Archive for the ‘Television Reviews’ Category

Television Review: “The Joey+Rory Show”

July 17, 2012

Joey + Rory

The Joey + Rory Show

* * * 1/2 

For those old enough to remember, Country Music has a long history with the variety show. Everyone from Porter Wagoner to the Wilburn Brothers, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, The Statler Brothers and even Barbara Mandrell (along with her sisters Louise and Irlene) graced America’s TV sets at one point or another.

This tradition has long since ended as the format died out over the past thirty years. The downfall in this type of programming meant generations of country fans wouldn’t have the opportunity to see their favorite performers on TV each week and get a chance to pull back the curtain to see the person behind the celebrity.

But thanks to RFD-TV, the format is coming back strong. The traditionally structured Marty Stuart Show has been showing his, and Connie Smith’s, brand of country music for a couple of years now, and The Joey + Rory Show debuted two weeks ago.

Mixing homespun wisdom and old-fashioned charm, The Joey + Rory Show is the perfect showcase for the husband and wife duo residing in Pottsville, Tennessee. Filmed on their farm and in their restaurant Marcy Jo’s Mealhouse, they make you feel like you’ve gone back to the simpler ideals of the 1950s/1960s when America’s beating heart resided in Mayberry.

This simplicity gives the show its pulse and encases each episode in a sincere authenticity that feels genuine opposed to concocted from a network executive.  Each thirty-minute episode (13 comprise the first season) is broken into segments from musical performances, comedy sketches, and cooking demonstrations, to an inside look at their life and marriage.

The music-centric portions of the program are the show’s strongest, with the “Story Behind The Song” feature standing as the highlight of the half-hour. By combining the couple’s instinctive storytelling abilities with acoustic versions of songs they’ve written, you glean a much-appreciated insight into the lives of the duo. I loved hearing Rory talk openly about the seven-year journey it took to get “A Little More Country Than That” recorded, and how the royalty checks from Easton Corbin’s #1 hit afforded them a new tin roof on their 1890s farmhouse. I also enjoyed hearing Joey tell the story of how the couple met and hearing her sing “A Night To Remember,” the yet-to-be recorded song written about that experience.

Also outstanding are the opening numbers, live performances of tracks from their excellent His and Hers album due July 31. They showcased the Kent Blazy and Leslie Satcher co-write “Let’s Pretend We’ve Never Met” in the premiere and Rory’s “The Bible and a Belt” last week, opposite ends of the His and Hers spectrum that highlight Joey’s comedic strengths and Rory’s rich family oriented storytelling.

Each week the duo also showcases guest performers, personal favorites of their choosing. By highlighting lesser-known performers, they spotlight a more refreshing crop of talents like Bradley Walker, the wheelchair bound traditional country and Bluegrass singer and 2007 IBMA Male Vocalist of the Year. The inclusion of these such performers, opposed to drawing from a pool of more established acts, exposes the viewer to artists they may not have known before and I welcome, as well as appreciate, any and all opportunities to be exposed to fresh talent not connected to mainstream Nashville.

As a whole The Joey + Rory Show is unapologetically Joey  and Rory and if you’re not a fan of the couple’s aw shucks persona and simple lifestyle, then the broader moments of the program may not be for you. The weakest moment on the program remains an Andy Rooney style comedy commentary by their neighbor and friend Wynn Varble, an established country songwriter (“Waitin’ On A Woman,” “Have You Forgotten,” “Sounds Like Life To Me”). His southern sense of humor comes off a tad Hicky for my tastes. And while I love the charm of their cooking segments, like the Coca Cola Cake demonstrated in the first episode, they aren’t broad enough recipes to appeal to everyone. That isn’t a big issue, though, since I really enjoy these aspects into Joey’s other job as a restaurateur with Rory’s sister Marcy.

Overall, The Joey + Rory Show is a wonderful yet unconventional variety show bubbling with the personality both Joey Martin and Rory Lee Feek bring to the table each week. They wanted to create great family programming and they certainly achieve that objective tenfold, giving fans a very enjoyable look at what they’re about in all aspects of their life, proving they’re a natural at everything they do.

The Joey + Rory Show airs Friday nights at 9 EST on RFD-TV, Rural America’s Most Important Network

Did you see who was on Piers Morgan Tonight?

