*TV SERIES RECAP: THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT

Happy to say, I was surprisingly captivated and highly entertained with this TV Series. The Flight Attendant is based on a 2018 novel of the same name by bestselling novelist Chris Bohjalian. This adaptation is a frenetic dark comedy — a murder mystery that pushes the pace from beginning to end.

Our flight attendant slash heroine Cassie (Kaley Cuoco) wakes up next to a dead body and with no memory of what happened the night before. The dead body belongs to Alex (Michiel Huisman), a passenger on Cassie’s Bangkok flight with whom Cassie goes out on a wild night of partying and drinking.

After waking up next to her dead date, Cassie frantically runs out of the hotel to avoid the Thai authorities and rushes to rejoin her flight crew back to New York — Within a few hours of hotel staff discovering Alex’s dead body, the FBI gets involved in this international homicide investigation.

Upon the flight’s arrival in the US, the flight attendant crew is interviewed by FBI agents, at which point Cassie becomes their main suspect.

The frenetic pace of the show picks up immediately after Cassie returns to NYC. She goes on this quest to piece together the mystery surrounding Alex’s murder. She learns about Alex’s shady business dealings and dangerous partners. However, this show’s most notable and unique thing is how Alex keeps showing up in ghost-like visions throughout the plot’s critical moments. He seems to be embedded in Cassie’s conscience, where some of the most engaging and emotional scenes between Cassie and Alex take place.

Cassie is this out of control, functioning alcoholic, but in a fun and entertaining way. Kaley Cuoco is excellent here; Her comedic timing is flawless — her body language, facial gestures, and delivery come naturally. No doubt all those years in hit sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory has paid dividends. Her alcoholism and self-destructive behavior are crucial to the plot, and Cuoco rises to the dramatic occasion. In lesser hands, this character would have been annoying and not as likable.

The entire casting is solid, but the most notable performances come from the three supporting female stars; Cassie’s brutally sarcastic best friend Annie (Zosia Mamet), a power attorney representing underworld types. Zosia Mamet is superb here, and her presence on screen is intense. Megan (Rosie Perez) is fantastic as Cassie’s flight crew supervisor. Megan is involved in a sub-plot of international corporate espionage, selling her husband’s company secrets to agents of the North Korean government. Also, the Mysterious femme fatale assassin Miranda (Michelle Gomez) is outstanding.

The plot and dialogue are all well put together, some things feel a bit preposterous, but it ends up working well. All in all, The Flight Attendant is an incredibly charming, fun show to watch. It is high-quality escapism and it is suspenseful enough to keep you invested in every single episode. I am looking forward to season 2.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

The Flight Attendant, (2020). Streaming now on HBO MAX

*TV SERIES RECAP: HIS DARK MATERIALS (Season 2)

In the final months of a dreadful 2020, I got the chance to finish up the year watching the second season of one of the most enjoyable book adaptations in recent memory.

His Dark Materials is based on a series of books by Phillip Pullman, who also serves as showrunner for the series. Season 1 was mostly based on book 1 of the trilogy, The Golden Compass.

This second season is based on book 2, The Subtle Knife, and season 3 will be based on book 3, The Amber Spyglass.

In season 2, we continue to follow the adventures of Lyra (Dafne Keen) and her Daemon Patalaimon (voiced by Kitt Connor) as they explored the alternate world that Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) opened up after killing Roger (Lewin Lloyd) at the end of season 1.

Season 1 was excellent — there was a lot of exposition, lots of world-building, and many moving parts coming at you pretty fast. But it all worked well, and things came together nicely by the end of the season.

We catch up with Will (Amir Wilson), who is also exploring this new alternate world. Will and Lyra’s eventual encounter will put our two heroes on the path to fulfill the Witches Prophecy. They both need to rely each other, as they find themselves on a journey full of obstacles,

The Magisterium senses a dire threat to their control and power and dares to cross into this parallel reality to stop Lord Asriel and Lyra. The idea of witches and non-believers challenging the dogmatic and authoritarian ways of the Magisterium is dangerous for their hold on things and the power of The Authority. Here, at the intersection of politics, philosophy, witches, religion, and multiple worlds is where the series becomes more exciting and compelling.

Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson) is brilliant yet again — she is pure magic whenever she is onscreen, and she is way more manipulative and deceptive in this second season. Mrs. Coulter is by far one of the most outstanding villains on TV.

In a sense, Lord Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) becomes a more sympathetic and less villainous character in this season. The onscreen chemistry between Lord Boreal and Mrs. Coulter is exceptional.

