‘Kingdom’ delivers soulful season finale 

“You ride like lightning and you’ll crash like thunder.”

Ding ding! Kingdom on Audience viewers and addicts, take your corners! The Season 2B finale packed a punch and left viewers floored at the physical entertainment and the drama that lingered afterwards.

It was never about the rematch in the first place. In a classic twist on a show about fighters that focuses on their battles outside the ring, the Season 2B finale was relentless in closing sub plots and reopening old wounds while opening entirely new threads.
The Rematch

Ryan Wheeler(Matt Lauria) and Jay Kulina(Jonathan Tucker) taking the ring in a rematch that looked like the world ender to every fan in the audience but inside it was a bittersweet tale that every Kingdom fan knew how it was going to end. Jay, unfit for any overly lit room much less an octagon with blazing bulbs flashing all over the place, taking the ring days after his girlfriend Ava was brutally murdered. Ryan, a King Beast seeking revenge and the alpha badge of Navy Street, trying to block out the fact that his best friend needs a true friend and that he has to hurt him. Two friends meeting again.

Pale imagery and the polar opposite of what took place in Episode 203, where Jay was on top of the world and Ryan was less than 100 percent and wrapped up in demons. It goes to show you that winning a fight and a title doesn’t make a fighter whole. It just pushes his destiny further and further away. When Jay won the title, he didn’t feel anything. He didn’t feel the long lost fever of a championship belt. He felt incomplete so he attached himself to Ava and the allure of drugs.

As the fight begins and all the odds are stacked against Jay, it’s almost as if you want the beating to be over so Jay can recover properly. As fans, we never know what is going through the mind of a fighter. If you ask them, they won’t tell you. In a similar fashion that Jay used Ryan’s physical injury against him, Ryan takes advantage of a distant and ill prepared Jay in the rematch. In a testament to Jay’s “heart of a lion”, he holds it together until the early moments of Round 4 before Ryan finishes him off.

As Ryan screams for his belt, you get the idea it’s all a show. Ryan didn’t want to fight in the first place back in Season 1. He does it to please others and also to keep the demons inside his head quiet or to a dull roar. After the fight talking with Alvey, he gives him the belt as a way to show a hunger still exists. I think he wants to get rid of it so he doesn’t get close to it or the fact that, like Jay, he feels nothing for it. It’s a belt. Something you hang in the office or at the gym. It’s as meaningful as Chapas’ ashes sitting on Alvey’s desk. It is meant to embody that you won something but in the end, it hinders a fighter.

Ryan won and Jay goes to the hospital. Let’s take a few steps back to the beginning of the episode.

Jay Kulina: The Pale Rider

Jay standing outside his hotel looking at the clean up crew taking apart the crime scene is a great stand alone acting effort from Tucker and he has no dialogue. The pure strength of an actor isn’t a big speech. It’s what he can do with what isn’t spelled out or written for him or her. What can you do with your eyes, face and movement? Tucker excels at this often. In a 2-3 minute sequence, he shows the audience a pale rider. Someone who has had the life sucked right out of him.

Ava may have hindered him as well as Alicia(Natalie Martinez, absent from the finale) but it was more than that for Jay. A man who learns something new and painful every season. Tucker doesn’t hide a single bit of pain in his expression. Imagine a paper airplane hitting the ground and catching fire. That’s Jay Kulina. Only after defeat did the man recover and smile.

Alvey: A Man Apart

The season started with Alvey drinking himself into a stupor and the finale features him alone once again. That reunion with Lisa(Kiele Sanchez, burning her own candles elsewhere) never materialized. Roxanne(the lovely Wendy Moniz) broke it off with him early on because of the messy drama fires around him. His son Jay is in the hospital and his younger son Nate is in the midst of a comeback but still mixed up in personal anguish. Everything Alvey fought hard to push himself from while staying attached is going on without his effect. He’s a man apart and this gave Grillo the seeds for a performance that SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN Emmy consideration.

I love the way every seasonal break has ended with Alvey alone in the gym. A man ready to fight his demons yet unequipped for battle. Here’s a guy who trains harder than anyone in the gym, drinks his meals, and has enough rage to fight three guys at once. With Alvey’s torment and disconnect at the moment, all he has is the gym. All he has is what he is going after. 

