On TV Tonight: Monday June 19, 2017

better-call-saul

8PM 8:30PM 9PM 9:30PM 10PM 10:30PM
ABC The Bachelorette Still Star-Crossed
CBS Kevin Can Wait (R) Man with a Plan (R) Mom (R) Life in Pieces (R) Scorpion (R)
FOX So You Think You Can Dance Superhuman
NBC American Ninja Warrior Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge
CW Supergirl (R) Whose Line Is It…
MISC Shadowhunters (FForm) Stitchers (FForm) Better Call Saul (AMC
Daytime Divas (VH1)

AMERICAN GODS: Deconstructing Media

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As AMERICAN GODS closes out its first season, it’s difficult to see the eight-episode run as anything other than a viewer’s dream. It’s impossible to find a weak episode, and the series has given a voice to groups that have often suffered from poor representation. On top of that, despite landing solidly in the fantasy genre, AMERICAN GODS manages to deliver a strong sense of realism and several historically sound messages. The series has never shied away from showing the ugly side of America — whether through Anansi’s (or Mr. Nancy’s, if you’d like) all-too-justified raging about racism, the town of Vulcan’s gun obsession, or even just the air of faithlessness that’s created the series’ central conflict between the Old Gods and New — but it’s managed to include a lot of surprisingly fun moments, too. With a little bit of something for everyone, it’s almost as if AMERICAN GODS was created by Media Herself.

But then, what exactly might that mean? For as many stories as AMERICAN GODS has told and as many answers as viewers may have earned by the end of “Come to Jesus” — even if some, like Odin’s actual name, have been staring us in the face for weeks — Media’s actual identity might remain the biggest mystery of all.

Mentions of Media bring to mind the characters she’s embodied: Lucy Ricardo, David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, Marilyn Monroe, and even an EASTER PARADE-era Judy Garland. But who is she underneath it all? And if Media is to thank for bringing AMERICAN GODS to viewers, what is she trying to tell us? Other than the worship that any god craves, what does Media want from us? Interestingly enough, while expanding on the character of Media by giving her a far greater presence in the series than in its source material, AMERICAN GODS leaves that question wholly unanswered.

In a press sheet from Starz, listing AMERICAN GODS character descriptions, Media is described as follows: “A master of manipulation, Media assumes whatever form will deliver her message most effectively. And unlike some of her fellow New Gods, she favors persuasion over brute force.” Somehow, though, this does little — if anything — to describe the character that’s been expertly brought to life by Gillian Anderson.

Anderson, and by extension Media, is able to slip so seamlessly into the goddess’ chosen pop culture icons that it’s often difficult to remember that there are a minimum of two layers of imitation going into them. David Bowie did not have a conversation with Technical Boy. An actress, portraying a goddess, impersonating Bowie did. The same could be said for Media’s appearances before Shadow Moon (as Lucy Ricardo and Marilyn Monroe); and then there’s the triply-complex visit to celebrate Easter: award-winning actress Gillian Anderson, as Media, as award-winning actress Judy Garland, at least dressed as her EASTER PARADE character (Hannah Brown).

(Let’s all pause to ask how any of that was even possible.)

Media, like the actress who took on the ridiculously complicated task of becoming her, is nothing if not talented. That might be the only one of Media’s traits that AMERICAN GODS makes abundantly clear…but what else is Media made of?

The goddess’ terrifyingly calm David Bowie and proud, defiant stand-off with Odin in AMERICAN GODS’ season finale would both suggest that she’s one of the most self-confident, tough gods in America. Certainly, she has plenty of ardent worshippers, which should give her plenty of power. But if that’s the case, if that’s who Media is — one of the most powerful amongst the already powerful — why does she work for Mr. World, rather than running the show herself? More importantly, why doesn’t she simply appear before others as whoever it is that lives underneath of all of those iconic characters; and why do her masks slip so easily?

