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ALUR | Black Mirror and the Propagation of Paranoia

I rarely expose myself to anything in the horror genre. Unless there are computerized ghouls emerging from subway tracks, only to be blasted away by comedic goddesses (I see you, Ghostbusters 2), I have very little interest in deliberately scaring myself. I’m more energized by the possibility of a good laugh or cry than the spine-curling, hair-raising horror shows and films out there. Despite this, over the summer, like many, I endeavored to watch Stranger Things. The show gripped me without necessarily “scaring” me in the conventional sense.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Netflix’s Luke Cage is Good… At First

Luke Cage is a good show… for a bit. The first seven of thirteen episodes are a delight. Marvel’s new entry into its online-exclusive Defenders series (comprised of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and the upcoming Iron Fist) will get its fans all the more hyped up for when the four eventually convene. Creator Cheo Hodari Coker and lead actor Mike Colter do brilliant jobs in what is another solid entry to the already-great Netflix universe. Luke Cage provides an enthralling look into a gritty Harlem still reeling from the extraterrestrial incident of Joss Whedon’s Avengers (2012).

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StartUp: Just Another One in the 50 Percent

More than 50 percent of startups fail in their first five years. Crackle’s new show will likely join that statistic in its first two: StartUp has all the makings of a top-tier prestige drama — dark lighting, sex scenes, cursing, screaming, serious themes — but comes off as totally average. It features strong (for the most part) performances and an intriguing concept, but doesn’t exactly hit its mark. What it lacks in quality, however, it certainly makes up for in heart. It is clear that StartUp is committed to its message but the follow-through just isn’t there.

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GOLDFINE | Winona Ryder, My Action Hero: Stranger Things’ Subtle but Cunning Deconstruction of ‘Female Hysteria’

When a woman goes crazy in a movie or on TV, we greet the sub-plot with a sigh of comfortable familiarity. Our intellectual subconscious breathes an “ahhhh.” We relax. We see what’s going on; we likely knew all along. As cinephiles and society-existers alike, we have been dutifully trained to unconditionally accept that a woman having lost her mind is a highly plausible explanation for her doing or saying, well… anything really — and also that such a turn of events is a Dark, Provocative and Highly Legitimate plot-thickening cinematic juncture.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF NETFLIX

Stranger Things Puts the Science (And Much More) Back in Science Fiction

When you watch Stranger Things, you are immediately transported into a relic of the 1980s. It was a time when adventure was sought out, science was deemed cool and heroism was somewhat synonymous with nerdiness. We are introduced to our heros — four boys around ten years old who strive for scientific exploration, fantastical adventure and unbreakable friendship — and, as viewers, immediately become attached to them. From the beginning of the first episode, there is an underlying element of supernaturalness that becomes much more overt later in the hour. However, unlike most shows for which the basis of the storyline is made up of supernatural events, this show isn’t nauseatingly cheesy or predictable.

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The American Family Veers Off-Road: The Detour

As someone who watches comedy TV a lot — and I mean a lot — I’ve found that there’s one key ingredient in creating a successful TV comedy: don’t make your show based on a funny plot; make it based on funny characters. Write good characters, and the good plots will come. The Detour, created by The Daily Show power couple Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, completely fails this litmus test for a sustainable, quality TV comedy. The new TBS series follows a family of four attempting to drive to a relaxing beach vacation, finding themselves embroiled in misadventure after misadventure. To make things more complicated, father Nate Parker (Jones) recently lost his job at a nefarious biopharmaceutical company and keeps this hidden from his family, paving the way for even more clandestine antics as he tries to frame his ex-employer for unethical behavior.

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Horace & Pete: Thought in the Age of Binges

“Not only do they talk about you as being the undisputed king of comedy, but your [work] is deeper and broader,” Charlie Rose declares at the beginning of a 30-minute interview with Louis C.K. “You could make comparisons to Lenny Bruce, to Bob Dylan … comparisons to a sort of philosopher-king.” Clearly anticipating some kind of credit for coining the term “philosopher-king,” the self-serious Rose awkwardly pushes the comedian for a response. Upon realizing the talk show host was, indeed, serious, C.K. replies, “I don’t know, man, I’m just a comedian … anything beyond that I always get a little uncomfortable.”

The interview dates back to May 2014, but that goofy exchange remains indicative of just how difficult it can be to define C.K.’s current position in pop culture. His latest offering, a series entitled Horace & Pete, does little to clarify what it means to be “just a comedian.” Set within a hundred year-old Brooklyn dive bar operated by —  you guessed it — Horace (C.K. himself) and his brother Pete (Steve Buscemi), the series features the comedian pushing himself into more strictly dramatic territory and exploring new modes of independent production. Along for the ride is an embarrassingly talented supporting cast, counting among its ranks Jessica Lange, Edie Falco, Rebecca Hall and Alan Alda — who frequently steals the show as Uncle Pete, an aged, foul-mouthed bartender resentful of Brooklyn’s hipster invasion (amongst other things). Oh, and did I mention Paul Simon performs the show’s theme song?

Debra L. Lee speaks of her experiences in the television industry and leading a black female-focused network Monday.

BET Networks CEO, Debra L. Lee Explains Pledge to ‘Tell Stories Differently’

Debra L. Lee, chairperson and CEO of Black Entertainment Television Networks, discussed her highly successful career in entertainment Monday in the Alice Statler Auditorium. Lee — who was named one of the 100 most powerful women in entertainment by  “The Hollywood Reporter,” addressed BET Networks’ unique position as a source of black entertainment. “We’re BET — we’re different, and we should do things that other networks won’t cover or won’t put on the air,” Lee said. “Covering stories that no one else does — whether it’s Katrina 10 Years Later: Through Hell in High Water, an O.J. [Simpson] story or a documentary on Muhammad Ali and how he influenced hip hop — is, for sure, part of BET’s mandate.”
Lee also mentioned Madiba — a six-part miniseries on the life of Nelson Mandela which will air later this year — as evidence of BET’s commitment to “telling stories differently.”
“It’s the first time a black director [Kevin Hooks] has told the story of Nelson Mandela,” she said. “That may make a difference compared to having white directors tell Mandela’s story.”
Lee broached recent criticisms of the entertainment industry for its lack of black entertainment.

GUEST ROOM | An Ode to Binge-Watching

Many thanks to the Internet, the television world and the desire for more cutting-edge content, binge-watching has become America’s pastime. For many, there is nothing more satisfying (yet also daunting) than spending hours on end watching a series, and then finally completing it. In the days before readily accessible media, it would take (literally) years to start and finish a television show. You also had to start it as soon as it was on air in order to ensure you didn’t miss a beat. Fans had to make sure their DVR was set (if they even had it) in the event they couldn’t work with a network’s agenda to get a show out.