CVIndependent

Thu10172019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Lea DeLaria is known for different things in different circles.

Mainstream audiences know her for stealing scenes as Carrie “Big Boo” Black on Netflix’s hit series Orange Is the New Black.

LGBT audiences know her as a pioneering comedian. She started performing in San Francisco in the early 1980s, and became the first openly gay/lesbian comic on a late-night show when she appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1993.

Music-loving audiences know her as a fantastic jazz musician—who paid tribute to the great David Bowie with her album House of David, released in 2015, just months before Bowie passed away.

All of DeLaria’s talents will be on display when she performs at the McCallum Theatre at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 8. In fact, DeLaria usually blends these talents when she performs—because audiences can’t handle her otherwise, she said during a recent phone interview.

“I do music and comedy together, because my comedy’s so loud, fast, vulgar, in your face, rowdy and crazy that people can only take it for about five minutes, and they’re like, ‘Mommy, make it stop!’ she said. “So I always add a little music. That gives people a rest from my crazy, rageful, screaming comedy style.”

DeLaria will be performing some of her Bowie covers from House of David.

“He was a big supporter of this record. He championed it on his website and his social media. He told people to contribute to my campaign so that I could get the record made,” DeLaria said. “We released the cover of that album on his website. He was involved with it, which I think was kind of lovely.

“I loved him my whole life. I grew up in the Midwest—St. Louis. So, in 1974, when David Bowie walks out onstage in a fucking skirt and starts singing this amazing rock ‘n’ roll, my queer little heart in the Midwest went, ‘Oh my god.’ I mean, it was like the greatest thing I’d ever seen.

“He was probably the first real performer in the public eye who taught me that one, being weird is cool, and two, to be true to who you are as a performer. He was always ahead of the curve.”

DeLaria was born into music, in a sense.

“My father was a jazz pianist. He was always playing in the house, rehearsing in the house,” DeLaria said. “He would come home late from gigs and bring the guys home, and they would play. Me and my siblings would sit at the top of the steps and listen to them play music when it was like 2 o’clock in the morning—when we should be in bed. So I’ve always had a love of that music. He spotted it in me immediately at a very young age and taught me to sing and really instilled a passion of that music in me. In fact, it was the first thing I ever did professionally—I used to sing with him when I was a kid at the club.”

Comedy came naturally to DeLaria … as did being outspoken and political.

“I was a big voice in San Francisco in the ’80s during the AIDS crisis and was working with ACT UP,” she said. “That’s my history of comedy, and that’s why I’ve always been a really radical comic—a really in-your-face dyke comic. I’m not a comedian; I’m a dyke comic. I always call myself that.

“When I went out onstage at that time, I wasn’t even called Lea DeLaria; they called me ‘that fucking dyke.’ So when they would bring me out onstage, they would go, ‘Please welcome to the stage that fucking dyke!’ I had a shaved head and safety pins in my ears and big stomping boots. … I was a rageful, rageful lesbian. I was always in touch with my rage. I’m still in touch with my rage, and I find that’s important. It’s an important distinction—anger’s a tiny little emotion. It’s a wimpy little emotion. But rage, ooh, rage can get things done.

“That’s why I keep telling people to stay in touch with their rage this election. Rage is when people go, ‘I’m done; I’m not doing this anymore. I’m gonna do something about it.’”

While DeLaria has been singing, acting and doing comedy for decades, she gained a large mainstream audience for the first time in 2013 with the premiere of Orange Is the New Black. After five seasons on the show, DeLaria’s Big Boo only appeared in one episode of this year’s sixth season. I had to ask: Will Big Boo be back for next year’s seventh and final season?

“I can’t speak to future seasons,” she said. “I don’t know, because I was written off the show this last season, so I have no idea. I have nothing but love for Orange Is the New Black; it changed the face of the world, television and certainly my life.”

This is definitely not the first time DeLaria has performed in Palm Springs; in fact, she became part of local LGBT lore when she upset organizers while performing at a benefit more than a decade ago.

“Oh, where I insulted George W. Bush, and they turned off my mic and pulled me offstage?” she responded when I asked her about the now-infamous event. “Unbelievable censorship, especially since it was a gay event. … I was never a fan of George W. Bush, but I never thought of him as evil the way I think of Trump. So that’s what happened there. What happened was people with money—conservative, gay people with money—had me pulled off the stage for spouting my political opinion.”

In other words … come to the McCallum prepared for a great show—as long as you’re not easily offended.

Lea DeLaria will perform at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 8, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $25 to $75. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Previews

After a fall-winter-spring blur of Too Many Shows, you’re thinking to yourself, “Summer is finally here—I can take a break from TV. Praise the Lord!”

Sorry. Your god has abandoned you: Here are 32 new and returning series you’re going to have to watch this summer, because peak TV knows no season.

In the unexpected return of Flaked (Season 2 premiere; Friday, June 2; Netflix), Chip (Will Arnett) heads back to Venice to rehab his ruined Local Hero status, if not his booze problem. Matters are even more dire for the gang on Fear the Walking Dead (Season 3 premiere; Sunday, June 4; AMC), as vigilante Build the Zombie Wall border patrollers won’t allow them to cross back over from Mexico. It could be worse; they could be struggling comedians in 1970s Hollywood—which is the setting for I’m Dying Up Here (series debut; Sunday, June 4; Showtime).

Tim Heidecker re-ups for more ultra-violent spy action in Decker: Unclassified (Season 2 premiere; Sunday, June 4; Adult Swim), while Aussie comic Jim Jefferies takes another stab at ’Merican TV with late-night talker The Jim Jefferies Show (series debut; Tuesday, June 6; Comedy Central). Latina heroine (?) Teresa (Alice Braga) continues her quest to rule the drug trade in Queen of the South (Season 2 premiere; Thursday, June 8; USA), and the ladies of Litchfield are still doing time in Orange Is the New Black (Season 5 premiere; Friday, June 9; Netflix), hackers be damned.

