Mark Margolis

All posts tagged Mark Margolis

Photo Courtesy Of FOX

Photo Courtesy Of FOX

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The FOX series “Gotham,” suddenly changed direction in the latest episode making a move that likely will have many fans of the show upset and perhaps irate. Other fans will look at this as a gutsy move by the show-runners, proving that the second-year series will keep viewers on their toes and let them take nothing for granted.

I’m going to break format this go-round and immediately address the elephant in the room. During the show’s first season Robin Lord Taylor’s Oswald Cobblepot, aka the Penguin evolved into a breakout character of the campaign. Taylor’s Penguin broke away from the way Burgess Meredith and Danny DeVito played the role, in appearance and mannerisms. Both actors portrayed the character as he appeared in the comic-books of the Golden and Silver Ages of comics. Short and round with pointed noses, their speech filled with assorted grunts and quacks.

Taylor’s Cobblepot’s a mama’s boy and outsider who dreams of greatness and overcomes his cowardice to end up as the Criminal King of Gotham City. Penguin stabbed each of his benefactors in the back, yet he ended up the first season as last man standing. We watched him transform from Fish Mooney’s umbrella boy to controlling the entire underworld operation in Gotham City.

This year’s breakout character was Cameron Monaghan’s Jerome Valeska, a young man we met last season when Jim Gordon and Harvey Bullock arrested him for killing his mother. When Valeska realized that Gordon nailed him for the murder of his mother many fans including this one, believed that Jerome would become perhaps the Caped Crusader’s greatest nemesis The Joker. Jerome starts to break down and cry for a second only to look up at Gordon and flash that unmistakable grin, Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and the Joker from the comic-books, all wrapped up in one magnificently evil smile.

Although those connected with Gotham never confirmed that Jerome would eventually evolve into The Joker, the first two episodes in this short season was enough proof that the ginger would become the deadly criminal. Valeska and four other inmates of the Arkham Asylum received their freedom when they got broken out by Theo and Tabitha Galavan. Valeska quickly became first among equals, becoming the leader of The MANIAX, stressing showmanship along with his brutal slayings.

Jerome terrorized Gotham City’s elite for most of the third episode until the show-runners hit the audience that likely knocked them out of their seats. Theo Galavan called an audible at the line and decided that Valeska could get sacrificed in order to further Galavan’s master plan, to take control of Gotham City.

The first image we see on the screen’s a perp’s getting thrown through a second-story window, his fall softened by trash bags in the alley. We pan up to see Jim Gordon standing in the window and he turns around to talk to his next victim. He tells the guy he’s looking for Jerome Valeska for killing a friend of his and asks the guy what he knows. The dude responds he’s never heard of Valeska and Jim throws a right to his jaw. The guy says he can help the detectives by spreading the word and Gordon tells him that anybody who hides or protects Valeska’s going down. To make sure the guy understood the message, Bullock then threw him through another window to the trash bags below.

After a little playtime for Barbara and Tabitha, Theo walks in with a tray of toast and coffee for Barbara and himself as Tabitha takes off. Galavan then tells Kean that his family built Gotham City, yet their name’s not known. He says he’s out to avenge his ancestors and tells Barbara she’s going to be his star. He then tells her when the time’s right he’ll help her destroy Jim Gordon, not kill him but destroy him body and soul.

Back at the precinct, Harvey suggests to Jim that they pay Penguin a visit, but Gordon brusquely dismisses the idea. Bullock heads to another part of the station, when Gordon sees a female uniform about to take the crime-scene tape off of Captain Sarah Essen’s office door. Jim barks at her to stop then puts the tape back in place. He then shouts to all in the precinct that they lost Essen and nine of their brothers in their house and the killer laughed. He told them to never forget that.

Lee Thompkins puts her hand on his shoulder from behind and he wheels around screams what, before he realizes it’s her. They go off to a corner and talk and Lee mentions the Gotham Children’s Hospital Charity Event’s that evening and she’s involved in the presentation. Jim says he can’t go, he needs to find Jerome.

Just at that moment Valeska and Tabitha arrive at Paul Cicero’s apartment, Cicero’s the blind psychic who admitted to Jerome last season he’s his father. Quickly Cicero’s bound and gagged as Jerome recounts the days of his abusive childhood and blame’s Cicero for never stepping in. He then tells the old man that he’s going to leave manufactured letters between father and son, so that Cicero gets blamed for breaking Jerome out of Arkham.

