unreal tv

Unlike what some critics are saying about Season 2 of Lifetime’s UnREAL TV series, I’ve been a champion for this sophomore season for a variety of reasons.

For one thing, it had the balls to do what no ABC dating show has ever done (cast an African American as the Bachelor). Second, it’s become a character study of Rachel (Shiri Appleby) and Quinn (Constance Zimmer) as much as it’s given audiences a glimpse at Everlasting‘s on-screen and behind-the-scenes drama. In fact, what’s depicted on UnREAL often feels more real than anything you’ll ever see on The Bachelor.

But during the most recent episode titled “Ambush,” the series takes a strange, twisted turn down a road that doesn’t necessarily feel natural.

*Stop Reading to Avoid Spoilers*

In the most recent episode, Rachel, ever the stirrer of the drama pot, calls the cops on Darius (B.J. Britt) and Romeo (Gentry White) after they take a car out for a spin with two of the women vying for Darius’s heart. After Rachel reports that the car is stolen, there is a showdown between the cops and Darius, and Romeo ends up getting shot.

If someone would have told me at the beginning of the season that Lifetime’s UnREAL was going to address police violence and Black Lives Matter, I probably would have said, “The same show where the chick took too many pills and jumped off the roof?” UnREAL doesn’t necessarily scream “ripped from the headlines,” and that’s actually a big reason why I watch it. I want drama, but nothing that’s too real (“UnREAL” implies that it’s, you know, not actually real). After all, scripted sudsy dramas like UnREAL are an escape from the tragedy you see on the news.

The cops pulling Darius over just doesn’t fit, as surely at least one of the cops would have recognized the football star. When he tries to tell them who he is, they act like they’ve never seen or heard of him. Meanwhile, the beginning of the season stressed the fact that Hill has been in the headlines for his indiscretions and for saying “Bitch, please” to a reporter. It’s not like he’s a faded athlete – he’s a hot topic. (Plus, one would think that the police and security would be aware that a reality show was filming in the area.)

Plus, thematically, how will the show within the show be able to recover from this? If Romeo dies (please say he doesn’t), Everlasting already has one murder on its record. Are the fictional producers really going to bring it back another season after someone else is killed? If UnREAL is going to aim to do “ripped from the headlines” stories, then it should face the “ripped from the headlines” reality of it. In real life, the show would surely be canceled. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and 19 Kids and Counting haven’t been back on the air since their public turmoil. Two murders on a reality show feels like something that isn’t greenlit for another season.

Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter storyline on Netflix’s Orange is the New Black was appropriate given that the series has never been a warm and fuzzy look at prison life (except for that lackluster third season). There’s a power structure on the show, and there always has been, between the guards and women, so there’s a deluge of stories to uncover whether it’s about being a woman of color in prison, a Muslim woman in prison—the cultural stories are endless. Here, political topics feel more logical.

But for UnREAL to pull a police-shooting storyline feels like a power play to be a more “legitimate” drama series when it simply doesn’t have to be. The second season development with Darius Hill is interesting enough and already made a bold statement about how white dating shows are. The shooting just feels fabricated and over-the-top, two words usually reserved to describe UnREAL‘s real-life muse.

80s tunes

Stranger Things lovingly recreates an era through memorable 80s tunes

There are many wonderful things to praise in Netflix’s newest obsessive series Stranger Things. The Spielbergian themes layered with vaguely Michael Mann-inspired cinematography. The pack of kids straight out of The Goonies. Winona Ryder. We here at AwardsDaily TV have made this homage to the Sci-Fi / horror cinema and literature of the 1980s our newest obsession. We’ll publish a review of the entire series in the coming week. We didn’t want to rush it. We wanted to take our time and luxuriate in the 80s goodness. But here’s a heads up: one of Stranger Things greatest assets is a robust and lovingly selected series of 80s tunes (even though many songs hail from the late 60s).

Some of these are more standard selections. Some are unsung gems. One thing is clear: someone at Netflix missed a big opportunity to dish out a sure fire oldies soundtrack a la Guardians of the Galaxy a few years back. Since we’re lacking a single consolidated soundtrack, there are a few ways to recreate the sound and fury of the series 80s tunes yourself. Update: according to the LAist, the Stranger Things soundtrack will see the light of day as an official compilation.

There is at least one Spotify listing assembled here if you don’t already own the songs yourself. But if you already have a robust collection of 80s tunes, then here’s the full soundtrack listing episode by episode.

Stranger Things Track Listing

Episode 1

  • She Has Funny Cars – Jefferson Airplane
  • White Rabbit – Jefferson Airplane
  • Africa – Toto
  • Can’t Seem to Make You Mine – The Seeds

Episode 2

  • Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash
  • I Melt With You – Modern English
  • Hazy Shade of Winter – The Bangles
  • Tie a Yellow Ribbon – Dawn featuring Tony Orlando

Episode 3 

  • Peter Gabriel – Heroes
  • Waiting for a Girl Like You – Foreigner

Episode 4

  • Atmosphere – Joy Division
  • Should I Stay Or Should I Go – The Clash

Episode 5 

  • Elegia – New Order
  • Nocturnal Me – Echo & The Bunnymen

Episode 6 

  • Sunglasses at Night – Corey Hart
  • The Bargain Store – Dolly Parton

Episode 7 

  • Fields of Coral – Vangelis

Episode 8 

  • When It’s Cold I’d Like to Die – Moby

Summer Shows

Summer TV isn’t the time of reruns anymore. Some of TV’s finest shows are released smack-dab in the middle of the year. Here are 7 summer shows you should stream, watch, or set your DVR to record. Stat!

