Category Archives: TV Watch

TV Watch: Yellowstone

 

What is known today as the Paramount Network has a long and winding history in cable television.

Founded way back in 1983, it was known originally as “The Nashville Network“, with programming geared around a country music theme through 2000. Over the next few years, the network changed names a number of times in an attempt to lure a younger audience.

In 2003, the network changed its name to “Spike TV“, moving away from the country genre and instead gearing its programming directly to a male audience. It eventually settled in as just plain, old “Spike” from 2006-18, with another change in 2010 emphasizing reality programming.

On January 18, 2018 the network re-launched as “Paramount Network“, moving its headquarters to the Paramount Pictures studio lot in Hollywood. The parent company, Viacom, is hoping to position it as a direct competitor to networks such as FX and AMC by highlighting original programming.

Much as AMC did with “Mad Men” in 2007 and “Breaking Bad” the following year, Paramount is hoping that its first original drama will catch the attention of viewers. That drama is “Yellowstone“, and as with those now classic AMC offerings, it absolutely hits the mark.

Yellowstone” initially drew me in with the star power of two-time Oscar winning motion picture legend Kevin Costner as the lead actor.

Now 64-years-old, Costner plays John Dutton, owner of the Yellowstone Dutton Ranch, a cattle ranch which is billed as “the largest contiguous ranch in the United States.” Dutton is also patriarch of a clan that includes his three children and a grandson.

Kayce Dutton is played by Luke Grimes. A former U.S. Navy Seal who lives on a neighboring Indian reservation as the series opens with his Native American wife, Monica, and their young son, Tate. Many will remember Grimes from his roles in the film “Sniper“, as well as the “Fifty Shades” film series and ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters” series.

Wes Bentley portrays the other son, Jamie Dutton. He is a lawyer and politician who finds himself alternately loyal to and at odds with his family. Bentley is a familiar face who has starred in a number of high-profile roles, including in the “American Horror Story” series on AMC, as well as in films such as “American Beauty“, “Interstellar“, and “The Hunger Games.

Jamie is most frequently at odds with his sister, John’s lone daughter, Beth Dutton, played in an often scene-stealing role by Kelly Reilly. A veteran and acclaimed English actress, Reilly may be best known to American audiences for her role as Vince Vaughn’s wife in the second season of “True Detective” on HBO.

The fiery redhead is the financier of the brood and the most fiercely loyal to her father. However, she also flaunts her sexuality, and has a substance abuse issue which frequently overpowers her common sense.

Cole Hauser has a pivotal role as Rip Wheeler. A true cowboy in every sense, Rip is the longtime head of the Yellowstone ranch hands and a sometimes lover of Beth. He is the single most loyal person at the entire operation to John, the quintessential go-to guy who will literally do anything for his boss, and who is almost considered a fourth sibling.

The drams centers around the interactions of the main characters with one another, as well as their wider interpersonal and professional relationships. However, there is also much happening with the show’s other leading character as well – that being the ranch itself.

Set among the vast natural beauty of Montana and Utah, the Yellowstone Ranch is the center of a number of conflicts involving the neighboring ‘Broken Rock’ tribal Indian reservation, land developers looking to build homes and casinos, and the government looking to preserve and police the Yellowstone National Park.

David Hale, who portrayed a squeaky-clean deputy sheriff in the series “Sons of Anarchy” on FX, created this new series and directed all of the episodes in the first season, which premiered in June 2018. Season two then debuted almost exactly a year later.

The series has been renewed now for a third season, likely coming in early summer of 2020, and the already fantastic cast will be getting some new star power as well.

Josh Holloway, known to most for his award-winning role as James “Sawyer” Ford on the ABC drama “Lost” comes on board as an ambitious hedge fund manager.

Also joining the cast will be three-time Emmy Award-winning actress Jennifer Landon, daughter of famed star Michael Landon. She will portray a new female wrangler at the ranch.

