Netflix’s Bloodline is a Slow Burn

Bloodline 1Netflix has been on a bit of run lately.

The streaming service dipped its toe and made some noise in the last few years with original programming hits like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” that made clear Netflix was another viable outlet for viewers.

They have stepped up their game in 2015 though as it seems every weekend over the last month or so has been punctuated by another series dropping online.

The third season of “House of Cards” dominated pop culture conversation when it premiered in late February and then a few weeks later, “The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” a “30-Rock”-esque sitcom created by Tina Fey and starring Ellie Kemper was eagerly binged. And wait just a few more weeks and the eagerly awaited Marvel series “Daredevil” will show up in April.

In between though, Netflix has just released yet another new series, the family potboiler drama/mystery “Bloodline” and if anyone needs an indication of Netflix’s pedigree as an original programming player, just take a look at the cast and creators of this series. Continue reading

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Community Season 6 – Greendale Isn’t the Same, But It’s Still Home

After five seasons and a cancellation on NBC, “Community” was rescued by Yahoo and the first two episodes of season six debuted on its new home at Yahoo Screen March 17, with new episodes weekly. Ed Carroll shares his thoughts on the first two episodes of Community’s improbable sixth season.

On camera, “Community” stars Joel McHale, Allison Brie, Danny Pudi, Ken Jeong, Gillian Jacobs and Jim Rash as Greendale Human Beings doing … something at Greendale Community College. First they were a study group. Then they were a committee. Now, they’re “a loose-knit group of students and teachers — none of whom are taking a class together.” The sixth season of “Community” is well-aware this isn’t really a show about a community college study group anymore.

It’s impossible to write about “Community” without mentioning the ride the cult show has been on behind the scenes. After going on a ‘indefinite hiatus’ midway through the third season, the show saw NBC fire creator and show runner Dan Harmon prior to the fourth season, which also saw original cast member Chevy Chase (finally) depart the series after expressing some pretty public displeasure about working on the show and with Harmon (and using a racial slur on set). Unfortunately, the fourth season was filmed out-of-order (as many sitcoms do), which led to some awkward episodes without a key cast member (in addition to lacking in quality). 41daf60adfba46b4c645a7001bf02b97

For the next two seasons, “Community” would be a mid-season replacement for whatever NBC comedy failed (aka pretty much all of them). After mediocre reviews for the new show runners in season four, NBC then ended up rehiring Harmon for a fifth season, only to lose another original cast member in Donald Glover about midway through the season (Glover’s exit was planned and handled on-screen better). Then NBC cancelled “Community,” officially, and Sony appeared unable to find a taker for the Human Beings until literally the last possible day to renew the show.

But even the transition to Yahoo Screen, the new home of “Community,” wasn’t entirely smooth. The biggest blow came soon after the renewal, when original cast member (and native Clevelander) Yvette Nicole Brown ( who played do-it-all mom and businesswoman Shirley Bennett) left the series to join CBS’s “The Odd Couple,” as a recurring role on that show provided her more time to be with a sick family member (Harmon has said the door is “wide open” for Brown to return as Bennett if she’s able to in the future). Jonathan Banks ended up being a major part of season five as criminology professor Buzz Hickey, but was unable to continue with “Community” as he joined the cast of “Better Call Saul,” returning to the role of Mike Ehrmantraut from “Breaking Bad” which made him famous. Season five also saw the return of John Oliver’s Ian Duncan to a prominent role in the show after two seasons away, but Oliver’s duties hosting “Last Week Tonight” will prevent more Duncanisms in season six. None of the departures were written out of the show (Banks and Oliver aren’t even mentioned in these episodes), but losing Brown in addition to two recurring characters who really helped the second half of the season after Glover’s departure already put season six in a huge hole.

But season six of “Community” is here, in spite of really everything against it.

