David’s TV Verdict on Summer 2019: Ambitions, What/If, The Society, Veronica Mars & More!

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Written by David Janes

Summer 2019 was quite the titillating surprise of an ushering of bold, fresh, killer dash of soapiness, this summer had to offer…

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Credit: OWN

Ambitions (OWN) Tuesdays 10pm, Final 7 Episodes to Premiere this Fall!

“The first half of OWN’s new hit soap opera serving up every shape and form of Temptations Tuesdays if not more, this is what appointment soap opera looks like each week.”

Who’s Zoomin Who? In the world of Ambitions filled with sordid affairs, lies, deceit, conspiracy, blackmail, extortion, poison, shady zingers, cocktails, scheming, plotting and that’s just for starters…..the steamy cut-throat world of Ambitious is a soap on steroids that ended the summer with a mid season finale filled with heartbreak, and a crazy bonkers finale that capped off the summer with everyone and its world changed and a few in the grave! A stunning ending that left me with questions! In just its debut season, the show managed to race through plot as no other show would have dared to. Ambitions returns later this fall for a deadly final 7 episodes! 

What/If (Netflix), Season 1 Streaming!

What/If reminds me of is the good, bad, and lunacy of Revenge’s first two seasons.

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Credit: Netflix

Created by the minds of Revenge creator, Mike Kelley, What/If is a fun, frothy, sexy soap marketed as this social thriller to all the Peak TV-era, with fabulous production values, visuals direction. Make no mistake, Mike Kelley still knows how to do soap opera! Call it a psychological social thriller but nonetheless, have a grand old dame in the vein of 80s callbacks of Joan Collins, Linda Grey, Jane Wyman verses the younger ferocious, parallel to their madness that they’ve inflicted – Heather Locklear, Victoria Principal, and in recent years: Emily VanCamp going head-to-head with hidden motivations, secrecy and plans that would soon begin to unravel their psyches with a sip of a cocktail: in this case wine or martini. Victoria vs. Emily was the brainchild of Kelley in Revenge….now Anne Montgomery vs. Lisa Donnovan becomes the latest dangerous clash in this 10 episode soapy thriller of mind-bending twists, especially the final three episodes. 

What started out as fun, campy, brainless, ludicrous of epic proportions became an addictive ride of figuring who’s really in charge once the players became more apparent, and lined up in such a conspiratorial world of chess, and hidden pasts that connected past and present, plus how damaged everyone really is in this interconnected web that puts Emily vs. Victoria to dust! What a thrill ride of Revenge-y thrills, chills, sub-plots and nonetheless sheer camp, quotable villains and of course: the right summer addictive escape. 

The Society (Netflix), Season 1 Streaming! 

“Scratch out the relationship drama in favor of questionable psyches, politics and a leader-in-charge up against opposing forces, tyranny and a who-dunnit?”

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Credit: Netflix

The Society’s foray into examining what type of society it wants to be in wake of it’s circumstance: from socialism to an authoritarian dictatorship society places the show into an array of a sexy-Lord of the Flies meets Scandal’s seasons of examination into power and a bit of the extremities of Days of our Lives’ 2004 Melaswen storyline. But at it’s core it’s a survival of the fittest, Lord of the Flies tale that’s more interested in establishing the power, and the rebuilding of a society in this new world than per se “Lost” trying to create new mysteries and mythologies every week, instead it’s the opposite and the mystery of how they ended up here will be answered in due time according to the show’s creator, Christopher Keyser. 

I love that the show quickly moves on and dismisses putting it to the back of falling into the trap of having to answer and build it’s plot around “What happened, how did we get here and where are our parents?” and instead builds a new society and town around these group of messy, complicated, coming-of-age teens that are battling demons and psychological issues within themselves and questioning the future and who they’ll become, who they want to be verses what’s demanded and expected of them in place of teen-melodrama. Some hit rock-bottom, dive towards a big downfall and the dark soul of the night, just like an antihero facing his demons in a cable drama. As a result, stunning twists, and final gut-wrenching two episodes that ends with a stunning shot of our heroine’s up against the new guard(s) in charge, and the deadly battle ahead which serves as a must-see. 

