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Semiao & Abbot aim for TV hunt show Photos courtesy Fernando Semiao The Jerzee

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

When Fernando Semiao was a younger boy growing up in Kearny, he and his brother would spend hours away from home. But they weren’t playing soccer or baseball like a lot of other kids their age — and they weren’t playing manhunt in the streets, either. No, instead, they’d hop the backyard fence at their Sanford Ave. home, and venture out into the Kearny meadows, and spend hours out there, exploring nature and the incredible number of different species of animals that called Kearny home.

As they got older, they got their hunting licenses, and were trained to hunt with a bow and arrow. Their love for hunting grew and grew. And now Semiao, along with his son, Antonio, and friend Bill Abbott and his son, Willie, have landed on a TV realitycompetition show called “The Search” on the Pursuit Channel — and with just a few weeks left in the show’s run, they need your help.

After each week’s new show airs, viewers are invited to vote for the team of hunters they think should win. And the team that wins will, in 2016, get their very own hunting show on the network.

Semiao really wants to get that opportunity because he says people across America need to know New Jersey’s so much more than the industries on the NJ Turnpike that most people think of when they hear the name New Jersey.

“When most people think of New Jersey, they really don’t think of our state as a place with a lot of beautiful nature,” Semiao said. “They think factories. We’ve already shown there’s so much more to our state, but if we win this competition, on our show next year, we want America to know — New Jersey is a great place to live and to hunt.”

But the Semiaos and Abbotts haven’t just hunted in New Jersey. For the show, which they recorded with their own cameras, they’ve traveled to places such as Utah, Ohio [where Semiao owns land of his own], Arizona, New Mexico, Canada other spots in North America.

But he says it’s really not about getting to the animals, but more about being able to spend time with his son, who also has a love for hunting, while appreciating the greatness of nature.

“It’s an incredible thing to be able to be with your kid in the woods. There are no distractions — no cell phones, no texting. It’s just a great opportunity to teach your kid life lessons and to bond.

“You know, my son plays baseball. And with sports, you take your kid to the field — and then turn him over to the coach. I’m on the sidelines and don’t even get to talk to him when that happens. With this, it’s just you and your son and I love every second of it — as does Bill.”

But how do he and Bill and the rest of the gang pull it all off? Everyone’s got busy lives, especially the adults, both of whom are local business owners [Semiao owns a Century 21 real-estate agency and Abbott owns an insurance agency].

Photos courtesy Fernando Semiao The Jerzee Boys after a goose hunt, from l., Willie Abbott, Antonio Semiao, Bill Abbott and Fernando Semiao. ABOVE: In the truck on their way to an early morning hunt. Seated in front, from l., l, Fernando Semiao and Bill Abbott.In rear, from l., Willie Abbott and Antonio Semiao.

Photos courtesy Fernando Semiao
The Jerzee Boys after a goose hunt, from l., Willie Abbott, Antonio Semiao, Bill Abbott and Fernando Semiao. ABOVE: In the truck on their way to an early morning hunt. Seated in front, from l., l, Fernando Semiao and Bill Abbott.In rear, from l., Willie Abbott and Antonio Semiao.

 

“It’s actually not as challenging as you might think,” Semiao said. “The sun’s up at 6 a.m., I’m in my tree by 5 a.m. preparing. From 6 to 9 a.m., you hunt while the animals are about, and then, by 10 a.m., I’m in a suit and tie in the office.”

How it all came about 

About two years ago, Semiao got a call from a man in South Jersey looking for two hunters to join his team. They were known as “The East Coast Hit Men” back then. But then, this opportunity arose — and Semiao went out, bought some video cameras, and then became, with Abbott, one of five teams from across the U.S. and Canada who would be part of “The Search.”

While it was a lot of hard work — they were responsible for the filming — they took enough footage for 13 episodes. And now, with just a few weeks remaining before the final votes are tallied for the new show for 2016, Semiao needs people to watch the show — and then vote for the team, known this year as “The Jerzee Boys Outdoors.”

“For some of the other teams, this is all they do — and they’re all from the South,” Semiao said. “One team from Missouri was even featured on a local news station there. So we really need the votes because we want to show America what New Jersey’s wildlife is all about.”

