Tuned In Journal http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com Tue, 07 Jul 2015 15:39:32 -0400 en-gb IFC's comedy miniseries 'The Spoils Before Dying' unspools http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39254-ifc-s-second-comedy-miniseries-the-spoils-before-dying http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39254-ifc-s-second-comedy-miniseries-the-spoils-before-dying

Spoils Before Dying

"The Spoils Before Dying," IFC's follow-up to last year's comedy miniseries "The Spoils of Babylon," arrives this week, airing its six episodes at 9 and 9:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday.

Though not a sequel, it's another comedy that pokes fun at conventions of a genre that's based on another novel by fictional author Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell), who introduces each episode. Several cast members from the original return as new characters, including Kristen Wiig and Hayley Joel Osment.

Some of the gags feel recycled from "Babylon," especially the traveling shots that rely on model cars and buildings, but the jazz backdrop offers enough new elements to skewer to make "Dying" worthwhile.

Read more after the jump. ...

This time around it's a pulp-noir murder mystery set in the Los Angeles jazz scene. Rock Banyon (Michael Kenneth Williams, "Boardwalk Empire") becomes a suspect in the murder of his occasional lover Fresno Foxglove (Maya Rudolph, "Saturday Night Live). He tries to clear his name with the help of long-time friend, big band singer Delores DeWinter (Kristen Wiig), who sings "Give Me Booze and Pills" and really seems to be making the request, not just singing a torch song.

Wednesday's premiere episode offers a lot of set-up but the second half-hour is funnier as Fresno's ghost appears to Banyon.

"I blacked out, maybe I did kill you," Banyon says.

"No, you create, you don't destroy," Ghost Fresno replies.

"Creation is part of destruction," Banyon says.

"You're making no sense," Ghost Fresno says.

"No sense is the only sense worth making in a world that's predicated on nonsense," Banyon says nonsensically.

"You lost me lover," Ghost Fresno says.

Gleefully absurd and filled with terrific comic performances -- Wiig and Rudolph are stand-outs in the first two episodes -- "The Spoils Before Dying" marks another winning offbeat comedy from IFC. "Spoils Before Dying" is more gonzo and weird-funny than the laugh-out-loud comedy of "Another Period" on Comedy Central but there's clearly room for myriad forms of out-of-the-mainstream comedy on cable.

rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Tue, 07 Jul 2015 10:53:01 -0400
PBS's 'POV' looks at the child welfare system in 'Tough Love' http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39253-pbs-s-pov-looks-at-the-child-welfare-system-in-tough-love http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39253-pbs-s-pov-looks-at-the-child-welfare-system-in-tough-love


Tough Love

PBS’s 90-minute “P.O.V.” documentary “Tough Love” (10 tonight, WQED-TV) takes viewers inside America’s child welfare system.

True to the show’s title, this account offers a distinctive point of view: It’s focused on the journeys of two parents who lost custody of their children and their efforts to win their kids back. Considering this focus, “Tough Love” is relatively unsparing in its depiction of the positives and negatives attached to each parent. But the film squarely sides with parents and doesn’t adequately address what’s in the best interest of their children.

As the parent of an adopted child from the foster care system, it’s a challenge to accept the premise of "Tough Love" when you’ve seen the results of neglectful parents.

Read more after the jump. …

“Tough Love” begins by noting that last year 250,000 children were removed from their parents’ custody and put in foster care and that in 79 percent of these cases, parents were charged with neglect or abuse.

The film follows two parents, Patrick in Seattle (pictured above) and Hannah in New York, whose children are in the system. One of the film’s failings is not adequately explaining why the children were removed in the first place.

In Patrick’s case, he says his daughter Natalya was put into foster care after he called child protective services on the girl’s mother, who was using meth. Why couldn’t Patrick take care of Natalya? “I had to go to jail,” he says. For what? “Tough Love” never tells viewers.

In Hannah’s case, she left her children in the care of her mother for nights at a time, without saying when she’d be back. An anonymous call to CPS accusing Hannah of neglect led her two children to foster care. Now she’s pregnant with a third by her new husband. When that child arrives, new allegations of neglect regarding the infant spring from nowhere or at least “Tough Love” doesn’t explain them.

“Tough Love” should probably be required viewing in middle school and high school health classes. Showing the consequences of having a child – and the rough road some parents go down – might be useful to teens who feel invincible.