Is it possible that Media’s grasp on power is just as tenuous as that of Odin’s — maybe even moreso? For every American who devotes all of their time to sitting in front of the television or going to the movies, there’s another who couldn’t care less or — probably worse — hates the entertainment industry for all of its supposedly brain-rotting influence. And then there are so many of us constantly criticizing the media. After all, the media usually tells us what we want to hear, but sometimes? Not so much. In those situations, the utter loathing is at a far higher scale than any previous worship.

If that doesn’t have an affect on Media Herself, there has got to be some sort of plot hole involved. It would stand to reason, then, that Media has become that “master manipulator” referred to in the press sheet out of pure necessity. She must tell the right story, keeping the audience satisfied.

Otherwise, she’s toast.

There could be other reasons for Media’s constantly changing face, too. Maybe, much like many devoted fans of pop culture, Media relies on fictional characters to fill some sort of emptiness in herself. Looking at her chosen characters (at least so far), everybody is dead and gone. Is she paying tribute to a time when she wasn’t spread so thinly that it was impossible to keep up? Or to a time when she maybe had the chance to rest, rather than getting swept up in this pesky war?

Another alternative: Maybe all of Media’s theatrics are simply a means to compensate for a lack of true confidence. That defiance in the face of all of Mr. Wednesday’s ranting might have been yet another bit of acting.

It’s evident, whenever Media fails to deliver her message, that there’s at least the tiniest bit of insecurity in this otherwise powerful goddess’ psyche. There’s always that voice change, that touch of a fidget, when she’s shot down. When Shadow Moon refuses to take her offer to switch teams, it’s the subtlest of changes. Later, when Odin delivers an even stronger denial of her flashy rebranding pitch, it’s far more prominent. And when, in AMERICAN GODS’ finale, Media is on the verge of being betrayed by her supposed friend, the change is the most obvious of all. With each passing sign that her power is not as great as she might want it to be, Media’s hold on her chosen identity falters. The degree to which she loses her grasp seems to depend on some combination of the scale of the loss and — possibly — the level to which that loss is a personal one.

Media is capable of being wounded and still able to be shocked, just like anyone else. By the time AMERICAN GODS closes out its first season, her carefully constructed myths are beginning to unravel. Does that mean that she is, in any way, truly weak? Definitely not. First of all, anyone who can knock out an arrogant millennial’s teeth by blowing him a kiss is a force to be reckoned with. Secondly, she’s successfully rebranded two gods that we know of, Vulcan and Ostara. And her ability to choose the right persona to appear as in every situation is a sign of both great intelligence and an immense capacity for empathy. She gets people, and her aversion to violence means she cares — or at least wants to give the impression that she does.

Now, if only we could get past all of the illusions and finally find out who Media was in her earliest days, as well as what caused her to suddenly want to be someone — anyone — else. When AMERICAN GODS returns for its second season, Media’s origin story might be one of the biggest mysteries the series needs to solve. Then again, if AMERICAN GODS is brought to us by Media, will we ever know the real truth; or will it just be yet another masterfully crafted, entertaining marketing tool from Her?

AMERICAN GODS will return for a second season on Starz.

 

 

 

AMERICAN GODS Season Finale Recap: The Tales of Queens

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AMERICAN GODS closed out its first season with an epic confrontation between Mr. Wednesday (finally explicitly revealed to be Odin, among his many other names) and the New Gods. To say that “Come to Jesus” was solely his story, however, would be to do what men have done throughout history: silence women. From the very first moments of this season finale, when Anansi began to tell a story — what he does best — it became clear that, as has been refreshingly true for the entirety of the series’ first season, the AMERICAN GODS finale was going to make sure those marginalized amongst us had a chance to be heard. Even better, “Come to Jesus” made it painfully obvious that the only way to win this war between the Old Gods and the New would be to enlist the help of women, a concept often met with plenty of skepticism. But not on AMERICAN GODS — not here at all.

“Let’s start with a story.” Bilquis comes to America

After a humorous opening, complete with Mr. Wednesday and Shadow Moon sporting some not-quite-fitting bathrobes all while Shadow threw his now infamous side-eye Mr. Nancy’s way, viewers learned the tragic and all-too-familiar tale of the goddess Bilquis. Certainly, not all women are formerly powerful goddesses, prone to worship in the form of massive orgies, but the story’s message was one to which far too many women can relate. Bilquis had all of the power, and “kings didn’t like that. Kings came one after another to knock her off her throne. They didn’t last long.”

