TV talk: Sylvester Stallone crowned ‘Tulsa King’; Effective ‘Virulent’ Premiere on WQED-TV – TribLIVE | Episode Movies

It’s a big weekend for acclaimed writer/director Taylor Sheridan: his “Yellowstone” returns for a two-episode season five premiere Sunday at 8 p.m. on Paramount Network, and his latest series “Tulsa King” celebrates with the first both episodes premiere Sunday on the Paramount+ streaming service.

More entertaining than Sheridan’s dour “Mayor of Kingstown,” “Tulsa King” benefits from dark humor that infuses the script written by Sheridan and showrunner/writer Terrence Winter (“Boardwalk Empire,” “The Sopranos”) into that of Sylvester Stallone with natural ease is presented. (I’m probably the only person who remembers, let alone liked, Stallone’s 1991 flop comedy Oscar, but he’s good with a one-liner!)

Stallone plays New York Mafia capo Dwight Manfredi, who has kept his mouth shut while serving a 25-year sentence, in Tulsa King.

How will Dwight be rewarded if he folds? He’s banished to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he must start a business, beginning with arming a marijuana dispensary that doesn’t need protection from gangs (there aren’t any) or the FBI (it’s legal, the owner says).

Far from being great television, Tulsa King is above average thanks to Stallone’s world-weariness and the presence of actress Andrea Savage, best known for the comedy I’m Sorry. Savage’s Stacy meets Dwight at a bar, and in the first two episodes she seems to be a strong comedic foil for Dwight to go up against. (Dana Delany will also be part of the show, but she doesn’t appear in the first two episodes.)

“Tulsa King” is prone to overt jokes about Dwight’s age and Dwight’s ignorance of modern technology. Someone has to explain an ATM card to him, but ATMs predate Dwight’s 1997 jail time. And because this is a Sheridan show — macho, politically incorrect by definition — Dwight rants about pronouns when he’s high.

But “Tulsa King” benefits from a few surprising plot twists, Stallone’s weird timing, and a compelling supporting cast, particularly the aforementioned Savage and Martin Starr (“Freaks and Geeks”), when poor pot shop owner Dwight sets his sights on it .

After this week, Tulsa King episodes will air weekly on Sundays on Paramount+. The first episode of “Tulsa King” will air as a one-off special on November 20 on Cable’s Paramount Network after “Yellowstone.”

“Virulent: The Vaccine War”

I was skeptical about the next original documentary to air on WQED — not skeptical about its subject matter, the benefits of vaccines, but skeptical about the implications of Virulent: The Vaccine War (7:30 p.m. Nov. 17 WQED- TV ) can have. My guess is that most WQED viewers aren’t vaccine retarders, and for those who are, would they watch this program?

But “Virulent,” produced by Laura Davis and Tjardus Greidanus (“Burden of Genius: Dr. Thomas Starzl’s Journey into Organ Transplantation”) in collaboration with WQED and the Steeltown Entertainment Project, is such an effective contender on so many different fronts vaccine skepticism that I ended up feeling similar to a former vaccine skeptic interviewed in the film who says, “You never know what will flip someone’s switch. If you receive incorrect information and need to change [your mind]you just have to admit it.”

“Virulent” does an excellent job of debunking many bad arguments, including the idea that vaccines are a conspiracy by big pharma. As the film points out, there’s a lot less money to be made from vaccine development than other prescription drugs — and a lot from anti-vax scammers.

The film examines the political fight over vaccines that started as a far-left issue and mutated into a far-right issue, and how vaccines have proven so effective that they become questionable.

“Mother Nature has been trying to kill us since we crawled out of the ocean onto land,” says Dr. Paul Offit, Professor of Pediatrics at Penn Medical School. “The only reason we’re living 30 years longer today than we were 100 years ago is because we fought back. … The only reason, frankly, we are now questioning them is that vaccines have, at some level, become victims of their own success.”

Local connections in the film include an interview with a University of Pittsburgh professor/UPMC doctor and a look at how times have changed since Dr. Jonas Salk was hailed (not ridiculed) for his development of the polio vaccine in Pittsburgh.

Other IATSE training courses

Following the Summer’s Grips training program conducted by IATSE/Pittsburgh Film Office/Reel Works, the studio mechanic electrical training and entertainment hairdressing training organizations have re-merged to provide participants with skills and qualifications needed for union careers in the film/ TV production after graduation.

The application deadline for the hairdressing program is November 20th and for the electrical training program it is November 21st. Both programs are free, pay participants a stipend, and begin in January 2023.

For details or applications email info@mediamkrs.org.

Keep/cancelled

It took a while, but Netflix renewed The Sandman, starring Point Park University graduate Mason Alexander Park, for a second season. Netflix also ordered two more episodes of “Monster,” which focus on serial killers other than Jeffrey Dahmer, and a second season of “The Watcher.”

Apple TV+ has renewed Bad Sisters for a second season.

Amazon Prime Video’s “Carnival Row” concludes with its second season, which premieres on February 17, 2023.

ABC’s “A Million Little Things” concludes with its fifth season, which premieres February 8 at 10 p.m.

HBO Max has canceled Westworld after four seasons.

The adult animated comedy Tuca and Bertie has been canceled again, this time by Adult Swim.

A “Degrassi” reboot in development at HBO Max has been scrapped as the streamer seeks to rethink its kids and family programming and save money.

CNBC canceled Shepard Smith’s newscast effective later this month, replacing it with an hour of business news in early 2023.

Star Colin Mochrie says the current version of The CW’s “Whose Line Is It Whatever?” will conclude with a 12th season, with filming beginning in January.

zapping

Peacock launched a Hallmark Hub, giving Peacock subscribers access to Hallmark Channel simulcasts, on-demand programming, and a library of Hallmark vacation movies. … CNN’s Jake Tapper, who began a prime-time test in September, will return in the coming weeks from 4 to 6 p.m. … Jimmy Kimmel will return to host the Oscars on ABC (March 12, 2023). … ABC will finally pair “The Rookie” (8 p.m.) and “The Rookie: Feds” (9 p.m.) on Tuesdays starting January 3.

You can reach TV writer Rob Owen at rowen@triblive.com or 412-380-8559. Keep following Rob Twitter or Facebook. Ask TV questions by email or phone. Please enter your first name and location.

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