Shot over several years by producer/director Stephanie Wang-Breal, “Tough Love” does a public service by shining a light on the system and the work of those involved. It depicts state and non-profit agency workers who are trying to make a difference for children; it also shows those who fail, including Hannah’s lawyer who never returns a call. (Been there, experienced that: Still waiting on a former foster child’s lawyer to respond to re-mails and phone calls sent three years ago.)

In the end, “Tough Love” gives a happy ending for both parents and the film is mostly even-handed in its depiction of the specifics in these cases, showing (or at least telling viewers about) these parents at their best and worst. But the film is just a snapshot of the child welfare system and by no means tells the whole story of how children are damaged by neglect and how they are traumatized by going into foster care.

“Tough Love” never addresses with much depth the general rule for many states, which is the low-bar requirement that parents must be “minimally adequate” to regain custody of their children.

With the case of Patrick, in particular, “Tough Love” shows him taking a multi-year journey to sobriety and a newfound ability to parent his child. It’s a happy ending but “Tough Love” doesn’t make clear whether a rehabilitated parent is the rare exception or the general rule.


rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Mon, 06 Jul 2015 12:38:01 -0400
TV Q&A: 'Nurse Jackie,' 'Masterpiece Mystery!' and local weathercasters http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39278-tv-q-a-nurse-jackie-masterpiece-mystery-and-local-weathercasters http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39278-tv-q-a-nurse-jackie-masterpiece-mystery-and-local-weathercasters


Click here for a link to headlines of recent TV news and views posts.

TV Q&A with Rob Owen

Submit a question to TV Q&A by sending an email to rowen@post-gazette.com (include your first name and location) or submitting online at http://old.post-gazette.com/tv/questions/qaform.asp.

This week's TV Q&A (after the "Read more" jump below) responds to questions about “Masterpiece Mystery!,” “Nurse Jackie” and local TV forecasters.  As always, thanks for reading and keep the questions coming.

- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer

Q: Are there any new “Masterpiece Mystery” series scheduled?  I can’t find any information online. WQED is running repeats — I don’t know if it’s just our station or PBS nationally that is doing this. It’s enormously frustrating that they are always begging for money rather than having scheduled programs.

Rob: New episodes of “Poldark” are the current “Masterpiece” production in prime time and it looks like new “Mystery!” episodes have the summer off.

The next original “Mystery!” miniseries, “Arthur & George,” starring Martin Clunes (“Doc Martin”), will air this fall.

Repeats, programmed at each local stations’ discretion, are airing this summer.


Q: When will the final season of "Nurse Jackie" be available on DVD? 


Rob: The DVD of the final season of “Nurse Jackie” has not yet gotten an announced release date. My guess is it will happen before the end of the year. The bigger question is: Will a complete series box set come out in 2015 or 2016?


Q: I have been wondering does DIY plan to show any new “Mike Holmes Makes It Right” shows? If so do you know when they will be aired?


Rob: It appears from Holmes’ website that the show moved to HGTV in 2014, but a representative for sister networks DIY and HGTV said no new episodes are currently slated to air on either channel.


Q: With the recent retirement of Dennis Bowman at KDKA plus the turnover at the WTAE and WPXI, how many of their current weather staff are actual, certified meteorologists, and which ones are just "personalities"? 


Rob: This question gets back to an issue I first wrote about back in 2003: There is no licensing for meteorologists so anyone can claim to be one.

But I suppose we can consider the education of the weathercasters in the Pittsburgh market.

Back in 2003, four local TV forecasters had college degrees in meteorology or atmospheric science. I was surprised to discover that today there’s just one, WTAE’s Steve MacLaughlin, who has a degree in meteorology from Rutgers University.

Based on forecaster bios, every other forecaster in the market, including the departed Dennis Bowman and his replacement Ron Smiley, has a certificate (or degree minus the math portion, so CBM seal ineligible) of broadcast meteorology from Mississippi State, which offers distance learning courses for weathercasters. (The only one with no mention of any weather training in his or her bio is KDKA-TV’s Jon Burnett.)

If we consider training from the Mississippi State program enough to confer the title of “certified meteorologist” -- at one time the legitimacy of the Mississippi State program was and may still be a source of contention among those with an actual meteorology degree -- then there’s only one forecaster locally who is “just a personality,” as Dave says. But because there is no actual certification required to become a forecaster, Dave’s question has no cut and dried answer.



