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This Week in Black Television: Young Stars Shine in Bright New TV Roles

Television
by Curtis Caesar John
October 23, 2012 2:44 PM
8 Comments
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Sinqua Walls, Aja Naomi King, and Kelly McCreary

I never thought I’d be watching Emily Owens, MD.  But then I saw Joshua Sanchez’ new feature film FOUR this past summer, and one of the ‘four’ stars of that film (it’s a repeated theme throughout the movie) is Aja Naomi King and she was so both intense and intriguing that I knew I’d be on board with anything else she’d appear in, which brings us to Emily Owens, MD, the new medical drama/fish-out-of-water/professional life is like high school show on the CW.  Very compared to Grey’s Anatomy, from which it copies heavily but respectably from, it stars Mamie Gummer in the title role playing a sort of dorky looking young lady who just happens to be the daughter of superstar actress Meryl Streep.  Yes, that Meryl Streep. 

Dr. Owens is among the newest set of interns in the surgical unit, along with her hunky friend/long-pined for love interest Will Rider (no, I didn’t make that name up) played by former Smallville co-star Justin Hartley (who played CW’s former resident Green Arrow but wasn’t brought in for the new version) and the aforementioned Ms. King as her high school nemesis Cassandra Kopelson, who remembers Emily immediately as her nickname ‘Pits’ though unsure why. 

The early promos for this show were really corny, but with King being a co-star, and prodding from readers of this column who watched the YouTube early full-episode preview I decided to watch the show and glad that I did.  Now, early warning, Emily Owens is not a great show, not yet anyway, but it is entertaining and has a warmness that is not easy to pull off.  Despite comparisons to that other medical show, I liked Gummer right off the bat (I actually still don’t like Grey’s lead star Ellen Pompeo, but let’s save that for another column).  Gummer as Owens is endearing and totally believable as this unsure yet capable and bright young woman with a bigger heart and stronger instincts than others but less nerve to see them through.  Kopelson isn’t quite as vicious as they promoted, though Owens still thinks so, and near the end of the pilot episode they give a lazy wannabe emotional attempt at informing us why she had a bad attitude in high school (though King did a nice job with what they gave her). Still, the writers combat that with a Dr. Kopelson who is making machinations on ol’ Dr. Rider. 

Also featured is Michael Rady (Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) as the young doctors’ surgical resident supervisor Micah Barnes who is making googly-eyes at Owens, unbeknownst to her, and Kelly McCreary as Dr. Tyra Dupre, who immediately intros herself as a lesbian and has personality issues herself being the daughter of the fiery chief resident (a surprise guest star Harry Lennix).   Though she messes a bit with Owens they appear to be on their way toward becoming best friends and allies among the newbies.  The natural-coiffed lispy-voiced McCreary, who recently appeared in Paul Weitz’s Being Flynn and the USA Network’s White Collar (and an understudy on Broadway’s Passing Strange) has naturalness on screen that we want to see more of, and with any luck will.  Final analysis:  I’m in for at least the next three episodes wherein hopefully the show will begin to develop its own persona, separating it from similar medical shows.  I have a feeling it will get a full season order.  You may have missed it last week as it went against the second Presidential Debate, but Emily Owens MD is back on the air tonight, and airs regularly, on the CW at 9pm EST on Tuesdays.

Before though, check out these cute cast interviews highlighting King (the first one) and McCreary (the 2nd).

Catching up on Last Resort, things for the crew of the Colorado have gone from bad to worse to s***-out-of-luck, which hopefully doesn’t keep replying to ratings as well.  Andre Bruagher’s Captain Chaplin is having a harder time keeping control of his crew many of whom very much do not want to be on the island.  It’s a plotline that the writers were thankfully quick to address as it’s glaring that a full submarine crew would have serious problems being seen as traitors to their country as Chaplin and his XO Sam Kendal have now been officially deemed by the US Secretary of State, leading some overzealous crewmembers to try to assassinate Chaplin.  Giving his crew a choice, Chaplin sets up a list outside of the mess with two choices – IN or OUT. 

Making things worse was the death of a crewmember by island “mayor’ and soldier kidnapper Julian Serrat, played by Sahr Nhaujah, who though the literal-resident baddie aside from whoever in the US government set up Chaplin and his crew to take the fall, killed one of Chaplin’s men after the captain was too late in getting Serrat’s supplies being hampered by the blockade that’s not allowing the Colorado and hopes of coming home.  Though Cortez (the lovely Jessica Camacho), a Chaplin devotee and one of the kidnapped, is still stable after that debacle, seaman Brannan (Will Rothhaar) is bugging out after allowing his fellow seaman to get shot and tries to sink the sub while it is out running drills and killing Chaplin as well by almost activating a live grenade in the command center.  Though Chaplin is finally able to resolve things with Brannan peacefully, he realizes more than ever what he’s putting his once-proud crew through. 

Last Resort remains an intense show packed with thrilling moments and yes, great acting.  Both Braugher and Speedman carry this show on broad shoulders. Nhaujah is also vicious yet appealing, with great character beats that tell you a lot about the kind of man he is.  Hopefully ABC finds it in them to keep this show on the air by either providing a better timeslot of just keeping it around until it brings more fans into the fold. No, it doesn’t have as many “did that just happen?” moments like that other ABC show on an island had, but it’s a great watch. 