Veronica Mars (Hulu), Season 4 Streaming!

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Credit: Hulu

“Watch and learn, as Veronica Mars is the show that’s not playing around, pays homage to it’s past but Rob Thomas assuring fans that the show of the old is gone, it’s the perfect example of how to do a revival.”

Marshmallows, what a return! If you haven’t watched – go binge the eight episodes and be prepared for a stunning killer twist with a box of tissues because nobody is and ever will be safe in Neptune and the world of Veronica Mars! 

The eight episode stunner is all grown up, adult-like and more ambitious and is a recalling first two seasons mystery, which happened to be my favorite as it build this intricate, layered, conspiratorial (under) world of: cheaters, slimy politicians, the rich and privileged, rapists, killers, crooked businessmen, secret identities in hiding or masked, all while running into interference with the Neptune Police Department and by doing their jobs for them. 

If there’s anything this revival proved it’s telling a tight-constructed 8 episode season arc, no wasted time on subplots, and building a strong momentum throughout while paying homage to what worked in the earlier seasons but strongly becoming a new show in the process. Much like Dallas did, it embraced a new kind of show and world with higher stakes, killer scenes, a mirage of sweet moments for the fans, but make no mistake: if there’s anything that game-changer showcased — This is a new show, a new adult-cable like Veronica Mars, the show of the old is gone. In with the new. 

Days of our Lives (NBC), Monday-Friday

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Stacy Haiduk, Drake Hogestyn, Eric Martsolf
© XJJohnson/jpistudios.com

 Miss a Day, Miss a Lot: Days of our Lives is going for juggernaut status as the most-forward, progressive thinking bonkers soap! And that is the best kind of soap. It’s a healthy balance of: old-school conventions that recall the soap operas of the old while putting a modern twist on it, or poking fun at some of the tropes to make for a fun comedic hour. It’s the only soap I think that embraces the soapiness, while other shows have tried to be anything other than a soap for pure shock factor. It has romance, mystery, intrigue, adventure, comedy, fantasy, and a huge high for it’s supercouples, and big downfalls for it’s villains. 

August Sweeps had: soapy cliffhangers, murders, schemes, bombshells and the best reveal Days has pulled off, it’s no nutty, it’s a throwback to the 90s Reilly era of Days. Hell, it holds up there with the nuttiest soapy cliffhanger reveals! Super-spy John Black snatching off “Nicole’s” mask! What a week! Followed by a week of incredible payoffs with the truth out. August exploded with heat, and it setup the fall perfect with a September to Remember! 

The best thing to remember about DAYS and what works is: The show/direction/vision is an entertaining escape from normal life problems for an hour, and what a feat with a few sets, it still can produce a damn good soap. Ron Carlivati and his team get soap opera, and respects the history from a fan’s point of view. It’s also important to remember that this show that works under tough mandates, budget constraints and yet still can produce a hell of an hour with soapy cliffhangers filled with vets, and the formula of good storytelling in which this genre is predicated on than splashy events, cameos, guest-stars, and new sets. The soap is the only forward thinking into the future show out of the four currently airing, that still produces engaging hours while moving the form to new, different, ambitious places. 

Arianne Zucker was given such a fun material, and it showcases in her performance. I couldn’t look away, completely mesmerized and her scenes as “Kristicole” were such a callback to who Nicole used to be, right down to the glass of champagne. Stacy Haiduk continues to be such a stunner in the role of Kristen DiMera and Susan Banks that I was able to relate on an emotional aspect to Kristen having to hide behind a Nicole mask. It’s a classic soap opera story: in many ways a villain, monster wanting to be recognized, loved, after so much damage and pain. She’s the Phoenix, carrying the torch for the DiMera family with the amount of times she’s defeated death. And she still has as much fire and passion. Her scenes with Eric Martsolf? Incredible. 

