Monday, October 03, 2016

TV: AMAZON and NETFLIX score hits

In one of the most idiotic appraisals of CRISIS IN SIX SCENES, a reviewer huffed, "If you thought Woody Allen would revolutionize television with his new Amazon series, Crisis in Six Scenes, prepare to be underwhelmed."



Woody Allen's 80-years-old.


Let's go with TEXACO STAR THEATRE, the Milton Berle program that began in 1948 and is one of television's first hit programs.

That would make television 68-years-old.

And someone's expecting either Woody or the medium itself to be revolutionized?


They're both ambitious programs.

LUKE CAGE is the latest Marvel Comic superhero series NETFLIX is offering.

Mike Colter first played Cage in JESSICA JONES.  Now he's carrying the show.

And it's quite a show.

Cheo Hodari Coker has reinvisioned the comic book hero who first popped up in the early seventies.  In fact, Coker has stripped away a great deal of the setting and the story to thrust Luke into the 21st century and there are allusions throughout to both historical struggles and recent struggles.

He's layered the show with meaning.

If there's a problem, it's that the first episode sets up too much that does not have to do with the immediate situation of Luke Cage.  There's so much to marvel over -- and worth marveling over -- that some fans of comics new to Luke Cage may be wondering where the action is.

If there's a problem -- because we don't see it as a problem.

Coker's avoided the paint-by-number hero origin storyline that we've seen over and over in one film after another.

He's offering something different, something deeper and it means the action, when it happens, matters more because we're not dealing with stick figures.

The outstanding cast includes Rosario Dawson reprising her role from both JESSICA JONES and DAREDEVIL as Claire Temple.  Also delivering a strong performance, no surprise, is Alfre Woodard as Mariah Dillard.  Also worthy of strong praise is Frankie Faison (Pop) and Brian "Sene" Marc (Chico).

DAREDEVIL started off with a strong season one and then meandered a bit in season two.  LUKE CAGE winds down with Luke accepting that he has to do his part and accepting his role in defending Harlem which should make for an easier season two kick off.

Death certain, life unpredictable.

That's Chairman Mao.

Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China.

"Chairman Mao says an unarmed person is like a sheep in a forest of wolves," declares a book club member in CRISIS IN SIX SCENES.

Characters discuss Lenin stating the US was "going to spend ourselves into destruction," how "this country is run by corporations" and issues like "wage slaves."

Woody Allen's new sitcom revolves around the married couple Kay (Elaine May) and Sidney J. Munsinger (Woody), she's a therapist, he's a novelist.  They have a grandson and are settled into their lives somewhat.

Sidney wants something more and his novels aren't working out so he's attempting to write a TV sitcom and hoping a new haircut will make him look like James Dean.

Then a connection from Kay's past, Lennie (Miley Cyrus), shows up, a revolutionary with the Constitutional Liberation Army who's wanted by the authorities.

This spins everything around.

Kay goes along willing, insisting her book club begin reading political theory, providing refuge for Lennie and assisting her.

There's something truly revolutionary as the series closes on episode six with Kay declaring, "If I had my life to live over, I would live a more committed, I would have a more passionate existence."

But Lennie's not just touched Kay's life, she's influenced the book club members as well as Kay and Sidney's house guest Alan (John Magaro) which leads to Alan influencing his fiancee Ellie (Rachel Brosnahan).

Thought is powerful, that's a message of this sitcom.

And, yes, it is a funny show.  Elaine May and Woody are delightful.

Miley is less delightful.

But that's because of her role which isn't a comedic part.  And it's to her credit that she plays it full out.  She does a great job in the role.  She's not trying to sweeten her character up or wink to the camera.  She's a political radical whose appeal relies solely on the strength of her convictions.

She deserves applause for creating a real character and not just coasting.

And fans of comedy deserve Woody.  He may direct a film every year but he acts less often and, as she demonstrated in SMALL TIME CROOKS, May has timing and chemistry with Woody.

CRISIS IN SIX SCENES looks to the past and comments on today while LUKE CAGE is dragged into the 21st century to comment on today.  Both shows share visual delights and go far beyond standard camera work and editing that we are repeatedly fed in the TV medium.

It may not be revolutionary but they both add up to quality TV.

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