“The Search” airs on the Pursuit Channel — Channel 604 on DirecTV and Channel 393 on the Dish Network — at 6:30 p.m., Tuesdays; 2 p.m., Wednesdays; and 5:30 p.m., Sundays. Don’t have DirecTV or Dish? Watch the show live, online and in HD at www.vidillion.tv/pursuitchannel. Visit “The Jerzee Boys Outdoors” on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jerzeeboyzoutdoor. Vote for “The Jerzee Boys Outdoors” at www.VoteTheSearch.com. You can vote once a week.

Ready to define ‘normal’ for you

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By Ron Leir

Observer Correspondent 

HARRISON – 

Those delightfully ghoulish characters created by Charles Addams will be making their way onto the stage at Harrison High School this weekend when the Drama Club presents “The Addams Family.”

But the seeds for this musical odyssey were first planted some four years ago when the high school musical production team traveled to the Minskoff Theatre in Manhattan for “At This Stage Expo” workshops featuring excerpts from currently running Broadway shows tied to an “anti-bullying” theme, recalled producer Matt Boryszewski.

One of those shows was “The Addams Family,” with the plot hanging on a brave effort by the masters of the macabre pretending to be normal for the sake of love-stricken Wednesday, to which notion, Grandma pipes up: “Define ‘normal’.”

And therein, the Harrison delegation learned, lies a parable for helping teach students “acceptance, not judgment” before leaping to attack a fellow student or teacher or anyone else, Boryszewski noted.

So, when the show became available for licensing last theater season, the Harrison team jumped at the chance to put it up on the boards. And, in the process of developing their characters, cast members were encouraged to apply the dictum to “define ‘normal’ ’’ in a non-judgmental way.

Aside from the 27 actors, there are another 23 who are doing backstage work, helping with crew production, props, costumes, lights and sound.

Although there’s no band this time around, musical director Leo DaSilva has blended an off-stage chorus with an electronic computer program of the show’s music, courtesy of Right On Cue Services.

 

Photo courtesy Matt Boryszewski TOP: Addams Family members, played by, from l., Breann Mobus, Jeffrey Solano, Raymond Pineda, Patrick Donayre, JulieCoelho, Flavio Escalante and Karla Vasquez. ABOVE: The cast at rehearsal.

Photo courtesy Matt Boryszewski
TOP: Addams Family members, played by, from l., Breann Mobus, Jeffrey
Solano, Raymond Pineda, Patrick Donayre, JulieCoelho, Flavio Escalante and
Karla Vasquez. ABOVE: The cast at rehearsal.

The advantage of approaching the music issue this way, DaSilva said, is that during rehearsals – and ultimately, at performances – the actors are consistently hearing the same orchestral accompaniment.

“We’ve re-created some of the original choreography from the Broadway show and added some [Bob] Fosse soft-shoe numbers, along with swing and Broadway vaudeville stylings, and, of course, the tango, so the show is very musically mixed,” he said.

Eighteen-year-old senior Melony Mercedes, who is now choreographing her third HHS musical, has been devoting one of every three rehearsal hours to overseeing the dance numbers and she says the cast “is doing great” mastering the various styles.

“They’ve come a long way since the first day of rehearsal,” she said.

The biggest challenge, Mercedes said, has been perfecting the big tango number. “It’s about developing a core strength in the abdominal muscle. It’s got to be contracted at all times but, at the same time, it has to look pretty.”

Coming off three months of practice, director Colin Shields, who was at the helm of last year’s musical, “Sweeney Todd,” is confident that this year’s effort will be every bit as good as the Sondheim vehicle.

“This cast is more than I could have dreamed of,” Shields said. “They were on stage one day and the very next day, everyone was off-book.”

Among the featured actors are brothers Raymond and David Pineda: Raymond is playing Gomez, the titular head of the family, filled amply by Nathan Lane on Broadway; while David is Lucas Beineke, the outsider for whom Wednesday has fallen, thereby presenting the Addams Family with the dilemma of how to act “normal” to facilitate the match.

Photos courtesy Matt Boryszewski Gomez and Morticia, played by Raymond Pineda and Julie Coelho.

Photos courtesy Matt Boryszewski
Gomez and Morticia, played by Raymond Pineda and Julie Coelho.

 

A 17-year-old senior, David has taken on father roles twice in the last two years: He was Tonton Julian in “Once on This Island” and Senex in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” so now he’s sliding into a whole different character.

“I’m crazy in love with Wednesday (played by sophomore Carla Vazquez) and that’s a completely different attitude,” he said.

David, who’s also a percussionist, is “definitely” interested in pursuing acting after graduation but he’s keeping an open mind about a possible career in music education.

