Checking In On The CW

January is generally known as the midseason mark for the traditional broadcast network television season. And as I was checking to see when the handful of “Big 5” shows that I watch would be returning from their winter hiatus, I realized that all but one (NBC’s Will Grace) were CW shows. So I thought it would be a perfect time to take a deeper look aa few of them and see just what they’ve been doing so right by me this season.

DC’s Legends of Tomorrow 

The Legends started a new mission for their 4th season, and it has revitalized the show by letting the Legends loosen up and have a little bit of fun (amidst the always constant ripple of tragedy and loss that is woven into the shows DNA, of course). Now tasked with tracking down a variety of magical creatures they accidentally let loose on the timeline, almost each episode this season has had the team paying homage to a classic pop culture genre trope. Including, but not limited to: fighting a kaiju in 1950’s Japan, rescuing traumatized teens at an 80’s summer camp and dealing with a demonic doll in 19th century New Orleans.

The highlight though, was the midseason finale where, due to timeline shenanigans, the Legends team kept getting rebooted in the mold of iconic tv shows, first as the A-Team-esque “Custodians of the Chronology”, next as the Charlie’s Angels-inspired “Sirens of Space-Time” and then finally being Muppet-ized as the “Puppets of Tomorrow”. And each of these iterations came with their own spot-on opening credits.

And all this rebooting apparently made them unavailable for the annual crossover with the rest of the CW’s “Arrowverse” shows, but they still managed time to get in a sly meta-reference about it that went a little something like:

Ray:  “Oh look, we’ve got missed calls from Flash, Green Arrow, and Supergirl…sounds like it’s annual crossover time!” 

Nate: “Ugh…HARD pass.” 

A little obvious, yes, but enjoyable nonetheless. Alas, LOT is currently on what is one of the more longer midseason hiatuses on record, having aired it’s mid-season finale in November, it won’t be returning until APRIL. (*sad trombone*)

Dynasty 

The CW gave this struggling reboot a shot at a second season, and the creators have not been one to waste the opportunity. Amping up the excess, kicking up the camp, and stopping just before toppling over into parody, Dynasty came back ready to play (AND with a more proper opening credits sequence, to boot).

Some of the more enjoyable sequences they’ve cooked up this season would’ve seemed totally out of place last season. Like when Fallon got bonked on the head during a windstorm and then had a fever dream where she and the rest of the Carrington clan were the characters from the Wizard of Oz…or when Sammy Jo and Kirby held nanny interviews that were, in their own words, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting meets American Ninja Warrior”.

And a bevy of bonus points are bestowed for allowing Fallon to constantly refer to the new “Cristal” in Blake’s life (with whom he has taken up with following the death of his wife, the OG Cristal, in the season one finale) as, literally “New Cristal” and “Cristal 2.0”. Ah, never change, Fallon.

Riverdale 

This show is slowly but surely heading into bonkers-ville, but I am here for it. Although it is getting hard to believe that there could be so much murder, corruption, evil cults, untimely deaths, drug trafficking, blackmail, horrible parenting, unconstitutional imprisonment, gang violence, teen crime solving and stupid choices by stupid people (Archie), in one (supposedly) typical small town. However, seeing as how Riverdale does always seem to be of a land steeped in fantasy (where it’s every season every day, and 1955, 1986, and 2019 all at the same time), I wouldn’t be surprised if they revealed it only exists as part of some alternate universe/reality.

But back to Riverdale, the show. Let’s just take a moment to recognize one Miss Veronica Lodge, for following in such noted footsteps as Beverly Hills 90210’s Valerie Malone and Gossip Girl’s Chuck Bass as television’s latest, totally-believable, teen nightclub owner/operator. Because if you think being a junior in high school is hard enough, try doing that during the day AND running a speakeasy every night AND finding the time to devise and execute the prison breakout of her wrongfully accused beau, ALL WHILE investigating her father’s illicit drug operations. Good thing she decided to let Cheryl Blossom take over as Student Body president, or else she might’ve spread herself a little thin.

