The class we all wished we took in college.

written by Jessica Elliott
For the past two months, I’ve helped myself to an extra cup of coffee on Fridays in an effort to keep my sleep-depravity at bay (a direct link to raising a 15-month-old) so I can stay awake to watch the latest episode of Sonic Highways. Even then, I made sure the DVR was set to record (God help me if there are technical issues!) and calmed even further knowing the latest episode would be available on On Demand. Why the sense of urgency? I blame the premiere of the series set in Chicago. At the end of that episode, I knew I was in for a musical education and it was exactly what my Friday nights needed but more importantly, it reinvigorated my love and interest in the musical culture and community which, until now, had exponentially waned - I’m looking at you Taylor Swift.

Sonic Highways follows the Foo Fighters as they visit eight cities across the U.S. with the purpose of showcasing how the community and surroundings influence the creation and recording of an album. At the end of each episode, they perform a song inspired by the interviews, people and history of that city. Each song is written by Dave Grohl and comprises their eighth album, also named Sonic Highways.

I've got heaven right here on earth.

written by Jermaine Lowery
Now we’re getting somewhere, the Doctor has arrived! It took him all season, but he’s a Time Lord, give him a break. He probably only spent two days of his own time. Season 8 of Doctor began in a seemingly amorphous state that was held onto until the bitter end. It left viewers wondering, who is this guy, really? What does one story line have to do with the next? Where are we going with this? Who is Missy? Well, now we know... all of it. What began as one raised eyebrow ended in an "a-ha" as the Doctor arose from his dream state and walked into his own glory. Was it a bumpy ride? Yes. Did he leave the brakes on the T.A.R.D.I.S. again? Absolutely. Was it worth the turbulence? You bet.

In the final four episodes of Dr. Who Season 8, we were encountered with beings from another dimension, a not so enchanted forest, and the afterlife, twice! The T.A.R.D.I.S. also know as “Sexy”, has seen more visitors than I can remember. The dynamic between the Doctor, “Clara my Clara”, and Danny Pink shifted throughout; sometimes uncomfortably so.  People died… and the band played on. 

Philosophical, exhilarating, somber, cohesive, unsettling, compassionate. 

This time is a flat square.
It’s not looking good for Nic Pizzolatto’s mystery darling as more news keeps coming out for the upcoming season.

When last season’s True Detective came out on HBO there were no anticipation, no fanfare, no hoopla and no inflated expectation of this new seemingly buddy cop detective show. All we knew and saw at that moment was HBO gracing us with two credible actors in Harrelson and a resurgent Matthey McConaughey. At first it looked familiar and slightly pornographic. Slowly but surely viewers knew that something lingering and perverse was developing into a solid Cajun noir, completely at our disposal to dissect, redissect and re-redissect. Suffice to say, season one went out like a meta-physical indecipherable beast! Because of that, conspiracy theories were born, the yellow king became the yellow monarchy and McConaughey further cemented his comeback story with arguably his best performance of the year regardless of what the academy says. The show was the perfect storm of handing something familiar but delivering it in a different way. With eight shows and two movie stars, albeit not headliners, True Detective called its own number and won cryptic Yahtzee. So when news casting rumors were confirmed this week with a complete overhaul it was met with a collective silent dud of a stinky fart!

Various news outlets came out earlier this week that Colin Farrell, by his own admission, had landed the first role as one of the three lead detectives. Shortly thereafter, news came out that Vince Vaughn was cast as the main criminal. Then yesterday, it’s pretty close that Rachael McAdams is going to be casted as the second detective with John Carter’s colossal flop of a lead, Taylor Kitsch, well on his way to being the third and last detective. Adding to the hot garbage news piling up on the front of our lawns and blogs was the confirmation that for at least the first two episodes, ‘Fast and Furious’ director, Justin Lin, will be taking over for newcomer Cary Fakunga. Pizzolatto, who really brought a verve of puzzling wizardry with his showrunning, built up an impressive line of fan cult credit in such a limited amount of time, because he pulled it off and with such fervor! Because of this certain tongue in cheek charlatan “cryptogramming,” his brilliant screenwriting throughout cable’s competition left us on high note wanting more.

