Month: July 2015

Why you should binge watch Cinemax’s Banshee right now

Welcome to the TV Wasteland. A few more grueling weeks until some of the more interesting shows start to premier or return to our lives, what options are out there to satisfy our never-ending need to be entertained?

b1a77501714975e2ad73d6d4bbe026654def4a23If you are like me and shows like Better Call Saul(not as good as they say it is) and The Last Man On Earth(more toxic FOX drivel) aren’t cutting it right now, you need a show to binge watch right now. Something to tide you over until Mad Men and Game of Thrones begins next month. A show that signifies three things instantly.

1. Stop shaving.

2. Eat bad food.

3. Adopt sweat pants and a fake cold to call in sick to work.

Banshee, Cinemax’s Golden Goose(bumped Emmanuelle In Space out of its prime time slot) is the perfect show to binge watch. (more…)

Banshee’s Fourth Season to be its last

The time has come, Banshee addicts. The gritty landscape that has paved the way for the most entertaining and fulfilling show in the past three years could be closing its doors. According to, the Cinemax gem will end its run with 2016’s fourth season. Sadness doesn’t begin to explain the way I feel right now. Punching something sounds better. Maybe a punching bag perhaps. Something to ease the pain.

Excuse me while I step out of proud professional writer mode and into a passionate fan’s skin. This is sad on so many levels but the signs were there earlier this year as I interviewed the producers, writers and directors. Writer/producer Jonathan Tropper hinted at it in our chat. Former showrunner/producer/director Greg Yaitanes and director/producer Loni Peristere all referenced making every episode as great as the last one as if the swan song was one punch, bullet hole or explosion away.

The best shows don’t save the goods for last. They make sure every single moment is worth keeping people home on a Friday night. That’s right. Thank God It’s Friday became Thank God it’s Banshee Day…..

Banshee was the first show I loved that also gave me a real reason to not go out on Friday night. While everybody else partied, I stayed at home and reveled in the land of flawed men, tough women and bad decisions.

Who needed a shot of whiskey when characters like ex-con turned sheriff turned doom maker Lucas Hood(Antony Starr) drank enough for six death row prison guards? Who needed action outside your house when Hood got into more fights in one episode than a Goon did in an entire hockey season? Banshee is cinematic television, churning out movie styled hours of couch fantasy binge blasting than 98 percent of other premium cable networks.

Instead of taking a season off after critics respected the second season, Banshee cut the deepest with its third round. It added mph to its fastball instead of throwing softer. Beloved characters fell, unpredictable learned a new name and vengeance grew a pair of legs inside a few bodies that fateful night back in March.

The reason the departure cuts extra deep has nothing to do with the best stunts on television, the most passionate sex scenes ever filmed and the most brutally menacing people you’ll find on any plasma screen. The actors, such as Ivana Milicevic and Hoon Lee, interacted with the viewers every Friday night. They logged in on Twitter and traded with people watching their creations do the most outrageous of things. It doesn’t get any better than Milicevic describing her parents reaction to the violence and sex on the show. Lee and Starr trading hits created great humor while the one and the only Matt Servitto brought the wittiest drops of flavor on a weekly basis.

The personal touch provided by these people started something. Look around. Showtime’s Ray Donovan is doing cast twitter work. Other shows are catching on. Banshee started something and it all began with Yaitanes years ago. Thanks Greg for starting a fire that won’t be put out for years. One day I will watch with my son and tell him why characters like The Albino and Rabbit aren’t just bad guys. They are men with a different purpose.

More so than any show on television(I watch a lot of TV), Banshee didn’t drew a single line between good and bad people. They drew about 49 lines and they shifted every week. You could call Ulrich Thomson’s Kai Proctor a bad man until you saw how he treated his mother. You could call Geno Segers’ Chayton a monster before you saw his upbringing. You could be scared out of your shoes by Matthew Rauch’s Clay Burton but once you know his backstory, it fit like a glove. Lili Simmons’ beautiful yet deadly Rebecca Bowman coming onto her uncle could be a little off putting at first, but after you took a look around the set, it kind of fit. You could call Kurt Bunker a tattooed beast until you saw Tom Pelphrey deliver the speech of the year at the end of the finale in March. I’ll miss these misfit square pegs forever trying to fit into round holes.