1. Animal Kingdom on TNT
For those who miss Sons of Anarchy, this show is a perfect substitute. Ellen Barkin plays Smurf, the hot matriarch who pulls all the family strings. She’s beautiful, manipulative, and utterfly terrifying. No wonder she reduces her grown sons (Shawn Hatosy, Scott Speedman, Ben Robson, and Jake Weary) to act like little boys when it comes to going against her. This show is so fun to watch, it’s a crime.

2. Wrecked on TBS
TBS has seriously stepped up its original programming. First, with Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, then with Bee’s hubby Jason Jones’s series The Detour, and now with Wrecked. The third episode titled “Always Meant to See That,” where the survivors have to decide whether to watch Dumb and Dumber To or Selma (as what could possibly be the last film they ever watch), is hilarious.

3. Casual on Hulu
While Season 1 introduced us to this dysfunctional family through romance and casual hookups, season two finds Alex (Tommy Dewey), Valerie (Michaela Watkins), and Laura (Tara Lynne Barr) discovering more about themselves through friendships. Watkins is a stand-out this year, especially in the episode “Such Good Friends,” where Valerie discovers she has none.

4. UnREAL on Lifetime
Sophomore slump? No way. Somehow, UnREAL has managed to be even more interesting and captivating in season two, especially by doing something no real-life ABC dating show has ever done: cast an African American bachelor.

5. BrainDead on CBS
The world needs political satire right now, and this sci-fi political dramedy from the creators of The Good Wife fits the bill into law. Stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Danny Pino, Aaron Tveit, and Tony Shalhoub.

6. Another Period on Comedy Central
The Bellacourt sisters (Natasha Leggero, Riki Lindhome) are single (they finally ditched their homosexual husbands) and ready to mingle. And Chair (Christina Hendricks) is awake from her coma (although, ironically, she’s limited to a wheelchair).

7. Maya & Marty on NBC
Saturday Night Live is in reruns this summer, but the comedy on Maya & Marty is all new (even if the faces aren’t). Come for the Jiminy Glick sketch, stay for the appearances from Amy Poehler, Will Forte, Larry David, and Ricky Gervais.

2016 TV

O.J. Simpson and Girls are among ADTV’s favorite 2016 TV shows

We are now halfway through the 2016 TV year. Seems like a great time to take stock on the quality of the 2016 TV season. In case you missed it, Joey, Megan, and Clarence unveiled their list and honorable mentions on this week’s Water Cooler Podcast. Not wanting to leave out the rest of the AwardsDaily TV team, we’ve included everyone’s top five of 2016 TV below.

It’s interesting to take stock midway the TV year, more interesting than doing the same for film. The Emmy voting window runs June 1 through May 31 of the following year. That puts the “quality corridor” of TV – i.e. Emmy bait television like Roots and All the Way – in the late winter and early spring. Therefore, it’s sometimes harder to narrow this list down in July than it is at the end of the year. There is a lot of great television halfway through the year because that’s when Emmy voters pay the most attention.

So, here’s the full Team ADTV list. Be sure to share your top five in the comments section below! We’d love to hear what you’re loving!

Screen Shot 2016-07-05 at 7.06.06 PM

Television Academy

Does a recent analysis of IMDb’s user ratings of women-centered shows extend to the Television Academy?

Earlier this week, stats-based website FiveThirtyEight published a piece that studied the way gender directly affects IMDb ratings of television shows that are, more or less, “skewed” in targeting one gender over the other. The piece proposes that the members of the opposite gender sabotage shows that are not “made” for them. In considering this analysis, I have to wonder whether or not the same bias extends to the Television Academy and the Emmy Awards.

Writer Walt Hickey found men’s influence on female-skewed shows to be overwhelmingly more present in television shows than women’s influence on male-skewed shows. At the heart of the piece, he highlights the the way the true value and merits of a television show aren’t being assessed properly or fairly if people purposely vote down a show that is simply not targeted at them. The problem becomes gendered because, according to his findings, men make up 70 percent of the voting base on IMDb, which disproportionately favors the judgment of people who have lived from the male perspective.

Television Academy

The example Hickey uses to justify his theory and to put his statistics into perspective is Sex and the City. The show’s overall score on IMDb is 7.0; when broken down, the average score by women for the HBO series was 8.1, whereas men rated it at 5.8, which is a huge disparity. He questions this fact considering Sex and the City’s laudable reputation in general, having won several Emmy awards (one for Outstanding Comedy Series) and a plethora of Golden Globe awards. Hickey makes a point to acknowledge that differing opinions exist and everyone is entitled to their particular view, but objectively, it’s probably not a stretch to say a show with the record of Sex and the City is not subpar.

This is not to suggest men who do not enjoy Sex and the City are misogynist, but their position of power over more disenfranchised voices allows for insidious, unconscious sexism to permeate through art forms.

When I read this piece, I found it to confirm observations and struggles I have battled as an IMDb user and as someone who is active participant among the film and television community. The reality of the situation is that products made for the (heterosexual, white) male audience dominate just about any medium and art form, and more times than not, it is members from that group of people who are allowed to vocalize their opinions and establish their interpretation of quality.

