GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION: THE SOCIAL CONSCIENCE

GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION: THE SOCIAL CONSCIENCE

In the history of television, there have been a minimal amount of programs that outlined the inequalities of “minorities” in the United States. In the 1970’s, iconic television series such as Norman Lear’s “All in the Family,” “Good Times,” and “The Jeffersons” all shed light on racism and politics through comedy. The greatest example of this was the late 80’s Bill Cosby creation “A Different World,” which in my opinion, set the standard for sitcoms centered around social conscience issues that to this date has yet to be equaled. The last few years, three television dramas have set the standard for social conscience in the 21st century: “Hap and Leonard,” “The Chi” and the incredible Netflix limited series “When They See Us.” All three series have stamped their mark on this new “Golden Age of Television.”

Michael K. Williams is in the midst of an incredible run as an actor since he debuted in 2002 as the iconic Omar in “The Wire.” He followed with almost equally iconic roles in “Boardwalk Empire” and “The Night Of.” “Hap and Leonard” was his first television starring role as he co-starred along with James Purefoy as two lifelong interracial friends attempting to maintain their friendship in the racist climate of late 80’s Texas. Williams’s Leonard, like Omar, is another anomaly he portrayed; a homosexual Vietnam War veteran. Purefoy portrays a White draft dodging, ladies man and hippie who detests guns and violence. Both men are diametrically opposed in both their race and political views, yet they unconditionally love each other as brothers. This is shown over and over again as both men risk their lives to save each other time and time again.

“Hap and Leonard” aired for three seasons on the Sundance network from 2016-2018. The second season was the best of the three. Season two centered over Leonard being falsely accused of being a serial killer of children. In the town Hap and Leonard live, several young, black children were murdered over several years. Hap and Leonard fight a racist hometown police force to prove Leonard’s innocence, culminating with a scene that is heartbreaking when the real killers are revealed. Incredible acting by not only Williams and Purefoy, but Irma B. Hall as Leonard’s elderly surrogate grandmother. I was extremely disappointed when Sundance canceled the series after another incredible social conscience season three, which had Hap and Leonard battle White supremacists. I highly recommend that if you’ve never seen this show, to seek it out, especially seasons two and three.

Williams recently appeared in the Ava Duvernay directed limited series “When They See Us” as the father of Antron McCray, one of the five adolescents that were falsely accused and convicted of the 1989 rape of a female Central Park jogger. This four part series is an emotional roller coaster to watch. It will anger you to see how these young men were railroaded, especially 16 year old Korey Wise, sensationally portrayed by Jharel Jerome. Williams, Niecy Nash and John Leguizamo all shined as parents of three of the accused. Although you know the result of the verdict in the courtroom, this series gives you raw and unforgiving dramatizations of the illegal methods used by NYPD detectives while interrogating the five young men. The courtroom scenes, especially the testimonies by both Williams’ and McCray’s characters, will move you to tears. Finally, the abuse Korey Wise suffers in prison is a testament to his intestinal fortitude. Imagine being convicted of a crime you didn’t commit and be physically and mentally tortured everyday in prison? It is unfathomable. “When They See Us” is must see television.

It saddens me to talk about “The Chi” because of the recent allegations that lead to the show having to terminate the star of the show, Jason Mitchell. Mitchell has had an incredible run the last five years, beginning with his phenomenal portrayal as NWA founder Eazy E in “Straight Outta Compton.” In the two seasons of “The Chi,” Mitchell’s portrayal of Brandon, a struggling African American chef struggling to fulfill his dreams while dealing with personal tragedy and financial woes is as great as we’ve ever seen on television. “The Chi” is very similar to “The Wire” as it’s large ensemble cast is set in a major city, this time being Chicago. The show focuses on the major issues plaguing Chicago: gun violence, gentrification, drugs, single mothers, and racism. Without spoiling the events that occur in the first two seasons, both season’s arcs center around Brandon and throughout you find yourself heavily rooting for this young man to overcome his strife and succeed. Showtime and “The Chi” will have to find a way to overcome Mitchell’s absence next season and beyond.

The entire 21st century has seen an incredible run of television dramas. Although “Hap and Leonard” was canceled, we will no doubt continue to see Michael K. Williams shine in future classic television as he did in “When They See Us.” I’m hoping the same can be said of Mitchell, as his sexual harassment allegations on the set of both “The Chi,” and the upcoming Netflix series “Desperados” has caused him to not only be fired by both shows, but being dropped by both his management and talent agency. If the allegations are true, here’s hoping that Mitchell gets the help he needs to get back to an acting career that has currently been short circuited.

ALL TIME NEW YORK METS TEAM: EDGARDO ALFONZO

There have been an infinite number of second basemen that have played for the New York Mets in the now 58 years the franchise has existed. Two of the greatest second basemen in MLB history, Roberto Alomar and their current second baseman Robinson Cano, have patrolled the position for the Mets. Neither one came close to the impact that Edgardo Alfonzo had while at the helm between 1999-2001.

Alfonzo originally was a shortstop while playing in his native Venezuela. Venezuela has produced many incredible shortstops over the years: Dave Concepcion, Omar Vizquel, Luis Aparicio, Chico Carrasquel, Ozzie Guillen, Carlos Guillen, and Elvis Andrus. Concepcion, Vizquel and Aparicio are three of the greatest shortstops to ever play the game. While in the Mets minor league system, Alfonzo eventually switched his position to third base and was the Mets regular third baseman beginning in 1995, his rookie season. After the Mets signed free agent All-Star third baseman Robin Ventura after the 1998 season, Alfonzo was forced to switch positions again. It was this move to second base that coincided with his greatest years both at the plate and in the field.