The ragtag crew of ridiculously good-looking intergalactic criminals remain lost in space in Dark Matter (Season 3 premiere; Friday, June 9; Syfy), and TV’s coolest demon hunter is back and gunning for souls in Wynonna Earp (Season 2 premiere; Friday, June 9; Syfy). Meanwhile, the end is near for the Clone Club in the final run of Orphan Black (Season 5 premiere; Saturday, June 10, BBC America), and even nearer for frenemies Billie and Gene in the two-weekend burn-off of Idiotsitter (Season 2 premiere; Saturday, June 10; Comedy Central).

An all-star cast chews scenery and buffs cuticles in new Florida nail-salon dramedy Claws (series debut; Sunday, June 11; TNT), and primetime goes grindhouse with Blood Drive (series debut; Wednesday, June 14, Syfy), about a cross-country death race where the cars run on—what else?—blood. The Mist (series debut; Thursday, June 22; Spike) rolls out more subtle Stephen King-y scares, and the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling finally get their ’80s-spandexed due in the Alison Brie-led docu-comedy GLOW (series debut; Friday, June 23; Netflix).

Fiddy Cent’s nightclubs ’n’ drugs drama Power (Season 4 premiere; Sunday, June 25; Starz) finds kingpin Ghost (Omari Hardwick) caught in the middle of a, yep, power struggle, while Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy finally hit the road looking for God in Preacher (Season 2 premiere; Sunday, June 25; AMC). Liza (Sutton Foster) deals with the fallout of her bestie Kelsey (Hilary Duff) learning her dark, old secret in Younger (Season 4 premiere; Wednesday, June 28; TV Land), and everybody’s favorite ragtag trio of ridiculously good-looking interplanetary bounty hunters gear up to fight the good-ish fight in Killjoys (Season 3 premiere; Friday, June 30; Syfy).

John Singleton’s Snowfall (series debut; Wednesday, July 5; FX) dramatizes the crack-cocaine epidemic of ’80s Los Angeles, while modernized period piece Will (series debut; Monday, July 10; TNT) juices the legend of a young William Shakespeare as he arrives in the, wait for it, “punk-rock theatre scene of 16th century London.” Back in the present, a pair of college eggheads break it to the White House that an asteroid is six months away from mercifully colliding with Earth in Salvation (series debut; Wednesday, July 12; CBS).

Game of Thrones … yeah, nothing more needs to be said here (Season 7 premiere; Sunday, July 16; HBO). In the final stretch of The Strain (Season 4 premiere; Sunday, July 16; FX), nuclear winter is in full effect; the Strigoi vampires have seized the planet; and our heroes are down for the count—but are they, really? Meanwhile, Ballers (Season 3 premiere; Sunday, July 23; HBO) and Insecure (Season 2 premiere; Sunday, July 23; HBO) are paired up for the most incongruent HBO hour ever, while Midnight, Texas (series debut; Monday, July 24; NBC) takes Charlaine Harris’ supernatural novels for a TV spin.

Would you believe … Sharknado 5 (movie premiere; Sunday, Aug. 6; Syfy)? Marvel’s The Defenders (series debut; Friday, Aug. 18; Netflix) finally brings together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist for a dysfunctional superhero team-up, while the 21st go-round of South Park (season 21 premiere; Wednesday, Aug. 23; Comedy Central) attempts to find the funny in Trump’s America—if he’s still in office at that point. Fortunately, Abbi and Ilana drop the long-long-long-awaited comeback of Broad City (Season 4 premiere; Wednesday, Aug. 23; Comedy Central), and the new take on The Tick (series debut; Friday, Aug. 25; Amazon Prime) may reunify the country, after all. Spoon!

Published in TV

Aquarius (Thursday, June 16, NBC), season premiere: When last we (meaning me; I’ve yet to meet anybody who watched Season 1) left Aquarius, it was spring of 1968; Det. Hodiak (David Duchovny) and the Los Angeles Police Department were possibly going under an internal affairs investigation; and milquetoast messiah Charles Manson (Gethin Anthony) was finally starting to show some psycho-spunk. (Remember, it took Axl Rose a couple of albums to get there, too.) In keeping with history, the two-hour Season 2 premiere of Aquarius sees the Manson Family moving in with Beach Boys drummer Dennis Wilson (Andy Favreau), as Hodiak becomes caught up in another missing-girls case while still making time to snark at hippies; and beat cop Tully (Claire Holt) gets in over her head in a dangerous case again because, you know, even the late ’60s still sucked for women. Aquarius may never achieve its five-season plan, but it has more swagger and grit than most current cop dramas, and features as much sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll as, well, FX’s Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll. (Seriously, the ’60s music rights and oregano budgets must be staggering.)

Orange Is the New Black (Friday, June 17, Netflix), season premiere: Netflix has put so many “No Spoilers!” review restrictions on Season 4 of Orange Is the New Black that there’s not much left to say besides: There’s a busload of new characters (literally); Piper (Taylor Schilling) has less screen time than ever; Alex (Laura Prepon) has more troubles than ever; there’s darkness; there’s light; there’s more darkness; and creator/writer Jenji Kohan is still maintaining an impressive level of dramatic quality. (Then again, her previous series, Weeds, began to run off the rails around Season 4, so … .) Besides, you’ll have binged all 13 episodes by the time you get around to reading this, anyway.

