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Tag: TV Review (1-10 of 17)

'Ascension' finale review: Lost in space, or 'Lost' in space?

The twists and turns of Ascension’s three-night mini-series flight landed the earthbound space ark’s most Right Stuffy space hero and the story itself in a mysterious place strewn with wreckage and reminders of other stories. And more mystery! In the final minutes of part three, we learned that Dr. Harris Enzmann (Gil Bellows) was using the decades-long psych experiment started by his father to trigger “punctuated” evolution and produce a next-gen X-Man—a “star child”—possessed with “morphic resonance” (i.e., telepathy, telekinesis, super-powers) capable of manipulating the vast energies located within the nuclear powered “Panopticon” to do even more amazing things, like… actually send someone across the universe! Why take a slooooooooow-boat generation ship when you can just grow a magic sea monkey in a skyscraper-sized fishbowl? NASA, you’ve been doing it wrong!

Enzmann found success in the form of young Christa (Ellie O’Brien), part Marvel Girl, part Firestarter, part Space Guild navigator from Dune. In the final moments, she used her abilities to channel the energies of a Glowglobe to produce a Holtzman effect and save Aaron Gault (Brandon P. Bell) from a baddie’s beat-down by instantaneously teleporting him to… a distant, dark planet? Another Enzmann simulation? The only thing we know for sure is that Ascension is perhaps best understood not as a response to the myth of the ’60, as I argued pretentiously on Monday (sorry). It is something very post-modern, a self-aware sci-fi saga born from an accumulation of sci-fi sagas over the past 50 years, and perhaps full of pining for better, more hopeful, more serious-minded sci-fi: I found something meaningful and provocative in the last image: Gault, a “space hero” with the Right Stuff, rising to his feet amid that trendiest, most dismal of things, a dystopian wasteland. A charitable read: Ascension was challenging a genre to dream better. More hope, less “No Future” cynicism. More big new ideas, fewer hyperlinks trapping us in old ones. More mind-expanding space odysseys, less self-absorbed geeking… like this review.

That’s what I got out of the interesting mess that was Ascension. How about you? READ FULL STORY

When 'whodunit?' is beside the point: The artful, absorbing ambiguities of 'Rectify'

Daniel Holden wanders his world dazed and confused, humbled and harrowed, like a fuzzy-headed Lazarus lost for bearings after getting called out of the tomb. Whether this dead man walking deserves his miraculous parole is the hazy question mark at the center of Rectify, a somber existential mystery about historical injustice, guilt, alienation, and other deep stuff. Season 1 tracked and pondered its protagonist, a veritable philosophical zombie, as he shuffled back and through his hometown of Paulie, Georgia — a fictional place; the name suggests (to me) sudden impact Pauline conversions and that apostle’s legendary jailbreak — after 19 years on death row for the rape and murder of his teenage girlfriend, Hanna. Newly discovered DNA evidence has vacated the verdict, and no one is more dumbstruck than Daniel. After all, the boy confessed to the crimes back in the day. READ FULL STORY

'Sleepy Hollow' at midseason: Gonzo gothic fun, served with a guilty conscience

Last week’s episode of Sleepy Hollow began with Abbie Mills extolling the virtues of baseball for Ichabod Crane. Of course, Sleepy Hollow being Sleepy Hollow, where subtext is as conspicuous as a catcher flashing signs, Abbie wasn’t only talking about the American Pastime. She was talking about America, too. Or America as it should be. “For me, baseball is about three things,” she told the 18th-century Rip Van Winkle, recently awakened from a 232-year-long dirt nap. “First, tradition. Rules never change. You can always count on the grass to be green, the lines to be white. No matter how crazy the world gets, it makes you feel safe, like everything is going to be okay. Second, it’s about teamwork. Players have to have faith in each other and watch each other’s backs. Because without that the team won’t work. But what I love is that this sport does not discriminate. You can be a short long reliever or long shortstop, black, white, Hispanic — now that is the American dream.”

Crane’s eyes flashed with enlightenment. Abbie was speaking his language: Logical if fancifully articulated idealism. Like Thomas Paine applying Common Sense to sports. “So baseball represents the spirit of democracy?”

“It is what you guys were fighting for, right?” By “it,” Abbie meant “freedom.” Specifically the freedom the criticize authority, be they leaders of state or arbiters of sporting matches. And so Ichabod exercised the right he and his fellow old-school revolutionaries bled for by rising up and chewing out the umpire. “You! Basket face! I thought only horses slept standing up!”

All this, from a show that re-imagines Washington Irving’s classic 1820 short story as a cheeky-creepy buddy cop apocalypse pop, in which The Headless Horseman is not a twisted joke gone awry but Death, the Pale Rider of Revelations. Yet Sleepy Hollow, now entering the second half of its 13-episode rookie season, seems insistent on being something slightly more interesting than mere escapism; it seems to want to be a kind of light beer alternative to American Horror Story, serving less prickly/tastes great gonzo goth hoppy with mildly subversive subtext. Where AHS is fixated with sex, gender, and race, Sleepy Hollow sweats this “spirit of democracy” business. Are you the kind of American who believes our basic freedoms are currently imperiled? That subversive foreign agents are plotting against us or conspiracies of powerful men are the real movers and shakers of civilization? That the “official version” of anything is a cover-up for something sinister? Then Sleepy Hollow is your man in the stands, exercising his conscience and raging against basket-face authority.

