Archive for the ‘Top 80 Greatest Television Shows’ Category

By Marilyn Ferdinand

“It’s the Sooooooooooooooooooul Traaaaaaaaaaaaain.”

People all over the world may not have been getting down, as the theme song for “Soul Train” during the years I watched (“TSOP” by MFSB) told them to, but I know that a lot of kids across the country were. From the first moment that falsetto, whistlelike announcement sounded and an animated train started its boogie into our living rooms, we were ready to party.

Through more than 1,100 programs, updated theme songs, and new hosts, the celebration of “peace, love, soul” that was “Soul Train” has endured as no other televised dance club has—the vanguard showcase of new music from and for the African-American community. But it wasn’t just for them. Don Cornelius, the brains behind “Soul Train” and its longtime host, knew white kids like me were tuning in, fed up with the sanitized music and format of “American Bandstand,” the show we were supposed to watch.

I can’t speak for the African-American viewers about what “Soul Train” meant to them, but to me it meant freedom. I saw young men and women of color, otherwise nonexistent in my suburban habitat, dance in ways I found exciting and inventive in vibrantly colored clothes cut high, low, wide, and skinny with a confidence and cool I could only dream of possessing. The music was earthy, rhythmic, infectious, and, of course, the very essence of soul. And the show inspired pride as two kids worked the Scramble Board to assemble the names of famous African-American people—Roberta Flack, Adam Clayton Powell, The Jackson Five and many more—from a random jumble of letters and then melt into the dancing around them when they had solved the puzzle. (more…)


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by Jillian Juliano

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, 42.  Execute. These six numbers, along with their corresponding characters:  John Locke, Hugo Reyes, James Ford, Sayid Jarrah, Jack Shepard, and Jin Kwon, known as the Oceanic Six, make up the central lore and mystery of the island.  There is also the smoke monster, random polar bears, and phony village people walking the sacred island.

The series starts off  Oceanic Flight 815, a flight that took off from Sydney, Australia, headed for the US.  When the plane crashes, it splits off in two. The front end of the plane landed on the beach, where the main group of survivors stayed for a good part of the show.  The tail end crashed on the other side of the island, creating two groups of survivors that have no idea the other group exists.

Back on the beach, the main characters are introduced: Jack Shepard (Matthew Fox), the righteous doctor that was bringing home his father’s dead body; Kate Austen (Evangeline Lily), the lawbreaking runaway being brought back to the states by a US marshal; John Locke (Terry O’Quinn), the crippled dreamer trying to defy the fact that he cannot walk any longer and moral compass; James “Sawyer” Ford (Josh Holloway), the wounded con-artist driven by the murder of his mother and the vengeance of his father; Hugo “Hurley” Reyes (Jorge Garcia), the comedic sweetheart who is trying to figure out his stroke of intense bad luck that came with his lottery winnings; Sayid Jarrah (Naveen Andrews), the former Iraqi Republican Guard attempting to atone for his past; Michael Dawson (Harold Perrineau), the artist who is trying to be the father for his son, Walt (Malcolm David Kelly), in which he never was able to be before; Charlie Pace (Dominic Monaghan), the famous rock musician dealing with his addiction to heroine; Claire Littleton (Emilie de Ravin), the pregnant damsel on the fence about giving her child up for adoption; Sun (Yunjin Kim) and Jin Kwon (Daniel Dae Kim), the dysfunctional married couple with immense love for each other but lost in how to rekindle that due to a controlling father-in-law; Boone Carlyle (Ian Somerhalder), the naive step brother to Shannon Rutherford (Maggie Grace), the spoiled dancer trying to make it in the industry. (more…)

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by Adam Ferenz

The funniest and saddest political scheme gone wrong in tv history. When Michael Murray becomes leader of his local city Council, he attempts a “Day Of Action”, a shutdown of all vital city services, including schools, as part of a plan to show force, by his hidden masters in the militant wing of his party. After one of his underlings goofs, allowing a single school to remain open by forgetting to send picketers, the local media makes an unwilling hero out of the schoolmaster, who immediately becomes the object of much rage by Murray, and an attack on his very sanity. Murray, however, is not without his own enemies, having a mysterious and potentially violent past in grammar school. As the series unfolds, truths will be known and lives forever altered. You will also laugh and cry in equal measure. You will also see the ways in which people who serve the public-or themselves-are often led astray by forces beyond their reckoning.

