TV Review: “SEAL Team”

There has not been a TV show in quite some time hat has so effectively illustrated the tensions and issues involved in America’s battle against its radical external enemies as “SEAL Team.” This new CBS “blood-and-sand” military drama, which launched to initial critical acclaim in September 2017, follows the adventures of an elite Bravo team of Navy SEALs. These brave soldiers are deployed to far-flung points of the globe to do battle with terrorists, extremists and a variety of other evildoers in the world. It’s a first-rate TV show, driven forward in part by the phenomenal acting of a cast led by David Boreanaz.

“SEAL Team” captures the drama and tensions of an elite fighting unit

The major dynamic of “SEAL Team,” of course, is the drama that happens between the members of an elite SEAL team. There is the team leader, Jason Hayes (played by David Boreanaz), as well as four other individuals who play key roles in the 13-episode CBS series: Ray Perry (played by Neil Brown Jr.), Sonny Quinn (played by A.J. Buckley) and Clay Spenser (played by Max Theriot).

How all of these team members interact is really part of the magic and spectacle of this TV show. For example, the closest friend of Jason Hayes is Ray Perry. He is the person that Hayes can count on in true moments of peril, and it is a very singular friendship indeed. And then there is the fascinating story of Clay Spenser, a second-generation Navy SEAL who is currently still adjusting to the life and rigor of being a SEAL. We sense that he is made of strong stuff indeed, but compared to others on his team, he is still very much a SEAL in training. In the very episode of the show, he ends up shooting a terrorist despite strict orders to bring him in alive, setting up enormous tension with his team members.

And there is more that feeds this dramatic tension of this SEAL team. For example, one of the early plotlines of the show (including Episode 1 “Tip of the Spear”) involves how each team member is dealing with the recent loss of a team member. As the series progresses, we start to see the broad outlines of how much these brave men have risked, all in the hopes of protecting their nation and making their families proud.

SEAL Team” sends us on dramatic missions around the world

If you enjoy the “Jason Bourne” movies, in which protagonists are sent around the world to a head-spinning number of exotic locations, you’ll enjoy the narrative of CBS’s “SEAL Team.” There have only been 13 episodes of this riveting new TV show, but it seems like with every new episode, we are sent somewhere truly dangerous and destabilized around the globe. For example, in Episode 2, the team is sent on a mission to destroy chemical weapons. In Episode 3, the team is sent to the South China Sea to rescue a team of researchers. In Episode 5, they are sent to the South Sudan to help evacuate an embassy. Other missions take them to Afghanistan, Yemen and other flash points around the world.

In every one of these cases, the SEAL Team is sent on some of the most dangerous missions possible – and that just ratchets up the dramatic tension of this TV show. In one case, they are sent on a race against time to prevent the implementation of a “dirty bomb” plot. In others, they must capture dangerous war criminals or outwit their rivals from other superpower states. In Episode 9, for example, this SEAL team must match wits with the Russians and the Chinese.

“SEAL Team” features compelling characters, not just stereotypical clichés

Where “SEAL Team” really excels is in its depiction of the inner demons, hard choices, and mental anguish faced by each of the team members. For example, David Boreanaz’s character must grapple with the loss of a close friend in combat. The loss has left him mentally weakened, and he is forced to undergo mandatory therapy as part of his recovery. Not only that, but the anguish of losing one of his “brothers” has resulted in his estrangement from both his wife and children. Add in the fact that a new romantic interest (Mandy Ellis, played by Jessica Paré) lingers on the sidelines of this military drama, and it’s clear to see Jason Hayes is going to have plenty to consider when he is not out there fighting the terrorists.

Much the same can be said for all of the other characters, and perhaps none more so than Max Theriot’s character, Clay Spenser. He, too, must wrestle with inner demons and anguish, not the least of which is the need to measure up to past generations and a heroic father figure. If you are looking for cardboard cutouts and character clichés, it’s time to look somewhere else: “SEAL Team” really delivers when it comes to character development and the type of narrative arc that leaves audiences coming back for more.

SEAL TEAM stars David Boreanaz as Jason Hayes, in a military drama that follows the professional and personal lives of the most elite unit of Navy SEALs as they train, plan and execute the most dangerous, high stakes missions our country can ask of them. SEAL TEAM will be broadcast in the 2017-2018 season on the CBS Television Network. Pictured left to right: Toni Trucks as Davis, Neil Brown Jr. as Ray, David Boreanaz as Jason Hayes, Jessica Paré as Mandy Ellis, Max Thieriot as Clay Spenser and AJ Buckley as Sonny. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2017 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

The true potential of “SEAL Team” has yet to be fully explored

As Season 1 of “SEAL Team” comes to a close, it becomes easier to see how much true potential this CBS TV series has. That potential can be summed up in just a few words: it reminds us of the human element involved in this nation’s battle against terror. This comes through in a number of different ways, and not just when the team members are interacting directly with the ISIS terrorists in far-flung destinations around the world.

For example, there is the tendency to view terrorists as “The Other” – people at the fringe of humanity, with very little in the way of redeeming qualities. But as “SEAL Team” shows us, there is a lot to unpack here. Take Episode 8 – it involves a SEAL mission to extract a U.S. soldier who was captured after deserting. This reminds us that the war against terror comes with its set of internal contradictions: it is possible to support the war, but differ markedly on the tactics. Other episodes hint at the issues raised by the U.S. prison at Gitmo, created to imprison ISIS radicals.

So what’s the big takeaway here? Perhaps the notion that “SEAL Team” has much work yet to be done. The future for CBS’s “SEAL Team” is very bright indeed. It’s easy to see CBS extending this series for another 13 episodes, and TV audiences will once more look forward to the extraordinary adventures of these brave men as they undertake some of the most dangerous and risky mission possible, all in the name of protecting our homeland from unimaginable evil.

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Adam Scott and Craig Robinson Get Spooked in “Ghosted”

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The new TV show “Ghosted,” which premiered on FOX in October, can best be described as a supernatural-themed comedy. In it, two comedy veterans – Adam Scott and Craig Robinson – play paranormal investigators recruited by a shadowy government organization known as the Bureau Underground. There are plenty of comedic laughs, but also plenty of paranormal frights. So it’s safe to say that Adam Scott and Craig Robinson get spooked in “Ghosted” – and we have plenty of fun watching what happens next.