No, this isn’t the same “Community” you fell in love with in 2009. “Community” knows this, too. But if the first two episodes of season six are any indication, the show still has life in it yet. Harmon has said he isn’t writing this season as if it’s the last (despite the #sixseasonsandamovie hashtag that fans have rallied behind since season three). But the show has indeed changed dramatically from even last season (let alone the pilot), and as Abed (Pudi) states so brilliantly to new character Frankie Dart (Paget Brewster), he’s worried her character signals the end of the show he’s come to know and love.

Community; Season 6; Episode 601We typically love television shows that are consistent; safe, reliable worlds we can return to time and again. Ever the rebel, “Community” is, either wisely or recklessly, attempting to embrace change and try to do its thing at the same time. The first two episodes of season six know the show has changed, and don’t try to hide it, but both “Ladders” and “Lawnmower Maintenance and Postnatal Care” found solace in some traditional “Community” humor: on-point self-commentary and Greendale Human Beings going all-in on something ridiculous. And, for the most part, it works. Not completely, but enough to make it still feel like the “Community” we loved before the move.

In “Ladders,” the season premier (which is apparently a class at Greendale, so no, the show isn’t abandoning its usual method of naming episodes after potential classes),  Abed deals with having Frankie, an insurance adjuster, around the campus and attempts to be the “normal one,” only to get wrapped up in a backdoor speakeasy inside Shirley’s Sandwiches, which Britta (Jacobs) is now running into the ground after Shirley ‘spun off.’ The episode features a slightly excessive four montages, but plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, such as Frankie flipping out on the speakeasy. “Lawnmower Maintenance …” saw Dean Pelton (Rash) get lost in a virtual reality world, which led to the introduction of the second new character to the show, Elroy Patashnik (Keith David) a former virtual reality programmer as well as the introduction of Britta’s parents — who are apparently familiar with the rest of the Greendale crew already.

Yeah, it feels weird seeing the two empty chairs at the study table (which hasn’t been studied on since … season three, maybe?) and the opening title sequence has a fewer names on it. Brewster brings a nice touch of humanity to her tough Frankie (David’s Elroy isn’t given enough screen time to judge), but the focus is mostly on the returning people, as it should be. Jeff is still cynical, Annie still driven, Abed is still meta and Britta is still the worst. The show is still funny, even though it might not be quite as brilliant as it once was; a little stability (something the show hasn’t had since season three) might help season six rise above the impressive but ultimately uneven season five. There’s a couple fun cameos from familiar “Community” guest stars, and the recurring cast of Greendale regulars get a few jokes in themselves (particularly Garrett and Leonard), but for the most part, it’s focusing on the familiar gang getting used to the unfamiliar faces.

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As far as experiencing the show on Yahoo Screen, it wasn’t without hiccups. I noticed the very last second of a segment being cut off by commercials, only to be shown before the next segment, and occasional (temporary) audio issues. That said, commercials were pretty reasonable (about one per break), and these episodes are actually slightly longer than their broadcast counterparts (at approximately 27 minutes and 30 seconds each). Unlike “Arrested Development” (which jumped from FOX to Netflix, making it the closest comparison to “Community’s” jump from NBC to Yahoo,), the extra time in “Community” isn’t too noticeable because the show is still funny (unlike in AD, where the extra time was painful), and it probably allows Harmon to indulge in some extended nonsense, such as the aforementioned four montages.

And while it would have been easy for Harmon to open fire on NBC for their treatment of the show now that he’s free on Yahoo, these episodes only take a couple of surprisingly-restrained shots at the show’s former home. There’s a big shot too awesome to spoil at the end of the first episode, but other than that, Harmon doesn’t let his show get wrapped up in the off-screen drama of, well, his show. “Community” also makes a few passing meta-mentions of moving to online, but again, nothing overdone.

“Community” is not the same show that it was in 2009. And if you want, you can probably make the argument that “Community” isn’t as good a show as it once was. I’m more thankful to be back in Greendale, and while there’s some wear and tear showing in its structure, “Community” seems off to a promising (re)start in season six.