That was in the old days, though — 864 B.C.E. to be exact — in the Temple of Bar’an. As time passed, those men became more capable of taking Bilquis’ power. She tried to continue, to “keep the party going,” as Mr. Nancy put it. She thought that, as long as she could remember who she was, she could adapt. She’d stay in power, one way or another. “But America, too, could take issue with a woman of power. It finds ways of cutting her down. Of punishing her for her daring to be.”

In the modern world, right around the time of the sexual revolution if Bilquis’ chosen attire was anything to go by, men stole everything. They “forced” the queen to the backseat, with knives and guns. In one scene, as Bilquis and other women fled a disco, one man forced a woman to the ground and had his way with her. And with that, Bilquis’ agency, her power as she knew it, was lost once and for all. “They laundered it and gave it to men.”

The implications, particularly with the one nameless woman being pinned to the ground, were obvious: Women’s sexual power has, all too often, been ripped away by jealous, angry men. It has a name. It’s called sexual assault; it often manifests as rape. Even in 2017 America, 50 women can accuse a man, only for him to walk free on a technicality. “And there is no end to the cruelty of men threatened by strong women.” The cases are endless; they’re horrifying. They’re often covered up for decades. Such is the life of a woman — such became the life of Bilquis.

So, what did Bilquis do? As the HIV epidemic spread across America in the ’80s, she, too, suffered from illness. Because of the threat of disease and the resurgence of American “traditional values,” nobody wanted to worship her in the traditional way. Those “values” also had a damaging rebirth a world away. Bilquis’ temple was destroyed by those who didn’t want to see evidence of a time when sexuality was worshipped, not judged as dirty or sinful.

In one particularly heartbreaking scene, Yetide Badaki’s character stared into an Ethiopian restaurant with such hope, such awe, all because she saw her own face reflected back to her on the cover of a menu. She saw her temple on a television screen. The former queen and goddess had the briefest of moments to remember who she’d been. But just as easily as her spirits were lifted, they were utterly crushed as she saw the destruction of her temple broadcast live. (Hi, Media.)

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“So, what’s a queen to do? She gets on her knees. She takes what she don’t want to. And we watch in easy fucking judgment and pretend we’d do a single thing different in her shoes.” In a dual message, Anansi talked about the way men and women alike do whatever awful thing must be done in order to get by. Homeless? Try begging — or worse: prostitution. A once-powerful goddess, cast aside by society? Try joining up with the bad guys. In Bilquis’ case, it was probably some mixture of the two. Certainly, AMERICAN GODS viewers saw evidence of her joining up with the New Gods. Technical Boy offered her a lifeline: online dating. Through this, she was able, as we’ve seen in scenes scattered throughout AMERICAN GODS’ first season’s run, to begin to regain some of her power.

It’s been a slow and painful process, but Bilquis is just about back to full strength. Now, she’ll have to repay the New Gods somehow. The full consequences of Bilquis’ decision, though, will have to wait for AMERICAN GODS’ second season. As “Come ot Jesus” closed out, she was seen approaching The House on the Rock, the gods’ gathering place for war. Whether she’ll summon all of her new power in defiance of Technical Boy and the others or, however regretfully, stick to repaying her debt, is yet to be seen.

What is painfully obvious from this oral history, though, is that even goddesses are not exempt from suffering at the hands of angry, jealous men’s cruelty. That no matter how celestial a being may be, if the body is female, its very agency can and will be stripped away. A woman’s body, in America and in much of the rest of the world, is nothing more than a pawn in men’s games.

And that, I suppose, brings us to Easter

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After one of their usual bickering sessions, Shadow Moon and Mr. Wednesday — still not named, unless you’ve actually been paying attention — set off for Kentucky. Donning shiny, new suits created by Mr. Nancy, the two men were in just the right attire to attend an Easter celebration, complete with a crowd of Jesuses and all the pastel trappings of the commercialized version of the holiday. The moral of Mr. Nancy’s story was that he should get himself a queen, so the two men were in search of the most powerful such queen they could find.