In a way, the quandary FiveThirtyEight describes mirrors the problem with the entertainment industry, and most institutions, at large: only some voices are heard about quality, and similar people given the power to make artistic decisions about what kinds of shows are produced in the first place. It’s a circular journey. Television shows (and movies for that matter) are created targeting men, and those shows go on to be well received by men who have the privilege of watching and loudly expressing their views.

For this FiveThirtyEight article to make sense, one has to accept, more or less, that there are “girl shows” and “boy shows” based on target audiences, which is a sentiment I personally dissent but understand is a cultural reality. But with that, shows aimed at men are often recognized as the industry standard. Shows aimed at women are forced to the sidelines as trivial and foolish. Men – in particular heterosexual, white men – are granted the privilege of having the power to express how they feel about artwork, even when it’s not made for them.

The territory FiveThirtyEight uncovered does not live in a vacuum. It lives and breathes in just about any forum of subjective discourse about television and media. Because they outnumber women specifically with voting on IMDb but in general areas of power, men have the power to dictate what’s “cool” and “not cool.” Even the hint of femininity and a non-heterosexual, white male perspective in film and television projects can tarnish a project’s status as shown with Sex and the City’s take on “modern women” and women’s agency over their sexuality.

Television Academy

The IMDb debacle can be applied to the politics of the Emmy races. Women-driven comedy series especially tend to do well. Sex and the City actually won the Emmy for Comedy Series, and Veep, the incumbent winner, has a woman protagonist. Yet, particularly in the Drama Series race, a woman lead is toxic to their chances of being voted into the club. Recent years of The Good WifeBates Motel, and The Affair all come to mind among others. That makes sense when considering the fact that men historically make up the majority of Television Academy voting blocks.

Shows that dominate the drama series race rarely feature “female-skewed” shows. Some have broken through such as Orange is the New Black which works in even deeper ways than just gender equality, but with intersecting sexuality and racial components contributing too its success too. Orange is the New Black, in its heart, has evolved to an ensemble show and has a particular advantage of being on Netflix, the industry’s cutting-edge method of watching media.

But don’t be deceived by shows that would seem to fit the bill for “female-skewed” shows breaking past the cool “boy shows.” Homeland, a series which has been riding a comfortable wave through the Outstanding Drama Series category over the years, shouldn’t be counted as a “female-skewed show,” since the female protagonist was coupled with a male, co-lead counterpart for the first three seasons and, despite Carrie being the main character, it’s still a story being told largely from a masculine perspective.

Shows like The Good Wife and Scandal that are not afraid of the fact that their sole lead characters are capable, complicated women are not even allowed to be in the conversation for awards like Outstanding Drama Series. We live in the days of male-centric shows dominating the big category at the Emmys. The worst example of this anti-female-protagonist shows at the Emmys was in 2014. After having its most critically acclaimed season ever, The Good Wife was trampled over in the Outstanding Drama Series category while the cooler, “male-skewed” shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and True Detective reaped the rewards.

Similar to that of the author in Hickey’s original FiveThirtyEight article, the point I’m trying to make is when “male-skewed” shows are raised to the highest standard more easily than their “female-skewed” equals (in quality), it’s difficult not to see how cultural privilege is working to advance some shows (“boy shows).  Conversely, other shows not manufactured for the (masculine, straight, white) audience are presented to look inferior. It’s a circular cycle of cultural oppression.

Television Academy

tv deaths

TV deaths at this point are a dime a dozen. Are producers enjoying toying with viewers?

This article is going to spoil some major TV deaths that have occurred recently. Consider yourself warned…

So Norma Bates is officially dead. It finally happened.

The thing I’ve been dreading ever single season one of Bates Motel has finally happened. No amount of Twitter campaigning to flip the script over the original material would alter the original intent of the producers. And I have to salute that, honestly. After some high profile returns, it’s almost a breath of fresh air to find someone who dies actually staying dead.

TV deaths are clearly not unusual. They’re handy for revitalizing a stale property or explaining away the absence of a TV star who elevates to bigger and more financially rewarding things or for getting rid of troublesome actors the production couldn’t really afford anyway. And then there are the “TV deaths.” Those deaths that happen as a season cliffhanger that weren’t ever really deaths to begin with.

Personally, I tend to go back to the 80s soaps to classify all sorts of TV deaths. First, there’s the cliffhanger fake or the “Who shot J.R.?” Larry Hagman never intended to leave Dallas, but his shooting jumpstarted a well-performing series into the pop culture stratosphere. That leads us to the second type of TV death: the “Bobby Ewing in the shower” death. This rarity is an admittance on the part of the actor that he/she made a HUGE mistake in leaving a hot role on a medium-hot series for a film career that never materialized. This can also be referred to as the “Pamela Sue Martin gets abducted by a UFO” exit, except Dynasty never brought her back. They recast. Checkmate, bitch. Then, third, there’s the death is death is death, and you ain’t coming back. This is used to thin out an overwhelming cast. See the “Moldavia Massacre” from Dynasty.

There are undoubtedly other examples, but that’s fine. You get yours where you will. I’ll stick with my 80s soaps.

So that leads us to where we are today, and four major character TV deaths that have bubbled up in pop culture over the past year.

