day network work place comedies like Parks & Recreation, (which starred Rob Lowe up until it's penultimate season), Brooklyn Nine-Nine, or The Office have  been my choice of comedy. In fact, family comedies like The Wonder Years (which happened to star young Fred Savage) have always sparked my interest most of the time. That's why I originally ignored The Grinder during pilot season until I read the script and saw the trailer. Turns out, The Grinder is an appealing mixture of both family and workplace comedy and all the eccentric and unique conflicts which can arise from having to work with a more popular and famous sibling.
The pilot has lots of energy and Rob Lowe and Fred Savage are an interesting combination who work well together. While Dean Sanderson is a character which we have seen thousands of times before (aka a conceited television personality) Rob Lowe manages to bring a unique interpretation to the screen. Fred Savage's long awaited return to television does not disappoint however, I hope the rest of the series focuses more on the family/workplace dynamic between Dean and Stewart Sanderson rather than Stewart and his wife which, again, is something we have seen a thousand times before and does not add anything special to the show.
While The Grinder is funny (at least, it's funnier than I originally thought) it is not as funny as it thinks it is. And now we have my problem with these modern day workplace comedies. They often come across as overly confident and cocky. The Grinder mimics the Greg Daniels/Dan Schur approach, which does not appeal to me personally and judging by the ratings of Parks & Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, does not appeal to the general public either. Hopefully, by the second episode, the concept will be fully formed and The Grinder manages to become its own entity by taking advantage of the Lowe/Savage combination which, with the right writing and directing, will make for a unique and most importantly, funny weekly viewing.

Monday, 17 August 2015

NBC Developing new sitcoms from Tina Fey & Robert Carlock, Mike Schur

It is no secret that NBC has had a rough time establishing new hit comedies however, this has not stopped the network from making an extra push in the genre. NBC has ordered new comedy projects from comedy veterans Tina Fey & Mike Schur (30 Rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Mike Schur (Parks & Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Both projects fall under the Universal TV production bracket meaning NBC will have complete ownership over the projects.

The network has given a 13 episode straight-to-seres order to Mike Schur’s The Good Place (working title) which centres on a woman wrestling with what it means to be good. The series is set to premiere during the 2016-17 season and will be produced by Universal Television, 3 Arts Entertainment and Fremulon. At NBC’s TCA meeting on August 13, NBC Chairman Bob Greenblatt said “Mike came in and laid out the whole season. We loved it so much, we ordered it to series. The guy who bought Amy Poehler to primetime is bringing another strong, funny, complicated female character to TV”.

The untitled Fey-Carlock pilot will be written by Tracey Wingfield, a young writer who co-wrote alongside Fey the series finale of 30 Rock, which won an emmy award. The pilot centres on a mother-daughter relationship that is challenged when an overly involved New Jersey mom gets an internship at her daughter’s workplace, a cable news network.

The Fey-Carlock project will be produced by Universal Television, 3 Arts and Little Stranger. Fey and Carlock’s most recent project is the Netflix comedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt which was previously developed, and ordered by NBC and was set to air in midseason 2015. However, Greenblatt released Kimmy Schmidt to Netflix with a two-season pick up. The sitcom went on to receive multiple emmy award nominations. Greenblatt said “we looked for the best wat to launch the show. To know Tina Fey is to love her, and we wanted to put the series where it would have the best chance of success”.

Disney/Pixar's Inside Out

After the colossal success of Monsters Inc, Up and the legendary Toy Story trilogy, Disney/Pixar is back with another movie to make audiences of all ages laugh, cry and reminisce as Inside Out explores the ups and downs of childhood.

Disney/Pixar’s newest blockbuster ‘Inside Out’ is an intriguing, smart and heart-warming take on childhood. The story follows Riley, an 11 year old girl who moves with her loving mum and dad from Minnesota to San Francisco and Riley’s charming emotions inside her head. Riley’s personal highs and lows are conveyed through her characterised emotions including Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), who was my favourite and most likely to be turned into Twitter and Tumblr memes, Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kailing) and Fear (Bill Hader). All the emotions are loveable, somewhat relatable and each has an interesting character dynamic.