Again, a woman being used as a pawn in men’s games.

The goddess Ostara was more able to adapt than Bilquis had been, but they shared the sin of turning to the New Gods for help when their traditional sources of worship were no longer available. Although her feast day of rebirth had been stolen by Christianity in an attempt to wipe out pagan holidays, she happily shared the day of chocolate bunnies and jelly beans with Jesus himself. It kept her relevant; maybe it kept her in a sense of denial, too. Ostara, now Easter, was reveling in the benefits of one of those rebranding schemes offered by the New Gods. She even had a standing date to celebrate the holiday with Media herself. When Media (literally) waltzed in, planning to spend the day with her friend as usual, though, she was met with resistance.

Ostara, swayed by Mr. Wednesday, was now tired of being “misrepresented in the media.” (Oh, and so many women are. Ostara, you’re not alone.)

Once Ostara told Media she was done playing along, the stand-off between two of the most powerful women on the series (maybe the most powerful characters, period) became one of the best scenes in AMERICAN GODS’ entire eight-episode run. Then, after that tense moment brought the rest of the major players into the moment, all hell broke loose.

It was Media versus Wednesday, with Ostara caught in the middle. Media even held onto some hope that she would keep Ostara’s loyalty. But all the marketing in the world simply couldn’t fix the rift that was created the second Easter was reminded that she wasn’t actually Easter at all, that Jesus “crucified” her holiday. With that, Odin dedicated the deaths of the New Gods’ thugs to Ostara. (Really, if it had just been those three in the scene, without all of the background noise of Technical Boy and, eventually, Mr. World, that would have been quite all right.)

With a flash of lightning, everyone but the gods — both Old and New — remained. The extras were decimated. Finally, Odin revealed his true identity to Shadow Moon, reciting all of his own names and feeling his power grow as Shadow finally admitted to believing. It was a great display of miracles and a big moment for Odin, who had hidden his true nature for so long.

It was Ostara, though, who owned the day. In a display of power that was second to none, she wiped out all the vegetation for miles before restoring her own home to its bright and beautiful Easter best. With that, Odin had his war. But again, he didn’t get it without Ostara’s power. Without her help, without swaying this woman to his side, he might have stayed in limbo, forever doomed to posing as “Mr. Wednesday.”

Women have power on AMERICAN GODS. With Ostara and Bilquis, two women with the power of rebirth in their arsenal, currently operating on opposite sides of the divide, the series’ second season is sure to be nothing if not a lesson in the dangers of pitting strong female characters against one another.

Or, at least, that’s what this viewer is hoping for. Don’t let me down, Fuller and Green. Don’t. Let. Me. Down.

