TV Adventure

CHINA SMITH “Devil-in-the-Godown.” Syndicated, 16 September 1952 (Season 1, Episode 6). Dan Duryea as China Smith, Douglass Dumbrille as Inspector Hobson, Myrna Dell as “Empress” Shira, Guest star: Marjorie Lord. Written by Robert C. Dennis. Director: Edward Mann. Currently streaming online here

   According to Wikipedia, the episode itself being of minimal use in this regard, China Smith was a “a soldier of fortune, an opportunistic con artist and sometimes private eye who sought adventure.” His base of action is Singapore, and this particular episode opens scene a man (later identified as a newspaper reporter) is unceremoniously dumped off a dock into the water below.

   Smith is hired to investigate, by whom is not clear, and after using a league of assassins to help finds himself tackling a gang of warehouse arsonists. Marjorie Lord plays a reporter, perhaps for the same newspaper as the dead man.

   This is all I know. The whole story is a horrible mess. You get the gist of it, and maybe that’s all you need. Perhaps if you were to watch it, you could fill me in on some of the details I missed.

   The players are more or less fine. I watched this mostly for the star, Dan Duryea, one of my all time favorite bad guys. I can tell you that he can also play a shifty kind of good guy too, and of course, either way he is his usual insouciant self. That might be all you need to know to give this one a try yourself, but keep in mind I warned you.

SHEENA: QUEEN OF THE JUNGLE “Crash in the Jungle.” Syndicated, 01 September 1955 (Season One, Episode One). Irish McCalla (Sheena), Chris Drake (Bob Rayburn), Neal the Chimp. Guest Cast: Claudio Brooks, Rebeca Iturbide. Based on the comic book character created by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger. Directed by Carl K. Hittleman. Currently streaming on YouTube (see below).

   This early syndicated TV series may have been intended for children, but even if so, I’ll bet a lot of adults watched too. Former pin-up model Irish McCalla, while far from being a polished actress, was perfect in the role of Sheena, blonde, athletic (often doing her own stunts in skimpy clothing) and still totally feminine.

   This first episode doesn’t go into the origins of the character, and perhaps the TV series, which lasted for one season of 26 episodes, never did. In this episode a pilot of a small plane survives a fiery crash, but a reel of film of a reclusive native tribe taken by a lady journalist does not. Luckily the film was insured, a fact that does not escape the notice of those investigating the accident.

   At the end of this review is the discussion that Sheena has with them. She does not know what “insurance” is, and the conversation is designed to show her naivete in such matters, which is effective as well as charming. You could say the same thing about the whole production, in spite of its low budget roots, which are showing.

   No matter. Watching this was fun. There was a full-length feature film starring Sheena that came along later, followed by a second syndicated series, both in color with a lot more production values. And yet, while this is the only episode of the earliest version I’ve had a chance to watch, at the moment this is the one I’ve enjoyed the most.

Bob Rayburn: Insurance is like betting. It started out with ships full of cargo, understand?
Andy Howard: Yes! Only the cargo owners bet the ship is going to sink.
Sheena: Why?
Andy Howard: [to Bob] Why?
Bob Rayburn: Because they didn’t want it to sink.
Sheena: Why bet?


Andy Howard: Why, because if it does sink they want to be paid for the cargo.
Sheena: Who pay?
Bob Rayburn: The insurance company.
Sheena: Why?
Bob Rayburn: Why.
Bob Rayburn: [to Andy] You take it, lad.

THE GREEN PARROT. 1958. TV pilot, 30 min. Never aired. Howard Duff (Paul Mace), Ramon Novarro, Peter Whitney, Donald Randolph, Mari Blanchard. Created by Ida Lupino & Howard Duff. Teleplay: William Spier. Directed by Allen H. Miner. Currently streaming on YouTube (see below).

   There is small but significant number of movie, TV, and radio series based on the concept of an American (usually but not always) running a tavern, cafe. or the like in a foreign country, often an exotic one, but although he’d rather it otherwise, trouble always seems to seek him out and get him involved in peril and danger for as long as the current episode lasts.

   Such is the case with Paul Mace, who co-owns The Green Parrot (dba El Pavo Verde), a cantina in a small Mexican village. The episode begins with Mace staggering into the bar with a bullet in his shoulder, then contnues in true Sam Spade fashion as he relates to the doctor and others what kind of scrpe he has just gotten himself into – and presumably (and hopefully) out of.

   It all began with a beautiful blonde, complete with fur coat, coming into the cantina asking Mace for help. Her husband has just died in a fire. Foul play is suspected, and as his wife, she is sure that she is the number one suspect. And so she is, and Mace does his best to help.

   The cast and setting are both fine, but the story simply has no oomph. Being of the appropriate age for such material at the time it was produced, however, I’d certainly have watched any continuing episodes, if such had eventuated. But as adult fare, it’s as weak as yesterday’s tea. I wish I could say better.