Back at the precinct Harvey tells Jim that he’s tracked down Paul Cicero and maybe he knows where Jerome’s hiding out. The two quickly drive over to the old man’s apartment.

Valeska stand’s over the old man with a knife and asks him if he has any last words. Cicero says

“You will be a curse upon Gotham. Children will wake from their sleep, screaming from the thought of you. Your legacy will be death and madness.”

Jerome laughs and starts to raise the knife, when there’s a knock at the door as Gordon and Bullock arrived. Gordon calls for Cicero, saying he wants to talk to him about his son but gets met with silence. Suddenly the old man groans and they bust down the door, an instant too late. Cicero’s dead as Valeska stabbed him in the eye and Jim realizes they left through the open window. Harvey examines the body and notices the corpse’s hand’s placed on-top of a tin can, when he moves Cicero’s hand he passes out from the gas coming out of the can. Gordon pulls him out into the hall but he’s barely standing. Then Jerome and Tabitha show up, Jim tries to choke Jerome but he’s easily subdued and Tabitha kicks him in the forehead.

The charity event for Gotham Children’s Hospital kicks off and amongst the guests, Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth. Bruce questions why they’re at the event and Alfred says that Bruce needs to be seen at certain functions, this being one on that list. Lee Thompkins comes over to introduce herself to Bruce, she tells him Gordon talks about him all the time and she wanted to meet him.

Alfred’s smitten and unaware that she’s Gordon’s girlfriend he starts to turn on the charm and make a play for her. Lee tells him she loves his stories and he suggests they have dinner at Wayne Manor. She starts to tell Pennyworth she’s got a boyfriend, but he mentions he’s good friends with the head-chef at an exclusive restaurant. Lee says she’s been trying to get a table there for months.

Bruce sees Selina at the event and tries to talk to her, but she tells him she’s working. She’s robbing Gotham’s elite of some of their “extra-cash.” Wayne mentions the entertainment’s a magician and Kyle tells him she hates magicians and says she’ll see him later.

There’s a last-minute substitution for the magician scheduled to perform. Taking the stage The Great Rudolfo and his lovely assistant, actually Jerome and Barbara in disguise, after they tied up the real magician and locked him in a trunk. Lee’s the hostess of the event and introduces the magician and his assistant.

Rudolfo performs a few tricks and then asks for a volunteer from the audience and asks for Bruce Wayne to come up. Wayne doesn’t want to do it but Alfred tells him to be a good sport. He comes up on stage and Rudolfo places him lying down in a box, Wayne’s head and arms sticking out one end and his feet out the other. Alfred starts to protest when Rudolfo takes two honed steel sheets and sticks them in a slot in the box. He separates the boxes and Bruce’s fine with his feet appearing to stick out one end while he waves to the crowd.

Lee asks Alfred if the performers look familiar and suddenly Kean’s mask slips off and she winks at Thompkins. Lee backs into the hallway and calls Jim telling him Barbara’s there and she thinks Jerome as well when she’s grabbed from behind and a hand goes over her mouth. Gordon rushes to the event.

Rudolfo’s asked for Deputy Mayor Harrison Kane to be his next volunteer and the official takes the stage smiling broadly. Rudolfo then says to the audience nobody’s getting out of her alive tonight and there’s nervous laughter, which turns into screams when he throws a knife into Kane’s chest killing the Deputy Mayor.

Gordon arrives outside the hall where the event’s taking place and a uniform tells him he’s not sending in his men. Jim stomps off and says he’ll go by himself when his cellphone rings and Lee’s number appears. He says thank goodness you’re okay only to hear Jerome at the other end. Valeska says to the detective he wishes he could see what’s going on then says actually it’s on TV so he can. Gordon gets to a monitor and sees Lee tied to a spinning wheel, with Barbara and Jerome on either side of her.

The waiters are part of the gang and start shooting automatic weapons at the ceiling, Alfred takes on one of the guys and almost has the weapon when he sees Bruce chasing Selina. Pennyworth’s caught off-guard and a blow to the head knocks him out.

Theo Galavan takes the stage and says to Valeska that he can’t let this go on and when Jerome asks him his name he turns to the cameras and announces Theo Galavan. He says to Jerome that there must be one cell of compassion within him and he says he appeals to the good in him. Kean knocks on top of his head with a hammer and Galavan falls to the stage.