Lee Scoresby (Lin Manuel Miranda) is terrific again. I enjoyed how they have continued to develop this character from the first season. I was glad to see Lee’s Daemon, Hester (voice by Cristela Alonzo), getting a bit more involved in the plot than in the first season.

Dr. Mary Malone (Simone Kirby), a physicist who studies dark matter, is crucial to the plot. Dr. Malone allows the audience to understand better what dust might be, and we get to go on this journey of discovery along with her.

But the young characters are the heart and soul of the story here. The loss of Roger haunts Lyra, and Will is obsessed with finding his father. The bond between Lyra and Will is a critical factor as both characters move forward.

According to the prophecy, Lyra is supposed to be the girl “destined to bring about the end of destiny.” This is why everybody is supposed to protect Lyra — Will, Lee, and the Witches are supposed to protect Lyra at all costs.

The set up to the eventual war between the multiple worlds is set in motion in this season’s final episode. We see Lord Asriel appealing to the Angels as he tries to raise enough support to wage war against The Authority. The post-credit scene with Roger in this season’s final episode is shocking and sets up season 3.

I really cannot recommend binging this series enough.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

HIS DARK MATERIALS (Season 2). Streaming on HBO MAX

*TV SERIES RECAP: HIGH FIDELITY (Season 1)

First of all, I am a purist when it comes to original content, so it is essential to emphasize how much I dislike reboots or remakes…. I get the sense sometimes that Hollywood is hitting rock bottom when it comes to creating original content; however, this TV version of High Fidelity was a pleasant surprise. Based on the High Fidelity novel by Nick Hornby, which was released in 1995 and made into a well-received film in 2000 starring John Cusack.

Gender roles are reversed for the TV version: The main character Rob is now short for Robyn, played by Zoe Kravitz. Rob owns Championship Vinyl in Crown Heights Brooklyn, a small but well-curated record store with only two employees. The story revolves around Rob revisiting her top 5 heartbreaks while tracking down her former lovers and attempting to make sense of where things went wrong in those past relationships. Zoe Kravitz shines here; in terms of owning this character — in her scenes, she comes across as natural, organic, and very charismatic —Which is a significant difference from John Cusack’s Rob.

In the movie version, Rob is not as likable as the TV version of Rob. Kravitz plays a more empathetic, warm, and down-to-earth version of this character that feels more grounded in reality. She is a hell of a lot more open-minded and less judgmental than the movie Rob…. and although TV Rob has an eclectic and well-cultivated music taste — she doesn’t care about how well curated your music collection is. She is open to different types of musical tastes. Zoe Kravitz’s mom Lisa Bonet was also one of the stars of the movie version, which is a cool connection here.

The loud, opinionated, and annoying Championship Vinyl employee Jack Black played in the movie version is now Cherise, played by Da’Vine Joy Randolph. Both versions share similar characteristics, but Cherise’s character development was a bit slow…there is an air of mystery about her, which I am sure will be further explored in the second season. The other record store employee Simon is played by David H. Holmes, who is more reserved and thoughtful about his opinions. The chemistry between the two Championship Vinyl employees and Rob is excellent.

Brooklyn hipster life is depicted beautifully here. The vibe and tone of Crown heights feel lively, with people walking around in the background, things happening all over. The whole place is teeming with life. The local Bodega and the local dive bar are both featured prominently, which are essential staples of New York City living. Rob’s state of mind is often displayed through music, showing us where she stands emotionally at that particular moment. The scene when she is walking home from the club after her birthday celebration while Frank Ocean’s Nikes play in the background fits perfectly with Rob’s emotional state. Also, showing her messy apartment as a projection of the disorder in her personal life complemented the narrative well — Rob eating cereal like a broke college student is another display of the emotional chaos in her life — she is supposed to be a business owner, and her surroundings do not really scream serious small business owner.

Considered just on its terms, High Fidelity is a well-made music-centric, progressive love story that is both moving and entertaining. As I binged on this show, I could not help getting a bit nostalgic and appreciate the small things this lockdown has taken from all of us who live, work, and play in New York City.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

High Fidelity (Season 1). Streaming on HULU

*TV Series Recap: HIS DARK MATERIALS (Season 1)

Yay for His Dark Materials. I had lots of fun binging through the entire first season. Although the first two episodes, at first, can be tough to watch, unless you are familiar with the sourcebook series. Mainly because there is a lot of exposition going on — lots of information and lots of moving parts are thrown at you pretty fast, so you have to stay focused — and believe me, this show is worth investing your time. By the third episode, I was all in.