Adam Scott, Craig Robinson and the paranormal buddy comedy

Over the past 30 years, there have been plenty of great buddy comedies on the big screen. Just think of movies like “48 Hours,” “Trading Places” and “Midnight Run.” In many ways, “Ghosted” follows in this tradition – it’s like a buddy cop movie you might have watched in the 1980’s, but this time it’s two paranormal investigators.

On one hand, you have Adam Scott’s character (Max Jennifer), who is a disgraced astrophysics professor from Stanford who believes, deep down, that his wife has been abducted by aliens. Things have gotten so bad that he’s working at a second-hand bookstore just to make ends meet when the Bureau Underground recruits him to become a paranormal investigator.

On the other hand, you have Craig Robinson’s character (Leroy Wright), a former LAPD cop who is working as a mall security guard when the Bureau Underground contacts him. Unlike Max, Leroy has absolutely no belief in aliens or the paranormal.

So you can immediately see why Adam Scott and Craig Robinson make such a great comic duo. On one hand, you have the slightly off-kilter paranormal believer who’s afraid of everything; on the other hand, you have the no-sense LAPD cop who doesn’t believe in anything paranormal. This constant tension between the duo is played for some hilarious laughs.

If you’ve seen this comedic duo in an interview together, you’ll have a good idea why they work so well together in “Ghosted.” They literally finish each other’s sentences, and seem to have great chemistry working together. (You might recognize both of them from “Hot Tub Time Machine 2.”) In interviews, the two actors have specifically referenced as inspiration some of the all-time great buddy comedies, especially “48 Hours” (Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte) and “Midnight Run” (Charles Grodin and Robert De Niro).

The spooky elements of “Ghosted”

While there’s plenty of comedic material to mine for laughs, there’s also a lot of paranormal elements as well – including ghosts, aliens and things that go bump in the dark. What makes everything so spooky is that it’s never quite clear what the role of the shadowy government organization, the Bureau Underground, is in all this. In some cases, it almost seems as if the government is responsible for everything that has run amok.

The real challenge, according to Adam Scott and Craig Robinson, is how to balance the spooky and the funny within a 30-minute comedy format. But it’s a blend of comedy, fantasy and the supernatural that the show pulls off very well. In between comic scenes and comic banter, there are severed heads, spaceships and weird lights in the sky. The goal, say Scott and Robinson, is to create the perfect mix of comedy and horror, along the lines of the giant Marshmallow Man in “Ghostbusters.”

In many ways, you can also think of “Ghosted” as a comedic “X-Files.” There are unexplained disappearances, shadowy organizations, and paranormal events. And, yet, it’s somehow all very funny. And, just like the format of the “X-Files,” there’s one ardent believer in the paranormal, and another main character who doesn’t believe.

The best scenes in “Ghosted” are when Adam Scott and Craig Robinson get spooked

There’s an undercurrent of zaniness that fills the entire show. And things are never quite as zany as when Adam Scott and Craig Robinson get spooked. It’s hilarious when Adam Scott starts freaking out, and Craig Robinson needs to calm him down. And some of the scenes are just hilarious – like when the two start slapping each other in the face. Or when they are both crawling around on all fours, trying to evade what they think are paranormal forces.

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“Ghosted” in many ways feels like a spoof of classic sci-fi thrillers

There are so many different inspirations for “Ghosted” – the classic buddy comedy, “Ghostbusters” and “X-Files.” To that mix you can add the classic sci-fi thriller. In these thrillers, there’s usually some researcher or investigator on the relentless search for truth, trying to figure out the role of shadowy and corrupt government workers or money-hungry corporate R&D folks. In these thrillers, there are usually scientific experiments gone wrong, research findings that are supposed to remain secret and/or classified, and plenty of unexplained events.

So “Ghosted” often riffs on these themes, to hilarious effect. Take the example of the Bureau Underground. The very name of this organizations sounds like a hilarious mash-up of the Weather Underground the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There seems to be some kind of conspiracy going on here, yet it is the federal government that’s involved.

What goes down in these top-secret government facilities can be hilarious as well as spooky. Adam Scott (“Parks and Recreation”) and Craig Robinson (“The Office”) have plenty of experience playing characters in zany, wacky work environments, and it’s clear that some of the top-secret government employees here are also zany and wacky in their own weird ways. This makes for some great parody and comic relief.

“Ghosted” is a fantastic combination of comedy, fantasy and the supernatural

It looks like FOX has a new comic hit on its hands. Adam Scott and Craig Robinson work well together, and never more so than when they’re getting spooked. This new FOX show combines comedy, fantasy, and the supernatural in a fun, enjoyable way that feels fresh and relevant. For fans of buddy cop movies, you have the non-stop banter between Scott and Robinson. For fans of “X-Files,” you have all the paranormal elements in this show. And for fans of all-time classic comedies like “Ghostbusters,” you have similar elements of the zany and the paranormal.

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“Stranger Things” Season 2: Intense, Creative and Charming

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Almost overnight, it seems like “Stranger Things” has become the new “must-binge” TV show from Netflix, following in the long line of popular shows like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” that have influenced the pop culture mainstream. So it shouldn’t perhaps have been a big surprise that Season 2 of “Stranger Things,” when it finally dropped on October 27, was just as intense, creative and charming as Season 1.

The audience viewership numbers for “Stranger Things” Season 2 are off the charts

Netflix has been notoriously secretive about the total viewership numbers for its shows, but that hasn’t stopped the likes of Nielsen from finding ways to measure how many people are actually watching shows like “Stranger Things.” And it turns out that the audience viewership numbers for “Stranger Things” Season 2, as measured by Nielsen, are off the charts.

Here’s just one number that really stands out: Nielsen found that 361,000 people watched all 9 episodes of Season 2 within 24 hours of their first release on October 27. That is the true definition of a “binge.” The average viewer watched 2.9 episodes within the first 3 days of release, meaning that they averaged 1 episode per night. You might call this a “light binge” because these viewers were still on pace to watch 9 episodes in 9 nights – very impressive by any standard.

Moreover, on average, Netflix attracted an average of 8.8 million viewers per episode of Season 2, of which 6.2 million were in the all-important 18-to-49 demographic. But that’s just an average – Episode 1 attracted 15.8 million viewers, with 11 million in the 18-to-49 demographic. Even the final episode (Episode 9) attracted more than 4 million viewers – a clear suggestion that close to 4 million viewers did an intense three-day binge of the complete Season 2.