Grillo is at his best when Alvey is at his worst. The emotional volcano spill that the elder Kulina causes allows the seasoned actor to go anywhere he wants with Balasco’s writing fueling his car like an engine with horsepower to spare. 

Nate and Jay: Brothers Looking Out

As he cleaned out Jay’s room, Nate found Will’s business card next to the bed. Instead of raging against his brother for intruding into his personal life, he just walks into the hospital room like a wounded puppy looking for a little protection. The relief that has to fall off his shoulders that some part of his family knows that he is gay has to be enormous. Jay has always been someone Nate could trust, and Jonas and Tucker are beautiful in this scene together.

Leave it to Tucker to sprinkle some true comedy on the room when he jokes about positions with Nate. After all the pain and anguish Jay has gone through, the internal trust he has with Nate gives him some resemblance of a win. Well done men. 

Christina(Joanna Going) also makes amends with Jay at the hospital but it reads more like an apology to her own identity as a mother. After pouring so much drama on the Kulina household this season, she writes him a letter that covers ground that fans didn’t even see. Here is a mother who has treated her oldest son unlike a son. Christina depends on Jay more than any mother should and seeing Tucker do the dialogue-less torture reaction locks horns perfectly with Going’s dialogue. These two have given television the most emotional mother/son pairing since Jax and Gemma Teller on FXX’s Sons of Anarchy. Bravo. It’s not an easy balance to maintain but Going and Tucker make it look easy.

After so much waiting and wondering, Ryan and Lisa finally share a warm moment and a kiss. It happened near the end of Season 1 but was more lust than passion. Lisa, needing something that isn’t broken in her life, finally sees something in Ryan that hasn’t been there for a long time. Protection and love. It was only a kiss but it surely turned into more.

This sets up another uncomfortable yet highly entertaining dynamic in Season 3. Alvey isn’t going to be pleased about this development. While he knows it can’t work with him and Lisa and there is history there, do you really think Alvey can train Ryan during the day and then watch him leave with Lisa at night? Fire, ladies and gents. Fire. The Ryan-Jay showdown was the driving force behind Season 2B and the Alvey/Ryan/Lisa tripod of doom will puncture Season 3. They may not fight in a sanctioned fight but they will come to blows.

Every television show should aim to get better each year. Instead of resting on your laurels and dishing out potent yet similar entertainment after acquiring people’s attention, a creator and his cast/crew should keep pushing. Balasco, Grillo, and company have done that with this latest batch of episodes. Every 52 minute episode felt like a brilliant edited film and something to dissect and wonder about for days. It didn’t feel like ordinary television. Kingdom ascended higher this season with pulse pounding drama and knockout worthy action. It’s something else. A signature blend that isn’t afraid to take bold risks in order to spin a story few have told.

For all the people who wanted a real dynamic show about fighters and their lives, look no further than AT&T’s Kingdom. It’s got everything. This blood drunk drama knows how to hit a person where it counts. Unlike most TV shows, Kingdom doesn’t aim to merely please. It aims to knock you out. Season 2B did just that. There are 30 episodes at your disposal folks. What are you prepared to do? Take the plunge.

The pilot featured a weary yet wise Alvey Kulina jogging through the streets with peace in his mind and hunger in his back pocket. He had everything. At the end of Season 2B, all he has is what he is going after. A bottle, a bag, and nothing else.

Great television challenges you every week. Thank you Kingdom. Please come back for Christmas.

 

 

STL Up Late interview: Bobby Jaycox and Eric Christensen

Bobby Jaycox and Eric Christensen are just like you. They get up every morning to grind away at a day job to pay their bills and keep wood on the fire of a regular life. It’s not until after the sun goes down that these two men get together with other notable and talented STL comics(RAFE WILLIAMS!) and produce gold record caliber television with the KMOV talk show, STL Up Late. 