Sophomore Julie Coelho, 16, who was “a lunatic” in “Sweeny,” now takes the role of Gomez’s partner, Morticia, played by Bebe Neuwirth on Broadway. “I love the character – it suits me,” Julie said.

Julie has been focusing on getting Morticia’s movements down, particularly in her dancing. “She glides,” Julie explained, “while maintaining her balance. She walks like a snake might walk.”

Also concentrating on her character’s ambulatory habits is senior Breann Mobus, 18, who is stepping into Grandma’s shoes. As the family matriarch, Breann said, “I get to be crazier and have lots of freedom.”

To get the flavor of the role, Breann – now in her fourth show with HHS – said she’s been watching “The Addams Family” movies and reading the Addams comic strips. “I make my voice raspy and my posture hunched over,” she said.

So, why not join the family? There’s something for every taste: a love story, creepy ghosts and quirky characters, and lots of music, too. Just leave your inhibitions at the door.

If you go…

What: “The Addams Family,” with music and lyrics by Andrew Lippa and book by Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice (authors of “Jersey Boys”).

Who: Presented by Harrison High School.

When/Where: Thursday, Friday & Saturday, March 26, 27 & 28, all at 7:30 p.m., at the HHS auditorium.

Tickets: $10 for adults; $5 for students and senior citizens.

Prepping for Edinburgh this summer

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By Ron Leir 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

A Kearny bonnie lass is looking forward to a very special working vacation this summer in – you guessed it – Scotland.

Rachel Spillane, 16, is one of 23 students from Hudson County High Tech High School’s Musical Theatre program (and the lone West Hudson representative) who will be troupers in this year’s marathon Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Last year, during a 3-week period in August, the festival held 49,497 performances of 3,193 shows in 299 venues, “making it the largest ever arts festival in the world,” its website proclaims.

The High Tech contingent’s entry to the annual event is being made possible through the American High School Theatre Festival which showcases the top talent in U.S. secondary schools, allowing them to struff their stuff in Edinburgh.

Alex Perez, the group’s director and one of two adult chaperones accompanying the students, (the other is English teacher Kerri Ann Murphy), said that the North Bergenbased high school was one of 20 schools chosen by the AHSTF from among 1,000 or so applicants to go to Scotland.

For Rachel, a 16-year-old High Tech 10th-grader, the trip will mark her first journey outside the U.S., as it will for about a quarter of the group. “I’m super excited,” she said. “It’s such a great opportunity.” She’ll be one of five sophomores from the musical theater program going abroad.

At the festival, which runs Aug. 7 to 31, the High Tech ensemble will be doing a production of the Broadway musical, “A Chorus Line,” which the students may preview for the school in May, Perez said.

But the trip won’t be just about performing, Perez explained.

After an anticipated arrival in the U.K. July 30, “we’ll spend a couple of days in London studying with a master class on Shakespeare at the Globe Theatre, see a couple of West End shows, then head over to Scotland,” he said.

Another plus is that the seniors in the group can apply for college-level academic credit for participating in the enterprise, Perez said.

At the festival, itself, when the teens aren’t on stage, there will be plenty of cultural and fun events to explore. “There are over 3,000 things to see,” Perez noted, ranging from all types of plays to comedy, dance, cabaret, children’s shows, opera and exhibitions.

For Perez, the festival is familiar ground: He accompanied another High Tech student group to Edinburgh in 2006 for a production of the modern version of “Oz.” He took another group to an arts festival in Germany in 2001.

This trip won’t come cheap. “The total bill, including air fare, rooms, meals and everything, will come to $150,000,” Perez said, “or about $6,000 per student. We started fundraising in the summer and we’ve got about 25% raised so far.”

Earlier this month, Broadway performers Kerry Butler, Christine Pedi, James Carpinello, Telly Leung, Anastacia McCleskey, Kate Loprest and Clarke Thorell donated their services, participating in a concert at High Tech’s black box theater, with the proceeds going to the fundraising effort. That event added $5,000 to the pot, Perez said.

Donations to the fund can be made to the school or by visiting www.GoFundMe.com/ elcave.

Meanwhile, preparatory work continues apace for “A Chorus Line.”

 

 

Photos courtesy Alex Perez Rachel Spillane and Perez.

Photos courtesy Alex Perez
Rachel Spillane and Perez.