Some of the more intense, creative, and charming elements from “Stranger Things” Season 2

So what exactly was driving all this impressive viewership of “Stranger Things” Season 2? Here are just some of the themes that social media interactions were picking up on with great regularity:

  • Anything involving demons (especially the “demodogs”!)
  • The supernatural elements of the Upside Down
  • Will Byers being held captive by a demon
  • The evildoers at the Hawkins lab

While Season 2 tended to follow the same basic narrative arc of Season 1 – the lab in Hawkins commits errors, Will Byers gets victimized by supernatural elements, monsters escape to wreak havoc, and Eleven finds a way to save everyone – the way the show continues to weave new narrative subplots in and out of this basic narrative arc is very impressive. Some of the scenes can be intense – such as just about any scene of Will being victimized by supernatural elements – but they help the viewer to identify even more strongly with the characters of “Stranger Things.”

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“Stranger Things” 2 includes plenty of references to 1980s nostalgia

One favorite pastime of “Stranger Things” fans is trying to spot all the references to 1980s pop culture contained within the show. Some of the references are obvious even to the casual, first-time viewer, such as the “Ghostbusters” outfits worn by the kids, but some of the other references might be a bit harder to figure out. Keep in mind – this show is set in the year 1984, so it’s easy to see why viewers love to track down all of these 1980s references.

Insider.com, in fact, tracked down 17 of the more creative and charming 80’s pop culture references within the show, finding connections to some of the most beloved films of that decade, including “St. Elmo’s Fire,” “War Games,” “Risky Business,” and “E.T.” Sometimes, these references included something very subtle – like a videocassette for one of those movies appearing in a scene – and sometimes they a subtle homage to those films, such as when Steve and Nancy dress up like Joel and Lana from “Risky Business” for a party.

Here’s just one example of how clever and charming these ‘80s references are: when Will is being held at the lab for tests, he’s asked to give his first choice for candy. He eventually decides on Reese’s Pieces. Well, there’s a good reason for that – Reese’s Pieces were the exact type of candy that the kids in “E.T.” fed E.T. in order to get him to trust them.

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“Stranger Things” 2 is all about creative and charming character development

As more than one movie critic has pointed out, the main reason why viewers insist on binge-watching “Stranger Things” has to do with the creative and charming character development. We really want to learn more about these kids. Thus, it seems like Season 2, much more than Season 1, focused on their growth and emotional struggles. For example, you have the heartbroken Mike after he fails to win the girls of his dreams, and you have the sad, crestfallen Eleven shattering windows and adopting a new “MTV punk” look as a way of dealing with her emotions.

All of these emotional subplots are woven into the larger story, showing us what it means to deal with adolescence. And, in one of the more creative touches of Season 2, it turns out that a mysterious storm bearing down on the town of Hawkins turned out to be (spoiler alert!) a physical manifestation of puberty. The storm was meant to show us what this phenomenon must have felt like for these kids, so unused to experiencing certain feelings and thoughts.

“Stranger Things” 2 is all about the new monsters and demons

Based on the types of social media interactions that fans of “Stranger Things” have been posting on Facebook and Twitter in the period after Season 2 was released, it appears that viewers were intensely interested in all the monsters and demons that have been released by the Hawkins lab. Fans really wanted the return of the Demogorgon in Season 2, but what they got instead was a big, spider-like storm beast. So there was a lot of discussion about the differences between Gothic-style monsters and smoky, shadowy monsters. And fans couldn’t stop talking about the Demodogs!

“Stranger Things” 2 has a chance to become the new Netflix flagship hit

For so long, “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black” have been the flagship shows of Netflix, showing us what it means to create an intense, creative and charming show. Well, it now looks like “Stranger Things” – thanks to its amalgam of 1980’s pop nostalgia, strong character development, and creative adaptation of classic science-fiction plot lines – is now on pace to become the new Netflix flagship show.

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Season 4 of “Bojack Horseman” Is Darker Than Ever

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Netflix’s adult animated comedy-drama “Bojack Horseman” is back for Season 4, and it’s clear that something has changed. Sure, the first three seasons of “Bojack Horseman” always seemed to be pushing the edges of just how far the show could go – but Season 4 is taking the show in a much darker direction, exploring themes like addiction, dementia and depression in ways that we never expected. In short, Season 4 of “Bojack Horseman” is darker than ever.

“Bojack Horseman” is no longer just a brilliant satire of Hollywood celebrity culture

When the star character of a show is a humanoid horse who’s also filled with addictive tendencies and a sense of deep self-loathing, there’s plenty of potential to explore the darker side of existence. Yet, for the first three seasons, it seems like “Bojack Horseman” was mostly willing to satirize Hollywood and celebrity culture. You basically had a washed-up Hollywood star – Bojack Horseman – trying to get back in the game and restore his once-fabulous TV career.

Along the way, we meet his on-again, off-again girlfriend (the pink cat Princess Carolyn), and watch him struggle to adapt to his current existence as a 50-something nobody without any real prospects in show biz. But here’s the thing: we as viewers believed that the show was about finding happiness, about finding redemption, and about finally making it in the end.

Season 4 has changed all that. Themes like anxiety, drug abuse and depression are everywhere. It’s not just that Bojack Horseman is bitter and depressed, it’s that he’s now sinking further and further into the cesspool of dark emotions. He is, in short, now a substance-addicted narcissist. He is not getting any closer to enlightenment, and really, he doesn’t care. That’s dark, right?

“Bojack Horseman” has some dark scenes involving family members

In Season 4, we are learning more and more about Bojack Horseman, and we are finding out that he is not a very nice horse. For example, consider the plot lines involving his mother Beatrice. He has placed her in a ramshackle nursing home in Michigan, glad to be rid of her both physically and emotionally. As viewers and fans have pointed out, he has literally turned his back on her.

And that’s not all – Bojack Horseman is not dealing very well with the fact that Hollyhock might actually be his daughter. He doesn’t want to adopt her, and is looking for a way out. He is not willing yet to take on responsibility for her, and seems to be actively looking for someone else to take her on. He seems to be just going through the motions, not yet doing the “right thing” and becoming a loving parent and adopting her with love.

“Bojack Horseman” is shifting its dark focus from Hollywood to politics

On the surface, a plot line about Mr. Peanutbutter running for political office shouldn’t be all that dark. After all, he’s just a golden Labrador Retriever, right? But even here, you can start to see how “Bojack Horseman” is now willing to take on modern politics.

Throughout Season 4, there are veiled references to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and, of course, Arnold Schwarzenegger. How did we get to this point in modern society where it’s easier for a celebrity to win political office than it is for a life-long, professional politician? There’s something cold and unsparing in this analysis, though, that has overtones of darkness.

