It’s so frustrating when you see a show that has so much potential but totally blows it. This is the case for NBC’s new comedy, Truth Be Told airing tonight at 8:30 p.m. In some ways, this show could have been the next I Love Lucy. Like Lucy, it features a likable cast (Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Vanessa Lachey, Tone Bell and Bresha Webb) who live next door to each other, are best friends and get involved in crazy misadventures together. But whereas Lucy is still one of TV’s best comedies of all time, Truth Be Told is not. Not by a long shot. Here is where creator writer and executive producer DJ Nash goes wrong:
1. Lack of Plot: The concept for the show is that these two diverse couples freely speak their mind on any subject. No conversation is too taboo. That’s not a terrible idea, but not a very useful one. The end result is a lot of banter and a lot of opinions being spread around that has nothing to do with the episode’s actual plot.
2. Too complex with no goal: Classic comedy shows typically featured just one storyline and many of the jokes related to that one storyline. Each episode was simple with a lot of build-up toward the end of the show. Each show was like a mini play with a beginning, middle and a great finale. Modern shows, like Truth Be Told, feature multiple storylines, too many unrelated jokes and no build-up whatsoever. What’s worse, when you get to the end, you wonder if the show is over or not, because it isn’t definite.
3. Crams in too much unwanted information: Since this review is based on the pilot episode, some grace must be given to the fact that the show crams a lot of information into its half-hour-ish long show. We learn about the occupations of all four characters (Mitch is a college ethics professor, Tracy is an attorney, Russell is a stand-up comic and Angie is pediatrician) though not one of them is shown at their jobs. We also learn that Angie is “on a clense,” Mitch and Tracy’s daughter is just as outspoken as they are, the couples enjoy eating at expensive ethnic restaurants, Mitch is a non-practicing Jew, Angie still communicates with her old boyfriend, Tracy hasn’t been out of the house for months … you get the idea. Most of this information could have served the show better if told in future episodes. Most of what I just described is not related to the central story of the episode.
4. The show is inconsistent. At the dinner table, Russell says a short prayer before eating dinner. Then in a later scene, he tells Mitch that he thinks he recognizes his buddy’s babysitter from a porno film and then shows Mitch a clip to make sure. What? Either the prayer was only used as a set up for a joke (which it was) and nothing more, or the writers do not have any idea how Christians try to live their lives. In a related scene earlier in the show, Mitch finds himself attracted to the hot babysitter and realizes that it would be too much temptation for him to keep her around. Instead of supporting him in this decision, his wife says that she trusts him and Russell’s wife tells Mitch that he’s harmless. Wouldn’t most women want to eliminate the source of lust in their home? In fact, later on, all four of them watch the X-rated clip to see if indeed that “actress” in the film is the babysitter. If so, they do not want her anywhere near their daughter, but they don’t seem to have a problem watching clip themselves.
5. Fake laughter. There is no excuse for a using a laugh track. Ever.
All in all, this show has little hope of succeeding except for the fact that it is airing opposite of ABC’s own line-up of bad Friday night comedies.
Should a Christian watch a horror movie? Boy, isn’t that a loaded question. While many horror movies are nothing more than slasher flicks with a lot of gratuitous violence and have no redeeming value at all, some may surprise you. Guillermo Del Toro’s latest film, Crimson Peak, is one of those films. Del Toro is one of Hollywood’s most sought after directors who is a stickler for quality. In Crimson Peak, he not only directs the film, but he also wrote the story along with Matthew Robbins. And while the film does features some CGI effects, the director wanted as many practical effects and props as possible. For instance, Allerdale Hall is not some old mansion that they found. It was built specifically for this movie.
Set in 1901, the story’s main character is Edith Cushing who is played by Mia Wasikowska who also played Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland a few years back. In a way, Edith is another “Alice” in a strange and less friendly “Wonderland.” Early in the film she explains that she believes in ghosts and shares a flashback of one that cautions her to “beware of Crimson Peak.” She doesn’t know what it means and we won’t either until much later on in the film.
Edith is an inspiring writer who is having a heck of time getting her story published. One publisher glances at a few pages of her manuscript and asks, “This is a ghost story?” to which she replies that it isn’t really a ghost story at all. A ghost is featured in her story, but it is really a metaphor in the story. As the film continues, audiences will notice that this movie too is full of metaphors including the color crimson used throughout. Butterflies and moths are used a lot too.