After speaking with We Are Live co-hosts Chris Denman and Travis Terrell last month,  Jaycox and Christensen sat down with me to discuss the show’s intentions, how real life hot topics play on their series, and the value of storing enough energy to chase their comic dreams. What followed was inspirational dialogue that should light a damn fire under every aspiring funny bone specialist with a dream of entertaining. 

Buffa: Tell me about STL Up Late. 

Christensen: I was doing improv at the Improv shop. I had been doing comedy for a long time in Chicago and thought St. Louis needed some of that. People told me STL needed the cool stuff I was doing in Chicago. STL Up Late was a way to show people there is cool stuff here and also follow my passion at the same time. 

Buffa: Why watch STL Up Late over the other mainstream late night talk shows like Fallon and Kimmel?

Jaycox: All those people are career people. When you see us, you see people that are working for no money and putting in long hours in during the week to make something for people to enjoy. I feel like we set a bar pretty high for the stuff we put together. 

Buffa: Comedy is at a high point right now. Do you see it as a means to heal a soul or merely produce a distraction?

Christensen: They’ve always said laughter is the breaking of tension. I definitely think doing comedy is therapeutic in a lot of ways. 

Jaycox: I can imagine a lot of things missing in a society but I can’t imagine comedy not being there. So it’s everybody’s job to keep it on the trajectory of doing new and good things. Some people hit a plateau and think they can’t do anything new. Look at Louis CK, who does a new hour every year. Anything is possible. There’s people who start on YouTube and then are on Netflix. The people who continue to do new things and drive it. 

Christensen: Since the beginning, it’s important to keep the serious things in check. That’s comedy’s job.  

Buffa: Rafe mentioned something on Tuesday’s WAL broadcast about using heavy hitter topics like the election, gay marriage and gun control in his sketches and comedy in a different way. What is your take on using those real life topics?

Jaycox: I definitely think that part of hitting on political stuff is kind of like growing up. It’s not what your age is. It’s how long you’ve been doing stand up. In order to make those points, you have to be like the Beatles and make those first few albums. 

Christensen: You have to earn it. 

Jaycox: Yeah. Bill Burr was at the Fox and he was hitting all those hard topics and even his fans were getting uncomfortable. That’s his job. He’s going to give you laughter and make you think about coming onto my side by the end. 

Christensen: On STL Up Late, we’re never going to attack those points. We don’t look at gay marriage and think we have to make a joke. If there’s something there that is funny, we will do it. 

Jaycox: It’s like putting your finger on the pulse and trying to see if there is anything we could do. Like Rafe did with the finger gun. 

Buffa: If you can get one of them on your show, who would it be? Hilary or Trump?

Christensen: It’s gotta be Trump. 

Jaycox: Trump. There’s too much material. We’ve done stuff with Trump.


Buffa: The We Are Live crew is on STL Up Late this weekend. How did you meet Chris and Travis?

Christensen: They’d asked me a while back to be on and then Rafe was on. Josh McNew(STL Up Late director) shot a lot of their stuff. 

Jaycox: I’d met Chris at Helium when he judged a contest there recently. 

Buffa: What’s the harshest part of producing comedy and chasing this dream? The sacrifices. 

Christensen: Time. 

Jaycox: You have to have a day job. I don’t know anyone just doing comedy. You have to do a day job, have a social life, and do comedy. Trying to fit more time into comedy. 

Buffa: You have to commit energy to it. 

Jaycox: That’s exactly right. I knew I had a show so I had to reserve my energy. You can’t go out late. You have to save energy. 

Buffa: You run into an aspiring young comic. What’s the first thing you tell him?

Jaycox: Don’t listen to anyone. Listen to yourself. Don’t worry about trying to be someone else. It’s hard enough being yourself. Whatever you’re inspired by, do it. 

Christensen: Start creating. Don’t worry about the next step. Put your stuff on paper and start recording. Start making something and it will take off. 

Jaycox: A great quote I heard is “you don’t have to be great to start. You have to start to be great.” Just get out there and start. It’s an immediate fail or pass on stage in front of an audience. If you are more determined than anyone else, you’ll make it. 

Buffa: What’s the pre-show routine?

