TV Review: Maude

Maude was the first spin-off in the fictional comedy universe of All In The Family. The sitcom was centered around the character Maude Findlay who was Edith Bunker‘s cousin. Edith was the main character and wife of Archie Bunker in All In The Family.

The need of the character came in demand to oppose Archie Bunker in the second season because Maude was a feminist and liberal woman, totally contrary to conservative and racist Archie. After Maude received popularity on her debut appearance in All In The Family, her character got her own sitcom which successfully ran for six seasons.

I do not have much knowledge about the significance of feminism in American television history but if this sitcom wasn’t the first then at least this was the first which substantially advocated women’s liberty and freedom of choice.

Just like All In The Family, Maude had many important topics to raise like a satire on high socialites who hesitate to raise funds, daughter Carol Traynor not getting a job because it was not fit for women, child behavioral issue when grandson Phillip gets angry with mother for being more moved towards her new boyfriend, or himself inviting his female friend when the family goes to the party, and many more.

And there was one topic that raised the eyebrows, the episodes “Maude’s Dilemma Part 1 & 2” which spoke highly in favor of abortion when 47-year-old Maude gets pregnant. It was shocking and because personally, I am strictly against abortion, I felt it was very irresponsible of the writers and producers to motivate instead of discouraging. But my opinion aside, I also believe that talking about the pros and cons of abortion in the year 1972 in a comedy show was way ahead of its time.

Maude will also be remembered for the introduction of the character Florida Evans, the Afro-American maid in the Findlays. The writing of Florida’s character-depth was astonishing and got a lot of weight in her supporting role. Her side of the story was so appealing that Florida got her own sitcom, Good Times which also was extremely successful.

Another significance of this show which immensely won my heart was on two occasions centering around the couples Maude and Walter, both occurring at the beginning of the fourth and fifth season. The first was when their relationship is at the edge of breaking when Walter decides to leave if Maude intends to run the election.

The second one was more serious and heart-boiling when Walter goes bankrupt. The writers brought attention from the humor in the rich family that people can suffer and can feel the pain of continuously going helpless. This dark element was badly missing in All In The Family and later in The Jeffersons (second spin-off).

Maude also was pretty careful in the pairing and relationship between Maude and Walter. There had been dozens of moments when things looked bad but somehow any of the two managed to hold and maintain their bond. Walter’s drinking issue got the tone of attention especially when he slaps her, something which is rare to be watched in sitcoms. And a few I wrote above and many more to enjoy.

I miss an element that is quite common now, crossovers. Not a single appearance of cousin Edith Bunker in Maude was bizarre. Not a single time the Bunkers came to meet the Findlays in six seasons which is quite strange. Same network, same producer, same universe, how come All In The Family and Maude were not connected. The same discrepancy in The Jeffersons, not once the Bunkers showed up in 11 seasons as Edith was Louise Jefferson‘s dear friend and favorite neighbor.

Anyway, Maude is one of the most popular sitcoms of the 1970s and a significant step in feminism and liberalism. Beatrice Arthur, who played Maude, was an outstanding actress. So are the other actors in the main characters. Maude was the platform for most of them. Rue McClanahan (Maude’s friend, Vivian Harmon) got The Golden Girls, Conrad Bain (Walter’s friend, Arthur Harmon) got Different Strokes, Adrienne Barbeau (Maude’s daughter) became the voice of Selina Kyle/Catwoman in Batman cartoons.

Recommended to the audience who are willing to watch quality humor and exceptional comic writing.

TV Review: All In The Family

Promotional still shows the cast from the American television show ‘All in the Family,’ Los Angeles, California, early 1970s. They stand in the doorway of their television address, 704 Hauser Street, Astoria, Queens, New York, and are, from left, American actors Jean Stapleton, Rob Reiner, Carroll O’Connor (1924 – 2001), and Sally Struthers. (Photo by CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

All In The Family is about Bunker’s family situated in Queens, NYC where the patriarch Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor) is the only source for bread and butter. With that source comes Archie’s heinous bigotry which let down many verbal backlashes and neverending arguments at home. Wife Edith Bunker (Jean Stapleton) is a sweet woman, a hardworking housewife, and a typical example of a faithful wife. Daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) is recently married to her jobless husband Michael Stivic (Rob Reiner). And they all live together.

