The Nevers on HBO.

ENTERTAINMENT – HBO Series “The Nevers” Features New Victorian-Era Superheroines

In the last years of Victoria’s reign, London is beset by the “Touched”: people — mostly women — who suddenly manifest abnormal abilities, some charming, some very disturbing.

The Nevers” series on HBO, as reviewed by The Playlist: “In the last years of Victoria’s reign, London is beset by the “Touched”: people — mostly women — who suddenly manifest abnormal abilities — some charming, some very disturbing. Among them are Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), a mysterious, quick-fisted widow, and Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), a brilliant young inventor. They are the champions of this new underclass, making a home for the Touched, while fighting the forces of… well, pretty much all the forces — to make room for those whom history as we know it has no place.”





The backstory of this series has a past with its executive producer. Playlist points out that before Joss Whedon became public enemy #1 for comic book movie fans after 2017’s “Justice League,” he was a television wunderkind. This film now has a popular new release from its original director, “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.” In further elaboration, Playlist explains the popularity of Whedon’s “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” which remains the popular fantasy TV show of all time. Its spin-off, “Angel,” also had a devoted following, and the cult love for Whedon’s “Firefly” is unparalleled for a show that lasted just nine episodes.


Alongside Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly, “The Nevers” boasts a large ensemble of well-known U.K. film and television stars. 


Apparently, Whedon hasn’t worked in TV since 2009’s short-lived “Dollhouse,” but his ’90s track record should get fans excited for his latest foray on the small screen, “The Nevers.” Set in Victorian-era England, the show follows a group of women with extraordinary abilities who must navigate an already restrictive, classist society as the world’s new underclass.

Alongside Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly, “The Nevers” boasts a large ensemble of well-known U.K. film and television stars.  Olivia Williams, James Norton, Tom Riley, and Ben Chaplin all have large roles. The female-centric plot has lots of women in the recurring cast, including Rochelle Neil, Eleanor Tomlinson, Amy Manson, Elizabeth Berrington, and Kiran Sawar. Denis O’Hare, Pip Torrens, and Nick Frost also star.


HBO has opted to release “The Nevers” on a peculiar schedule due to the long hiatus in production. Six of the show’s ten episodes will release initially, with the remaining four to premiere as 2021 continues.

“The Nevers” started as Whedon’s brainchild, but as of last November, it’s no longer his show. Whedon exited the series at the end of last year, citing exhaustion and stress related to the ongoing global pandemic as reasons. However, he still did write and direct the pilot, directed the second and fifth episodes, and is still listed as an executive producer. Screenwriter and producer Phillipa Goslett took Whedon’s place as showrunner in January.

Has “The Nevers” been touched by Whedon’s magic hand, or will his absence spell doom for this Victorian feminist fantasy? Find out on April 11, when the series premieres on HBO Max.

Source: HBO and The Playlist



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RileyRose Author McKesson is a Bestselling Author, Award Winning Producer, and a Content Creator of Emerging Media & Digital Productions. She is also the creator of superhero Vela Kurv books.

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RileyRose is a professional writer and producer that is currently working on a film project with Chas. Floyd Johnson, Executive Producer of NCIS TV series, as well as the Producer of Red Tails (2012), which he produced with George Lucas and (LucasFilms).

Rose co-produced the documentary project, ‘The Green Girl’. It revealed the story of the life of Susan Oliver in the award winning move. It was funded on both crowdfunding websites: Kickstarter, and Indiegogo. The film has won three awards.







Rose has written treatments, story synopses, and analyses. Rose has produced several short films for Sundance Film Festival. She has also worked with the Webby Award Winning web series creator of BZ Shorts.


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Star Trek TNG episode "The Outrageous Okona."

ENTERTAINMENT – Vela Kurv Laughs at “The Outrageous Okona” on Star Trek TNG

Vela Kurv Academy School Log

Teri Hatcher and Billy Campbell star in Star Trek TNG.



Ever continuing with the Federation mission to render aid in space, the Enterprise-D rescues the captain of a broken-down freighter, only to become involved in a dispute between feuding worlds–each world demanding custody of their guest, “the outrageous Okona”.

From Lorabella’s journals at the West Pipe Space Academy, before she becomes Vela Kurv


Captain Picard’s guidance and direction of his crew becomes contagious, and Ensign Wesley Crusher inadvertently spurs the freighter captain to be accountable and stand and resolve the feud over his capture.

Billy Campbell and Michael Dorn star in Star Trek TNG.

In the end, Okona’s action causes the leaders of these two worlds to reach the truth which unites them in a mission they could not have imagined. One leader’s son strongly in love declares his intention to marry the feuding leader’s very pregnant daughter.

Picard’s conviction for the practical leads to the truth and rescues more than a broken down freighter, the resolve will hopefully be a lasting peace between these two feuding worlds. What a lesson in leadership and command for me.



Shadow and Bone on Netflix.

ENTERTAINMENT – “Shadow and Bone” Epic Fantasy Series on Netflix

Based on Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels, Shadow and Bone—which premieres globally on Netflix on Friday April 23rd—is a gripping epic fantasy series with immersive worldbuilding, lavish costume and production design, stunning visual effects, and an appealing ensemble cast.

