Friday, March 02, 2018

Around the Tubes: 3/2/2018

I have gotten a plethora of cool press releases have been flooding my inbox recently that you may find interesting. This post will include blurbs on the Smithsonian Channel, Beyond the Opposite Sex The Maestro The Rollie Massimino Story, I Think We’re Alone Now, Snowpiercer, Animal Kingdom, and The Alienist.

- Smithsonian Channel launches into space with four premieres centered around space exploration and humans‘ impact on the solar system. The first special, Billionaire Space Club, on Sunday, March 25 at 8:00, highlights the efforts of billionaire Sir Richard Branson and others to make space travel more accessible to the average person. The Sunday block also takes viewers on a journey revealing how humans have changed the planet Earth and how they will continue to shape its future on Sunday, March 25 at 9:00 in Earth From Outer Space. The following Sunday, April 1 at 8:00, Finding Life in Outer Space explores one of the greatest mysteries of the universe – why life exists – and at 9:00, Leaving Earth: Or How to Colonize a Planet featuring Stephen Hawking reveals the secrets of space travel and what the future holds for exploration and potential habitation beyond Earth. These four hour-long premieres highlight innovators and pioneers who are forging ahead with space exploration to plan for an unknown future.

- In 2004, Showtime introduced viewers to the story of Rene and Jamie with the documentary The Opposite Sex, showing two brave people going through their long-awaited gender affirmation surgeries. Beyond the Opposite Sex, premiering on Showtime on Friday, March 16 at 9:00 on-air, on demand and over the internet, is a follow-up documentary that picks up 14 years later to find that their surgeries, which had been lifelong goals, were far from the finish line of their difficult journeys.

- FOX Sports pays tribute to one of college basketball’s all-time great coaches with a new original documentary, The Maestro The Rollie Massimino Story, debuting Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 11:00 PM ET on FS1 following the Seton Hall at Villanova college basketball game. The Maestro chronicles former NCAA Champion coach Rollie Massimino’s final season with Keiser University, an NAIA Division II program, while he battled brain and lung cancer.

- Momentum Pictures has acquired U.S. rights to I Think We’re Alone Now, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Directed by Reed Morano, Emmy Award-winning director of the acclaimed series The Handmaid's Tale, the film had its world premiere in the U.S. Dramatic Competition section at the festival and was awarded a Special Jury Award for Excellence in Filmmaking. I Think We’re Alone Now follows Del (Peter Dinklage) who finds himself alone in the world, literally, after the human race is wiped out. He’s content in his solitude - until he discovers Grace (Elle Fanning), an interloper on his quiet earth. Her history and motives are obscure, and worse yet, she wants to stay. A visceral psychological journey, the film explores human behavior and the undeniable need for companionship.

- Turner's TNT has tapped award-winning writer and producer Graeme Manson (Orphan Black) to serve as showrunner on Snowpiercer, a futuristic thriller based on the acclaimed movie of the same name. The series stars Oscar® winner Jennifer Connelly (A Beautiful Mind), Tony Award® winner Daveed Diggs (Hamilton, Black-ish), Mickey Sumner (American Made), Alison Wright (The Accountant), Susan Park (Ghostbusters), Sasha Frolova (The Interestings), Sheila Vand (Argo), Katie McGuinness (Dirty Filthy Love), Roberto Urbina (Narcos), Sam Otto (Jellyfish), Tony Award® winner and Grammy® nominee Lena Hall (All My Children), Annalise Basso (Bedtime Stories) and Benjamin Haigh (The Conjuring 2).

- Turner’s TNT has cast Denis Leary (Rescue Me) in season three of the hit drama Animal Kingdom. In this bold, gritty series about a Southern California crime family, the Emmy®-nominated actor joins Emmy® and Tony® winner Ellen Barkin, the matriarch of the Cody clan, along with Scott Speedman, Shawn Hatosy, Ben Robson, Jake Weary, Finn Cole, Molly Gordon and Carolina Guerra. Leary will play Billy, Deran’s (Weary) drifter dad who Smurf (Barkin) kicked out years ago.

- TNT’s The Alienist scored another impressive week’s premiere Monday night holding claim to cable’s #1 new drama series this season and continuing to show strong momentum to achieve an extraordinary 40 percent in-season growth, a trajectory that only two top dramas (in a universe of more than 500 dramas on television) managed to achieve in 2017.