Christensen: We will run scripts. Dry rehearsal. Block them out. Dress rehearsals are next. I’m writing the moment I wake up until I get to the theater. Focus on the scripts. 

Jaycox: I try to be as present as I can. If I’m thinking about the next thing, that takes a toll. If I’m in the moment, things go well. You can tell when any of us aren’t present. 

In order to make it in comedy, you have to give a shit. Every day. Every time on stage. A message that is re-affirmed when you talk to Jaycox and Christensen about their work. They do it for the love of the game and the hope that the road leads to bigger and better things. 

Watching STL Up Late, you see all the hard work and sacrifice come together on stage. It’s a living breathing thing. See how hard these guys work to create original unfiltered comedy now that you know their story. 


Bobby Jaycox, Eric Christensen, and company are trying to make comedy great again in STL and it’s a goal they don’t take lightly. Be a part of the experience.

Here’s what I know Volume #3

Good afternoon folks. As the coffee is sipped and the comfy pants are pulled on, I’m going to kick a few things off my chest. Random. Don’t expect any structure. Think of a drunk poet stumbling down Bourbon Street rambling. That me. Unfiltered and unguarded. 

When you write for big news networks and have a radio show on a popular station, you can’t truly be yourself. You have tone it down. Censor things. Be kind. Keep the gloves on. This is where I get say a lot of things. Fuck. Bastard. My favorite Frank Grillo line, “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”  All of it and no editor or boss saying calm down. Fuck calming down. People would be happier if they didn’t have to calm down so often.  


Let’s run a little. Sorry if I say fuck a lot. I know Church just let out. 

~A word about judgemental parents. The ones who stare at you with your kid and start summarizing how you should have acted. Fuck you. Mind your own business. If these people worried about their own problems, they wouldn’t have time to worry so much about mine. Everybody in your life thinks they are an assistant coach standing on the sidelines of your football team. Sometimes you need to tell them to stop. Strangers are worse. They assume. Assumption is the death of all human interaction. Mind your own. 

~A word about roads. Is it just me or do you think Modot and local car repair shops are in bed together. So many bad roads. Cracks. Potholes. Come on. Are they using bad concrete? Buying from the wrong country? Making it wrong. Too many bad roads. As the great Will McAvoy said, this will be a great city when they are done building it. 

~AT&T’s Kingdom is must watch television. A show about fighters and their lives outside the ring couldn’t be more addicting. Watch it and thank me later. 

~A word about the Cards. Playoff hopeful teams don’t lose to terrible teams in August and September. Forget math or hard thoughts. Get serious and win or get lazy and lose. Play better. Catch pop flies. Hit better. Field your god damn position. Stop messing with my heart. You’re the Cardinals. Pride of St. Louis. 

~Hey Adam Wainwright. I love you man. Everything you embody makes me proud to be a Cards fan. It’s almost weird how much I admire your way of doing things. However, let’s win today. I’ll be there. Slumps need to end. You are a stopper and are paid like one. July was great but it’s August. No prizes are given for a good month. My radio partner Matt Whitener told me you are still an ace. Last time I checked aces don’t have an ERA over 4. So win. 

~Suicide Squad has gotten ripped by my inner circle of critics. That doesn’t mean I won’t see it. Everybody who watches a movie is a film critic. Website or not. That’s the way it works. Some films defy reviews. David Ayer’s PG-13 rating is disappointing and ensures they didn’t make the movie he wanted. However, I’ll still give it a shot. 

~Coffee is great. I couldn’t do a 5am radio show without it. It’s very cool when the worker at Tim Hortons makes you a cup of coffee fifteen minutes before they open. Lovely ladies exist. 

~Women everywhere listen up. Don’t be ashamed of your thighs and curves. They are like whips that shift battle ships in a man’s mind. Every time I see a woman with lovely curves torture themselves at a gym and it doesn’t look like her idea but her mothers or husbands plan, I weep inside. Lose weight for you. Just don’t lose the curves. They are beautiful. Skinny is overrated. Happiness is not. 

~The Night Of on HBO is excellent.  Without John Turturro’s poignant work as a renegade attorney who gives a shit, it would be good. He elevates it. 

