*TV SERIES RECAP: THE KOMINSKY METHOD (Season 3)

After binging the first two seasons during the early days of the pandemic slash lockdown, I found myself pleasantly surprised by how charming and funny this series was. So I was anxiously looking forward to this third and final season.

Sadly, Alan Arkin (Norman) decided to abruptly retire from acting, throwing a major monkey wrench to this series. As a result, Chuck Lorre and his writing team had no choice but to kill off Norman — that was a bummer. The chemistry between Norman and Sandy (Michael Douglas) made things unique and special in the first 2 seasons. 

So at the start of season 3 we find out that Norman is now dead, and the grieving premise from the first 2 seasons is again one of the main themes here. We also find out that Norman left Sandy as the executor of his state, leaving Norman’s daughter Phoebe (Lisa Edelstein) and her son Robby (Haley Joel Osment) dependent on Sandy to have access to their inheritance. Plus, Phoebe and her son Robby keep coming up with all kinds of crazy schemes to get their hands on Norman’s money. 

Additionally, Norman left sandy’s daughter Mindy (Sarah Baker) a big chunk of cash in his will — but Sandy doesn’t want Mindy’s boyfriend Martin (Paul Reiser) to know about it. Sandy is concerned that Martin will exploit Mindy’s inheritance. At the same time, the age difference between Mindy and Martin becomes a significant component of the plot. Sarah Baker’s performance continues to be a bright spot here. Also, Estelle (Christine Ebersole) Martin’s mom shows up, creating tension in Mindy and Martin’s relationship. Estelle is awful, mean, and nasty — she is a monster. 

Notwithstanding all the grief, loss, and stress surrounding Sandy’s life, he is also undergoing a late-career resurgence and gets the role of a lifetime. On top of all that, his ex-wife Dr. Roz (Kathleen Turner), returns home to be reunited with her daughter Mindy. I really liked how Dr. Roz got a more prominent role in this 3rd season. In addition, I was beyond happy to see how the chemistry between Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner is still magic. It was like watching a Romancing the Stone (1984) and The Jewel of the Nile (1985) reunion between Douglas and Turner. Another highlight for me was Morgan Freeman hilariously playing himself.                                                                                   

At its core, this season continues to tackle the same themes from the first two seasons. It deals head-on with real human issues like the fragility of aging, mortality, and grief — all of those things come together beautifully along with the comedic premise of the show. 

The first 2 seasons got lots of Emmy nominations, and it received high critical acclaim. But this third season did not receive as much appreciation as the first two. For one, the absence of Alan Arkin made a difference — I missed the back and forth banter between Sandy and Norman; It was a crucial component of the unique “dramedy” basis of the series. However, Chuch Lorre and his writing team did find a way to wrap things up and bring the story to a close.

All in all, season 3 suffers from not having Norman back, but the series, as a whole, is pretty enjoyable and worth binging straight through.

Three out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿

THE KOMINSKY METHOD Season 3 (Streaming on Netflix).

*TV SERIES RECAP: ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING (Season 1)

First, I have to get something off my chest. I think that it should not be allowed for streaming platforms to release episodes of their shows on a week-to-week basis…… Okay, there I said it.

After watching the first two episodes, I really wanted to binge the fuck out of this series in one or two sittings, but I made the mistake of starting this series right smack in the middle of its initial week-to-week release back in September. As a result, I had to suffer and wait every week for a new episode to drop.

Anyhow, this is a charming murder-crime mystery type of show with lots of whimsical comedy. Two great comedy legends, Steve Martin and Martin Short reunite for some brilliant stuff here. The chemistry between Steve Martin and Martin Short has always been pure fire, case in point, the Father of the Bride series, Three Amigos, Broadway shows, and a few other things along the way.

The story takes place at the Arconia apartment building, an upscale NYC co-op in the Upper West Side. Steve Martin is Charles Haden-Savage, an actor best known for playing a TV detective in the 90s. Charles lives alone; he seems lonely and bored. Martin Short is Oliver Putnam, a washed-up broadway director, and producer— Oliver is struggling to keep up with his UWS lifestyle and is in desperate need of money. Also, Selena Gomez joins our legendary duo as Mabel Mora, a mysterious young girl living in the same building.

The central premise here surrounds the murder of Tim Kono (Julian Cihi), a resident of the Arconia who is found dead in his apartment. The circumstances of his murder are highly suspicious. At the same time, Charles, Oliver, and Mabel share an interest and passion for true crime podcasts, and they decide to join forces to solve the murder of their fellow neighbor.

