Tag Archives: Matthew Rhys

Good News Friday: A Down’s Syndrome boy gets an awesome surprise. The best show on TV (“The Americans”) is back! And an NFL player thanks the cancer-stricken author who changed his life

And a Happy Friday to you all! I’m writing this in the midst of three glorious, marathon days at the ACC Basketball Tournament in Brooklyn, where I’m writing, eating, and watching hoops to my heart’s content and having a blast. Stretching my old sportswriter muscles, and it feels good.

While I excitedly await Duke-Carolina Part 3 tonight, and of course Selection Sunday Sunday night, a few good news stories to send you into the weekend:

First off, this story is a few months old but it’s beautiful: A 17-year-old Las Vegas kid named Daniel has Down Syndrome, and really wanted to go to the school dance at his high school in Las Vegas. A classmate named Kylie asked him to the dance, and then the local FOX 5 affiliate “Surprise Squad” went to work.

This is awesome.

**Next up today, I am beyond excited that “The Americans,” the best show on TV, is back. The season 5 premiere aired Tuesday night, and while I’m not going to give anything away, I thought I was watching a whole different show the first few minutes.

Once it settled in, it was predictably awesome. I bang the drum for this show (airing on FX at 10 p.m. on Tuesdays) every year, several times a year, because it’s the best.

This season we get to see the further enmeshing of teenage daughter Paige into the family business of being KGB spies; our man Oleg in Russia with a whole new mission, and a strange new couple who’ve moved to the U.S. from the Soviet Union.

Best of all, looks like we get Margo Martindale back in the cast. Seriously, “The Americans” will hook you in immediately. It’s so beautifully acted with Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell, the writing is excellent, and the story is fabulous.

Yes, you have to pay attention and watch every week. But it’s so, so worth it. All the episodes from past seasons are on Amazon Prime video, if you want to catch up.

**Finally today, I don’t think I’ve seen a story quite like this one before. A wide receiver for the New England Patriots named Malcolm Mitchell was a junior in college when he discovered the children’s author Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Mitchell was enthralled and inspired by one of her books, and wrote a children’s book of his own while a senior at the University of Georgia. Mitchell even started a foundation, Read with Malcolm, which promotes reading stories to underprivileged children.

When Mitchell heard recently that Rosenthal was dying of ovarian cancer, he was crushed. Then he put together a video to cheer her up.

It’s pretty fabulous, where Mitchell tells Rosenthal how she changed his life.

Read the story of their new friendship here, and the video is great, too.

http://mmqb.si.com/mmqb/2017/03/08/amy-krouse-rosenthal-dying-author-inspires-patriots-wideout-malcolm-mitchell

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Good News Friday: Four major NBA stars vow to speak out against racial violence. A groom’s awesome reaction to his bride walking down the aisle. And the best show on TV FINALLY gets Emmy nominations galore.

It really feels like every day right now, a major tragedy is happening somewhere. If it’s not the police shooting African-Americans for no reason, or a crazed man killing five police officers, or a truck plowing into a crowd in Nice, France on Thursday and killing 77 people, it’s something else.

I can’t remember a year where this many bad things happened (Plus, you know, Donald Trump’s rise).

It’s so easy to get depressed and throw in the towel and say “F it” to the world. But hopefully enough people still see how much good there is out there, and maybe, just maybe, some good can come out of some of these tragedies.

Which leads me to my first Good News Friday stories. For a long time people like me have been waiting for a new generation of superstar athletes to use their enormous platform to try to enact social change (or at least awareness). A few athletes have; LeBron James and Serena Williams among them. But Wednesday night at the usually-meaningless ESPY awards on ESPN, LeBron, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony opened the show with a powerful pledge to become more involved, and to lead the fight against racial injustice.

Will they follow through after these powerful words? I don’t know. But it’s a start, and these four men have enormous followings, and maybe, just maybe, this will be a tipping point for athletes realizing they have the power to do so much good.

**Next up, this video was sent to me by my father a while back but it got lost in the morass that is my inbox, so I finally watched it this week.

And it’s fabulous. It’s a short video of a wedding of Gabriel and Annabelle Deku, and specifically, it shows the incredible emotion Gabriel is overcome with as he watches his beloved walk down the aisle.

The tears flow as he is overcome by the moment; overcome by joy. It’s a beautiful reminder of love.

(And of course after watching that, I had to go back and watch this, still the best wedding entrance video ever.