From Netflix, Shadow and Bone series premieres on April 23, 2021. “Dark forces conspire against orphan mapmaker Alina Starkov when she unleashes an extraordinary power that could change the fate of her war-torn world. Starring: Jessie Mei Li, Archie Renaux, and Ben Barnes.” Based on Leigh Bardugo’s worldwide bestselling Grishaverse novels, Shadow and Bone finds us in a war-torn world where lowly soldier and orphan Alina Starkov has just unleashed an extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her country free. With the monstrous threat of the Shadow Fold looming, Alina is torn from everything she knows to train as part of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha. But as she struggles to hone her power, she finds that allies and enemies can be one and the same and that nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. There are dangerous forces at play, including a crew of charismatic criminals, and it will take more than magic to survive.


As the series opens we meet Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) and Mal Oretsev (Archie Renaux) who have grown up together in an orphanage, and have a bond between them that runs deep. With a war looming, Mal has been drafted into the First Army as a soldier while Alina works as a cartographer. Before too long though, she is hauled in front of the fearsome General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) who believes that Alina is not only gifted with special powers—making her a fellow Grisha who must join his magical Second Army—but the mythical sun summoner, a saint, essentially the chosen one.



With her powers confirmed publicly, Kirigan sees to it that Alina is immediately taken to the Little Palace in the Ravkan capital to live alongside other Grisha, who have various miraculous abilities such as the tailor, Genya Safin (a wonderful Daisy Head), who can make scars and blemishes disappear, and would rack up millions of views on YouTube with her makeup application abilities.

Under an intense training regimen and isolated from everyone and everything she knows, Alina is unsettled and feels more like a prisoner at times than someone who’s being protected, while her many letters to Mal go unanswered.

One of the highlights of the series is Zoë Wanamaker’s performance as the Yoda-like Baghra, who shines in every scene as a tough teacher on Alina, attempting to train her to harness her newfound sun summoning powers. While Ben Barnes is a commanding presence as the mysterious general. Meanwhile on the other side of the Shadow Fold—a menacing divide of darkness filled with lethal pterodactyl-like creatures—an unlikely band of criminals led by self-serving Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), with the acrobatic Inej (a captivating Amita Suman) and skilled gunman Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), plan to take the perilous journey and cross through it to the north and launch an elaborate heist on the Little Palace.

Elsewhere, a heartrender (possessing the ability to control someone’s internal organs) Nina Zenick (Danielle Galligan) is kidnapped by Matthias Helvar (Calahan Skogman), a Grisha-hunting Drüskelle from Fjerda, who perceives the woman as a witch and deeply mistrusts her. As their journey continues though, and the two are thrown closer together, the sexual chemistry between them becomes palpable, and Skogman taking his wet shirt off is likely to get more than a few hearts racing. The series creators also find plenty of opportunities for Renaux to be shirtless too, and although they’re not explicit, there are a few steamy romance scenes throughout, and as with the violence in the series it doesn’t feel held back by its YA origins.

Jessie Mei Li stars in “Shadow and Bone.”

When Mal and Alina are together, Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux are both natural and familiar with one another, with a chemistry that makes us believe in the rich history between them.


In a world rife with othering and prejudice related to possessing special powers as well as ethnicity and race, highlighted by the fact that Alina is part Shu, queer characters are however accepted without comment and casually populate the series. For instance, Nadia Zhabin (Gabrielle Brooks), Alina’s friend at the Little Palace, mentions in passing that she is attracted to Zoya Nazyalensky (Sujaya Dasgupta), a Grisha woman who takes an immediate dislike to Alina. While Kit Young’s Jesper is the charismatic gunslinging queer fantasy action hero we’ve been waiting for; with the air of an adult Artful Dodger about him, he’s witty, sexy, whip-smart, and makes a for a deadly foe, but also finds time for some hot man-on-man action in the palace stable.

James Kleinmann in The Queer Review explains his origins with Shadow and Bone review. “Having not read Bardugo’s books before watching the series, it took me a while to acclimatise to the world of the show; the unfamiliar history, geography, and politics, but the writers do a good job of bringing us up to speed without it feeling like exposition, and a few episodes in I was hooked. The material certainly benefits from an episodic format and would likely have felt rushed and convoluted in movie form.

With Mal and Alina kept apart for several episodes things take an epistolary turn with some voice-over heavy sequences, which might not be the most cinematic moments of the series, but do allow us inside the characters’ minds. When Mal and Alina are together, Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux are both natural and familiar with one another, with a chemistry that makes us believe in the rich history between them. In its attempt to feel grounded in the reality of its otherworldliness, there’s an everyday ordinariness to much of the dialogue and its delivery, that generally works well, but occasionally robs some moments of the high stakes at hand.”

The parallel narratives are nicely balanced, well-paced, and never confusing, and the myriad characters are given enough screen time for us to get to know them, while the world is further expanded in one episode containing some flashbacks to another era. It all builds to a thrilling finale, where the spectacular visual effects enhance the action sequences rather than distract from them. Shadow and Bone is a compelling tale of light vs darkness that feels fresh and left me looking forward to future seasons.


