Wednesday, November 27, 2019

TV: Tugging at the heart strings

NETFLIX really needs to be scoring big right now with DISNEY+ up and running.


Good news for NETFLIX, DISNEY+ doesn't have the product most subscribers are wanting and it's pretty much impossible to navigate unless you're willing to constantly use the search function.  Does no one at DISNEY know how to curate a website?

It would be great for NETFLIX if they were featuring one solid new offering a week; however, so much of it isn't worth a glance, let alone a viewing.

DOLLY PARTON'S HEARTSTRINGS is a problem only if NETFLIX just wants binge-watching.  The eight-episode series is powerful.  It is watchable, intensely watchable.  But, as the title notes, it pulls on the heartstrings and viewers may prefer to pace it out as an episode a day.

Dolly's produced an anthology series.  The last time a broadcast network had a hit with one of those was when ABC was airing LOVE AMERICAN STYLE from 1969 to 1974.  (AMERICAN CRIME was a solid show, it was not a hit.)  The cable network FX has been luckier, having hits with various Ryan Murphy anthologies, most obviously with AMERICAN HORROR STORY.  Streaming services like HULU and AMAZON have tried anthologies.

They've either aped Ryan Murphy or been useless.

Useless is what killed the anthology series.  Why would you watch each week?

A Ryan Murphy anthology series features the same cast for a season playing the same characters.  The Murphy model is a way to do an anthology series (HULU's CASTLE ROCK is just one show that apes Ryan Murphy).  But if you're  not doing that, why would anyone watch?

That's always been the problem.  It's the problem today with AMAZON's MODERN LOVE.  How can you love the series?  It's inconsistent.  That's in quality, to be sure, but it's so much more than that.  One episode tries for this tone, another tries for that, one tries to be funny, one goes for whimsy -- what show are you watching?

ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS?  Viewers knew what they would be getting each week.  Same with THE TWILIGHT ZONE.

And, now, same with DOLLY PARTON'S HEARTSTRINGS.  By basing the eight episodes around Dolly's songs, they share common themes.  Dolly's sharing tales of strength, hope and renewal.  The episodes work together.  You know what you're getting.

It helps that she's assembled so many wonderful performers: Kathleen Turner, Ben Lawson, Melissa Leo, Rochelle Aytes, Andy Mientus, Michele Weaver, Tammy Lynn Michaels, Gerald McRaney, Delta Burke, Tim Reid, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Scott Reeves, Ray McKinnon . . .

There are nice moments of romance throughout (like between Holly Taylor and Shane Paul McGhie) but we should note the very real sparks that Kyle Bornheimer and Ginnifer Goodwin share in "These Old Bones."

This is a well executed anthology that moves you and, yes, pulls at your heart strings.  Dolly deserves strong praise for pulling off what is usually impossible.  And, again, the only 'problem' with HEARTSTRINGS is you may have to pace yourself on the show because each episode packs a wallop and then some.

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