Blood & Oil – New ABC-TV Drama Series

First there was the 1940 film Boom Town.

Two buddies, down on their luck, rise from being fly-by-night, seat-of-their-pants wildcatters to oil tycoons over a twenty year period. Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy played Big John McMasters and Square John Sand. For Gable this was his second biggest grossing film after Gone With the Wind.

Flash forward to 1978. Now we get a TV series called Dallas, with Larry Hagman starring as J.R. Ewing, a Texas oil-tycoon and cattle rancher. This series was Texas oil at its back-stabbing worst. A soap of opera of enduring fascination. It seemed to run forever.

Following in the wake of Dallas, a few years later, in 1981 , we got the ABC TV Series called Dynasty. John Forsythe starred as the Denver oil tycoon Blake Carrington. This was Dallas all over again – only in Denver, and with better and fancier clothes on the cast. Linda Evans and Joan Collins were the pretty ladies involved.

Each of those series ran for multiple seasons and following them – there was kind of a dearth of family dramas surrounding oil tycoons. But that all ended this past Sunday night when ABC rolled out its new series called Blood and Oil. At the top of the cast is Don Johnson as Hap Briggs.

This series is set in North Dakota – and you can think of it this way – Miami Vice‘s Sonny Crockett has grown older and now, instead of driving Lamborghini’s while posing as a flashy drug buyer/dealer in Miami in order to take down other criminals, Crockett has become Hap Briggs. Now Briggs sits at the top of the oil heap in the Dakotas.

He’s got a wayward son called Wick, and a trophy wife called Darla. Briggs seems like a decent sort, but he’s not all that popular with the town’s working folk.

Continue reading

Quantico – New TV Series on ABC

Did you catch the new ABC-TV Series called Quantico which premiered on Sunday night?

I did. I especially wanted to see this one because the lead actress, Priyanka Chopra, is one of Bollywood’s leading stars. I also saw her in person last spring at the IIFA held in Tampa. On the surface, it seemed like a bit of unusual casting for American TV – an Indian actress portraying a FBI Agent; but in the name of fairness, I should tell you that Priyanka attended high schools in both Newton, Massachusetts, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

As the show opens, a woman is lying unconscious on a slab of concrete in what looks like the very recent aftermath of a huge explosion. I’ll return to that shortly. But before we can learn anything, we flash backwards 9 months and we cut quickly to Augusta, Georgia, where a blond girl is walking about a large mansion which still has all of its content but the major furniture pieces are all covered with sheets – signifying that it is likely that no one lives there.

And before we can learn anything about her we cut to Oakland, California where we see the original woman from the opening, now jogging. She returns home, and we learn that she is on her way somewhere as her mother conspicuously tells her (and us) You’re going to be late for the train – I printed your ticket. But something is amiss. This woman had concealed some papers under the corner of a rug in her bedroom, and, moments later, as the taxi begins to leave, the cabbie says to her, Train station, yes?, and she says, No – the airport.

In my opinion, this was a bit ham-fisted. We are now thinking – why is this woman going to a unknown destination that she’s been very careful to keep from her mother. Call me suspicious, but while this was not all wrong it came on too quickly and seemed forced. Did we really need to know that she has secrets this early – basically within the first two minutes of the series?

Cut to the airplane which is flying across the country to Washington DC. This time the girl from the slab, and then Oakland, will meet a guy on the plane. It could be she is telling more lies but we will have to wait and see. He buys her a drink.

Flash to Salt Lake City, then to Manhattan, then to Logan, Ohio. In these places we meet a guy in the Mormon Tabernacle, then a gay guy, then a woman who looks Middle Eastern. She will need to buy something in the convenience store in order to use the bathroom. There she locates a concealed phone wrapped in plastic and hidden in the toilet tank. She changes from wearing a dark scarf into wearing a black hijab head covering. Before driving away in a different car than she arrived in.

We know nothing about these people, but you get a feeling about them that conveys that they are all up to something that’s not readily apparent. Now don’t forget we are still in the flashback mode – which places us some 9 months in the past. We then cut to a car parked in the airport garage. Two people are having vigorous sex. It is the Oakland jogger and the guy she met on the plane.

Continue reading

New Fox TV Series – Minority Report

Minority Report is a new TV series that aired on Fox this past Monday. The series is based on the Spielberg film of the same name that was released in 2002. In the film, set in Washington DC in the year 2054, crime is prevented rather than solved. The premise is easy to understand. Precogs or psychics were able to see into the future. They would see crimes before they actually happened.

A report of the crime would be filed, and the future perpetrators were arrested before they could commit their crimes. However if one of the three precogs had a different vision then the other two, then a Minority Report would be filed. Tom Cruise played John Anderton, a detective working in the pre-crime department.

All is well until Anderton becomes aware that a crime report has been filed on him. So he goes on the lam, with Colin Farrell as Detective Danny Witwer on his trail.

The new TV series is set in 2065. Precrime systems and operations have been decommissioned and taken off-line. Precogs themselves have been outlawed. But there are three precogs still out there. They do not work as precog analysts anymore but they possess the same abilities – either as individuals or in a small groups. As it turns out, they are all related – an older sister and a pair of younger twin boys.

As the series opens one of these precogs is attempting to live a normal life – only he still has the visions. He cannot get all the details on his own as he is only able to to determine the what and the when but not the who. For that he needs to be working with his twin brother.

In the opening minutes her rushes to a location that he has ‘seen’ hoping to prevent a crime. Without all the data, he is unable to prevent it, and we see a woman (she’s been pushed through a window) fall about 10 stories from a building to her death.

Now as the series went to the trouble to tell us we are in Washington DC, I thought it was rather telling that in the first few minutes of the series we see that we are no where near Washington.