I’ll miss Starr’s badlands version of a Bruce Willis anti-hero the most. Starr combined shades Colin Farrell, Sylvester Stallone, Willis and a dose of Steve McQueen to create this good man stuck in a violent body twisting a piece of aluminum foil that was the good life. From the moment he stepped outside that prison gate in the pilot, viewers fell hard for this ex-con gone wrong and more wrong. He was human but a fighter to the core. A thief turned hardened prison turned tortured lover turned wrongful lawman turned crimefighter.

Hood saw his world fall apart in Season 3 and by the end, was ready to walk down a road possibly with a man who he had sworn to kill hours earlier. That’s Banshee. Once you think you know what’s going on and your hands drop, the writers slug you with an uppercut you never saw coming. That’s great television. It endures and never leaves your mind days later.

I suggest watching or revisiting the first three seasons. If you don’t have Cinemax, make a friend or neighbor that does and buy them beer to watch their cable. Show some self respect and take a trip through this unusual town. The women may cut you with their good looks but they will knock you out with their actions. Just wait for a bloodied Rebecca to step over a man she just killed and say, “I have all the thunder I need.” The men won’t allow you to look away for too long either. They are battleships on dry land.

As Banshee’s fourth season wraps up this summer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and its final eight hour set launches into action early next year, I will sit back and remember the great times I’ve had with this show, behind the scenes and in front of the tube. I’ll remember being humbled by its creators and blown away by its actors. I’ll remember feeling alive after every episode.

Friday nights after March, 2016, will never the same again. We have eight months to prepare for that feeling. I suggest buying a punching bag immediately.

Raw and Honest “Southpaw” told from inside out


(In case you missed it on KSDK)

Take everything away from us, and we are flesh, bone, blood and all that we have created. Antoine Fuqua’s gritty boxing flick is told from the inside out, and he accomplishes that by starting with the human frailty of the modern fighter. Southpaw may look familiar but it’s something different. The intense B-side track to Rocky.

Jake Gyllenhaal(the fearless actor can’t miss right now) is Billy Hope, and the fight opens with preparations for Hope’s 43rd fight. He’s unbeaten, but that doesn’t include facial scarring, potential brain damage and visceral shock to the upper body. His wife, the beautiful yet tough Moureen(Rachel McAdams, evolving as an actress with every role) can see the toll being stacked on top of her family, which includes the couple’s adolescent daughter. Hope wins the fight, takes a beating and may walk away before the brutal shock of life stuns him and takes everything away from him.  If you haven’t seen the trailer, good for you but this film will fake the left to the head and hit you in the kidneys with an uppercut you never saw coming.

Instead of just going all Rocky and showing us the comeback trail of Hope from the gutters to the ropes, Fuqua and screenwriter Kurt Sutter(the maestro of Sons of Anarchy) beat the soul of Hope senseless first. Stripped of everything, the fighter has to be reborn. Is this like Mark Wahlberg’s The Fighter? Is it a modern Rocky? Yes on both counts, but more brutal. Those fighters didn’t have it as tough as Hope and that sets Southpaw apart and gives this seemingly conventional drama fresh legs in the cinematic ring. (more…)

Bernie Miklasz “changed things” at the Post Dispatch

bernieBack when I was a kid, I appreciated the more simple things in life. For me, it was getting up and sprinting to the nearest St. Louis Post Dispatch machine and getting the paper. I went to the machine near Tholozan and Kingshighway. Most days I actually got fully clothed but others I just ran out in what I was in at the time. If they would have timed me on one of my pursuits, I may have challenged a college draft pick for the 40 yard dash.