The Jim Gaffigan Show (Sunday, June 19, TV Land), season premiere: TV Land has rebranded, dumping Baby Boomers in favor of Gen-Xers (can’t keep catering to a demo that’s almost extinct—unless you're a newspaper … uh …). Laugh tracks and cheap sets are being replaced with single-camera film and a scrappier attitude, and The Jim Gaffigan Show is the flagship for the new TV Land. If you’ve seen Gaffigan’s standup, you know this sitcom: tubby white guy, wife and kids, junk food. Despite a few critical nags about the series being a pale—nope, not going for the easy pasty-Jim joke here—imitation of Louie and Curb Your Enthusiasm, TJGS rose above its anticipated blandness with sharp writing and a sharper supporting. Fun fact (unless you’re an NBC Universal exec): Like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Lip Sync Battle, The Jim Gaffigan Show was rejected by NBC (which stands for Now Bereft of Comedy).

American Gothic (Wednesday, June 22, CBS), series debut: Compared to the long-lost 1995 also-CBS American Gothic drama about a supernaturally evil small-town sheriff menacing the locals—YouTube it; Gary Cole was almost as menacing in it as he is now on Veep—the new American Gothic (posh Boston family has a secret serial killer among them) seems like a snooze. It is—with a recycled title, no less. Not only does this iteration add to the glut of shows with “American” in the title (which all suck, with the lone exception of American Dad); it also wastes actors like Virginia Madsen, Antony Starr (Banshee) and Justin Chatwin (Shameless) on what CBS is now calling “A 13-Part Murder Mystery” (which really means, “We’re sure as hell not getting any more seasons out of this”). Now, American Gothic as a reality-challenge show about goths competing American Ninja-style … there’s a winner!

Murder in the First (Sunday, June 26, TNT), season premiere: Cop-show vet Steven Bochco is still hanging in there with Murder in the First, a reduced redux of his 1995 network series Murder One (a single case investigated over a season—and on cable, that means 10 episodes instead of 22). Season 3 involves the homicide of that most precious of ’Merican celebrities: a pro football player (nooo!), with San Francisco detectives English (Taye Diggs) and Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson) just as gorgeous and troubled as ever. And it’s all … whatever. If the new Animal Kingdom doesn’t break the network’s meh streak (and it probably won’t), TNT is serious danger of becoming USA. No one wants that. (The premiere was scheduled for June 19, but was pushed back a week.)

Published in TV

Orange Is the New Black (Friday, June 12, Netflix), season premiere: Aside from the return of a beaten-down and bruised-up Alex (Laura Prepon), things are almost too bright and happy at Litchfield Penitentiary in Orange Is the New Black’s Season 3 opener. The episode, however, ends on a heartrending downer that drives home the facts that 1) this show is still set in a prison and, 2) unlike narrow award-show categories, creator/writer Jenji Kohan will pivot from “comedy” to “drama” however she damned well pleases. Kohan also introduces even more character flashbacks and new faces without spinning into Game of Thrones overload, and spends just enough quality time with the woman she initially fooled us into thinking was the “star” of the show, Piper (Taylor Schilling). That “Best Season Yet” buzz may turn out to be more than just Netflix hype.

Dark Matter (Friday, June 12, Syfy), series debut: The writers and producers behind long-running sci-fi-lite hits Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis essentially killed the franchise with 2009’s Stargate Universe, the bleak tale of a space-exploration team lost in uncharted cosmos. Dark Matter finds another crew adrift in space—but they have no idea who they are, how they got there, or why random scumdogs of the universe are out to kill them. As you’d expect, the amnesiac models soon learn they each have requisite A-Team abilities (fighter, hacker, thinker, more fighters, etc.), assign nicknames (like “Boss Lady,” “Kid” and, best of all, “Slashy McStabberson”), and at least pretend to trust one another to survive. It’s nothing new, but at least Dark Matter serves up slick action-distraction, and it’s actual sci-fi in space—how often do you get that from Syfy?

Clipped (Tuesday, June 16, TBS), series debut: If the notoriously nostalgic TV Land can drop laugh tracks (see the just-wrapped, fantastic Younger; the upcoming, promising Jim Gaffigan Show; and Impastor), why the hell can’t TBS kill the canned sitcom yuks already? Clipped, about a group of former clashing-clique high-school classmates who all end up working on the same Bah-ston barbershop, is from KoMut, the TV production company that’s been cranking out failed variations or this crapcom since the ’90s (with one hit exception: Will and Grace). Like every other “comedy” KoMut has somehow sold into instant cancellation, Clipped wastes genuinely funny actors (like Ashley Tisdale, and a bored George Wendt on autopilot) on the same tired setups and stale jokes they’ll probably use in their next network pitch. I should have gone into TV production instead of TV watching …

Proof (Tuesday, June 16, TNT), series debut: Shows like Rizzoli and Isles and Major Crimes still pay the bills, but TNT tried to shake up its mom-cops image last summer with new dude-centric testosterone-fests like The Last Ship and Legends, with varying results. Proof is something else entirely, like Grey’s Anatomy meets Ghost Whisperer. (Ghost’s Anatomy, a better title than Proof.) Jennifer Beals plays a brilliant surgeon whose life is a steaming bag of suck (bitter ex-husband, estranged daughter, dead teen son—guess the plot point), until she’s hired by a cancer-stricken tech billionaire (Matthew Modine) to prove—or disprove—life after death. Will her hard-science ways conflict with supernatural hooey? Will there be tears? Can Modine rock a turtleneck? Yes, hell yes, and was there any doubt? Beals and Modine are good enough here to keep Proof from devolving into a manipulative weeper—but just barely. Proceed with caution, and a box of tissues.