If you’re not watching DAYS, then the question is why not? Get on the rollercoaster ride that blends the crazy and zany with classic soap opera that has heart, family, and romance. 

Reality TV:

Basketball Wives: (VH1), Wednesdays 8pm, Season 8

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Credit: VH1

“Basketball Wives brand of resetting itself with new visuals aesthetics is a testament to the fantasy of how lavish, beautiful the depiction some of the reality/docu-soaps portray within their world. The show continues to be pure escapism in the vein of watching plots, stories and journeys unfold, certain masks revealed, and motivations become clear and always need to yearn for something new, better and grow as people. Well the thought counts…And who would have it any other way? 

Basketball Wives kicked off the eighth season with quite the mess, as the fan hit with simmering problems from last season, there was complex, bold, raw human moments from the ladies that has made this season must-see. The continued addition of having the ever realest bold tongue one-liners out of O.G that reminds me of Tami Roman’s Fire-y entrance in Season 2 (as well as Roman’s importance/energy on this show) and the needed fire L.A needed when it signed Roman on for Season 4 and 5. O.G is a refreshing display of a bombshell ready to shake things up! And I applaud the show creating the next new group of Wives/Cast members right with the right dose of energy, drinks, shade, and aspirations of wanting better with a firecracker among one of them, all heralded and taken under the wing by our vets! I’m invested in: Kristen, Cece, O.G’s plights compared to Season 6’s flops. 

The Furs, Cognac, and The Ponderosas get better with time! And the drama! Whew, I watch these characters as over the top and human as they fall as soap opera characters because the show very much is larger than life, right down to claims of “editing.” Underneath, it’s a soapy lavish entertaining hour of social experiments and dynamics tested with different personalities, all with a glass of wine in a lavish living room mansion or exotic locales that’s reminiscent of Dynasty or Dallas.

 

The End is Near

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Credit: ABC
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Credit: FOX

Empire and How to Get Away with Murder’ Final Seasons: The two staples of the hottest shows of 2014-2015 season! Right from the get-go, these two shows hit juggernaut status with high ratings that wasn’t seen on Network TV in YEARS as TV began to move into: Streaming Era and a wealth of content within Peak TV. 

I’ve been a fan of both shows and actually think time has made these shows evolved, try new risks, aesthetics and the two shows are better, must-see and ballsy for it forever cementing a place of impact, important and cultural phenomenons. I can’t wait for both shows to go guns blazing and go out with a bang…..literally. I have a feeling we have a killer final season for both shows! 

 

Caught Up On:

American Vandal (Season 2): What. A. Show. It has the most laughable, humorous premise and mysteries yet the way they plot their show is stunning, the reveals are gasp-worthy and the commentary that lies underneath makes for a show disguised under laughs, shits and giggles a smart-thinking show that packs such nuance and conversation subliminally. 

Dear White People (Season 2) – I can’t get enough of this show! A college show surrounded by the events, culture while satirizing it? I have such a fun time with this show! The commentary is on point, the aesthetics/the way they layer in each topic—and character’s POV is incredible and the show’s decent into shadowy societies. I’m so on board! The show is HOT: surreal, hilarious, heart-felt, emotional, shady and downright ballsy with stunning reveals that doesn’t dare to trick or insult intelligence. It’s a masterpiece, and it’s unapologetic and refreshing how little fucks it gives. 

Mr. Robot: (Season 3) – What a season of reinvention. That’s Sam Esmail for ya! I’m one of the few that actually loved the trippy ride that was Season 2, I couldn’t stop talking about it and the ALF episode! Imagine my surprise when Season 3 was even better, and started to feel as if we’re coming full circle. With ambitious episodes, such as the suspense-inducing one-long take Episode 5 to Tyrell’s episode, to Mr Robot/Elliot trying to outdo each other with a stunning finale and a killer return, I can’t wait for the final season and the three-act journey in which Sam Esmail designed this show to be. How will Elliot’s journey end?

 

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