Tag Archives: TV reviews

What’s On: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 1

series-of-unfortunate-events-to-hit-netflix-462487A Series of Unfortunate Events, Season 1 starring Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Warburton, Malina Weissman, Louis Hynes, Presley Smith, K. Todd Freeman, Usman Ally, Jacqueline Robbins, Joyce Robbins, Matty Cardaropole, and John DeSantis

Netflix, 2017.

Synopsis: After a fire kills their parents, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire are sent to live with their mysterious relative Count Olaf. The children soon learn that he is after their enormous fortune and will do anything to get his hands on it, leading the children on a series of harrowing adventures that will challenge them in ways they never thought possible.

Based on the book series by Lemony Snicket, the Netflix series could be considered a more concise follow-up to the 2004 film which was based on the first three books. Season One covers books 1-4, and each book is broken down into two episodes.  The two-episode format ensures that all the material from the books is included in the episode, and it feels much more concise than the film. The adaptation focuses more on the black humor element, making Lemony Snicket an actual character that narrates while navigating through the real-time events of the episodes. The range of the actors and the guest stars help to create the world of the books, and the actors themselves seem to have fun in their roles. A few elements have changed, but it helps to keep the viewer engaged and rounds out a few of the plot points from the books. The show plays up the V.F.D. as a secret society much more, creating characters that are operatives who are invested in helping the Baudelaires. It makes for an interesting bit of character development and creates a number of interesting plot devices as well. It’s definitely binge-worthy and fun for viewers of all ages.


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What’s On: Jessie

jessieJessie starring Debby Ryan, Peyton List, Cameron Boyce, Karan Brar, , Skai Jackson, and Kevin Chamberlin

Disney Channel, Fridays, 6:30/5:30c

Synopsis: Jessie Prescott has lived on a Texas military base for most of her life, but she has much bigger aspirations than adhering to the rules of her strict father. In an act of rebellion, she moves to New York and accepts a nanny job on the Upper West Side for the Ross family taking care of their four children. Will she make it in the city or will she have to go back to Texas?

I love that Debby Ryan is getting a chance to shine in her own series: she has a definite talent as an actress and a singer (in the true Disney child star fashion) and she is also credited as the show’s co-creator. Her character is quirky, determined, and has a lot of love to share for the kids she watches – a definite role model for viewers. She’s willing to acknowledge her faults and celebrates the wins. Her charges are definite characters as well: Emma is a diva, Luke is mischievous, Ravi is highly intelligent, and Zuri is highly creative. Even though Emma is the only biological child of the Ross’, she still plays the role of oldest when it comes to taking charge with her siblings though she often will only spend time alone with Zuri. Luke seems to be attracted to trouble, but he will pull through for his siblings when things get sticky. Ravi is arguably the most appreciative of his siblings. Zuri is sassy and isn’t afraid to speak her mind. The cast plays off of each other well, and it is hard not to like the characters and want to cheer for them, especially Jessie. She might not always know what she is doing, but she is willing to tackle every issue she encounters with the same gumption and spunk that won over the Ross family when she came to the city. The writing seems a little canned in some of the episodes, but the show does a wonderful job of showcasing a multi-cultural family that is working through their differences in order to become more accepting of each other and a stronger family.

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What’s On: Dog With a Blog

Dog-With-A-Blog-600x336Dog With a Blog starring G. Hannelius, Blake Michael, Francesca Capaldi, Stephen Full, Regan Burns, and Beth Littleford

Disney Channel, Fridays at 7/6c

Synopsis: Avery Jennings and Tyler James have a lot of adjusting to do. Not only are they step-siblings that need to learn to get along, they just found out (along with Tyler’s younger sister Chloe) their dog Stan can talk. The three new siblings decide to keep it a secret from their parents, lest they lose their family pet to science. But Stan has a secret too: he has a blog in which he writes about the happenings in the Jennings-James household. Hey, it’s the internet; anything is possible.

Well, what can you expect to get out of a show whose premise is pretty much summed up by the title? The show doesn’t actually have a whole lot going for it, to tell the truth: the writing is cliché, much of the humor is rather forced, and the characters feel a little flat and superficial. On the other hand, this family-oriented comedy offers the viewer clean-cut hilarity and a chance to see a family working through some very real problems. G. Hannelius and Blake Michael have a believable chemistry as step-siblings and their character’s personalities balance out in such a way that they almost complement each other. Capaldi’s character is probably the most random 7-year-old I’ve ever seen, but the effervescent nature of Chloe’s character keeps the Jennings-James parents on their toes and a source of entertainment for her older sibling and step-sibling. Stan is a cute dog with a heart of gold that wants to be able to help the family out of whatever situations in which they find themselves, but he’s obviously got to do it without the adults realizing he can speak. The fact that he has a blog is somewhat amusing and the fact that he is writing about the humans he lives with is even more amusing, but not quite amusing enough to keep the show as a whole together. I can appreciate that TV is trying to bring back the talking animals bit that was popular in the 90s, but there is a point at which you just need to let an idea go and move on to something else.

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TV on DVD: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Book 3: Fire

avatar_book_3Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 3: Fire

Nickelodeon Animation Studios, 2008. DVD/Netflix

Synopsis: Having mastered Earthbending and survived the battle with Azula, Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Toph must now enter the Fire Nation so that Aang can master the final element. Once in the Fire Nation, they learn about the plans Firelord Ozai has to use Sozin’s Comet to spread the war’s destruction and his authority over the four nations. With lots to learn and very little time to do it, the group will have to rely on unexpected alliances if they are to help Aang realize his destiny.