Tyrant (Tuesday, June 16, FX), season premiere: It’s a political drama! It’s a family drama! It’s back for a second season? Tyrant, set in the fictional Middle Eastern country of Abbudin, may not seem like an on-brand fit for FX (devoid of pulp theatrics or any trace of humor, it’d make a better companion piece for Homeland on Showtime), but it deserves a second chance to clean up after a messy debut season. Then, expatriat Barry (Adam Rayner) went from advising his power-mad dictator brother, Jamal (Ashraf Barhom), to attempting to overthrow him. Now, Barry awaits execution, much to the distress of his American wife (Jennifer Finnigan) and Jamal’s wife (Moran Atias), Barry’s long-ago ex. Even more concerning than the possibility that he may order his brother’s death is the lack of Jamal’s fearsome Season 1 power beard—shaved, he bears an unfortunate resemblance to Arrested Development’s Buster Bluth.

Published in TV

Hannibal (NBC; Thursday, June 4, season premiere): Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) and Bedelia (Gillian Anderson) are hiding out in Europe—but can the doctor keep his “tastes” under the radar? What a bore that show would be.

Sense8 (Netflix; Friday, June 5, series debut): The Wachowski Brothers bring their Matrix-y weirdness to TV in the tale of eight people around the world who can tap into each other’s existences. Coincidentally, they’re all ridiculously good-looking.

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix; Friday, June 12, season premiere): The gang’s all back—and so is Alex (Laura Prepon), as well as new inmate Stella (Ruby Rose). Larry (Jason Biggs), not so much. Please contain your indifference.

Dark Matter (Syfy; Friday, June 12, series debut): The crew of an adrift spaceship wakes up with no memories, and to outside threats galore. Based on the graphic novel (woo!) and produced by the Stargate SG-1 team (uh-oh).

Proof (TNT; Tuesday, June 16, series debut): A brilliant-but-troubled surgeon (Jennifer Beals) is hired by a dying tech billionaire (Matthew Modine) to find proof—get it?—that death is not the end. TNT, maybe, but not death.

The Astronaut Wives Club (ABC; Thursday, June 18, series debut; pic above): Imagine Mad Men, but focused on the spouses of NASA heroes of the late ’60s. That would be a better show than this reheated network leftover—but the fashion is sooo cute!

Complications (USA; Thursday, June 18, series debut): A suburban doctor (Jason O’Mara) becomes embroiled in a gang war after saving the life of a kingpin’s son at a drive-by. From the creators of Burn Notice, so expect plenty of yelling and gunplay.

Killjoys (Syfy; Friday, June 19, series debut): A trio of sexy bounty hunters (Aaron Ashmore, Hannah John-Kamen and Luke Macfarlane) work the interplanetary warzone. It’s Firefly meets Guardians of the Galaxy meets a Canadian budget.

True Detective (HBO; Sunday, June 21, season premiere): Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams and Taylor Kitsch navigate murder and mustaches in the badlands of California. Hold your “Season 1 was better” critiques until at least after the opening credits.

Ballers (HBO; Sunday, June 21, series debut): A sports dramedy (!) about retired and rookie football players just trying to get by in Miami, starring Dwayne Johnson, Omar Miller and Rob Corddry, and produced by Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg. Hut!

The Brink (HBO; Sunday, June 21, series debut): Bureaucrats (including Jack Black and Tim Robbins), military hawks (Geoff Pierson) and fighter pilots (Pablo Schreiber) scramble to avert World War III. It’s like Veep with higher stakes and (slightly) less profanity.

Mr. Robot (USA; Wednesday, June 24, series debut): Vigilante hacker by night/corporate IT drone by day Elliot (Rami Malek) is recruited by the mysterious “Mr. Robot” (Christian Slater) to e-destroy the company he works for. Never give up on TV, Slater.

Humans (AMC; Sunday, June 28, series debut): In the “parallel present” of suburban London, the must-have accessory is a “Synth,” a human-like servant/friend. But what happens when the Synths develop emotions? And, since they’re British, how do you tell?

Zoo (CBS; Tuesday, June 30, series debut): Animals are rising up against humans all over the planet, and only a “renegade biologist” (James Wolk) can stop the pandemic. People of Earth: If your lives are in the hands of a “renegade biologist,” you’re boned.

The Strain (FX; Sunday, July 12, season premiere): New York City is being overrun with not-pretty vampires, and it’s up to Eph (Corey Stoll) and Nora (Mia Maestro) to create a cure for the epidemic … if they can keep it in their pants. NYC, you’re also boned.

Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll (FX; Thursday, July 16, series debut, pic below): A failed ’90s rock band (featuring Denis Leary and John Corbett) gets a second shot at fame with a hot young singer (Elizabeth Gillies). This will be the second-wiggiest FX series after The Americans.

Bojack Horseman (Netflix; Friday, July 17, season premiere): Everybody’s favorite Hollywood horse has-been (voiced by Will Arnett) is back! And so is Todd (Aaron Paul)!

Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (Syfy; Wednesday, July 22, movie): The chompstorm hits Washington, D.C.! Ian Ziering and Tara Reid are back! Mark Cuban is the president! Ann Coulter is the VP! Like you needed any more reasons to root for the sharks.

Wet Hot American Summer (Netflix; Friday, July 31, series debut): An eight-episode prequel to the beloved 2001 cinematic classic, all about the first day of summer at Camp Firewood—with all of the cast members anyone cares about! Bring on the short-shorts!

Fear the Walking Dead (AMC; TBA, series debut): A six-episode flashback to the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, set in Los Angeles. No “renegade biologists” involved.

Published in TV

True Detective (HBO): Creator/writer Nic Pizzolatto probably screwed himself by launching this mesmerizing crime anthology with stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson at the top of their respective games. Good luck following up these eight near-perfect episodes.

Banshee (Cinemax): This left-field, visceral mashup of Justified, Twin Peaks and Fight Club went pulp-gonzo harder in Season 2, expanding the world of Banshee, Penn., just enough to introduce even more Amish mobster/Ukrainian thug mayhem. It’s that weird, and that cool.

