Sunday, June 21, 2015

TV: Brian Williams joins the cast of Mistresses

ABC's summer hit (thus far) Mistresses returned Thursday night with two back-to-back episodes.  And NBC's Today, more or less, unintentionally saluted the program the following morning.

But before we get to that, can Mistresses survive in season three?


Alyssa Milano was the name who drew in viewers from the start.

Season two found her character Savi largely sidelined as the show attempted to conceal Milano's real life pregnancy but Savi remained a force on the show and continued to be the glue that kept all four women -- Savi, her sister Jos (Jes Macallan), the wacky Dr. Karen Kim (Yunjin Kim) and April (Rochelle Aytes) together.

Alyssa served an additional purpose.

As every storyline went over the top, as one ridiculous and outrageous moment piled on top of another, there was Alyssa -- not just the rock everyone could depend upon but also the focal point for viewers.

This is Phoebe from Charmed, this is Samantha who the country saw grow up (in real time or in syndication) on Who's The Boss? and that's nothing minor.

Without Alyssa, the show honestly seems trashy.

Jennifer Esposito has joined the cast.

Stan's "Mistresses returns (Jos puts Harry on hold, Karen is suddenly interested in medical ethics)" and Ruth's "Mistresses (Savi's gone, April's got a new beau)" continued their long running coverage of the show and there was a sense of been-there-done-that as they wrote about season three's kick off.

Ruth noted:

Jennifer Esposito has joined the show as Calista Raines.
She is an actress.
By that, I mean she can act.
She is not someone who embarrasses herself.
But that said, she may be too much of an actress for this series.
Thus far, in her limited bits (mainly with Joss), she is not gelling.
This may change quickly.
But right now, it is as though Dynasty cast Vanessa Redgrave as Alexis and not Joan Collins.

And with Esposito bringing realism (or comparative realism) into her scenes the fluff factor is gone.

Alyssa left the show because the decision was made to film season three in Canada instead of Los Angeles.  Stan points out that the look of the show has suffered and that actors now are badly lit, badly framed and look haggard.

We agree and would argue that's why Esposito's Calista -- an alleged high priced fashion designer -- looks like a bag lady.

There's a thin line between camp and vulgar and Mistresses has crossed it -- probably most infamously when Karen, April and Jos attended a funeral service at a church and Jos pulled out a chicken leg from her purse and began eating only to toss it aside under pressure from the other two while insisting there was nothing wrong with her action because it was Church's Chicken.

In the lighter, frothier, LA-based Alyssa version, they might have been able to pull off that scene but with the poorly lit and badly shot Canadian version, the whole thing just seemed grotesque.

The only scene that really worked in the two back-to-back episodes was early in episode one where Karen and April were hitting the booze hard and Jos joined them as they all confessed to their actions and poor judgment.


Karen Kim, a psychologist, has slept with (and mercy killed) one patient, slept with the dead patient's son, slept with a patient's boyfriend . . .

We'll stop there.

But she's should have lost her license to practice a long time ago.

Only on Mistresses, right?

Well, not quite.

"Distortions," Matt Lauer's term, led to a six month suspension (still ongoing) for NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams and, last week, the announcement that Lester Holt would be the permanent anchor of NBC Nightly News while Brian Williams would move over to ratings-challenged and fact-free MSNBC.

"Distortions" was Matt's word for lies.

At CNN, Poynter Institute's Al Tompkins explained it this way:

After questions arose regarding the accuracy of Williams' statements, NBC News assigned its top investigative producer to wade through his past and discover exaggerations and misstatements he has made on "Dateline NBC," "NBC Nightly News" and a range of late-night comedy shows, public appearances and radio talk shows. But NBC is keeping its findings to itself and is only saying that yes, they found inaccuracies in what Williams had said, but that most of those statements were not made on news programs.  

Introducing his chat session with Brian Williams, Matt Lauer insisted, "We both agreed there would be no conditions or guidelines on this interview."

Who needs guidelines or conditions when you've got Aunty Matt in full sob-sister role?

Matt Lauer:  What have these past five months been like for you?

Brian Williams:  Uh, it has been, uhm, torture. Looking back, it has been absolutely necessary.  Uhm, I have discovered a lot of things.  I have been listening to and watching the what amount to the black box recordings of my career.  I've gone back through everything -- basically 20 years of public utterances.

Matt Lauer:  Why?  Did you have doubts about some of the things you've said over the years?

Brian Williams:  I was reading these newspaper stories not liking the person I was reading about, wanting -- I would have given anything to get to the end of the story and it be about someone else but it was about me.  These statements I made, I own this, I own up to this and I had to go through and see and try to figure out how it happened.

Matt Lauer: You're family, man, personally what have these five months been like?

[Alternate reading, "You're a family man.  Personally what have these five months been like?"]

Brian Williams:  Uh, it has been, uh, a time of realization, trying to find out in me, what changed.  You know, in our work, I have always treated words very carefully.

Oh, do shut up.

It's hard to know who was more pathetic -- the liar Brian Williams or the idiot Matt Lauer.

Neither used the term lie.

They were as 'compassionate' with one another as Karen, April and Jos.

No judgment, one said at one point since April had lied to her daughter about everything (including about her daughter's father being dead), since Karen had her whole ethics issues and since Jos was caught at what was supposed to be her wedding to Scott instead making out on the beach with her brother-in-law Harry.

No judgment.

And while Matt Lauer didn't pour red or white wine for Brian Williams, he did offer him a judgment free zone.

But, here's the thing, Brian wasn't sitting in Matt's living room.

He was making his first appearance on TV since his punishment (demoted to MSNBC) had been announced -- his demotion that resulted from his lying.



Two terms that were never used by Matt Lauer or Brian Williams in the interview.

The interview also never addressed the lies themselves.

Lauer never asked, for example, "How could you claim you saw a dead body floating in the streets when you didn't?  Why should we trust you now?"

Instead, it was all, 'How do you feel, little buddy? How did you cope?'

And Brian stuck to crap about how he treats words seriously.

Brian is a liar.

If he's going to go on NBC, he needs to be asked about his lies.

Or does Matt Lauer also share a secret need to be the new host of The Tonight Show?

David Bauder (AP) noted the only honest moment in the exchange, "By the end of Friday's televised portion of the interview, a line of perspiration ran down Williams' face."

On Media Buzz with Howard Kurtz Sunday, Kurtz discussed Williams' lies and demotions with TV critic David Zurawik (Baltimore Sun).

Dave Zurawik: And that's the point, Howie, a lie is a lie and a liar is a liar.  That's why I said banish him.  All of this other stuff?  You know that statement from NBC saying 'Well most of it --

Howard Kurtz:  Right.

Dave Zurawik (Con't): -- he didn't say on the air on NBC platforms'?  No, it's still a lie.  I mean the moral reasoning here is so tortured, that you have to wonder why would NBC not just end their relationship with him?

Good question.

And as two who have heard the whispers throughout the suspension, we're also aware that NBC execs were actually hoping that when Williams was told he wouldn't be going back as anchor of Nightly News (he screamed, he threatened and, yes, he cried) but instead would be demoted all the way to MSNBC, that Williams would use the words "I quit."

They needed him to use that word to be off the hook for the new contract they'd signed him to right before this scandal developed.

If he had responded, "I quit," NBC would have been off the hook.

There are still some who hope he will be too humiliated to continue.

But at present, Williams -- like a cheap whore -- will do any humiliating act if it means he gets paid.

Last week, two big programming notes were revealed.  Nightly News can, in fact, survive without Brian Williams but Mistresses appears doomed without Alyssa Milano.

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