Archie being a proud ‘white’ American, pro-Nixon, intolerant towards the blacks, Porto Ricans, and Jews, and his unacceptance to multiculturalism leads to many racial backfiring and hate consisting many dozens and dozens of episodes showing a reality about the society hesitant to change in the politically troubling decade of the late 60s.

But the best part is that this family of four is an example of tackling many sensitive issues in the most humorous writings ever. A tv show from 1971 speaking about racism, homosexuality, Vietnam War, women empowerment and liberty, atheism, rape, and so many sensitive subjects, it was way ahead of its time. Not only the writing of the show but the direction and performances of all the four leading casts made this sitcom and overall an American tv show of any genre one of the greatest shows of all time.

Not only was All In The Family culturally and politically significant in the US but was also successful in building its own universe where the supporting characters of the show got their own sitcoms as spin-offs and became popular sitcoms ‘Maude‘ and ‘The Jeffersons‘. Maude was Edith’s cousin and The Jeffersons were Bunker’s neighbors.

LOS ANGELES – JANUARY 1: ALL IN THE FAMILY featuring (clockwise from top left) Rob Reiner, Sally Struthers, Carroll O’Connor, (baby as Joey Stivic) and Jean Stapleton. Image dated January 1976. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

All In The Family won 22 Emmys from 55 nominations and is the first of the only four sitcoms in which all the leading cast won the Primetime Emmy Awards for their respective categories (Best Leading Actor and Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Actress).

All In The Family was also the beginning of the legendary writer and producer, Norman Lear on television who convinced CBS to run this show after two failed pilots.

America’s groundbreaking sitcom of television history is easily the greatest sitcom of the 70s and one of the greatest American shows of all time. Both TV Guide and Writers Guild of America has ranked the show 4th in their ‘greatest’ category.

There is a lot to write about this show as my fondness stretched to infinity episode by episode. I just loved Archie’s bigotry, Edith’s innocence, Gloria’s emotional fluctuations, and Mike’s scuffle with Archie. On a personal note, All In The Family is now convincingly one of my favorite sitcoms (either American or British).

Film Review: Toofan (2021)

Toofan is a fictional sports drama of a local extortionist Aziz Ali (Farhan Akhtar) in Dongri who begins to take boxing seriously and face challenges while trying to make his name.

Okay, first of all, this is Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra‘s film who has the distinction to have directed some critically acclaimed Dilli-themed pictures like Rang De Basanti, Delhi-6, and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. So you expect him to deliver another masterpiece remembering how excellent those films were. Unfortunately, that is not the case this time. Something is wrong with Toofan. Not something, a lot of things.

The Rakeysh-Farhan magical combo from Bhaag Milkha Bhaag had too much at stake to surpass the hype of presenting another sports drama on the same line of sublime artistry. But perhaps Rakeysh overthought about the consequences and lost in execution.

One thing about Toofan being a sports drama is that in the first hour, you as a viewer ask yourself do you actually need to watch just another boxing story with stereotypical content. Why am I watching? The first half an hour makes you think how is it any different from any other boxing dramas you have watched. It is sooo sooo predictable.

And then the love angle, where you get the obviousness of the sub-plot connections for the next 30 minutes in rolling. The best friend of the leading character being the most best friend thing ever. The strictest coach rejecting the boxer in the beginning and getting impressed later enough to take him to the competition. The dialogues are less-inspiring.

The score is okayish and the tracks (besides ‘Ananya’ track) sound like some old unused tracks from Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy‘s warehouse finally getting played. The reason I say this is because Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy to Excel Entertainment is what A.R.Rahman is to Madras Talkies, mostly giving top-class music and tracks throughout their career.

Even Rakeysh’s direction lost grip on many scenes where he could have made an impact. He badly missed using Farhan and Paresh‘s talents to use in the tragedy scenes when Farhan sees the body at the platform and Paresh throws the ashes in the sea. They could have done wonders there. And Supriya Pathak is terribly wasted in such a short character.