Juniors and seniors fill out the cast and sophomores are handling crew and production work, but, as this show was designed, Rachel and her fellow sophomores will get a shot at some on-stage exposure, by acting as some of the auditioners in the musical, Perez said.

Even from her usual perspective from behind the scenes, musical theater for Rachel “is like a magical experience.”

The Franklin School graduate said that as a youngster, she “always loved to sing” and sang in some of the grammar school’s talent shows but never thought of making anything more of it until a friend who happened to be a High Tech alum suggested that she try out for the school’s musical theater program.

So she did and was accepted to the program.

During her freshman year, Rachel was a crew member for the spring show, doing “a lot of microphone work, making sure [sound] levels were even.” She’s learned how to set and operate “lekos” – (that’s ellipsoid reflector spotlights, in case you wondered) – and lighting boards, costumes, props, giving actors “call” times. In other words, the works. She was also part of the ensemble in a one-act excerpt from a school production of “Guys and Dolls.”

In class, she’s also mastering the acting side of theater: “song and monologue development, improvisation, dancing and acting technique and we also learn how to assemble ‘audition books’ to help market ourselves.”

Outside the confines of High Tech, Rachel is building her acting resume, having ventured on stage with the local theater company, W.H.A.T., in “Our Broadway” in winter 2012, a cabaret show and “Young Frankenstein” in summer 2013 and “The Addams Family” in summer 2014.

And in January 2015, she was an ensemble member in a N.J. School of Dramatic Arts production of “Rent,” directed by Perez, which had a sold-out run at the Westminster Arts Center theater in Bloomfield.

Rachel’s role model is Megan Hilty, who starred as Glinda in the Broadway show “Wicked the Musical,” because “I like how she’s a super powerful (soprano) singer.”

She also appreciates how her parents, Dara and Joseph Spillane, “are supportive in whatever I want to pursue. They come to all my shows. It’s awesome to have that support.” Her dad is a mail carrier in Harrison and her mom is a programs revision manager for a Teterboro company.

Kearny’s Tom Schnauz back on small screen
with ‘Better Call Saul’

Schnauz's name in the opening credits of episode 1 of 'Better Call Saul.'

AMC Screenshot — Schnauz’s name in the opening credits of episode 1 of ‘Better Call Saul.’


By Kevin Canessa Jr.

Observer Correspondent

Had an email exchange the other day with Kearny native Tom Schnauz, a co-executive producer and writer for the new TV show “Better Call Saul.”

He was also the same for the wildly popular “Breaking Bad.”

Schnauz reports that he wrote the episode that will air Feb. 16 — and he directed the episode that will air seven weeks from today, March 30.

Schnauz (r) on the set of 'Breaking Bad' with actor Aaron Paul [Jesse Pinkman] (l).

Schnauz (r) on the set of ‘Breaking Bad’ with actor Aaron Paul [Jesse Pinkman] (l).

“Better Call Saul” is a spin-off of “Breaking Bad,” and, like its original, was created by Vince Gilligan.

Its timeslot is 10 p.m. Monday nights on AMC.

Schnauz, who we featured in a story in May 2014, was born and Kearny and spent the first few years of his life here before moving to South Jersey with his family.

He went to Garfield School through the fourth-grade.

His aunt and uncle, Ann and Drew Taylor, still live in Kearny.

‘Sleeping Beauty’at W.H.A.T.

Sleeping Beauty

The West Hudson Arts Theater Company (W.H.A.T.), 65 Oakwood Ave., Kearny, continues its run of family theater stage performances with Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.” Performances are Friday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 8, at 1 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 15, at 1 and 4 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 16, at 1 p.m.

Young theater-goers are encouraged to wear their best Prince and Princess costumes to the performances.

All tickets are $8. Group rates are available. Tickets are available online at www.whatco.org or by calling 201- 467-8624.

Teenager Tayla Grace prepares for big time in music world

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By Kevin Canessa Jr.
Observer Correspondent 

Sometimes, when 17-yearolds sing, it’s nice — but there’s only so much of it you can take. In the case of Tayla Grace, her voice is so strong, so powerful, so professional, one can’t help but wonder just how soon it will be before she makes it big in the music industry.

One can only imagine that it won’t be too long before her songs are on the radio — or she’s singing on “American Idol.”

And it’s all because she’s been involved in the arts since she was a young girl. And it’s all come full circle with her first-ever album.

The Observer was introduced to Grace last week at a groundbreaking ceremony in Harrison.

