TCA Summer 2013: Things We Loved (Part 1)



National Geographic

"Killing Kennedy"

“Killing Kennedy”

KILLING KENNEDY caught immediate attention with its stunning adaption of the story of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  It is the parallel tale of Lee Harvey Oswald and Kennedy, starting one year before the shooting, which unravels the backstory of who these two men were before that fateful day. Based on the book of the same name written by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, this tale assumes Oswald acted alone to bring about this national tragedy. With a fine array of stars perfectly encompassing their iconic roles (Rob Lowe, Ginnifer Goodwin, Michelle Trachtenberg and Will Rothhar), as well as being produced by Ridley Scott, KILLING KENNEDY is riveting.  It will air this November on National Geographic Channel.



BBC America

Whether it is DOCTOR WHO, LUTHER, COPPER or the infectious ORPHAN BLACK, BBC America’s programming is simply eye-catching and wonderful.  From traveling time lords to driven cops to clones to adventures across time and space, BBC America offers some of the richest original programming on today’s television.  This Fall, they offer the 50th Anniversary episode of DOCTOR WHO, scheduled to air November 23rd, which coincides with the launch of their new fantasy series ATLANTIS, starring Jemima Rooper and Mark Addy as the cursed Medusa and Hercules respectively.  Also airing this Fall is the DOCTOR WHO-related film “An Adventure in Time and Space” starring David Bradley as William Hartnell, the first actor to depict The Doctor on screen in the long-running sci-fi series.  LUTHER also returns for its 3rd season in the first week of September, airing back-to-back episodes that week.  Then the critically-acclaimed and fangasmic series ORPHAN BLACK returns in Spring 2014 with its second season.  Finally, the limited series BROADCHURCH, starring David Tennant, Arthur Darvill and Olivia Colman, debuts August 7th.  It is a phenomenally well-done tale of the murder of young boy and how it tears apart a community as the culprit is sought.  Take the time to watch this series.  For all the tears, it is extremely fascinating to watch it play out.

"Discovery Channel"

“Discovery Channel”

Discovery Channel

Another historical drama which looked incredible was the upcoming 6-part mini-series KLONDIKE on Discovery Channel.  Also directed by Ridley Scott, the series features the harsh life of gold rush era.  Filmed on location, the scenery is both majestic and brittle in the cold climate of Alberta, Canada.  Starring Richard Madden, Tim Roth and Sam Shepard, the story digs into the personal lives and desperate motivations of those consumed with gold rush fever.  Those precious nuggets made and destroyed lives, but based on the book “Gold Diggers” by Charlotte Gray, each tale illustrates the men who attempted to thrive during those heady times.  Look for KLONDIKE to air in 2014 on the Discovery Channel.

SCI1Science Channel

Many cool TV shows are looking back at history, but the one show that stood out that looked at the future was the upcoming series FUTURESCAPE, narrated by James Woods.  The series examines what the world will look like when man and machine meld and redefine what it means to be human.  With humans taking on more and more attributes of artificial life, which includes prosthetic limbs and electronic implants, at what point does a human give up their innate rights?  And it considers whether or not robots and A.I. will ever reach the point where they may challenge their right to basic rights like voting and self-determination.  The series poses lots of interesting questions that need to be considered as we race towards the future.  Science fiction has at times become the reality of the world we live in today, so this foreseen future may not be that far off.  FUTURESCAPE will air in 2014 on the Science Channel.

"Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight"

“Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight”


One of the biggest surprises was the upcoming made-for-TV film “Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight.”  Unlike the first impression that it was a boxing film, the film is actually a gripping Supreme Court drama starring Christopher Plummer, Frank Langella and Benjamin Walker.  Taking clips of Muhammad Ali and inserting them into the film, the story is actually about the behind-the-scenes drama at the U.S. Supreme Court between Justice Harlan and his clerk as they attempted to determine the outcome of Muhammad Ali’s case claiming conscientious objector status to the Vietnam War.  What made this film stand out for me was the legal issues so ferociously fought on both sides and how one justice took an unpopular stand in a very contentious time of war.  Despite the misleading title, the film is going on my must-see list for this fall.  It is scheduled to air in October on HBO.