~Stranger Things is Netflix’s best series yet because it defies extremely high expectations and features stellar work from David Harbour, Winona Ryder, and a cast of kids. 99 times out of 100, hype is a lie. Stranger Things is the other time. 

~Donald Trump is a dangerous possibility. A 70 year old rich guy with a stupid mouth. Hilary Trump is a flawed democrat who may have half a clue but could win the race because she is a woman and not exactly fit for the job. Well I just go fuck myself then. 

~You need more Deer Tick in your life. Underrated band. 

~Jason Bourne is a good sequel but it doesn’t get much better than The Martian. I can’t turn it off on HBO. Matt Damon is so good in the lead. It’s drama, action, thrills, and comedy in a movie about getting stranded on Mars. It makes you think but in a good way. It’s also effortlessly powerful. Those Damon tears at the end were unscripted. It almost makes up for Exodus: Gods and Kings, Ridley. 

~Shameless plug. I have a show. Tuesday through Friday. 5-7 AM. CBS Sports Radio. Dose of Buffa is now on iTunes. 

~Confession. I get super fucking jealous when I’m driving around and see other people running. I love to run. It’s about truth. Hardest workout there is.  

Thanks for reading,

@buffa82, DLB 

Captain Fantastic: One of the best films of 2016

Viggo Mortenson is mesmerizing in writer/director Matt Ross’ indie gem.

Is it better to be sheltered from the storm or released into the wild at birth? Writer/Director Matt Ross(you know him Silicon Valley and Big Love) gets that theory wet like a sponge and throws it against the wall in one of 2016’s most unexpected cinematic pleasures. Captain Fantastic will make you think and explore the idea of when innocence should end. It’s also brilliantly odd, inventive, and easily one of the best films I’ve seen in 2016. Good luck getting this film out of your head.

With the help of Viggo Mortenson(first film in years) and an expertly chosen cast of kids and teens, Captain Fantastic explores what it would be like to raise your family on nothing but the great outdoors. Instead of a cell phone game of candy crush or Pokemon, your oldest son would fully understand the complex music of famous conductors and recite poetry. Instead of playing with action figures, your eight year old would be able to dish her take on the Bill of Rights. A family outing would include hunting and killing a deer and engaging in a morning class of yoga and cross fit.

 

Mortenson’s Ben has raised his kids up tough and gruff in the beautiful outdoor land of the Pacific Northwest. Along with his wife, they have created a life for themselves off the grid and without the need for electronics. A knife is a kid’s favorite tablet in Ross’ world and the film creates a quirky exercise when a tragedy forces the family to join the “other world” for a funeral.

Unknown Object

Ross’ film will make you uncomfortable while making your mind divulge into deep thought about the way a child should be raised. He injects provocative theories on modern society and what triggers a child’s growth. Ross gives every voice a chance to speak in this film. Mortenson’s ideals are challenged when he is confronted with a “conventional practitioner” in his sister in law(Kathryn Hahn). When he is confronted by his father in law(Frank Langhella) for an injury to a child, the father is challenged in a completely different way. Continue reading “Captain Fantastic: One of the best films of 2016”

‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is perfect summer movie diversion

A heartfelt comic adventure that is tailor made for the summer crowd.

There are certain films that you just don’t see coming. Hunt for the Wilderpeople is one of those cinematic adventures that sweeps you right off your feet in the best way because it comes out of nowhere. It is also the emergence of young star Julian Dennison.

What’s it all about? A simple story about a couple outsiders drifting into the great outdoors in hopes of finding something worth living for. Add in a crazy counselor, some police, and a fair mix of comedy and drama and you have a quiet summer gem. Adapted from Barry Crump’s novel, writer/director Taika Waititi(who delivered the indie darling, What We Do in The Shadows) crafts a film that suits a teenager or their grandfather.