One of Riley’s lows is moving from her childhood home, to having to cope with moving to a dark, gloomy and cramped house in San Francisco. Riley must not only leave her beloved Ice Hockey team mates and friends behind, but must also start a new school.

Eventually, Sadness and Joy are separated from the others with the core memories which give Riley her personality (which takes the form of personality islands in the film). Joy and Sadness becomes the dynamic odd couple as they are ejected from headquarters and into the realms of Riley’s brain in search of a way back. Inside Out transforms itself into an adventure movie as the pairing of two polar opposite emotions creates an interesting and humorous dynamic as both, alongside Riley’s part dolphin-cat-candyfloss imaginary friend Bing Bong, explore Riley’s long term memories in the form of a giant pin ball library, her dream centre in the form of a sitcom set and her train of thought. But, trouble occurs back at headquarters and Riley’s personality becomes almost non-existant! Joy, Sadness and Bing-Bong must make it back before it’s too late.

Inside Out showcases the progression of childhood, growing up and life changes through strong emotional resonance and outstanding animation.

The movie’s concept alone is pure genius and incredibly clever and ambitious.  Not only do we see inside Riley’s mind, but also the mind of her parents during a dinner table conversation between Riley and her parents which soon becomes heated. As we delve inside the minds of parents, adult audiences will resonate with the struggles of parenting. Inside each human’s mind are emotions which are characterised and personified as miniature controllers of their host body.

The pairing of Joy and Sadness is poignant to the films plot. Back in headquarters, Sadness keeps toughing Riley’s happy core memories from life back in Minnesota, thus, turning them into sad ones. Joy separates Sadness from the other emotions and even abandons Sadness along the way. However, Joy and Sadness manage to work together and discover that memories can be both joyful and sad thus, finding a way to find happiness out of a saddening experience.

Although the film revolves around her experiences, Riley’s focus and the audience’s interest lies secondary to the characterised emotions. However, Pete Docter, the writer, director and animator made the smart decision not to make Riley a stereotypical “girly girl”. She plays hockey and her thoughts are not consumed or defined by popular mean girls or a cute boy crush although, both aspects are explored by the film. Furthermore, the biographical aspects of the movie only make Inside Out all the more captivating. While young audiences may not take any notice, Docter was an introverted and socially isolated child who used his imagination to survive his awkward childhood years.  Docter also relocated from his native Minnesota to Denmark leading him to place all his focus on his hobby of drawing and animation. It is no surprise that a man whose childhood consisted of developing and widening his imagination through animation would go on to create such a complex and multifaceted film which sets the standard for animated movies which appeal to audiences of all ages. Parents can wince and relive their awkward childhood, such as crying in class, while young kids laugh at the hilarious conflicts between the emotions.

Inside Out is incredibly inventive, engaging and thought provoking.  The situations which Riley experiences are relatable to audiences both young and old. Although the exploration into the pains of childhood has been explored many times before in various forms, Inside Out manages to remain fresh and original while the voice cast keep the movie cheerful and their characters multi-dimensional, with depth and personality despite preconceptions indicating monotonous characters.  



Rachel Dolezal, the NAACP leader who lived as a black woman was unveiled by her own parents to be white. This revelation quickly led to the media labelling Dolezal as a “transracial” black woman.

Social media, including ‘Black Twitter’ responded negatively to Dolezal falsely claiming to be a black woman due to not only deceiving the Black community, but also her black colleagues. As the leader of an organisation fighting for black civil rights, Black people felt deceived, especially due to recent events involving police officers and African-Americans in the US.

According to Dolezal’s parents, Rachel has always identified with Black culture, history and art. Dolezal also has Black adopted siblings and married a Black man whom she later divorced and in 2010, with the consent of her parents, she obtained legal guardianship of her adoptive African American brother Izaiah Dolezal, who was then 16 years old.

