Wednesday, July 20, 2016

LIZ SMITH: Too Many Choices

Sir Elton John, Billie Jean King, Steffi Graf, Andre Agassi, and Martina Navratilova at last year's World Team Tennis Smash Hits benefiting The Elton John AIDS Foundation. Save the date for this year's Smash Hits on October 10th at Caesars Palace.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

America Overwhelmed By New Affliction — Too Many Choices on TV!!   Also — Anna Friel as "Marcella" ... "GOT" fans frozen out ... "Ray Donovan" — the "fixer" can't be fixed ... Elton John brings tennis and good deeds to Las Vegas. 

“DEAR LIZ ... I am writing to you about a horrific, loathsome, and devastating problem afflicting living rooms across America. Yes, I’m talking about Chronic Movie Browsing Dysfunction (CMBD) — the extreme inability to swiftly find anything good to watch on Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming platforms.”

I received this email earlier in the week and it certainly made me laugh. The writer, Maurico Guitron, said he “followed my work” which is surely why he wrote to me about CMBD.
Ever since I signed up for Netflix and Amazon — paired with the deluxe cable service I receive which allows me hundreds of channels — I have written often about discovering great, good programming and plenty of enjoyable trash, while I channel surf.

And it’s true, one does spend an inordinate amount of time, lazing through the selections — a groaning buffet of options. And yes, sometimes after not settling on anything, I turn back to “ordinary” TV.

Mr. Guitron asserts that the average American “spends 19 minutes per day browsing aimlessly for something to watch ... that’s 9.5 hours lost per month, 115 hours lost per year, and 377 days lost in a lifetime to the horrors of CMBD.” Oh, dear everything is so grim these days. Maybe Donald Trump’s slogan should be “Make America Great Again — Only Four TV Channels.” (ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX. I was going to add PBS, but, well ... read Jane Mayer’s current article in The New Yorker on Le Donald’s intellectual curiosity.)

Is there a cure for CMBD? Sure. Why do you think Maurico got in touch? He represents Reelgood ( This “empowers” you to choose something you want to watch much more swiftly. The CEO and founder of Reelgood, David Sanderson, is making himself available for interviews.

So, any of you who are bothered by the thought of losing so much time to TV browsing, you now know how to get that monkey holding the flat screen off your back. As for myself, I find it rather relaxing. And I always think, “Oh, well, tomorrow or next week, I’ll come back and look at that.” Anticipation, as Carly Simon sang.
SPEAKING OF Netflix. One of the more fascinating programs I discovered was a British crime show, “Marcella” starring the excellent Anna Friel. She plays a detective with “issues” who is nonetheless dedicated to solving horrible crimes (think “Luther” or “Prime Suspect” or “The Killing.”)

“Marcella” is almost totally implausible, if terrifically played by all hands, especially Friel, as the tormented Marcella. It’s like imagining Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives, from the late, lamented “Penny Dreadful” as a policewoman. Yeah, Marcella is almost that bonkers. However, vast suspensions of disbelief aside, the series hooked me, and hope it gets a second season.
Anna Friel in "Marcella."
MORE TV thoughts: HBO announced that the next season of “Game of Thrones” will be shorter and will take longer to come back. Reason? “Winter has come” say the producers. (“Winter” is a bad thing for “GOT” — sort of the apocalypse.) So, they are going to shoot in colder climes, during the winter. Really? Forgive me, but isn’t there something called CGI, that can perform onscreen miracles of transformation? Can’t they just film it to look colder?

“GOT” fans are not happy. Now is their non-season of discontent.
Also, time to put Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” out of its misery. The first two seasons were excellent, but now in its fourth year nothing makes sense, everything is repetitive, there are only two likeable characters, Avi and Lena, played very well by Steven Bauer and Katherine Moennig but they are off to the side most of the time. (These two should have their own show!)
Liev Schreiber, who is also one of the show’s producers, and has directed several episodes, has given it his intense very best as the perpetually put-upon “fixer” Ray. Ditto to Paula Malcomson, a great actress who has struggled mightily with the role of Ray’s wife, Abby, surely one of the most unpleasant female characters current on the air. Also excellent — Jon Voight, as Ray’s horrible father, Mickey. But despite all the talent involved, the writers don’t seem to know where to take any of the characters, other than further into darkness or absurdity.
TENNIS, ANYONE? Save the date. On October 10th, John McEnroe, Lindsay Davenport, Martina Navratilova and Andy Roddick will headline World Team Tennis Smash Hits at Caesars Palace. This is a night of charity tennis benefiting The Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Last year’s game raised a cool million. Over the years this particular event alone has brought in more than $14 million to EJAF.
Elton and his great pal, Billie Jean King are the co-hosts, and the night will include a live auction — you can bid on a signed Elton piano bench or Billie Jean’s Wimbledon tickets, among other choice items. For tix info go to or or call 866-320-9763.
MEMO TO Democrats: That’s right make a negative big deal out of Melania Trump’s speech at the Republican Convention — did it contain similar phrasing to a Michelle Obama speech? Maybe. So what?! I mean, doesn’t every single person running for office call for “change.” Shall we limit that word to one politician a year? Regarding Monday night’s convention carnival, I can think of quite a few more things to be riled/appalled over than Mrs. Trump.
In case you haven’t noticed, nobody in the Trump family — or any of their surrogates, speechwriters or apologists — knows the meaning of “Sorry, that was a mistake. My bad.” The Trump machine has no ability or willingness to make things right when they go wrong — a scary trait in a potential president. So attacks on Melania’s remarks are likely to be twisted into “hypocritical Democrats attacking a woman” — and, the narrative will go: “They’re supposed to be against the ‘war on women.’”

I cannot believe the utter stupidity, cravenness, arrogance, untruthfulness, ruthlessness, and a near-total disregard for voters that BOTH parties and the media, display on a daily basis. Americans don’t deserve what we’re getting from ... everybody.
ENDQUOTE: “Dear Liz, ‘Café Society.’ Ok. I wasn’t going to see it. But now I am!” writes Carol Berg from Atlanta. Carol, glad my review inspired you, and I hope you enjoy it!

Ah, and as for Woody’s new movie, it is doing brisk business; brisk enough that Amazon Studio is putting up $25 million to finance Mr. Allen’s next film, which will star Kate Winslet, Justin Timberlake, Juno Temple and Jim Belushi.

When you’re hot, you’re hot.

Contact Liz here.