Edith soon finds herself torn between two men who both have an affection for her. First, there is Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) who she has known her whole life. The other is Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston), a foreigner visiting America with his sister Lady Lucille Sharpe (Jessica Chastain) and seeking money from Edith’s father for his newest invention. After mysterious circumstances take her father away, Edith finds herself in Thomas’s arms looking for comfort. They marry and move to Allerdale Hall, a monstrously huge house that sits on top of a hill of red clay, known by some as Crimson Peak (Duh, duh, duh!) The place is beautiful as it worn. The place is freezing as there is a huge gaping hole in the ceiling. Oh, and Lucille lives there too. This house has been their home since childhood and neither have any intention of leaving.
From here, the adventure begins in this psychological thriller/ghost story/horror movie. Only in her new home for a few minutes and Edith is already seeing ghosts, but Lucille and Thomas don’t see anything. The longer Edith stays in this spooky place, the darker the story becomes. Meanwhile, back in America, Alan is trying to piece together what really happened to Edith’s father and tries to uncover the mystery behind her new family.
Every scene shot for this film is a beautiful one. The house itself resembles the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. It’s spooky and elegant. The scenery is complimented by the superb acting of its cast. The film is everything you’d want from a haunted house story, but just as Edith is tricked in a way, so is the audience. For the most part, the film is squeaky clean with hardly a swear word or violent image. This will loll you into a space of security. Then WHAM! There is short scene of violence near the beginning of the film and a lot more near the end and when it hits, you are quickly reminded that the film is rated “R” for a reason. Personally, I had to look away during these times and in my opinion is the films biggest fault. A film as grand as this does not need to show the audience every detail.
For a Christian, I believe that the metaphor that we can take from this film is that our world is full of temptations. Some that seem relatively harmless, but in the end can destroy us if we are not careful. Edith finds herself in this position and just like Alice trying to escape the rabbit hole, getting out of Crimson Peak is a lot harder than getting in. By the end of the film, the dark history behind Crimson Peak is exposed. In a way, the history is sort of like seeing what sin truly is and that a life of sin will lead to an eternity in hell. It is equal parts disgusting and scary. But, just like our Christian faith, there is someone watching out for us and will rescue us if we call out His name.
If there is any wonder that ideas are running out in Hollywood, look no further than the more and more reboot projects currently airing and the others coming down the pike. Some shows have been successful (Hawaii Five-O, Girl Meets World and even The Odd Couple) while others haven’t (The Bionic Woman, Night Rider). Some that have been planned, like the new Coach, get cancelled before a pilot has even been made. Some are designed to be more like spin-offs rather than a reboot and other have been so “re-imagined” that they barely resemble the show that they are supposedly based from. So, with that in mind, take these three new projects with a grain of salt.
The original: Aired on ABC from 1974-1984 and starred Ricardo Montalban and Mr. Roarke and short-statured Herve Villechaize as his sidekick, Tattoo. Both were always seem impeccably dressed in white suits. Together, they ran the luxury resort, Fantasy Island, in the Pacific, where they allowed guest to fulfil their not so secret fantasies. The end result was sort of a grown-up’s version of a Mrs. Piggle Wiggle story, where the guest would learn the hazards if they actually received what they wished for. Most guest left the island in a better state of mind than when they first came.
First Update: ABC first ran a reboot of the series in 1998 with Malcolm McDowell at Mr. Roarke sans Tattoo. This Roarke had three assistants: Ariel (Madchen Amick), Harry (Edward Hibbert) and Fisher (Fyvush Finkel). This one had a dark edge to it making one wonder if Roarke was actually, the devil. McDowell was excellent, but the show failed to register with viewers and was dropped halfway through the season.
New Update: Much different the first two. The Fantasy Island spoken of is actually the name of a travel agency run by “a brilliant, dynamic and sexy woman … that provides clients with his/her most intimate, dark or outlandish fantasy.” Sounds lot less family-friendly than the original.
The Original: Aired on ABC from 1985-1992 and starred Richard Dean Anderson as Angus MacGyver as a secret agent who refused to carry a gun and was able to create incredible escapes from using everyday, seemingly unrelated articles.