It’s the story of Lyra, played by Dafne keen, who was excellent in Logan (2017), and she is excellent here also. Lyra was dropped off for safekeeping at Jordan College by her uncle (Lord Asriel, played by James McAvoy). The characters do not share our reality; they live in an alternate-parallel world much different than our own. This world’s technology seems outdated, like they are stuck in the Edwardian era before the First World War. There are some portals or gateways that connect this world to our current modern world, but there are only a few handful of people who know where those doorways are located. This parallel reality is ruled by an oppressive religious fascist-like regime called The Magisterium. The plot centers around Lyra’s backstory and the mysterious disappearance of children, including Lyra’s best friend, Roger.

In the first two episodes, we get a look into Lyra’s life at Jordan College, and we meet her best friend Roger (Lewin Lloyd). We are introduced to Daemons; creatures who serve as a companion to a child and takes the form of an animal — they can switch to any animal form it desires at will. When a child reaches their teenage years, the Daemon settles into a final animal form — and they remain with their human companion for their entire life.

We also meet the Gyptians; A group of nomadic people who share similar characteristics with Gypsies. They are portrayed as the poor and under-class people of this world. They have their unique way of life and are shown to be a hardworking, honorable, and dignified group of people. Gyptian children are also being taken away, and they take matters into their own hands to find their missing children.

From the third episode on, things get progressively darker as more truths about Lyra are revealed. Lyra’s storyline is full of perils, obstacles, and magical adventures. There are many moving parts in the storytelling here — from the magical, fairy tale type of world, these characters inhabit to the grim and dark aspects of the same world.

Dafne Keen-Lyra Belacqua

The casting was excellent. Roger was a scene-stealer, and Dafne keen is at a whole other level capturing the child-like essence and maturity of Lyra. Ma Costa, played by Anne-Marie Duff, delivered a touching and moving performance. Ruth Wilson is terrific as Mrs. Coulter — capturing her morally ambiguous character exceptionally. Lín Manuel Miranda, as Lee scorsby, had a bit of a Han Solo vibe, but from the stand-alone Solo movie. They need to develop this character and his relationship with Lyra a little better next season, but I did enjoy his performance here.

Game of Thrones fans should recognize James Cosmo, who played Jeor Mormont: Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch — playing Farder Coram, an essential and influential leader type figure with the Gyptians. James McAvoy is always great in anything he is in, and he is great here also. His portrayal of the Lord Asriel character is remarkable. At first, you are not really sure where he stands in the story, his indifference and coldness towards Lyra is off-putting, and McAvoy captures this character brilliantly.

His Dark Materials Season 1 is a well-written adaptation by Jack Thorne (who also wrote the stage play for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child). The blending of action sequences and CGI worked well for me with the combination of compelling characters, and top-notch performances. I heard season 2 was shot simultaneously as season 1, so I assume season 2 will drop early next year. 

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

HIS DARK MATERIALS (Season 1-Streaming on HBO)

*FROM BOOK TO TV: ADAPTED WORKS OF FICTION

As I continue to work on my screenwriting journey, as well as learning the craft of creating spec scripts for TV, I can see clearly how hard it is to adapt books into movies or TV shows. It’s a tough and arduous endeavor, and often times somewhat polarizing, especially when it comes to beloved works of fiction. I recently finished watching Good Omens on Prime, and If you haven’t heard anything about it, it is a limited TV series adaptation of a book collaboration between Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, also titled Good Omens, which was released way back in 1990. This book has been a bestseller ever since it was first released and it’s one of those sci/fi fantasy books that continues to enjoy a solid die-hard cult following base.

The book is still available in print, so you should be able to easily find it in-stock at your local bookstore without having to special order it. If you can’t find it and have to special order it, then your local bookstore probably sucks.

img_1780-1For some strange reason, this limited series is not generating as much buzz like other TV shows, and it seems to me that the most faithful and hardcore book fans of Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett were the ones who immediately binged on the show as soon as it was made available to stream. But regardless of the limited buzz, this show is considered to be one of the most successful shows on Amazon original series lineup and fans of the book have given this TV adaptation high praise as it compares to the original text. Which is a direct contradiction to the other adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s book American Gods (Streaming on Starz). From the things I’ve seen and read online, it seems like this  American Gods TV version has generated some negative feedback when compared to the actual book. Good Omens is such a fun, well-executed show and casting Michael Sheen as Aziraphale and David Tennant as Crowley was pure genius. Their performances are excellent. There is even talk about expanding from the book and developing a second season. Which will be great, if only Neil Gaiman would continue to write future episodes and produce the show.