SCORPION “Pilot.” CBS, 22 September 2014. Elyes Gabel (Walter O’Brien), Katharine McPhee, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Jadyn Wong, Ari Stidham, Robert Patrick, Riley B. Smith. “Based on the life and case files of Walter O’Brien.” Director: Justin Lin. Currently streaming on Paramount+.

   It is no secret that as a series Scorpion was generated by the huge success of Big Bang Theory, also on the same network. Take a diverse bunch of geeky, high-IQ twenty-somethings, add an ordinary female for them to interact with on a weekly basis, but instead of playing for comedic effect, have them solve all kinds of problems the country if not the entire world is facing.

   We’re introduced to the team in the first episode, all young and all with IQ’s well over 150. None though have much in the way of people skills: a computer genius, a recently graduated Harvard-trained psychiatrist, a gifted mechanical engineer, and a mathematician/statistician. Add a waitress in a diner which becomes the base for the group’s first adventure together. She’s young, no genius, but her very young son is obviously a budding one.

   Their job in this initial episode is to find backup computer code for LAX’s traffic control center. If they fail, planes full of people will soon run out fuel. This they do, but the show is a lot more exciting than watching fingers typing away at keyboards, although there is quite a bit of that, too. A jumbo jet has to fly so low to the ground that a black box can be transferred by hand to a car racing precisely below it at 200 miles per hour. Personally I found that one of more unlikely things I have seen on TV all month, but it was still fun to watch.

   The series was on for four years, so others must have enjoyed the show as much as I generally did this one. None of the characters or their players are all that memorable, but they did everything they needed to in this one. Will I keep watching? The jury’s out on that. Right now, my plate of things to watch is overflowing. I’d say the odds are at least fifty-fifty. Maybe better, but maybe less.


NCIS: LOS ANGELES “The Bear.” CBS, 08 November 2020 (Season 12, Episode 1.) Chris O’Donnell (G. Callen), Daniela Ruah (Kensi Blye), Eric Christian Olsen (Marty Deeks), Renée Felice Smith (Nell Jones), Medalion Rahimi (Special Agent Fatima Namazi), Caleb Castille (Devin Roundtree), Linda Hunt (Hetty Lange), LL Cool J (Sam Hanna). Director: Dennis Smith. Currently available streaming on CBS All Access.

   I’ll start out by apologizing to you by not identifying the role each of the actors above portray in this long-running spinoff from its home base show, NCIS, which of course has been around quite a bit longer. (The latter is now starting its 17th season.) I assume it’s deliberate, but while there’s the same sense on collegiality of the two groups of players, but the story lines for this secondary series has always been a lot more action-oriented: lots more scenes out of doors with planes, helicopters and guns, for example.

   I’ve not been able to watch this show in several years, ever since pulling the cord on all network programming several years ago, until I spotted that the 12th season (only) is offered with no extra charge on CBS All Access. Many of the actors involved were therefor new to me; they all seem to be part of the regular crew, however.

   â€œThe Bear” of the title is a Russian fighter plane that seems to have come down somewhere along California’s Pacific Coast. Where exactly it is, and why it’s there is the mystery that the gang have to solve.

   And I’m sorry to say that the story line isn’t the best that this series has had to offer, but considering the fact that it was filmed in not the best of conditions, a world-wide pandemic, perhaps the people in charge can be forgiven. Linda Hunt as Hetty Lange, the group’s leader, for example, is seen only on closed circuit TV, placing lightweight computer geek Nell Jones in charge, and the latter apparently having retired from the group in a previous season, is for all practical purposes in over her head.

   And otherwise the story is badly paced, with some scenes played for humor going on too long, and others chopped off with little or no explanation, including, unfortunately, the ending. It all ends well, mind you, with no unexpected TO BE CONTINUED flashing on the screen, as quite often happens when I watch a show at random to watch.

   And dare I say it, and this has nothing to do with the virus, but all the players look at least five years older since I last watched the series, five years ago. But even so, it felt good and at home in the world to see them back in action again.


BLOOD & TREASURE. “The Curse of Cleopatra: Parts I & II.” CBS, 2 hours, 21 May 21 2019 (Season 1, Episode 1). Matt Barr as Danny McNamara, a former FBI agent who now works as a lawyer specializing in repatriating stolen art; Sofia Pernas as Lexi Vaziri, a thief and con woman partnered with Danny despite their tortured past; Oded Fehr as Karim Farouk, an Egyptian terrorist leader; Katia Winter as Gwen Karlsson, an Interpol agent assigned to the Farouk case; Michael James Shaw as Aiden Shaw (né Dwayne Coleman), an arms dealer with ties to Farouk; John Larroquette as Jay Reece, a billionaire and father figure to Danny who oversees his effort to stop Farouk’s plans to reunite the sarcophagi of Cleopatra and Mark Anthony to aid his cause. Directors: Part I: Michael Dinner; Part II: Alrick Riley.