Michal Palin and Robert Lindsay are sensational, and utterly convincing, as the Schoolmaster and Politician. Neither actor had played anything quite like these characters. Of course, the series has intrigues, double dealings, gas lighting’s and more, but never descends to the level of soap or melodrama, but it is the characters, particularly the co-leads, that one will remember. Jim Nelson standing up to the bullying of Michael Murray, and Michael Murray looking for a condom when a Doctor Who convention breaks out, are classic scenes. One might appear to be well suited while the other likely has you scratching your head. It works, and if you want to see why, watch the series and find out for yourself.

This is one of those series that is among the best ever made for the medium-I personally rank it as the 10th greatest program ever aired on television, and the greatest achievement in British television history-yet few talk about it outside of those really in the know, or those who were around to watch it when it was first aired. A series that seemed to both take aim at residual Thatcherism and caution against arrogance in having unseated Thatcher, this is a program that requires viewers to think, to feel and to remember. Both Left and Right, which have different meanings than in the United States, come across looking foolish and petty. (more…)

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by Dennis Polifroni

“This is a true story.

The events depicted took place in Minnesota.

At the request of the survivors,

the names have been changed.

Out of respect for the dead,

the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.”

Read it carefully.  It’s a trick.

This is not a TRUE story.  It’s not about real people or incidents.  It’s not about crime cases that are rotting away in browning, paper folders in a police department filing cabinet labeled: UNSOLVED.

The opening statement, that precedes every episode of FARGO, and the film that inspired it, is a brain twister. It’s a nifty play on words. What you see and hear after that bullshit statement IS a story. It a PURE story, no meaning behind it. It’s a PURE yarn. Hence, a TRUE story.

And, a great story at that.

Ok, I’ll confess.

FARGO isn’t as timely or as important as THE HANDMAIDS TAIL, there’s no message or parallel with the horrors going on in today’s world.  FARGO isn’t an entertaining history lesson, based on fact, and elegantly presented, like THE CROWN. FARGO doesn’t hone in on important domestic and philosophical topics buried in the entertainment like THE SOPRANOS or SIX FEET UNDER. (more…)

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by Adam Ferenz

Glen Larson once created a series about a race of machine men called Cylons and their destruction of the Twelve Colonies. Years later, Ron Moore and David Eick reimagined that premise, keeping the Cylons and the destruction of the colonies, keeping the names-some of them, at least, with others being kept only in the form of call signs-and general roles of the characters, but altering them significantly, while adding and deleting where necessary. The result is perhaps the finest work of science fiction the small screen has ever seen.

The original series was cheesy. There are those who will take offense at this, and become indignant, asking why lighthearted fun like that found in the original has to be derided at the expense of praise for the dark seriousness of the reimagined series. That is not why audiences largely reject the original. It is because it is far too much a relic of its time. What Moore and company did, was to keep what little was original or eternal, and modernize it. Out went the cute kids, insipid guest stars and the constant clanking of clumsy looking robots walking on steel stems. In its place were human emotions, commentary on the socio-political landscape of the world during the first decade of the 21st century, and instead of metallic robots-though we occasionally did see them, and they were menacing, rather than awkward-we had the “skin job” Cylons, who were still machines, but they looked human. How and why this came about was a major thread throughout the series. Oh, and the Cylons, unlike the pantheists of the Twelve Colonies of Kobol, were monotheists. Yes, The Cylons believed in a One True God.