“Bojack Horseman” continues to explore the meaning of melancholy, shame and guilt

Part of why fans love “Bojack Horseman” so much are all the goofy background gags in nearly every scene – like polar bears hanging out in Hawaiian shirts when other animals are wrapped up in heavy jackets, or all the funny word plays on signs (“I Pita the Ful”). But here’s the thing – these signs and gags have started to be less about being funny and cute, and more about reinforcing the shame and guilt that different characters feel.

As one TV reviewer noted, “Bojack Horseman” is now “a marvel of melancholy.” You might say that the show has transformed from being “biting and sarcastic“ to being “darkly funny” to now being “a marvel of melancholy.” Each season, the show seems to be headed deeper and deeper in that direction.

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“Bojack Horseman” is all about broken, not flawed, characters

It might seem like a subtle difference on the surface, but there is a major, fundamental difference between being a “flawed” character and being a “broken” character. During the first 3 seasons, it was possible to see Bojack Horseman as a flawed character. Yes, he had destructive tendencies, and yes, he tended to feel sorry for himself, but you had the sense that it would all work out in the end.

Flash forward to Season 4, however, and it’s clear that Bojack Horseman is now a broken character. Some have compared him to Don Draper in “Mad Men” – someone that we initially trusted to be a true protagonist, but someone who showed that he was without true redemption. Bojack Horseman has addictive tendencies, he’s filled with self-loathing, and now he seems to be much more willing to take all this out on others.

So do we give Bojack Horseman another chance? Is a broken character like him capable of finding happiness? When he was simply bitter and jaded, we thought the answer was “yes.” Now, we are not so sure of the answer.

“Bojack Horseman” is still brilliant – but different than we remembered

It’s hard not to admit that “Bojack Horseman” creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg is absolutely brilliant. Obviously, the first three seasons were epic in ways that we never could have imagined. In Season 4, though, it seems like he has tried to push things further, to really make us understand the thoughts and motivations of Bojack Horseman.

And so Season 4 is somehow different from how we remembered Seasons 1 through 3. It’s still funny, and the sight gags and background props are still there, but the show is definitely darker than ever. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that Bojack Horseman is finally able to find his own personal form of enlightenment.

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Why “Star Trek: Discovery” Has the Potential to Be the Best “Star Trek” Yet

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Admittedly, we’ve only seen the first two episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” on CBS, but what we have seen has been extremely tantalizing. After more than 12 months of worry and anxiety from Star Trek fans that maybe “Discovery” wouldn’t live up to the lofty standards of the “Star Trek” franchise, it looks like this new Star Trek has the potential to be the best one yet.

“Star Trek: Discovery” will offer us richer, more complex characters and plotlines

If you think about all the earlier iterations of “Star Trek,” they were essentially morality plays set in outer space. There were good guys – everyone from the Federation and everyone aboard the Enterprise. And then there were the bad guys – the Klingons and the various aliens populating the Star Trek universe.

It was easy to know who to root for, and who to root against. And you knew how every episode was going to end. It’s not that these shows were formulaic – but they did follow a very well known dramatic arc that followed the conventional format of TV shows. You had to set up a problem, introduce some conflict, and then resolve a problem, all within a very short period of time.

But look at how the first 2 episodes of “Star Trek: Discovery” has completely turned that logic on its head. Start with the Klingons – they are still a martial, war-like species, but their motivations appear to be much more complex, making us question whether we might have gotten the Klingons all wrong.

In fact, the first episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” tries to show the Klingon perspective on why things are as they are. We see them being led almost by a religious fanatic, and how their enmity against the Federation is almost a holy war of sorts that is based on acts taken against them. We’re told that the Federation may be powerful, but that it is torn by conflict and even hypocrisy.

And then are the Vulcans – we usually think of them as being entirely rational and, ultimately, the “good guys.” But here again, things are not as they seem. We learn about the “Vulcan hello” – which is not exactly what you might expect. It turns out that, in the first encounter between the Vulcans and Klingons, the Vulcans’ first impulse was to fire on the Klingons and attack them. That’s hardly rational.

And then take the examples of the characters and heroes themselves. First Officer Michael Burnham (played by Sonequa Martin-Green) has been described as a “disturbingly flawed hero,” and for good reason. What other version of Star Trek has resulted in the First Officer being locked up in the starship brig and facing an imprisonment term for a breach of Federation policy? What other version of Star Trek has seen a character who seems to be wrestling so many internal demons as she decides upon the right course of action.

“Star Trek: Discovery” will be more cinematic than any of the previous TV versions

If you think about the Star Trek franchise, it has done a remarkable job of integrating both the film and TV versions. The times when the film has seemed to veer off-script is when fans have voiced their displeasure. Each new film that is released, then, has to follow a certain dramatic arc and conform to certain “rules of the road” in order to stay true and authentic to the original Star Trek vision.

What gives the new “Star Trek: Discovery” a lot more wiggle room is the fact that it’s set a full 10 years before the original Star Trek. Thus, it’s possible to imagine a new Star Trek universe, and to create plausible back stories for the original versions of Star Trek. The first, initial peaks at this world didn’t go over well with fans – the teaser-trailer showed a starship that many described as industrial-looking and not at all within the spirit of Star Trek.

But this “Star Trek: Discovery” seems to be winning over both fans and skeptics with its amazing cinematic sweep. This is a Star Trek that looks as good as it sounds. We almost feel like we’re watching a movie, and not just a TV series. The battle scenes with the Klingons are fantastic, and exactly what you would expect from a feature-length Hollywood film. And the initial battle with the Klingon guarding the ancient space beacon is almost gladiatorial in its filming. This is just really good TV – TV so good that it almost seems like cinema.

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“Star Trek: Discovery’ will be more high-tech and futuristic than other Star Trek shows

It’s hard to think of a TV show that has done more to support the spirit of scientific curiosity and innovation than Star Trek. This is a franchise that has given us the fantastic medical device known as the tricorder, the teleportation room for beaming down to distant planets, the notion of “warp speed” to connote travel at unbelievable speeds faster than the speed of light, and the “phaser” as the weapon of choice in hand-to-hand combat. It also taught us what a spaceship was supposed to look like. That’s hard to top, right?