The most frustrating and frustratingly awful example of a TV death is that of Glenn (Steven Yeun) on The Walking Dead. Naturally, The Walking Dead isn’t a show afraid to kill off its cast members. Once you start a show with a cop, Rick (Andrew Lincoln), shooting a little girl zombie in the face and then later feature his wife effectively butchered by her own son after she dies during childbirth… Well, all beats are totally off. That said, the tease of “Is he or isn’t he?” dead became incredibly exhausting over the span of a few months. The producers painted Glenn into a corner upon which he could not reasonably escape, but then he did. By shuttling himself under a dumpster. There was no reason to bring that character back. Maybe one, but that’s even more perverse for fans of the comic. This TV death was pointless and insulting. Dead is dead.

Similarly, as much as I love Game of Thrones, “killing” Jon Snow was nothing but a publicity play. It’s not particularly the death in this case that bothers me because I deep-down never really believed he would die. I mean, what else is Melissandre the Red Priestess for anyway? But it’s the ridiculous behind the scenes insisting of the cast and crew that Jon Snow was dead. Well, yeah, technically he died and was later revived, but any casual viewer of the series knew he wouldn’t die. His story wasn’t finished. We still need to find out who his real parents were. Game of Thrones isn’t afraid to thin out the cast (particularly if your last name is Stark or if you’re a direwolf), but this middling commitment to character death is weak and laughable. That said, welcome back Jon Snow. When you reconnected with Sansa Stark, I got goosebumps. Carry on.

Now, onto the deaths with real meat. First, Sleepy Hollow apparently killed off one of its stars Nicole Beharie (Abbie) a few weeks ago. She’s not scheduled to return for a fourth season, so she may indeed be dead. Why did she have to die? I don’t really know, and I don’t really care. I don’t watch the show. But while I do applaud their commitment to shocking the viewers with an unexpected death, it’s still a bit of a mixed bag. Did they really have to kill off an empowered minority female character? Why not the white guy? You can’t tell me they can’t dig up some other historic corpse to return from the dead? Why does it have to be the black girl? This is a mixed bag, in my opinion, but if they somehow magically bring her back in season four, then… Well, I don’t watch it, so no skin off my back. They’ll lose my respect, how about that? OK, they never had it. Dammit.

Finally, the deepest cut of all, Bates Motel killed off its star Vera Farmiga by following the prescription of Hitchcock’s Psycho. Norman Bates didn’t stab or strangle his mother. Instead, he peacefully gassed her, giving her the most graceful death possible. That is, until he dug up her corpse, kissed it repeatedly, and glued her eyes open. It’s a macabre turn even for that show. And it was brilliant. Sure, I’m personally devastated that Vera Farmiga’s Norma is dead. Her arc was straight up classic tragedy, and I may never recover from her death (never recover being until The Conjuring 2 when I can again gaze at her perfect face and not-glued eyes). But I applaud producers Kerry Ehrin, Carlton Cuse, and Vera Farmiga for committing to Norma’s death.

I mean, I TRIED to get them to flip the script, but whatever. I “love” it still even if it breaks my heart. I have to praise the ladies (and gents) with the balls to truly commit to such an impactful character’s death.

Now, did you really have to glue Norma’s eyes like that???

That’s the stuff of nightmares.

abc the catch

Megan doesn’t like The Catch, but she can’t look away.

On paper, ABC’s The Catch has all of the elements of a great show.

One, it’s produced by Shonda Rhimes. Two, its plot has so much potential for sexy fun with a luminous private investigator (Mireille Enos, The Killing) tailing the fiance (Peter Krause, Six Feet Under) who stole millions from her.  And three, it’s created by Kate Atkinson whose book Life After Life left Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn dumbfounded, “There aren’t enough breathless adjectives to describe LIFE AFTER LIFE: Dazzling, witty, moving, joyful, mournful, profound.”

But easier said than done.

The Catch may be nestled in the Thank God It’s Thursday lineup, but it could just as easily be on a Tuesday. Or maybe even *gulp* a Friday.

What could be a post-feminism show about a woman getting revenge on the man that did her wrong ends up being about a mopey Mrs. Magoo-esque P.I. who’s frankly just not very good at her job. From the very first episode, we learn that Alice Vaughn (Enos) just got engaged to “Christopher” (Krause), and that she’s on the trail of the never-seen Mr. X (who also just happens to be “Christopher”). Mr. X is milling about a Los Angeles plaza, right in the open, but Alice never sees him. He even walks by her in a baseball cap and sunglasses (master of disguise).

A more accurate title for this show would be “The Catfish” because that appears to be EXACTLY what “Christopher” is doing to Alice. Yeah, you feel bad for her for about 15 minutes in “The Pilot,” until you learn that she’s kind of an idiot. Instead of paying attention to important Mr. X news at work, she gets caught in a daydream before exclaiming, “Christopher asked me to elope!” Women, huh? They don’t think about anything but men!

And Christopher’s marriage “proposal” isn’t actually a proposal. It’s the kind of exchange you’d cringe at if one of your girlfriends told you about it over drinks (“Alice, you in danger, girl“).



You ever want to get married?


Yeah. In theory. I guess I just never met the right guy.


I’ll try not to take that personally.


I wasn’t talking about you.


So if I were the right guy, you would marry me?




You wouldn’t?


No, that’s not what I’m saying. What about you?


What about me?


Would you?


Would I what?


Marry me?


Did you just ask me to marry you?


I guess. I’m sorry.


That’s all right. I just want to think about it.