   Thanks once again to Wikipedia for allowing me to summarize what’s going on in what’s really the first two episodes in last year’s first season of this new adventure series on CBS, or at least the players therein. But I imagine there’s enough meat there in the summary that I needn’t say more about the story.

   It seems to have done well enough in the ratings that it warranted renewal for a second time around, but on the basis of what I saw, it’s rather unlikely that be riding along with them. The production values are high, which as it should be, given that filming was done on location: in Montreal, Canada, Rome, Turin, Venice, Italy, Marrakesh, and Tangier, Morocco. The story is mediocre, however, being nothing more than watered down Indiana Jones, and while Sofia Pernas is extraordinarily adequate as eye candy, Matt Marr, her co-star in this venture, other than the inevitable stubble, has no screen presence whatsoever.

   I also think the idea of carrying one limp as dishwater story over twelve episodes was a bad idea, but I understand both the logistic and financial reasons for doing so. But carving a pie that’s luke warm at best into twelve slices, all you have is a semi-solid artificially flavored mess, no matter how you cut it.


THIEVES. “Pilot.” ABC, 28 September 2001. John Stamos (as Johnny), Melissa George (as Rita), Robert Knepper, Tone Lōc. Written by Jim Leonard. Director: James Frawley.

  It’s so tempting to start this review by saying, “Stop me if you’ve heard this one before,” and guess what? I just did. Two young cat burglars, male and female, each successful on their own, are caught trying to steal the same set of diamonds, and given an ultimatum” Work for us (the government) or go to jail. By story’s end, they have (guess what) decided to work for the government.

  They of course bicker between each other a lot, but one can imagine that if the series had been allowed to continue (only eight of the ten films were aired before the plug was pulled), the sparks would have been romantic ones as well as those generated by their competitive natures. Both lead actors are extremely attractive (and the female partner of the two seems to dress in clothes that show as much bare skin as much as possible).

  There is an old adage in the television business (or if there isn’t, there should be), that you need a story, too, not bits of pieces of one that need as much padding as to make each episode fit comfortably in a 60 minute time slot, less commercials.

  Each of the two leads ha gone on to have had successful careers. This series wasn’t much of a step up along the way, however. It remains a relic only, of interest only to those of us who love digging up old relics such as this.



  RELIC HUNTER “Buddha’s Bowl” A Canadian-produced series. 20 September 1999 (Season 1, Episode 1. Tia Carrera (Sydney Fox), Christien Anholt (Nigel Bailey), Lindy Booth. Guest Cast: Tony Rosato.

   Any resemblance to the Indiana Jones movies is not only not incidental, but as far I can see, totally intentional. Sydney Fox is nominally a professor of archaeology and ancient history at Trinity College, but every week for three seasons on TV, she went off to yet another part of the world to track down a relic, if you will, of a large significance, importance, or (very often) of value. She’s also a master of martial arts, and if this first episode is any example, looks just fine in a simple black bra.

   Accompanying her on all these adventures is her teaching assistant, Nigel Bailey, a much more reserved young man from England whom both Sydney and we, the viewer meet for the first time in “Buddha’s Bowl.” On his very first day on the job he’s swept off to Nepal, where a map is said to point the way to the relic’s present location.

   Of course there is someone else looking for it as well, an old acquaintance and rival who knows Sydney well enough to call her “Sweet cheeks.” The scenery is great, the danger is real (stuck in a tomb filling with sand and no exit, for example), and Tia Carrera, in almost every scene, is a young woman whom every young male would most desperately like to trade places with Nigel to go on all 66 episodes with her.

   Even some of us older fellows.


OF THE DECADE (2010-2019)
by Michael Shonk

   It is that time of year again when everyone makes a list, be it our list to Santa or the critic’s top ten list. This list has my favorite top 20 TV series that aired during the 2010s. I have separated them by type of TV it is: broadcast network, basic cable, premium cable, and streaming/apps.

   While the change from analog to digital television began in the 2000s the decade of 2010 will be remembered as when the digital era took over. It was a time that saw the fall of broadband network TV and the rise of digital streaming services. The major entertainment companies of the 20th Century – ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox as well as all of the major movie studios but Disney were swallowed up by conglomerates from outside Hollywood such as AT&T and Comcast. As Old Hollywood fell, new players rose such as Netflix and Apple creating a gold rush to find a spot in the future digital Hollywood.

   Broadcast TV is dying. Still regulated by the FCC, the major free networks continue to play it safe and cling to ancient formats such as episodic drama, sitcoms and police procedural.

   Despite that, my favorite TV series of the decade is the underrated PERSON OF INTEREST (CBS, 2011-16). The series’ only flaw was it was from formulaic CBS, the only network that would air the Second Coming as an episodic procedural. PERSON OF INTEREST was ahead of its time. It went from a weekly standalone episodes to an intriguing series with a continuing story foretelling our society’s fall into paranoia and fear. It was a world where America was becoming a bad guy, a corrupt government empowered by the rise of AIs.