The 17-year-old high school senior says it was the choir she was involved with from an early age until she turned 15 that allowed her to realize she’s extremely talented musically.

Read more »

Pooches on parade in Arlington Park

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

A lot of towns — including some locally — have some kind of fall or Halloween-related festival each year. But folks from Kearny’s Urban Enterprise Zone wanted to try something different — and that is exactly what will happen this Saturday, Oct. 25, at 11:30 a.m. at Arlington Park (between Forest and Elm Sts. near Midland Ave.).

That’s where the KUEZ will host its first-ever (and, it hopes, annual) Dog Parade.

The idea came about when KUEZ Director John Peneda decided he wanted something unique and autumnal to help attract people to Kearny, in line with the mission of a UEZ. He and a few others brainstormed, and with the closest dog parade being in either Bayonne or Montclair, the decision was made to give it a try in Kearny.

“We want people to come to Kearny from other towns, and that’s why the UEZ exists — to help businesses and to attract people who maybe have never been to Kearny to shop,” Peneda said. “We want as many people as possible to know there’s a lot more to Kearny than what people might know.”

So the hope is that Kearny and non-Kearny residents alike who are dog owners and lovers will make their way to Arlington Park to enter their dogs into the “parade.”

Peneda said that the event will be more like a fashion show for dogs, with owners “parading” their dogs before judges.

“What will happens is we’ll have a stage set up near the old railroad tracks,” Peneda said. “The owners will come across the stage with their dogs — and go before judges. So it will be like a runway, something you might see at a fashion show … or a beauty contest.”

There will be two categories for the contest: Dogs 40 pounds and lighter, and dogs 40 pounds and heavier. From each category, there will be two winners: One for the best dog and the other for best dog and owner.

So what that all means is the dogs should, at the very least, be in some sort of Halloween costume. While it’s not required for the humans, those who do show up in unique costumes will have a better chance at winning some sort of prize.

“So let’s say the dog is dressed up as Batman, and the owner as Robin, they’ll be eligible for a different prize,” Peneda said. “It’s a great way for the dogs and their owners to dress up together.”

On the day of the event, it won’t just be the contest, either. There will be representatives from eateries with food for humans and pets to buy, the Bergen County Animal Shelter will be on hand, the Hudson County Sheriff ’s K-9 Unit will be there — and there will be other activities for kids and the dogs.

Plus, local photographer Diane D. Tilley will be on hand to take, for a nominal fee, photos of the dogs and their owners, the proceeds of which will be donated to the Bergen County Animal Shelter.

So it should be an allaround great day for humans and canines alike. As of late last week, 20 dogs had been registered for the parade, according to Peneda.

“As long as the weather cooperates,” Peneda said. “We’ll just have to hope for the best.”

Peneda has earmarked $7,000 for the program, including fees for event coordinator Linda Kraus D’Isa, banners, rental of sound equipment and tables, prizes and advertising, but he said he expected to come in under budget.

Advance registration is required — and all owners must be able to document that their dogs are up-todate with rabies shots and that they’re properly licensed in their hometowns. To register, visit www.kearnynj.org and visit the KUEZ’s section on the website. Or, go to the KUEZ office at the Town Hall Annex, 402 Kearny Ave.

Registration is free and it is possible, depending on how many registrants there are ahead of time, that dayof- event registration will be available.

For additional information, call the KUEZ office at 201- 955-7905.

Who’s who of Kearny ‘celebs’ in ‘Tribute to Old Time Radio’

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By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

KEARNY – 

Most Kearny residents are quite used to seeing Mayor Alberto G. Santos cutting ribbons. We’ve all seen, at one point or another, Councilwomen Sue McCurrie and Carol Jean Doyle marching along in the big parade on St. Patrick’s Day up to their necks in shamrocks.

We’ve all read Jim Hague’s sports columns and stories right here on the pages of this newspaper. And yet, the aforementioned, and several other notables of Kearny, will be way out of their element on Oct. 24 and 25 as they star in the kickoff to the West Hudson Arts & Theatre Company’s new season in “A Tribute to Old Time Radio.”

That’s right — Kearny’s mayor and two councilwomen will be on stage with Jim Hague, his wife, Superior Court Judge Mary Costello, Vince Abbott, Dr. John Branwell, Cecilia Lindenfelser, John Peneda, Phil Thiele, Steven Thiele, Edmund Shea, Robert Strauch and Robert Zika.