After this flashback to the proposal, Alice exclaims to her colleagues, “I proposed to myself!” Yeah, duh! And over frozen yogurt in the park just like you always imagined it. And even worse, this bitch is so enamored with herself that she failed to see that in all the photos of her and Christopher, he’s CLEARLY covering up his face. So when she goes to track him, she doesn’t have a face to go on!

After Christopher goes missing with her millions in the pilot, the rest of the episode tries to explain why she’s still smart even though she was duped… like it could happen to anyone.

And yet, with virtually no training, just intuition, I feel like I am a better private investigator than her.

In the third episode titled “The Trial,” the crew has to go undercover at a lab in order to figure out why a particular drug trial is producing adverse side effects on multiple sclerosis patients. Just as Alice is about to be administered the drug, at the last second, she pulls out the IV, grabs it, and takes it to be tested. But then, as she’s leaving, the doctor says, “Don’t forget to take your orange juice.” While watching it, I thought, “Don’t do it. That’s probably how patients are receiving these side effects.” Whatdoyouknow, yes! Alice drinks it and starts experiencing blindness and loss of hand-eye coordination.

Also in this episode, in a flashback, Alice mistakes cute couple conversation for yet another marriage proposal.



How long have those two been married?


Almost ten years.


If that’s what ten years of marriage looks like, I’ll take it.


I’m sorry. Did you just agree to marry me?


I think I did.


Hmmm. No, he technically didn’t. He was just commenting that he hoped he looked that good after 10 years of marriage. You were never mentioned.

Alice reads into everything except real concrete details. Like don’t consume ANYTHING at a dangerous drug trial and then get in a car and go after your ex at a bar. This will only result in embarrassment (and it does).

So. . .why am I still watching this show?

Well, there’s something to be said about schadenfreude. Given that the premise of the show is that Alice is trying to catch her ex, you know she’s not going to do it any time soon. Otherwise, the show would not exist. It’s fun watching her fail and miss him, again and again, and even more so, the flashbacks that give all of the hints that he’s probably a skeez (you mean to tell me the ever-astute P.I. never flipped through her photos of him and wondered why HIS FACE WAS NEVER LOOKING AT THE CAMERA?).

I guess I watch because if I were Alice’s friend, we would have solved this issue months ago.



Do you ever notice how he always turns your conversations around?


Hmmm. How so?


Well, you keep proposing to him. He never proposes to you.


Whoah. I’ve been a private investigator for decades but never noticed that. You may be on to something.


Also, in all of your Facebook pics, he’s never looking at the camera.


No shit. What do you make of that?


Probably has a wife and kids he doesn’t want you to know about.


Did you also ever notice that he dresses like a ventriloquist without a dummy?

OK. So maybe I’m wrong with my wife-and-kids hypothesis, but I would have saved her MILLIONS of dollars.

What do you think of The Catch? Are you syncing with Megan’s thoughts? Are you hate-watching too? Sound off in the comments below!

TV programming

Does Netflix really top the cable giant HBO in TV programming content? Clarence thinks not.

Within a week of this posting, someone will call me an elitist snob. I guarantee. And that’s fine, but you’ll never make me believe that Netflix holds superior TV programming over HBO.

As posted in today’s Variety, a Morgan Stanley polled just over 2,500 Americans on the subject of which premium TV or Internet streaming service had the best original content. For the first time since the origination of the survey six years ago, Netflix led the pack and beat perennial champ HBO 29 percent to 18 percent. 34 percent of the respondents answered with “I don’t know.”

This shift is more damaging to HBO than rewarding to Netflix, ultimately. HBO’s 13-point drop in the poll (down from 31% a year ago) comes at a time when HBO’s original content lineup has been plagued with setback after setback. It’s new Martin Scorsese-produced Vinyl disappointed in its premiere and has already seen showrunner Terence Winter leave the series. Then, there’s the problem of Westworld, a reportedly very experience sci-fi series which recently stopped production due to unresolved script concerns. No premiere date has been established for the Anthony Hopkins starrer.

Effectively, the cable giant has been unable to reliably replicate its highly successful programming block of Emmy winners Game of Thrones and Veep as well as critic darling Silicon Valley.

Netflix, on the other hand, may have yet to fully hit a home run with Emmy-winning comedy or drama series, but they’ve hit a hell of a lot of solid doubles. The uptick in popular opinion does come at a great time for the streaming service as it recently announced its first subscription price increase in years.

But looking head to head at HBO and Netflix’s programming, I find it very hard to crown Netflix the champion over HBO. No Netflix drama can even try touching the epic scale, dramatic thrills, and emotional depth of Game of Thrones. Sure, I like the Marvel block of Daredevil and Jessica Jones as much as the next guy. House of Cards has always been a guilty pleasure of mine, but Orange is the New Black is already wearing out its welcome after a mixed third season. The closest thing stylistically to Game of Thrones has to be Marco Polo, but there’s no comparison – Thrones wins that game hands down. And while everybody (rightly) hated True Detective season two, let’s not forget how much you all wet yourselves over season one.

On the comedy side, Netflix runs a little more competitive thanks to everybody’s favorite Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. HBO rules the Emmy house with Veep, but Veep isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. Sure, Emmy drinks it in heavily, but the “average Joe” (here come the emails) doesn’t gravitate to the series’ more European mixture of the absurd and the cerebral. I would also posit that Silicon Valley and Girls (currently in a shockingly great renaissance) are also better than anything Netflix has to offer outside of Kimmy Schmidt, which I do love too. HBO’s comedy duds include Ballers and the cancelled Togetherness and The Brink.