January 21, 2011

There was a time when Larry King would’ve left big shoes to fill. But the constant mispronunciations and inept questions had grown particularly thin. CNN may have chalked up their decision to oust King as a move to attract a new generation of (slightly younger, more hip) viewers, but the truth doesn’t lie – King had overstayed his welcome by more than a few years. Keeping him on the air was nothing short of a farce; the longer CNN kept his show going, the worse they looked. To say King was well past his view-by-date is an understatement.

Many critics have taken issue with King’s replacement – former British Tabloid editor Piers Morgan. A fixture on America’s Got Talent since it’s inception in 2006, he upstaged country singer Trace Adkins in the finale of The Celebrity Apprentice during its inaugural run in 2008. Among other accomplishments on his resume, he judged Britain’s Got Talent and Susan Boyle’s now famous audition. Morgan also isn’t shy with regards to controversy – among many hotbed moments in his career, he has banned Madonna from his new CNN show claiming she’s “too vegan for TV” – whatever that means.

It’s clear that Morgan loves attention – whether it’s his public feud with the material girl, or letting Howard Stern go off on a rant denouncing Jay Leno as a “crook.” It’s also clear that Morgan loves good television. His slogan, “Did you see who was on Piers Morgan Tonight?” isn’t in play for nothing. He clearly wants people talking about him (and his show) whether it’s good or bad.

It’s funny though, as much as Piers Morgan Tonight acts as an extension of his highly polished brand of narcism, it also acts as an image builder. On ATG Morgan comes off as a place card, that show’s role-filling “British judge” – a no-nonsense meanie out for the kill. Yet in the time he’s already been on the air, Morgan seems a bit softer – not afraid to laugh and show venerability. He’s adapted his brand for American television and it works.

But the real question remains – should we care what’s on Piers Morgan Tonight? He’s wrapping up his premiere week tonight and all ready he’s interviewed the likes of Oprah, Howard Stern, Condoleezza Rice, Ricky Gervais. Judging by his week so far, the answer is yes. In four days Morgan has shown the ease of a master interviewer; able to move seamlessly from the frivolous world of entertainment to the high-stakes game of American politics without falter. Already proving himself the anti Larry King, Morgan comes prepared and actually knows what he’s talking about.

But he also has the key anyone in his position needs – curiosity. Morgan has a hankering to break down the walls of celebrity and reveal the human underneath; to find the motivation that drives those we’ve all come to know. With Howard Stern, for example, that meant talking at length about his need to have naked women on the radio. With Oprah, it meant discussing her real reasons for remaining single and not venturing into politics. It may sound a bit superficial to some, but in Morgan’s company, his guests become real people – individuals we want to know a little more about. Morgan makes us care by making even the most overexposed celebutante interesting.

But as much as he’s displaying his softer side, Morgan also knows when he has to be tough. During his interview with Gervais, who is currently dealing with backlash from his recent Golden Globes hosting gig, Morgan grilled him about his comedy and with regards to Charlie Sheen in particular, knowing when you’ve offended people. Gervais took it all in stride and left unscathed. But make no mistake, Morgan had put him in the hot seat.

By displaying his tough side, Morgan showed that he’s willing to demand answers and hold people accountable for their actions. This skill will boast well when he interviews political leaders and those in power. Plus, American television needs someone to man up and ask the tough questions. This trait will undoubtedly make for some very provocative television in the coming months.

Another question, though, still remains – is Morgan the go-to-guy for the important interview? Is Morgan able to be counted on to give a serious interview with the likes of Gabby Giffords or Vladimir Putin or is his bread-and-butter post jail interviews with the likes of Lindsay Lohan? Only time will tell.

During his first week, he’s kept his interview subjects clearly in the realm of entertainment, with the notable exception of Rice. It may be his desire to attract viewers or CNN’s need to get ahold of the market share at 9 p.m., but Morgan should mix it up a bit in the weeks to come. We need to see he’s worth more than just an interviewer of celebrities; that he can hold his own with the most important of people.

He’s fantastic right now, but give him an hour with the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Julian Assange, or Aung San Suu Kyi and I bet he’ll really shine.

