Archive | October, 2011

Power Rankings – Buffy the Vampire Slayer

31 Oct

(Power Rankings sum up:  Each week, we’ll pick a television show and rank the actors/actresses/contestants/correspondents/etc. based on what they’ve done after the series ended (unless we’re ranking a current series, in which case we’ll have to bend the rules).  Preference will be given to more recent work, but if the work was a long time ago, but much more important/relevant, that will be factored in as well)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer power rankings this week.  We’re covering a lot of actors and actresses who have been in the cast over the seven seasons of the show, but we had to draw an episode cut off line somewhere.  Apologies Eliza Dushku and Mark Blucas.  That said, it’s a fairly impressive bunch.

11.  Amber Benson (as Tara Maclay) – She’s mostly been in a series of indie films and single episode appearances of shows such as Cold Case, The Inside, Private Practice, Grey’s Anatomy and Supernatural.  She’s also written a handful of books with Christopher Golden.

10.  Emma Caulfield (as Anya) – She appeared in a Monk episode and in a couple of Robot Chickens as well as a Private Practice.  She was a recurring character in one-season TeenNick show Gigantic and in 11 episodes of CW two season show Life Unexpected.

9.  Charisma Carpenter (as Cordelia Chase) – She moved over to Angel along with David Boreanaz.  After her role there ended, she appeared in four episodes of Miss Match and episodes of The Division, Charmed, LAX, Big Shots and Back to You.  She was a recurring character as Kendall Casablancas in 11 episodes of Veronica Mars.  She’s also appeared in episodes of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Legend of the Seeker, Burn Notice and Supernatural, and in four episodes of ABC Family’s Greek.  Last year she appeared in feature film The Expendables.

8.  Nicholas Brandon (as Xander Harris) – After Buffy ended, he starred in short-lived Fox series Kitchen Confidential based on Anthony Bourdain’s book of the same name with Bradley Cooper and John Francis Daley.  He voiced Huntsboy #89 (I have no idea what this means) in six episodes of animated program American Dragon: Jake Long.  He plays a recurring character Kevin Lynch on CBS’s Criminal Minds, having appeared in 11 episodes.  He appeared in TV movie Relative Chaos with Buffy co-star Charisma Carpenter and in four episodes of Private Practice last year playing a mentally disturbed man.

7.   James Marsters (as Spike) – He moved over to Angel for a season after Buffy ended.  He appeared in a supporting role in P.S. I Love You.  He was in four episodes of Without A Trace.  He appeared as villain Brainiac in 14 episodes of Smallville and as a recurring character in one season Syfy Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica.  He also appeared as Piccolo in the live action film adaptation Dragonball: Evolution and in three episodes of Torchwood.  Most recently he appeared in episodes of Hawaii Five-0 and Supernatural.

6. Michelle Trachtenberg (as Dawn Summers) – An actress from an early age, after Buffy, she portrayed pop star Celeste in four episodes of Six Feet Under.  She starred in the kids movie Ice Princess and guest starred in episodes of House M.D. and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.  She appeared in 17 Again and as recurring character Georgina Sparks in 14 episodes of Gossip Girl.  She starred in the one season hospital drama Mercy and was in four episodes of Weeds.

5.  Sarah Michelle Gellar (as Buffy Summers) – Gellar’s career seemed on the rise as Buffy ended, but that momentum largely stalled after the series ended.  She appeared in the second Scooby Doo movie Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed as Daphne (she had appeared in the same role in the first while Buffy was airing) which was a commercial success but a critical bomb.  She also appeared in the first and second Grudge movies and Richard Kelly’s disappointing Donnie Darko follow up Southland Tales.  She also appeared in six episodes of Robot Chicken and The Air That I Breathe.  She’s now starring in the first season of CW series Ringer which got picked up for a full season’s worth of episodes.

4. Anthony Stewart Head (as Rupert Giles)  – the oldest member of the Buffy cast by a good deal (closest is Marsters), Head did little in America but has been quite busy in his native Britain.  He had a small role in Woody Allen’s Scoop and starred in the cult horror rock opera Repo! The Genetic Opera.  He was a regular in British sketch show Little Britain and narrated Doctor Who documentary series Doctor Who Confidential.  He co-starred in BBC series Merlin as Arthur’s father King Uther Pendragon and co-starred as the boss in the successful BBC series Free Agents and the unsuccessful American remake of the same name.

3. Alyson Hannigan (as Willow Rosenberg) – Best known outside of Buffy at the time for her role in the American Pie series of movies, she’ll be reprising her role as Michelle in 2012’s American Reunion.  She appeared in Date Movie, but she’s best known for her ongoing role as one of five main cast members in CBS’s multi-camera sitcom smash How I Met Your Mother, currently in its 7th season.  Hannigan plays Lily Aldrin, kindergarden teacher and wife of Jason Segal’s Marshall Erikssen.

2.  Seth Green (as Oz) – Green left Buffy after the third season.  He’s continued his voice role as Chris Griffin on Family Guy which continues to this day and created and contributed his voice to five seasons of Robot Chicken on Adult Swim, which is still airing.  He guest-starred in in five episodes of That ‘70s Show, two of Will and Grace, and three of Entourage as an exaggerated version of himself.  He starred in one season NBC sitcom Four Kings and appeared in two episodes of Grey’s Anatomy and three of Heroes.  He’s contributed to various voice roles in American Dad!, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Cleveland Show, stop-motion Adult Swim series Titan Maximum and the Mass Effect series of video games.  He’s also appeared in feature films The Italian Job, Without a Paddle, Sex Drive and Old Dogs.

