CBS TV IN THE FALL; SPOOKY “VAST OF NIGHT” ON AMAZON PRIME
A TV Review by Tim Riley
THE CBS TV FALL SEASON
Even though a big question mark hangs over the fall schedule for any major television network, CBS has announced plans to bring back , in its own words, “eighty percent of its top-rated television lineup.”
At least for the fall, the math suggests a higher return of established series, as only two series appear to be on the schedule. Yet, the long-running, popular “Hawaii Five-O” called its quits after ten seasons with an episode last April aptly titled “Aloha.”One new series, reminiscent of the reboot of the departed “Hawaii Five-O” is “The Equalizer,” which is described as “reimagining of the classic series” that starred British actor Edward Woodward as a retired American intelligence agent acting as a pro bono protector.
The new version stars Queen Latifah as Robyn McCall, an enigmatic woman with a mysterious background who uses her extensive skills to help those with nowhere else to turn. Appearing to others as an ordinary single mom quietly raising a teenage daughter, Robyn McCall is known only to a few as an anonymous guardian angel and defender of the less fortunate.A series that ran four seasons, the original “The Equalizer” also spawned two movies of the same title, starring Denzel Washington as Robert McCall, doling out vigilante justice to nasty Russian mafia thugs.There has been some speculation that a third installment of “The Equalizer” could be realized on the big screen in another two years, but that would only make sense if Denzel Washington takes the lead role.
With prolific writer and creator of television series Chuck Lorre (“Two and a Half Men”) the driving force, the new comedy series “B Positive” will star Thomas Middleditch as a therapist and newly divorced dad who is faced with finding a kidney donor.Middleditch’s Drew finds a donor when he runs into Gina (Annaleigh Ashford), a rough-around-the-edges woman from his past who volunteers her own, thus forming a friendship that will forever impact both of their lives.“The Silence of the Lambs,” a movie almost three decades old, provides the source material for a new midseason series entitled “Clarice,” which was the given name of Jodie Foster’s rookie FBI agent.Starring Rebecca Breeds in the titular role, “Clarice” dives into the untold personal story of FBI agent Clarice Starling as she returns to the field in 1993, six months after the events of “The Silence of the Lambs.” We may have to revisit the film to refresh fading memories.
“THE VAST OF NIGHT” ON AMAZON PRIME
Playing as a movie within a television program, the first image of “The Vast of Night” is a black-and-white television set announcing that night’s episode of a program named “Paradox Theater.”The announcer’s voice sounds so eerily like that of Rod Serling that one momentarily gets the feeling of being transported back nearly six decades ago to the science-fiction realm of “The Twilight Zone.”The voice intones “You are entering a realm between clandestine and forgotten, a slipstream caught between channels, the secret museum of mankind, the private library of shadows – all taking place on a stage forged from mysteries.” This is pure Serling-type monologue.
Running at 90 minutes including the credits, “The Vast of Night,” eschewing overwrought special effects, is a character-driven science-fiction story that focuses on one night’s experiences in the 1950s of a teenage girl and a late-night radio DJ in a small New Mexico town.Though young, winsome high school student Fay (Sierra McCormick) works nights as a switchboard operator, she’s first seen meeting up with radio host Everett (Jake Horowitz) before the start of the season’s first big basketball game.
Going on duty that evening at the switchboard, Fay hears a strange audio frequency that disrupts phone calls, and a sense of odd happenings start to mount with a woman’s panicked call about something hovering in the sky.A mesmerizing stretch of time with Fay at the switchboard, alternately trying to figure out what is happening with crossed lines and then experiencing a growing sense of disquiet, is itself enthralling. Fay and Everett get pulled down the rabbit hole of what Rod Serling would surely craft for mystery when a guy named Billy (the never seen Bruce Davis) reveals unsettling government UFO secrets during a spellbinding phone call to the radio show.
Then comes another call from senior citizen Mabel (Gail Cronauer) who beckons Fay and Everett to her home to talk about similar activity in the past she does not wish to discuss over the phone.Not to be overlooked is Fay’s absolute fascination with futuristic inventions that would include radio-controlled cars, underground trains crossing the country in one hour, and everyone being assigned a telephone number at birth.First-time director Andrew Patterson, working with few gimmicks other than stealthy long camera movements and the screen spookily going black on occasions to heighten suspense, delivers a twisty plot with a bold cinematic style in the appealing “The Vast of Night.”