Monday, January 23, 2017


We're not claiming TV is in a golden age but we are aware that there are more programs created now than ever before.  That's not due to the networks upping their game.

Quite the contrary, ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and THE CW act as though Saturdays don't exist and THE CW also takes a pass on Sundays.

But with NETFLIX, AMAZON, CRACKLE, HULU, USA, SYFY, FREE FORM, FX, TBS, WGN, etc all producing original content, there are more series being made then ever before.

So what's the difference?

They make the same damn show over and over with few exceptions.

Specifically, all these new outlets have not resulted in diversity.

Woody Allen, for example, brings diversity to AMAZON with CRISIS IN SIX SCENES and the dumb ass Water Cooler set can't give him credit for creating a funny show or even a diverse one.

HULU never created a live action series where a woman mattered to the plot until last month whit SHUT EYE.  CRACKLE's created many shows starring various White Jewish and non-Jewish men but there's only one show where women were equally important to the plot (CLEANERS).

Over and over the same show with the same outlook makes it on air and no one's supposed to notice the lack of diversity.

Take last year when FX elected to make BASKETS.

Is no one concerned by the fact that FX regularly fails to find lead roles for women but they'll throw Louie Anderson in a dress and let him play Christine Baskets?

Is the working fallacy here that [straight] women and gay men are the same thing?

The sole exception has been NETFLIX which has certainly provided its share of shows starring White males but has also been aware that other groups exist.

SENSE8 has been groundbreaking in every sense of the term, for example.  They've also provided Lily Tomin with a leading role (alongside Jane Fonda) in a sitcom -- something The Big Three attempted and failed at in the 70s, 80s and 90s.  The result is the hilarious GRACE & FRANCKIE which has resulted in two EMMY nominations for BEST ACTRESS for Lily.

Baz Luhrmann's THE GET DOWN is a series that might get aired on FOX if NETFLIX hadn't given it the greenlight but no other network's programming demonstrates that they would have touched it.

This is it 
(This is it)
This is life
The one you get
So go and have a ball 

Jeff and Nancy Barry wrote that, the theme song to ONE DAY AT A TIME. The sitcom ran on CBS from 1975 to 1984 and starred Bonnie Franklin as Ann Romano, divorced mother of two (Barbara Cooper played by Valerie Bertinelli and Julie Cooper played by Mackenzie Phillips) and building superintendent Schneider (Pat Harrington Jr.).

A divorcee in a lead role was something new to TV comedy.

In the 70s, Mary Richards was planned to be one (THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW) but nervous CBS execs nixed it insisting viewers would think she'd divorced Dick Van Dyke (MTM played Laura, wife of Rob, on the sixties sitcom THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW). So instead, when the show debuted in September 1970, the lead had been dumped by a fiancee she'd put through med school.

Two years later, CBS was okay with Bea Arthur playing the lead in MAUDE, a woman currently on her fourth marriage.  In September of 1975, NBC offered FAY with Fay Grant playing a divorcee -- not currently married.  But they refused to stand by the show and quickly pulled it and then gave it the axe.  Lee Grant would go on to win an Emmy for her performance.

A few months after FAY was pulled from NBC's schedule, ONE DAY AT A TIME showed up.

Now it's showed up on NETFLIX -- a reboot, a re-imagining.

The sitcom revolved around self-described "bad ass" Penelope (Justina Machado) who is separated from her husband and raising her children Elena (Isabella Gomez) and Alex (Marcel Ruiz) with the help of her mother Lydia (Academy Award winner, Emmy winner, Grammy winner and Tony winner Rita Moreno).

You might think in 2017 that we'd seen plenty of sitcoms revolving around Latino life led by a Latina actress.

You would be wrong.

Elizabeth Pena, for example, did have a sitcom lead in I MARRIED DORA but she was the house keeper to an Anglo family who was going to be deported so the father married her.

The only real antecedent for this reboot is CRISTELA.

This ABC sitcom was funny.

It ran up against the Water Cooler Set -- and the set's built in racism -- which found it unfunny because of the fact that it was multi-cam.