New Update: This time, the show is slated to appear on CBS and will be produced by NCIS: Los Angeles executive Scott Gemmill and director James Wan (Saw and Furious 7). The new show appears to feature a fairly faithful adaptation of the original and would be produced again by Henry Winkler.
HART TO HART
The Original: The original Hart to Hart survived on ABC from 1979-1984 not from its storytelling but because of its chemistry of the shows three stars: Robert Wagner, Stefanie Powers and Lionel Stander. Like Bruce Wayne (aka Batman), the Harts were rich and owned a huge empire, but never seemed to work on their day jobs. Instead, the two fought crime in series of comedic action adventures.
New Update: In the strangest conception of all three of these projects, the new version would feature a gay couple and be shown on NBC, whose other gay or nontraditional lifestyle shows (The New Normal, One Big Happy) have failed miserably. The new series is said to be focus on straight-laced (but not straight) attorney Jonathan Hart and free-spirited investigator Dan Hartman in a “modern and sexy retelling of the classic series.” It promises to be action-packed like the original.
99 Homes is a fictional story with elements that were inspired by true stories of people evicted from their homes. The thriller feels so real, that you will forget that that is really the same guy who played Spider-Man and that’s the same woman who used to run away from dinosaurs in Jurassic Park up there on the screen. Only true actors can take you into fictional story and make you believe that it’s all real. The photography and music is excellent and feels as if you are watching a documentary. There’s a reason for that. Director Ramin Bahrani has done his share of documentaries as well.
Without hardly any setup, 99 Homes whisks you into one family’s heartbreaking story and also serves as a cautionary tale as well. The time is 2010. Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is a hardworking construction worker who is having a hard time finding enough work to pay his mortgage on the family home. It was the time when too many houses were up for sale no construction needed to be done. He and his mother and son live in the very house that Nash grew up in. His mother Lynn (Laura Dern) is a hairdresser with a shop set up in the house’s living room. His son, Connor (Noah Lomax) is the product of a failed relationship that the film doesn’t really get into. The house itself is nothing special. It’s old and dated but is kept up nicely and these three love living there. It’s a home that many in the audience will be able to relate to unlike so many other Hollywood versions of “real life.”
The bad guy in the story is Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) who seems like that rotten person you hated playing Monopoly with who always had to be the banker when you were a child. He’s ruthless and appears to be missing a soul. For our purposes, he might as well be the devil.
After going to court about his financial situation with house, Nash is told that he will lose the house but has 30 days to apply for an appeal. The problem comes the very next day when Carver arrives with his crew to evict Nash and his family and literally tosses them out on the street. Apparently, he can still make the appeal, but he can’t live in the house while he does so. The scene is gut wrenching as Nash learns that he has no recourse. The three grab what little items they can and move into a local motel where it is filled with other families in the same situation.
It is about here where the story turns. Carver notices what a hard worker Nash is and offers him a job to work with him. Like Satan himself dangling a carrot in front of our hero’s eyes, Nash reluctantly takes Carver up on his offer. Nash doesn’t speak his mind a lot in the film, so you are not always sure what he is thinking, but you can be pretty sure that he is thinking that he’ll just work for Carver just long enough to get himself out of debt so that he can buy back his house. But Carver is one step ahead of him and it soon become apparent, at least to the audience’s eyes, that he has been snagged by the spider’s web.
We slowly see Nash become the very person he hates. He travels with Carver to various homes to give the owners the same bad news that he had received only days earlier. This is the part of the film where we get to hear real stories of real people and it is sobering.
The stress of it all takes its toll on Nash as he starts to drink, lies to the government, lies to his family and maybe even himself. He comes closer and closer to putting his family in danger while he reaches for a dream that is just out of reach. Nash is not a bad person and many of us might end up doing the same thing if we ever found ourselves in the same situation. The Bible says to be wise as a serpent while being harmless as a dove. I can’t think of a better example to do just that.
Garfield is perfect for this role as he has a huge range to express his emotions and he pairs very nicely with Dern who is pretty fantastic in everything that she does. The language in the film is putting rough in parts and Carver is like that foul-mouthed uncle that every family has and hesitates inviting him over for Christmas dinner, so we aware of that.
99 Homes moves at a simmer that slowly boils to overflowing at the end of this thriller and will definitely give you something to think about as you leave the theater.