In a wide-ranging interview with Mike Fleming Jr for Deadline back in May 2019, Costner commented on his role with “Yellowstone” moving forward:

“Yellowstone moves fast, and sometimes I am not privy to where it’s all going. It keeps with the promise you make, to create images and words that you never, ever forget. That’s what happens when movies are at their best.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oT-PGjlNM-c

This is cinematic caliber television at its very best. Gorgeous landscapes framed beautifully serve as the backdrop for top-caliber acting at nearly every turn, and a major star as the series lead.

“Yellowstone” is television as it should be, and I highly recommend it for anyone who has not yet enjoyed the first two seasons and 19 episodes. You can stream them here at the Paramount Network website for free by logging in through your cable provider.

 

 

 

 

 

TV Watch: The Journey Home

There is a regular weekly television program on EWTN called ‘The Journey Home’, and during this program various individuals are highlighted who each have made that ‘journey home’ to the Catholic Church from some other religious denomination.

The program is inspirational both for Catholics and for those of other Christian faiths, as well as for complete non-Christians.

It is an evangelical program in that the guests speak to their own individual, personal experiences in coming to the Church, or back to the Church after being away.

The regular host is Marcus Grodi, a former Protestant minister who himself returned to the Church a number of years ago. Grodi is the founder and head of the Coming Home Network, which is a group that helps folks on this journey towards a fuller, more complete relationship with Jesus Christ.

It is so very important to remember that Christ Himself founded just one Church, not many. He did not make Peter the head of His Church, and then tell his followers that if something came up while Peter and his successors were spreading and refining the Word, they should take a walk and start their own church.

Taking that kind of action to its logical conclusion would, in fact, result in church after church branching off because some individual or group did not like some particular church law or decision.

It was the vanity and ego of Henry VIII that began the Protestant movement to begin with: how do you expect to start a system of belief based itself on human vanity and pride and have it be sustained in perpetuity? That statement is not meant as an insult, it is meant as a challenge.

Today’s Protestants really need to ask themselves two very important questions. First, the Gospels that you correctly follow, but that you go no further than in your system of faith – where did they come from? Secondly, what exactly is it that your are ‘protesting’ as a Protestant? The answer to both questions is the same: the very ‘one’ Church (this is what Catholic means – one) founded by Jesus Christ.

Often we are simply a product of our upbringing. Our family may have historically attended a particular church, held a particular belief system, and we simply incorporated that into our own lives without looking too closely at the reasons.

Also, there is a great deal of selfishness in today’s world. We don’t want to be told what to do, we don’t want to follow rules. We want to ‘decide for ourselves’ and not be forced into compromising our own personal positions on certain issues such as abortion, homosexuality, family, and more. So we gravitate towards a church that allows us to keep our position, or at least more easily, one that does not challenge us to something more.

The Roman Catholic Church is not the enemy. It is not some ‘beast’, it is not full of pedophiles, it is not hypocritical. Is it perfect? Absolutely, in that it was founded by Christ and ultimately is guided by and inspired by the Holy Spirit. Are the men and women who lead particular ministries or programs or schools sometimes a challenge? You bet they are, after all, they are human.

The challenge for individuals is not to leave the Church, or stay away, but to challenge yourself to stay or return. The problems of the world are with people, not with the Church, and good people with good hearts can only help improve Christ’s Church from within.

You can continue to coast along outside of the world of the Church, and even sling barbs and accusations and obscenities at it from out there. But I challenge you to examine yourself and your life, and your current belief system. Really do some looking, searching, praying.

I often simplistically equate the struggle within to a statement made by Tom Hanks in the film “A League of Their Own.” In the film, his head coaching character of Jimmy Dugan tells his star player this about baseball: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.” I put it to you that it is the same with the Church. It is not easy, but it’s that very hard that makes it great, that challenges you to think, to do, to be something more.

The title of this entry, as all posts here at my blog are, is a link to further information. In this case it is a link to the Coming Home Network, a good place to start your own journey home. Another would be that very EWTN program of the same name, airing each Monday at 8pm. No bells and whistles, no fire and brimstone here, just a simple conversation among returnees.