Remember Sam O’Neil? The Jurassic Park actor barely works these days but picks up the right speed of wise knowledge here playing Hector, the foster uncle of the young rebellious Ricky(Dennison). When Hector and Bella(Rima Te Wiata) adopt Ricky, they are warned that he “burns things, hits things, does bad things” and is a general nuisance to society. A modern Dennis The Menace. Is there a chance he could just be a kid who has been passed from home to home and just needs the right family to settle down? Without getting heavy, the film has a poetic stroke about the misconception of foster children. Continue reading “‘Hunt for the Wilderpeople’ is perfect summer movie diversion”

Kingdom Q&A: Mac Brandt 

The life of an actor isn’t all magazine cover shoots and hotel rooms. For hard working grunts like AT&T Kingdom star Mac Brandt, sometimes a phone interview with a TV critic happens while you were on the road. As Brandt traveled from set in New Mexico, he spoke with me about Audience Network’s breakout MMA series Kingdom.

A chat between a diehard Chicago Cubs fan and St. Louis Cardinals addict didn’t include any blood through the phone line, but just a couple guys discussing a show they love.


Buffa: Is this cross city New Mexico trip some kind of hidden Kingdom spin-off?

Brandt: A Mac solo road trip. No, I’m working on a show called Night Shift. I worked on it last year and they brought me back. It’s the guy who wrote on the first season of Kingdom.

Buffa: Work is work, my friend.

Brandt: Absolutely. It’s a good thing. Last year, I was this bada** special forces guy in Afghanistan. Now I’m back and I have PTSD and it’s really cool.

Buffa: We have another season of Kingdom and (creator) Byron Balasco doesn’t waste any time giving us Ryan and Jay showdown. Were you surprised with how that fight played out?

Brandt: I loved it. I thought there was no sense in messing around. Just get to it. The show, for me, is not about fighting. It’s about the consequences of fighting. A great consequence of this fight is fallout. Kenny Florian said it, “what happens now?”. These guys are going to have to deal with it. Now you are back to the fallout of the fight instead of dealing with the fight. For me, that’s the crutch of this show.

Buffa: It’s about what they fight outside the ring. Makes for more drama.

Brandt: These guys are built to fight in the ring. They don’t know how to deal with life outside the ring.

Buffa: You can’t punch your failed romance or electric bill. I mean, you can punch your electric bill but it’s just a piece of paper.

Brandt: That makes for a bad commercial about electric bills.

Buffa: My favorite movie is Heat with Pacino and DeNiro. They talk about not wanting to do anything else in their confrontation. That’s what it is with these fighters. You are built to do one thing. These guys fight.

Brandt: You can imagine where this season is going. You have a guy like Jay. People celebrate him. I know guys like that in real life. They need to struggle. Once they get past that struggle, things go poorly. For my character, it’s great because as the Jay sidekick, if he is going to pour himself down the drain, Mac can’t stand around and watch.

Buffa: I’ve seen this week’s episode and there’s a great and tense confrontation between you and Jonathan Tucker.

Brandt: That’s my favorite scene. I love it more than anything I’ve done on that show. First, I outweigh everybody on the show by 70 pounds. I am a full head taller than most people. That scene shows only a shade of my character. That was a tough scene to shoot. I’m friend with Tucker in real life and it was hard to go in with that. We shot that in a real nasty hotel. It’s a weird thing.

Buffa: Tucker is something else. You work with a pretty elite set of actors.

Brandt: I have no problem putting this out into the world. This is the greatest collective of actors I’ve worked with. I’ve been working for 20 years, and I learn stuff on a daily basis from Tucker especially. I take things away from Frank(Grillo) and Matt(Lauria) all the time. Tucker forces you to up your game. I’ve never seen anyone work as hard and diligently as Tucker.

Buffa: I watched him on a lesser known NBC show called Black Donnelly’s and thought he was amazing.

Brandt: I loved that show.

Buffa: He has so many speeds.

Brandt: In that scene in the hotel room, he and I were comfortable enough to play pretty loose with it. He blows smoke in my face and it’s very close to my eye. I told him to get his hand out of my face and that wasn’t scripted. That was us fighting away through that scene. He put that cigarette too close to my face. And it was great. We walked out of it and said, “Yep, that’s it.” He’s doing something no one else is doing on television.

Buffa: He’s a truck racing down a hill.

