Summer fare on the small screen

Body snatchers, time travel and Meryl Streep.

BrainDead  (photo credit: PR)
(photo credit: PR)
Two sci-fi thriller series are coming up this summer. On July 20 at 10 p.m. on YES VOD, BrainDead premieres. This is the series created and written by Michelle and Robert King, the married couple who gave us The Good Wife.
BrainDead, which plays like House of Cards meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers (with some satire and comedy mixed in), opens with a shot of dozens of TV sets tuned to the news, showing such figures as Donald Trump making speeches. A title reads: “In 2016, there was a growing sense that people were losing their minds and no one knew why... until now.”
The plot revolves around some black ooze that can morph into all kinds of things (those squeamish about insects should be warned that it can take the form of ants), sent from Russia to Washington, DC. It ends up in a research program at the Smithsonian, but because of a government shutdown, the research stops and it gets out and takes over bodies all over the city. Laurel Healy (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a documentary filmmaker who, strapped for cash, takes a job with her brother, Luke (Danny Pino), a very young and handsome US senator, is the first one to figure out what’s going on, but, of course, no one believes her. Zach Grenier, who played the always entertaining David Lee on The Good Wife, is Laurel’s father.
The satire is a bit obvious, since Washington, DC, is an incredibly easy target, especially these days. While BrainDead is entertaining at times, you may find yourself wishing the King duo had written another season of The Good Wife instead.
11.22.1963, the miniseries based on the novel by Stephen King, just began running on HOT Xtra VOD. It stars James Franco as Jake, an English teacher in Maine, who gets involved in time travel to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy. His friend Al (Chris Cooper, one of the best character actors in the world, who won an Oscar for Adaptation), approaches Jake and shows him he has discovered a portal in the back of the diner he owns that leads back to the early 1960s – remember, this is from a Stephen King novel. Al is convinced that if the assassination of Kennedy can be prevented, it will spare the world untold suffering. And he is sure that Jake is the guy who can make this happen.
Reluctantly, Jake agrees to give it a try and goes back into the 1960s, where he makes a living betting on sports events, since he already knows all the winners. He meets and falls in love with a beautiful young woman, Sadie (Sarah Gadon, who also stars in the movie adaptation of Philip Roth’s Indignation, which was just shown at the Jerusalem Film Festival and which will be opening in Israel this fall). And then things get complicated.
How much you enjoy this series will depend on how much you enjoy time-travel sci-fi. Generally, I have a low tolerance for that kind of thing, but this is done very well, and it is summer.
Ricki and the Flash, a dramedy starring Meryl Streep, is premiering on HOT Gold HD on July 23 at 10:40 a.m. It’s a very enjoyable movie that should play at least as well on the small screen as it did in theaters.
Streep plays the title role, a woman who left her husband and children to pursue her dreams of rock ’n’ roll stardom years ago. While she does perform with a band at a bar regularly, she never made it big and works at the checkout counter of a Whole Foods-type of supermarket to make ends meet.
When her daughter, played by Mamie Gummer, one of Streep’s real-life actress daughters, tries to commit suicide after her marriage breaks up, Ricki’s ex-husband (Kevin Kline) asks Ricki to come home to console her. It’s predictable but entertaining and was directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) and written by Diablo Cody (Juno). A bonus for older, former Top 40 fans: Rick Springfield plays Streep’s boyfriend.