Shameless (Showtime): Things somehow got worse as they got better for the Gallagher clan in Season 4, with William H. Macy and Emmy Rossum delivering alternately heartbreaking and hilarious performances. This is America’s family.

Justified (FX): Star Timothy Olyphant put his boot down and rescued Justified from becoming entirely the show of Boyd (Walton Goggins) in its fifth and penultimate season, and brought some new colorful characters along for the ride.

Broad City (Comedy Central): Few comedies arrive as fully-realized as Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer’s Broad City (though it did have a head-start as a Web series); their broke Brooklynites are the female flipside of Workaholics, only smarter, funnier and occasionally grosser.

Helix (Syfy): This Arctic Andromeda Strain/Walking Dead hybrid from Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) crept up with no big splash, but it did earn a second season for 2015—catch up on Netflix now.

The Americans (FX): Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys continued to out-spy Homeland while still stuck in Cold War 1981, facing down more danger (and wigs) than Carrie and Brody could ever imagine.

Archer (FX): Meanwhile, Archer (code-named Archer Vice) blew up its spy premise and dove face-first into cocaine and country music. Literally.

House of Cards (Netflix): Vice president Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) delivered a shocking twist in the first episode of Season 2, and the train didn’t stop a-rollin’ from there. As with actual D.C. politics, it’s best not to think too hard about the machinations en route to the presidency

Fargo (FX): Lorne (Billy Bob Thornton), Lester (Martin Freeman) and Deputy Molly (Allison Tolman) shut down the “You can’t touch that movie” doubters from frame one with this dark, funny adaptation that faltered fewer times than True Detective. Oh, you bet’cha.

From Dusk Till Dawn (El Rey): Another film-to-TV transition that defied the haters, From Dusk Till Dawn expanded the 1996 cult classic into an even crazier, racier 10-episode ride where the definition of “the good guys” is subjective.

Game of Thrones (HBO): Like anyone’s going to make a list without Game of Thrones. Get real.

Silicon Valley (HBO): Mike Judge finally, if not intentionally, created the sequel to Office Space with Silicon Valley, a hysterically profane (and tech-jargoned, at least at first) saga about programmers in waaay over their heads. If only Halt and Catch Fire had been half this much fun.

Veep (HBO): Speaking of profane: VP Selina Meyer (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her team continued to fail upward in Season 3, from WTF? to the brink of POTUS. Pray for your country.

Bates Motel (A&E): Murder, drugs, love triangles, commercial zoning disputes—Bates Motel has it all! Norman (Freddie Highmore) became as intriguing as mother Norma (Vera Farmiga) in Season 2, no small feat, as did some of the supporting players. Why wait for Showtime’s Twin Peaks revival? It’s already here.

Mad Men (AMC): Splitting the final season in half was a lousy idea (the Mad Men buzz is pretty much nil at this point), but those first seven episodes provided a course-correcting jolt that should make for a hell of a 2015 finale, whenever that happens (hopefully, not in the ’70s).

Orphan Black (BBC America): See Game of Thrones.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (HBO): Sure, it’s a Daily Show knock-off with F-bombs—but those rants! Corporations, media, condiments—suck it! Everything the overblown Newsroom attempted over three seasons, Oliver nailed in 30 minutes.

Legit (FXX): Poor Jim Jefferies. His Louie-like Legit finally got good by the end of its first season, then FX exiled it to the untested FXX for Season 2: no promotion, no viewers, just yelling into a vast, empty room. See what you missed on Netflix (along with Jeffries’ stand-up specials).

Playing House (USA): Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham as almost-uncomfortably close BFFs failed on network TV, but found a niche on cable with Playing House, which could be the first series ever to make pregnancy play funny and inclusive.

Parks and Recreation (NBC): While as excellent as ever, Season 6 probably should have been the last (maybe even halfway through), but at least we’ll get a proper sendoff for NBC’s last great Must-See comedy in 2015.

Rick and Morty (Adult Swim): Few “get” Community, but Dan Harmon’s other TV project, the animated, and simultaneously brainy and crude Rick and Morty—imagine Back to the Future with more universes, booze and malicious aliens—clicked immediately on Adult Swim.

Louie (FX): Louis C.K. made us wait two years for a new season, then delivered 14 arty-if-not-always-funny installments of Louie, which were rightfully hailed as “brave,” “experimental” and “mostly free of black T-shirts.”

Maron (IFC): Marc Maron didn’t stray too far from the formula of his debut season in his second go-round—regarding how difficult it is to be Marc Maron, specifically, and a middle-aged white dude with a podcast in general. Still brilliant.

Orange Is the New Black (Netflix): Season 2 leaned more dramatic than comedic, and pulled killer performances from everyone in (and out) of Litchfield Penitentiary. Creator Jenji Kohan is well on her way to achieving the heretofore-thought impossible: Topping her previous series, Weeds.

The Leftovers (HBO): Life sucks when you’re not Raptured, and The Leftovers was the ultimate summer-bummer wallow, not to mention the vehicle that finally made Justin Theroux matter.

Rectify (Sundance): And while we’re on the topic of dramas filmed in Depress-o-Vision … damn.

Longmire (A&E): In its third season, Longmire fully broke away from its Justified Out West trappings and became a gripping, dusty crime drama in its own right. A&E rewarded this creative triumph—and high ratings—with a cancellation notice in order to make way for more Duck Dynasty. Fortunately, Netflix came to the rescue, and Season 4 will be streaming by late 2015. I’m beginning to understand you cable-cutters …

Coming next week: Part 2—even more shows!