The Verne Gays can get all excited over dumpy Lena Dunham's racist (and unfunny) GIRLS but give a Latina a chance to lead a comedy and the Verne Gays scream, "Back of the bus."

ABC likes to claim that CRISTELA got the axe due to low ratings but that was and remains a lie.

The show's ratings were similar to those for FRESH OFF THE BOAT.  But while FRESH OFF THE BOAT aired on the highly rated Wednesday night, CRISTELA aired on the burial grounds of Friday nights.

It pulled in an audience and then some and Cristela Alonzo who created the show, wrote it and starred in deserves applause to this day for her accomplishments.

ONE DAY AT A TIME is only the second English language sitcom in the US to focus on a Latina family from a Latina's point of view.

The family is Cuban-American with Lydia having emigrated from Cuba decades ago.  (The family hates Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.)

With the four of them, the sitcom is on solid ground.  Machado has created an appealing character that's completely different from Bonnie Franklin's Ann Romando and, of course, Rita Moreno is a show stopper of legendary dimensions.

Working with a 13 episode first season, the series uses Elena's fiesta de quince anos as a theme throughout.  Another theme is civilian life.

Penelope's an Afghanistan War veteran.  She's a shoulder injury (that she battles with the VA over) and also PTS.

Post-Traumatic Stress.

Good for the show.

That's what veterans of today's war call it.

She deals with the PTS by meeting with a group of other female veterans.

Her estranged husband Victor (James Martinez offering a wonderful performance) does not deal with his experiences.  After returning from Afghanistan, Victor attempts to self-medicate which leaves him violent and ready to self-harm. Eventually, he goes back to Afghanistan as a contractor.

This happened prior to episode one.

Penelope's attempting to move on with her life.

Judy Reyes, as fellow veteran Ramona, is especially strong among the supporting cast.

Todd Grinnell is especially weak as Dwayne Schneider.

A great deal is made of Norman Lear being involved in the reboot as he was in the original series.

As his ex-wife Frances Lear used to note, Norman was threatened by good looking men.

That's the hallmark of his shows and remains so with ONE DAY AT A TIME.

Various women with big boobs and great looks -- Adrienne Barbeau and Sally Struthers being only two examples -- filled out the casts of his shows along with weak and unattractive males.

Todd Grinnell, who famously failed in NBC's FOUR KINGS, is just another in a long line of embarrassing males who weren't hired for talent and weren't hired for looks and who induce groans with every line they recite.

Grinnell can take comfort in the fact that he's not the most impotent male in the show -- that dishonor goes to Eric Nenninger who plays Penelope's co-worker Scott who's supposed to be a bro guy Frat boy but instead presents all the sexual confidence of Anthony Perkins.

This was a trapping the show should have ditched in the reboot.

There was no male worth f**king in the original version.  But back then, TV was expected to present female 'cuties' and unattractive men.  Three decades later, the show needs to offer something more than a few episodes featuring James Martinez.

Neinniger should offer something to the show.  So should Grinnell.  But they both come off like asexual impotents.  Season two would do well to stop flirting with the notion that Penelope could ever be attracted to the idiot and unsexy Schneider.  In fact, both Grinnell and Neinniger should be dropped from the show immediately.

Yes, the series needs male energy but the two offer none.

What does Jerry Seinfeld offer?

NETFLIX recently made headlines for raiding Jerry's CRACKLE series and getting Jerry for various specials.


Seinfeld could pretty much go anywhere.

He was a 90s ratings powerhouse and, because he's a man, that's a check he can write for a few more decades.

Five seasons of his sitcom SEINFELD were in the top five.

You know who else had a 90s sitcom?

Roseanne Barr.

Five seasons of her sitcom ROSEANNE were in the top five.

She's took a sitcom idea to NBC, DOWNWARDLY MOBILE, it was 'too political' for NBC.

Why is it that NETFLIX hasn't stepped up to the plate?

Adam Sandler, now Jerry Seinfeld.

NETFLIX has done more than many but it's got a lot more it should be doing.

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