After her divorce, Dolezal adopted an African-American image and began to present herself as a mixed-race woman, falsely claiming a Black man as her father. However Dolezal’s true identity was revealed when both of her parents are White Americans, gave an interview with an American news station regarding their daughters racial identity.

The revelation of Dolezal’s white ancestry caused a range of reactions, especially on the social networking websites like Twitter. Many Black users expressed outrage towards Dolezal’s false claims which led to the spread of numerous memes mocking Rachel and her racial identity. Some users went as far to compare Dolezal to Bruce Jenner, who recently revealed his new identity on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine as Caitlyn Jenner.

The relatively sudden popularization and frequent use of the term “transracial” also led to criticism from the transgendered community who refuted claims of both situations being similar although, there may be an unnoticed link between both cases. 

There were no major repercussions for users mocking Dolezal wheras questioning Caitlyn Jenner lead to harsh scrutiny and criticism. Celebrities such as Snoop Dogg and Timbaland were criticized by the media for mocking Jenner.

There are many explanations which may explain why Dolezal adopted an African-American identity. Dolezal may simply be another attention seeker in a world where the more wacky and eccentric you are, the more attention you are likely to receive on social media and in wider society.

On the other hand, “transracial” may actually be a tangible state of racial identification. There may be thousands of people around the world who feel as though they have been born to the wrong race. These “transracial” individuals identify with an alternate race in a similar fashion to transgendered individuals.

While social attitudes towards transgendered individuals become more positive with figures including Laverne Cox (Orange is the New Black) and previously mentioned Caitlyn Jenner, the topic of transracial identity is still a relatively new subject which has not been discussed in mainstream media until recently. Increased social understanding of possible transracial individuals may also lead to more individuals to ‘come out’ and reveal their desire to be part of an alternate race.

But does a transracial person truly understand the struggles of their desired racial identity? In the case of Rachel Dolezal, she may never understand the struggles actual African-American women have to face, such as triple oppression. Dolezal can simply remove her bronze make up and curly wig and reap the benefits of being a white woman whenever she pleases – a black woman is born black and must suffer society’s consequences without escape.

Bad Blood

She’s gone from a country music staple to a supposed feminist role model for millions of teenage girls; Taylor Swift is none other than this year’s pop music ‘it girl’. From Adele to Katy Perry, it seems as though each year a female popstar is promoted non-stop on radios, televisions and blogs for the world to see. However, one of the major appeals of Taylor Swift is her image as a feminist. There are a lot of titles you can apply to Swift; the current pop princess, multi Grammy award winner, hopeless romantic, but is Taylor really a feminist? Or do some of her recent actions (i.e. Bad Blood) suggest otherwise.

While her thirteen-year-old, unlucky in love fans may be swift to defend Taylor as a feminist, Taylor herself has previously avoided the label of being a feminist. In a 2012 interview for The Daily Beast’s Ramin Setoodeh, Swift claimed “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have. I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life."

However, in an interview with The Guardian in August 2014, Swift spoke about her newly formed famous friendship with fellow feminist Lena Dunham leading to her ‘feminist awakening’.

Swift told the guardian:

“As a teenager, I didn’t understand that saying you’re a feminist is just saying that you hope women and men will have equal rights and equal opportunities. What it seemed to me, the way it was phrased in culture, society, was that you hate men. And now, I think a lot of girls have had a feminist awakening because they understand what the word means. For so long it’s been made to seem like something where you’d picket against the opposite sex, whereas it’s not about that at all. Becoming friends with Lena – without her preaching to me, but just seeing why she believes what she believes, why she says what she says, why she stands for what she stands for – has made me realize that I’ve been taking a feminist stance without actually saying so.”