Brandt: You don’t want to be anywhere near him. Matt does this thing and it might be my favorite thing I’ve seen an actor do. It’s that quiet scream tremor. It’s so jarring and violent. I watched it twice when I first watched it.

Buffa: It’s amazing what these actors do without a script.

Brandt: I’ll tell you. That is the gift of Byron Balasco. He pours his heart and soul into every script. He crafts every word and every movement but the second we start doing it he lets you do what you want. If you want to do something, you do it. The environment on the show is unlike anything he’s ever worked on.

Buffa: He’s setting the tone for TV with MMA shows and fight show. I got sucked into this show quick.

Brandt: It’s amazing. It has to get word of mouth. I’m out in Albuquerque and people know about the show because Greg Jackson(Kingdom consultant) is out here. Their first question is where do I find it and that’s what we are fighting right now. You got the same thing with Breaking Bad. Once I found it, there was no going back. Kingdom will be the same way. Once people find it, it will spread like wildfire.

Buffa: It’s one of those shows where I will watch each individual episode 2-3 times. It’s like squeezing a steak over a grill and getting every ounce of juice out of it. I was crazy like this about Banshee. Kingdom is my new Banshee.

Brandt: We could have an entire conversation about Banshee. That is another show that nobody watched at first and I kept telling people to watch it. I’d never seen anything like that.

Buffa: They shot fight scenes that would never end. Unlike most shows on TV.

Brandt: There was a fight between the main actress and the Russian that lasted like 37 minutes.

Buffa: Both shows, Kingdom and Banshee, do their thing and they don’t care what you think. I use your line about Banshee with Kingdom. Show some self respect and watch this show.

Brandt: If you aren’t watching Kingdom, you don’t know what awesome TV is right now. I’m a fanboy of the show I’m on.

Buffa: How about those Cubbies of yours?

Brandt: As a Cubs fan, I think the Cards will be out of it by the All Star Break. The only rough thing they have is that bullpen. I don’t see any NL team stopping them.

Buffa: They are definitely going to be tough.

Unfortunately for Mac, the Cards swept the Cubs the week I interviewed him for this story so there is that tiny moment of victory, Cardinals fans.

Brandt couldn’t put it any better about Kingdom. If you haven’t watched it, you should. He is just another one of the grizzled vets out there working hard to stay in front of the camera. Whether it’s handling actors like Tucker in a hotel room or driving to New Mexico for work or putting his face on a Miller Lite beer commercial, Brandt does whatever it takes to “stay in the game”, as his co-star Grillo often says.

When Brandt isn’t on camera on Kingdom, you want him to return. He’s a comedic presence that has all the necessary tools to get serious very quick. A true force of nature that you will see more of as this second half of Season 2 draws to a close as the summer wages on.

You can follow Brandt on social media and catch his white hot political takes on Facebook. He’s an entertaining man and passionate about what he is doing. If that isn’t enough of a buy in as a consumer of entertainment, I don’t know what is.

 

AT&T’s ‘Kingdom’ teaser: “Halos” recap

In order to get ready for Wednesday’s all new Kingdom, catch up with my recap of last week’s episode.

What: Kingdom 

Where: AT&T’s Audience Network

When: Wednesday nights at 8 p.m.

Like father, like son is a phrase often used to show the good nature of a bond forged at birth. What if it is the other way? What if a son is like his father in dangerous and unsettling ways? The two men can’t help this. They can only attempt to control it.

With Jay Kulina(the Emmy worthy Jonathan Tucker) spiraling out of control following his victory over Ryan Wheeler(Matt Lauria), it’s hard not to notice the similarities between father and son. What does Alvey Kulina(Frank Grillo) do when he gets into a tough spot and has to get away? He goes to a hotel, turns off his phone, drinks like a fish, partakes in drugs, and cuts himself off from the world that scratches at his conscience.

AT&T/DirecTV
AT&T/DirecTV

Jay and Ava(Lina Esco) have taken their “Leaving Las Vegas” like plunge to the nearby Flamingo Hotel. A place that is seedy, dirty, and looks like a great spot for drug(s) be exchanged, ingested, and devoured.