Note: The sixth season of “Community” airs on Yahoo Screen, with new episodes every Tuesday. Check Everyone Hates Cleveland for regular reviews of each episode.

Powers Episodes 1-3 Review: PlayStation Takes a Risk

On March 10, the first three episodes of PlayStation’s first (and so far only) original scripted series, “Powers,” debuted on PlayStation Network, free to stream for anyone with a PlayStation system (PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3 or PlayStation Vita) and a PlayStation Plus subscription. New episodes of “Powers,” based on the comic book series of the same name by Brian Michael Bendis, will release every Tuesday starting March 17. 

At its most basic form, “Powers” is a cop procedural in a comic book-type fantasy world. In the world of “Powers,” superheroes exist, are called ‘Powers’ for their abilities, although the nature of how the abilities manifest and work seems to be an inexact science at best (Note; I have not read the comic series). Many of the Powers have developed rock star personas thanks to their gifts and heroism, which is often pretty good for their bank accounts, too.

Secret identities are for suckers in “Powers.” In this world, there are people without powers but who want them, called “wannabes,” who hang around those with abilities, hoping to get a taste. Despite the existence of wannabes, Powers are still looked upon with some distrust and scorn, and the show makes it clear early on that even though there are superheroes in this world, none of the Powers are perfect. It’s a tad confusing at first, but the characters in “Powers” don’t seem to understand how things work in their world any better than we do as viewers, so it’s best to let some of the details go and get swept up in the mystery.

The series’ lead, Christian Walker (Sharlto Copley from “District 9” fame), used to be known as Diamond, one of the more-celebrated Powers, but lost his abilities somehow after a clash with Wolfe (British comedy icon Eddie Izzard), an especially deadly (and hungry) Power. Walker now works for the Los Angeles Police Department, in the Powers division, and the show’s first scene gives the viewer a glimpse at how unstable some of these abilities can be, with Walker’s partner killed by a Power and replaced quickly with Deena Pilgrim (Susan Heyward), who serves as our intro and window into how life works when some of the population has superpowers.

When a famous Power turns up dead in a hotel room with a young girl, Walker and Pilgrim are on the case, and it leads to a few names from Walker’s past as a Power. We’re bombarded with a lot of this information early on, but the world in “Powers” is just as interesting as the characters that inhabit it.

That said, all throughout the first three episodes of “Powers,” I couldn’t help but think this was a bit of a risky gamble for Sony’s PlayStation brand, which has released original (unscripted) programming in the past, but all of that had been video game related, and largely ignored. No, “Powers” isn’t a brand-new property, as it was first published in 2000, but even though Bendis might be a well-known name in comics today (he was one of the main architects of Marvel’s Ultimate Universe), this isn’t some beloved comic you grew up with as a child. A comic series such as Powers doesn’t have the built-in fanbase of a lesser character such as Daredevil (and Netflix has an upcoming series featuring Marvel’s man without fear), so there will probably be a few viewers going in blind (like I did).

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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Review – Sunshine in the Vault

1On March 6, Netflix debuted “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” written by former “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock” star and writer Tina Fey and starring Ellie Kemper (“The Office”) as a survivor of a doomsday cult, with all 13 episodes of the first season available to stream right now. Ed Carroll provides his thoughts on the first season with minimal spoilers.

“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” is an unconventional show for Netflix. Whereas the streaming service’s three flagship series (“House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black” and “BoJack Horseman”) all were created for Netflix and revel in their lack of a network anchor (and lack of censors), Kimmy Schmidt looks like something you would have seen on NBC Thursday nights a few years ago, smashed somewhere in between Fey’s own “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation” and “Community.” NBC actually sold the series to Netflix, who picked up Kimmy Schmidt for a second season as part of the agreement. Continue reading

House of Cards Season 3 – Finale and Season Review

1Netflix released the third season of House of Cards in its entirety on February 27. Ed Carroll is offering his thoughts on the season as he watches Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright spin political intrigue in three-episode blocks.