The cast, or the potential of the cast, once everything is confirmed, is a real ass-buster falling on its back not being able to support the perceived big names under its weighty intentions. Starting with Farrell, Hollywood really went out of its way to make him the next ‘Golden Boy’. It never took off for him but to his roguish credit, he re-examined himself and broke through to audiences in smaller more self-defining roles, and he is great at it. He is the Scotty Pippen of film roles, not his “Airness." The collective news of the cast is so devastatingly horrible; Farrell alone gave fans a terse eye roll in unison, then hearing about Vaughn, and now McAdams with Kitsch possibly coming after, (who stoically meanders through whatever chiseled role he just lamed). Relatively, Farrell, is not the ugliest kid apple-bobbing the turd in this diluted punch bowl. Even still, nothing strikes confidence, aside from the possibility that the castings are so bad that they could be terrifying good, which is crazy talk. That is, though, how Season 1 made me want to crate little beer can men. Pizzolatto in a weird way has a certain good-will built up, but he is not yet on the level, and maybe will never be on the level, no matter what abstract creative decisions he makes he is bonafide.

The most frustratrating thing is that there seems to be a stunt casting with each of these actors where we'll see them in roles that we are not accustomed to seeing them play but perhaps, pieces of previous performances, in theory, could create the whole picture. I don’t see that. When McConaughey and Harrelson were cast they were welcomed under different circumstances. Out of both casts, McConaughey and Farrell are the closest parallel. Both were anointed as handsome leading men that could also be the guy next door. Both failed, and both resurrected in more serious roles. McConaughey has a better acting range and more talent than Farrell but the talent isn’t astronomically far between them. Farrell is talented also but only in the right role. I don’t feel he can do what is needed from Pizzolatto’s universe, cause I’ve seen him in thrillers/procedural roles before and he wasn’t that convincing, which is why prior to this news, he wasn’t thriving in those roles. Farrell is a real life bad boy who wants desperately to be a film bad ass but can’t because really deep down inside he is too much of a really good guy. McConaughey is nuts. I mean that in the best possible way. There was always a surfer boy dude that was wacky cool and in roles where he has to chill the fuck out and focus, he brings the goods. And oh did he bring it with Rust Cohle. Harrelson, did a great job as well, but it’s McConaughey’s Cohle that we still emulate.

I hope, ultimately, that Pizzolatto knows what he is going to do because HBO needs another hit after Game of Thrones. Boardwalk, after six fretful seasons, was found dead at the pier. Newsroom is too busy playing revisionist news and Monday morning quarterback, is leaving, and we don’t even know what The Leftovers "IS." It’s my intention to support good television and good media overall, but as it stands right now, I want the news and to have these castings sacrificed like some pagan ritualistic murder scene, and have the real actorsshow up and investigate because after all – time, like a bad casting, is a flat circle. 

This show is off to a dazzling start like a shiny new pair of shoes.

Last night’s episode for better or for worse was the most buzzed about/worthy show that I can remember since maybe Game of Thrones. On Twitter, minions (me included) were losing their minds as they unravel in all of pop geekdom that the DC Universe ushers its most successful, most commercial comic hero on the small screen with miniature, but gargantuan promising results. Having been spoiled with the cinematic treatment of one of the most iconic, brooding, entitled and well-funded superheroes in all of comic book history I was very tentative of this show. :CHARLIE MURPHY ALERT - WRONG, WRONG: The show really started off on solid footing with a swath of who’s who rouges gallery led by the ferocious and lovely delivery of Jada Pinkett Smith as minor crime boss Fish Mooney. Pinkett-Smith is met with as much over-delivered gusto from comedian/actor Donal Logue as the “cynical and slovenly” Harvey Bullock. The show focuses on Obi-Wan James Gordon-Kanobi and how he meets and chivalrously introduces himself to Anakin Wayne by promising to find the shadowy killer of Wayne’s parents. The strength of this show upon first watch is the familiarity and brand with the characters and history: the City looks how it’s supposed to, the Cops make lackadaisical corrupt arrests and plant evidence like they are supposed to, and the world is laced verbally with lines in comic corny brilliance that works because after all – we are dealing with characters called ‘The Penguin’ and ‘Fish’.

The promise of the show is that we are getting major face time of the supporting albeit strong and intrusive, meddlesome characters. This is a good thing. Personally, I have seen iterations of these characters in one way or another: some were taken as seriously as Heath Ledger’s, Joker, and some not so much as they were played with an overt villainous damnation like say, Jim Carey’s, Riddler. Gotham wasted no time pulling characters out like Pokémon cards in the first episode: Poison Ivy, Riddler, possibly Joker, Penguin & the missing Khardashian Sister playing Catwoman! The immediate stand-out is played by a Cripsin Glover stunt doubled Penguin, who, in my not so humble opinion, is the strongest character thus far. Yes, Pinkett-Smith got the good lines and played a tough as nails mob boss, but we’ve seen this from her, Bullock is irredeemably heroic dowsed in his own self-loathing Vodka drenched cologne and along with Jim Gordon playing the good boy scout with nice fitted dress shirts, but these are all the characters that exist according to how we expect them to. Penguin is the only character that pushes that given assumption – and pushes with it on an accord that makes him still nefarious and deplorable, but yet sympathetic and tragic. We are dealing with a character that is pushing the boundary on what we’ve become accustomed to with the character coming in, and what was stripped down, and built back up to a whole new shade and reservoir of fortuitous dimension of a character that could make this show rewarding to watch. And isn’t that the point? 