FRINGE: (FOX, 2008-2013). FRINGE began as just another X-FILES copy but it did not take long for it to become a creative quality series featuring time travel and multi-universes.

ZERO HOUR: (ABC, 2012-13). ZERO HOUR was so bad it was good. Set in modern day with flashbacks to WWII, the series featured a never ending source of wacky troupes including an evil baby, Nazis, Rosicrucians guarding a doomsday device, twelve apostles each with a clock holding a clue leading to the device, a woman kidnapped from her clock shop, and her husband who finds among other things a frozen to death Nazi who could be his twin.

   Modern-day basic cable has always been a source of original programming. Networks such as USA and SYFY may have began producing cheap cheesy network knockoffs but today both and the rest of cable are willing to take risks the major networks won’t, and basic cable has improved because of it.

   My favorite basic cable series of the decade is JUSTIFIED (FX 2010-15). Based on Elmore Leonard’s characters and short story “Fire In the Hole” JUSTIFED was a violent crime drama set in Harlan County Kentucky. Marshall Raylan Givens was forced back to where he grew up and no one was happy.

   There he dealt with a complicated love life and some of the best Elmore Leonard type bad people on TV. Each season featured a different villain and crime, but what made the series so great was the special relationship between Raylan and local killer Boyd Crowder.


ARCHER: (FX, 2009-2016; FXX, 2017- present) – This animated classic with a flexible premise began as a 60s style spy series for the first four seasons. The series kept the characters and placed them in different situations. Season Five was Archer Vice with our heroes as the World’s worse drug dealers. In Season Six the group were hired by the CIA and found them selves in the middle of a Latin American revolution.

   This was followed by a season as they started a 1970-80s style TV PI agency in Los Angeles (promo below). Next was a 1940s style film noir called Archer Dreamland. Next was Season 9 and Archer Danger Island where our group races some pre-WWII Nazis for a treasure on a small island. Then it was Archer 1999 and stories spoofing science fiction. Coming soon will be Archer’s eleventh season, reportedly with everyone back in the spy business.

RUBICON: (AMC, 2010). Unusually intelligent for TV, RUBICON was about Will Travers who worked for a small Federal based spy agency. When his mentor dies, Will begins to suspect murder and uncovers a conspiracy. A suspenseful thought provoking series with a lack of car chases RUBICON was killed in the ratings by USA’s fun bimbo spy series with car chases COVERT AFFAIRS.

SHERLOCK: (BBC/PBS/BBCA, 2010-2017) – My favorite version of Sherlock Holmes. The writing was witty and intelligent in its adapting the Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories for a modern world. The casting worked, with Benedict Cumberbatch being the best ever to portray Holmes and Martin Freeman giving Watson new life.

(Adult Swim, 2003- present). One of the TV’s funniest strangest TV series, the cartoon VENTURE BROS began as a parody of kids cartoons – in particularly JONNY QUEST. Quickly the series took on its own universe with its own absurdities. The video below is from the end of season five (2013). Season eight is scheduled to arrive sometime in the future.

WYNONNA EARP: (SYFY, 2016-present) Wyatt Earp’s demon killing gun has been past down through the Earp’s family first born sons until it ended up in the hands of a bad ass Wynonna. This series is over the top fun from the romances to the humor to the absurd violence as the gang sends countless demons back to Hell. The video below introduces the series that has been renewed for a fourth and fifth season.

   With the decrease in films aimed for adults and an increase in demand for TV series for adults, more and more premium channels are turning to original programming. Pay TV networks HBO, Showtime, and Cinemax have been joined by premium networks (you have to pay extra to get them) Starz, Epix, IFC, BBCA and others in producing original programs of high quality and adult content. These networks are also available on apps where you can pay for the network without having to subscribe to cable.

   My favorite of this group is DIRK GENTLY’S HOLISTIC DETECTIVE AGENCY (BBCA 2016-17). BBC had attempted to bring Dirk to the small screen in a four-part miniseries in the early part of the decade but failed to capture Douglas Adams sense of humor and bizarre world.

In 2016 BBCA and Max Landis made a second attempt with Samuel Barnett as Dirk. While never a success beyond a cult audience of which I am a member, this version got two seasons and worked because Landis for the most part ignored the books and went with Douglas Adams style and humor. Douglas Adams himself had been quoted admitted he had his least success when he worried about plot or logic.


COUNTERPART: (STARZ, 2016-2019) – This spy series was set against a backdrop of two different but connected Universes. During the Cold War there had been an accident and the Universe doubled leaving everyone with a physical double. Oddly, except for their looks the people were different than their counter in the other Universe.

   J.K. Simmons was brilliant as Howard Silk, a meek cog in our spy agency while his double was a ruthless man and one of the other side’s top spies. Where did Howard Silk’s path separate? How did the same man become a meek failure in one Universe and a ruthless success in the other?

DOCTOR WHO: (BBCA, Modern Version 2005 – present). DOCTOR WHO is an iconic British TV series that debuted in 1963. It is about an alien with a fondness for Earth who travels with companions through time and space in a 1960s blue British Police Box. This decade was a good one for Who’s fans.

