Monday June 9, 2014

So I was able to get through all 13 episodes of season 2 of Orange Is The New Black this weekend (and no I didn't just sit in my house all weekend watching Netflix, you'd be surprised how much viewing you can jam in if you're smart about it).  I was happy with the season overall.  I would give it a grade of B or B+ but, in my opinion, if falls short of House of Cards and other shows of that sort of acclaim.

Below are some other opinions and thoughts, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention my absolute favorite moment of the series.  You have to look for it, but in one of the episodes directed by Andrew McCarthy, he's the cutout for the New York Lottery outside the bodega.  I want to say that it pops up in episode 5 (or maybe 6).  I am not going to offer up much more commentary because inevitably, it will contain spoilers. . . . 

Here's an argument AGAINST binge watching Orange Is The New Black.

A handful of other opinions about season 2:

"Perhaps what's most notable about the first part of season two is how Kohan is more confident in her storytelling because she laid the foundation of these diverse characters in season one while also keeping the A storyline -- Piper’s shift from church mouse to aggressive, survival-mode inmate -- intriguing. Now she can give more depth to the worldview that's present in Orange Is the New Black, one of the most vibrant, surprising dramas you'll find anywhere." - The Hollywood Reporter

"In emphasizing the humanity of the inmates, their warders have been made to look, for the most part, pathetic, foolish or monstrous ... Indeed, this general spreading of sympathy, of going past stereotype to character — even with characters who began as stereotypes — is one of the best and most impressive things about the series. It matters that it is set in a minimum security prison, whose inmates are more luckless than evil, more preyed upon than predators. It matters that it is set in a minimum security prison, whose inmates are more luckless than evil, more preyed upon than predators." - Los Angeles Times

"It’s worth noting that some of the best, most natural writing in the show is done for the small group of male characters, including the corrections officer played by Michael Harney and the handyman played by Matt Peters. One of the better things in the season opener is a throwaway moment given to an unseen male officer addressing the handcuffed inmates in the plane: 'We know you have a choice in your air travel. Kidding! You have no choice at all.' It’s just close enough to believable to be funny." -The New York Times

"Like Thrones, Orange is partly a story of territory, allegiance and clans, here divided largely by race ... What Jenji Kohan does in this series is a bit like painting landscapes on a grain of rice; she shows that with enough attention to detail, the tiniest canvas can capture the universe." - Time

"As the series judiciously uses its flashback structure to fill in the whys of these women’s lives, we’re confronted with an array of socioeconomic, political, and emotional realities that makes every character, even small ones, feel truly distinct, and human. The dehumanizing nature of prisons, and the way that 'convict' can come to trump all other defining characteristics, is certainly explored in the series, and it’s a woeful, scary thing to watch. But more excitingly, Kohan and her writers also look at how life flourishes and begins to boldly, starkly define itself in restriction. Prison isn’t exactly good for these women, but it does something to their essences, states them more loudly and forwardly than otherwise might be the case. And that’s fascinating to watch." - Vanity Fair

Moving on, per Variety, "Oxygen Media has announced the new docuseries Sisterhood of Hip Hop, centered on up-and-coming female emcees.

"The series, from 51 Minds, showcases the 'femcees' as they attempt to make their mark on a music genre traditionally dominated by men and are discovered and mentored by hip hop artists Bia, Brianna Perry, Diamond, Nyemiah Supreme and Siya. The show’s eight-episode run will also include appearances by Eve, Pharrell, Lil Jon, Travie McCoy, Rick Ross, Tank and Irv Gotti.

“'The talented artists featured in Sisterhood of Hip Hop are vibrant characters that will resonate with Oxygen’s young, female viewers,' Oxygen Media senior VP of original programming and development Rod Aissa said in a statement. 'The optimistic and empowering nature of the show is truly unique and we look forward to rooting for each woman’s success and giving fans the opportunity to follow along on their journey.'”  Gross.

Wishing Tracy Morgan a very speedy recovery.

Dealine is reporting "[a]s usual, Amazon Studios is not confirming, but I hear the digital company has ordered two more comedy pilots, Salem Rogers: Model of the Year 1998 by actress-writer Lindsey Stoddart and Down Dog by comedy veteran Robin Schiff (Are You There, Chelsea?). Salem Rogers centers on a self-centered, arrogant former supermodel who is forced to leave rehab after 10 years and reunites with her long-suffering former assistant, now a self-help writer using her years with Salem as an inspiration. Down Dog centers on a slacker working as a yoga instructor who takes over the yoga studio with no skills and experience, relying on the help of his two childhood friends. Salem Rogers and Down Dog join several other Amazon comedy pilots, including Really, Red Oaks, Cocked, Cosmopolitanand The Outlaws."

TNT premieres Murder In The First tonight at 10pm and the New York Times reviewed it here, calling it "a direct descendant of Murder One, a 1995 ABC show by Steven Bochco that was a beloved breakthrough, even though it lasted only two seasons.

"And while this new show is not as innovative as its predecessor, it is, in its own way, similarly well paced and compelling. There aren’t a lot of smart, occult-free crime thrillers this summer, and that makes Murder in the First all the more enjoyable.

"The differences from Murder One are distinctive, though, and quite revealing about how television has advanced — and regressed — over two decades. It’s startling to see how very few African-American characters were on the 1995 show — Vanessa Williams had a small part. The lead characters on Murder in the First are of all races and ethnicities; more women are in top positions.

"But when it comes to storytelling, Murder One in many ways seems more modern: The camera work was more ambitious and artful, and its hero was a bulky, bald and somewhat charmless defense attorney, Teddy Hoffman (Daniel Benzali), whose family life unfolded elliptically, over time. (Patricia Clarkson played his wife in a cast that included Stanley Tucci and Mary McCormack.)

Murder in the First doesn’t really find its groove until the second episode. The pilot wastes a lot of time establishing the somewhat trite bona fides of its leads, two San Francisco detectives who are assigned to a high-priority homicide."

Click below if you're bold enough to watch the trailer for the new New Kids On The Block reality show Rock The Boat:

Next Food Network Star has actually been mildly entertaining thus far.  I find that I'm watching less and less Food Network these days, but this one remains an old standby.

A Q&A with Andy Samberg.

"Comedy Central is premiering its newest standup series, The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail, on July 23rd, Splitsider has learned, and the show has one hell of an impressive lineup, including performances from Adam Scott, Nick Offerman, TJ Miller, Reggie Watts, Maria Bamford, and tons more.

"Hosted by Jonah Ray and Kumail Nanjiani,The Meltdown is a half-hour eight-episode standup showcase based on the duo's Los Angeles live show of the same name, one of the most popular standup shows in town. Ray and Nanjiani have been hosting the live show from the NerdMelt Theater since 2011. The Comedy Central version will feature about four comedians per episode and will be a mix of standup and backstage footage. The Meltdown was directed by Lance Bangs, and the series is being produced by Ben Stiller via his company Red Hour and Emily Gordon, who produces and books the live show. The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail will air Wednesdays nights at 12:30am (or "Thursday mornings" for you nerds out there), starting July 23rd."

If you live in Boston and want to be involved in this upcoming season of Top Chef, click here.