Selina grabs Bruce and almost has them outside when he says he has to go back for Alfred. She says she’s not going back and he tells her he understands, then says he misses her and heads back to the dining room. Selina shakes her head and heads for safety.

Wayne’s just outside the dining room when he hears Jerome saying he wants Bruce back on the stage. Bruce stands and looks from behind a curtain until Kean says shoot the butler and Alfred’s brought out. Valeska says if Bruce wants to save his friend he best come out, he’s about to enter the dining room when he feels a hand on his shoulder. It’s Gordon and he tells him not to go.

Bruce says he can’t let anything happen to Alfred and he runs in shouting I’m here. Alfred stops him and asks what he’s doing, he gives Alfred a pistol that Gordon gave him and tells him the Detective’s in the hall. He goes to Jerome and he puts a knife against his neck and starts slicing slowly. Gordon and Alfred lack a clear shot at Valeska, suddenly Galavan rises from the floor and severs Jerome’s jugular with a knife. Valeska slumps to the floor still with a huge grin plastered on his face and his eyes wide-open.

Theo talks to Valeska as the life ebbs out of his body. He tells him he’s sorry he deviated from the script but he found it necessary. Valeska dies on the stage with his face frozen in the grin and Galavan’s looked at as the city’s new hero.

Jerome Valeska didn’t become The Joker, but he inspired a following. We watch a guy in his thirties laughing hysterically watching Valeska killing people. Then we watch a kid with braces laughing like a lunatic as he watches. We finally see two homeless stragglers stab a bag-lady to death and then one guy kills his partner.

The final image’s Jerome’s corpse with that grin frozen on his face, as we hear Cicero’s words ringing in the background.

The Story Continues Next Monday Night at 8:00 pm on FOX.

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

We here at NotJustAnotherTVSite.com judge all major decisions on one primary criteria. Does it measure up to our expectation of quality? It seems simple enough. If it’s a show that we’ve decided to preview, promote, and cover episode to episode, you can rest assured the particular show in question maintains a certain level of quality. For the record, there have been shows that we have been over-the-moon excited for and ultimately decided that it’s time to walk away. Why? Because those shows failed to meet our quality expectation. NBC’s Constantine, is absolutely NOT one of those.

NBC’s choice to produce Constantine, and more importantly, this vision of Constantine was brave. NBC should be celebrated for that by the way. Like so many comic book adaptations pre-Marvel Cinematic Universe, were ‘adequate’. They were entertaining, but they were also made with the understanding that they had to be workable for most audiences, not just the comic book underworld. Spawn, Daredevil (2003), etc as comic book adapted movies were nice, but compared to today’s expectations would have fallen flat on their face. The comic book television landscape was even worse.

The point is that today’s audience does not need their show dumbed down or made palatable for all time zones. Constantine has done that. Constantine is born from the same genesis as Marvel’s MCU and recent successes as Netflix’s Daredevil. Do yourself a favor. Google Netflix Daredevil and read just some of the feedback. You’d think it was the highest rated show of the calendar year. The showrunners at NBC working on Constantine kept one very important detail constant. Tell the story from an adapted version of the comic books, Hellblazer. The 2003 Keanu Reeves feature was the product of Hollywood changing all of the incredible details in order to make a production that appeals to as many people and demographics as possible.

Appealing to mass demographics is good. High ratings are good. They help sell ad revenue. When I was in the radio industry, one thing was always made clear. All of it is window dressing if the end product doesn’t bring in ad revenue. Ad revenue was literally what kept the lights on. Not to sound too idealistic, but NBC can make its money from their heavy hitters. I began this article by citing quality. Now anyone who knows anything about TV knows there is a direct and inverse relationship between numbers and quality more often than not. NBC is still going to make a killing from shows like Law and Order and Celebrity Apprentice. Every now and then the two powers of ‘quality’ and ‘are they watching’ converge perfectly. The Blacklist is a great example of that. The Blacklist is an incredible show and people are watching it. In the case of Constantine, it was playing against stacked odds from the beginning.