I needed the paper because I needed to know what local scribe Bernie Miklasz thought about a game, player or upcoming event. As a St. Louis sports fan and prospective writer, he was the guy I looked up to. Every fan has their selective voice and for me, Miklasz was it.

Bernie Miklasz is leaving the Post Dispatch after 26 years of writing print columns, blogging for their STL Today website and producing many podcasts, including Breakfast With Bernie and Best Podcast in Baseball with Cards reporter Derrick Goold. To me, he is the epitome of “tell it like it is and don’t care what others think”. Bernie doesn’t sip the koolaid(unless you put it next to a fine cigar) and prefers to think against type on certain topics. He is a blunt instrument in a world of talking head sports types that are afraid to challenge the status quo. (more…)

Ranting about a Dentist and Cecil The Lion

CecilLet me get this out of the way. Since Jimmy Kimmel ranted about it last night I figured I would too. Sometimes, talk show hosts can set a man off. I’ll spin it for you quick.

Cecil the Lion, a treasured animal in Zimbabwe who was being tagged in a research project, was brutally murdered by an asshat from Minnesota. A dentist who thought it would spike his manhood to trap and hunt a lion. In this day and age, men have to get their rocks off by killing beautiful animals because it’s impossible to feel good about yourself if you aren’t killing things in this world. The dentist, named Walter Palmer, paid 55, 000 dollars to make this happen.  Fuck him and everybody who looks like him.  (more…)

Bill Simmons and HBO: A Match Made in Heaven

When ESPN decided to part ways with writer/podcast extraordinaire, my instant reaction was plain and simple. The sports network was letting a golden asset loose and it wouldn’t be long before another network scooped up his talents. Well that happened. Wednesday, HBO announced a multi-faceted deal with Simmons and this is a match made in heaven for fans of the writer and the premium cable network. It’s about time Simmons got super sized and put in a classy five star restaurant dinner rotation.

HBO doesn’t mess around, is fearless with its content and so is Simmons. The DNA’s are a match. The acclaimed and notoriously free spirited Simmons is a hardcore Boston sports fan but he can also transition into movies and other teams and sports at will. The best podcasts and columns are the ones that involve movie quotes, comparisons and creative connections around the sports and entertainment industry.

Before he started the award winning documentary series 30 for 30 at ESPN and started the well respected website, Grantland, Simmons was the sports guy. The Grantland staff today is full of Simmons addicts. They write like him and will keep that idea rolling in his absence. Simmons started it over a decade ago writing these epic articles previewing the NFL matchups or compiling a master mailbag session. He was unfiltered and uncanny in cutting to the center of a point without retreating. That turned some people off and in the end was too much for ESPN to handle. (more…)

Is Chris Davis an option for the Cardinals?

In case you missed it on STL Sports Minute….

According to @CubsCardsCast, MLB analyst Jim Bowden mentioned on satellite radio this morning that the St. Louis Cardinals could be a landing spot for Baltimore slugger Chris Davis. Is this plausible? What would it take? Is this a good idea? After talking with my Cardinals cohorts, Let’s dig into the conversation on this Sunday morning. As I gulp the coffee..we run.

Is it plausible? Sure it is. The Orioles aren’t exactly sellers or buyers but they aren’t sure about keeping Davis past this year, where he has a 12 million dollar deal. Davis is 29 years old, is slugging well this season but may not be a part of the plans in Baltimore. Instead of offering Davis a qualifying offer they don’t want him to accept, the Orioles can get something for him now. Possibly rebuild at the position or gather young players. Davis also fits the Cards needs at first base in solving a short term fix without being attached long term. Davis will be looking for a long term deal so he will be playing like a man on the hunt.