Like his father, Jay is escaping from a reality he doesn’t want to participate in at the moment. Everybody wants a piece of him and he wants no piece of them. Alvey’s biggest plight in his hotel getaways is cough medicine mixed with drugs but keep in mind he’s an older man. Jay is younger and we know that Alvey snorted and injected plenty of drugs in his younger years. Like father, like son.

I’ve said it a few times but this can’t end well for Jay, Ava, or Alicia(Natalie Martinez). What started as a harmless flirtation in a gym kitchen has turned into bad news city. Maybe Ava finds good reason to run away and leave Jay alone or maybe this slide continues to twist or turn the two sinking lovers.

Alvey sees way too much Christina(Joanna Going) in Ava and it’s not a wild comparison. He knows how bad it used to get between them when they were married. Christina sees the hazards in Ava that even she doesn’t want to admit but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. It’s like Jay is a runaway train and all his friends are running out of subway platforms to get him off the train. He’s beginning to enter the tunnel and the next stop isn’t a good one.

It was nice to see Wheeler share a quiet soulful moment with Jay in the bathroom at Nate’s fight. They were close friends pulled apart by a reach for professional equity and desire. Neither of them are alphas. Both of them are isolated and troubled. Ryan’s suggestion of canceling the rematch wasn’t from a needy place of his own body and mind. It was a friend reaching out and trying to help another in supreme need.

So, Nick Jonas’ Nate got back in the ring and kicked all kinds of butt. This was easily Jonas’ most impressive moment on the show. Creator Byron Balasco and his writing team seem to know that his strong suit is quiet, brooding, and simmering with rage. The fight was choreographed extremely well and the sound of silence with fists and kicks near the end was superb.

At last, Nate was able to cancel all the mechanism out and just fight. Jonas was so good in this moment. He’s gotten a few stretches this season where the stage is his. He triumphed but soon afterward was urged by his mom to help his ailing brother. Poor kid. His dad struggles to believe in him and his mom is a wrecking ball.

Lisa’s dad(Bruce Davidson) shows up and wants Alvey to resist Lisa’s urge to return to Navy Street. As a collective audience, we scream no but in the end Alvey is given a check for 200,000 dollars to make sure Lisa stays in San Francisco. Knowing Alvey and his love for chaos, I don’t think that check will be cashed or deposited. Lisa will come back soon enough, right? She has to.

How about Mac Sullivan facing down his best friend in the hotel? I spoke with Mac Brandt about this moment in the hotel and he said it was initially hard for him and real life buddy Tucker to execute this but in the end they got it done. Jay begging Mac for drugs that the big freckled dartboard doesn’t want to give him. Mac sees the train going down into the tunnel. Mac’s eyes are the audience’s lens. Nobody likes this version of Jay. It’s a very good scene.

I’ve admired the way Balasco has kept the weird odd and messed up nature of Keith(the gifted Paul Walter Hauser) under wraps for 24 episodes. When Ryan allows Alicia to stay at their place, Keith doesn’t like it at all and it’s a genuine uneasy moment. Remember folks that this guy murdered his parents and also did a few other crazy things to land himself in a halfway house. He’s insane.

Sure, he’s a smarter than you think cuddly teddy bear but he’s capable of bad things. He also adores Ryan and if someone tries to pull him away, that person may be in danger. I can’t wait to see how this develops over the final four episodes. Keep an eye on Keith.

Final thoughts:

*I love the way Wendy Moniz plays Roxanne. She loves dangerous men but she is trying as hard as she can to not fall for Alvey. She “can feel ‘Lisa'” in the house and is now a little more unsure of where this relationship is headed. Grillo and her have chemistry to burn.

*Anybody else catch that look Jay gave their new neighbor at the hotel?

*Poor Jay doesn’t know the difference between seedy “True Romance” like hotel room service and Ritzy type room service. He will soon enough.

*Alicia isn’t as misguided and dangerous as her sister but how about those lack of principles in asking Ryan if she could stay mere days after she turned him down for the same privilege?

Come back next week for more Kingdom analysis and review. Season 2B is heading in a direction that has everything to do with these characters and the consequences of their actions OUTSIDE the ring. Gritty, emotional, and powerful.