The network response you posted last week concerning the ability/inability to get to "500 Questions" on the ABC fame show begs the real question: Given enough time someone might get there. My issue is that the show ran for nine hours – each hour covered approximately 50 questions.  Therefore, it would have been impossible for even the first contestant to reach the 500 question goal. Who schedules a show where the premise is impossible to fulfill? (There is/was no guarantee that the show would be renewed based on ratings etc. so that the best the first contestant could do was 450 questions with each succeeding contestant having even less than a chance.) Why should a viewer invest the time to watch a futile attempt to win?




rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Fri, 03 Jul 2015 10:22:01 -0400
Revisiting 'Wayward Pines' http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39226-revisiting-wayward-pines http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39226-revisiting-wayward-pines

Wayward Pines post reveal

Fox's "Wayward Pines" (9 tonight, WPGH) had its big reveal two episodes ago (SPOILERS TO FOLLOW) and now it's time to revisit the series after the history of the town has been revealed.

Read more after the jump. ...

So the big secret is this: Wayward Pines is not so much a town of mystery but a mystery in time. The people who live there were cryogenically frozen in 2014 and woke up in 4028 after the world was decimated. They are humanity's survivors.

Here's how Fox describes it:

Midway through summer’s No. 1 new scripted series, WAYWARD PINES, shocking truths have been revealed and Sheriff Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) must decide what to do with this newfound knowledge. ... In a mind-bending twist, residents of the town are living in the year 4028 and the future of Wayward Pines rests with the “first generation” of children, including Ethan’s son, Ben (Charlie Tahan). Dr. Jenkins/David Pilcher (Toby Jones) is the man behind the madness, who knew that humans were doomed to de-volve, genetically changing into blood-thirsty aberrations or “Abbies.” In an attempt to save an all-but-extinct humanity, he handpicked people he wanted to keep alive to further the species, and created the eerie utopia of Wayward Pines.


Only the town leaders know the secret. And that's where "Wayward Pines" still has to win me over. The notion that adults would be suicidal if they knew the truth just doesn't wash with me. That's what I was referring to in my original review of the series when I wondered, "Will more screen time allow the Big Secret to make sense?"

Even after tonight's episode, I'm not sure I'm sold on "Wayward Pines" holding together as a coherent story, one that is not riddled with plot holes. But I am enjoying some of the alliance swapping that we're seeing now that Ethan is in on the secret and his wife and former partner/lover are not. Only four more episodes remain, so I'll stick with it to see how executive producer Chad Hodge wraps this thing up.

What do you think? Login via Facebook and post your reactions to the Big Reveal below.

rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Thu, 02 Jul 2015 09:08:01 -0400
Tuned In podcast: 'Nurse Jackie,' 'Mr. Robot' and 'The Last Ship' http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39268-tuned-in-podcast-nurse-jackie-mr-robot-and-the-last-ship http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39268-tuned-in-podcast-nurse-jackie-mr-robot-and-the-last-ship

 tuned in podcast logo

Post-Gazette online features editor Sharon Eberson and media writer Maria Sciullo join me to discuss "Nurse Jackie," "Mr. Robot" and "The Last Ship."

Find the podcast link after the jump. ...

Access the Tuned In podcast on the PG Soundcloud site  or below:



rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Wed, 01 Jul 2015 09:22:01 -0400
MTV set to 'Scream' with TV version of movie franchise http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39171-mtv-set-to-scream-with-tv-version-of-movie-franchise http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39171-mtv-set-to-scream-with-tv-version-of-movie-franchise


MTV debuts a TV series inspired by the "Scream" movie franchise tonight at 10 and it's a surprisingly well-made teen horror drama with dollops of self-aware humor. It's a better bet than CBS's ridiculous "Zoo," another series premiere airing tonight.

Read more after the jump. ...

Scream TV series

Just as the "Scream" movies begin with the murder of a young woman (it was Drew Barrymore in the 1996 first film), the TV series starts the same way with wealthy, snooty Nina Patterson (Bella Thorne, "Shake It Up") being stalked when she's home alone. The series keeps up with technology -- this time she's stalked by texts instead of phone calls -- but the end result is the same. (Oddly, Nina is not the only teen to die in that first scene but no one seems to notice her boyfriend got beheaded. Odd.)