Click here for his thoughts on Chapters 27, 28 and 29.
Click here for thoughts on Chapters 30, 31 and 32.
Click here for the review of Chapters 33, 34 and 35.
Click here for Ed’s opinion on Chapters 36, 37 and 38.

SPOILER WARNING! – Everything below assumes you have watched the entire third season of  House of Cards (through Chapter 39) or do not care about being spoiled. Continue reading

Better Call Saul Living Up to Its Predecessor

Bob OdenkirkIn a desolate New Mexico desert a desperate man uses all his cunning and intelligence to plead for his life to a ruthless criminal bent on eliminating him in an extremely violent fashion.

For any fans of AMC’s “Breaking Bad”, this is a familiar scenario. That show’s protagonist, high school science teacher-turned drug manufacturer Walter White, found himself in that exact situation numerous times over the years. It’s also a scenario being revisited in AMC’s “Breaking Bad” prequel “Better Call Saul” but this time with White’s sleazebag lawyer Saul Goodman at the center of the action.

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House of Cards Season 3 Chapters 36, 37 and 38 Review

Netflix released the third season of House of Cards in its entirety on February 27. Ed Carroll is offering his thoughts on the season as he watches Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright spin political intrigue in three-episode blocks.

Click here for his thoughts on Chapters 27, 28 and 29.
Click here for thoughts on Chapters 30, 31 and 32.
Click here for the review of Chapters 33, 34 and 35.

SPOILER WARNING! – Everything below assumes you have watched House of Cards through Chapter 38, or do not care about being spoiled.

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House of Cards Season 3 Chapters 33, 34 and 35 Review

1Netflix released the third and final season of House of Cards in its entirety on February 27. Ed Carroll is offering his thoughts on the season as he watches in three-episode blocks. Click here  for his thoughts on Chapters 27, 28 and 29, and here for thoughts on Chapters 30, 31 and 32.

SPOILER WARNING! – Everything below assumes you have either watched the show through Chapter 35, or do not care about being spoiled.  Continue reading

House of Cards Season 3 Chapters 30, 31 and 32 Review

1Netflix released the third season of House of Cards in its entirety on February 27. Ed Carroll is offering his thoughts on the season as he watches in three-episode blocks. Click here  for his thoughts on the first three episodes of the season.

SPOILER WARNING! – Everything below assumes you have either watched the show through Chapter 32, or do not care about being spoiled.  Continue reading

House of Cards Season 3 Chapters 27, 28 & 29 Review

1Let me alleviate any fears you have right now: I haven’t watched the entire third season of Netflix’s House of Cards, so no, I won’t spoil the ending, because I can’t.

House of Cards returned for its third season sometime around 3 a.m. Friday morning on the streaming service, and I had planned to watch all 13 episodes this weekend and write up my thoughts here on EHC. That’s still the plan, but I’ve decided it might be more readable (and less likely to spoil anything for readers) if I broke up my review into three-episode blocks (yes, I know this leaves the final episode in a spot by itself, I’ll review the finale and the season as a whole in that review).

Everything below assume’s you’ve seen seasons one and two (if you haven’t, hi, Dad, thanks for reading me!). I will likely spoil things in the episode reviews, so don’t read them until after you’ve seen all three (or do read them, I can’t tell you what to do, just don’t yell at me on Twitter for spoiling it, OK?).

I’m watching the show all through the weekend and will write the block reviews after I watch the episodes, before going on to the next block. I don’t know what’s coming up, so any guesses are speculation. I can’t spoil what I don’t know. BONUS: you all get to see how wrong I likely am in the end!

So, with all that in mind, SPOILERS FOR CHAPTERS 27, 28 and 29 BELOW! Continue reading