Or maybe not, because I’m half-convinced that none of the teens actually attend classes anymore, since they all have such time-consuming, adult-esque side-hustles, many of which would be considered full-time jobs in the real world. Like: bar managing (Reggie), club headlining (Josie), cat burglary (Cheryl and Toni), playing house mother to wayward teens (Betty) or joining their bestie on weeks-long character-building walkabout (Jughead). The only exceptions are Kevin and Moose, who’ve been saddled with a very All-American, teen-centric pursuit –  the school’s ROTC program. But don’t be fooled – since their side hustle is actually each other, I’m pretty sure being in the ROTC is just the easiest way for them to frequently see each other’s hotness in uniform.

And you also have to hand it to Riverdale for being quite possibly the only show that has ever staged a father/daughter reunion as an homage to The Silence Of The Lambs, which they just did when Riverdale’s own Nancy Drew-with-a-death-wish, Betty Cooper, went to visit her serial killer dad Hal (aka The Black Hood) in prison. Y’know, just typical Riverdale stuff.

Well, I think this all makes it pretty simple and clear – I’m drawn to these shows and the way they’ve been upping the fun factor, staying not-so-real, and just taking crazy chances — and the CW is pretty much the only big network currently at home in that wheelhouse. So, keep it up Cee-Dubs, and you’ll keep me coming back for more!

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A Tale Of Two DYNASTYs

With Nicollette Sheridan’s sly entrance as Alexis in episode 16 of the CW’s Dynasty redux, all the major players of the original series are now in place. Therefore, I thought it would be the perfect time to do a little comparison to see just what changes have been made to the line-up and storyline of the original 80s version to make them more relevant to the world of the 2010s.

What makes these two versions great for comparison is that the new Dynasty isn’t a continuation or reboot of the original. It’s a straight-up remake that, so far, has pretty much followed the trajectory and hit the same major plot beats of the original (although not without adding some original tweaks of its own—as any good remake should!), so…let’s dig in!

 

THEN (Blake, Krystle, Fallon)

Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) oversees his oil empire, Denver Carrington, from his 48-room Colorado mansion. He marries his second, and much younger, wife Krystle Jennings (Linda Evans). His former secretary, Krystle finds it hard to fit in the opulent world of the Carringtons. Also living at the mansion is Blake’s daughter, Fallon (Pamela Sue Martin). Headstrong and spirited, Fallon has no interest in following in her dad’s footsteps (although she eventually ends up running his La Mirage resort for a while).

NOW (Blake, Cristal, Fallon)

Blake Carrington (Grant Show),  oversees his global energy empire, Carrington Atlantic from its headquarters in Atlanta. His younger, second wife is Cristal Flores (Nathalie Kelley), a Venezuelan who works for Carrington Atlantic. But instead of leaving her job after they marry, she gets promoted—to COO. This does not sit will with Blake’s ambitious daughter, Fallon (Elizabeth Gillies), who had her eyes on that position. She eventually decides to leave Carrington Atlantic to start her own energy company, Morell Corp.

THEN (Steven, Sammy Jo, Alexis, Culhane)

Perpetually confused about his sexuality, Blake’s son Steven (Al Corley) mourns the death of his boyfriend by hooking up with Krystle’s niece, Sammy Jo (Heather Locklear)—who had basically moved herself into the Carrington mansion. They eventually wed and have a son, but divorce soon after. Alexis (Joan Collins), Fallon and Steven’s mother, has been out of their lives ever since she and Blake divorced. Suddenly, she swoops back into Denver when she is named as witness for the prosecution—in the trying of Blake for the murder of Ted (Steven’s aforementioned boyfriend). Michael Culhane (Wayne Northrup) is the Carrington’s chauffer, who also includes bedding Fallon among his driverly duties.