Meanwhile Revolution is still chugging along.  We now it won’t be cancelled, as there have been a whole season ordered, but it is still very disjointed.  Last week’s episode ‘Soul Train’, which we hope wasn’t called so because it featured the flashback backstory for Captain Tom Neville, S&A favorite Giancarlo Esposito.  We see that he wasn’t always the badass that he is now, and was actually a nebbish who was fired from his insurance adjuster job on the day of the blackout.  When his neighbor breaks into his house five days after the blackout, the thug attacks Neville trying to kill him in front of his son Jason. Neville then teaches Jason how to be a badass himself. This back and forth is told while Neville gets his underlings to prep his boss Monroe’s first steam engine train so he can quickly transport the kidnapped Danny to Monroe. 

Though Danny’s sister Charlie and Uncle Miles attempt to rescue him and also stop the train from blowing up thanks to a bomb planted by their supposed ally Nora and fellow anti-militia rebel Hutch (the always wonderful Jeff Fahey), the best action since the pilot takes place. Neville is about to choke out Charlie when the no-longer captured and Charlie’s would-be paramour Nate (JD Pardo) saves her by throwing her off of the train despite Neville’s order that she should die.  All this occurred after the flashbacks, and we realize pretty quickly why Neville does not kill Nate for his incompetence – Nate is actually his son Jason.  Revolution on a whole is not a horrible show, but it’s not getting much better either.  It lacks consistency, as Charlie in particular never learns from her impetuousness.  Five episodes in, it makes the show frustrating to watch. 

Lastly, last week's Once Upon A Time actually featured a black character outside of our man Giancarlo Esposito who played evil queen/mayor Regina’s right Man-in-the-Mirror/right-hand man.  Sinqua Walls played Sir Lancelot, formerly of the official Camelot Round Table, in the decimated Fairytale Land that takes place outside of the normal ‘reality’ of the show.  And yes ladies, the brother looked good in his suit of armor as you can see above. Though in a cop-out, by episode’s end we come to find that he isn’t who he really is as Regina’s even eviler mom Cora (Barbara Hershey, who plays evil really well!) was him in magical disguise in an attempt to kill Snow White herself (I know, if you’ve never watched the show itself this is all confusing and would take a while to fully explain). That said, Walls did appear for most of the episode and even tweeted to disappointed fans, "But did Lancelot really die???? Hmmmm!"

Those unfamiliar with Walls can see him in season three of Friday Night Lights as Jamacrus, his first breakthrough role, and in season four of The Secret Life of the American Teenager.  Where you shouldn’t bother watching him is in Shark Night 3D as no one should ever watch that movie.  I do have to give Once Upon A Time some credit as they’ve had their share of non-white actors featured recently. In addition to walls, Jamie Chung (The Man with the Iron Fists) now regularly appears on the show as the fairytale legend Mulan. 

Join me back here next time as I focus on what’s going on, or rather what’s barely happening, in the world of Black folks in sitcoms world. 

Follow Shadow and Act’s 'This Week in Black Television' writer Curtis Caesar John on Twitter (@MediaManWatch) and check out his film blog,  brotherfromadifferentworld.tumblr.com

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8 Comments

  • YoungBlackActor | October 30, 2012 2:40 PMReply

    This article is both informative and inspiring. Thank you for digging deep and
    shedding light on . . . everything.

  • ALM | October 24, 2012 3:13 PMReply

    This article made me check out "Emily Owens" last night. I'm still irritated that Justin Hartley wasn't brought over onto the "Arrow" series. I am trying to get into "Arrow", but this new guy doesn't do it for me the way Justin always did on "Smallville".

  • Boomslang | October 23, 2012 7:29 PMReply

    I too only checked Emelie Owens because I saw aja in the promo . I almost blinked lol! , she is STUNNING , ridiculously stunning. They should cast Tika sumpter as her sister at one point. My life will be complete .And she's the only reason I am checking that show.

  • Curtis Caesar John | October 25, 2012 11:41 PM

    Indeed and nuff said! I won't disagree on the 'only reason' part, but Kelly is a solid actress too and cute...she also reminds me if an ex-GF (or two).

  • Nadine | October 23, 2012 4:46 PMReply

    Thanks for covering Em. O. MD. Aja is a darling. The show's audience is young and is filling the gap that Grey's Anatomy could not fill. It's cute, a little too hokey, but I think it will find its way. My teen self would have loved it. Degrassi meets Grey's and Mean Girls. They know their audience. I'm loving the gorgeously statuesque Necar Zadegan, too. It's about time.

  • Nadine | October 31, 2012 9:49 AM

    I'm all about the original Degrassi (SPIKE!!! JOEY!!!), but you are so right, the "new" Degrassi has been on so long that they are classics (I'm so old...)! You know it's in my Hulu queue!

  • Curtis Caesar John | October 25, 2012 11:35 PM

    You summed it up perfectly Nadine, but is it classic Degrassi or new Degrassi? (In hindsight, the NEW ones been on so long its early eps are practically classic). Speaking of, classic Degrassi (Jr. High and High) are on Hulu!

  • Akimbo | October 23, 2012 3:13 PMReply

    I'm still sticking with Last Resort, and am curious to see where the story goes; on the island, it kind if feels like it has nowhere to go in that syndicated, pointless mission of the week way but I want to be wrong. I appreciate that we see life off the island and hope that the other story lines start effecting island life (and vice versa) soon. That being said, definitely loving Braugher, Speedman, Pazzis, Reeser, and Patrick. Not a fan of Jesse Schram as Speedman's wife. I'm still watching Once Upon A Time, though I can't even tell you why. So much cheese, so little pay off, and any old excuse to cram another Disney character in. I couldn't take Revolution with the bad acting from the lead girl, her brother, & uncle and the incredibly stupid/ill-thought out premise. Emily Owens is Grey's Anatomy with none of the stakes, none of the heart, none of the pathos, and significantly worse writing. I really like several cast members (Lennix, Rady, and McCreary), but this is a waste.

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