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Tom Clancy's Without Remorse

ENTERTAINMENT – Michael B. Jordan, “Black Panther”, Stars in “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” on Amazon Prime Video

Torn between personal honor and loyalty to his country, Kelly must fight his enemies without remorse if he hopes to avert disaster and reveal the powerful figures behind the conspiracy.

From Amazon Prime Video comes, “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse.” When a squad of Russian soldiers kills his family in retaliation for his role in a top-secret op, Sr. Chief John Kelly (Michael B. Jordan, Black Panther) pursues the assassins at all costs. Joining forces with a fellow SEAL (Jodie Turner-Smith) and a shadowy CIA agent (Jamie Bell), Kelly’s mission unwittingly exposes a covert plot that threatens to engulf the U.S. and Russia in an all-out war.

An elite Navy SEAL uncovers an international conspiracy while seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife in “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse“…

Amazon is playing this upcoming premiere very close to the vest! Reviews have not been released on Rotten Tomatoes or anywhere except the four- and five-star reviews on the book on platforms like Goodreads and of course, on Amazon’s book platform.

An elite Navy SEAL uncovers an international conspiracy while seeking justice for the murder of his pregnant wife in Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse, the explosive origin story of action hero John Clark — one of the most popular characters in author Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan universe.

This Trailer includes interviews with Michael B. Jordan and the film’s, Director, Stefano Sollima


Starring in “Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse” is: Adrian Rawlins, Artjom Gilz, Brett Gelman, Cam Gigandet, Colman Domingo, George Asprey, Guy Pearce, Jack Kesy, Jacob Scipio, Jamie Bell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Lauren London, Lucy Russell, Luke Mitchell, Marisol Correa, Michael B. Jordan, Rae Lim, Stephanie McIntyre, Todd Lasance

I’m looking forward to this premiere, I’m a fan of Michael B. Jordan. Current scheduled release date on streaming for Prime Video is April 30, 2021.


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Mare of Easttown on HBO.

ENTERTAINMENT – Kate Winslet, Oscar Winner, Stars in Mare of Easttown Crime Drama on HBO

A detective in a small Pennsylvania town investigates a local murder while trying to keep her life from falling apart.

MARE OF EASTTOWN premieres on HBO Max, stars Kate Winslet as Mare Sheehan, a small-town Pennsylvania detective who investigates a local murder as life crumbles around her. MARE OF EASTTOWN is an exploration into the dark side of a close community and an authentic examination of how family and past tragedies can define our present.

Grounded by a career-best, Oscar winner Kate Winslet, Mare of Easttown’s ambitions at times exceed its reach, but its central mystery is supported by such strong sense of place and character it hardly matters. After answering a call about a neighborhood prowler, Detective Mare Sheehan shoulders her chief’s directive to revive an unsolved missing person’s case amid increased community pressure…

Kate Winslet, Cameron Mann, and Justin Hurtt-Dunkley star in Mare of Easttown.

Mare Sheehan, an office police investigator in a small Pennsylvania town, investigates a brutal murder as she tries to keep her life from falling apart.

The HBO limited series, debuting tonight, follows an attempt to solve the murder of a young woman and the possibly related disappearances of two others, a plot that’s played out on television more times than can be counted. Its protagonist is a traumatized police detective who pushes boundaries to get to the bottom of the case, a type that’s figured into such crime stories since practically forever.

The show is set in a small Pennsylvania town whose modest brick homes, lined up in neat rows, chimney after chimney, are among the first images that appear in episode one, which begins in the azure light of a brisk winter day as the sun slowly rises. Immediately, you feel the sense of melancholy embedded in the cellular makeup of this close-knit, working-class hamlet. That mood, mixed with all those other elements, evokes a number of recent and semi-recent series, including Happy Valley, Top of the Lake, Sharp Objects, and Clarice.


Guy Pearce and Kate Winslet star in Mare of Easttown.

Mare of Easttown, created and written by Brad Ingelsby (Our Friend, The Way Back), distinguishes itself with strong characters who will grow on viewers with each hour-long installment they consume.

Vulture reports that “HBO sent five of the seven episodes to critics, and by episode three, I was fully invested in Mare Sheehan, played by a thoroughly committed Kate Winslet, and the lives of everyone connected to her in this place she’s called home for her entire life.”

It turns out that Mare of Easttown isn’t strictly a crime drama. I mean, it certainly is that, to an extent. A lot of the storytelling centers on the murder of Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny), a teenager and mother of an infant son who is found dead by the conclusion of episode one under circumstances that may be connected to an unsolved missing-person case involving the daughter of an old high-school friend of Mare’s. We witness Mare doing plenty of police work, particularly in concert with Colin Zabel (Evan Peters), a county detective who is called in to assist her and to whom she doesn’t warm up right away.

Justin Hurtt-Dunkley and Kate Winslett star in Mare of Easttown.

The idea that everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about permeates this series, in which Mare is hardly the only person struggling.