Additional thoughts on AMERICAN GODS’ “Come to Jesus” moment

  • Laura Moon finally learned exactly what — or who, rather — was responsible for her death. Yet another woman used as a pawn in a man’s (Odin’s) game. Methinks there are going to be consequences. And big ones.
  • “I got a good one. Real good. Once upon a time…See? It sounds good already. You’re hooked.” Mr. Nancy really wanted to tell his story. To say that the final section AMERICAN GODS recap is nothing more than gushing over a talented cast and crew would probably be accurate: For starters, Orlando Jones brings all that trickster fun — mixed up with all the deep, dark storytelling —  to the screen in a way that nobody else could. He strikes just the right balance between hysterical and dead serious; and there’s something divine about the amount of sass he adds to every word and every movement.
  • Though not the central character by any means, Gillian Anderson’s Media has a way of commanding the scene whenever she’s a part of it. To see her shock and hurt, whether genuine or not, when she found out that her friend was switching sides is to see yet more evidence to a never-ending, highly-detailed list of such evidence that Anderson’s talent is second to none. As she stared down Odin, she was exhibiting so much strength…but it was easy, to those who looked, to see the cracks in the surface. Brilliant work. Regardless of who portrays her, though, Media remains a complex, intriguing mystery. Stay tuned for some thoughts on that.
  • “We’re here for her. We’re here for my friend. And you don’t matter. Not really. Not anymore. You could have…but…” Obviously, Odin doesn’t matter. Women run the world. The end.
  • Whether it ended tragically or not, I anticipate plenty of AMERICAN GODS fans shipping Media and Ostara. There’s something there between Kristin Chenoweth and Gillian Anderson when they share a scene. Hopefully, they’ll get to face off again when AMERICAN GODS continues.
  • Meanwhile, the way Ricky Whittle’s Shadow Moon just lit up around Ostara is going to create some interesting fan reactions, too. Chemistry? Or true love? You decide. Regardless, Whittle’s character grew by leaps and bounds in the AMERICAN GODS finale. His trademark side-eye, his predictable anger and confusion…Those were present, as usual. But when Shadow had his crisis of faith, admitting to one of the many Jesuses that he wasn’t sure if he knew how to believe, that was some amazing work from Whittle, the likes of which we have yet to see on AMERICAN GODS. And at the end? When he finally managed to believe enough to let himself really be awed by the gods’ works? The way Whittle portrayed Shadow’s complete sense of being overcome was an award-worthy performance from a man tasked with standing out in a scene filled with legends.
  • The writing on AMERICAN GODS is strong for so many reasons, but all of the wordplay in the dialogue, particularly in “Come to Jesus,” makes it that much more remarkable. Even the episode’s title has a double meaning: In going to Easter’s party, Shadow and Odin quite literally came to Jesus(es). But at the same time, Easter definitely had her “come to Jesus” moment. Or what about Wednesday’s “I’m not here for Christ’s sake. I’m here for all our sakes,” the constant “goddamns” amongst gods, and so many other brilliant little…well, Easter eggs.
  • Another one: “Jesus Christ! Are they all…Jesuses? Right. Of course. Because…Jesus is real.”
  • “What do you think gods do? They do what they’ve always done: They fuck with us. They fuck with all of us. Don’t take it personally. I don’t.” Mad Sweeney spilling truth tea.
  • “It’s religious Darwinism: Adapt and survive.” Ok, so how has Media adapted? AMERICAN GODS, please tell me more.
  • “A god has to be exotic. She has to be…a peach. And Wednesday…I suppose he’s a lemon.” That’s the second time Media has referenced lemons when it comes to Odin. Remember that “brand new, lemon-scented you?”
  • Scenery porn: If you like it dark, AMERICAN GODS has Shadow Moon’s gnarly boneyard dreams for you, complete with massive amounts of skulls creating a mountain for him to climb. If you like it bright, welcome to Easter’s floppy, hoppy bunnies.

Stay tuned for news on AMERICAN GODS’s second season.

We Run Down Our List of Can’t Miss Premieres This Summer

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If you thought summer was the time to turn off your small screen and soak in some rays, think again. In fact, this June and July is shaping up to be one of the hottest on record thanks to a slew of sizzling new shows joining an already crowded field of returning favourites such as ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, QUEEN SUGAR and a little under appreciated gem called GAME OF THRONES. Here are six shows premiering this summer that you should be sure not to miss.

1) I’M DYING UP HERE
Premiere Date: June 4, 2017 (Showtime)

Although Jim Carrey’s I’m Dying Up Here has already premiered this past week, it should definitely be at the top of everyone’s watch-list, and it’s absolutely not too late to catch up. Before the days of the internet, the most treasured aspects of any aspiring comedian’s world were: venues to perform at; rather than a video camera set up in their bedroom; a full house, rather than viral videos; and laughs, rather than views on YouTube. In I’m Dying Up Here, Carrey throws us into the lives of those tackling the Los Angeles stand-up scene in the 1970s, and explores the challenges of persevering even when no one’s laughing.