Well. it looks like “Star Trek: Discovery” might just be able to fill those big shoes. Fans are already raving about the holographic telepresence system seen in the first two episodes. Even something as simple as the spacesuits worn by the crew of the Discovery seem to be futuristic and sci-fi. If the first Star Trek TV series showed us a a world that already was high-tech and futuristic, then it looks like it is the job of this Star Trek to fill in all the blanks and lead us on a wondrous innovation journey from Discovery to Enterprise.

Put it all together – the more complex and nuanced characters, the more intricate plotlines, the cinematic sweep of the show, and the emphasis on creating the best sci-fi TV series yet – and it looks like “Star Trek: Discovery” has the potential to become the best Star Trek yet. If you had any doubts at all about this latest iteration of the Star Trek franchise, you can now rest easy – this show is going to be bold, daring and spectacular. Gene Roddenberry would be proud.

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What To Expect From “American Horror Story: Cult”

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The clues have been coming fast and furious for the upcoming 7th season of the horror anthology TV series “American Horror Story,” which premiered on Tuesday, September 5, on FX.

While there will be a number of returning characters from past seasons – including Ally Mayfair-Richards (played by Sarah Paulson), Kai Anderson (played by Evan Peters) and Dr. Rudy Vincent (played by Cheyenne Jackson), there will also be a number of interesting new twists and turns, as well as new talent (Billie Lourd, Alison Pill, Lena Dunham). Here’s what to expect from “American Horror Story: Cult.”

#1: “American Horror Story: Cult” will be based on the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election

While FX has not released the exact plot lines and narratives of Season 7, we’ve received a number of tantalizing clues from the trailer as well as from the show’s director and co-creator, Ryan Murphy.

Here’s what we know: the action in Episode 1 will start on election night 2016 and all of the action will take place in Michigan. From the trailer, we see two very different reactions to the results of the election: Ally appears to be horrified while Kai appears to be exultant. (In fact, Kai lets out a roar of approval and then proceeds to mimic having sex with the television in front of him!)

As Murphy has pointed out, the fallout from the 2016 presidential election is a “horror show” with a “horrifying aftermath.” While he has said that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump will appear on screen during the show, Season 7 is clearly intended to be an “allegory” of what could happen – or what might already be happening – in much of America. As such, one person close to “American Horror Story” has said that Season 7 will be the “first full season of narrative television conceived, developed and written in response to the November election.”

#2: “American Horror Story: Cult” will focus on cults, not the occult

There’s another important point to keep in mind about the upcoming season of FX’s “American Horror Story” – it will not feature supernatural elements, as in past seasons. Instead, the focus will be on cults, and what happens when people feel very afraid and vulnerable.

From what we know, Kai Anderson (played by Evan Peters) is going to be a cult leader. The real reason why he’s so excited about a Trump win is because it frees him to run a cult where he can recruit very vulnerable people. In fact, there’s a line in the trailer that’s actually a bit alarming, “If you get people scared enough, it will set the world on fire.”

And we get another clue from the names of the episodes that have been released. If you look at Episode 7, it will be called “Valerie Solanas Died For Your Sins, Scum Bag.” That episode will feature Andy Warhol, the cult around the Factory in New York City, and the events that led to Valerie Solanas shooting Warhol for not including her in his cult of personality. Director Ryan Murphy has already cast Lena Dunham for the role of Valerie Solanas, and has said that the episode will focus on “female rage” and what feelings people have when they are not accepted into cults.

#3: Get ready for Twisty the Clown and other regulars in “American Horror Story”

We’ve been getting a lot of clues from the team at FX that evil clowns – including Twisty the Clown from Season 4 (“American Horror Story: Freak Show”) – will make their way back into Season 7. And Director Ryan Murphy has also suggested that a number of other characters from previous seasons – including Bloody Face, Rubber Man and Piggy Man – will also appear in Season 7.

In fact, it’s all a bit creepy. Who’s not afraid of evil clowns? And judging from the trailer, these evil clowns and other characters start to become part of different phobias taking over the town in Michigan. In the trailer, we hear someone say, “It has just been getting so much worse” since the election, and it’s unclear what exactly this references – but it could be that the clowns are somehow connected to the cult of personality that Kai is trying to create.

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#4: The link between “American Horror Story” and the 1976 film “Network”

What’s really fascinating about Season 7 is how it seems to be much more of a statement on American society than previous episodes. You can interpret “American Horror Story” to be a metaphor for the broader swath of American society that has fallen under the misguided ideas of President Donald Trump – the people marching in Charlottesville, for example.

And that’s a point that Ryan Murphy makes – he says that much of the action in Season 7 was actually inspired by the 1976 film “Network,” which was a media satire. That film, says Murphy, helps to explain much of what we are seeing today.

#5: Plenty of evil plot twists involving children and bad neighbors from hell

One of the questions that we hear in the trailer for Season 7 is, “What fills your heart with dread?” The answer is both confusing and chilling: “Children.” And then the next scene is of an evil nanny or babysitter doing bad things to children. Yikes!

But again, it’s unclear for now how the phobias, the clowns, and the cults are related. We do have some clues from the episode titles, though. For example, Episode 2 is called “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” and Episode 3 is called “Neighbors From Hell.”

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There’s a good chance that, if “American Horror Story: Cult” is a rousing success this fall, it will lead to an entirely new type of genre on TV: the political horror film. Who needs the supernatural and occult to scare you when you have the politicians in Washington, DC?

And this is something that Season 7 intends to use with great effect – there’s even a rumored plot line involving Kai running for a city council spot and then dreaming even bigger – a shot at the U.S. Senate. At which point, you’re probably thinking about Kid Rock and his recently announced U.S. Senate bid from the state of – you guessed it – Michigan (where “American Horror Story” takes place). These are scary times.

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What to Expect From “Star Trek: Discovery”

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For more than a year now, Star Trek fans have been waiting for the upcoming TV series “Star Trek: Discovery.” After being announced in November 2015 as the first show specifically created for CBS All Access, there have been a number of twists and turns that have delayed its debut. So what can we expect from “Star Trek: Discovery” when it finally comes to CBS?

Right now, we don’t even have a firm date for the release of the show. The original release date was January 2017, but that was moved back to May 2017, and now CBS executives are saying that it’s far more likely that there will be a fall 2017 release. But they won’t even commit to a specific date. Meanwhile, filming continues in Toronto. But all of these delays are making fans anxious, as they are getting concerned that the latest “Discovery” could be a complete disaster like the doomed “Enterprise.”

In terms of what we know about the show, we know that the action will take place a decade before the events of the original “Star Trek” series. And we know that the show’s producers are being very careful to separate this TV show from the “Star Trek” films. In a teaser video that CBS released, we just got some boilerplate information about the show, saying that it would feature “new crews, new villains, new heroes and new worlds.”