Published in TV

Orange Is the New Black (Friday, June 6, Netflix), season premiere: How badly did Piper (Taylor Schilling) beat down Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) at the end of Season 1? The bigger, more unexpected question is: Were the two alone at the scene? Orange Is the New Black grew stealthily and deliberately from a pretty-white-girl-goes-to-prison comedy into a racially diverse drama with real tension and consequences during its initial 13 episodes (while still retaining some laughs—this isn’t the female Oz yet); showrunner Jenji Kohan sends Season 2 down a darker path from the outset. (While the first episode is mostly Piper-centric, she’s not the same woman who entered Litchfield Penitentiary last year.) But, it’s not all a downer—two words: cunnilingus contest. Happy binging!

Power (Saturday, June 7, Starz), series debut: Ghost (Omari Hardwick) is a successful-if-unfortunately nicknamed New York City nightclub owner by night, but an even-more-successful drug dealer by … later night? The logistics don’t matter—can he turn his club into more than just a money-laundering front and go straight? Will the far-less-handsome drug-players of the city let him out of the game? Did no one bring up Boardwalk Empire in the Power pitch meetings? Can producer/recurring “actor” 50 Cent hear how hilariously unthreatening his own lispy voice is? No one at Starz bothered to answer, because Power is slicker, flashier and easier to digest than their last Boardwalk knockoff, Magic City. In other words, it’s good enough for Saturday night.

Finding Bigfoot (Sunday, June 8, Animal Planet), season premiere: The first episode of Season 5 (!) of Finding Bigfoot will be the 48th (!!) produced in three years. You know what they haven’t produced? BIGFOOT!

Murder in the First (Monday, June 9, TNT), series premiere: Since TNT seems dead-set on becoming ’90s NBC with wall-to-wall cop/legal dramas broken up by the occasional sci-fi show, it makes sense that genre veteran Steven Bochco would end up here with a tweaked take on his 1995 series Murder One: a single homicide case spanning an entire season. This time, however, he only has to deliver 10 episodes (as opposed to 22), and the cast (led by Taye Diggs and Kathleen Robertson as gorgeous-but-troubled San Francisco detectives) is more manageably sized as well. The case, in which a dickhead Silicon Valley tech CEO (TV and film’s new go-to villain) is connected to a pair of seemingly unrelated murders, is only slightly more twisty than a Rizzoli and Isles assignment, but Murder on the First is still grittier than anything else on TNT at the moment—except for the occasional Castle rerun. Or is it Bones? They’re different shows, right?

Big Smo (Wednesday, June 11, A&E), series debut: After the premiere of the sixth and likely final season of Duck Dynasty—it was fun, and then rabidly homophobic, while it lasted, but we’ve hit that Jersey Shore/Honey Boo Boo wall of indifference, boys—A&E debuts its next great white reality hope, Big Smo. For those unfamiliar with the pop phenomenon of “country rap” (a mashup of country, Southern rock and hip-hop with an explicable number of rhymes for “tailgate of my pickup truck”), Big Smo is a morbidly obese Tennessee hick-hopper whose star is rising as quickly as his cholesterol. His debut album is called Kuntry Livin’; his music is corporately contrived cheese calculated to suck bucks out of blue-collar Wranglers; and he projects the raw intellect of a stunned heifer. Shoehorn all this raw, oozing potential into a cookie-cutter, over-scripted redneck-family reality show and you have … probably a huge hit. Note that I didn’t say fat hit.


DVD ROUNDUP FOR JUNE 10!

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

An operative (Chris Pine) in the CIA’s Financial Intelligence Unit (sure, it’s a thing) uncovers a Russian plot to collapse the U.S. economy and flips into action-spy mode to save the day. Shouldn’t this be called Shadow Accountant? (Paramount)

Non-Stop

A U.S. Air Marshal (Liam Neeson) receives a mysterious text demanding $150 million, or a passenger will be killed every 20 minutes, so he flips into action-marshal mode to save the day. Shouldn’t this be called Dead Air? (Universal)

Ray Donovan: Season 1

“Fixer” to the Hollywood rich and famous Ray Donovan (Liev Schreiber) knows how to handle any problem—except his own father (Jon Voight), a career criminal just released from prison. Can this wacky family get it together? Ha! (Showtime)

The Secret Lives of Dorks

When a high-school nerd falls in stalker-lust with a head cheerleader, she sets him up with an equally awkward nerd girl and coaches him on “romance.” (“Always tell a hot girl she’s smart; always tell a smart girl she’s hot.”) Uh, brilliant! (Gaiam)

True Detective: Season 1

Two ex-Louisiana detectives (Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) are interrogated about a serial-killer case they “solved” in the ‘90s; flashbacks and intense hair/acting ensue. Yes, it is as amazing as the hype says. (HBO)

More New DVD Releases (June 10)

Adult World, Alan Partridge, Bigfoot vs. D.B. Cooper, Cosmos: Season 1, Devil’s Knot, Klondike, Midrange, Murder 101, Resurrection: Season 1, Rizzoli and Isles: Season 4.

Published in TV

Maron (Thursday, May 8, IFC), season premiere: IFC no longer stands for Independent Film Channel; it’s just IFC—not Insanely Funny Comedy, not I’m Feeling Crampy, just IFC. After a handful of false starts (remember Food Party? Z Rock?), Portlandia and Comedy Bang! Bang! (the latter of which premieres for Season 3 on Thursday, May 8) established IFC as a viable original-comedy destination, but it was 2013’s debut season of Maron that lent the channel some real weight. Despite outside appearances, Maron isn’t exactly Louie, just as Louie isn’t Curb Your Enthusiasm; the fictionalized “Marc Maron” rings truer—and often funnier—than “Louis C.K.” or “Larry David.” In the Season 2 premiere, Marc has an uncomfortable time on Talking Dead with geek-media “enemies” Chris Hardwick and Michael Ian Black. Making the world of Twitter, podcasts and nerd-analysis shows play like high drama—that’s comedy.