Armed with a handful of clues, the three of them start their own investigation and their own podcast chronicling their investigation. There are layers and layers of intrigue sprinkled throughout the entire 10 episodes of the first season.

Sometimes, the performances are a bit over the top — somewhat typical of Martin and Short, but it all works nicely. Surprisingly, Selena Gomez steps into this already established chemistry and holds her own. The generational gap between them is what drives things here. There is a sense of sadness and loneliness from these three characters — which pulls them towards each other.

The Arconia building is a crucial component of the series; it is a character by itself with many moving parts. The building residents are also important characters; they are all pretty weird and eccentric. Nathan Lane is outstanding here; his scenes with Martin and Short are remarkable. Sting playing a fictionalized version of himself is hilarious.

I liked how the show focused on the recent growth of true-crime podcast culture and made it part of the actual amateur crime-solving storyline. Even the Hardy Boys young adult mystery series is featured prominently in the show.

Only Murders in the Building is a delightful and entertaining show. It is a very New York-driven show, especially if you live in NYC. It is diverse, progressive, and although exaggerated at times, it still comes off as realistic enough. You can’t help rooting for these characters and their delusional detective skills. I cannot wait for season 2 — spoiler alert, the final episode sets up next season’s murder mystery. It is definitely one of the best and most satisfying shows of 2021.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

Only Murders in the Building (2021). Streaming on HULU.

*TV SERIES RECAP: RATCHED (Season 1)

I genuinely appreciate the type of shows Ryan Murphy puts together. He is at the forefront of a powerful movement happening right now in the creative fields of show business. I see him as a crucial part of this new creative force that seems fully committed to reinventing Hollywood as an industry—and reinventing how entertainment is being produced and presented to the world.

Ratchet is an origin story, told in a Ryan Murphy way, adding a modern sensibility to a period piece, along the same lines as Murphy’s Hollywood Netflix series. It is a highly stylized TV show with extensive uses of colors and fantastic location shots. It is a very visual show, with excellent production quality, set designs, costumes, and cinematography. There are many Hitchcock and David Lynch influences in it — Simply put, it is visually a beautiful show to watch.

The character of Nurse Mildred Ratchet (Sara Paulson) was Introduced to audiences in the 1975 film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, based on the 1962 novel of the same name by Ken Kesey. This nurse Ratched character was originally played by Louise Fletcher, a performance for which she won an Academy Award for best actress. Interestingly enough, I heard Louise Fletcher was never approached regarding the revival of her character.

Nurse Ratchet is portrayed as a mysterious and psychologically damaged person trying to save her adopted brother Edmund (Finn Wittrock) from execution after murdering a bunch of priests. She manipulates her way into a mental facility where Edmund is being held to determine his mental capacity. Once inside the hospital, nurse Ratched will devise a plan to free her stepbrother.

The mental facility is run by Dr. Hanover (Jon Jon Briones), an eccentric doctor who believes in unconventional mental rehabilitation methods. For example, he believes lesbianism is a mental disorder and can be cured by extreme methods like putting women in a boiling hot bath, followed by a freezing cold bath. He also puts patients under lobotomy procedures to cure them of whatever he perceives to be mental disorders.

There are many compelling and redeeming qualities to nurse Ratched, more so than in the 1975 film. I started viewing her as this monster in the making, and as I finished binge-watching the show, I unexpectantly began rooting for her. We explore things from her past that allow us to become more empathetic to her. We see how sexual abuse and mental illness can be linked together. The character Gwendolyn (Cynthia Nixon) comes off as the most believable real-life character here; Gwendolyn allows nurse Ratched to appear a lot more relatable and human.

The supporting cast is incredible. Nurse Bucket (Judy Davis) delivers a magnetic performance. Lenore (Sharon Stone) is great as this bizarre, super-rich diva, hell-bent on revenge on Dr. Hanover. Corey Stoll plays a 1940s Humprey Bogart type of private detective, hired by Lenore to hunt down Dr. Hanover. Amanda Plummer is a scene-stealer as this weird and possibly deranged motel receptionist. Nurse Dolly (Alice Englert) delivers a seductive and captivating performance.

As I finished binge-watching this first 8 episode season, I realized that Paulson is exploring something psychologically profound with this role. It seems to me that she is approaching this character in a unique and sophisticated way.

All in all, Ratchet is an extravagant, outrageous, and at times ridiculously insane show to watch, but it is incredibly entertaining, and I could not get enough of it. I’m looking forward to season 2.

Four out of Five Popcorn Bags 🍿🍿🍿🍿

RATCHED (2020). Streaming on NETFLIX.

*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.

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