Jon Hein knows TV. In the late 1990s, he coined the phrase "Jump the Shark" when he founded the site of the same name. Since then, he's written about television everywhere from The New York Times to TV Guide. In his column for Primetimer, he shares his thoughts on what's new and good on TV and the shows on his radar for the coming week.
I remember it so clearly. July 13, 1985. Scorching hot day. A benefit concert held simultaneously at Wembley in London and JFK in Philadelphia. A fundraiser organized by Bob Geldof that raised millions to battle famine in Africa.
A few of my closest friends came over and we spent the day in front of a TV watching our favorite bands perform as we tried to stay cool. Queen stole the show (see Bohemian Rhapsody), Phil Collins flew across the Atlantic on the Concorde to play at both locations, and the closest thing you'll see to a Led Zeppelin reunion actually materialized.
Music truly can bring the world together, and MTV proved it more than three decades ago. It was a television event of epic proportion.
Vax Live: The Concert To Reunite The World is this year's attempt at a global concert event. The cause is a noble one. Harry and Meghan are campaign chairs. J Lo, Eddie Vedder, Foo Fighters and many more will perform before a fully vaccinated crowd in Los Angeles. Letterman, Kimmel and Gayle King will be there. Sean Penn and Ben Affleck will show that they care.
But why doesn't it feel like the television event it should be?
Almost every festival, including Live Aid, tries to be Woodstock. That magic of 1969 can never be recreated for a variety of logistical reasons. But that grass roots feeling at Yasgur's farm is what every festival aspires to be. Many have tried, but few have come anywhere near recapturing the magic of those three summer days in upstate New York.
The big problem with Vax Live is that there's nothing grass roots about it. Don't get me wrong, I respect what Global Citizen is trying to do. But it feels so "produced." The best musical moments have always been organic performances, and a lot of the acts involved are responsible for some of those. But I'm not getting the feeling I had back in the summer of my senior year in high school.
Live Aid was a television event for sure, but it felt more special than just that. Every band, and I mean any act you can think of, was part of it. It was larger than life. If you didn't know who The Boomtown Rats were, you knew their lead singer's name by the time summer rolled around. Everyone got caught up in Bob Geldof's crusade and felt really good about it. You felt the power of music.
By the way … where the heck is MTV? Vax Live is airing on ABC, CBS, FOX (delayed) and YouTube, but the cable channel originally named Music Television is not one of them? That's a sad state of affairs.
The selfish struggle I have with these concerts is wanting acts to do more than just a few songs. Variety is fantastic and a great way to discover music you might not listen to, but if a legendary act is on stage, let us hear more.
I commend everyone involved with Vax Live and hope it helps get some needles in the arms of people who need it. Do your part. Get vaccinated. Tell your friends and families and let's get COVID under control.
Then we can all go back to enjoying concerts live in person, the way it's supposed to be.
(Shows Premiering That I'm Not A Fan Of But You Might Be!)
Star Wars: The Bad Batch (DISNEY+) – Animated tale of Clone Force 99. Premieres Tuesday, May 4th (of course it does).
Selena: The Series (NETFLIX) – Netflix is dropping Part 2 of its biographical series, covering the singer’s rise to superstardom and her tragic death. You know, just in case you missed the movies, documentaries or TV specials. Drops Tuesday.
Girls5eva (PEACOCK) – A 90's one-hit wonder girl group reunites after getting sampled by a contemporary rapper. Pops on Thursday.
The Drowning (SUNDANCE NOW) – A mom catches sight of a boy and is convinced it's her son who disappeared 8 years ago. UK import debuts Friday.
The Damn Michael Che (HBO MAX) – Sketch series taking on social issues Che style. Premieres Thursday.
Shrill (HULU) – Aidy Bryant is back for a third and final season. Returns Friday.
THIS WEEK'S PICKS
.44 caliber killers, stage moms and superhero families...
The Sons Of Sam (NETFLIX)
Wednesday, May 5th
The 1977 New York shooting spree of David Berkowitz haunts New Yorkers to this very day. Author Maury Terry is convinced that he didn't act alone.
This four-part docuseries explores the killings and how "The Son Of Sam" potentially was not the only shooter. If there's a killer like this in the newspapers, expect a conspiracy right along with it.
These murders and shootings engulfed New York City over 40 years ago. The Son of Sam law prevents convicted killers from collecting any media profits from their stories. This deconstruction in today's volatile environment opens your eyes to what was really going on in late 70's New York.
From Cradle to the Stage (PARAMOUNT+)
Thursday, May 6th
Dave Grohl's mom wrote a book about rock stars and their moms, and Dave decided to make a television show out of it. Dave's TV track record is solid, and it's enlightening to follow the relationships of musicians with contrast styles and the women who brought them into the world.
Pharrell Williams, Miranda Lambert, Brandi Carlisle, Dan Reynolds (Imagine Dragons), Tom Morello, Geddy Lee and their mothers are featured in this series which the Foo Fighters frontman directed. It's nice to see how each mom supported and shaped their kid's career. Consider it a guide to when your child tells you they want to get into the music business. Hopefully he or she is as talented as this group. Happy Mother's Day! Watch trailer
Jupiter's Legacy (NETFLIX)
Friday, May 7th
My first thought was that Josh Duhamel needed a haircut and a shave. He helps bring this eight episode graphic novel adaptation to life as the world's first generation of superheroes expect their children to carry on their legacy.
The graphic novel comes from Mark Millar whose other comics gave us Kick-Ass and the Kingsman films. He tells a good story. Expect plenty of social issues to be examined along with a variety of superpowers. Like any good parents, these larger than life legends just want what's best for their kids.
If you love or hate my picks, I'd love to hear from you.
Get vaccinated. Stay healthy and safe.
Jon Hein is the creator of "Jump the Shark" and author of three books. Follow him @jonhein on Twitter.