img_1781American Gods season 1 was pretty entertaining. I enjoyed it, but it is evident that there was plenty of material left out of the book, and season 2 is already available to stream, but I haven’t seen it yet, (will probably watch it in the next few weeks). I must confess that I have not read Good Omens or American Gods, but I know many people in my immediate surroundings who have read them both and they all share their discontent for American Gods TV adaptation and their praise for the Good Omens TV adaptation. The performance by Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday on American Gods has been praised as the best thing from the show. I think he did a fantastic job with the part. But I also feel that there were other excellent performances to highlight like Pablo Schrieber as Mad Sweeney and Emily Browning as Laura Moon, and I think most of the cast did a solid job as well. So even though the first two seasons of American Gods have received mixed reviews (mostly from people who love the book), the show still ends up working well, and I found it to be visually very extravagant and beautiful. It is definitely worth watching.

6521ab92-1068-4821-881d-8fa5d0e1fc06Game of Thrones and Good Omens are an interesting example of how a previously released work of fiction can be successfully adapted from book form into a successful TV series as close to its original form as possible. Specifically Game of Thrones season one through five. Those seasons were very close to the books, with some omissions here and there, most notably the emergence of Lady Stoneheart assuming the leadership of the Brotherhood without Banners. I wished that particular storyline would’ve found its way into the show somewhere, somehow. Mainly since seasons three, four and five were based on the books A Feast for Crows  (Book Four) and A Dance with Dragons (Book Five) which is very interesting because both books share the same timeline. From season six through eight (Final season), everything is NOT based on the actual books. So once book number six (Winds of Winter) and book seven (A Promise of Spring) are both completed and released that is when we will finally be able to put everything together and compare the TV show next to the books accurately. 

Game of Thrones gave me a unique perspective into the polarizing world of adapted works of literature. Game of Thrones was a TV series that generated so much feedback and chatter, were faithful fans who worship and canonize all of the five books of A Song of Ice and Fire were always quick to point out any inaccuracies within the storylines in the TV version. Usually right after a new episode would air I would check the Twitter trends and read all the banter going back and forth between the hardcore fans and the casual fans who did not read all the books but loved the show fanatically nonetheless. There was always criticism of the show, although the criticism was often positive, but yet, there was still plenty of unsatisfied Game of Thrones fanatics who did not take too kindly to any little deviation from the written works of George R. R. Martin. The fact of the matter is that both the books and the TV show have generated a worldwide cult following phenomenon, making it the most popular show in the world, which is something extremely remarkable.

img_1784I also recently finished watching season one of  A Discovery of Witches (BBC America/AMC) which is an adaptation of the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness. The show was pretty entertaining and fun to watch because when you blend vampires, witches, and demons into one storyline, it should make for one hell of an entertaining show, but the demons were somewhat cast aside and did not have a prominent role in the show (wanted to see more of them). I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Twilight series throughout most of the eight episodes of this show. This is another adaptation where the book is being consolidated into a cliff notes version of the story, and I feel that in this particular adaptation, the story did not have to be watered down or consolidated. There is plenty of time in eight episodes to bring a cohesive story together without compromising the source material or perhaps even make it a ten-episode season. In any case, I still enjoy the show and can’t wait for season 2.

img_1775When it comes to future adaptations of beloved works of literature, the possibilities are endless. There was the successful adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects on HBO, which is another example of an efficient and deliberate way on how to adapt a book into a TV series without taking too much away from the original source material. The Outlander series is also a fan favorite, which is an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s book series also titled Outlander. We also have Alan Moore’s Watchmen coming soon to HBO. Hulu is developing Anne Rices Vampire Chronicles into a TV series, which is precisely the proper way to present this type of material to an audience. The complex world that Lestat and the other characters of the vampire chronicles occupy needs to be presented in an extended TV format. I know Anne, and Christopher Rice are 100% involved in the creative process, from casting to developing the storyline, and I know Anne is a huge fan of British TV shows like Downtown Abbey and others, so I feel like this show will be epic. I’m a big fan of the first three books of the vampire chronicles, so I’m beyond excited, to say the least. Also, let’s not forget those Game of Thrones prequels being developed, oh…and there are the future adaptations of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time sci/fi series coming soon to Prime (I think).

All of those current adaptations serve, and future adaptations will serve as an excellent source for aspiring screenwriters, it is a unique way for someone like me who is taking his first steps into the screenwriting process to use as a tool and reference. I would love one day to have a crack at adapting a book into a movie or TV show, but in the meantime, I have to continue watching, reading and most importantly…writing.

This is truly the golden age of television.