The main affliction that I was harboring coming into this show was that DC/Fox were just going to replow already solid ground around Batman’s ethos and universe. We have seen the movies, and most have been acquainted with the incomparable WB’s ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ which is still the highmark outside of Christopher Nolan’s cinematic triumph. I’m not interested in belligerent rehashes or reboots, and this show doesn’t cater or operate in either caped crusading box.

What yesterday’s winning rocket launcher debut episode demonstrated is that it’s taking what’s familiar, but focusing on the ground zero of the world that Bruce Wayne is reared in, meanwhile, showcasing the other characters in a way that fleshes out arcs, motives and personalities without the established gimmicks. Show me something new, and this show seems intended to hold me to that promise. If this show continues to trust itself and rely on the characterizations that the show was beautifully gifted, then the show should flourish. Never has Batman not been in the center of the radius of his own angst grappled world, and here, there is an honest attempt to sprinkle him in, but not shoehorning his coming of age. I like how he is more the object in this show than the subject. Leave the heroics to Jim Gordon. Gordon is a little on the short statured side for me, however, his strident singular determination and valiant focused brand of policing is what makes this Detective able to support Gotham on his shoulders like Atlas, being more than adequate for us to follow as young Bruce is still trying to find out where that “edge” lies by jumping off rooftops.

Regardless of how the rest of the show plays out and where it ends up in the Bat pantheon order – the first show was electric, earnest, tad trite, but as legit as a one-hour TV superhero/fantasy show can be without fucking it all up like Agents of Shield.  

‘The Knick’ Soderbergh’s medical mind-fuck time warp. 

Starring Clive Owen, The Knick, is a penetrating drama that focuses on the early stages of turn of the century surgical/medical practices in New York City. The Knick is a moniker of “The Knickerbocker’ the aptly titled hospital where Owen’s Dr. James Thackery is the Chief Surgeon. Brilliant but ornery, he possesses a handsomeness in a misleading despicable way as he operates through mistrials and arrogant tribulations while being high on cocaine. The complexity of Thackery is that his intentions are noble, as he knows he is at the pioneering forefront of surgery. He is seamlessly transitioning the whole surgical industry from the back of “barber rooms” to the wards of hospitals and is honestly determined to stridently help people in the name of science and his own reputation. The 11 one hour episodes show is on Cinemax, Friday nights at 10:00pm. Directed by Steven Soderbergh, he masterfully commands the lighting, camera and blocking to a visual delirium. He is one of the few directors regardless of medium that inherent talent like his shines. Now, I’m not the most well versed TV expert, but I know that typically for polished, big named, time period tentpole shows like Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, Sundays are game days. But on a Friday, Cinemax isn’t really demonstrating any sign of confidence. For me however, since it’s the summer and we all know summers on TV are like the plague, it's incentive for me to give this show a chance even if Cinemax airs it on at the same time as Shaun T’s infomercials. I’m grateful I did because there is an unusual macabre presence for a summer show is rarely focused upon. I have finished the first two episodes in which for all of Dr. Thackery’s brilliance, it don’t mean shit when you have limited resources cutting up live patients and pig organs instead of actual cadavers (those go to the big entitled med schools and hospitals) and that is where the show's hook comes from. As fascinating as Owen’s lead is, and how authentically perverse the peripheral world and it’s inhabitants are, and how masterful Soderberg’s directing can be – the hook of ‘The Knick’ is the provocative way that Thackery and the rest of this merry band of old school doctors focus who not only crudely hack and slash their way to possibly save the patient but also use them as a test subject for radical procedure to prove their brilliance in this arms race for turn of the century surgical procedure. Trial and error with live human capital has never been paid at the cost of medical collateral damage until now. This show doesn’t have a happy ending with the patients and there is no feeling of (then) modern medicine effectively saving lives. Through this show's interpretation, one can see a doctor and his staff trying to “break a couple of eggs to make an omelette” or “see a licensed serial killer carte-blanching his way to ironically save lives but piling the bodies all over the place.” Either way – this is television viscera on the deepest of levels.