(Spoiler alert: Mare Sheehan doesn’t warm up to most people right away.) Our suspicions are raised, lowered, then raised again toward an array of local suspects in Erin’s homicide. Ingelsby and director Craig Zobel, who presided over multiple episodes of The Leftovers and last year’s The Hunt, toss these red flags without being gimmicky about it. Mare of Easttown invites us to view things the way that Mare does: with enough attention to catch the slightest change in a facial expression that may hint at a lie and with enough cynicism to think it’s possible that even people you’ve known forever could be capable of unspeakable behavior.

John Douglas Thompson in Mare of Easttown.

There are legitimate reasons for Mare to be cynical. She’s lost a grown son to suicide; gotten divorced from her husband (David Denman), who’s now engaged to another woman; and she’s trying to raise the grandson that her own son left behind. When Mare of Easttown delves into these matters, it pivots from crime drama to character study and exploration of grief.

The idea that everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about permeates this series, in which Mare is hardly the only person struggling. A lot of television shows have depicted working-class folks in one-dimensional ways that reek of Hollywood elite acting like they know what regular people are like. But Mare of Easttown draws even its most flawed Easttowners with a sense of humanity and complexity, both aided by the fact that Inglesby is from the area and the production was shot there as well.

Chinasa Ogbuagu and Kate Winslet stars in Mare of Easttown.

But once you settle into the series and Winslet demonstrates how fully embedded she is in this stubborn, perpetually vaping woman’s skin, those preconceptions melt away.

In addition to serving as a crime drama and a pure drama, Mare of Easttown also has a great sitcom embedded within it. That sitcom stars Kate Winslet and Jean Smart as Mare’s mother Helen, who lives with Mare and, in the grand tradition of mothers and daughters, has a flair for stomping all over Mare’s last nerve. In one episode where Helen has an accident at home, Mare notes that her injuries look pretty minor, to which her mother drily responds: “I’m sorry I’m not more maimed for you.” If sarcasm and deadpan comments could be transformed into pieces of visual art, just about everything Jean Smart says on this show would be on display at the Guggenheim.

But the most challenging role in the series belongs to Winslet, not only because Mare is in almost every frame but because the part demands a breadth of emotion and subtlety, as well as the not-insignificant hurdle of convincing us that this very British actress was born and raised in Pennsylvania. The first time Winslet says “wooter” instead of water and pronounces an O with the roundness of a Philadelphia-area native, the spine stiffens in anticipation of an actorly performance. But once you settle into the series and Winslet demonstrates how fully embedded she is in this stubborn, perpetually vaping woman’s skin, those preconceptions melt away. Winslet coats Mare in such a thick, hard shell that any time she cracks even a tiny bit, it is a revelation.

Jean Smart in Mare of Easttown.

Even if it were just a basic crime drama, Mare of Easttown would be pretty good.

One of Mare of Easttowns’s greatest assets is its thorough attention to detail, but occasionally that also works to its detriment. The show places importance on so many story lines and sidebars that some inevitably get shoved to the side without being satisfyingly resolved. Richard (Guy Pearce), a writer and professor that Mare starts dating, also isn’t quite as well developed as some of the other characters. But the series is so immersive and well-done in other ways that its flaws don’t detract from the experience.

Even if it were just a basic crime drama, Mare of Easttown would be pretty good. The fifth episode features a tense sequence that escalates to a point that actually caused me to loudly gasp. But this seven-episode saga is more than just a gasp-inducer. Anything that can trigger a sense of shock, transport you to another town, and make you cackle (again: Jean Smart for president) is the kind of television that’s worth your time.


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The Baker and the Beauty on ABC.

ENTERTAINMENT – ABC Presents “The Baker and the Beauty” a Modern-Day Fairy Tale

ABC turns up the romance with the compelling, new modern-day fairy tale “The Baker and the Beauty.”

From ABC, “’The Baker and the Beauty‘ is a romantic musical dramedy that’s based on an Israeli series, ‘The Baker and the Beauty’ TV show is a modern-day fairy tale that stars Victor Rasuk, Nathalie Kelley, and  Carlos Gomez, Dan Bucatinsky, Lisa Vidal, and David Del Rio, Belissa Escobedo, and Michelle Veintimilla. In the show, everyman Daniel Garcia (Rasuk) is working in his family’s Miami bakery and doing everything that his loving Cuban parents and siblings expect him to do. One crazy night, Daniel meets Noa Hamilton (Kelley), an international superstar and fashion mogul.

The pair quickly discover they have an attraction for one another and Daniel’s life suddenly turns upside down as it moves into the spotlight.

The question that begs to be answered is, “Will this unlikely couple upend their lives to be together?” This new series takes viewers on a flavor-filled adventure between relatable everyman Daniel and international superstar Noa. Daniel Garcia is working in the family bakery and doing everything that his loving Cuban parents and siblings expect him to do. But on a wild Miami night, he meets Noa Hamilton and his life moves into the spotlight.


Victor Rasuk and Nathalie Kelley star in “The Baker and The Beauty” on ABC.

The story set up begins with Daniel’s life that is going well as he takes his girlfriend, Vanessa to a fancy, expensive restaurant for their anniversary.