**And finally today, the Emmy nominations came out Thursday, and for once, I was not angry. Finally, finally, FINALLY, the best show on television, “The Americans” got a bunch of nominations. After being inexplicably shut out for the first three seasons, “The Americans” got a best drama series nod, as well as acting nominations for Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell. I was over the moon excited to see a wonderful show finally get rewarded: I know “Game of Thrones” will win best drama but hey, it’s a start.

Also loved that “Fargo,” “Masters of None,” and “American Crime Story: O.J. Simpson” got a bunch of nominations, and “Better Call Saul”‘s amazing Jonathan Banks was tapped as well.

Great, great job by the Emmy voters this year. To leave on a high note, I give you this wonderful commercial up for an Emmy, from the Ad Council, called “Love has No Labels.”

Love is love. Have a great weekend.

 

The best show on TV, “The Americans” returns tonight! Looks like the end for Bernie, and Rubio. And my NCAA Tournament picks, guaranteed to be right

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The best show on television returns to the air tonight after what seems like an interminable wait.

And if you’re not watching “The Americans” on FX by now, its fourth season, all I can say is “WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU???”

Sorry to shout. But seriously, if you’re not watching, you’re missing some incredible television. Catch up on the first three seasons and you’ll get why myself, TV critics, and a small legion of fans are so addicted to this show.

When we last saw Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings, our favorite Russian spies living in Washington, D.C., in the early 1980s, they were dealing with the fallout of telling their American teenage daughter who they really were, and of course she was stunned.

Daughter Paige then cracks after only a few episodes of having this knowledge, and in the season finale, told her good buddy Pastor Tim at her church group.

I have no idea what a stranger finally knowing this secret means for Phillip and Elizabeth, and for the incredible cast, like FBI agent Stan Beamon, Phillip’s fake “other wife” Martha, or the Russian embassy in D.C.

But what I do know is “The Americans,” with its incredible writing, powerful acting, and just all-around awesomeness, is a show more people really should be watching.

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are amazing as the leads, and I’m very happy that Frank Langella and Margo Martindale appear to both be around this season.

“The Americans,” Wednesday night, 10 p.m. on FX. So psyched to have it back. And I’m going to keep writing about it until everyone watches it.

Hillary.Florida

**The fat lady is in the back warming up, getting ready to sing.

That’s my No.1 reaction coming out of Tuesday night’s series of Presidential primaries. After a pretty incredible run, that literally no one besides he and his wife (and OK, my mother) saw coming, the end is here for Bernie Sanders.

My favorite old Jewish guy from Vermont and Brooklyn was trounced Tuesday night, losing four states and as of this writing, barely hanging on in Missouri. He really needed to sweep the Midwest to keep this Democratic primary a real contest, and he just didn’t.

I am sad. I’ll have many more thoughts, I’m sure, about Bernie Sanders, and what he’s accomplished in this remarkable few months to make the Democratic Party exciting again to millions of liberals like me. But it’s late and I’m tired and right now, I’m just sad.

Couple other primary night thoughts:

— Trump. Again. Now seeming even more inevitable. And what a giant “fuck you” for him to the world, and the media, to bring his disgusting campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, onto the podium for his victory speech a few days after he allegedly assaulted a female reporter, Michelle Fields. God, will the vast majority of the American people be motivated to vote against this guy. So, so motivated. Ezra Klein of Vox.com explains why Tuesday was such a fantastic night for Hillary on many levels.

— I was dead wrong about Marco Rubio, folks. I said on this blog and everywhere else that when all the dust settled, he’d be the nominee. Silly me, I thought he’d be the best general election candidate. But he wasn’t batshit crazy enough to win primaries, and he turned out to be a terrible campaigner.

— CNN and MSNBC, showing minute after minute of empty podium while waiting for Trump to speak, while Bernie Sanders actually speaks at a rally, tells you all you need to know about the cable news networks, doesn’t it?

miamihurricanes

**Finally today, my favorite four days of the year are about to commence! The NCAA Tournament tips off Thursday (yeah I know the play-in games started Tuesday but come on, the real tournament starts Thursday) and I can’t remember a harder year to fill out my bracket. I couldn’t find as many upsets as I wanted to, but I certainly couldn’t go “chalk” on my Final 4, like so, so many experts seem to have.

Without further ado, some quick thoughts on how I think it’ll shake out. Go ahead and pencil these into your office brackets, I’m never wrong (ha.)

Final 4: Michigan State, Oklahoma, Miami and Xavier. I just have a feeling about the Hurricanes, and Jim Larranaga is one hell of a coach. I’m going with Xavier because I don’t trust UNC’s guard play, and they are a hell of a team, the Musketeers. I’ve got Sparty winning the title.