Review: The unbearable poignancy of Showtime's 'Time of Death'

Death is everywhere on television. It rides a pale horse on Sleepy Hollow. It keeps Castle, Bones, and so much of CBS in business. It walks, it sucks, it makes for a nice tenderloin. Occasionally, scripted series will give death the “very special episode” treatment, sometimes to write out a cast member or deal with real-life circumstances, as was the case with Glee’s Oct. 10 farewell to Finn and the actor who played him, the late Cory Monteith. When the great shows have grappled with death as a theme, they have produced some of their most memorable work. “Love’s Labor Lost” on E.R. (1995). “The Body” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2001). “A, My Name Is Alex” on Family Ties (1987). “Chuckles Bites the Dust” on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1975). Every (good) week of Six Feet Under. While all different, those classics presented death in a way that most television shows present death: As a catastrophic surprise that forces a confrontation with mortality. The focus is usually on those left behind than the deceased or dispiriting process of dying itself. The point is usually the same: Death is part of life; deal with it, then resume the franchise of living without much change. And quickly. Truth is, TV doesn’t like to sit in the ashes for too long. Who does?

Showtime’s Time of Death (premiering Friday at 9 p.m. ET) is the corrective to cultural narratives that trivialize death, that present death as a random sudden-impact shocker, that dramatize death as just another obstacle for a hero to overcome. This six-part docuseries gives us death as it is likely to happen to all of us: a degenerative, possibly excruciating decline that culminates with the disorienting, gasping fade known as “actively dying.” The episodes track the final months, days, and, when possible, very last moment of life of several terminally ill people, and each one tells at least two stories. There is a complete profile of a single subject, and there is a peek into the series-long chronicle of Maria Lencioni, 48, divorced, a mother of three children (an adult daughter; two teenagers), and suffering from breast cancer that’s spreading throughout her body. Time of Death is a feeling experience first, an opportunity for reflection and application second. And yes, it is extremely difficult to watch. After the second episode, I didn’t know if I wanted to continue or could. It’s not just overwhelmingly sad — it is overwhelmingly rich. Which is also why, by the sixth and final episode, I was bummed that there was no more. No, you do not want to watch this show. You’ll be glad you did. I doubt you’ll spend time with a more compelling group of characters or witness more complex human drama on any show this season.

Rotten Tomatoes to start reviewing television shows


Movies have been referred to as “rotten” or “fresh” for years now, so it’s only fitting that TV shows join the fun.

On Tuesday, Rotten Tomatoes is launching its “TV Zone,” where scripted — not reality — shows will start being ranked on the Tomatometer, according to Variety. The Tomatometer will be made up of reviews for a certain show’s season, not individual episodes.

Included in the “TV Zone” will be new fall scripted series, as well as shows that have aired in the last four years and received coverage from critics that the site follows. For the older shows, reviews will be included as far back to the beginning as possible to accurately reflect the series as a whole.

Just like with movies, TV shows that receive at least 60 percent of positive reviews will be marked with a “Fresh” red tomato, as opposed to a “Rotten” splattered green tomato. The main difference between reviewing movies and TV shows is the possibility for change.

'Maron' review: Why the IFC show is making funny guy Marc Maron even more neurotic


“I’ve been on Conan O’Brien like 47 times, and you don’t know who I am, right?” asks Marc Maron in the premiere episode of Maron, a new IFC comedy that’s based on his real life as a comedian and podcast host. He’s talking to his veterinarian, which is kind of funny: What kind of self-important blowhard cares if his veterinarian knows who he is? But really, he’s talking to you and me and anyone else who might’ve caught his show while flipping through the channels. Because nothing is more important to Maron than making sure that everyone knows who he is.


'Family Tree' review: Christopher Guest's HBO mockumentary smart despite genre's staleness

Tom Chadwick is an affable British-Irish chap stuck in a bad patch. He’s reeling from a breakup, and he’s just been made redundant at his job. His longtime best friend keeps setting him up on disastrous dates with dim-witted women. Tom needs to Move Along, Please!, to borrow the title from his father’s favorite sitcom. Into Tom’s stultifying life drops a box of heirlooms bequeathed by a dead great-aunt. He begins investigating the knotty roots of his screwy family history, which takes this hangdog Homer on an absurdly funny odyssey into oddball quarters and pastimes (pantomime horse racing, anyone?). Tom, a product of his reality TV/self-documenting generation, allows a film crew to record his journey of discovery. Look, everybody! I’m interesting!


'Dear Mom, Love Cher' review: Inside the crazy, talented life of Georgia Holt

For Mother’s Day, Lifetime is celebrating the most important mama of all: Georgia Holt, who gave us Cher. The result is Dear Mom, Love Cher, a candid, if blithely rose-colored documentary. There are great revelations: Mama Cher can sing! Mama Cher almost aborted baby Cher!