2) GLOW
Premiere Date: June 23, 2017 (Netflix)

“In this world, there are good guys and there are bad guys, and I will not be bullied into submission,” confidently recites aspiring actress Ruth Wilder at an audition, only to be met with a jarring: “You’re reading the man’s part,” from a displeased casting director. Embarrassed and startled, Wilder apologizes and proceeds to read for the correct, woman’s role in the same scene: she takes a breath and knocks on the desk in front of her: “Sorry to interrupt, your wife is on line two.” In Liz Flahive’s Glow, Wilder stumbles upon an untraditional opportunity for stardom: women’s wrestling, or, in other words “GLOW”: Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, where she must work alongside 12 other Hollywood-misfits, and come to learn about these women’s lives both inside and outside the arena.

3) GYPSY
Premiere Date: June 30, 2017 (Netflix)

When you visit your therapist, you are told any information exchanged will remain strictly confidential…but that doesn’t necessarily mean your therapist will remain detached from the information you share. For therapist Jean Holloway (portrayed by actress Naomi Watts), empathy seems to take on an entirely new, more intrusive and hazardous meaning in Lisa Rubin’s Gypsy. Like you become attached to the characters in your favorite book, Holloway becomes entranced by the stories of her patients’ lives, and begins to develop dangerously close relationships with the individuals her patients describe to her.

4) FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE
Premiere Date: July 14, 2017 (Netflix)

A group of friends from Harvard, now in their 40s, reunite after Ethan (Keegan-Michael Key) and Lisa (Cobie Smulders) move back to New York. Balancing present day problems with a world of nostalgia and “what-could-have-beens,” these oftentimes complicated relationships with one another present some new and interesting challenges in the lives of these six: from old grudges to former romantic entanglements.

5) ROOM 104
Premiere Date: July 28, 2017 (HBO)

“1 Room. 12 Different Stories. Infinite Possibilities.” The teaser says it all. The Duplass Brothers’ Room 104, is an anthology series that documents the various events that occur in a single American motel room. With each new occupant comes a new, rich story, and you never know who will come, who will go, and how. You can also expect to spot some familiar faces such as Transparent’s Amy Landecker, Parenthood’s Mae Whitman, and The Night Of’s Poorna Jagannathan. Anyone can enter Room 104, and anything can happen, so you’ll have to enter Room 104 yourself this summer to discover exactly what stories will unfold.

6) SNOWFALL
Premiere Date: July 5, 2017 (FX)

Set during the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles circa 1983, Snowfall follows a group of interesting individuals, including: Franklin Saint, a young street entrepreneur; Gustavo “El Oso” Zapata, a Mexican wrestler; Teddy McDonald, a CIA operative; and Lucia Villanueva, the self-possessed daughter of a Mexican crime lord. Snowfall examines the radical impact the epidemic has on each of these individual’s specific predicaments, as well as the culture surrounding them.

On TV Tonight: Friday June 16, 2017

bill maher real time

NET 8PM 8:30PM 9PM 9:30PM 10PM 10:30PM
ABC Shark Tank 20/20
CBS MacGyver (R) Hawaii Five-0 (R) Blue Bloods ()
CW The Originals Reign
FOX US Open Golf: Second Round So You Think You Can Dance (R)
NBC America’s Got Talent Dateline NBC
MISC Stuck in the Middle/Andi Mack (Disney)
RuPaul’s Drag Race (VH1)
The Great British Baking Show (PBS) Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO)
ONL
INE
Cardinal (Hulu) The Ranch (Netflix)
SYFY Dark Matter Wynonna Earp

FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE Trailer: Re-Living the Past in the New Netflix Comedy Series

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FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE has a stellar cast, including Keegan-Michael Key, Cobie Smulders, Annie Parisse, Nat Faxon, Fred Savage and Jae Suh Park, and hails from Nicholas Stoller (NEIGHBOURS, FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, GET HIM TO THE GREEK).

The series centers around a group of friends from Harvard who are all quickly approaching their forties. Each of these people are still extremely connected and often have complicated relationships with one another, which makes FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE “a comedic exploration of old friendships, former romantic entanglements and balancing adult life with nostalgia for the past.” As these friends get older, they’re all desperate to hang on to their youth — but they may find out that growing up isn’t as terrible as they believe.

FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE debuts internationally on Netflix on July 14.