Netflix, though, just throws anything against the wall to see what sticks. Kimmy Schmidt only landed there because NBC is literally the worst network running right now. But Grace and FrankieLoveFuller HouseFlaked, and The Ranch are all at best very mediocre and at worst outright duds. Only Master of None has that “HBO quality” to it, thanks to the wit and perspective of star Aziz Ansari.

Bottom line: I would place HBO far above Netflix simply because it mostly swings for the fences every time its at bat. It may not always hit Game of Thrones-level TV programming, but you have to appreciate the bold vision for its programming. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy Netflix series. There’s a lot of solid programming on the streaming content provider, but they’ve yet to prove to me that they’re capable of producing the Really Great Television that HBO has time and time again.

Netflix lives on a steady diet of fast food TV programming, and America really prefers its McDonald’s.

What’s really going on right now is Game of Thrones isn’t in season, so it’s not as buzzy right now despite the whole “Is Jon Snow Dead?” campaign. Nothing else on the schedule really appeals to a broad audience, which we did discuss during the last Emmy season. HBO is serving up a feast of niche programming. Niche programming doesn’t appeal to the “Average Joe.”

However, its upcoming slate is likely to engender a great deal of popular good will. Shows like Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects (starring Amy Adams), The Night Of (the buzzy drama starring John Turturro), and Big Little Lies (featuring a bevy of fantastic actresses like Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, Shailene Woodley, and Laura Dern).

So, no, I don’t think Netflix is better than HBO. You can have your McDonald’s programming.

I’ll take my HBO-branded filet mignon any day.

What is your take on HBO versus Netflix TV programming? Sound off in the comments section below.

If you’re not watching JLo’s Shades of Blue, you need to rectify that immediately.

Jennifer Lopez is getting all serious for her latest role in the NBC cop drama Shades of Blue. Gone are the long honey blonde streaked hair and the Versace gowns. Replacing them is true grit. Lopez plays NYPD Detective Harlee Santos, a single mother who works in a circle of shady cops. Leading the circle is Lt. Matt Wozniak played by Ray Liotta. Together with Lopez and Drea De Mateo, these NYPD cops cash in when it comes to bribes.

When she’s nabbed by the FBI in an anti-corruption sting, Santos is forced to choose between her loyalty to her “family” and doing the right thing for her daughter by staying alive. The final episode of season one airs Thursday, March 31, on NBC at 10pm. Here are seven reasons why you should binge watch Shades of Blue right now.

1.  Jennifer Lopez…

Jennifer Lopez, Latina in a lead role. Jennifer Lopez, Executive Producer. Jennifer Lopez, NYPD Detective. She kicks butt in this role and takes no prisoners. This is Lopez’s best dramatic performance since Out of Sight.

… and, more importantly, Jennifer Lopez’s hair.

This is the Jennifer Lopez we know with the glam hair…


Lopez chopped off her flowing locks to get serious for this role. It’s messy. It’s single mom. It’s short. Paired with those pant suits, it needs a side note of its own.



2. Ray Liotta is the shit!

Liotta has played bad guys. He’s played tough cops. In Shades of Blue, Liotta gives new definition to the word “shady.” His stares are so intense that you would never want to cross him.  But what more do we need to say? Liotta’s presence alone guarantees twists, intensity, and very dark moments.

Shades of Blue - Season 1


3. The Return of Drea De Matteo

Drea De Mateo is back on TV! If you were a fan of The Sopranos, then you need to be tuning in. Drea De Matteo gives Adriana La Cerva a run for her tough money. In one scene, she literally beats the crap out of another woman for cheating on her husband. De Matteo shines in the ensemble along with the rest of the cast, and we need to see more of her in season two. Drea De Matteo is fierce, and she’s back!

Shades Of Blue - Season 1


4. The tunes.

You won’t hear JLo sing in this show, but you will hear music by SIA, Kanye West, and Jay-Z. That’s just the first episode.


5. Warren Kole

Warren Kole plays Robert Stahl, the FBI Agent who nabs Harlee Santos. Stahl wants to bring down Wozniak, and each week his character sets Twitter alight with fans reacting like this:

Stahl is someone you love to hate. Yet Stahl and Harlee have such intense chemistry that it’s hard not to ship them. Like every couple you want to hook up, you’ll experience feelings like this:

Harlee and Stahl also have scenes like this:


Did we mention that Warren Kole is hot?



6. The script.

You also have delectable lines like these:

“I always wanted to be a good cop. There’s no straight line to that.”

“Predictable defect of human nature: money almost always trumps pride.”

“Let go. Let go so I don’t have to kill you twice.”

“That loser is not her boyfriend. That’s a lapse in judgement.”


7. And that ensemble cast!

The supporting cast all deliver fantastic performances. Dayo Okeniyi, Michael Esper, and Lolita Davidovich all are worthy of reasons why you need to be watching, providing excellent back up to the main stars.

Shades of Blue is fierce, fantastic, and quite the ride. It leaves you breathless with twists, turns, and jaw-dropping “I never saw that coming” moments. It’s the perfectly gritty cop show.

The season one finale for Shades of Blue airs this Thursday 10pm on NBC.