Rosemary’s Baby (Sunday, May 11, NBC), miniseries debut: What’s a movie star like Zoe Saldana doing here? She’s acting what little ass she has off here, trying to save a needless remake of Roman Polanski’s 1968 quasi-classic film about The Lil’ Antichrist. Reset from New York to Paris—because, free vacation?—this version finds young-couple Rosemary (Saldana) and Guy (Patrick J. Adams, Suits) moving into a swank but “haunted” apartment and promptly getting pregnant—but did Guy make a pact with “devilish” neighbor Roman (Jason Isaacs, various Harry Potters) to trade his unborn baby for a writing career? And why a writer? Why not “Google CEO” or “Clippers owner”? Saldana’s impressive array of bad wigs, shape-shifting preggo-bellies and off-putting cryfaces aside, Rosemary’s Baby is a hysterical mess. So why isn’t it on Lifetime? The miniseries concludes Monday, May 12.

Penny Dreadful (Sunday, May 11, Showtime), series debut: The Only TV Column That Matters™ doesn’t believe that premium-cable levels of language, violence and nudity help every series … but they sure don’t hurt. Nor does star power: Penny Dreadful leads Eva Green (as medium Vanessa Ives), Josh Hartnett (American adventurer Ethan Chandler), Timothy Dalton (the mysterious Malcolm), Billie Piper (the mysterious-er Brona Croft), Reeve Carney (Dorian Gray) and Harry Treadaway (Dr. Victor Frankenstein) form an instantly engaging cast in this Victorian London horror series that strings together classic literary monster tales into a slick, steampunk (and, as per Showtime, adult) X-Files. If Penny Dreadful can maintain the quality and dark intensity of the pilot episode, this should be an American Horror Story-sized hit; if not, it’ll end up like NBC’s already-forgotten Dracula.

24: Live Another Day (Mondays, Fox), new season: Other than trimming the length from two dozen episodes to 12 (it’s not a season, it’s an Event!) and setting aside any pretense of being a serious drama (this has won Emmys—Emmys!), 24: Live Another Day is yell-y, explode-y business as usual for Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland, holding up better than expected) and keyboard-clacking sidekick Chloe (Mary Lynn Rajskub in Girl With the Dragon Tattoo drag). The “plot” this time around: Jack re-emerges to save the president (William Devane) from terrorists in London. Why can’t the CIA handle it? There’s no time to explain! Send the coordinates! With this new shorter, faster and— foremost—cheaper format, expect Fox to bring back 24 every year until Kiefer looks like dad Donald in a flak jacket.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Tuesday, May 13, ABC), season finale: It only took 20 or so episodes to start getting good—even though it’s become pretty obvious that a Bill Paxton-led Marvel’s Agents of Hydra would be a much more fun series. Anyway, here’s to a smoother Season 2 this fall … right, ABC?


DVD ROUNDUP FOR MAY 13!

Eastbound and Down: Season 4

Retired pitcher Kenny Powers (Danny McBride) breaks into the world of sports-talk TV, becomes a superstar asshole all over again and makes a new enemy (Ken Marino). Is it too late for the world to finally recognize the genius of KFP? Yes. (HBO)

Her

A lonely guy (Joaquin Phoenix) falls in love with “Samantha” (Scarlett Johansson), an intuitive computer operating system. If you thought iTunes’ terms and conditions were complicated, wait until you see her pre-nup. Ba-dum-bump! (Warner Bros.)

Orange Is the New Black: Season 1

From Weeds creator Jenji Kohan: An engaged New Yorker (Taylor Schilling) turns herself in for a past crime and ends up in a women’s prison—and then all of a sudden, it’s not just about some blonde white girl anymore. Very sneaky, Jenji. (Lionsgate)

That Awkward Moment

Zac Efron, Miles Teller and other pretty 20-somethings star in Dating Is So Hard for Pretty 20-Somethings Movie No. 584—except this time, it’s from the guys’ point of view, so there are more dick jokes than shopping montages. Yay? (Sony)

More New DVD Releases (May 13)

Afterlife: Series One, Camp Harlow, Crook, Deadly Code, Easy Money: Life Deluxe, Generation Iron, Genius on Hold, I Frankenstein, Kendra on Top: Season 2, Longmire: Season 2, Magic City: The Complete Series, Poseidon Rex, Special ID.

Published in TV

Editor’s note: This is the debut of a new column, Bill Frost’s “True TV,” aka The Only TV Column That Matters™. Most weeks, he’ll offer his opinions on what shows you should not miss during the upcoming week—and which shows you should skip in favor of a book. (However, this week, he’s doing a summer-roundup thing. Hey, it’s almost August. It’s slow.)

He’ll also offer a weekly roundup of newly released DVDs, to complement Bob Grimm’s regular DVD/home-video reviews. So … here we go. Enjoy!

The 10 summer shows you should be keeping/catching up on:

Under the Dome

Mondays (CBS): One of the best Stephen King adaptations to date—and they even worked in a reference to The Simpsons Movie. Under the Dome has shown a few signs of padding the story to fill 13 episodes (teen romance—phttt, who needs it?), but the tension ratchets up just enough every week to keep the hooks in. (Almost) all is forgiven, Rachelle Lefevre.

Orange Is the New Black

Streaming (Netflix): Like Netflix’s previous Big Event, Arrested Development, prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black gets better with each episode, rolling out surprising back-stories for the characters surrounding “yuppie white girl” inmate Piper (a fantastic Taylor Schilling). Anyone who thought showrunner Jenji Kohan was a one-trick Weeds pony can suck it. (For an opposing view, check out Bob Grimm's review of the show.)

Ray Donovan

Sundays (Showtime): In contrast to his hilarious, almost-unrecognizable cameo in Larry David’s upcoming HBO movie Clear History, Ray Donovan is Liev Schreiber’s defining Intense Mofo role. Hollywood “fixer” Ray has more issues than Variety, and his family (including an equally intense Jon Voight) is a nightmare—which, of course, makes for great TV.