First-round upsets I really think will happen: Iona over Iowa St. (if you only watch one first-round game, watch that one, 2 p.m. Thursday on TBS; final score may be 100-99); Yale over Baylor (Yale is really, really good); N. Iowa over Texas; and the whopper, Stephen F. Austin, a 14 seed, over West Virginia.

First-round upsets that could happen and I’m not picking them but you wouldn’t be crazy if you did: South Dakota State over Maryland (Terps have underachieved this year; they could go to the Final Four, or lose in first round); Gonzaga over Seton Hall; UNCW over Duke (my Blue Devils are very fragile right now).

— Surprise Sweet 16 teams, because there are always a few: No. 11 Northern Iowa, No. 6 Seton Hall (Pirates have great guards and have played a tough schedule well);

— Best game of the tournament will be: Virginia-Michigan State, for the third time in recent years, in the Elite 8. But Kentucky-Indiana could be lots of fun, too.

Enjoy the madness!

“The Americans” gets better and better, as “the reveal” is awesome. “The Golden Girls” in LEGO? Yes, please. And some final thoughts on Coach K and Duke getting another ring

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I have raved and raved about the FX show “The Americans” for a couple of years now on my blog.

It’s for my money the best show on television, bar none. The first season was spectacular, last season was equally as good, and this current season, oh my goodness it’s just amazing.

All season, the show has been building up to what happened in last week’s episode (SPOILER ALERT), with Russian spies living in America Philip and Elizabeth Jennings wondering how to tell their teenage daughter Paige who they really are, and that the KGB wants Paige to start becoming a Russian spy as well.

The best TV shows take you by complete surprise even when you know what’s coming, and that’s what happened here. Paige turning the tables on her parents and demanding to know the truth about who they are was so unexpected, and the moment played so perfectly by all the actors involved, that I was clutching a pillow to my chest the whole time.

The final scene last week, with Paige staring at family friend (and oh yeah, FBI agent and next-door neighbor) Stan while her dad sharpens knives in the background, was perfect and breathtaking. No idea what’s going to happen now, whether Paige will get on board and join “the family business” or be so angry and hurt about who her parents really are that she’ll want no part of this life.

This show is so great and forcing us to see the moral and emotional choices these characters make every day. Man, I cannot recommend “The Americans” more. Tonight on FX at 10, and you can catch up on past seasons on Amazon.com.

GoldenGirls.LEGO

**Next up today, my Canadian e-migo Jonathan (an e-migo, for those not fluent, is a friend you only know through email and social media) pointed me to this the other day and I laughed really hard.

Some brilliant (or disturbed) fan of “The Golden Girls” named Sam Hatmaker designed some incredibly realistic recreations of famous scenes from the show, with Blanche, Dorothy, Sophia and Rose made out of plastic.

If LEGO gets 10,000 people to sign this petition in support of authorizing a “Golden Girls” LEGO set, it will be put into production.

Screw all those political causes you’re afraid to sign on for, this is actually important! Do it for all the good people of St. Olaf, Minnesota, who’ve been defamed by Rose Nylund’s stories for all these years. Do it for Stan, Dorothy’s ex-husband who’s a schmuck but couldn’t help it. And do it most of all for the many scorned loves of Blanche Deveraux, who was just too much woman for all of them.

Seriously, go sign this petition.

CoachK.2015title

**Finally, of course I need to say a few words about Monday night’s fabulous NCAA championship game between Duke and Wisconsin.

It really was a terrific game, even if the officiating was pretty bad both ways (bad for Duke in the first half, bad for the Badgers in the 2nd half, including two calls that definitely went Duke’s way and shouldn’t have).

In talking about the 5th title in the Mike Krzyzewski era, I don’t want to re-hash all the old arguments about why people hate Duke, and why I love ’em (for you newcomers, I fell in love with Duke’s 1986 Final Four team as a 10-year-old and have loved them ever since).

But just a few words about the incredible longevity and consistency in excellence of Coach K, who so many love to hate. He went to his first Final Four 29 years ago. He won his first national title in 1991, and his fifth Monday night. That’s 24 years in between his first and last crowns. No other coach in modern sports history, in any sport, has won titles that far apart with the same team.

Just incredible. He has totally changed how he runs his program over the years, changed styles of play so many times, and changed his attitude on many issues.
But what hasn’t changed is this: He’s if not the greatest, one of the two greatest tacticians in the sport’s history. How he managed his players Monday night through foul trouble was a masterpiece, and his motivational skills are unparalleled.