After an hour when the coach realizes who Toofan loves is exactly when the film gets interesting. Out of 160 screen minutes, it is the middle part that is the heart of the film that has nothing to do with boxing. A Muslim boxer marrying a Hindu doctor and breaking stereotypes is something I wanted to see in the film and has been depicted so well. The rising conflicts of an interfaith marriage is a subject less challenged in writing.

Farhan’s body transformation and those exercises are also the best portions of the film. In acting, Farhan didn’t come up to the Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara levels. It was Paresh Rawal who played an excellent supporting role.

For the sake of the middle portion of the plotting, Toofan deserved better writing, a potential screenplay to run on the sensitive blades of the content which the film terribly missed.

Ratings: 3/10

Film Review: Dune (2021)

In 10191, the desert planet Arrakis gets colonized when the Emperor assigns the ruler of the ocean planet Caladan, Duke Leto of Atreides to rule Arrakis. As Leto wishes his son Paul to succeed him, their rivals Harkonnens return to claim the land.

Dune is Frank Herbert‘s gift to the sci-fi readers in the literary history that was published more than 50 years ago. It was adapted more than once with time. But Denis Villeneuve‘s one is the highly awaited film with a budget of $165m as a lot of expectations from the sci-fi can be built thanks to a friendly heavy-productional budget that can justify the demands of the true sci-fi content now.

Although this is the first part and we wait for the announcement of its sequel, the 156-minute film held a strong promise to keep its soul pure and close to the book. I haven’t read but in the picture, I must say there was a blend of praiseworthy artistry and sharp criticism at the same time.

Many viewers complained about the film being very slow. It is true but those who have watched Denis Villeneuve’s previous works will understand that it is in his artistry. He keeps the picture slow and grows on the viewers.

I felt that Dune was easily the case of two eggs in the same basket. As much as the first hour maintained the superior quality of sci-fi epic, the second hour visibly began to fade in its pace. As much of the story moved in the first half, the other half took way too many minutes in setting the dust and reaching towards the mark.

The biggest plus of the film is undoubtedly the stunning visuals, the camera work, and the very detailed presentation of the fictional planets. Honestly, the sandworm should not have been revealed in the first trailer. Forget the nomination, the film deserves to win in either VFX or sound recording/mixing. I was expecting a lot from Hans Zimmer but I feel he did just a decent work but not as much worthy as we remember his past scores.

The presence of ensemble casting is another reason for the film’s magnitude of visual presentation. Timothee Chalamet has risen to fame in just four years and at age 25, he is one exceptional talent we will see building his acting career on the advanced level, all depending on the choices he will make while playing his part.

Denis Villeneuve was the right man for this job. If he was not hired, I would have picked Guillermo del Toro for this epic. The wait for the next part begins with the first part’s conclusion. Watching this film is a necessary exercise for the peers and pupils of science fiction.

Ratings: 8/10

TV Review – Parks and Recreation

PARKS AND RECREATION — “One Last Ride” Episode 712/713 — Pictured: (l-r) Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer, Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate, Retta as Donna Meagle, Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins, Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson, Aziz Ansari as Tom Haverford, Rob Lowe as Chris Traeger, Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Adam Scott as Ben Wyatt, Jim O’Heir as Garry Gergich — (Photo by: Colleen Hayes/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images)

If a sitcom happens to be created, produced, or written by Greg Daniels, enter the name in your watchlist because there is a chance that you develop fondness towards his show. Personally, I had watched his American adaptation of The Office, Space Force, and then Upload before Parks and Recreation, and none of these disappointed me. In fact, The Office is one of my all-time favorite sitcoms.

Parks And Recreation give you the same vibes as The Office. Why not? After all, both the sitcoms have been set up in the office. If The Office was based on a fictional Dunder-Mifflin Paper Company in Scranton where that crazy Michael Scott was the Branch Manager then ‘Parks And Recreation’ is based on a fictional Pawnee City Hall where Leslie Knope is the deputy director in Parks and Recreation department.

Amy Poehler‘s Leslie character went through changes with time. Leslie was a bit silly in the first season and then the attitude towards her responsibilities changed especially when she involved herself in politics when her progress began to grab attraction and got offers to run the campaign. The PR to politics journey of Leslie was excellent.