Drag Race

ADTV ranks the Top 12 Drag Race contestants in honor of season eight’s premiere

The arrival of RuPaul’s Drag Race so close after the end of the Oscar season is like gay Christmas.

A lot of people were vocal about the lackluster seventh season (I was just happy to have it back despite all its glaring flaws), but this eighth season roared back onto LOGO on Monday night. Instead of recapping all the wig tossing and shade throwing, I thought I’d rank the queens after their inaugural episode. Of course I couldn’t do it without my best squirrel friend, Megan, and new pal (AwardsDaily TV contributor and Drag Race obsessive) Jalal.

LOGO has been celebrating the return of RuPaul’s Drag Race all weekend, because the premiere is the 100th episode. When the last contestant sashayed into the (You Betta) Werk Room, it was the 100th contestant, so the fledgling network had a lot to celebrate. To commemorate so much lipstick and drama, Ru decided to have his new litter of girls pose with all the past Drag Race winners to see who had real presence. For the main challenge, each queen had to recreate a past design challenge and make it their own.

So who came out on top? And who will surely be eliminated in the next few weeks? Let’s check out the ranking of our Drag Race top 12.


Joey: Kim Chi. This makeup queen walks away with the top spot of the week because she is the combination of 2 very different things: she’s beautiful and she’s a total dork. She won the first main challenge for a stellar photo as well as recreating season three’s hair ensemble challenge. Kim Chi stomped (purposely stumbled?) the runway while looking like a beautified version of The Beast from Beauty and the Beast, and she’s already gaining “awws” from the audience over not coming out to her parents yet. It must be noted that except for Morgan McMichaels (from season two), the queen who wins the first challenge usually goes on to land a spot in the top three. Just saying.

Megan: I 100% agree. She’s refreshing in how sweet she is and her makeup was so on point. I love that she’s into Anime, something we’ve never really seen on DR. But she is young and has only been doing drag for a couple of years according to the episode. Although youth certainly isn’t a bad thing (see Violet Chachki).

Jalal: I’m not surprised to see we are all in agreement over Kim Chi; she is talented, refreshing, and just plain lovable. Have you guys followed her Instagram? It’s absolutely addicting and her friendship with Trixxie and Shea Coulee is adorable.


Joey: Thorgy Thor is colorful and loud. Maybe I’m biased? One of the greatest things about Thorgy is her seeming openness to try new things. She doesn’t want to box herself in. I mean, she came in with a clown red wig and matching skirt. What’s not to love? She had to recreate the cake challenge from season three. Did anyone else notice her slip underneath looked like cream cheese frosting on a red velvet cake?

Megan: I thought her red velvet cake couture was something you don’t see until the middle of the season, which is definitely a compliment. She brought her A game right away.

Jalal: I didn’t have an opinion of Thorgy prior to the premiere but I fell in love with her. Something about her personality is absolutely addicting. Her dress was gorgeous but it reminds me of something that someone else wore in a previous season. Does anyone else know what I’m talking about?


Joey: Bob the Drag Queen has one of the most assured entrances I’ve ever seen. Is she the one to beat? Confidence is this queen’s main quality, and she has a quick fire wit that is reminiscent of another comedy queen (cough…Biance Del Rio). Speaking of Bianca, Ru said in the sixth season that Bianca wasn’t threatened by the competitors of her season. Bob doesn’t seem shaken by anyone in that Werk Room. Bring it, baby.

Megan: Bob totally won me over. At first, I couldn’t remember her among all the queens (it’s always so hard to stand out in episode 1), but her personality shined. I think she’s definitely a contender.

Jalal: I am in love with Bob. I love her Crazy medley and Annalise Keating impersonation on YouTube. She reminds me of Bianca as well. She is funny, confident, and knows exactly how to translate her personality to a television screen. Without a doubt Bob will be Miss Congeniality.


Joey: I don’t know if I like Acid Betty, but I appreciate her artistry and her skill. She (literally) towers over everyone else, and she claims that not even Bianca would mess with her. Her recreation of the money couture challenge from season three was very impressive, but can she exude that vulnerability that RuPaul looks for in each one of her winners?

Megan: I feel like the money couture wasn’t much of a stretch for her. I look forward to seeing what else she offers.

Jalal: I struggled with Acid Betty. I find her personality brash and I am over queens who think they are better than everyone else because they are unique. THIS IS A DRAG COMPETIION, EVERYONE IS UNIQUE. I do think she is talented though but I felt her money dress was more of a replica from season three than her own creation.


Joey: Cynthia Lee Fontaine is easily one of the kookiest drag queens to every sashay through the Werk Room, and normally I would write that off as a hindrance. You can’t pin her down, and that’s rather exciting, isn’t it? Cynthia has a pretty flawless look, and she’s unpredictable. Is that a winning combination or am I just ranking her too high? Is she a Joslyn Fox or is she a Nicole Paige Brooks?
Megan: I think the jury’s still out on this one. If anything, she’s brought a new drag term into the mainstream. I will be now on referring to my junk as my “cuckoo.”

Jalal:  I liked Cynthia Lee Fontaine a lot more in the Untucked episode than in the actual premiere. Her kooky demeanor reminded me of Tammy Brown (who is one of my all-time favorites) so that makes me root for her a bit. She’s also a trained opera singer? I might end up warming up to her once I get to know her but for now I am gravitating towards a lot of the other girls.


