SEAN PENN in ‘The First’.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Oscars provided a great look at how the line between television and movie actors has become utterly nonexistent.
All four acting winners – Rami Malek, Olivia Colman, Mahershala Ali and Regina King – have been moving back and forth between TV and film for years. Malek became famous starring in Mr. Robot; Colman is the heart and soul of the series Broadchurch, and will soon be appearing as Queen Elizabeth II on the third season of The Crown; House of Cards alum Ali is currently starring on season three of True Detective; and King will be on the upcoming series Watchmen and has appeared on The Leftovers, American Crime and The Big Bang Theory.
Sean Penn is the latest star to make the trek from movies to TV, with the new show The First, which just started running on Thursday nights at 10 p.m. on YES EDGE and YES VOD.
The premiere episode made me wonder why so many dramas about the space program have a ponderous tone. The series, about the first manned mission to Mars (they must not have seen The Martian with Matt Damon), stars Penn as Tom Hagerty, an astronaut who has been booted from the project, but in extreme circumstances is called back.
The seriousness of the subject doesn’t entirely explain the solemnity of this pilot episode, nor the glacial pacing.
It’s a shame, because Penn is usually one of the most exciting actors and the rest of the cast is good. Natascha McElhone, a beautiful and lively actress, who plays the executive organizing the mission – she probably qualified by playing an astronaut in the 2002 film Solaris – is wan and tense throughout, holing up in a mansion surrounded by ugly modern art, which emphasizes how soulless and sexless she is.
Hagerty wants to head for Mars partly because he is fleeing problems at home with his estranged wife and daughter, in what could be the backstory on any TV cop show.
It all made me think, subversively, of the low comedy in the 1996 movie Mars Attacks! where vile little squeaking martians invade earth and take out the president, played by Jack Nicholson, in a particularly memorable way.
Among the returning series to look forward to in March, one of the most anticipated is season three of The Good Fight, the spin-off of The Good Wife, which stars Christine Baranski as Diane Lockhart in full-battle mode as she joins a new, minority-run law firm after her life savings are stolen by a Madoff-like financier. It begins running on YES VOD on March 15 and on YES EDGE on March 17 at 10 p.m. Season three reportedly will delve deeper into racial divisions and other current political issues, including Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation.
If you want to catch up on season two, it’s available on HOT VOD, starting on March 6.
Season five of one of the most enjoyable comedies ever, Jane the Virgin, is coming up on YES VOD on March 28. It may get pretty silly, but it’s consistently entertaining, and we are reportedly going to learn something concrete about the show’s narrator this season. HOT VOD will be showing season four starting on March 13.
Leaving Neverland, a two-part documentary in which two men who say they were sexually abused by Michael Jackson in the 1990s tell their stories, will be shown on YES Docu on March 8 and March 9 at 10 p.m. and will be available on YES VOD starting on March 8. It’s a disturbing story that was considered so graphic when it was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January that mental health professionals were on hand to counsel audiences after the screenings. Particularly upsetting is how the parents were taken in by Jackson’s celebrity and allowed their children to spend unsupervised time with the singer, including overnight visits.
Another intriguing documentary, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, about the hoax perpetrated by Theranos, a hi-tech start-up that claimed to have invented blood tests that could be used at home, will be shown on HOT and YES in late March.
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