Dash looking at the HNR Building

Dash looking at the HNR Building

Continue reading

New NBC Series – Blindspot

Talk about great openings for a series.

Times Square, New York. Night time but the place is filled with people. A cop on the beat notices a duffel bag on the pavement. It is on one of those small concrete islands that are dividing Seventh Avenue and Broadway in Midtown. The cop notices a tag on the bag.

Call the FBI.

Cut to an NYPD Bomb Squad guy. The entire Times Square has been cleared of people and all traffic has been routed away. It’s just the Bomb Squad guy and the duffel bag.

He approaches the bag and he tells what is happening via a radio connection in his protective suit. As he reaches toward the bag – it moves.

Slowly it is being unzipped from the inside. A woman is inside the bag. She is naked and tattooed from the neck down. The cop tells her, Get down on your knees and put your hands on your head…

Cut to someplace in rural Kentucky. The FBI is about to enter a home where women are being held, not as hostages, but as prisoners. Three women, and a baby. When the guy holding these women prisoners steps out of the room and is standing above the FBI agents on the second floor. They blow the floor out from under him, and he crashes to the ground floor.

Mission accomplished.

As the women are being carried out of the house, an FBI helicopter arrives. Special Agent Weller, there’s a situation in Times Square New York. You’re needed there immediately.

He boards the copter and is whisked away. Later, at the FBI headquarters in NY, we learn that this Jane Doe – the duffel bag lady – has an experimental drug in her body, which when used sparingly in cases involving PTSD, can be helpful to get those bad memories erased.

Only she doesn’t have traces of the drug – her whole system has been flooded with it. She has near total amnesia and remembers nothing from before climbing out of the duffel bag.

The FBI Special Agent is asked, Do you know this woman?

Continue reading

A Walk in the Woods

I’ve always been something of a junior hiker. As a kid growing up on Long Island and living in close proximity to wooded areas, it was quite natural to walk to school by walking over the hill through the woods instead of walking on the sidewalk on a street that ran parallel to those woods. It should also be noted that this walk was, from door to door, home to school, was no more than 15 minutes by foot. Or three and half minutes by car.

Then, while living in Manhattan for many years, where I was surrounded by tall buildings rather than tall trees, I got familiar with High Point State Park, and Hacklebarney State Park in nearby northwest New Jersey, also Kent Falls State Park and Housatonic State Forest in the northwest section of CT.

But these outings were all of the day trip variety. All we carried in the way of equipment and supplies were cheap lighters and rolling papers.

Later, my outdoorsiness expanded to Interlaken, Switzerland, Les Baux in France, and the hills and woods overlooking Varenna, Italy on Lake Como. Most recently, in 2011 I hiked with a guide up Moon Hill (below)

in Yangshuo,

Yangshuo Mountain Resort

Yangshuo Mountain Resort

near Guilin in Guangxi Province in China. That was 2011. In 2013 I hiked on the Dragon Back Trail in Eastern Hong Kong, and my last bit of hiking was in Muir Woods, in Marin County last fall.

So at this point I must state that while I have always enjoyed a good walk in the woods, and have even camped out once or twice, a retailer dealing with Camping and outdoor equipment and paraphernalia, like REI would go out of business if the majority of their customers were like me.

Yet, because walking in the great outdoors has always been something I liked to do, and was a way of connecting with my younger days, I saw Tracks with Mia Wasikowski, and yes I saw Wild with Reese Witherspoon. As those films relate to hiking and walking around, I saw them. Yes, these days, in lieu of hiking, or even walking the woods, you can use the word arm-chair hiker to describe me. And you may safely leave the words trek, trekking, or trekkers out of this discussion, at least as it pertains to me and hiking.

Continue reading

HBO’s Series – Show Me a Hero: Parts 5 & 6

Long ago I saw a film called The Way We Were. This was not some small time indie – no this was the full-blown Hollywood love story. Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford starred and headlined this film. Though, on its surface, it was a romance between two people, two different people, it was really about all of us. What drove us at a point in our lives when we thought that what we cared most about was all that really mattered. Looking back, the phrase rang true – the way we were.

In Show Me a Hero, the HBO miniseries created by David Simon and directed by Paul Haggis, we sat through the first two-thirds of this six-part series, and watched as what apparently all that mattered in Yonkers, New York, in the late 80’s until 1994, was the color of your neighbor’s skin.

I pointed out the story line switches between seemingly unconnected various minority characters seemed both jarring and unexpected. We were asked to absorb stereotypical characters of the political persuasion, And we were tasked with feeling repulsed by characters who cloaked racism in terms relating to property values.

lead_960 (1)

It was both difficult and disappointing. I mean it was hard and unsettling to absorb that some Caucasian residents of Yonkers referred to the black people of Yonkers in a variety of unsavory ways: Those people – they don’t want what we want…or they live like animals, or what others yelled from passing cars, N—— go home!

Or politicians who placed harmony in the community well behind grasping and keeping power.

Yeah, then factor in the fact that much of this was set in City Hall meeting rooms, bars, court rooms, judges chambers, or in the streets. As well as the homes of the pols, the white majority, and the black minority.

Nick Wasicsko was a City Council member, a lawyer, and a former cop, who ran on a platform opposing the federally mandated housing, got elected Mayor of Yonkers. But once in office, he saw that opposing Judge Sand would be both impossible, and cost prohibitive. So he switched gears and eventually plans were not only submitted and Yonkers was going to put in 200 units of low-income housing.

But things were far from over. Another City Council Member, One Hank Spallone, who had always been against the housing, vowed to continue to fight. So he won the next Yonkers Mayoral election. Mayors in Yonkers serve only two-year terms. Spallone was in and Wasicsko was out.

But Spallone was destined to be unable to overturn or overcome the law. So construction began.

Continue reading