Courtesy of Vertigo/DC Comics

Courtesy of Vertigo/DC Comics

Let’s address the elephant in the room. Placing a comic book adaptation show that the vast majority of viewers are not familiar with late on a Friday night was borderline criminal. Comic book adaptations draw, period. Maybe this is a ‘strike while the iron’s hot’ situation, but it is true and really not up for debate. Next to no one watches television on a Friday night, and they definitely don’t do it live. Putting them on Friday nights, then graciously moving them up in the time slot but keeping them on Friday nights, put Constantine behind the eight ball and NBC knows that. This is 30 Rock vs Studio 60 all over again. Anyone with an objective eye could look at the first few episodes of Studio 60 and the first few episodes of 30 Rock and know without question, Studio 60 was the better show. Without a good time slot and promotion, better shows are going to continue to fall.

Promotion is another factor that had Constantine playing catch up. Before NBC rolled out The Blacklist, every American knew this show was going to be big. All because of promotion. There were promos and trailer for The Blacklist everywhere. On sports broadcasts, on shows that had no relation or connection at all. Spader was out there. The Blacklist was going to be successful because it had the full weight and support of the network. Constantine was never given that opportunity. You cannot produce a show based on a comic book very few people have any real familiarity with and just let people stumble upon it and hope it takes off. It doesn’t work that way.

The last detail I’ll get into before talking specifics about the show, is audience. Not everyone is going to “Get It”. If the aim is to maximize viewership by making something that will appeal to everyone in the same way, make nothing but what some call “Lowest Common Denominator” television. Keep cranking out Law and Order, Chicago Fire, Parks and Recreation. There is a large and growing audience that wants no part of L.C.D. programming. To some of us, procedural is a four letter word. And in this “DVR Era” we, the viewer, can afford to be more choosy of what we watch and we get to dictate when we watch it. Now I have no idea if the ratings system has accounted for the current television era where the DVR has completely changed the way we watch television. Side note to television networks. I watch and obscene amount of television. Yet, I have not watched a non-sporting event (or game broadcast) live in almost 7 years. I sincerely hope you are taking that into account. Especially when you put a great show on Friday nights.

At the end of the day, you have the audience that will watch Bones, Big Bang Theory, CSI: Whatever, Survivor, Glee, etc and you are going to have the audience that has no interest in predictable, safe television. Serialized, big story arcs, sympathetic characters facing unbelievable trials is just more compelling to some than others. That my friends, is the difference. Ratings can no longer be a race to first. These networks need to start evaluating success and failure by two different groups at the same time. Take a look around the television landscape. It is getting very competitive. We really are experiencing a television and cinematic renaissance. You just have to navigate through the mountains of garbage to find it. If networks like NBC are going to continue to grade shows like Constantine under the same criteria as The Voice or Bad Judge, then another elite show is going to fall by the wayside. It’s not the same type of television and they cannot continue to paint all of these shows with the same brush.

Constantine is great. End of discussion. For anyone who has not yet seen it, take my word for it, Constantine is one of the better shows of the calendar year, regardless of network or time slot. That said, it did not start out that way. A large component in that again goes back to promotion by NBC, or lack thereof. If NBC had titled the show “Hellblazer” or ran far more promotion illustrating that this show was not going to be the story released in 2003 starring Keanu Reeves, then expectation and therefore results might have been different. They made very few attempts to convey that. So, most people went in with a certain expectation, which was not met.

The pilot episode on its own merits is alright and had the show continued on that trajectory, I would not be writing this piece now. By my expectations, the pilot episode was bad. Bad as in significantly underwhelming. So much so (again just my opinion) that I actually called up a colleague at the website to inform him I would not be posting a recap, but a ‘here’s what’s wrong with it’ piece. Thankfully, the consensus was to do just that, but leave room just in case they right the ship. The second episode is 100% better. By the time we are introduced to Papa Midnite, we’re off to the races and the show is exactly what it was supposed to be. Dark, intriguing, compelling, ever-changing, straddling the line between angels and demons lore and the plot plausibility. This is the problem.

The pilot episode feels like it had NBC’s Standards and Practices grubby little hands all over it. The pilot was bright and warm by comparison to the later episodes. When doing a comic book adaptation, visual texture is key. There is a reason The Dark Knight and Arrow were so wildly successful. You cannot produce a show like Constantine with that bright, bubbly sort of way. Thankfully the showrunners for Constantine were able to come back to their base and it begins with texture. Visual interpretation. Again, never more clear than the first introduction to Papa Midnite. By episode four, Constantine was must see TV. However, not many were watching it because the show stumbled out of the gate. If they were to run the show we came to build a strong affection for and aired it on Monday, Tuesday, or Thursday in primetime the results would have absolutely been different.