   One of the best ideas DOCTOR WHO had was regeneration. Whenever the actor playing the Doctor wanted to leave the character would regenerate into a new version of the Doctor played by a different actor. There were four Doctor’s and three different showrunners during the 2010s. I found the era of showrunner Stephen Moffat (SHERLOCK) to be my favorite since the great days of Tom Baker the fourth Doctor.

   David Tennent as the tenth Doctor remains one the series most popular Doctors. He brought emotions to the character as Ten fell in love more than once and cried when it was his turn to leave. When showrunner Russell Davies – who had successfully brought the Doctor back to life in 2005 – decided to leave, Tennent left as well.

   2011 brought showrunner Stephen Moffat, and Matt Smith became the eleventh Doctor. Smith’s Doctor was an ancient alien carrying the burden of a tragic past while hiding behind a boyish face and child-like behavior.

   In 2014 Peter Capaldi became Doctor number twelve. His Doctor was more retrospective, rude, distant and uncomfortable around humans. It was his inner struggle to decide if he was good despite his past that made this Doctor the most dramatic.

   2018 marked the arrival of thirteen and the most controversial Doctor. Jodie Whittaker became the first woman to play the Doctor. As Mommy Doctor, Whittaker was the best part of last season. New showrunner Chris Chibnall’s writing and changes were not to my taste. He had said the next season will be better. We can only hope the next decade for Doctor Who will be as entertaining and varied as the 2010 decade.

   Below is my favorite scene of the series. It stars Matt Smith my favorite Doctor since Tom Baker (#4).

PERPETULAL GRACE LTD (EPIX, 2019) was a quirky, at times totally incomprehensible, story told in a way that reminded me of old independent films. There was a sadness to the characters and their actions that was often hilarious.

   It featured a cast of doomed losers, those who would do anything to survive, those who blindly believe in others, and those who sought redemption but believed they didn’t deserve saving. The writing, acting and direction drew the viewers into the addictive story. One word of warning the series ended with a taunting cliffhanger and there is still no word of a second season.

WESTWORLD: (HBO, 2016-present). What began as a good book by Michael Crichton about an amusement part with robots serving the fantasies of the human guests has lead to two movie adaptations and one TV mini-series. This latest attempt to adapt the story is by far the best. This version of WESTWORLD added the point of view of the AIs (robots) to explore what is life. It can be too clever for its own good, but I really am looking forward to the coming third season.

   Streaming services have come a long way since NETFLIX killed Blockbuster rentals and decided to take on Hollywood. Streaming offers subscribers hundreds of more choices, return of long forgotten favorites, life to networks cancelled series, shows from all over the world and originals that before never would have ever been produced. It has freed us from the chains of TV schedules. It has given us a different way to watch TV as the impatient viewer can watch at the speed they want – one episode or as many as they are in the mood to watch or the entire season at one sitting.

   Netflix’s original RUSSIAN DOLL (2019) is my favorite streaming program of the 2010’s decade. Nadia is trying to survive her 36th birthday but she keeps dying. Characters in time loops are nothing new but RUSSIAN DOLL is surprisingly original. One of the best comedies of the decade made better by the brilliant acting by Natasha Lyonne as broken, foul mouth and sympathetic Nadia.


ACCA: 13 – TERRITORY INSPECTION DEPARTMENT (Funimation). This Japanese anime aired in 2017. Based on a light novel, ACCA is a delightful slice of life spy story that still makes me smile. ACCA is the agency that oversees all of the Kingdom of Dowa’s thirteen separate but equal states. A rumor of a possible coup in the peaceful kingdom has Chief Investigator Jean Otis investigating each of the 13 states.

BROKENWOOD MYSTERY: (New Zealand Prime TV 2014, airs on Acorn in United States). This folksy traditional mystery from New Zealand feels like THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW if ANDY had been one of those slow moving cozy traditional mysteries set in an odd small town with likable but strange characters that the British do so well.

   Detective Sergeant Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea) leads Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland) and Detective Constable Sam Breen (Nic Sampson) as they solve challenging murders. The cast has a nice chemistry, the writing is witty and the characters are the type hard to find now a days – content, likeable and peaceful.

THE EXPANSE: (SYFY, 2015-18; AMAZON PRIME, 2019). SYFY produced some better than expected TV during the 2010s. The best was THE EXPANSE. Based on the books by James S.A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) THE EXPANSE is set in a time when humans have populated the solar system – the three major groups are those from Earth, Mars, and the Asteroid belt.

   The production values and special effect were too expensive for Syfy so the show was dropped and picked up by Amazon Prime. Prime offers all four series ready to watch. The video I selected explains the appeal of the series without giving away spoilers.

QUEENS OF MYSTERY (check out my review here on this blog)

STEINS;GATE (Funimation, premiered in Japan in 2011). Based on a light novel the story begins with an over the top mad scientist but things grow more serious as he and his friends find a way to send notes through time. Below is a dub in English of the first episode.