But while Vanessa drops an awkward, Taylor Swift-infused proposal, Daniel’s questioning their future, and talking it through in a bathroom. Cue international superstar and entrepreneur Noa Hamilton, who is fresh from a very public break up, with some unsolicited advice. From there, Daniel’s night changes radically, including a wild night of clubbing, spray-painting, and baking pastries with Noa in a master chef’s kitchen.

The story flows, with introductions made to some memorable players in the story done very well and not forced. The Garcia family is a funny, sweet, tight-knit group, with their own stories set in motion as well that pique my interest by the end of the hour. From Mateo, an aspiring DJ, to Natalie, the more low-key member of the family, struggling with her sexual identity while also starting a new school, the Garcia siblings each have their own personalities that can shine through from the get-go.

“The Baker and The Beauty” cast on ABC.

While we get a glimpse at the Garcia family, Noa’s crew is still a bit of an unknown except Lewis (Scandal’s Dan Bucatinsky), whose protectiveness over Noa leads to an unfair assessment of Daniel’s motives.

The groundwork put into both Daniel, and Noa’s stories are well-done and leaves one wondering what’s beyond the surface of Noa’s explanations for her relationship with her father and, of course, her ex-boyfriend Colin.

The introduction to Daniel Garcia’s world offers up a glimpse at a fun, light series filled with solidly comedic characters, a different kind of meet-cute, and a sturdy foundation for everyone’s stories.


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Robin Roberts Presents Mahalia on Lifetime.

ENTERTAINMENT – Danielle Brooks’ Brings Joy and Voice to Robin Roberts “Mahalia” Film Premiere on Lifetime

The story of the New Orleans-born crooner who began singing at an early age and went on to become one of the most revered gospel figures in U.S. history, melding her music with the civil rights movement.

Born in New Orleans, Mahalia Jackson, starring Danielle Brooks, in “Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia” began singing at an early age and went on to become one of the most revered gospel figures in U.S. history, melding her music with the civil rights movement. My great aunt owned her albums and played them regularly on Sunday mornings. The voice of Mahalia Jackson is eternally and undeniably recognizable in my memory. She sang with all the painful splendor in her voice.

Her recording of the song “Move on Up a Little Higher” sold millions of copies, skyrocketing her to international fame and gave her the opportunity to perform at diverse settings including in front of a racially integrated audience at the prestigious Carnegie Hall and at John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball. While Mahalia’s Carnegie Hall performance is portrayed in this story John F. Kennedy’s inaugural ball is not. I would have liked to have seen this historical portrayal as well.

From Rock’n Robin Productions and Lincoln Square Productions, Mahalia is executive produced by Robin Roberts and Linda Berman.

An active supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, Jackson sang at numerous rallies, including the March on Washington in 1963 alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in hopes that her music would encourage and inspire racial equality.

Mahalia Jackson’s story could span more than two hours quite easily. Scan her biography, listen to her voice, appreciate the fullness of her talent, and it isn’t farfetched to say she’d be as worthy a candidate for a season of “Genius” as Aretha Franklin.

The Lifetime film portrays that Jackson didn’t sing popular music, and points out that she sang gospel, instead. But she did. She is a featured singer on Duke Ellington’s Black, Brown, and Beige, after which “Come Sunday” and was a vocal version of the piece that became a jazz standard.


We only see young Mahalia briefly as a child, singing to Bessie Smith’s records in an angelic voice that stops people in their tracks.

Instead of celebrating the girl’s talent, her Aunt Duke chastises the girl, insisting she use her gifts only to upraise God and for no other purpose. Bessie Smith did inspire Mahalia who developed a blues-style of fire and spirit that apparently scandalized Chicago churches at first, but eventually brought Carnegie Hall calling. This style was also the crossover appeal with Black and white radio listeners that likely influenced Aretha Franklin to borrow a portion of Jackson’s flavor for her own vocal stylings; the one that would become the Queen of Soul, donning her crown with confidence.

According to the version of Jackson presented in “Mahalia” and played by powerhouse performer Danielle Brooks (“Orange Is the New Black“), the Queen of Gospel did not assume her reign so easily. A lack of self-confidence was partly to blame for that, but propriety policing also dims her light for a time.

Danielle Brooks stars in “Robin Roberts Presents Mahalia” on Lifetime.

Brooks rides out every swoop, rise, and trill in Jackson’s style as she recreates signature moments from the singer’s life.

That message is portrayed to have stayed with her throughout her adulthood, as does the energy and spirit she picked up from those old blues records. In covering the gospel singer, Brooks doesn’t merely capture the essence of Jackson’s vocal fortitude. She’s holding true to Jackson’s guiding principle that gospel’s specialness lies in its ability to lift a person’s spirit and make them feel better.

“Mahalia” isn’t entirely washed cleaned of the singer’s struggles; we see her encounter discrimination in the South and from Black people in the North, such as when a respected professor chides her during a voice lesson that the way she sang was “a discredit to the Negro race,” adding that white people would never understand it.

This is one moment, not a refrain in her life, and that’s a refreshing take in this season spotlighting Black women like Franklin, Billie Holiday and most recently, Tina Turner. Each of their treatments depict pain as an ongoing entity around which these artists had to navigate – and indeed, their tumultuous and abusive relationships with men in their lives loom large in their stories.