They’ll be appearing in the old-time radio plays “Boston Blackie and the Fur Trade,” “The Great McGinty” and “Our Miss Brooks.”

Jerry Ficeto, a founding member and president of the W.H.A.T. board, says the idea was to bring together a group of well-known Kearny residents to put on a show that would draw people who might not otherwise go to a play. And let’s face it, who wouldn’t want to see a starstudded cast like this performing?

“We’re always thinking community,” Ficeto said. “Putting something like this on makes people want to see the people they know performing — people who are not normally on the stage. This is what we’re all about. And we figured we’d bring it all back to where performances started — on the radio — where the stars don’t need to memorize their lines.

“It’s a much easier way to act.”

That’s because just like back in the day when there were radio performances, the cast here will have all their lines right in front of them. They’ll be performing as if they were really broadcasting on the radio. Each segment is 28 to 30 minutes.

Linda Kraus D’Isa Cast practicing in reading positions.

Linda Kraus D’Isa
Cast practicing in reading positions.

 

But it hardly means the participants won’t be getting into character, Ficeto says. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

“At first I thought it might take some time for them to get into their roles, but it was only a matter of minutes,” Ficeto said. “For example, the mayor (Santos) plays a police role. And it didn’t take long for a fellow cast member, Judge (Mary) Costello, to tell him he might have a job in law enforcement if he ever steps away from being mayor.

“I mean, it really took about 20 minutes before everyone was taking on their characters, doing the voices. It’s just magnificent.”

Just how much does Ficeto think the show will attract people?

“Before tickets were even on sale, the first call came from [Essex County Assignment] Costello — Mary’s sister, Patricia,” Ficeto said. “We certainly hope other family members and friends do the same.”

During the weekend of performances, W.H.A.T. will kick off its 2014-15 season fundraising drive. As a grassroots organization, fundraising is vitally essential to ensure a full season of shows and educational programs.

“So there will, indeed, be opportunities for the people who come to the shows over that weekend to get involved with our fundraising efforts,” Ficeto said. “Community theater is the people’s theater. And at W.H.A.T., we are reminded that part of its beauty is seeing friends and neighbors on stage, having fun and sharing a passion.”

The two performances will take place at the W.H.A.T. Theater, at the First Lutheran Church, 65 Oakwood Ave., Kearny, on Friday, Oct. 24, and Saturday, Oct. 25, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are just $12 for adults and $10 for students and senior citizens and may be purchased by calling 201- 467-8624 or by visiting www.whatco.org.

Netflix has made watching TV unnecessary and frustrating

Net_web1

By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

So you’ve got to wait a while before you can watch your favorite shows. It’s worth it, frankly, if you’re a Netflix subscriber — and if you haven’t subscribed yet, you’re truly missing out.

There are numerous reasons why for me, TV is not the way to watch shows anymore. But perhaps the biggest reason is the lack of commercials. There aren’t any on Netflix streaming — and I can say, with ease, it’s been a few years since I last watched a commercial.

But it’s something well beyond the commercials that makes Netflix so appealing.

Perhaps most notably, it’s the original programming that has made the streaming service a must-have.

There are numerous shows the service now offers, but the three biggest — “Orange Is The New Black,” “House of Cards” and “The Killing” are perhaps three of the best shows out there, period. And aside from the first three seasons of “The Killing,” which did air on regular TV, none ever have to be seen with annoying breaks.

“Orange Is The New Black” is the real-life story of Piper Kerman, a Connecticut woman who spent 18 months in prison after she was charged and convicted of helping her friend smuggle illicit narcotics.

“House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey, is based on a British show of the same name, with an American twist, and follows the highs and lows of a man who went from being a member of the House of Representatives, to vice president to the president of the United States.

Netflix.com The cast of ‘The Killing.’

Netflix.com
The cast of ‘The Killing.’

 

And “The Killing,” easily the best of the of the three shows, is an extremely dark drama that follows two fictional Seattle police detectives who are responsible for some of the most brutal crimes imaginable.

Another reason why these shows are as popular as they are likely stems from the ability to binge-watch them.

Whenever a new season is ready, Netflix releases the entire season’s episodes on the same day.

And what that does, essentially, for those who choose to binge-watch, is create more of a 12- or 13-part full-length feature than it does an episodic show.

When the episodes of each of the three shows were last released, I watched each in a matter of two to three days. The shows are so good, it’s next to impossible to stop watching.