Wilfred

Thursdays (FX): If you gave up on Wilfred during last year’s weird ’n’ dark Season 2, don’t bother coming back—it’s still weird ’n’ dark. Ryan (Elijah Wood) is more convinced than ever that he’s crazy, and it’s less clear than ever whether his talking-dog frenemy Wilfred (Jason Gann) is there to pull him back from, or push him over, the edge. Hence, funny!

The Bridge

Wednesdays (FX): After a rote pilot episode with a The Killing aftertaste, Tex-Mex-border crime drama The Bridge slipped into a groove and started earning its FX keep. Stars Diane Kruger and Demian Bichir bring new twists to their odd-couple cop dynamic every week, and Annabeth Gish’s side-plot is finally making tense sense. Always trust in FX.

The Newsroom

Sundays (HBO): It took a season and change, but The Only TV Column That Matters™ is now convinced that Olivia Munn is worthy of her news-geek-dream-girl role of financial reporter Sloan Sabbith. If only the rest of The Newsroom women owned it like she does. On all other fronts, Aaron Sorkin’s liberal-media porn dramedy is sharper than ever.

Magic City

Fridays (Starz): Yeah, I get it—you’re never going to subscribe to Starz, so quit going on about shows like Spartacus, Boss and Magic City, right? Whatever. Like the first two, Magic City isn’t quite on par with the HBO and Showtime series it aspires to be, but as a period (1950s Miami) potboiler, it’s as gorgeous and addictive as anything on cable.

Camp

Wednesdays (NBC): One of the few shows in NBC’s throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks Summer of Filler campaign that actually works, Camp is a funny and sweet diversion that not only makes Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under) likable; it also also pulls off a decent Glee/Parenthood tone-meld with only a few glitches. (Teen romance—phttt, who needs it?)

Siberia

Mondays (NBC): NBC could have done better—hell, the network could have done any—rollout work on keeping Siberia’s secret (it’s a fake reality-survival show … clarification: more fake than usual), but it’s still stoopid fun watching to see who’s going to die next. (Bear Grylls, take note.) The biggest mystery: What was Carolina (Joyce Giraud) thinking wearing six feet of hair into the wilderness?

Nikki and Sara Live

Tuesdays (MTV): Sometimes MTV gets it right: Not only did they give comics/podcasters Nikki Glaser and Sara Schaefer their own show last year; they also picked it up for a second season—now shut up about the music videos already. Nikki and Sara Live is essentially a junior Daily Show for those who don’t want to look at old, gray hosts. (Sorry, Jon Stewart—come back soon.)


DVD-RELEASE ROUNDUP FOR AUG. 6!

Amelia’s 25th

On her 25th birthday, Amelia (Electra Avellan) realizes that she’s now too old to become a famous actress: “In Hollywood, 25 is the new dead.” Also starring Danny Trejo, Jennifer Tilly, Margaret Cho and other spry youngsters. (Breaking Glass)

The Best of Fridays

The cult 1980-1982 late-night sketch series, finally on DVD! Well, some of it. It features players Michael Richards and Larry David (with hair!); performances by Devo, The Clash and Kiss; and a fight with Andy Kaufman. (Shout! Factory)

Community: The Complete Fourth Season

The season without showrunner Dan Harmon—hey, it’s not that bad. There’s the sci-fi convention thing, the Halloween thing, the Thanksgiving thing, the Christmas thing, the puppet thing, the graduation thing … OK, it was pretty bad. (Sony)

Oblivion

When a memory-wiped drone repairman (Tom Cruise) on Future Eff’dup Earth rescues a mysterious-but-familiar woman (Olga Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft … not much happens, but it looks really cool. That’s enough, right? (Universal)

Strike Back: Season 2

Cinemax’s live-action Team America returns for a second season with a new boss (Rhona Mitra), new bad guys (terrorists with nuclear triggers) and ridiculous new levels of violence, nudity, yelling and explosions. So, awesome TV. (HBO)

More New DVD Releases (Aug. 6)

The Borgias: The Third Season, Duck Dynasty: Season 3, Jim Norton: Please Be Offended, Magic Magic, Mud, My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, On the Road, The Place Beyond the Pines, The Sapphires, Smash: Season 2, To the Wonder, West of Memphis, Zombie Massacre.

Published in TV

I suspect that a lot of the critics who are raving about Orange Is the New Black, Netflix’s new original series, failed to watch past the first few episodes.

This drama about women behind bars starts off gangbusters, with touches of brilliance and great humor. But by the time I was watching the 13th episode, I was a few hours past over it. This one loses steam fast and becomes quite a letdown.

The show degenerates from an introspective look at a woman’s stint in prison to a parade of clichés. At first, the story of Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling)—who goes up the river for a felony she committed 10 years before—is nothing short of awesome. The show also boasts the best performance from Jason Biggs in a long time, as her beleaguered boyfriend. (There’s even a great American Pie joke.)

However, as Piper settles in to prison life, we get everybody we’ve come to expect in a normal prison drama: crazy guards, the tough Russian woman in charge of the kitchen, and an ex-lover (Laura Prepon) who happens to be incarcerated with Piper. God forbid, there’s a Christmas-pageant episode.

It’s too bad. For a while there, I thought I was watching the next best thing on TV since, well, Netflix gave us a new season of Arrested Development. Then the show downgraded into comical sex scenes and, worst of all, too much time devoted to a religious fanatic meth-head character played by Taryn Manning.

The show, which ends with quite a cliffhanger, has already been renewed for another season. I hope they can recapture some of the magic displayed in the first couple of episodes. Schilling’s performance endures, even when the scripts do not.

Published in DVDs/Home Viewing