Grey’s Anatomy

April 26, 2010

Hit television program Grey’s Anatomy has risen above its soapy backdrop to become a cultural phenomenon. In the six seasons that it has been on the air, the show has kept viewers coming back for more week after week as the tale of interns turned residences at fictional Seattle Grace Hospital go about their busy lives and have more sex in the on-call room than most people in a whole career in the porn industry. It seems that by now, each character has hooked up with each other thus igniting passionate debate among legions of loyal fans.

Relative newcomer Ellen Pompeo, previously seen in Catch Me if you Can, plays Meredith Grey, the title character and protagonist. A dark and twisty off-spring of brilliant surgeon Ellis Grey, her mom had a decade’s long affair with Meredith’s now boss (and chief of surgery) Richard Webber. Their relationship proves testy as Webber tries to act as a father figure to the damaged intern while trying not to cross professional bounds.

The core of the show centers on the love affair between Ms. Grey and neurosurgeon Derek Shepherd, known by his mick-name “McDreamy.” The sexy TV couple has been the benchmark for love on a primetime drama since their debut in the spring of 2005. Viewers were there for each break-up, make-up, and eventual “wedding.”

 By no means revolutionary or any bit forward thinking, Grey’s Anatomy does little to tie current events into the plot-lines. An escapist drama, Anatomy acts more as a mind-numbing hour of television than a gripping ripped from the headlines type of show. And as viewers will attest, they like the show just as it is.

Unfortunately for its own merit, the show adds little to the hospital drama, a tired brand of television that seems in overdrive. When compared to shows such as House, M.D. or John Well’s ER, Anatomy lacks in major depth and feels more like a romantic comedy than a serious medical drama. Targeted at women ages 18-24, the show serves its purpose but would you want those doctors taking care of you? I think not.

Much too how it may appear now, Grey’s Anatomy began as one of the freshest TV shows to come along in quite a while. Paired with ABC’s equally buzz-worthy Desperate Housewives and debuting in the spring of the 2004-2005 TV season, Anatomy more than held its own in the Sunday night 10:00pm time-slot. Season one brought strong interesting plot-lines and the kind of characters David Mamet feels all writers should strive to create. The addition of Kate Walsh, previously seen in Under the Tucson Sun as fellow Grey’s star Sandra Oh’s lover, as Derek’s wife Addison Forbes-Montgomery brought the show the missing dimension it needed and also a touch of irony. While hated upon first arrival, Dr. Montgomery quickly became a fan favorite and garnered a spin-off in 2007 entitled Private Practice.

The sad part of Anatomy is the downward spiral in quality after the first two seasons. Creator Shondra Rhimes took what was once a work of pop-culture art and turned it into a joke. The addition of multiple characters a season has caused Anatomy to have a higher inflation rate than the U.S. Government. With way too many storylines for the writers to keep track of, later seasons suffer from a lack of focus and downright tiredness. When characters George (played by openly gay actor T.R. Knight) and Izzie (ego-maniac Katherine Heigl) began their love-affair (“Gizzie” anyone?) late in season three, it left the fans a little more than outraged. Simply put the story line did not work and brought together two characters in a romantic setting who had, at best, a brother-sister relationship. The writers even acknowledged when the story-line fell apart “under the weight of its own absurdity”.  

In the mist of the fog, bright moments do shine through. Over all six seasons, the most consistent actor has been Oh. Formally seen on Arli$$, the story of a sports agent and his group of associates, which ran on HBO from 1996-2002, Oh has carved her nitch as no-nonsense Christina Yang. She is convincing in the role and so on point in each episode, it is baffling how Ms. Oh has not yet scored an Emmy for her work. In a sea of goldfish, she is the lone shark. Yes, Sandra Oh is that good. She makes it look so damn easy the viewer can easily loose sight of her talent. (Check out the scene in which she must declare her relationship with fellow Doctor Preston Burke, in front of the chief and his wife.)

As season six draws to a close, Ms. Rhimes promises a “game-changing” season finale. In a show known for producing garbage for most of the season and then finishing up with some of the best episodes of network television in years (last May’s finale, in which the lives of George and Izzie lay in the balance, was one of the show’s highlights), this is either going to be worth the wait or a sadly missed opportunity. Buy there in lies the problem. Who cares to wade through the crap even if the promise of a better future awaits?