I wasn’t going to do it this way initially. But the shows are that good.

And yet there’s a problem for most viewers when shows like “Orange,” “Cards” and “The Killing” end — you find yourself feeling lost, sad almost, that it could be a year or more before more episodes are available.

That, of course, is driven by the notion that generally, there are 12 or 13 episodes a year. (The fourth and final season of “The Killing” only had four episodes).

But that’s what makes the shows so intensely good. Having about half of a normal season’s worth of episodes ensures that each successive season gets better. The shows’ popularity grows. It’s almost impossible to get sick of the shows.

The biggest drawback to the Netflix shows is that the streaming company does not release statistics on how many people watch the shows. So it becomes impossible to make solid comparisons to shows on terrestrial television. But it doesn’t seem to matter — because “Orange” and “Cards” have each been nominated for Emmy Awards.

Imagine that? Shows that have never aired on TV have gotten Emmy nominations — they’re that good.

Beyond the original programming, so many other TV shows are available for streaming. I became enamored with “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The West Wing” after watching each episode of the series on Netflix.

And there wasn’t a single commercial break.

So the bottom line is the $8.99 a month cost is well worth it for fans of TV shows who just don’t have the time for commercials. And best of all, every new subscriber gets the first month for free.

So if you’ve been unsure of whether subscribing to Netflix would be worth it, waver no more — it’s worth every penny you’ll spend if you’re ready to watch.

Enjoy!

Kevin Canessa Jr. can be reached at kevincanessa@ gmail.com. 

Learn ‘How to Get Away With Murder’ Thursday nights on ABC

murder_web

By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 

If you’ve been a fan of “Grey’s Anatomy” at any point during its now 10-season run, chances are you migrated over to “Scandal.” If you then became a fan of “Scandal,” combined with “Grey’s Anatomy,” chances are you’re going to migrate also to Shonda Rhimes’ new ABC Thursday-night drama, “How to Get Away With Murder.”

And in combination, ABC has, perhaps, TV’s biggest powerhouse of three-consecutive shows airing from 8 to 11 p.m. every Thursday night. The suits at ABC are so certain “How to” (we’ll shorten it to “How to” since the name is otherwise annoying to type over and over) will be successful, they’ve already adopted the slogan “Thank God It’s Thursday” for “Grey’s,” “Scandal” and “How to.”

And there’s no question, “How to” got off to a splendid beginning.

It’s the story of a law professor, who also has a private practice, whose philosophy on teaching the law requires law students to learn how to get their clients off — including when they are, frankly, guilty of committing murder.

Perhaps a bit unethically, in the very first episode, she charges her students to come up with a defense for a case she’s currently working on. She and two of her colleagues then chose the four law students they believe came up with the best defenses.

The caveat? All four of the best students then get hired to work for her law firm, in what appears to be a research capacity.

But there are numerous twists along the way from the get-go.

In one scene, after coming up with a possible defense scenario, one of the students hops out of his own bed, leaves his apartment and cycles over to the professor’s office. Thing is, the student walks into the office and finds the married professor (who is a woman, by the way), having sex with a man we later learn is a cop involved in her current case.

There are also numerous flash-forwards to the four law students doing their best to hide the body of a dead man.

It appears to the be the body of the professor’s husband.

But this leaves open the door to many possibilities.

Did the professor kill her own husband and then force the kids to get rid of the body to help her get away with murder?

Is it all a farce?

Is one or more of the law students involved in killing the prof ’s husband? It’s all part of the brilliance that is the writing of Rhimes. It’s evident in the new show. It’s clear in “Scandal.” And for a decade, we’ve been treated to more plane crashes, love affairs, loused-up medical procedures and more on “Grey’s Anatomy.”

So here’s the bottom line.

If you’re a fan of “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Scandal” — and let’s face it, you should be a fan of one or both of them — you’re naturally going to like the progression from “Grey’s” at 8 p.m., to “Scandal” at 9 p.m., and now to “How to” at 10 p.m. on ABC.

With Rhimes, nothing ever seems to be off limits. Nothing is too taboo. And if you really get into this troika of shows on Thursday nights, chances are, too, that nothing will be off limits with “How to Get Away With Murder.”

And perhaps when all is said and done, that’s exactly what you learn how to do.

Contact Kevin Canessa Jr. at kevincanessa@gmail.com with ideas for entertainment stories, including review of shows, bands, books, movies and the like. We’re especially looking for local talents to showcase.