Our heroes have had it surprisingly easy so far, compared to the challenge they face entering the Fire Nation and defeating Firelord Ozai. The story and the world continue to build on itself as we are introduced more fully to the people of the Fire Nation and Aang begins to embrace the idea of himself as the Avatar, though he still has some reservations about what this role means for him. Katara and Sokka have grown up significantly since the beginning of the series, and have developed into warriors in their own way as they help Aang master the elements. And even though Toph has only been with the group since the previous season, she is becoming more of a team player and a more compassionate person. Zuko has changed noticeably as well, but has he changed for the better or will he fall back into old habits? The art in the series is continually solid and lovingly animated to send our heroes out with a bang as we work toward the four-part finale that brings the series to a close. It’s sad, sweet, funny, and everything we love about the series, but it is still hard to say goodbye to these characters that we have been cheering for. But we can always go back to the beginning and start the series over…or The Legend of Korra….

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TV on DVD: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Book 2: Earth

avatar_book_2Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 2: Earth

Nickelodeon Animation Studios, 2007. DVD/Netflix

Synopsis: After mastering Waterbending, Aang, Katara, and Sokka journey into the Earth Kingdom to continue Aang’s quest to master the four elements. As Aang continues to train, the group seeks to stay one step ahead of Fire Lord Zuko and his sister Princess Azula, who are hot on their train. Along the way, they will encounter old friends and new who will aid them in bringing an end to the war and restoring peace to the world.

This series has the unique ability to keep building on itself and that is what this second season does: adds more and more dimensions to the world and the characters. We see much more of Zuko’s backstory and begin to understand the harshness and the anger behind his actions goes far beyond what we first believe. We also meet Toph, a blind Earthbender who reluctantly joins the team to help Aang master the element of earth. I think she’s actually one of my favorite characters, and not just because she can be overly sarcastic; she sees the world in a very different way because she is blind and she has a different take on what it means for Aang to become the Avatar. Sokka continues to provide a majority of the comic relief, but his awkwardness is slowly being outgrown as the series goes on. There’s also much more romance in the air in this season, partially because the characters are growing up a little more. The art that swept us away to a snow-covered North in the previous season now takes us to the orange and browns of the deserts that make up the Earth Kingdom, almost in tandem with the sense of urgency that our characters feel as they find themselves growing more and more anxious about what their futures will bring. The story is well-written, the scripts well-executed by the actors, and it has a rare depth to it that goes beyond the notion that cartoons are just for kids. It is a show that is enjoyed on multiple levels by all ages.

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TV on DVD: Avatar: The Last Airbender, Book 1: Water

avatar_book_1Avatar: The Last Airbender – Book 1: Water

Nickelodeon Animation Studios, 2005. DVD/Netfix

Synopsis: For a hundred years, the Fire Nation has threatened the freedom of the Water, Earth, and Air nations in a war that will likely destroy life as the people know it. So when Katara and her brother Sokka find Aang, a young boy chosen to become the master of the four elements known as the Avatar, frozen in a giant iceberg near their home, they have hope that perhaps the war will soon be over. The three friends set off on a journey to help Aang master the art of water-bending on his way to becoming the man that will help restore the world order.

I don’t remember what possessed me to watch this series initially, but once I got started on it, I couldn’t stop. The story, the world, and the characters are exceptionally crafted and it has a certain all ages appeal that makes it something really special – at least for me. The world of Avatar is one that is both ancient and futuristic, but for me falls more into a fantasy genre more than anything. The peoples of the Air, Water, Earth, and Fire nations each have their own distinctive traditions, ways of life, and unique elemental manipulation skills called bending not unlike the cultures of the modern world and do bear certain resemblances to our modern peoples. The characters are three-dimensional right from the first episode: Katara is a young girl that cares very much for her family and wants to be able to find out what happened to her lost mother; Sokka is a little girl-crazy, but he is loyal and fights to take care of his sister and his family; Aang is young and irresponsible and struggling with having the shoulder the responsibility of being the Avatar, but with Katara and Sokka’s help he’ll become the savior that the world needs. Funny, mysterious, and visually moving, Avatar: The Last Airbender is a fun and engaging series that explores the notions of children in war and the larger destiny that we have waiting for us.

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Retro Review: Boy Meets World

boy_meets_worldBoy Meets World starring Ben Savage, Rider Strong, Danielle Fishel, Will Friedle, William Daniels, Betsy Randle, and William Russ

ABC, 1993-2000

Synopsis: Cory Matthews, his best friend Shawn, and his girlfriend Topanga have been through just about everything together and now they are about to enter high school. The three teens receive mentoring from Mr. Feeny, who is also Cory’s next-door neighbor as they navigate both the academic and social trials of secondary education.

I remember this show as part of a block of Friday night television shows called ‘TGIF‘ that included another favorite, Sabrina the Teenage Witch (insert some comment here about how TV isn’t the same). I also remember not watching it after a while because my mother didn’t like the direction the show was going and in all honesty, after a while the show became rather repetitive. This doesn’t stop me from watching reruns on ABC Family when I happen to catch them because it reminds me of the more enjoyable portions of my adolescent years (which, let’s face it, are pretty terrible all around) and because the comedy still strikes a chord years later. The situations that Cory, Shawn, and Topanga find themselves in are really no different that the experiences of teens today. Plus, my friends and I really loved Feeny and we wished we could have an adult in our lives that related to us on our level both during and after school hours, not to mention the ridiculous antics of Cory’s older brother Eric. And even though Cory and his friends went through so many ups and downs, we were still rooting for them to succeed and find a way out of a situation, which thanks to Feeny, often involved learning a lesson. It’s realistic, it’s honest, it doesn’t often sugarcoat issues, and the characters were likable. The plots you could either take or leave, but there’s still a resounding message of sticking together and offering support.

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