From there "Scream" introduces the show's primary cast, including nice girl Emma (Willa Fitzgerald, "Royal Pains"), who was elementary school friends with Audrey (Bex Taylor-Klaus, "The Killing"), who gets outed kissing another girl early in the "Scream" premiere.

Emma dates Will (Connor Weil, "Sharknado"), who may also have had a relationship with Nina, which sends Emma into the arms of new student Kieran (newcomer Amadeus Serafini). Emmas's mom (Tracy Middendorf, "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine") works as the town medical examiner and has a connection to a past murder spree that occurred when she was a teen. She teams with the town sheriff (Jason Wiles, "Third Watch") to try to track down the killer.

Emma's other friends include snooty Brooke (Carlson Young) and Audrey's nerdy best friend, Noah (John Karna), who offers meta commentary on a TV series version of "Scream."

"You can't do a slasher movie as a TV series," he says. "Slasher movies burn bright and fast. TV needs to stretch things out."

Whether "Scream" can overcome Noah's legitimate concerns about adapting a slasher movie for TV remains to be seen. But tonight's premiere gets the show off to a strong creative start. 

rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Tue, 30 Jun 2015 12:28:01 -0400
OWN's 'The Haves and the Have Nots' is a scream http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39238-own-s-the-haves-and-the-have-nots-is-a-scream http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39238-own-s-the-haves-and-the-have-nots-is-a-scream


I had never seen OWN's "The Haves and the Have Nots" (9 p.m. Tuesday) because OWN tends to sneak these Tyler Perry shows on without a ton of notice and they often don't send out screeners.

But I needed to watch an episode to see Western Pennsylvania native Allison McAtee at work. And Oh. My. Goodness. This show is so bad.

Read more after the jump. ...

Haves Have Nots 2

We're talking so-bad-it's-funny bad.

First off, the production values are sub-daytime soap opera bad. Scenes go on and on for long minutes of dialogue and then the show shifts to another scene that goes on and on. And then to another. There's little cross-cutting between scenes,which is common in prime-time dramas today.

In the episode I saw a woman was scheming to sleep with a gay dude, promising him, "We can watch gay porn." Turns out it was a setup by the guy's anti-gay mother, Veronica Harrington (Angela Robinson), who also tries to burn her husband alive by pouring gasonline around the bedroom and setting the bed on fire. But because this show has such a mico-budget, viewers never saw the fire, which was merely suggested with lighting and sound effects. (The fire gambit came about after Veronica performed oral sex on another man whicle in her SUV and then gave him the pricey vehicle).

"The Haves and the Have Nots" is just bananas. And yet, I could see where it might be addictive, too. I'll try to resist the urge to revisit it for all the wrong reasons.

Here's how OWN describes the series:

About “The Haves and the Have Nots

The one-hour soapy drama, “The Haves and the Have Nots,” follows the tangled lives of the wealthy Cryer and Harrington families and the poor Young family. As the season begins, all three of the families are in crisis. A fire tears through the Harrington mansion, sparked by socialite Veronica Harrington (Angela Robinson) in a fit of jealous rage aimed at her husband David Harrington (Peter Parros).  Once again, Candace Young (Tika Sumpter) who extorted millions from judge Jim Cryer (John Schneider), finds herself in the crosshairs of trouble --- accused by Jim and his wife Katheryn (Renee Lawless) for the death of their daughter andstopping at nothing to find her missing child.  Meanwhile, the sons --- Wyatt Cryer (Aaron O’Connell), Jeffrey Harrington (Gavin Houston) and Benny Young (Tyler Lepley) --- must grapple with their own issues and the aftermath of their actions. And Young family matriarch, Hanna (Crystal Fox), struggles to hold her family together. 

rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Mon, 29 Jun 2015 09:23:01 -0400
TV Q&A: 'Game of Thrones,' '500 Questions' and a KDKA meteorologist http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39249-tv-q-a-game-of-thrones-500-questions-and-a-kdka-meteorologist http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39249-tv-q-a-game-of-thrones-500-questions-and-a-kdka-meteorologist

Click here for a link to headlines of recent TV news and views posts.

TV Q&A with Rob Owen

Submit a question to TV Q&A by sending an email to rowen@post-gazette.com (include your first name and location) or submitting online at http://old.post-gazette.com/tv/questions/qaform.asp.