In the film, Mahalia exclaims, “When I sing God’s music, it’s hope,” as she explains to one friend begging her to make a blues record. “I can’t stand to live with any more pain.”

Salon describes, “That line may prove to be an essential citation in an ongoing argument about how Black female artists have been portrayed in films like these, especially lately. Here writers Bettina Gilois (who died in July 2020) and Todd Kreidler create a story that is joyful, bright, and facile in the way that Lifetime fictionalized biographies tend to be.”

Salon explains its note, “Take this not a mark against it but an indicator of what to expect: nice isn’t necessarily code for terrible. On the contrary “Mahalia” is pleasing, good mood fodder that should in no way be considered an exhaustive account of the gospel virtuoso’s expansive life. It may not qualify as an outstanding work of art or the definitive dramatization of Jackson’s life, but Brooks’ preeminence is the answer to any question of how this show will get over with audiences.”

“Mahalia” explores the singer’s talent as an extension of the happiness she drew from her faith, her kindheartedness and her humility. Gilois and Kreidler measure her life by way of her talent and her friendships, especially that of her friend Estelle, rendered in a warm, lively performance by Olivia Washington.

Rob Demery as Martin Luther King Jr., in “Mahalia.”

As a tradeoff the writers leap over entire segments of her career, omitting key relationships such as her early work with Thomas A. Dorsey, one of American music’s most influential artists, while finding time and space to portray her friendship with Studs Terkel (Jim Thorburn).

Each of these famous men figures prominently in Jackson’s legend, and certainly Terkel should be there. It remains worth inquiring why Dorsey is erased. Meanwhile auxiliary characters like Jackson’s longtime pianist Mildred Falls (Joaquina Kalukango, Brooks’ co-star in the Broadway production of “The Color Purple”) are shortchanged of development and dimension, although Kalukango works wonders with what she’s given.

Furthermore, Jackson’s Civil Rights presence only shows up by way of her friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr. (Rob Demery), and even this plank is nailed in as something of an afterthought, essential as a way to include the fleeting moment everyone knows but few realize is attributable to her. The woman’s voice that cries out, “Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream!” at during King’s speech at 1963’s March on Washington is Mahalia Jackson’s, after all. And we see that for all of a few seconds.

Danielle Brooks as Mahalia Jackson in “Mahalia.”

Rob Demery stars as Martin Luther King., Jr. at the March on Washington in “Robin Roberts Presents Mahalia.”









Still, thanks to Brooks’ resolute performance and Kenny Leon’s sturdy directing style, “Mahalia” successfully argues for our attention. In the same way that Cynthia Erivo stellar work easily buys forgiveness of the many flaws in “Genius,” Brooks reaches beyond the screen and grabs you every time she breaks into song, doubling that power to meet the grandeur of bigger stages. A lesser director would struggle to adequate frame that mighty power, but Leon rises to her level by matching her artistry with visual artfulness.

Here, too, the director finds a way to marry historic images into the present in a way that makes sense and fits the narrative.

When Mahalia walks on stage at Carnegie Hall, for example, the scene cuts to black and white, marking this as a recreation of a photographed moment in history that also translates the emotional context of the story – she’s scared. It’s the largest venue she’s ever performed in, and her stage fright has rendered the world colorless. Then Brooks, as Mahalia, gazes upward and into the light pouring down from the ceiling, and the camera makes it look like carpet of power pouring down from heaven. That’s when the color floods the picture and the singer, overcoming her fear, belts out the holy spirit.

Such scenes announce the higher role “Mahalia” plays as a parable about a Black woman’s voice and identity, and how often and ferociously both are policed and diminished. Brooks give Mahalia Jackson her due by playing her as the titan she is while being honest about her internalized insecurity about her boldness and Blackness, which is relatable millions of people, but especially to women with similar life experiences to hers.

Mahalia Jackson (L) and Danielle Brooks (R).

To those in awe of her musical contribution it’s unbelievable that she had to be talked into playing one of America’s most prestigious concert venues and not the other way around.

It’s equally as inspiring to watch her find her voice once she’s there – not onstage, but before her performance, when she tells her adopted son to tell the concert promoter to bring the rest of her money in cash.

This would seem to be inspired moment from Viola Davis’ portrayal of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. “It’s Carnegie Hall, Mama,” her son replies with a laugh. Mahalia shrugs him off in a way that gladdens the heart as much as her singing and says, “I got to take me wherever I go.”

“Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia” premiered, Saturday, April 3, 2021 at 8 p.m. on Lifetime (NBC Universal Entertainment Family). I was not a fan of all the commercial breaks in this presentation but there are other paid viewing choices, as well.


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Katey Sagal stars in ABC TV Series, "Rebel."

ENTERTAINMENT – “Rebel” on ABC is the Creation of Erin Brockovich and Showrunner Krista Vernoff

Erin Brockovich collaborates with Krista Vernoff (showrunner on Shonda Rhimes‘ TV productions) for ABC’s latest drama “Rebel

Annie ‘Rebel’ Bello is an inspired creation in the likes of Erin Brockovich, the character is a blue-collar legal advocate without a law degree. Sound familiar, as portrayed by Julia Roberts in “Erin Brockovich” film (2000). Directed and written by two of my favorite talents: Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic,” “Contagion,” the “Ocean” films “Out of Sight,” and “Fallen Angels”) and Susannah Grant (“A Gifted Man,” “In Her Shoes,” “Ever After: A Cinderella Story,” “The Soloist” and “Charlotte’s Web”).