So hate Duke all you want. But know that Mike Krzyzewski belongs in any conversation with the best ever coaches in any sport.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to find a Duke national championship onesie my kid can wear…

“The Americans” is back, and you should definitely watch. Another ridiculous, hateful bill in Arizona. And a speedskating/Mario Kart mashup I enjoyed

TheAmericans

So my favorite show from 2013 is finally back on the air tonight, and if you’re not already watching “The Americans,” you really should be.

The spy thriller about two Russian spies posing an ordinary American family while living in Washington, D.C. in 1981 was sensational last year. The cast, including Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell as the spies, and Noah Emmerich as the FBI agent living across the street, is fantastic. The scripts are great, the drama intense, and of course the 1980s touches are fabulous.

The Jennings couple (Rhys and Russell) get into all kinds of danger, involving sex and violence, and yes, we know they’re the “bad guys” but you still root for them because it’s complicated and they’re fairly sympathetic at times.

Really great show that ended on a cliffhanger, but seems to pick up right where we left off last year.
One of the things “The Americans” does so well is maintain suspense and believability; of course we know in 2014 that the Soviets lost the Cold War, but every move and countermove that goes on in the show feels like it holds the weight of the future on its shoulders.

Watch “The Americans.” It’s on tonight on FX at 10 p.m. Almost guarantee that you’ll enjoy it.

**Next up, a little post-Winter Olympics blues got you down? Here’s a speedskating race made to look like a game of Mario Kart, which I have played, badly, against my nephew for years now.

Super cool.

sb1062

**Finally, I almost hate to even bring up every hare-brained, hateful, idiotic bill passed in a red-state Legislature, but this one is pretty awful and has been getting a lot of national attention.

The state of Arizona has seen its elected officials pass SB 1062, which allows business owners to deny service or goods to gay and lesbian customers if the owners assert their religious beliefs.

It is so despicable, so heinous, that it’s almost beyond getting outraged about, just one of those bills you shake your head at and wonder what’s wrong with the brains of those who passed it.

Gov. Jan Brewer, she of the equally-dubious anti-immigration bill from a few years ago, hasn’t said whether she’ll sign or veto it, but signs are pointing toward a veto.
I mean, when John McCain and the ACLU are on the same side of an issue, opposing this bill, what does that tell you about its odiousness?

These laws are going to keep cropping up in Republican-dominated state governments, and some are bound to become law. This is what happens when a small minority of a party gets to hold a hammer over the head of everyone else under their umbrella.

But hey, look at the bright side: Maybe in Arizona a religious person won’t have to sit next to a gay person in a pizza shop now. What an incredible burden to their religion that would’ve been!

“The Americans’ ends on a really high note. A rough sports weekend for me. And a legless Marathon victim inspires.

americans.seasonfinale

It’s been a few days since it aired but I feel like I must blog about the season finale of the best new show since “Homeland.”

“The Americans” had its season finale Wednesday, and it was a fantastic end to an incredibly strong first season (Spoiler alert for season finale here, but people, you really should’ve watched by now if you’re a fan).

What this show did in bringing us inside the lives of two Russian spies living in the U.S. in 1981 was sensationally entertaining, thought-provoking, and at times, scary.
What I loved about the finale is that of course not everything was resolved, but there were enough loose threads that you can’t wait for Season 2.
I loved that Granny fought with Elizabeth for so much of the season, knows that Elizabeth tried to have her reassigned, yet she still feels protective of her when she learns Elizabeth may be wanting into an FBI trap.
I love that the Jennings’ daughter is finally getting curious as to what goes on in her parents’ basement.
I love that Nina came clean as a double-agent caught by the FBI and now confessing to the Russians, and we really don’t know what she’s going to do next (she says she’s going to try to turn FBI agent/her lover Stan into a KGB supporter, but I don’t see that happening.
I also loved that it looks like Elizabeth is going to live even after getting a gunshot wound to the stomach from Stan in Phillip and Elizabeth’s escape.

So many great storylines, so well written, and Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are awesome as the protagonists.
If you’re not watching “The Americans,” I highly recommend catching up on episodes through OnDemand or the FX website.
It’s one of those shows that has a chance to be an all-time classic. The first season was that good.

**Here’s something that should inspire you. Jeff Bauman is one of the heroes of the Boston Marathon bombings. Bauman, if you remember, was the man who lost both of his legs in the explosion, but when he awoke in the hospital scrawled a note to police reading: “Bag, saw the guy, looked right at me.”