   The decade of 2010 has offered some on the best TV series in the history of television, sadly too many of which were not seen by most of American TV viewers including me. Cinemax’s JETT most likely would have made this list if I had had the time to finish watching it. I am sure there have been TV series this decade that would have made this list if I had spent more time watching TV and less time sleeping and having a life.

   Taste and opinion guide favorite or best lists. It os important to remember the quality of the beef means nothing to a vegetarian. You might notice I have a bias against the popular mainstream entertainment and favor the different, neglected and the weird. Fortunately there is a comment section for you to correct me and name your own favorites.

TV IN 2019: PART TWO –
by Michael Shonk

   Comparing the broadcast and cable networks to the streaming services is like comparing cassette tapes to CD. Both have entertaining content, it is just the formats are different.

   The broadcast networks are fading dinosaurs, no longer a place where mass audiences gather on a daily basis. Cable networks are doomed to be devoured by the streaming world that features original programming as well as the programs of the cable networks.

   TV has changed in so many ways. Because of devices such as Apple TV, Roku TV, and Amazon’s Firestick you can watch nearly all of cable TV without cable and even without a TV set. TV has left the living room and is following you, waiting to fetch for you whatever and whenever you want to watch. Part One of this two part survey looked at the streaming services, so now it is the broadcasting and cable networks turn.

   With the exception of some time as the top rated network in the 1970s-80s, ABC has never gotten much respect. Having been born during the radio days as a rib off NBC, ABC tends to get treated like third in line. Things have not improved since Disney bought them.

   ABC’s announced goal for the 2019-20 season is to finish first among women. One reason is they have to share most of the sports with their Disney family brother ESPN. ABC has also found success in the past with the women market and in today’s diversity culture women are in increasing demand.

   ABC shows have a real problem writing male characters that men want to watch. ABC’s best dramas tend to feature a gorgeous independent likeable female lead. The problem is few of their series characters are likable or deep enough for the audience to care. The writing focuses on emotion over plots and romance over action. Shows such as TAKE TWO and WHISKEY CAVALIER are good examples of this.

   I do have hopes for two of ABC announced new series. REEF BREAK airs this month. It stars Poppy Montgomery (UNFORGETTABLE) as an ex-thief turned trouble-shooter for a tropical island government.

   The broadcast networks new fall series I most look forward to is ABC ‘s STUMPTOWN. Based on a comic book, the story is about a gorgeous wise cracking kick ass female PI. How could I resist after watching this trailer?

   Not so long ago CBS’s future looked bright. It had defeated the evil conglomerate Viacom and had won its freedom. But there were problems. CBS’ powerful successful ruthless womanizing media mogul Les Moonves had faced down Viacom but would be crushed by a bunch of women and the rising power of the me-too movement. Only CBS stockholders were sorry to see Moonves leave, and they had to watch in horror as Viacom began to rise and turn its eyes back on them.

   CBS may continue to attract the most viewers on linear TV, but such numbers mean less and less. Those at CBS remain clueless about diversity. Diversity is not taking your ancient series format and change the white guy to a woman or minority.

   CBS made a big deal out of Alan Cummings playing a gay man in INSTINCT but didn’t bother to update its tired format. The formula has one strange unconventional male paired with an over serious all business female cop and they solve crimes together. This summer INSTINCT returns and if you like old-fashioned procedurals, it is worth a peek, if you are bored with TV from the 20th century, CBS is not for you.

   The best thing CBS has going for it is the showrunnners Michelle and Robert King who have blessed the unworthy network with THE GOOD WIFE and THE GOOD FIGHT. Ok, they also created the hideous failure BRAIN DEAD. CBS is hoping EVIL, a show about a Catholic Assessor and a non-believing profiler joining forces to fight psychopaths, is one of the King’s good shows.

   Among the cable networks owned by CBS are SHOWTIME and POP TV. POP TV is best known for SCHITT’S CREEK. The Canadian sitcom and cult TV favorite has been renewed for its sixth season. Also on the network are FLORIDA GIRLS (comedy about four girls in a Florida small town) and FLACK (comedy about public relations).

   CW has its own measurement for success rather than Nielsen’s live ratings. They are not alone. Because there is no accepted metric for digital viewing, every network and many of the media buyers (advertisers) have their own set of numbers beyond Nielsen’s. When the totals are as small as TV has gotten, how many mean less than who, what, where and devotion to content/product.

   CW was a merger of UPN (Paramount) and WB (Warner Brothers). CBS and Warner co-own CW and supply nearly all its programs. Perhaps my biggest question about CW this fall is are they going to weird out Nancy Drew like they did to Archie in RIVERDALE? The trailer is inconclusive.