Rebel’s a funny, messy, brilliant and fearless woman who cares desperately about the causes she fights for and the people she loves, ABC describes it’s new TV series. “When Rebel applies herself to a fight she believes in, she will win at almost any cost. The series stars Katey Sagal as Annie ‘Rebel’ Bello, John Corbett (My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Sex and the City), as Grady Bello, James Lesure as Benji, Lex Scott Davis as Cassidy, Tamala Jones (Castle) as Lana, Ariela Barer as Ziggy, Kevin Zegers as Nate, Sam Palladio as Luke and Andy Garcia (“Ocean’s 11” and “The Godfather: Part III“), as Cruz.

As premiered on ABC on April 8, this last show makes Vernoff the creative force behind all three prime-time drama series on ABC Thursday nights, including the megahit “Grey’s Anatomy” and its firefighter spin-off “Station 19.”

A little birdie by the name of Erik, told me about the series “Rebel”. He’s an informed source (attorney and writer) so I was happy to investigate. This led to today’s blogpost after I viewed the series pilot. I enjoyed the entire production. It’s well cast, well produced, and offers a talented cast of actors.

The series was reviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle. Krista Vernoff, as interviewed says that, “looking back, it’s fitting that some of her friends nicknamed her ‘Brockovich’ in 2000 — though, she admits, it’s also a bit surreal now that she has created a new ABC series, “Rebel,” inspired by Erin Brockovich’s life.”

Erin Brockovich, Katey Sagal, and Krista Vernoff pictured together for the ABC TV Series, “Rebel”.

Julia Roberts, seen with Albert Finney in “Erin Brockovich,” won an Oscar for her portrayal of Brockovich, a brash legal-clerk-turned-activist who successfully took on PG&E for poisoning drinking water. Photo: Bob Marshack, Universal Pictures










The real Brockovich, a thrice-divorced mom of three with no law degree, became an inspiration to millions when the feel-good blockbuster “Erin Brockovich” came out in 2000.

Julia Roberts won an Oscar for portraying the brash legal-clerk-turned-activist who successfully built a case against PG&E for poisoning the drinking water in Hinkley (San Bernardino County) with a carcinogen. (The case settled in 1996 for a whopping $333 million.)

Brockovich reminded audiences, including budding screenwriter Vernoff, that it’s possible for one person who sees injustice to make a tangible, lasting impact if they lead with their common sense and never take no for an answer.

Katey Sagal and Andy Garcia star in “Rebel” on ABC.

“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Station 19” Showrunner Krista Vernoff pictured here has renewed her project overall deal With ABC Signature.








“I loved the film, and I guess my friends saw I had an affinity for her,” Vernoff says of her nickname, by phone from Los Angeles. “I always have an opinion, I’m tenacious, and I have an impulse toward activism.

“I had also gone through a bad breakup and was going through a bustier-and-miniskirt stage,” she adds, with a laugh. Years later, once Vernoff was a successful showrunner and executive producer of two popular shows, she heard from producers who had acquired Brockovich’s life rights and were looking for a writer.

“I jumped even though I was already absolutely overwhelmed with work,” she recalls. “I joked with my husband that there’s literally no meeting I would take right now to add work to my plate, except with Erin Brockovich.”

ABC TV Series, “Rebel” star studded cast.

“Krista and I share this common bond in feeling like we don’t always know why we’re getting involved, but it can feel like a calling,” Brockovich tells The Chronicle by phone from her home in Agoura Hills (Los Angeles County).

During an initial meeting that stretched to nearly three hours, the two women discovered they are remarkably kindred spirits — both driven by a single-minded sense of purpose and uninterested in letting up despite their outsize success. “Krista is Rebel in her own way,” Brockovich continues, comparing Vernoff to the new show’s title character, Annie “Rebel” Bello, played by Katey Sagal (“Sons of Anarchy”), who is a funny, messy, determined legal advocate. “She reminds me, we can be both badass and kind.” Although she isn’t yet a household name like her mentor Shonda Rhimes, Vernoff has been gaining influence in Hollywood for years, though most often “as a really strong No. 2 on other people’s shows,” she concedes.


“Krista Vernoff is a superstar who makes the almost impossible task of running three shows seem like a reasonable amount of work,” said Dana Walden, chairman of entertainment for Walt Disney Television in feature story of Variety. “I am honestly in awe of her. Everyone at the studio and network is grateful for the tremendous job she’s done on the amazing Shondaland shows, and we are proud to be launching Krista’s first creation, ‘Rebel,’ on ABC in two weeks. The optimism, intellectual curiosity and quest for social justice embodied in its title character are traits that could easily apply to Krista herself, and those are just a few of the qualities that make us feel lucky to work with her every day.”

Katey Sagal and John Corbett star in ABC Series, “Rebel.”