The first-ever serialized “Star Trek”

If you think about the other “Star Trek” TV shows, they have always been episodic in nature. In other words, you could watch Episode 5 of a season without the need to watch Episodes 4, 3, 2 or 1. Each show took place in a different place in the universe, with a different problem or villain. One episode it might be the Klingons, another week it might be someone else.

But the producers of “Star Trek: Discovery” are saying that this is going to be a serialized “Star Trek.” That would make it more similar to shows like “Game of Thrones” that you might watch on cable TV, where there is a single narrative arc connecting each and every show.

Right now, the best guess about that narrative arc comes from hints that the “Star Trek” producers have dropped. The first hint is that the series will be connected to “an incident and an event in ‘Star Trek’ history that’s been talked about but never been explored.”

Further hints and clues suggest that the incident might be related to the “Balance of Terror” story from the original “Star Trek” series that appeared back in 1966. The “Balance of Terror” episode introduced us to the Romulans, and featured a cat-and-mouse game between the starship Enterprise and the Romulan Bird of Prey ship, which was protected with a cloaking device.

And here’s where things get interesting – that episode from 1966 featured Sarek, Spock’s father, and we know that the new “Star Trek: Discovery” will feature Sarek as a Vulcan astrophysicist. So there might be a tie-in somehow.

A very diverse cast led by an African-American woman

We already know that the lead character for “Star Trek: Discovery” is going to be Sonequa Martin-Green (best known for her TV role in “The Walking Dead”), who will play the first officer of the USS Discovery. In the show, she will not be a full starship captain. Instead, she will be referred to as “Number One,” which is a reference back to the “Star Trek” pilot episode called “The Cage,” which also referred to the ship’s captain as “Number One.”

According to producers and showrunners, there will be a real emphasis on showing minority and female characters. And there will also be LGBTQ characters. In fact, the thinking now is that one of the main characters is going to be outwardly gay. Other top characters to keep an eye on include Nambue (played by Maulik Pancholy), chief medical officer of the USS Shenzhou, and Sarek (played by James Frain), Spock’s father.

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A new kind of starship that looks way too retro

While the entire series appears to be nearly a year behind in production, we did get an early preview of the USS Discovery at last summer’s Comic-Con in San Diego. There was a big unveiling of the USS Discovery, including a brief teaser trailer. The Discovery is golden hued and has a very different look than other “Star Trek” vessels. That has fans complaining, saying that the starship looks “too old and industrial” and not futuristic enough. Given that the action of this CBS show will take place only a decade before the first “Star Trek,” it’s hard to see how the Discovery eventually made way for the Enterprise we know and love.

A darker version of “Star Trek”

One aspect of “Star Trek” that fans have loved for more than 50 years is the optimistic message of the whole show. It’s all about exploring the universe, going where no man has gone before, and interacting with all the remarkable specimens and races of the galaxy in a way that unites rather than divides.

But it sounds like the plan for this new “Star Trek: Discovery” is to create a darker vision for the series. In fact, there have been suggestions that it could be united by a more post-apocalyptic story line. That makes sense, if you take into account that “Balance of Terror” episode, which featured the Earth-Romulan war and the ability of the warlike Romulans to destroy intergalactic space outposts with incredible weapons.

But that has fans concerned – they’re afraid that the optimistic, upbeat mood of the original Gene Roddenberry series might be lost. And, if that were the case, then it would lead to serious concerns that the show is headed in the right direction.

What’s most interesting about this new CBS show is what can best be called “the Netflix effect.” That means that CBS is specifically ordering a show that can become part of their All Access streaming service, and that’s what perhaps led to this being a serialized show. The whole reason people binge-watch is because they want to find out what happens next, and that’s why serialized shows are so popular.

There are some who say that, ever since “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was released in 1987, each successive Star Trek series has been less and less popular. There’s still hope, though, that more than 50 years after the original “Star Trek,” we’re going to have a new series that’s better than anything we’ve ever seen before.

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Why “Glow” Is the Netflix Show of the Summer

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Think about what makes a great summer TV show – it has to be fun and entertaining, of course. It has to be binge-worthy. And it has to feature themes and topics that are light enough for the carefree days of summer, when many of us are heading to the beach (or, at least, the local neighborhood pool). So that’s exactly why “Glow” is the Netflix show of the summer – it delivers on all of this, and more.

#1: “Glow” is just good nostalgic fun

There’s nothing that says nostalgia more than ‘80’s music, big hair, and Jane Fonda leotards. This show has it all, and it’s just good fun. There are LA skate punks, seedy California motels, and plenty of hair spray.

Critics have called it “shameless summer fun” – and why not? If you’re sitting at home during the summer, you probably want to stream something on TV that’s not going to require a lot of mental effort, and that’s “Glow.” Just sit back and soak in the outrageous outfits and beautiful women in the wrestling ring.

The basic plotline of “Glow” is that a group of washed-up actresses from Hollywood during the 1980s are going to unite to form the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling (GLOW). The movie itself was inspired by the original cult TV hit of the 1980s, which covered the rise of the women’s pro wrestling league in the 1980s.

And that’s what makes us so nostalgic – there seemed to be an era not so long ago when it was perfectly OK to enjoy shows just like this. Back then, professional wrestling was still a very underground, amateur sport and that’s what gave it so much fan appeal.

#2: “Glow” features a great ensemble cast and sharp character development

The real goal of “Glow” is to show us how these out-of-work actresses suddenly became wrestling stars. In this Netflix series, we meet them from the very beginning, when Sam Sylvia (played by Marc Maron) comes up with this outrageous concept. Maron himself is excellent in the role of the GLOW promoter, and special mention has to be made about Alison Brie, who plays the role of actress-turned-wrestler Ruth Wilder.

While Alison Brie is the official star of the show, the unofficial star of this show are the other 12 ladies. Each one of them seems to have a unique story, and it’s all very compelling. The character development in this series is top-notch, and encourages you to keep on watching. By the end of the 10 Netflix episodes, you will really care about these women.

#3: “Glow” is light and binge-worthy enough for a summer escape

You can watch “Glow” however you want. It’s a Netflix show, so the initial urge is to binge. And that’s what many people did as soon as the show came out. But here’s the thing: “Glow” is only 10 episodes of 30 minutes each. That’s a total of 5 hours. You could theoretically binge on this during a long summer afternoon. And that’s why “Glow” is really so much fun. It doesn’t require as much focus or attention as a typical 10-episode or 12-episode Netflix binge.