   Today’s FOX is a pale version of itself when it was the number one rated TV network. Disney swallowed up most of FOX, leaving just the broadcast TV network, Fox News cable networks, and Fox sports. Fox is saving most of its original scripted series for the midseason. Meanwhile, it is mainly games shows this summer and sports this fall. Perhaps its most successful original scripted series this fall will be WWE pro wrestling. For drama fans this fall offers PRODIGAL SON (serial killer Dad wants son to join the family business), and 9-1-1 has Jennifer Love Hewitt joining the cast.

   The technology of today is able to create extremely detailed analytics and it has changed television as much as sabermetrics has changed baseball.

   Hollywood REPORTER (May 20, 2019) discussed commercial television with some media buyers, “Buyers also expressed a collective eye roll at the emphasis on total viewers…But even the so called sweet-spot of viewers 18-49 has become an antiquated benchmark.”

   So NBC winning the 18-49 means little and all the media coverage of Nielsen’s live ratings mean even less.

   Bob Greenblat who had taken NBC from a laughing stock to respected network left NBC to run part of the WarnerMedia streaming service.

   Today NBC has the best fiction among the broadcast networks. An NBC show is more interested in the heart, more interested in examining the characters than who done it.

   Supernatural cop series THE INBETWEEN currently airing is a good example. Every character has a sob story for depth. I have seen two episodes and what is the “inbetween” is still a mystery. Not that it matters, as long as you accept the concept the drama is watching the other side help Cassie stop the villain and save the victim. If you like supernatural mysteries try it out.

   AMC NETWORKS is made up of cable networks: AMC (WALKING DEAD), IFC (PORTLANDIA), WE (BRAXTON FAMILY VALUES), and Sundance (RECTIFY). AMC NETWORK co-owns BBC America (DOCTOR WHO) with BBC studios.

   It has been a busy year for AMC. Final seasons aired of martial arts action series INTO THE BADLANDS, historical drama THE SON, and (starting in August) supernatural PREACHER. Also airing in 2019 are FEAR OF THE WALKING DEAD, NOS4A2, and THE TERROR.

   BBC America and AMC both air KILLING EVE. The critically acclaimed thriller has just ended season 2 and has been renewed for a third season, coming most likely in 2020.

   BBC America is best known for DOCTOR WHO. My favorite Doctors remain Tom Baker and Matt Smith, but Jodie Whittaker as Momma Who is terrific, it was the writing and the supporting cast that made last season unwatchable for me.

   Fans of ORPHAN BLACK will be happy to learn the series is coming back in a 10 part audio series, starring Tatiana Maslany. There is a possible new TV series in development.

   Sundance Channel has a new eight-part adaption of the book NAME OF THE ROSE.

   A&E is a group owned in part by Disney and Hearst. It has A+E, History, and Lifetime. A+E is into reality programming. Lifetime is best known for its original scripted movies for women. In the past Lifetime has tried original scripted TV series such as VERONICA CLARE, ANGELA’S EYES and MARY KILLS PEOPLE, but today its schedule features reality shows such as DANCE MOMS. History Channel has a mix of reality programming (AX MEN and FORGED IN FIRE), and historical dramas (PROJECT BLUE BOOK and THE VIKINGS). THE VIKINGS are due to air its sixth and final season during the 2019-20 season. There are plans for a spin-off but not enough details to expect it soon.

   Among the better parts of FOX that Disney devoured is Fox entertainment cable networks FX and FXX. Both feature critically approved programs with unlikable characters and a premise that scream edginess.

   FX is beloved by TV critics everywhere. Some of the series to air this year are BASKETS (life of an clown), FOSSE/VERDON (Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon’s relationship), LEGION (superheroes), POSE (life in gay culture in New York during the 80s), SNOWFALL (drug dealer), and WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS (vampire comedy).

   FXX is a comedy offshoot of FX and a place of endless THE SIMPSON reruns. ARCHER began as an animated spoof on spies and over time has turned its attention to genres such as action, PI noir, adventure, and this year space opera. This is ARCHER tenth season and may be its last.

   Disney still has its multiple cable networks for kids and families. It also owns Freeform that has found an audience for gossipy mysteries (PRETTY LITTLE LIARS) and supernatural series. I can hardly wait to see just how fun bad is MOTHERLOAD: FORT SALEM – a series about gorgeous young witches who serve in the American army.

   Now that AT&T has bought Time Warner and dubbed it WarnerMedia there will be changes. At this time, Warner’s focus is less on cable and more on its future streaming service. HBO has been told to produce more series, quality be damn.

   There may be changes in the formats of TNT and TBS. TNT currently is for drama and TBS is for comedy. TNT has dramas such as CLAWS, and ANIMAL KINGDOM. TBS has comedy such as AMERICAN DAD, FULL FRONTAL and SEARCH PARTY.

   CHASING THE CURE is a live series to simulcast on both TNT and TBS. The series features a real person with a mystery disease and the audience from all over the world offers up possible cures.