Besides Leslie, my favorite character was Nick Offerman‘s Ron Swanson, the department director. He was socially detached who had parted ways with his wife, Tammy played by Offerman’s real-wife, Megan Mullaly. His dialogues were sparingly thoughtful and sometimes a soft curmudgeon’s bible.

The writing of the show gave a lot of breathing to the supporting characters and made the Pawnee diary exciting. Correlated themes like media and journalism portrayals also helped in the plot continuity. Pawnee crackdown through the failing budget was also an interesting move.

Without a doubt, Chris Pratt‘s Andy Dwyer had the best character development in the show. From being a lazy ass to becoming a television celebrity, Andy’s journey was fun to watch.

At some point in the middle, I had a feeling that the show was possessing time and wasn’t continuing well. The comic timing of the characters was getting a little flat. Aziz Ansari as Tom Haverford was an average beginning in a couple of seasons but then I began to ask myself what significance of the character really was. Tom was getting ridiculous minutes. Especially his comic partnership with Ben Schwartz‘s Jean-Ralphio in the show was extremely boring and annoying. If the latter’s contribution to the show was a question mark, the character’s sister Mona-Lisa raised the alarm about the decline of comic quality. Thank God, Jean and Mona were not promoted as regulars.

I will surely have one deep irritation about lacking the idea of not creating its own universe of department sitcoms. PR started after three or four seasons of The Office. The same team created both the shows, Greg Daniels and Michael Schur (yep, Dwight’s Amish brother, Mose Schrute). Both shows mostly ran together and that too on the same network, NBC. How could the producers not consider possible connectivity? Imagine Scranton-Pawnee crossovers! Michael Scott and Leslie Knope on the same stage!

Without a doubt, The Office was a way better sitcom than PR but the former should vanish from the mind in order to watch the fun of PR because, in all honesty, PR is really an exciting sitcom. I very much enjoyed it and will remember it for a long long time. The Office fans are definitely recommended to watch Parks And Recreation.

TV Review – Steptoe and Son

The poor father-son duo of Albert Steptoe and Harold Steptoe run a rag-and-bone business while living in Shepherd’s Bush, London. With time, Harold’s desires and aspirations meet Albert’s rigid tendency of accepting change. His naivety irritates Harold and pretends to be ill if the son leaves to live some portion of his life on his own. Dirty ol’ man Albert lies to unsuccessfully avoid the blame of his mischievous blunders. Albert jeopardizes wherever Harold takes him, say cinema, restaurant, party. The best writing lies in the generational conflict of these two characters for eight seasons and they never disappoint at all.

The old BBC classic sitcoms were always known for their rich content especially a thoughtful theme on which the quality of humor was so delicate and rib-tickling. Steptoe and Son (1962-1974) is an influential and groundbreaking sitcom that made its rounds in British households in the early 1960s, right on time. Because around three million people in Britain were living on the poverty line. So this sitcom was a fit to their sentiments, especially for the Cockneys.

I will not skip mentioning both the leading actors, Wilfrid Brambell and Harry H. Corbett. I mean what better father-son chemistry you will ask for. The generational conflict and comic timing between them were so striking and growing their partnership with the viewers for years being the only two major characters of the show is extremely difficult. Even Sandford and Son needed the assistance of the supporting characters especially Aunt Esther but the original show remained constrained.

Another significance of this sitcom is its cult status in Britain. Steptoe and Son was easily the first well-known British sitcom about a working-class, describing poor working men living without women in different setups. You can take an example of Ronnie Barker‘s Porridge and Open All Hours in the 1970s or most specifically the greatest British sitcom, Only Fools and Horses. The sitcom’s international influence can be measured by the fact that American tv producer and developer Norman Lear adapted the show and created Red Foxx starred Sanford And Son for NBC. 16 of Steptoe and Son episodes were recreated in the American adaptation. Steptoe & Son helped Norman Lear build his legacy in the 1970s when his developed sitcoms on NBC and CBS dominated the decade.

Had Steptoe & Son never happened, I wonder what the state of comedy would be in both regions. This is easily one of the best British sitcoms I have ever watched.