That may have been an important clue to police about how the bomb exploded; even if it wasn’t, it’s pretty sensational that even after his trauma, he was still trying to help.

Saturday night Bauman was a special guest of the Boston Bruins before their playoff game. Check out the chill bump-inducing video above (the good stuff starts at the 1-minute mark)

NBA: Playoffs-Chicago Bulls at Brooklyn Nets

**Finally, it was another rough sports weekend for yours truly. Miserable performances by the Rangers and the Nets, but only one of them truly stunned me.
The Rangers, I sort of expected to struggle in this playoff series. It angers me that after four years under John Tortorella they still have no freaking clue how to run a power play. It angers me that they’re playing below their skill level against a team (Washington) that isn’t really that much better, yet looks 10 times better in the first two games. The Rangers have ONE goal in two games. ONE. You realize how hard that is to do against a goalie like Braden Holtby who’s not that good?
The Rangers aren’t dead, down 2-0 with Game 3 tonight, but they’re pretty close. I have zero confidence they’ll come back to win this series, but again, not really shocking that they’re in this spot.

The Nets, though… what a disgrace.  They’re at home Saturday night, in Game 7, against a Bulls team that’s missing two of its top four players (Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich) and is on the road having lost its last two games in the series.
And the Brooklyn boys, with SO much to play for, with the intensity of the home crowd behind them … fell behind by 17 at the half and never completed a furious comeback.
Pathetic. No bloody excuse in the world to explain why the Bulls had so much more heart, so much more desire. Joakim Noah (above) destroyed all of the Nets inside players, and he’s playing hurt!
P.J. Carlesimo got fired as coach Sunday, but that’s not enough. This team needs a legit power forward, some better bench options, and they need a full season of a healthy Deron Williams (who was great in the playoffs).

What a waste of a first season in Brooklyn, to go out like that Saturday.

A terrific new FX show on the Cold War, “The Americans.”A new American hero is a homeless hitchhiker. And an awesome high school hockey commercial

fx_americans_keyart_p_2012

It’s like the Gods of Television heard my thoughts.
After my two favorite hour-long shows ended in the last couple of months, “Homeland” and “Parenthood,” my tube-watching has been a little incomplete. I needed a new, fresh, challenging show that would entertain and keep me excited and force me to look at something from a whole different perspective.

And lo and behold, last week FX debuted a brand-new show that is dynamite. It’s called “The Americans,” and it stars the formerly adorable Keri Russell (she was adorable on “Felicity,” at least) and Matthew Rhys, who star as two Russian spies living in America in 1981, raising a family and acting for all intents and purposes like a perfectly normal Virginia couple.

Except instead of working at a travel agency, which everyone else thinks they do, they sleep with people to get secrets, they plant cameras in high-security places, and take all kinds of crazy risks.
The backstory of how these two, who may or may not even love each other, came to be spies in the U.S. is told brilliantly in the 90-minute premiere (available online), and the story develops even more in Episode 2, which is re-airing tonight on FX.

I won’t go so far as to say the show makes you root for “Phil and Elizabeth Jennings,” as Rhys and Russell are known, but it gives you a totally new perspective on the Cold War.

“The Americans” is very well-written, filled with great 1980s-era touches (in one of the episodes everyone marvels at a recording device that was revolutionary back then, and today would be laughed at), and the acting is great, too. (Noah Emmerich, one of the classic “That Guy”‘s in movies, stars as an FBI agent who just moved next door to the spies.)

It’s only two episodes in, so I don’t want to get too giddy about the show. But I strongly urge you to check out “The Americans.” It could be on its way to being one of the great ones.

**In case you were looking for a new American hero, here’s one who might fit the bill. His name is “Kai,” and well, this is the first sentence of a story involving him:

“A homeless hitchhiker with a hatchet in California reportedly “saved the day” after a man claiming to be Jesus went berserk and rammed his car into a stranger, before assaulting a woman who ran over to help.

The hitchhiker, identified only as “Kai,” was picked up by the driver shortly before the crash.  He says the man, now identified as Jett Simmons McBride of Tacoma, Washington, was making wild, racist remarks in the car.

Read more about the story here, and how Kai attacked him with a hatchet, here. Or, better yet, watch the above video (language not safe for work), the greatest TV news interview yet.

**Finally today, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a high school hockey team do a commercial. But if you’re only ever going to watch one, this is the one to watch. It’s from Clarkstown High School in Michigan, and it’s designed to get people to come out to a recent game.
Just fabulous. My favorite part is at :34.