Joey: I will defend my love of Laila McQueen, and I don’t care who stands in my way. She looked a bit overwhelmed walking into the Werk Room. With such HUGE personalities like Bob the Drag Queen and Acid Betty, it must be easy to be thrown off. Laila strikes me as a hotter version of Adore Delano (other contestants were already making comments about her ass when they all –de-dragged for the first time). I feel like there is something lurking beneath the surface that we aren’t counting on. Hey, she beat out the fishiest queen of the season in the first challenge.


Megan: I didn’t think her look on the runway was as bad as Michelle Visage said. I think Robbie Turner’s look was much worse, and that she should have been in the bottom two.

Jalal: I don’t know what to think of Laila McQueen. I liked her when I researched her online and watched her interviews but everything I saw was months after they actually filmed the season. I think she improved a lot after taping the season which makes me think she doesn’t have a lot to offer on the show. With that being said however she absolutely killed it in the lip sync.


Joey: Naomi Smalls might get on my nerves, but she’s got the goods. I must go on record at guessing that her legs are longer than my entire body. With model intentions and glamorous giraffe gams, it is easy for her to excel in a photography challenge. Is she going to be the type of queen who gets stuck on looking good and not giving the good down the road? She made a strong impression in the mini challenge (That ass! Those legs!), but I’m skeptical.
Megan: I personally wasn’t impressed with her dress on the runway—or the boat she came out with! To paraphrase Michelle Visage, “don’t rely on your body!”

Jalal: I am in love with Naomi. She is young, gorgeous, and knows her way around a good Naomi Campbell reference. I’m worried other queens might start picking on her when they should really take her under their wing. Think Bianca and Trinity. There would be no stopping a Bob & Naomi unity if that happened.


Joey: Naysha Lopez was the prettiest queen of season eight, and she’s already sashayed away. I’ve never been a fan of queens who always only talk about look and aesthetic and glamour, but I was totally crushing on Naysha. History of Drag Race would make us assume that she would send Laila packing in the Lip Synch for Your Life, but Laila turned it out and sent this Puerto Rican beauty packing early.

Megan: That dress was by far the worst. Also, it’s season eight. Learn how to sew. Or don’t admit to the judges you don’t know how to sew!

Jalal: I was sad to see Naysha go but for someone who has been praised for their dancing she should have done better in the lip sync. I have a soft spot for pageant queens (a dying art form maybe?) and because of that I wanted her to do well.


Joey: I think I was over Derrick Barry before season eight started. Mostly known for being the most famous Britney Spears impersonator, Derrick will have a hard time pushing himself out of that box. Michelle Visage challenged her to not to challenge Britney from this moment on in the competition, but does anyone think that she will totally listen to that advice?

Megan: Nope. Even her first look was still totally Britney, even though she told the camera she can do more than Britney.

Jalal: The most interesting element of Derrick Berry hasn’t even been revealed yet; her polyamorous relationship with that soldier that was partnered with Alaska during that challenge during season four. I liked her in the premiere but the editing couldn’t have been more obvious. This season will be all about Michelle criticizing her for only having one trick, Britney.


Joey: Robbie Turner got shady with season four winner Sharon Needles in the mini challenge, and that is unforgivable in my book. You show respect to those winners, bitch! Maybe my Pittsburgh roots are showing? Her hair was thirsty from the get-go, and she forgot to assign herself a good costume in the main challenge (she was tasked to give everyone their look). She was too busy being a bitch that she ended up having to take on the dog design challenge from season four. Karma. By the way, I’m sure it didn’t go unnoticed that she was shady to Sharon in the mini challenge and then almost landed in the bottom 2 by doing a dog-awful job of recreating Sharon’s challenge-winning look…

Megan: She should have been in the bottom two. She looked like a Christmas ornament the dog ate and then shat out.

Jalal: Robbie Turner was my least favorite of the week. Her personality is limp and her dress was awful. I was really excited to see a queen who draws inspiration from the golden age of Hollywood but she is bad at it (similar to the other queen who attempted this, season seven’s Max). I’m ready for her to go.


Joey: Chi Chi DeVayne is charming, but her slow drawwwwl got on my nerves from the minute she walked in. She doesn’t seem like someone that would go really far in this competition.

Megan: She’s going to be trouble. Period. And by trouble, I mean drama.

Jalal: Have you guys watched Untucked yet? It made me look at Chi Chi in a different light. I feel bad for queens who can’t afford the dozens of hypothetical challenges they have to prepare for before the season begins. Chi Chi is at a disadvantage but she’s resourceful. I’m rooting for her.


Joey: Dax ExclamationPoint didn’t get much screentime in the premiere episode, so it’s no wonder she landed dead last in my ranking. She’s a cosplayer and lover of all things nerdy (love connection for her and Kim Chi?), but that shiny forehead and lack of enthusiasm puts her dead last.

Megan: First, she has my favorite drag name of the season. What can I say? I’m a nerd for punctuation references. I love that she’s just as nerdy as Kim Chi, and I would have placed her higher than Laila McQueen (sorry). Maybe she’s not that memorable right now, but neither was Pearl in last season’s early episodes.

Jalal: I like Dax but she was given zero screen time. I see some of myself in her personality and I want her to do well but with so many queens this season that are artistic and bombastic (Acid Betty, Kim Chi) I’m worried that Dax might disappear in the shadows. I would personally rank her 6th or 7th.

RuPaul’s Drag Race airs Mondays at 9pm ET on LOGO.

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