According to Swift, she avoided adopting the title of being a feminist due to not knowing what the term meant. Swift avoided feminism until recently, now it seems Swift has not only assumed the identity of a pop star, but also a feminist. Possibly to increase her stance in the saturated world of female dominated pop.

Swift’s squeaky clean, non-quirky, non-sexualised, awkward, heartbroken and newly feminist image is seemingly refreshing although her new hit single “Bad Blood” contradicts Swift’s stance on feminism.

“Bad Blood” was written about an undisclosed female musical artist. In a interview for Rolling Stone in September 2014 with Josh Eells, Swift revealed the artist attempted to sabotage one of her concert tours by hiring people who worked for her. Numerous publications ranging from Billboard  to Time suggested Katy Perry as the subject of the song.

Arguably, Taylor Swift’s success, not only with her young female fans but also worldwide media can be attributed to her songs always having an anonymous subject (usually an ex-boyfriend). Once the songs are released to the public, rumors and gossip surrounding the possible subject of the song spread across social media, news websites, and teen blogs and between teenage girls trying to figure out whom Swift is ‘shading’. Therefore, any irate song directed at another female popstar who is rumored to have sabotaged America’s sweet heart would cause a frenzy among fandoms and the media.

But, I thought when Taylor faced adversity; she would ‘Shake It Off’? rather than hold ill, negative and unfriendly feelings towards another female artist.

The lyrical content of “Bad Blood” is not the only controversial aspect of the song. The music video which features several female “celebrity” (albeit D-list) special guests who all happen to be Swift’s friends. Taylor (as Catastrophe) and her friends are seen forming an all-female gang including the likes of Lena Dunham, Zendaya and Jessica Alba as they arm themselves for battle against Arsyn (Selena Gomez) who betrayed Swift. As the Swifty gang approach their nemesis, the video ends not with Arsysn and Catastrophe solving their problems with a friendly feminist fist bump, but slapping each other’s faces suggesting the continuation of “Bad Blood” between them.

“Bad Blood” is a faux feminist statement. Swift’s young female fans are sure to admire the strong and tough personas Taylor and her friends adopt to go to war with their nemesis. The array of weapons and violence can be seen as a ‘rejection of subjugated roles of women are portrayed in the media’ but a closer look reveals a more juvenile and threatening motif.

Bad Blood is a primary school playground anthem for petty fights after someone steals your favorite colored crayon and you want revenge. Thus, contradicting Swift’s previous ’Shake It Off’ message to her haters, instead, you use your friends as a weapon to scare your opponent. You form a gang to enforce your stance.  You manipulate your friends to also have “Bad Blood” with your ‘nemesis’ despite them not having a problem with that person themselves.

In what way is pitting yourself, your friends, your fans and the media against another female celebrity feminism? In response to Emma Watson’s feminist speech for the United Nations, Taylor was quizzed about her views on Emma’s during an appearance on French TV show Tout Le Monde En Parle

Swift stated:

"So many girls out there say, 'I'm not a feminist', because they think it means something angry, or disgruntled, or complaining, or they picture rioting and picketing. It is not that at all. It simply means you believe that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities."

Taylor also hit back at the way the media pits women against each other in comparison to men.

Swift said, “Females are kind of pinned up against each other. For example, you'll never see online 'Vote for who has the better butt: this actor or this actor'. It's always this female singer and this female singer.”

"One thing I do believe, as a feminist, is that in order for us to have gender equality, we have to stop making it a girl fight, and we have to stop being so interested in seeing girls try to tear each other down."

Now it seems Swift is contradicting herself. Not only do the media pit women against each other, especially female popstars, but females also pit themselves against each other. Swift has now assumed the role as a feminist as claims ‘girl fights’ and society’s interest in ‘seeing girls trying to tear each other down’ as one aspect preventing gender equality. On the other hand, “Bad Blood” is the epitome of pitting Swift’s female popstar nemesis against herself and causing a very public and unreserved ‘girl fight’ between Swift, Katy Perry heir female fans and the media.