TV: Summer TV -Some Great Stuff Along with a Couple of Duds

 

Premiers:

Orange is the New Black (Netflix)

The fourth season of Orange is the New Black dropped Friday and I have been able to watch the first four episodes. I have read several reviews all of which say that it is a very strong season – particularly the latter episodes so I’m anxious to get to them. To be honest, Seasons 2 and 3 were very mixed and so it is good to know that this season, while expected to be much darker, is a big improvement.

This season we are getting some more of the “lesser” characters and their backstories add additional depth to the various plot lines. Taylor Shilling was barely visible in the first few episodes and that is fine – Piper is not one of the show’s strongest characters. Meanwhile, at Litchfield, it is now a “for profit prison” and extremely crowded with a Martha Stewart-like inmate played wonderfully by Blair Brown. There are lots of tensions between the old and new inmates and a murder followed by the body being cut into parts and buried in the garden makes for a humorous start. Some may think this is a comedy and it does have comedic elements but it is really a drama and I’m excited about where we are headed this season. I’ll keep you posted as I progress but I’m totally in!

The Interestings (Amazon)

I was intrigued when I saw that Meg Wolitzer’s excellent book had been made into a TV series so had to check it out. Wolitzer’s novel follows a group of creative kids who meet at an arts camp during the 1970s and takes them through adulthood with unexpected life choices and outcomes.  Entertainment Weekly gave the TV show a C- which made me nervous that yet another one of my favorite books was going to be butchered when adapted for the small screen. A show really has to be bad to get a grade like that on EW, which is notoriously generous in its grades. The first episode dropped on Amazon this week so I watched it. I try not to judge a show by just one episode but it wasn’t great and I’m thinking it could be rather confusing for non-book readers. The book flows back and forth more fluidly then the TV show and this is a tough book to bring to screen. More to come but I’m not optimistic. While viewing this episode, I kept having visions of the “Magicians” and how much it disappointed me – could the Interestings be worse?

Finales:

Orphan Black (BBC America)

On the day of Orphan Black’s season finale, it was announced that next season would be the 5th and final one. While I could watch our favorite clones for years, I always like it when show runners get to determine how to finish a story the way they want and go out on their own terms. This season has been strong. Clearly the writers heard feedback about how the show had become so complicated that no one knew what the heck was going on. Many of its fans kept viewing solely because Tatiana Maslany is so great that we can’t stop watching her. As a result, the overall story arc was simplified and the show introduced an “After the Black” show, which provides additional insight to each episode. The end result was a good season in which the story arc was easier to follow.

The finale was a bit convoluted with Donnie and his two clone “wives” camping out in the snow; Sarah venturing north to find Cosima; Rachel stealing the cure and attacking her mother and Crystal being brought into the fold. Delphine and Cosima are back together but where and with who is a mystery. They appear to be held by a mysterious man “the messenger” who is somehow aligned to Rachel and hangs out in a bunch of huts on the island. Rachel has turned villain again (at least we think so) and is about to meet the mysterious founder of Neolution who is over 100 years old….what???? Sarah is wandering around the island with a serious leg wound and we’ll just have to wait to see how all of this resolves itself next year.

OJ Simpson: Made in America (ESPN)

OJ Simpson finished up it’s almost 8 hour run and it was riveting. Hopefully everyone got a chance to see it although I’m sure there will be numerous re-runs and it is available for streaming on ESPN. It is one of the best documentaries ever done by ESPN and maybe even on TV – just a fantastic series that everyone should see. Get your Millennials to watch it as well. I think it has even more of an impact on this generation who did not live though the Bronco chase or the verdict. What it teaches them about history, race relations and justice in the United States is invaluable.

The last episode was really well done as it followed OJ from the polarizing verdict through his incarceration for the Las Vegas debacle including the assertion by his business manager that OJ actually confessed to the killing. His character is exposed as he is shunned by the Brentwood crowd and looks to reconnect with the African American community. He falls in with an unsavory crowd culminating in the armed robbery of a memorabilia dealer. His final sentencing for many will seem justified based on his earlier acquittal but many others will find his sentencing extreme for the crime. As the story fades, the tragic life of Simpson from superstar to convict is laid bare for all to see. The mini series is worthy of all the accolades that I expect it will receive in the coming months.

Binging Update:

Bloodline (Season 2 Netflix)
I completed Season 2 of Bloodline. While most critics refer to Season 1 of Bloodline as “a slow burn”,  I’m afraid the match wasn’t even lit in Season 2. Although Ben Mendelsohn is technically still on the show, the second season suffers from not having him as a main character and the superb interactions with Kyle Chandler that we enjoyed last season. Season 2 is just boring as the three Rayburn siblings see their respective lives fall apart after participating in Danny’s murder. The police are closing in painfully slowly. For some inexplicable reason, John, the murderer ,decides to run for public office introducing just a stupid plot line.  The finale sets the stage for next season with numerous people finding out who murdered Danny and another murder (please make them stop) adding to the ridiculousness of it all.

I can’t image what Season 3 will bring unless the Rayburns murder everyone in town who figures out who murdered Danny. There is no way I’ll suffer through another season of this show although I might tune in for what I expect to be the series finale episode to watch them all put in jail. What was a reasonably good series in Season 1 with fine acting just fell apart in season 2 – albeit the acting was still good. Once we knew who murdered Danny, the show was pretty much over and that was totally apparent throughout Season 2. By the end of it, any empathy I had for the characters in the first season had long since disappeared – too bad – it had potential.

BINGING SCORE:

Great: 1 (UnREAL)

OK: 0

Not Good: 1 (Bloodline)

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