#4: “Glow” is the perfect mix of “Wonder Woman” and “Orange Is the New Black”

The one movie that took cinema box offices by storm this summer was “Wonder Woman.” That movie was so special because it was a superhero movie made by a woman for women. It reflected a real female mentality and point of view. And, in many ways, “Glow” shares some of those characteristics. It’s also made by two women – Liz Flahive and Carly Mensch – and it also reflects a uniquely feminine point of view. In short, “Glow” seems to tap into the current cultural zeitgeist.

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And there’s one more thing – the same team behind “Glow” is also behind the Netflix cult favorite, “Orange Is the New Black.” If you love OITNB, you’ll love “Glow.” It’s also a story of strong female characters. Only this time, these characters are not in the Litchfield prison facility, they are in the professional wrestling ring.

So “Glow” manages to combine the very best of “Wonder Woman” and “Orange Is the New Black.” These female wrestlers may not be traditional superheroes, but they are heroes to many (including many teenage boys). And the show delivers the same type of dynamic character development that we’ve come to expect from “Orange Is the New Black,” but without all the heavy commentary about socio-economic conditions in America.

#5: “Glow” is not afraid to explore gender and racial stereotypes

Yes, “Glow” is a light, entertaining TV series for the summer. But it also has range and depth to it. The show is fearless in exploring gender and racial stereotypes. There are plenty of scenes where the wrestling promoters are trying to come up for identities for these girls – “the Arab girl” or “the Big Black Beautiful Woman” – where we vividly glimpse all the stereotypes floating through American society at that time.

But there are also all the stereotypes within the Hollywood acting community. There’s a reason why these women are out of work or under-employed – they are fighting against entrenched prejudices in the industry. In fact, many of the characters talk about “justice” during this TV show.

#6: “Glow” is the perfect origin story show

Deep down, we all love origin stories. We all want to know how something started, and why. And that’s why people love “Glow” so much. In many ways, this Netflix series is the perfect origins story, showing us how a pop culture phenomenon of the 1980s came to be.

And this is also a story of underdogs. And who in America doesn’t love a good underdog story? To give the series as much authenticity as possible, the female actresses even agreed to do their own stunts on set. So we are seeing real women being transformed right before our eyes into pro wrestling divas. This is really exciting stuff.

Thus, for so many reasons, “Glow” really is the Netflix show of the summer. It’s lightweight and entertaining – but comes packed with enough punch to make it truly binge-worthy. You’ll love following along as these women, led by Ruth Wilder, reinvent themselves as the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling.

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“Orange is the New Black” Season 5 Is the Worst One Yet

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Maybe long-time Netflix viewers started to expect too much from “Orange Is the New Black,” and they were inevitably doomed to be disappointed sooner or later. After four magnificent seasons, in which “Orange Is the New Black” made us re-think what’s possible in a TV series, Season 5 just never lived up to expectations. It’s safe to say that “Orange Is the New Black” Season 5 is the worst one yet.

Bizarre tonal shifts

While “Orange Is the New Black” has always shifted between genres, often interposing scenes of tragedy and comedy next to each other, there’s something distinctly “off” about this season. It’s almost like the series has lost its bearing, veering wildly from comedy to tragedy and then back to comedy, and viewers really don’t know what to think.

The New York Times has compared Season 5 of OITNB to “a speeding vehicle with a wheel missing.” With this season, the show is going too fast, the steering is unsteady, and it’s clear that there’s no slowing down. And this lack of focus can be disjointing – especially since all the action of Season 5 takes place within a very concentrated period of 72 hours. The mood swings are just too intense.

Plotlines and narratives just don’t add up

By now, you probably know that the dramatic narrative of Season 5 involves a prison riot and its aftermath at the Litchfield prison facility. The inmates rise up, take over the facility, take hostages, and reorganize themselves. One prison inmate, Tasha “Taystee” Jefferson (played by Danielle Brooks), tries to negotiate with the private company that runs the prison, urging them to change the living conditions within the prison.

So far, so good, right? This is the type of compelling story that “Orange Is the New Black” is known for. But then comes an episode smack dab in the middle of Season 5 that just doesn’t make any sense. Online fans have referred to this as “an homage to slasher films,” and it involves one of the prison guards (Piscatella) acting like he’s a villain from one of the “Friday the 13th” movies, abducting and tying up inmates.

What’s so bizarre about this whole plotline is that even the show’s writers don’t know how to play this. As a result, you get an episode that’s part horror film, and part comedy. It’s campy and cute and also horrifying. At some point, viewers don’t really know what to think. “Are they just messing with us?” is a thought that’s going to come to you during Season 5.

And that’s not all. There’s also the plotline of the prison inmate Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett (played by Taryn Manning), who winds up getting married to the man who raped her in Season 3. The show tries to make this into a bigger story of forgiveness and redemption, but it just comes off as a mess.

“Orange Is the New Black” fails to deliver on Shakespearean-sized ambitions

After four seasons of being an “important” series, “Orange Is the New Black” seemingly overdoses on its sense of self-importance. The website Vox.com has called Season 5 “staggeringly ambitious” and “a huge mess” – in the same sentence. That’s because the whole series starts to take itself too importantly.

Here’s just one example: the effort by the prison inmates to reorganize themselves into some kind of new women’s commune. There are all kinds of “important” socio-economic issues raised here, such as the possibility of building a society anew so that it is fair to everyone. But “Orange Is the New Black” constantly interjects its Shakespearean ambitions here, almost as if the show’s writers were trying to combine the very best of Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies into one TV show for the ages.

And here’s another example: the role of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (played by Uzo Aduba), who has a role very much like that of the Fool in “King Lear.” She’s been taking medications for her mental illness, but the more addled she becomes, the more capable she is of speaking truth to power. But when it all comes as a rambling monologue, it just doesn’t add up.

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“Orange Is the New Black” has a final cliffhanger scene that may have driven too far off the cliff

The big cliffhanger scene of Season 5 – the one that has already sparked debate and discussion about a Season 6 for “Orange Is the New Black” – is a microcosm of what’s both right and wrong about the series. In that final cliffhanger scene, the riot police have stormed the Litchfield facility to restore order. And the 10 key characters are standing together in one room. For one of the first times in the five seasons of the show, the dramatic action has seemingly transcended racial and tribal lines.