The 1999 New York Mets were one of the greatest teams in the history of the franchise. Led by future Hall of Famers Mike Piazza and Rickey Henderson, the team had a machine of an offense. There were five everyday players who batted over .300. They also sported one of the greatest defensive infields in the history of the sport, with gold gloves won by Ventura at third and Rey Ordonez at shortstop. First baseman John Olerud would win one the following year and many felt Alfonzo was robbed of the gold glove at third base in 1999. Despite not winning the gold glove, Alfonzo did win the silver slugger award for the best offensive player at third base that year, batting .304 with 27 home runs and 108 RBIs. Finally, to top off his incredible year, Alfonzo hit two home runs in game one of the divisional series playoffs against the Arizona Diamondbacks, including a ninth inning grand slam in the top of the ninth inning that proved to be the game winning hit.

The 2000 season was another stellar season for Alfonzo both in the field and at the plate. Alfonzo batted .324 with 25 home runs and 94 RBI’s and once again helped lead the Mets to the playoffs. He had a phenomenal National League playoff series at the plate, including batting .444 in the Mets five game defeat of the St. Louis Cardinals to reach the World Series for the first time in 14 years, eventually losing to their crosstown rivals the Yankees in five games.

Alfonzo’s numbers dropped drastically in 2001 due to several injuries. In 2002, he was once again moved back to third base as the Mets acquired future Hall of Famer Alomar to play second. It was a disastrous acquisition as Alomar proved to be past his prime and was a complete bust. Alfonzo batted .308 in what would be his final season as a Met.

My father loved the way Alfonzo played the game. When my father first saw Alfonzo play for the Mets in 1995, my father proclaimed that Alfonzo would go down as one of the greatest Mets of all time. Alfonzo proved him right, as his clutch hitting and superior defense makes Fonzie, as he’s affectionately called by longtime Mets fans, the greatest second baseman ever to wear a Mets uniform.

NIGEL “THE DARK DESTROYER” BENN: GREATEST PERFORMANCES IN BOXING HISTORY #111


(RECORDED ON 2/23/19)
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING PODCAST
GREATEST PERFORMANCES IN BOXING HISTORY #111: NIGEL “THE DARK DESTROYER” BENN
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THE INEVITABLE DEFEAT OF MISTER AND PETE

I can’t believe it took me over five years to finally see this incredible movie. “The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete,” is one of the greatest films ever in the depiction of at risk inner city youth. Masterfully directed by the always great George Tillman, “Mister and Pete,” keeps the audience glued to the movie praying that the movie’s two protagonists do not become another fatal statistic due to their dire situation. As I will go into a comprehensive detail of the movie, I urge those who have yet to see this masterpiece to watch it before continuing to read my review.

When “Mister and Pete” was first released in theaters October, 2013, I wanted to go see it, but it only lasted three weeks in the theaters. Then, it appeared on Netflix for a few years. Unluckily for me, when I finally began subscribing to Netflix, the movie was pulled from the streaming service the day after. It was not until last weekend that I finally saw the movie on HBO. Wow, I can’t believe I allowed this cinema classic to go unseen by me all these years.

“Mister and Pete” is the story of two young boys, ages 13 and nine, who bond through an intense summer of abandonment. Mister, the older, 13 year old Black adolescent played effortlessly by Skylan Brooks, has endured years of poverty and embarrassment due to his mother’s heroin addiction, brilliantly played by the always capable former Oscar winner, Jennifer Hudson. Mister has been hardened by his mother’s behavior and results in him becoming very stubborn in seeking outside help for his strenuous situation. Pete is a nine year old Korean boy who also has suffered due to his mother’s addiction. Pete’s mother has physically abused him with an iron. Both mothers work as prostitutes to support their addictions. After Mister’s mother is arrested for drug possession and Pete’s mother disappears, the boys are forced to fend for themselves with no money or relatives that can help them. This is where the survival instincts of Mister take fold.

Mister does his best to care for his younger friend while avoiding bullies, the police, child welfare authorities and a Brooklyn housing project that is unsafe for children with parents, never mind ones left on their own. Brooks and Dizon’s facial expressions and eyes show both their desperation and despair. Yet, the bond these two create during their two months alone together in this struggle is the ultimate positive out of this immense negative.

Director Tillman has directed three incredible movies: “Soul Food,” “The Hate You Give,” and “Mister and Pete.” Each movie focuses on social issues that have burden Blacks throughout the years. “Mister and Pete,” brilliantly illustrates how drug addiction continues to destroy inner city families predominantly consisting of black and brown families. The crack epidemic of the 80’s and 90’s destroyed several black and brown families that still affects these communities today. Whether it’s 1985, 1995, 2005 or today, drug addiction of parental figures has continually contributed to the destruction of black and brown families.

“Mister and Pete” though heart wrenching to watch, is an authentic look at the damage that children could suffer due to their parents drug abuse. “Mister and Pete” although bleak and full of heartbreak, shows the strength of two young boys who would literally die to save each other’s lives. The movie ends with both boys gaining a brother for life and their lives at a better place than when the movie began. Brooks and Dizon continue to excel in movies today at their respective ages of 20 and 16. I have a feeling both these talented young men still have their best work ahead of them.