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Television: From ‘Monster’ to ‘Monarch, nothing is must-see viewing yet

New season. New attempt to find the next show that might absorb in the way “Ozark” and “Better Call SauL” did.

No dice.

About the only series that made me want to see more than a sample is Hulu’s “Only Murders In the Building,” which made my list only because I was taking expanded views of 2022 Emmy nominees.

I had dumped out of “Only Murders” after two episodes that didn’t seem to promise much.

Luckily, by tuning into to Episode 3, I saw plot twists and character angles I wasn’t expecting.

These kept coming, and in ways I found to be cleverer as the episodes progressed.

Before I knew it, I watched the entire first season and some of its second.

Thank goodness it took time to find the performances nominated for Best Actor/Actress in a Guest Role, the Actor competition going to “Only Murders’s” Nathan Lane, probably because of some touching scenes he does in ASL with his character’s deaf son.

Sting, Amy Ryan, and Jane Houdyshell also provided some funny moments.

The second look at “Only Murders in the Building” provided a teachable moment. I learned to stick around longer than my usual two episodes before deeming a program a disappointment.

Applying my newfound tolerance did not help Fox’s “Monarch,” FX/Hulu’s “Welcome to Wrexham,” or Netflix’s “Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story.”

Only the last seemed to muster some potential, but that faded somewhere in Episode 2 when it began evident “Dahmer” was likely to be a 10-part “Donahue” that sought understanding for the murderous, predatory cannibal by reviewing psychological damage from his childhood.

Evan Peters, who plays Dahmer, and who was so outstanding in the locally set “Mare of Easttown,” deserves high praise for his eerie yet realistic portrayal of the serial killer, but his performance is not enough to bring me back to the show.

“Monarch” was the biggest disappointment, perhaps because its cast is led by the usually reliable Susan Sarandon and features Anna Friel and Faith Prince, all personal favorites.

The series, unfortunately, lives up to its location on a standard over-the-air television network. It doesn’t come close to providing the fun, let alone the punch, of the bygone “Dallas” or “Dynasty” from four decades back. As a drama about a family of three children vying to follow their mother as undisputed, indisputable head of a Country music, it pales almost to washout in comparison to HBO’s “Succession.”

Sarandon may have a way with a line, but her talent does no good when faced with the uninspired dialogue she’s given. Beth Ditto, as the rebellious youngest child in Sarandon’s clan of three, provides most of the better moments in “Monarch” episodes so far. I don’t expect to know if the series finds any life as its season continues. I also doubt future Emmy nominations will entice me to take a second look.

“Welcome to Wrexham” is proof that invention is often more interesting than reality.”

The series is a documentary about the experience actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney had when, just before the beginning of the COVID pandemic in 2020, they purchased a Welsh football (soccer) team that wallows without much hope in the lowest tier of Britain’s five-level professional soccer system.

The show tells the story about two famous guys who purchase a dog of a team with the intention of bringing it to contention status and eventual placement is British football’s most elite tier, the Premier League.

The problem is their relating of their story is plodding and pedestrian rather than funny. Just as “Monarch” fails to live up to any of its conceivable models. “Welcome to Wrexham” is not nearly as witty, entertaining, or engaging as Apple+’s two-time Emmy recipient for Best Comedy Series, “Ted Lasso.”

Like Jason Sudeikis’s character on “Lasso,” Reynolds and McElhenney know nothing about football when they purchase the failing Wrexham club, an event that occurs before “Lasso” hits TV.

Also like Sudeikis’s “Lasso,” they find themselves with a dog of a team that makes Phillies clubs from 2014 through 2021 look like World Series contenders.

The documentary begins with a somewhat interesting comparison as Wrexham being a working class town that makes McElhenney remember his youth in South Philadelphia, but it never finds its stride in terms of humor, not even in the snide camaraderie between Reynolds and McElhenney, and doesn’t grab as what looks to be an eventual success story.

Indeed, Wrexham, which was at the bottom of a buried barrel, has been winning its matches lately and could move into a higher tier (though nowhere near the Premier level).

Concept and curiosity carried more through the opening episodes than care about Wrexham’s fate or content about Reynolds and McElhenney’s management of it.

I do find myself looking at Wrexham’s website to track wins and losses.

Always the optimist, I look forward to some programs coming up, including one on an over-the-air traditional network.

That would be ABC’s “Alaska Daily,” which stars two-time Oscar recipient Hilary Swank as a reporter who commits a famous gaffe and goes to an Anchorage newspaper to restore her career and reputation. It debuts on Thursday.

Writer-creator for the show is Tom McCarthy whose movie about the Boston Globe, “Spotlight,” earned a 2015 Best Picture Oscar and association as an actor on “The Wire” increase my expectation that “Alaska Daily” may be worthwhile.