My own prayers go out to anyone who might read this and be inspired to take a closer look at returning to the Catholic Church. We are always ready, willing, waiting to open our arms to you when you open the eyes of your heart to the Lord’s original Church, the only one that He established. God bless you.

NOTE: this is a continuation of the regular “TV Watch” and “Sunday Sermon” series, all entries of both can be viewed by clicking on either ‘label’ below this article

TV Watch: Crossing the Goal

EWTN, the ‘Eternal Word Television Network’, is the American television network which broadcasts Catholic-themed television programming.

The network has come under some attacks and criticisms since Mother Angelica, the pithy nun who founded the network in 1981 and grew it into the most recognizable world wide media voice of the Catholic Church, left the network in 2000 due to health concerns.

These attacks have generally been from that ultra-conservative wing of the Church that sees Vatican II as a form of blasphemy and its modernization as a bastardization of the faith.

The facts are, of course, far from what these radicals would have you believe. God inspired not only the early Church leaders in the time of Christ, but also many holy men and women prior to His arrival here on earth, and many more since He died for our sins, rose from the grave, and moved on to His kingdom in Heaven.

The very modern EWTN mixes rebroadcasts of traditional Catholic elements, such as a taped version of Mother Angelica herself leading a saying of the rosary, with more modern stylized programming. The goal of course is to not only grow the Church, but reinforce its teachings and its principles to today’s Catholic community.

One particularly insightful and well done show that highlights this combination of modernity with tradition is the Friday night “Crossing the Goal”. The show uses a sports talk show inspired styling and theme to direct spiritual teaching particularly towards today’s men.

“Crossing the Goal” was created by and features former New Orleans Saints pro bowl wide receiver Danny Abramowicz who discusses a wide variety of Catholic and life topics with his regular panelists Brian Patrick, Curtis Martin, and Peter Herbeck. The men conduct their discussions with frankness and honesty, and with a confidence that is specifically focused on the role of men today in the Church.

The set itself and the panelists make today’s American men comfortable with their personalities and stylings based on the many sports talk programs from ESPN, Fox, and other networks. But rather than talking about football and baseball, the panelists talk about love, family, responsibility, and other such topics. “Crossing the Goal” brings the teachings of the Church to a level that can be easily understood even by the most neanderthal of men.

It also is easy to watch for those busy guys who might normally only concern themselves with working all week, yard chores on Saturday, and the Eagles game on Sunday. It makes important, sensitive topics palatable to the regular work-a-day male, but also is interesting and informative enough for the highest thinkers in our midst.

Bottom line is that “Crossing the Goal” is a touchdown for the Church, for EWTN, and for anyone who gets into the habit of watching regularly. It broadcasts at 9pm on Friday nights, but also rebroadcasts at numerous times during the week. Just click into the title of this entry above, which as always is a link to more information, to find out when you can enjoy and be inspired by this outstanding program.

NOTE: This is a continuation of the Sunday Sermon series and the TV Watch series, prior items from which can be read by clicking into the below label.

TV Watch: Mad Men

Embed from Getty Images

 

The Showtime and HBO networks have become masters over this decade in developing and producing great television series, the best that TV has to offer.

HBO has led the way with the granddaddy of them all, “The Sopranos”, and they have also given us “Entourage”, “Sex & the City”, “The Wire”, “Big Love”, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”, “Rome”, “Deadwood”, “Carnivale” and more.

Showtime has given us programs like “Dexter”, “Brotherhood”, “The Tudors”, “Sleeper Cell”, “Weeds”, “Californication”, and “The L Word” among others. AMC has now gotten into the action, and their new drama “Mad Men” takes a back seat to none of the HBO/Showtime offerings.

The first season is set in 1960, and follows the lives of the office staff at the mid-level ‘Sterling Cooper’ Madison Avenue advertising agency. Jon Hamm stars as Donald Draper, an emerging superstar in the ad industry and the firm’s star employee.