My favorite Steptoe and Son episodes:
01 – Season.1 – Episode.1 – The Offer
02 – Season.1 – Episode.2 – The Bird
03 – Season.1 – Episode.3 – The Piano
04 – Season.1 – Episode.4 – The Economist
05 – Season.2 – Episode.2 – The Bath
06 – Season.2 – Episode.4 – Sixty-Five Today
07 – Season.2 – Episode.6 – Full House
08 – Season.2 – Episode.7 – Is That Your Horse Outside?
09 – Season.3 – Episode.1 – Homes Fit For Heroes
10 – Season.3 – Episode.2 – The Wooden Overcoats
11 – Season.3 – Episode.4 – Steptoe à la Cart
12 – Season.3 – Episode.5 – Sunday for Seven Days
13 – Season.4 – Episode.2 – Crossed Swords
14 – Season.5 – Episode.1 – A Death in the Family
15 – Season.6 – Episode.1 – Robbery with Violence
16 – Season.6 – Episode.2 – Come Dancing
17 – Season.6 – Episode.3 – Two’s Company
18 – Season.6 – Episode.5 – Without Prejudice
19 – Season.6 – Episode.6 – Pot Black
20 – Season.7 – Episode.3 – Oh, What a Beautiful Mourning
21 – Season.7 – Episode.4 – Live Now, P.A.Y.E. Later
22 – Season.7 – Episode.6 – Divided We Stand
23 – Season.8 – Episode.2 – And So To Bed
24 – Season.8 – Episode.3 – Porn Yesterday
25 – Season.8 – Episode.4 – The Seven Steptoerai
26 – Season.8 – Episode.5 – Upstairs, Downstairs, Upstairs, Downstairs
27 – Season.8 – Episode.6 – Seance in a Wet Rag and Bone Yard

TV Review – Downton Abbey

I am not sure from where to start because writing a mere formal review of a period costume-drama like Downton Abbey is unjustly and undeservingly shorter to write. I have a staunch interest in classic period dramas and that is why shows like Cranford and Poldark hit my list of the shows that I like the most under this classic genre. Downton Abbey is something else.

Created and written by Oscar and Emmy-winning writer and novelist Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey is about the Crawley family who exists in the early 20th century when the world is shaping towards a difficult period in the European regions. In between 1912 and 1926, the Crawleys led by the patriarch Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham, and his wife Cora, the American heiress, struggles to tackle many domestic conflicts running in the family and the business affairs that occur in the different phases.

The plotting of the show is divided into two different classes. One is the rich Crawleys and the other is their working staff. Their stories and characters play on parallel notes and are given equal importance that successfully shows that Downton Abbey is not only about the sophisticated luxury but the human value where the rich and the working class coordinate in harmony and build strong mutual respect. Internal conflicts and characterizations are dealt with with meticulous care. I liked how the three Crawley sisters were distinguished in characterization and their sisterhood was tested with time.

The presentation of their aristocracy and costume designing is the zenith of the show that never disappoints. Screenwriting and dialogues are powerful, less pragmatic but also less dramatic. There is a tremendous balance of dramatizing humor to the seriousness of the subject. When it comes to dialogues, the unanimous winner amongst all the characters is matriarch Violet Crawley played by the legendary Maggie Smith. Your ears won’t fall deaf when Violet begins to speak.

Speaking of pragmatism, I was a bit skeptical about the respect the writer builds between the Crawleys and their staff; because I felt the writer was being too humble to let the Crawleys go soft on their staff that doesn’t look realistic. But see, I am a history digger but I need to be convinced with the detailing. Does the history really make the viewers believe that the daughters of the estate would show fondness in driving the tractor or work her kitchen in the maid’s quarter or allow one of the staff to leave unpunished when the voice is to be raised? Lord Grantham letting his daughter marry a man, not from their ranks is also debatable. Being so merciful, generous, and treating so well to their servants is pretty doubtful. There was a scene where the ball was organized where each of the Crawleys dance with each of the servants. In another scene, Lord Grantham himself serves with a tray for a drink when working staff member Anna gives birth. Really don’t know if such things actually existed in the past and with such a level of delicacy.