   Will Warnermedia bring changes to cable’s best channel TCM, one of the few places left to enjoy film’s classics? Cartoon fans wonder what the future has in store for Cartoon Network (modern cartoons), Boomerang (cartoons featuring new versions of older characters such as Bugs and Scooby Doo), and popular Adult Swim (for adult fans of cartoons). This August Adult Swim favorite and one of the greatest TV cartoons ever made, the VENTURE BROTHERS return for a seventh season.

   Comcast owns NBC Universal studio and a variety of cable networks including E (Kardashians), SYFY, USA, and Bravo.

   Bravo is more a reality and lifestyle network, which is why DIRTY JOHN will air its second season on USA in 2020. DIRTY JOHN is based on a true crime podcast.

   One of the most popular cable networks, USA will say good-bye to MR ROBOT as I await BRIARPATCH, a series based on Ross Thomas book (I expect it in 2020). This summer SUITS ends and spin-off series PEARSON begins.

   SYFY has had problems only cable networks can have. THE EXPANSE is one of the TV’s greatest science fiction series, but it cost too much so SYFY cancelled it. Fortunately Amazon Prime saved it and will be showing the fourth season soon.

   WYNONNA EARP may have a small audience but it is a passionate audience advertisers love. It has been renewed for a fourth and fifth season. However IDW that produces the series ran out of money and had to stop production. EARP fans refused to let it die, even at one point buying ad space on the giant billboard in Times Square begging fans to help save the show. SYFY (and Canadian channel Space) still want the series.

   THE MAGICIANS (based on Lew Grossman’s trilogy) just finished its season 4 and has been renewed. Airing this summer will be the last season of KILLJOYS and the second of KRYPTON (Superman’s home planet).

   SYFY has an affection for bizarre creepy series that generally don’t last long. Some examples have been DEADLY CLASS, high school for assassins, and BLOOD DRIVE, a Death Race 2000 like car race but this time the cars run on blood. This year saw the second season and maybe the last of HAPPY. Christopher Meloni stars as Nick, an ex-cop with endless number of vices including the fondness of killing people, and his imaginary friend Happy. Ann-Margret joined the cast this year and…well…

   Viacom has long enjoyed collecting a variety of cable networks. A recent reorganization has made the cable networks more team players than independent networks.

   BET will continue to specialize in programs for the black audience such as AMERICAN SOUL and IN CONTEMPT. Comedy Central focus is on comedy, from live shows (DAILY SHOW) to scripted comedy (THE OTHER TWO). MTV will likely drop any future attempts at scripted TV (anyone remember scripted thriller EYE CANDY, based on R.L. Stine book) and do docu-reality shows with young adults (THE HILLS…NEW BEGINNING). Nickelodean should continue its mix of cartoons (SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS) and live action (HENRY DANGER) for kids.

   Spike network has been renamed Paramount network and is Viacom’s flagship. Its scripted original YELLOWSTONE has been renewed for a third season. Kevin Costner stars in the epic family drama and DALLAS wanna-be.

   HALLMARK MYSTERY MOVIES has its fans. If you like overly formulaic romantic mysteries this is for you. There are a seemingly endless number of different but interchangeable series. Current lineup include GOURMET DETECTIVE MYSTERY, MYSTERY 101, PICTURE PERFECT MYSTERIES, HAILEY DEAN MYSTERIES, and CROSSWORD MYSTERY.

   August will be AURORA TEAGARDEN MYSTERY month. Based on the books written by Charlaine Harris, Aurora (Candace Cameron-Bure) is a librarian who runs the Real Mystery Club. Of interest to old TV fans, Marilu Henner (TAXI) co-stars.

   Another way to watch TV is Digital TV. All it requires is a digital antenna and a TV or some are also available on cable. Among the best known of digital stations are ME-TV, ESCAPE, COZI, GRIT and ANTENNA -TV. These stations remind me of the old TV Independent stations such as the great KDOC -Los Angeles that aired little beyond old TV series reruns.

   When TV has more demand than supply, syndication has always stepped in, from the early wild uncharted days of the 1950s TV to the early days of today’s cable. Today we find original scripted series everywhere we find cable channels.

   WGN AMERICA returns to once cancelled, now revived Canadian original PURE, based on the true story of the Mennonite mob. ION carries mainly your standard syndicated reruns but also offers new original scripted series from Canada, PRIVATE EYES:

   There are small independently owned cable networks that serve a small audience and are not available on streaming. My favorite is El Rey, created by filmmaker Robert Rodriguez (EL MARIACHI) for Latino males, young filmmakers, and fans of dubbed martial arts films. It reruns hard to find series such as STARHUNTER REDUX and RELIC HUNTER. It offers exposure to aspiring filmmakers. Among its original programs are MAN AT ARMS: ART OF WAR (Danny Trejo examines weapons), comedy CRUNCH TIME, a talk show, various animation series, and LUCHA UNDERGROUND.

   The goal of this two part look at TV in 2019 was to help you in this world of nearly 500 original scripted TV series each season, to actually find some of those series, and maybe even find some you like.

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