The plot line largely revolves around Draper in his work and home lives, with January Jones as his wife Betty. Hamm and Jones do an outstanding job portraying a married couple with children at a crossroads in their own lives and in American history.

They are not the only memorable characters. Vincent Kartheiser as young budding ad man Pete Campbell, Peggy Olson as Draper’s newbie secretary Elisabeth Moss, John Slattery as firm partner Roger Sterling, and the spectacular Christina Hendricks (scene-stealing every time she appears) as office manager Joan Holloway all shine. They lead a tremendously deep supporting cast of office staff and family members that make Mad Men one of the best ensemble series to come along in years.

The actors aren’t the only excellent work being done on this show. The production staff does an outstanding job of recreating the world of America at the time just before Kennedy’s ‘Camelot’, before Vietnam became a dirty word, before anyone knew what a hippie was. It was a time when smoking and cocktails were in vogue, and when there was no such thing as political correctness.

This show is available on your OnDemand cable TV feature service, currently showing the full season one. Season 2 is scheduled to begin airing live in late July 2008.

As with most series, it takes watching 2-3 episodes before you really get hooked, but this AMC feature will absolutely pay off for you, as “Mad Men” is one of the finest television programs to come along in years.

NOTE: click on the below tag to view all of the ‘TV Watch’ reviews, and the ‘Reviews’ tag to view books, movies and more.

TV Watch: "Dexter"

I tried to start watching this show when it first came out a couple of years ago, and I just couldn’t stay with it after about 2-3 episodes. I don’t mind something “dark”, but this one was just too dark for me.

But my daughters talked about it and liked it, and historically I have really enjoyed the production of cable series such as “The Sopranos”, “Deadwood”, “The Tudors”, “Entourage”, “Brotherhood”, and “Carnivale” just to name a few.

So I decided to give “Dexter” another shot, catching up on this Showtime drama using my cable TV “OnDemand” feature, and I’m glad that I did.

An incredible acting turn by star Michael C. Hall as the title character serial killer Dexter Morgan. He is a serial killer with a twist: he only kills other serial killers.

The exposure to Dexter’s current personal life, the emotional forces behind his own familial development, and this fact that he only kills truly evil individuals actually make a serial killer sympathetic, if you can imagine that.

Not only is Dexter a serial killer, but he is also by day a civilian blood splatter analyst for the Miami police.

His close ties to the department allow him insight into not only the murders that he has committed and the investigation of those, allowing him to stay one step ahead of law enforcement, but also introduce him to the killers who he will ultimately decide to hunt himself.

Working with the Miami police is not Dexter’s only tie-in with them, as it turns out that law enforcement is a family tradition. His father, played by Harry Remar, is a deceased Miami cop who had a major role in Dexter’s development into what he has now become. Harry accompanies Dexter along his personal and professional life now as a sort of spiritual guide, constantly popping up to offer him advice or warnings.

Not to stop there, Jennifer Carpenter plays his sister Deborah, also now a Miami Metro police officer. She has been working hard to earn her Detective shield, while always playing the dutiful, loving, loyal big sister to Dexter.

The irony of this dedicated cop trying to become a detective while the person closest to her is a serial killer, something going on right under her nose and which she has no clue about, is never lost on us.

Julie Benz is gorgeous as Dexter’s girlfriend Rita, and they struggle to develop a relationship around his busy work and murder schedule. Dexter has always had difficulty in personal relationships, as you might imagine, but finally appears to have found his soul mate in Rita, who has no idea that she is in love with a murderer.

There is a tremendous supporting cast around them, as each season develops a main nemesis for Dexter in the form of another main serial killer that he is tracking down and dealing with, often with difficulty. If you haven’t caught on to Dexter’s off-beat charm, give it a shot, you won’t regret inviting this killer into your home.

NOTE: click on the below tag to view all ‘TV Watch’ reviews