Writer-director P. David Ebersole gathers Cher (billed as a producer and “creator”), her sister Georganne, and Georgia all together on a massive Malibu couch that anchors the hour. We keep coming back to it, with mom in the middle, as she and her daughters spill out more and more details about the family’s extended, hardscrabble history. Once, the family matriarch dreamed of Georgia’s grandfather coming “down in little pieces” from the sky (she was psychic, you see) and the next day, he blew himself up with dynamite. “I think we can walk the narrow razor of white trash only so long,” Cher worries — and we still haven’t heard about Georgia’s father.


'Rihanna 777' review: A shallow look at the pop star's plane madness

Last November, Rihanna invited dozens of journalists on her 777 tour, consisting of seven concerts in seven countries in seven days, via a 777 aircraft. (It’s all so cleverly packaged, right?) Headlines during the extravaganza deemed the trip a “fiasco,” with the press complaining that Rihanna was unavailable and they were tired. (Boo-hoo!) (Rihanna eventually apologized for the madness.)

Not shockingly, this one-hour special about the whole shebang is less interesting than those on-the-scene reports. It doesn’t capture much of the supposed insanity that ensued on the plane — which would be the only reason to watch — and calling it a documentary is a bigger stretch than saying Rihanna is the voice of her generation. READ FULL STORY

'The Show With Vinny': The best 'Jersey Shore' spin-off. (But don't let the word 'best' fool you.)

The best thing you can say about The Show With Vinny — MTV’s latest Jersey Shore franchise extension — is that the concept isn’t half bad. Vinny Guadagnino was the most believable human being on the Jersey Shore cast, the only person on the show who didn’t gradually morph into a cartoonish self-parody. He was also genuinely funny — his riffs with hetero-lifemate Pauly D lent the show a slight air of self-awareness.

And there is a lot of potential in having Vinny interview the celebs in his own house, with his mom and sisters and various other relatives on hand to provide a homey vibe. The whole talk-show format has gotten pretty stale lately. Celebrities are always on their guard inside an overlit studio and in front of an audience. Wouldn’t they feel more comfortable in a family dining room, with the host’s mom serving them broccoli rabe?


'Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous' review: Rising above the superficial, one-joke premise

Zach Stone just graduated from high school. He lives with his parents. He works part-time at a grocery store. And he has no plans for college. Instead, he chose to spend his savings on a camera crew to film a reality show about his life. He’s convinced he’s going to be famous.

MTV’s latest half-hour scripted sitcom, Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous, is a meta-takedown of the “anyone can be famous” mold of reality television. As the show’s co-creator and star, Bo Burnham brings manic irreverence to the character of Zach Stone while trying to make his life more interesting than it is, much to the annoyance and bewilderment of everyone around him.


'Inside Amy Schumer' review: How one woman broke the rules of 'Cool Girl' comedy

Amy Schumer is just as profane as any man, woman, or drunk robot on Comedy Central. Her new sketch-comedy show, Inside Amy Schumer, finds her auditioning for a role in the porn video “2 Girls 1 Cup” and dragging friends to O’Nutters, a male version of Hooters that features waiters in crotch-hugging outfits. But she’s not just another one of those hot, dirty “guy’s girl” types. Lately, too many of the talented funnywomen who’ve earned their own shows are trying a little too hard to appeal to men, always professing their love of rape jokes and threesomes and Philly cheesesteaks and openmouthed burping — even though most of them are so skinny, they look like they don’t eat human food, much less burp. (Sorry, Sarah Silverman, Chelsea Handler, Whitney Cummings, and anyone else mentioned in trend pieces about “edgy” comediennes.) Many of these women are what the writer Gillian Flynn calls “the Cool Girl” type: Watching them perform, you’re not so much looking at a real person as a character, one that has been dreamed up by a woman who “watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them,” as Flynn put it in her novel Gone Girl. When a Cool Girl tells a cruel joke about other women, she makes all the other Cool Girls in the audience laugh, because, obviously, these jokes aren’t about them — they’re about those other bitches, who totally deserve it. In other words, Cool Girls aren’t that cool.

But Schumer isn’t like that. Her comedy has always been what some women might call FUBU: for us, by us. You might recognize her as the tipsy blonde who warned Adam not to hurt his new girlfriend on Girls. (“That would be like hurting Mother Theresa,” she said. “Except Mother Theresa didn’t blow my cousin.”) READ FULL STORY

'The Big C' review: The paradox of Cathy Jamison's tart yet flavorless 'hereafter'

The Big C is bringing closure to cancer-stricken Cathy Jamison (Laura Linney) with a four-episode miniseries. Subtitled hereafter, even the opening credits have a nostalgic air, scrapbooking through Cathy’s journey through illness. Gone along with her tranquil opening swim in her home pool, the too-good-to-be-true serenity of season’s 3 Puerto Rican escape (when Cathy quite literally jumped ship to make a new life with a fisherman) is quickly overwritten. Like a rock plunking into the aforementioned pool and creating ripples, the sometimes jarring opener was fun to watch at times, though viewers’ pleasure is slightly diminished by the fact that we’ve spent three seasons sympathizing with the perspective under the water.



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