"Low Winter Sun"

“Low Winter Sun”


Making its debut on August 11th is the new cop drama LOW WINTER SUN, starring Mark Strong and Lennie James.  A dark series that captivates and repels simultaneously, this new series is worth watching just to see the actors inhabit their roles so flawlessly.  Then returning for its 3rd season on August 10th is the western drama series HELL ON WHEELS.  Continuing the tortured tale of Cullen Bohannan (Anson Mount) paired with Elam Ferguson (Common), HELL ON WHEELS takes us back into their scenic yet violent world of life on the railroad post-Civil War.  Both series rely on the strength of superior casting and it makes each much more compelling as a result.

"The Witches of East End"

“The Witches of East End”


On a lighter note, I was delighted to find that Lifetime’s new supernatural series THE WITCHES OF EAST END was a fun, frothy adaptation of the Melissa de la Cruz novel.  The series features the intertwined lives of a witch and her two adult daughters caught up in a tragic cycle of being cursed to live their lives over and over again because of their immortality.  The twist is that this time the daughters were not raised knowing they are witches, which leads to all sorts of shenanigans as they reach adulthood.  Starring Juia Ormond, Rachel Boston, Jenna Dewan-Tatum, Madchen Amick and Eric Winter, the show spotlights levity amongst the drama and brings a fun sexy element to the show.  THE WITCHES OF EAST END will debut October 6th on Lifetime.



Pivot vs. Revolt

Two new channels are coming soon to your TV.  The first is Revolt, brought to the airwaves by musical entrepreneur Sean Combs.  Seeking to offer the youth of today a place to discover music on television, Revolt will showcase new and current music along with featured stories about the artists and the industry that makes up the music world.  Recognizing that the traditional music channels of MTV, MTV 2 and VH1 have largely abandoned the realm of music, Revolt will seek to fill that void.  Simultaneously, the new channel Pivot seeks to fill the vacancy for youth-oriented news programming.  Believing that the needs of the Millennial Generation are being largely ignored and unrepresented by traditional television networks, Pivot wants to cater exclusively to the news and interests of the 18-34 years olds. What remains to be seen is whether the Millennials (who are widely-known as “cord cutters”) will manage to find a way to watch both these new youth-oriented TV channels.  By simply offering relevant channels, will that be enough to convince the cord-cutting generation to buy cable TV or even a television set to watch these new channels?  Pivot launches August 1st with the news program “TakePart Live” (hosted by Jacob Soboroff) and “HitRecord” (hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), as well as the comedy series “Please Like Me” (starring Josh Thomas).  Then Revolt launches later this Fall.

"The Profit"

“The Profit”


Surprisingly, one of the few reality TV shows that seems both relevant and worthwhile is the upcoming series “The Profit” on CNBC.  The 6-episode series showcases the efforts of billionaire Marcus Lemonis to restructure and revitalize six failing small businesses so that they do not fall victim to today’s bleak business future.  Instead of merely offering his expertise and advice, Marcus Lemonis takes the unprecedented step of investing his cold-hard cash into each of the businesses.  With all the make-over shows out there, virtually none invests their own money.  It’s too high a risk.  Yet in “The Profit,” they recognized that unless Marcus was risking his own money, there would not be enough incentive to really turn these businesses around long-term.  Featuring traditional small businesses like car sales, a flower shop, an ice cream supplier, a beauty shop, and more, these are the bread-and-butter businesses the make up the back-bone of America.  These are the businesses we all see around us each day and which are going under each month.  To see how “The Profit” assess and restructures these existing businesses to succeed in today’s harsh economic climate is fascinating.  Marcus’ 3-step plan: people, process and product can be employed to nearly all small businesses and makes an ideal model to follow.  (Though I would add that 3 more elements could be beneficial in sustaining small businesses:  passion, purpose and promotion. Curious to see if those are addressed in the series.) “The Profit” debuts Tuesday, July 30th on CNBC.

"The Blacklist"

“The Blacklist”


THE BLACKLIST is one of the truly stand-out new series of the Fall 2013 season.  Starring James Spader as Red Reddington, a master criminal seeking to join forces with the FBI in order to either clean-up the world of criminals beyond the reach of the U.S. government or to orchestrate some endgame that only he is aware of, the series is enthralling from the first few minutes on screen.  Incredibly, the story becomes even more complex as each character is introduced having dark secrets of their own and how those secrets play into Red’s ultimate game layers the show beyond the cat-and-mouse storylines.  It is absolutely a series that viewers need to add to their “must see” list for Fall.  THE BLACKLIST debuts September 23rd on NBC.

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