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Chesapeake Shores (2016)
So Far So Good
Hallmark seems to have finally learned something about show writing with its fourth original series. The pilot showed promise as the pacing was good, writing was engaging, characters were well formed and there was conflict! These are all huge improvements and if it remains this way, it will finally break Hallmark out of its recent original series slump. (Cedar Cove was canceled, the season finale of Good Witch was abysmal.) The pilot shows all the signs of a well done show. I only hope they continue down this path and have learned from their past mistakes and can sustain a show on real drama rather than the convoluted romantic slop they always lazily fall back on.
Grease Live! (2016)
A Great Show with a Few Flaws
Overall, Grease: Live! was a success in my eyes. I thought Aaron Tveit, Julianne Hough and Vanessa Hudgens were outstanding in their respective roles as Danny, Sandy and Rizzo. They acted well and sang even better, which is all I can ask for in a musical like this.
The staging was well done and, all in all, I really enjoyed the show. My gripes are few and far between, but there were a few blips on the radar. The sound went out shortly and the sound issues carried over into another song number, but that didn't bother me terribly.
I really only had an issue with one section of the show. The section with Frenchy in the Frosty Palace. Frenchy, played by Carly Rae Jepsen, was alright. I wasn't blown away by her performance, but I hadn't really noticed it either by this point. Then she sang a song I read was written for her just for this production... and it showed. The song, "All I Need is an Angel" completely conflicted with the period of the other songs and of the show. It sounded like a teenager wrote it that morning and they threw it in. A 2016 pop song thrown into a musical set in 1959 and every bit as unfitting as it sounds. The song was so repetitive and dull that Idon't think there was much to it apart from the chorus.
Then the show is brought to an even more agonizing halt when Boys II Men shows up to sing "Beauty School Dropout". Their rendition, again, didn't fit the period the show was written for. You're telling me you couldn't get Johnny Mathis or someone else still living from the era? You couldn't even get someone who could at least sound like it? Boys II Men could have done a better job trying a Platters style rendition at the very least! I suppose you could tell me Boys II Men is a bigger draw than some nostalgic singer from the era, or close to it, but to that I'd ask you, how many viewers tuned in for Boys II Men? Really. How many? I'd like to know. Because I'm guessing nobody. I didn't know who they were. I had no idea. I'm 23. Who was the intended audience? I don't understand it.
Then we come to my real sore point of the evening, the hypocrisy of the censoring. I couldn't help but notice that, every time they returned from commercial break, the little rating box would appear in the corner of my screen. It claimed the show was "TV 14", which, in of itself, is a bit of a surprise, but it begs the question, what does "TV 14" really mean? What's appropriate for 14 year olds to watch? Apparently, the show couldn't quite make up its mind...
The words of "Greased Lightnin'" were too vulgar for the show, so they were changed. On the surface of it, I don't mind. I've heard these lyrics changed before. I do take issue with the fact that THEY changed while the rest of the show stayed the same (and in some cases got WORSE)! Several wholesome lines remained like, "Where ya going'? To flog your log?", "Bite the weenie, Rizz." and a reference about how cheerleaders hate to be "late". There were a slough of others, I just can't think of them at the moment.
Don't get me wrong. Innuendo is fine. It's funny, particularly in Grease, as it is so well done.
My problem is the absurd notion that cleaning up "Greased Lightin'" suddenly makes the show "family friendly". I fail to see the difference between the lines above and "Chick'll cream" and "She's a real pussy wagon" differ in their vulgarity. If somebody understands it better than I, please let me know. I'd like to understand.
I suppose you could argue that, when the soundtrack is released, kids will sing a clean version of this song and that's all well and good, but a number of them will have seen the rest of the show... the "damage" will have been done. Won't it? Just what do we really want 14 year olds to watch? The show took out all cigarettes, which is wholly unrealistic, but not show destroying. They made the lyrics of "Greased Lightin'" PG, but kept in and added sexual references and innuendo. What do people want their 14 year olds watching? What's wrong? What crosses the line and what's acceptable? I honestly have no idea after watching this production. It had no idea what it wanted to be.
You either PG the whole show or you let the thing play out in its unbridled, innuendo laden glory. Anything in between does the audience a disservice.
Either parents make a conscious decision to let their kids watch this and prepare to answer questions about what some of the dialog means or they keep their kids away from it because it isn't the kind of thing they want them to watch. As the show is in this form it doesn't properly service either side. This show left me feeling that 14 year olds were mature enough to handle, or stupid enough not to notice, the blatant sexual innuendo but were entirely too naive to understand that, even though people are doing it on screen, smoking is bad for you.
Go, have and talk about sex wildly, but for the love of God don't smoke! (Oh, and don't sing about sex! That's just vulgar and wrong.)