Vernoff described her new series as “both a departure and sharing some DNA” with “Grey’s” and “Station 19.”

Vernoff wrote three seasons of the WB’s “Charmed,” five seasons of Showtime’s “Shameless” and numerous pilots and was head writer of “Grey’s Anatomy” for its first seven seasons, churning out plotlines that kept the medical drama in the cultural conversation. Rhimes tapped Vernoff to take over “Grey’s” as showrunner in 2017 and encouraged her to take over “Station 19” after its second season. In the past year, Vernoff has shepherded both ABC dramas, adopting new protocols for filming during a pandemic and successfully orchestrated — and kept under wraps — prime-time surprises like Patrick Dempsey’s return for the “Grey’s” season 17 premiere.

Ariela Barer and John Corbett star as daughter and father in “Rebel.”

Lex Scott Davis and James Lesure star as daughter and father in “Rebel.”









“You can see in those shows that I’m inclined to combine story lines that include a social justice element with humor, and all three shows center around ambitious female characters,” says Vernoff, referring to Rebel’s former sister-in-law and dogged investigator Lana (Tamala Jones) and her sharp lawyer daughter, Cassidy (Lex Scott Davis).

But while “Grey’s” and “Station 19” incorporated the COVID-19 pandemic into their story lines, “Rebel” exists “in a post-pandemic world, a future that’s hopefully not too far away.”

Source: SF Chronicle and Variety


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"Atlantic Crossing" on PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

ENTERTAINMENT – PBS Masterpiece Theatre Presents “Atlantic Crossing” About A Princess That Steals the Heart of Franklin D. Roosevelt, U.S. President


A princess steals the heart of American President Franklin D. Roosevelt during World War II.

From PBS, a princess steals the heart of the president of the United States in an epic drama, “Atlantic Crossing,” based on the World War II relationship of Franklin Roosevelt and Norwegian Crown Princess Martha. Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks, Sex and the City) stars as Roosevelt, opposite Swedish star Sofia Helin (The Bridge) as Martha.

The opening scenes of “Atlantic Crossing” could scarcely be merrier, circumstances notwithstanding. It is the period of Nazi conquest throughout Europe. Crown Princess Martha of Norway (Sofia Helin) and husband Crown Prince Olav (Tobias Santelmann ) are enjoying a sexual liaison on a passenger train in the U.S.—the country to which they fled in fear of an expected German invasion. Their fears were well grounded—the Germans invaded Norway in 1940.

Martha had expected a new and peaceful life in America, and found one, of sorts, for a time.

What she never expected was the heady experience of a circle of political and social relationships that would bring her into close contact with President Franklin Roosevelt. So close that he invited the crown princess to make her home at the White House with her three children—a gesture that led to an ever-deepening strain of suspicion and gossip about the nature of their relationship.

Atlantic Crossing – Series Trailer

The eight-part “Masterpiece” series (created and co-directed by Alexander Eik) is presented as fiction inspired by true events, though what events, true or otherwise, could have inspired the creation of some of the uniquely distorted characters we encounter here defy imagination. Meet, for instance, the Eleanor Roosevelt (Harriet Sansom Harris ) who emerges in this tale. Eleanor Roosevelt—who had been, in her lifetime, among the most devoted internationalists known to the world—emerges here as a crank, the kind set against anything well worth doing, but especially things like plans to provide economic and other needed aid to Britain.


Sofia Helin and Kyle MacLachlan in “Atlantic Crossing.”

Franklin Roosevelt—a superb portrayal by Kyle MacLachlan —would have recognized the dynamic.

True, most of the life in this tale, which is considerable, comes from its principals—people rooted in a world where jealousy is summoned to life in an instant and knows no end.  In “Atlantic Crossing” his longtime (two decades) assistant, Missy LeHand—pained by FDR’s warm friendship with Crown Princess Martha—tells Martha that if Hitler wins the war, “You will be queen of nothing.”

The adoring assistants who had spent decades working for the real Franklin Roosevelt were as vulnerable as those in the series, if for different reasons. One of them, already retired, had been moved to put in a call to FDR the Sunday Pearl Harbor was bombed. A call, for understandable reasons, the president did not return that day. But neither did he call any other day, though the caller nurtured hopes that he might.

Photo from PBS Masterpiece Theatre.

There’s a power in this work that has nothing to do with its characters, a kind that makes itself felt wordlessly—namely, the unyielding grip of fear.

“Atlantic Crossing” is packed with the terrorized fleeing from the menace of the Germans, though there is no German in sight but the one who shows up in a cabin inhabited only by a quiet dog that he quickly shoots. It requires no visible Nazis to sustain the fear. One young woman has fled to her uncle in Sweden—a country famously neutral—-only to discover that he’s furious at being asked to harbor anyone, including a young relative guilty of nothing and pursued by no one. Everyone has grasped that assertions of neutrality mean nothing if the Germans decide to ignore them.

The central drama of this immensely moving saga takes place, of course, in America. That its eyes remain sharply focused on the world left behind is one of the sources of its great strength, second only to its portrayal of who and what Franklin Roosevelt meant to the American nation.


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