- Over the last two weeks, the editorial boards of Dallas Morning News, Corpus Christi Caller Times, and Bryan-College Station Eagle endorsed Stefano de Stefano, a traditional, pro-business, pragmatic Republican and Houston-based energy attorney in the upcoming Texas Republican Primary Election for U.S. Senate. Forbes followed up with a feature article of their own.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Previewing The Looming Tower

I remember cleaning my basement in 2005 only to find a Newsweek from the late nineties with Osama bin Laden’s name on the front cover. It was a fascinating article in retrospect. I am sure I read it but like most, the name Osama bin Laden did not actually resonate with me until 2001. But what that cover showed to me, even though he was not in the public consciousness in the nineties, somebody knew something.

That is the basis of the new mini-series The Looming Tower as the FBI and CIA track Al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden as they declare war on the United States through an interview with ABC News while the agencies butt heads with each other. The big point of contention that starts the series is the CIA acquiring a hard drive from an Al-Qaeda operative but refuses to share that information with the FBI. Things only get more heated when at the end of the episode; two American Embassies get blown up. This is 1998.

The show does the best job I have heard explaining the differences between the two federal agencies and why they are at odds. The FBI are a law and order agencies who want to bring in enemy combatants and put them on trial if they did anything wrong, while the CIA look at the bigger pictures not wasting time on small fish if it will harm catching big fish. And of the course the spies have no problem killing enemy combatants.

The FBI on the show comes in the form of Jeff Daniels (Arachnophobia) as Special Agent in Charge of the FBI's National Security Division in New York City. I would not recommend Googling his character because he plays what I assume a huge role later in the series. Peter Sarsgaard (Green Lantern) is the head of a CIA counter-terrorism unit in DC. Feel free to Google him, he does not exist (but the person he may be based on is fairly easy to find and you can tell why the creators of the show did not want to use his real name; I will say he did not seem to like the book that the mini-series was based on). It is probably because of this that in the battle of FBI and CIA on this show, the former come out looking better than the latter.

The one name I did recognize in the first episode was Richard Clarke who was the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection at the time. The head of the CIA George Tenet (played by Alec Baldwin) does show up in episode three to discuss retaliation on bin Laden. The most high profile government official at the time Bill Clinton only shows up archival footage. And a lot of it, the show does not miss a chance to have a newscast featuring bits on the Monica Lewinski scandal on the television in the background, and the occasional foreground whenever anyone is near a television.

But Clinton is not the only one with a little action on the side. In the first episode alone, Daniels takes flowers to a woman in an apartment in New York. While in Washington, he takes flowers to another woman, and by the end of the episode he goes to the suburbs where another woman is waiting with his two daughters. Do really need to know this guy hunting terrorists has not one but (at least) two mistresses? Probably not. Granted I do find the home life of the rare FBI agent that can speak Arabic who is called to go to a foreign country on his first date and surprisingly there is a second.

There is a growing number of nineties true crime shows on television that I fear we are not too far away from the Amy Fisher and / or John Wayne Bobbitt story, but of the ones that have aired so far, The Looming Tower is the most well made of them. And with all the FBI stories in the news these days, the show is a relevant reminder of just how hard the job is and it is a job that never ends. And more importantly, just what is really going on in the world when the media has one singular focus on something that may warrant impeachment but in the end is may be trivial?

The first three episodes of The Looming Tower are available to stream now on Hulu with new episodes every Wednesday.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Fifty Best Post-The Voice Songs

In honor of the tenth season of The Voice I counted down the best Blind Auditions in the history of the show and each subsequent season I tackled a new round until last season when I did the best Live Show performances. Instead of cycling back, I thought I would check in with past contestants and count down the best songs they have released since being on the show.

Sure we have heard for thirteen seasons the show has yet to launch anyone’s career, but let’s be honest, the music industry as a whole is not very good at creating superstars anymore. Adele was arguable the last and Rolling in the Deep was released in 2010, five months before The Voice launched.

Since then the thirteen winners of The Voice have released ten full length albums, only eight on a major label, and half of those were by Daniel Bradbery and Jordan Smith. So less than half of the winners put out an official major label album (granted that last three are supposedly still working on theirs).

The good thing about the modern music it is easy to get your music out there. The bad part is that it is hard to get anyone to listen if you do not have a major or even minor label pushing your songs. I tend to prepare these lists by listening to Spotify and most of the stats are pretty abysmal, especially when an average of ten million watch The Voice and many of its contestants do not have many if any songs above Spotify dreaded “< 1,000” designation. So I will do what I can to give a little shine to my favorite Post-Voice songs which you will give a listen to. Note, I did not consider any cover songs for this list.