The Bridge (2015)
Great Premise, Horrible Marketing
The story is interesting and well done. As a 23 year old, I can attest to the fact that the fear of the future and of change is accurate and well told through the eyes of Molly and Ryan. The movie was well done and well told, that is, until the end... As another reviewer stated, the story is only half told in this installment, a fact which was not made known prior to the film's showing. We have to wait until next Christmas season to find out what happens. Good job, Hallmark. What a ridiculous idea. Then again, Hallmark seems to be expert at ruining things that have potential of late. (Their original series are prime examples of good ideas going terribly wrong.) Were this the pilot to a TV show I might understand it, but waiting an entire YEAR to resolve a story is absurd! Whoever at Hallmark made this decision should be fired. Do I want to know how the movie turns out? Yes. Will I remember that I want to know NEXT YEAR? Doubtful.
Cedar Cove (2013)
Dull and Sloppy Storytelling
The show's first season began with promise and quickly dispelled any faith I had in it. While the first season had an almost equal measure of positives and negatives, it was watchable and I'd venture to say, for the most part, enjoyable. Season 2 however, thus far, has proved far from.
The second season premiere finds our "beloved" characters in various predicaments, none of which is particularly compelling. Also detracting from the premiere is that it is two parts. It isn't so much that a two hour premiere is a bad idea, but rather the fact that the two parts were shown on two separate weeks. Even that wouldn't be unbearable if not for the fact that the whole of part one is devoted to setting up for part two, which makes for a thoroughly unenjoyable and boring experience. A good premiere should bring us up to date on where the characters have been in the time since the last season ended. Either that or it should pick up exactly where the last left off. After all, we're supposed to believe that these people live outside the vacuum that is each individual episode, right? But season 2's opener does none of these things. It drags and bores relentlessly until the first hour slowly and mercifully ends leaving us with a cliffhanger, if one could call it that.
However, it isn't the lack of drama that is running the show into the ground. No. I have no issue whatsoever with a show that goes through the lives of happy people in a small town. In fact Hallmark's other show, When Calls The Heart, is delightful. What I take issue with in Cedar Cove is the seeming lack of desire to make it enticing or even the least bit interesting. The production quality and scripts are doing that quite well without the help of an overall lackluster cast. These people truly cannot act for the most part, however I'm reluctant to say that they are all awful because the scripts are truly that God awful.
The scenes in every episode thus far are disjointed and the episodes have no rhythm to speak of. No scene feels necessary or particularly interesting. The point of a scene, at least to my understanding from all of the good shows I've watched, is to move the plot forward in some way. Whether that be via character development or the deepening or worsening of a relationship or some kind of action forcing our characters to do something.
None of the above things happen in any episode of Cedar Cove so far in season 2. Scenes have two characters discuss something only to be interrupted in a timely fashion so they can pick the scene up again in a different location. Or the other character shuts the first down before anything can be solved. OR, better yet, the two characters are about to have a meaningful conversation when the scene ends and we cut away to yet another conversation.
My main issue with the show is the scripts. They are so incredibly weak and lacking substance that I'm in awe of the fact that any of them got published. The dialog is absolutely atrocious and there seems to be no direction for the show, no overarching story arc moving the plot along. Instead we have too many characters with no personality doing things we don't care about with other people we don't care about. Characters appear with no purpose other than to make a main character realize something about themselves, something they could have learned from another main character. Scenes go on too long or are cut entirely too short.
Worst of all, the actors seem to realize the futility of their efforts and it shows. If this show doesn't improve and is still brought back for a third season I'll be certain that crazy people are running Hallmark.
Also, the decision of Hallmark's to make this show unavailable for replay on On Demand and by not replaying the episodes on days other than Saturday, they force people onto their computer screens to catch up, and to pay for it often times. That really narrows viewing opportunities and damages the show, in my mind.
Update: As of 8/23 episode there are two bright spots in season 2. On the backs of two fine performances by Bruce Boxleitner's Bob and PTSD suffering Luke. They bring an interesting aspect into the story that wasn't there, not to mention much needed bolstering to an otherwise somewhat shaky cast on the acting front. By giving Mr. Boxleitner more screen time the show seems to be FINALLY taking full advantage of their veteran actor rather than bringing him in occasionally for a line or two. At the same time, Jesse Hutch brings much needed warmth and personality to the show's younger male leads who, up to now, have been anything but. Here's to hoping they continue along this path.
All That Heaven Allows (1955)
This is one of the most wonderful romantic movies of all time. I never get tired of it. Rock Hudson is at his most stunning in this movie, then again when Isn't he? I think I've watched this movie a hundred times since we bought it and each time the first Barn Scene is the most wonderful. The whole movie is great, but there is something about that barn scene that just does it for me. Rock is so devastatingly gorgeous and the way he looks at Jane in that scene is almost scary how intense it is. It takes my breath away. Sirk did a fantastic job casting and directing. I recommend this to anyone who's a romantic at heart because he's just so great. As you might have already been able to tell I'm a Rock Hudson addict. He's the most wonderful thing ever and this movie sends chills of romantic ideas down your spine, but not in the gross way todays movies do. No sex, no over done love scenes. Just love at its most pure. You can feel their love for one another through the screen just in the way they talk to each other and that is true love. Great, Great, Great movie.