This week's TV Q&A (after the "Read more" jump below) responds to questions about “Game of Thrones,” “500 Questions” and a KDKA meteorologist.  As always, thanks for reading and keep the questions coming.

- Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV writer

Q: Why have a show called “500 Questions” when there is no way that it would ever reach 500?


Rob: The show’s producers dispute Janet’s supposition.

“No contestant was able to reach 500 questions in this run, but this goal is achievable, albeit a very difficult achievable goal, which is why the game is both a test of knowledge and a test of stamina,” said an ABC publicist in response to Janet’s query.


Q: Will there be another Hallmark Channel movie starring Tom Selleck as “Jesse Stone”?


Rob: Yes, there will. In May Hallmark Channel announced production was underway on the latest “Jesse Stone” movie, “Lost in Paradise,” which will air this fall on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.


“Game of Thrones” spoiler alert on the next question if you haven’t seen the June 14 season finale. (scroll down):












Q: Is Kit Harrington really gone from HBO’s “Game of Thrones”?


Rob: That is the $1 million question, isn’t it? Harrington himself told EW.com he won’t be back on the series next season and he has lined up a new job.

But readers of the books believe Jon Snow is ripe for resurrection. So could another actor take over the role post-resurrection? Or is Jon good and truly dead? Or do we have to read between the lines and suspect that although Harrington says, “I’ve been told I’m dead. I’m dead. I’m not coming back next season,” perhaps his character will sit out season six in anticipation of rising from the dead in season seven?

We’ll have to watch and see.


Q: What happened to Mr. Bowman, the longtime meteorologist on KDKA-TV? You may have mentioned previously answered this question, but if you did, we obviously missed it.


Rob: Dennis Bowman announced his retirement in January and my colleague Maria Sciullo wrote about his last day on the air at KDKA-TV in April.

Bowman’s replacement, newcomer Ron Smiley, began on-air at the station this week.



rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Fri, 26 Jun 2015 11:21:01 -0400
Fox's 'Boom' goes bust http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39225-fox-s-boom-goes-bust http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39225-fox-s-boom-goes-bust

 Boom 1

For its latest escapist summer fare, Fox looks to meld "Super Sloppy Double Dare" with the ticking time bomb from action movies for "Boom!" (8 tonight, WPGH).

The result is messily intriguing at the outset -- what will it look like? -- and then grows progressively repetitive and dull over time.

Read more -- and see an image of an explosion -- after the jump. ...

Boom 2

The show's basic game play works like this: A three-person team (family members or friends usually) come on stage with host Tom Papa. They are told the category of the question and decide among themselves who will answer. Once they do this, Papa reads off the multiple choice answers and then finally reveals the question.

A bomb is presented to the contestant with the number of wires matching the number of multiple choice answers. Usually the question is something along the lines of "Which three of the following four movie titles were based on books?" The contestant then has to cut one colored wire at a time, each one representing a similarly colored multiple choice answer.

The best part is watching Papa in the background run when he knows the contestant is cutting a wrong wire that will lead to the "bomb" detonating and everyone nearby being covered in some sort of goop (pizza sauce, pesto, alfredo sauce). Papa's attempt to escape is especially noticeable on the movies-based-on-books question when the contestant goes to cut the wire for "Toy Story," which was not based on a book.

So, yes, the gimmick of seeing contestants -- and members of the audience splash zone who wear ponchos and goggles -- get covered in muck is kind of amusing on a base level the first couple of times. But after that, there's nothing to distinguish "Boom!" The gross-out factor is the only thing unique about the series and that wears thin quickly, which makes "Boom" mostly a bust.

rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Thu, 25 Jun 2015 09:25:01 -0400
Tuned In podcast: 'True Detective,' 'Poldark' and 'Suits' http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39246-tuned-in-podcast-true-detective-poldark-and-suits http://communityvoices.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment-living/tuned-in/item/39246-tuned-in-podcast-true-detective-poldark-and-suits


tuned in podcast logo

Post-Gazette online features editor Sharon Eberson joins me to discuss "True Detective," "Poldark" and "Suits."

Find the podcast link after the jump. ...

Access the Tuned In podcast on the PG Soundcloud site  or below:



rowen@post-gazette.com (Rob Owen) Tuned In Journal Wed, 24 Jun 2015 15:33:37 -0400