1. Sway - Danielle Bradbery

2. Trapeze - Dia Frampton

3. I Hate That Part - Caroline Glaser

4. I Alone Have Loved You - Hannah Huston

5. Snapshot - Xenia

6. Half a Mile - Elenowen

7. Blue – Reagan James

8. Dreams - Caroline Glaser

9. Today - Amy Vachal

10. Hello Summer - Danielle Bradbery

11. I Need You - ARCHIS (Dia Frampton)

12. Go Forth - Suzanna Choffel

13. Don't Look Back - Dia Frampton

14. My Confession - Tony Lucca

15. Don't Kick the Chair - Dia Frampton featuring Kid Cudi

16. Here so Far Away - Nicholas David

17. Young - RaeLynn featuring Leeland Mooring

18. Lovesick - Caroline Pennell featuring Felix Snow

19. Golden Boy - Amy Vachal

20. Never Gonna Let You Go - Tony Lucca

21. Red Wine + White Couch - Danielle Bradbery

22. You Can Have Me - Amy Vachal

23. Money Tree – Caroline Glaser

24. Stonewallin' - Jane Decker (Jane Smith)

25. Manipulation - Jacquie (Jacquie Lee)

26. Flames - Mathai

27. Cannonball - Rebecca Loebe

28. Wait - Amy Vachal

29. Not a Fool - Xenia

30. Buffalo Stars - Lelia Broussard

31. Walk Away - Dia Frampton

32. Where Did You Go - Queen Hilma (Andi and Alex)

33. Love Triangle - RaeLynn

34. The Ghost - Holly Henry

35. For the Taking - Elenowen

36. Say It in the Silence - Caroline Pennell

37. The Old Me - Jacquie (Jacquie Lee)

38. Sink - Holly Henry

39. Lonely Call - RaeLynn

40. Bullseye - Dia Frampton

41. Better Than This - Reagan James

42. Morning Light - Caroline Glaser feat. Liz Longley

43. Right On Time - Tony Lucca

44. Ruin - Jane Decker (Jane Smith)

45. Tears Fall - Jacquie Lee

46. 2 Times - Nicholas David

47. Once Again - Mathai

48. Hands (Piano Version) - Paxton Ingram

49. Summertime.Fin - Darius Scott

50. Holy Water - Reagan James

Sunday, February 25, 2018

57 Channels and Only This Is On: 2/24/2018

Homeland: As bad as the third season with the Carrie / Brody love affair, Carrie vs. Ransomware is the single worst episode in the history of the show. Sad thing is, I actually thought she was going to have sex with him. And I am a little surprised that the 200 detainees were released so quickly. I thought that was going to be the season. Maybe the big mystery is who killed the general. Even President Keene knows how bad that looks for her. But if she (presumably) not involved who did it? One of Keene’s buddies without her knowledge? Did someone do it just to make her look bad?

The Chi: So what are those old guys up to? I thought the one guy came back to find out what happened to the basketball player, but ends up killing all (?) of the people who may have been involved without getting any information out of them. And what are they going to do with all those guns? Are they going to try to unload them?

The Alienist: Gee, Lazlo maybe could use an alienist of his own to figure out that mother figure rant at the beginning of the episode. But that was a cheap ending with them making us think Roosevelt found the killer as the Man with the Silver Smile got a knock on the door at the same time. Oh, and it turns out the killer is the lamest Batman villain Calendar Man.
You can download The Alienist on iTunes.

The Challenge: Vendettas: We have known from the first promo someone was going be see lifeless head down in the water, the only question was when it would happen and who was it in the water. Poor LeRoy. I am surprised Zach was not hurt either after busting open the back window. If it is not LeRoy, someone is going to get seriously hurt by these falling from heights into the water challenge.
You can download The Challenge: Vendettas on iTunes.

The Path: A cleansing is about to happen? Wait; was Vera part of a Doomsday cult? Actually, now that I think about it, her and her mother talked earlier this season about it is too early to sacrifice Eddie. I take it that is part of the cleansing, but do they kill themselves and/or others in the process? And I understand not feeling worthy of the car, but why did Cal have to destroy it? How about selling it and donate the money to the movement?
You can stream The Path Hulu.

Waco: How disappointing that the FBI did not play Panama to smoke out the Branch Davidians.
You can download Waco on iTunes.