I’ll also be taking close looks at “Reasonable Doubt,” which debuts tomorrow on Netflix and is about a defense attorney and AMC’s “Interview with a Vampire, which starts Sunday and features Sam Reid as Anne Rice’s lead nightcrawler, Lestat.

“The Simpsons” started its new season last night on Fox. Also last night, ABC began airing “Celebrity Jeopardy!” with Mayim Bialik as the moderator. Normally I’d be ecstatic (as opposed to Lestatic) about a new skein of “Jeopardy!” My enthusiasm is dampened by the “celebrity” aspect of the new show.

Celebrities these days want to be showoffs who will dance with every correct answer, act like babies when they give a wrong answer or, worse, shrug and say, “Who would know that?” Stars, if that who “Jeopardy” recruits, lack the sophistication and seriousness tinged with wit that panelists from last century’s game shows mustered.

I know I’ll be tuning in, but as I write, I’m afraid, very afraid, about what I’ll find.

A bright spot about the coming weeks on television is movies contending for Oscars will be available for free or a nominal price on various streamers. I’m looking forward to Wednesday when Netflix streams a new feature film about Marilyn Monroe, “Blonde,” with Ana de Armas from “Knives Are Out” in the lead.

Another McCarthy shines for Phils

Pat McCarthy has made a positive impression during his stints filling in for Scott Franzke as play-by-play announcer for Phillies game on WIP (94.1 FM).

Like Franzke’s, McCarthy’s voice has a lot of expression and color in it. He enlivens his broadcast and even shares Franzke’s entertaining way with words.

Of course, Pat has a model. His father, Tom McCarthy, calls play-by-play for the Phillies on television.

Welcome back ‘Inside Story’

It’s good to see that the best panel show on local television, perhaps on television in general, Channel 6’s “Inside Story,” has returned to the studio after two years of COVID protocol that had participants Zooming from home, as is back to its full half-hour.

Tamala Edwards and Matt O’Donnell continue to alternate as “Inside Story’s” moderator.

Opera Philadelphia on screen

Almost two years ago, at the height of the COVID shutdown, Opera Philadelphia responded to the preclusion of live performances by starting the Opera Philadelphia Channel, on which it streamed programming, including movies it produced.

I was on the set at Brandywine Park, right where one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolutionary War was fought, to watch the filming of David T. Little’s song cycle “Soldier Songs” and interview its lead, lone actor, baritone Jonathan McCullough, who plays a universal soldier who sings about his experience in several wars.

I can remember the set with its trailer and camp chairs that served as the abode for McCullough’s various characters.

“Soldier Songs” will return to the Opera Philadelphia Channel, but at 7 p.m. tomorrow it kicks off a week of “Opera on Film” that is part of Opera Philadelphia’s Festival O22, an ambitious and varied assortment of operatic performance that range from the classical to the modern and includes “Late Night Snacks,” a truly provocative and topical cabaret performed at the Switch Club on N. 7th Street in Philadelphia.

The selections for “Opera on Film,” including a performance by Beyoncé Knowles as Carmen and all screening at the Philadelphia Film Center in the former Prince Theater at Broad and Chestnut Streets, are as eclectic and representative as O22’s live fare.

After “Soldier Songs,” they are “Shorts: Like, Share, Follow,” a panoply of diverse works amid O22’s panoply of diverse works, at 6 p.m. Wednesday; Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, “Shorts: The Opera We Made,” more variety, at 6 p.m. Thursday; dwb (Driving While Black) + Soul (Signs)” at 9 p.m. Thursday; “The Copper Queen” at 2 p.m. Friday; “Sibyl + Polia and Blastema” at 6 p.m. Friday, “Carmen: A Hip Hopera,” with Beyoncé as Carmen in this 2001 MTV adaptation of Bizet, at 8 p.m. Friday; Opera Philadelphia’s 2021 production of Francis Poulenc’s version of Jean Cocteau’s “La voix humaine” with Patricia Racette and Pedro Almódovar’s 2020 “The Human Voice”with Tilda Swinton together at 1 p.m. Saturday; “Obscura Nox + After/Glow” at 6 p.m. Saturday; “Shorts: Opera Boldly Goes…” at 1 p.m. Sunday; and Gordon Getty’s “Goodbye Mr. Chips” at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Al Hirschfeld’s art

Al Hirschfeld is known as a chronicler of the theater based on his thousands of ink sketches of Broadway and other productions.His prolific work also graced many editions of TV Guide and other publications about television.

David Leopold, who worked with Hirschfeld and is now Director of The Al Hirschfeld Foundation, is doing a one-night multi-media show that covers the artist’s vast career from the ‘30s until his passing early this century at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, at New Hope’s Bucks County Playhouse.

Neal Zoren’s television column appears every Monday.


Source: Berkshire mont

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