On TV Tonight: Thursday June 15, 2017

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NET 8PM 8:30PM 9PM 9:30PM 10PM 10:30PM
ABC Celebrity Family Feud To Tell the Truth The $100,000 Pyramid
CBS The Big Bang Theory (R) Superior Donuts (R) Mom (R) Life in Pieces (R) Scorpion (R)
CW Supernatural (R) Supernatural (R)
FOX US Open Golf: First Round Love Connection
NBC The Wall Law & Order: SVU (R)
MISC BET Awards Nominations (BET)
The Putin Interviews (SHO)
The Tunnel
Nashville (CMT)
Queen of the South (TNT)
AFI Life Achievement Award: A Tribute to Diane Keaton (TNT)

WORLD OF DANCE Recap: And The Final Qualifiers Are…

For the first time since the series began, a few comparatively weak competitors managed to meet the required average score of at least 80 points to advance to the next round.

But even with some of the moments that might have left viewers (or at least this one) scratching their heads, the overall result of WORLD OF DANCE’s final qualifying round was just the same as that of the first two: Whoever manages to win this competition is going to be well worth that million dollars. There are far too many excellent dancers — both those with established reputations and some newer faces — capable of winning nearly any other competition; but there can be only one WORLD OF DANCE champion.

Let’s just start the final round of qualifiers off with an obvious win.

They won the first season of AMERICA’S BEST DANCE CREW back in 2008. So, obviously, the Jabbawockeez had to make an appearance in the first season of WORLD OF DANCE. These guys have been everywhere, including their own Vegas show, for the past nine years. The dancers knew they were putting their reputation on the line and had a target on their backs the second they decided to compete; but they weren’t going to just phone it in. “It’s not like ‘oh, you got a Vegas show, and then you retire,” after all.

As in, if you love dancing, you’re not in it for the money or the fame. You’re here to constantly push yourself to do better. These guys get it.

There’s really no way to critique the Jabbawockeez. So, I just won’t.

The judges, on the other hand, had the unenviable task of not only giving the Jabbawockeez feedback but also giving them scores. See also: A formality at this point because there’s no way WORLD OF DANCE was going to pass on a crew with a reputation for such excellence. Not if the series cared at all about, well, any of its carefully chosen judging criteria.

Ne-Yo probably said it best: “You cannot have a dance competition with the best dancers in the world without the Jabbawockeez.” Like it or not, he’s right. In the interest of keeping the series from turning into a fangirling-fest, Ne-Yo also talked about the actual dancing, saying he really liked the new groove — different from their famous isolations — that the crew had added to their performance. Derek Hough gave a mixed review. While he liked the groove and professed himself to be a “huge fan” of the Jabbawockeez, thus continuing tonight’s fangirl-fest, he also admitted that he missed the isolations.

Cue judges’ table bickering, as Jennifer Lopez wanted more of that groove. She also said the Jabbawockeez “just gave everybody, like, a master class in how to kill it without breaking a sweat.” (Your girl’s not wrong.)

Average score: 86.7. They’re going to be in the next round. Obviously.

After the pesky business of delivering their scores, the judges returned to their Jabbawockeez fangirl-fest, complete with Derek saying he had way more respect for them than ever before since they were willing to put everything on the line to come to this competition.

I sure hope there were selfies and autographs after the show.

The Mihacevich sisters: I know what it’s like to dance with family, and it truly is special.”

This trio was dancing before it was cool. No, wait. That’s not right. They were dancing in the womb, though, as their mother was a dance teacher before they were born. Mark my words: This statement was a setup for the Mihacevich sisters to either be stars or absolute garbage who hated dance. In my experience, there’s no middle ground with children of dance teachers. Seeing as how the Mihacevich sisters were trying to qualify for WORLD OF DANCE, therefore ruling out the hatred option, that meant that all of their dad’s awesome sandwiches had been feeding future stars on the way to dance competitions.

The Mihacevich sisters had everything you’d want to see in a contemporary performance (aka, my personal crack). Their lines were gorgeous; and they had an excellent use of breath in their movement. Steps didn’t just terminate at the end of the count; rather, the dancers created movement that had a life of its own, extending beyond their bodies and beyond time.