What would it take? The return wouldn’t be light according to my fellow STLSM scribe Corey Rudd, due to Davis’ power raking ability, young age and the Cards need. Stephen Piscotty may be a conversation starter but it could also be a guy like Marco Gonzales and Tim Cooney. Jacob Wilson is a solid hitting 2B prospect with a huge roadblock in front of him. The Cardinals biggest problem in finding help is not having a ton of pieces to work with. Also, does Mo leverage a huge piece like Piscotty or Gonzales to find a guy who could be gone by this winter? With the way the team is playing, my guess is not. (more…)

Jim Valvano’s ESPY’s speech resonates 22 years later

Jimmy V“I don’t know how much time I have left. I have some things I want to say. Hopefully by the end, I’ll have some things that will be important to other people too.”-Jim Valvano

When the name Jimmy V comes up in sports circles, one things comes to mind. The speech. The acceptance pledge that the late Jimmy Valvano made on stage at the ESPY’s to a crowd of athletes, sports minds, analysts, coaches, and colleagues over 22 years ago. Those words echoed around the world and still resonate today as the video shows. Emotions stir through you, and tears build up and fire brews in your stomach. Jimmy V’s words did that.

Valvano had tumors all over his body at the time and was fighting off cancer like the disease was Joe Frazier in his prime stalking him around the ring. Before he left us, Valvano took the stage where he received the Arthur Ashe Courage award. Those 10 minutes will go down as the best in sports history. I can remember the words like I heard them when I was 11 and watching the TV.

“You got to do three things in life. Laugh. Think. Cry.”  (more…)

The Fog Lights Interview: St. Louis musicians rock Blueberry Hill

Fog LightsThere’s something about great music hitting your ears for the first time. Like a drop of rain hitting your forehead. Emotions instantly stir and a memory creeps in that has been unleashed due to that tune.

When I listened to Justin Johnson and Jim Peters’ new two piece band, The Fog Lights, harmonize on the new single, “Lead the Way”, I instantly got swept up with the song. A bad day became a distant memory and I was happy. It didn’t hurt that the three of us went to the same high school(Brentwood High School in St. Louis county) or that the album title, Manhassett, references an apartment complex where this album came together and all three of us lived in at one time or another. I didn’t care what genre it belonged to because the feeling was enough.

Justin and Jim are real authentic musicians and when I say that I mean the second you hear their music, the connection is established and you understand they do this because they need to. They do this for a living or in Justin’s case, it’s a calling you mix with a regular job because a world without music is a scary place. It’s a part of who they are and that isn’t always the case in today’s commercially driven digital music world.

This Saturday at St. Louis’ famous Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room, The Fog Lights will have their album release show along with two other bands and they promise a night of great music. This past weekend, I had the chance to ask them each a few questions. Justin was on the road in Texas and Jim was in Kansas City with one of his other bands, Javier Mendoza. The Q&A quickly became a journey of some sorts. (more…)

Carlos Martinez: Pitching with Oscar on his mind

El GalloNothing makes you feel more human than when you lose someone in life who is close to you. It’s not fair. It’s too soon. And it really hurts. For St. Louis Cardinals’ pitcher Carlos Martinez, losing his best friend and teammate Oscar Taveras may never wear off. Everywhere Martinez goes and whatever success follows him, the legacy of his friend will follow along.

Every time Martinez climbs the mound, he draws an #18 into the mound. Whenever something great happens, such as Friday’s announcement that he was an All Star, the 23 year old mentions “representing” Oscar at the festivities. 2015 may be an extended tribute show dedicated to his fallen friend, but something tells me Carlos will be pitching with Oscar in mind for a long time. Maybe his whole career. That’s the way it goes with legacies. They never drift. They stick with you.

Also, I need to address the moral police. The people who see fit to slam Carlos or anyone who mentions Taveras in good graces. Unless you have NEVER driven under the influence or know anyone who has, please stand down on breaking out your little moral badge here. Carlos lost a friend dear to him. Nothing changes that, circumstances or not. Oscar made a mistake many of us made at 21 years of age. Why dog his best friend for that honoring him after his death? I don’t walk around with my shiny fake moral badge on slapping people for remembering an exuberant young man who made a tragic fatal mistake. Let it be. (more…)