Courtesy of NBC

Courtesy of NBC

Constantine may be a show or story about angels, demons, magic and one man in the middle of all of it, but it is very much character driven. Characters are the vehicle to success. Every single significant character is sympathetic and compelling. From there, all they have to do is tell the story. The story from the perspective of the comic book adaptation, not a major networks softer, lighter version of that story.

As it stands now, Constantine ended on a MASSIVE cliffhanger. Probably the biggest season finale reveal I’ve seen in a few years. I remember it clearly. Watching as the clock ticked down, I was certain I knew what would happen next and how the episode and season would conclude. When people say, “I had to pick my jaw up off the floor” it’s always blanketed in hyperbole. Now my jaw may not have been on the floor, but I easily could have caught a family of insects with how wide and long my mouth was open at the final moments of the season finale.

There are still very important details yet to be dealt with. Big, incredible, trajectory altering details. To drop this show now, simply put, would be irresponsible. Look, I understand that NBC is still a business that has to deem a certain show profitable. I don’t think anyone is naive to that concept, but there are three hugely important concepts that I fear NBC is not even considering. 1. They put Constantine in a position to fail before it even began-not the show’s fault, 2. The audience they are trying to reach is not the Law and Order crowd, and 3. Sometimes a show is just flat-out better than others that create more revenue. You could not pay me to watch Celebrity Apprentice or The Slap. Sometimes the better, higher quality show should just win the day. On the merits of quality. Not because it makes more money, but because it is just a better product.

Here’s the kicker. It is my opinion that Constantine has not developed a consistent form of high ratings…YET. Move the show to a more appealing time slot and let people figure it out. One of my favorite quotes in all of television history (ironically from a show cancelled way too soon) is:

“I believe the people who watch television shows are not dumber that the people who make television shows. I believe that quality is not an anathema to profit.” -Jordan McDeere (Studio 60 Live On The Sunset Strip)

American television viewers are not dumb. They have the wherewithal to handle and in fact embrace a wide range of concepts and delivery methods. Despite popular belief, this country is not filled with Honey Boo Boo and Kardashian enthusiasts. We the viewers long for shows that push the envelope. That breach concepts and topics we haven’t embraced before. We want to empathize and build affection for characters. We want to feel like we have ‘experienced’ something from our TV watching time. We are in a different era of modern television. It’s about time NBC and other major networks got on board with this idea. Constantine does not need to be their bread-winner. It only needs to continue being what it is. One of the top 10 best shows on television. I don’t care what the ratings indicate. Give it a better time slot and let the showrunners, cast and crew do their jobs. The numbers will come. You just have to get out-of-the-way and let it happen.

If you’re a fan of Constantine, help spread the word. It is my understanding that showrunner, Mr. Daniel Cerone is set to pitch season 2 to NBC at the end of this month (April) beginning of next (May). And it seems NBC is willing to listen to fan outcry. So let’s do just that. We live in a new world. Utilize it. Access your Twitter account, your Facebook account, email NBC directly. Do whatever you must to explicitly and without any confusion articulate to NBC that they CANNOT let this one go. They cannot walk away from this show. And that it is not in their best interests to let Constantine die. The best shows available still only make up less than 10% of what’s out there. We cannot lose this one. Whether your efforts are here with us at NJATVS, social media or directly on NBC’s lap, take the time to support this effort. Use the established #saveconstantine or the more direct #renewconstantine and show those in charge that this show has a following, it’s larger than they think, and we will continue to support this series.

If you have not yet seen Constantine season 1, or feel you somehow missed out and need to give it another shot, NBC starting today Friday April 24th, will make the entirety of season 1 available to stream on their website for a limited time. Go to NBC.com (or the NBC app) and discover it for the first time or revisit it again. I don’t know if streaming numbers for this limited run is a test balloon or not. What I do know is that it’s worth watching, even if all that does is send NBC a message.

I can count on one hand the number of current shows that I would bang my fist against the table for. Constantine is one of them. The show did not get a fair shake and was judge by unbalanced criteria. Do your part to help the people who put this show together. Save Constantine. Make sure NBC knows they NEED to Renew Constantine.

#saveconstantine #renewconstantine

#saveconstantine #renewconstantine