That’s not to say that the music and timing didn’t exist, either. I was particularly impressed with how the Mihacevich sisters utilized their music’s accents. Throw in great emotion, especially from the oldest sister; and you’ve got yourselves yet another potential winner. It looks like Studio 82 taught them well.

The judges very impressed with the trio, with J-Lo complimenting the feeling they brought to the dance, as well as the connection between the three of them. Ne-Yo was so impressed with the Mihacevich sisters’ contractions that he had to do some weird impression of them at the judges’ table. Derek commented on the emotions and breath, same as yours truly, so I think he and I should judge something together sometime.

No, really. Derek, please call me.

Average score:  87. Qualified.

Montage time!

Some kid asked J-Lo to call him. Derek got giddy over ballroom. A tap dancer finally squeaked through…And there was a lot more dancing tossed into one fast-paced, flashy highlight reel.

Perhaps the biggest crime of the latest WORLD OF DANCE episode was that it showed some, yet not all, of The Posse’s performance. What little bit the editors happened to keep in the episode stirred up all sorts of pesky feelings. I mean, how can you not want to see the full number when one of the dancers has this to say? “As long as you love yourself, you’re beautiful no matter what people think of you.”

Couldn’t keep up with all the awesome in this segment? Same. But don’t worry: NBC has full routines here.

Swing Latino.

As the name suggests, WORLD OF DANCE is open to dancers from all over the world. Enter Swing Latino, a group of dancers from Colombia, who have been working together for fifteen years. Many of the dancers found it difficult to dance in Colombia; their own parents didn’t even support them.

The joke’s on those unsupportive parents because anybody who doesn’t want to be associated with what Swing Latino did on that stage is an idiot. Their performance was, in a word, shocking. The Colombianos’ footwork was lightning-quick, yet still incredibly clean. And can we talk about that throw?? How? Just how.

The judges were just as shocked after watching Swing Latino as anybody else might have been. Derek Hough reminded everyone that “dancers are athletes. Artistic athletes,” but that was only after he called the group “sparkly.” He’s been around a lot of rhinestones, guys, so he would know. Ne-Yo said the dancers represented Colombia well. And while the men generally tend to fade into the background during ballroom performances, that wasn’t the case here. “Everybody on stage felt like they were meant to be there.” J-Lo spoke to the dancers in Spanish, telling them they had the potential to win the competition. In English, she assured them that people weren’t used to seeing that level of salsa, and “the guys were strong, like, NUTS!”

(Mmm nuts.)

Average score: 89.3

On TV Tonight: Wednesday June 14, 2017

carmichael show

NET 8PM 8:30PM 9PM 9:30PM 10PM 10:30PM
ABC The Goldbergs (R) Speechless (R) Modern Family (R) American Housewife (R) Steve Harvey’s Funderdome
CBS Undercover Boss (R) Criminal Minds (R) Code Black (R)
CW Arrow (R) DC’s Legends of Tomorrow (R)
FOX MasterChef The F Word with Gordon Ramsey Fargo (FX)
NBC Little Big Shots The Carmichael Show Superstore (R) This Is Us (R)
MISC Kingdom (AT&T) The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) Blood Drive (Syfy)
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee (10:30PM, TBS)
Nobodies/Lopez (TVLand)

On TV Tonight: Tuesday June 13, 2017

izombie

NET 8PM 8:30PM 9PM 9:30PM 10PM 10:30PM
ABC Downward Dog The Middle (R) Blackish (R) Blackish (R) American Housewife (R) Fresh Off the Boat (R)
CBS NCIS (R) Bull (R) 48 Hours: NCIS
FOX Lethal Weapon (R) The Mick (R) Brooklyn Nine-Nine (R)
NBC America’s Got Talent World of Dance
CW The Flash (R) iZombie
FFORM Pretty Little Liars Famous in Love Famous in Love
MISC Casual (Hulu)
Oh, Hello on Broadway (Netflix)
Genius (NatGeo)
Animal Kingdom (TNT)
Team Ninja Warrior (USA)
Tosh.0/The Jim Jefferies Show (Comedy)