NOW (Steven, Sam, Alexis, Culhane)

Steven (James Mackay) is among other things, a confident gay man, an activist, a former drug addict, and is also in love with Sammy Jo (Rafael de la Fuente), who this time around is Cristal’s nephew, also from Venezuela. Sam also sets up house at the Carrington manse, much to the chagrin of practically everyone there except Cristal. Alexis (Nicollette Sheridan), the former Mrs. Blake Carrington, swoops back into Atlanta to attend the funeral of Blake’s father, after being driven out by Blake years earlier so he could keep custody of Fallon and Steven after their divorce. Michael Culhane (Robert Christopher Riley) is the Carrington’s chauffer who breaks off his years-long affair with Fallon when he’s tired of just being her plaything.

THEN (Jeff, Monica, Cecil)

ColbyCo is Denver Carrington’s business rival.  Cecil Colby (Lloyd Bochner) runs the show while son Jeff Colby (John James) is a junior executive who falls in love with Fallon (and would eventually marry and have a son with her). Monica Colby (Tracy Scoggins) is Jeff’s cousin from California (who was not an original Dynasty character, since she was created for its spin-off, The Colbys, some 5 years after Dynasty originally premiered). Jeff and Monica are eventually revealed to be half-siblings when it is discovered that her father (Cecil’s brother, Jason) also fathered Jeff as a result of an affair with his mother.

NOW (Jeff, Monica, Cecil)

Jeff Colby (Sam Adegoke) is a self-made billionaire who runs ColbyCo and a variety of other holdings in Atlanta and elsewhere. He becomes partners with Fallon in her Morell Corp company and starts to pursue her romantically. His sister Monica (Wakeema Hollis) is Fallon’s BFF from high school and she eventually takes up with Culhane while Jeff and Fallon get more involved professionally and personally. But all is not rosy, as its revealed to be Jeff`s scheme to marry Fallon so he can take down Blake and Carrington Atlantic from the inside. Jeff believes Blake framed his father Cecil (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) for a crime he didn’t commit, which resulted in their father being taken away from Jeff and Monica and incarcerated for the past 11 years.

So there’s your general player-by-player comparison. Pretty interesting to see what’s the same and what’s changed—and how it’s been changed (including some big and welcome strides for diversity). But perhaps the most welcome thing about the new Dynasty is the most-honoured of all traditions that it has upheld. The catfights.

From the lily pond lashing of the old to the Christmas tree crashing of the new, Dynasty then and now always delivers the goods.

Entertainment High Points of 2017

I don’t consume nearly enough content of any one form of entertainment to properly do a 2017 “Top 10” for it. However, I do consume enough content across all forms of entertainment to compile a list of those that were some of the definite high points of 2017…and here they are.

Wonder Woman 

She came, she saw, and she conquered. Three movies in, and DC Entertainment’s attempt to grab a piece of the cinematic universe pie that Marvel has been gorging on for close to a decade now was still less than well-received by both fans and critics. The dour, gritty and grim DC “extended universe” trifecta of Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad did well enough at the box office, but weren’t getting movie-goers hyped up to see any more doom-and-gloom adventures from their favourite DC icons. Enter Diana of Themyscria—princess of the Amazons, in a tale filled of hope, triumph, and yes, wonder (not to mention one that was far removed from the era of previous DCEU films, by about nearly 100 years). Gal Godot brought charisma, honesty, strength and humour to her portrayal of the Amazing Amazon and the world responded. With a global take higher than even the most optimistic predictions ($821 million), Wonder Woman bested all other DCEU films at the box office, including the surprisingly under-performing, Justice League (which exceeded meager expectations and deserved better than to have made less than Suicide Squad).

Will & Grace 

When rebooting a series, the key to capturing the magic of the original is simple: Don’t change a thing. Will & Grace reappeared after an 11-year absence and it was like they’ve just been here all along. Welcome back, gang.