Yet it was not only religion that this series tackled, but attendant social structures, spirituality, reason v. belief, majority rule v. dictatorship, military v. non-military concerns, and parallels to the 9/11 attacks, the holocaust and the suicide bombers of the War Against Terror. It is also about fathers and sons, friends, about lovers-without ever being a romance-and about the ways people both draw together and pull apart in the midst of catastrophe. It is everything the original series was neither allowed to do, nor interested in doing. And it did this with a cast and production team that was at the top of their game. (more…)

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by Allan Fish

(UK 2015 350m) DVD1/2

Attempting a three card trick

p  Mark Pybus  d  Peter Kosminsky  w  Peter Straughan  novels  Hilary Mantel  ph  Gavin Finney  ed  David Blackmore, Josh Cunliffe  m  Debbie Wiseman  art  Frederic Evard, Pat Campbell  cos  Joanna Eatwell

Mark Rylance (Thomas Cromwell), Damian Lewis (Henry VIII), Bernard Hill (Norfolk), Claire Foy (Anne Boleyn), Anton Lesser (Thomas More), Jonathan Pryce (Wolsey), Mark Gatiss (Gardiner), Jessica Raine (Lady Rochford), Mathieu Amalric (Chapuys), Joanne Whalley (Katharine of Aragon), Natasha Little (Liz), Monica Dolan (Alice More), Charity Wakefield (Mary Boleyn), Bryan Dick (Richard Rich), David Robb (Thomas Boleyn), Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Rafe), Harry Lloyd (Harry Percy), Saskia Reeves (Johane), Richard Dillane (Suffolk), Will Kane (Cranmer), Kate Phillips (Jane Seymour), Aimee-Ffion Edwards (Elizabeth Barton),

We’d be forgiven for thinking we’d had enough of Henry VIII.  How many have there been?  Charles Laughton, Robert Shaw, Richard Burton and Keith Michell (four times!!!), we all know them, they were memorable.  Not forgetting The Tudors, but we’ll leave the final apologies to cover what was wrong with that; what Wolf Hall gave us was the antidote to The Tudors; no sex or bodice ripping here, no time for that nonsense.

Henry wasn’t always the centre of attention as played by all those actors listed above, sometimes he was a mere sideshow.  Even the famous Keith Michell TV series told its six episodes through the eyes of his six wives.  What Wolf Hallattempts though is even more ambitious, maintaining the entire narrative through the eyes not of his wives in turn but those of that embodiment of Machiavellian ambition Thomas Cromwell.  This is a very different Cromwell; he’s not the villain, not even an antihero, but Virgil to our Dante, guiding us through the maze of hedgerows, courtyards, alleys, corridors and other dimly lit interiors of Tudor England.  Oh, there’s splendour, naturally, but there’s always a chill in the air; it’s always a good day for an execution. (more…)

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by Adam Ferenz

Ken Russell did many crazy movies during his career, with The Devils often cited as his most insane work, and that is hard to argue. Unless one has seen this film, which is impossible to find in an un-bowdlerized edition-as the only available copies are not properly color timed and still have time stamps on them-which makes properly assessing this somewhat difficult. Telling the story of Richard Strauss, the film was part of a BBC series of programs, directed by Russell, in which he tackled major figures from classical music. His final film for the BBC, and for television, this film can be seen as a bold “fuck you and goodbye forever” from its director.

In this one, Russell upends the music of Strauss-here made caricature by a director who despised him- and explores themes that today might be considered offensive to sensitive types on the bullying right, particularly their Swastika wearing idols, but such was the bravery and openness with which Russell approached this material. There have been surrealists and absurdists in film. They have sometimes gone together but rarely have the two approaches combined so well as here. Scenes of nuns flogging themselves give way, eventually, to dancing Brownshirts, and Nazi Officers, including Goebbels giving a piggyback ride to a violinist who looks suspiciously like Hitler, during a playful sequence that appears to be set at Hitler’s retreat at Berchtesgaden. This is not a deep portrait in terms of making its character someone you know intimately, unless you consider knowing what Russel thought of him, and how history has judged his, as being deep or intimate.

Instead, what we receive as viewers is an impression of Strauss, as hollow yet potent metaphor, for a failed view of the world and philosophy of control. In this film, Strauss kills his critics with his music, plays his music ever more loudly to drown out his ignorance and culpability in the rise of Nazism, and, most importantly, is credited as co-writer on the film. This is testament to how Russell used the journals, letters and interviews with Strauss in order to indict him. Every word, then, is essentially true, and straight from the source. That the film is presented as a fevered nightmare is part of its charm. (more…)

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