Yes, Mr. Fellowes didn’t exaggerate glamorizing the royalness of the Crawleys but rather focused on the changing times where the family took time to accept change and this is where characterizing in the plot plays a major part. One impressive aspect that the show enlightened was the ladies of the estate supporting liberalism. All the three sisters Mary, Edith, and Sybil believed and advocated for the education and employment of women.

The most shocking moment of the show was the sudden death of Matthew Crawley, out of nowhere. Good to know that the character was deliberately killed because actor Dan Stevens decided to leave. Otherwise, there was no reason to kill the character that soon. My favorite character was definitely Violet Crawley, her presence was the minty alfresco. The other characters I very much liked were Mr. Carson, Mr. Molesley, and Lord Grantham. The best character development definitely was Thomas Barrow, he was someone to whom the viewers hated and loved equally.

Downton Abbey is a cult phenomenon and one of the masterpieces works on British television. One significant point about the show’s remarkable legacy is that the show comes into existence in the newest times as most of the classical masterpieces in British television history are from the previous century. After my Sons Of Anarchy addiction, if there is another show that hooked me and bought my time, it is Downton Abbey.

TV Review – Squid Game

A wealthy secret organization invites scores of participants who suffer financial crises and heavy loans. The participants eagerly join and are sent to a secret place for a few days where they have to accept the rules and play six games to win the jackpot. Little do they know the price they have to pay to end their financial miseries. They have zero clue about the horrors they have to confront.

Yes, there have been similar plots before like The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner but this South Korean tv show Squid Game cannot be compared for having similar elements. One, the former shows were adapted from their novels but the latter is created by the writer and director himself, Hwang Dong-hyuk. Plus the script of Squid Game was developed back in 2008 when the creator himself was in financial crisis too. So let’s assume that the foundation of this show was laid by his own lows. Indeed, the stories are gritty, moving, and compelling when you have bad times in life. Would the show have worked if produced in 2008? A kind of million-dollar question applicable in George Lucas‘ shoes when Star Wars was struggling to exist after Star Trek happened a decade ago.

I think Squid Game qualifies to be considered a complete source of entertainment where the games, the anticipation, the drama, and the suspense was thrilling, mesmerizing; and in all honesty, the show built a tremendous harmony of dark elements and forced humor in the writing. Just super brilliant work in the production design, contrasting colors of the interior so compelling and you are in some hypnotic illusion when the synchronized ladder climbing from different directions trying to reach the event.

The show is meeting immense global popularity and the kind of plot is hooking millions of viewers around the world, the story must also be subjected to observe how the ugliness of realities are made so warmly welcomed. Squid Game is easily one of the darkest satire on social capitalism on the global level. The highly rich people having fun of witnessing the poor turned into evils and murderers for the greed and hunger for money. Exaggeration of childhood games placed on adults becoming some harmless flying birds for the hunting season.

The world-famous music, ‘The Blue Danube‘ has found a new place in history and will be remembered for a reason. I must also admit that it wasn’t certainly perfectly crafted writing at all. Dong-hyuk did miss some portions that he should have taken into account. The heaviest of all criticism rests over lacking character developments. For example, I wanted to know the making of the Front Man. There was so much potential in the character but didn’t utilize. Police officer Hwang and the foreigner Ali Abdul were wasted. Ali Abdul’s introduction was one of the most intense scenes of the show when he holds Gi-hun from one hand before the girl looks back.

If there is a follow-up season then I think the creator has made a big mistake in the ending. With all the limited content offered for the writing of the plot, the story concludes with most of the characters meeting their deserving ends. So continuing out of nowhere, you need much a bigger picture to attract the viewers for eight or nine new episodes again. The biggest revelation in the finale was needless. But again, do we really need the second season? Can you just leave that secret organization and the dirty power kill scores of participants? Should the madness be stopped by someone or was that a slap on our hypocritic cheek? So if there is the second season then the writer, with all the global hype, is taking a huge responsibility.

But overall, Squid Game is one of the most exciting shows released by Netflix. This is easily recommendable to all the viewers who are looking for a potential story.