Dynasty 

File this remake under “guilty pleasures”. The 80s smash that brought to the masses shoulder pads, catfights and royal wedding massacres well before Game of Thrones, was given a fresh start with this deliciously enjoyable CW makeover. Still focusing on the uber-rich Carrington clan, the action has moved from Denver to Atlanta, the cast is more diverse, and mogul Blake Carrington is now years away from becoming a silver fox (but is still a fox nonetheless, as he’s played by Melrose Place alum, Grant Show). Unfortunately, it’s ratings have it languishing near the bottom of CW’s current roster. Here’s hoping Nicolette Sheridan will help pull in some more viewers when she arrives on the scene as the new Alexis (aka the role that shot Joan Collins into the celebrity stratosphere).

Astonishing X-Men 

Years ago, Marvel was miffed that they didn’t own the film rights for the X-Men and Fantastic Four (which they sold when they were in the throes of bankruptcy) and decided if they can’t play with their toys on the big screen, then they aren’t going to play with them at all. They effectively slid the X-Men and Fantastic Four to the back burners of the Marvel Universe while they tried upping the profiles of their lesser-known, but wholly-owned entities (namely, The Inhumans and Guardians of the Galaxy). So, it was a bit of a surprise when they recently re-launched their mutant comic book line-up with 8 new titles. The line-up is a mixed bag in both quality and content, but the clear standout is Astonishing X-Men.  This 12-issue limited series is a welcome return to form that features a classic, throwback cast consisting of Rogue, Psylocke, Gambit, Archangel and Bishop (along with wild cards Fantomex, Mystique and Old Man Logan) who join forces with their deceased mentor Charles Xavier to wage battle in the otherworldly realm of the Shadow King, with nothing less than the fate of the whole world as we know it at stake (or in other words, just another Tuesday in the MU).

“Bad Liar” – Selena Gomez 

I’ve been pretty indifferent when it comes to the musical output of Selena Gomez. It’s there, I don’t mind it, but I’m certainly not going out of my way to listen to any of it. That all changed with “Bad Liar”. Mature and hypnotic, this brought a new side of Gomez to the forefront – I had actually heard it a few times before finding out it was her, and was pleasantly surprised when I did. The only drawback? The accompanying 70s suburbia slice-of-life video, which places Selena in multiple roles that range from sublime (her ultra Farrah-esque gym teacher is a joy to watch) to downright skeevy (babyfaced Selena in full crotch-grabbing male drag, porn-stache and all, is just unconvincing and unsettling). Thankfully, the music has enough merit to stand on its own.

Now before I wrap this up, I’d like to give a shout-out to a couple of podcasts. While both of these actually premiered prior to 2017, they nonetheless brought such joy to me throughout this year that they couldn’t go unmentioned.

Who? Weekly 

Bobby Finger and Lindsey Weber keeps the chuckles coming with this twice-a-week podcast where they dish about the pseudo-famous (and Rita Ora) by giving you “everything you need to know about the celebrities you don’t”.

Bitch Sesh 

Casey Wilson and Danielle Schneider’s humourous podcast where they, along with a bevy of brilliant guests, examine all things Real Housewives (with a hilarious helping of all things Casey and Danielle as well).

And now for my highest high point of 2017…

“Cut To The Feeling” – Carly Rae Jepsen 

It’s an injustice that Jepsen’s post-“Call Me Maybe” output hasn’t been embraced even half as much as her career-making #1 smash (although I place a big part of that blame on the video for what should have been the big hit lead single off her sophomore album. Having Tom Hanks lip-sync nearly the entirety of “I Really Like You” while riding in a cab and doing other mundane things is definitely not something that encourages multiple views on YouTube). However, this track, originally left off said sophomore album only to find a home in Leap!, the little-seen animated ballerina flick featuring the voice of C-Rae Jeps herself, is something that demands attention. Energetic, exuberant and contagious, it was the perfect counterpoint to all the things that made you go “ugh” in 2017.

 

Happy New Year everyone!