This is supposed to be a big, important moment. It is supposed to be a moment when we imagine what’s possible when people rise up and reorganize into a better, more just society. But instead, the cliffhanger comes off as a tired ending to the season after the show has already careened out of control.

It’s almost as if many of the main characters are being prepared to be sent in new directions (or perhaps written out of the show entirely), and the easiest way to do this is just to gather all of them in one place (the abandoned swimming pool-turned-bunker at the prison) and then have the writers spend the off-season debating what to do with all of them. Next season, when some characters disappear, there will be a good reason why.

In addition, two of the main stars of the show – Alex Vause (played by Laura Prepon) and Piper Chapman (played by Taylor Schilling) – seemingly no longer have a primary role to play in the series. In Season 5, they are often reduced to offering snarky commentary on the prison’s living conditions, but do not play a heroic role in changing those conditions. Some fans have even speculated that these characters won’t even be coming back for Season 6.

Ultimately, the problem may be that “Orange Is the New Black” simply raised our expectations too high. It was always one of the Netflix poster children for the “golden age” of binge-watching, but it’s clear that binge-watching (just like binge-eating) can have some pretty negative consequences. You don’t feel so good, and you suddenly can’t stomach the idea of one more episode of the series.

Hopefully, that feeling of a bad binge will wear off and we’ll be just as excited for Season 6 as we were for Season 5. But one thing is certainly clear – “Orange is the New Black” Season 5 is the worst one yet.

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How “House of Cards” Season 5 Stacks Up

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By now, viewers know what to expect from Netflix’s “House of Cards” – a bleak portrayal of the American political landscape in which the only constant is the relentless ambition for power. And that’s exactly what Season 5 of “House of Cards,” which debuted on Netflix on May 30, delivers.

1. Raw political ambition and the lust for political power

If anything, Season 5 of “House of Cards” is bleaker and more nihilistic than any of the preceding four seasons. We’re already used to the raw power ambitions of U.S. President Frank Underwood (played by Kevin Spacey) and First Lady Claire Underwood (played by Robin Wright), but now we’re convinced that nothing is ever going to change. In fact, if anything, it’s clear that America’s timeless traditions and institutions may be no match for the current powerbrokers in Washington.

There are scenes in Season 5 that have deep symbolic meanings – such as when Claire Underwood appears to trample an American eagle underfoot on a rug in the White House, or when Frank Underwood appears to wander the White House alone, almost like a ghost, while music plays at some party he has no intention of joining. The message is clear: America is now a waning power on the world stage, and there’s no idealistic young up-and-comer who is going to save the day.

In fact, one of the trademark plot twists in “House of Cards” is how even idealistic newcomers are quickly brought up to speed on how things happen in Washington, D.C. The people who survive are not those that have an ideology or who want to change the system – it is the people who spend all day thinking of ways to subvert the system to their own whims. They study constitutional law, not to understand how to protect the Constitution, but how to subvert it.

Even the war on terror becomes just another tool for political power consolidation. In Season 5, the Underwoods are intent on inflaming public fears about ICO (the show’s version of ISIS) in order to steadily erode constitutional rights and find loopholes to increase their own power.

2. An underlying pessimism about American institutions

“House of Cards” almost seems to celebrate the men and women who have no ideology and no guiding political philosophy. That, perhaps, is why so many critics have called this the bleakest “House of Cards” yet. There is a sense that any vestige of dignity has departed the office of the Presidency, and all we see, in episode after episode, is yet another lesson in how absolute power corrupts absolutely. The goal of power, it appears, is simply to get more power. In doing so, all the political actors in “House of Cards” go about their nefarious ways.

What is most disturbing about Season 5, perhaps, is that it is not just the men and women who are flawed – it is the very institutions keeping them in power. There is a sense that all the ideals, principles and careful checks and balances that the Founding Fathers had the foresight to create are nothing more than tools now in the hands of the wrong people.

And Frank Underwood has no shame whatsoever in rubbing this in our face. At one point, he turns to the camera and says, “You voted for me, America.” Thus, as easy as it might be to blame a single person (or power couple, as in the case of the Underwoods) for this low point in American politics, we only have ourselves to blame.

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3. The Trump context

Of course, you can now see why so many people are trying to make this season’s “House of Cards” a pointed commentary on the current political environment in Washington. The Trump presidency, in many ways, is a mirror image of the Underwood presidency. You have an egomaniac in the White House, using the Oval Office simply to advance his own ambitions and business brand.

The way that Frank Underwood humiliates his underlings, too, has an analogue in the way that Donald Trump likes to punish and humiliate his underlings – whether it’s forcing Sean Spicer to go out and give a press conference at the most inopportune time, or when it comes to directly contravening statements made by one of his inner circle via a late night Twitter outburst.

And, of course, the way that many say that President Trump has degraded the office of the presidency with his constant half-truths and reckless Executive Orders have a clear precedent in the Underwood presidency.

But here is the thing – whereas Frank Underwood has absolutely no underlying ideology or values, one could argue that Donald Trump is at least following some abstract notion of “making America great again.” In the case of Frank Underwood, it’s not so much a case of making America great – it’s about making himself great.

And many people fail to point out that Season 5 of “House of Cards” actually started production BEFORE Trump was ever elected. Thus, even though the show debuted almost exactly four months after Trump was sworn in, it actually had already been in production long before.

For liberals, Donald Trump is just a slightly more odious version of Frank Underwood. For conservatives, though, the double-dealing and corrupt Underwoods are a slightly more odious version of the Clintons. You can see why we’re at such a political impasse in America these days – both figures are so polarizing that there’s little or no opportunity to meet in the middle.

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So what to make of “House of Cards,” then? Many would argue that it has simply become too repetitive. The characters may change, but the plot does not. There is more scheming, more shifting of alliances and more egomaniacal attempts to subvert the system. Even the newcomers to Season 5 – Patricia Clarkson (as the deputy undersecretary of commerce for international trade) and Campbell Scott (as a top adviser to the President) – do little to change the underlying dynamic of the show.

But something very distinct has changed in the way that we view “House of Cards” in 2017. If, back in 2013 when the show first premiered, we thought that the Underwood presidency was pure fiction and too insidious to ever become true, we now realize that it is, indeed, possible. In fact, it may now be the case that fact is stranger than fiction. The naked power grab of the Trump presidency and all the inflamed rhetoric about making America great again may actually have the opposite effect – it may reveal just how low the American political system has fallen, and how the lust for power has become all-consuming on both sides of the political aisle.

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