1.  David Boreanaz (as Angel) – Boreanz left Buffy after the third season and starred in spin off Angel as the same character in Los Angeles, which lasted five seasons and ended a year after Buffy.  Like Hannigan, Boreanaz has essentially only done one major project since leaving the Buffy-verse, but like Hannigan’s, it’s a seriously big one.   The year after Angel ended, in 2005, he started his ongoing role as FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth, one of the main two characters in Fox’s Bones.  Bones has been extremely successful and its seventh season will premier this week.

Show of the Day: Secret Girlfriend

28 Oct

I’ve made mention before about how most Comedy Central shows fail within the first year.  Of course, part of this is because most of them are terrible; it would be giving short shrift to that fact to blame it all on Comedy Central having a quick trigger finger.  Their general terrible-ness has however, not prevented me from at least giving many of these shows a shot.

One of the more unique shows in this parade of one season cancellations was 2009-10s Secret Girlfriend.  Based on a pre-existing web series, the great gimmick of the show is that YOU are the main character.  What this means is that the camera is oriented as if you are walking around, looking at your surroundings, swinging up and down, left and right as different things get your attention.  You hang out with your two friends, Sam and Phil, who converse with you even though you can’t hear your responses.  They’re good friends, but boneheads and over the course of the series they explain to you their different hare-brained schemes and the web videos that they make.  You’re also a bit of a ladies’ man, and in the first episode you meet Jessica, the title “Secret Girlfriend” who has a boyfriend at the time, but with whom you eventually develop a relationship over the short course of the series.  The fourth and final main character (well fifth including YOU) is your crazy ex-girlfriend Mandy who breaks up with you in the first episode but still follows you around and is jealous of any girl who comes near you.

Sadly, the show is not very good.  I’m not sure whether that is simply because the camera format is too limiting or that it could be done well but wasn’t.  Each episode is composed of two 11-minute segments; the show might have been better suited to Adult Swim where short-format shows like Childrens Hospital and Eagleheart make their home.

The show is extremely crude and one of the main reasons for the camera style seems to be to allow the camera to focus on hot chicks.  Basically every female character in the show seems to be in love with you and you’re constantly have sex with them.  I’m not sure exactly sure what the comedic value there is.  The best moment in the series may be in the second episode when the characters go to a strip club, but find the food far more alluring than the strippers.  Crudeness can certainly be funny; Workaholics has done a fine job of showing that on a couple of occasions.  Too often, Secret Girlfriend doesn’t make it work however.  It doesn’t seem like there’s enough substance to justify expanding a shorter web series into a television show here.

In a world of rehashes, procedural police shows and tired old family sitcoms, it’s oddly refreshing to see a failed show that at least tried something new and interesting.  I’ll always have more respect for a show that takes a real shot and fails than one that doesn’t even try.

Ranking the Shows I Watch – 10: Terriers

27 Oct

I several times almost forgot about the existence of Terriers when working on this list as it was crushingly cancelled after its 13 episode first season  on FX in December, 2010.  The best new show of last fall’s TV season by a long shot, it gained traction with critics, but never with audiences and fans like myself were left wondering whether the terribly non-descriptive name played a significant role in preventing people from tuning in.

Earlier in this list, there were a number of USA shows. USA shows, as previously mentioned, are good, but due to the strictures of the network, they genrally have a ceiling.  Terriers is at its heart, a USA show, with the strictures removed.   Donal Logue plays an ex-cop who is a recovering alcoholic and is partners with Michael Raymond-James (Renee from True Blood), an ex-con, in a private detective business in San Diego, California.  The two solve week-to-week cases while working on occasional long-term projects and deal with each other’s personal life – Logue’s troubled sister and the marriage of his ex-wife and Raymond-James’s possible engagement to his long-term girlfriend.

The primary two actors are where the core of the show lies and their chemistry is the engine that keeps Terriers moving.  The show maintained a relatively sunny disposition, giving it that great USA easy-watch feeling without the sometimes forced famed USA Blue Skies mentality. Things don’t always exactly work out.  Logue and Raymond-James were the underdogs you loved to root for (maybe that’s where the Terriers name comes from?).  With such a promising first season, it’s depressing to think where the show could have gone if it just had more time.  The concept sounds incredibly generic but the execution is pitch perfect.  When I read about it at first, it didn’t sound all that great, until I actually watched it and I was hooked.

Why it’s this high:  The actors are great by themselves, and the relationship between Logue and Raymond-James at the heart of the show is strong – about as good as a largely procedural show can be

Why it’s not higher:  This is pretty fucking high for a show with one season which is cancelled already

Best episode of the most recent season:  It’s hard to remember exactly, having watched the show almost a year ago but I’ll choose “Fustercluck” partly because I just remember it better; I don’t think there were any one standout that was so much better than the pack.  In this episode, a character they helped put in jail asks Logue and Raymond-James to steal back $250 thousand of his own money in exchange for allowing them to keep $100 thousand of it.  They take the case, but follow him after he’s bailed about because they’re suspicious of his motives.  They then learn a little bit more about the season’s long local conspiracy plot.

The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame: Willie Garson

26 Oct

(The Zeljko Ivanek Hall of Fame is where we turn the spotlight on a television actor or actress, and it is named after their patron saint, Zeljko Ivanek)

Willie Garson is a TV veteran’s veteran, having worked in the medium regularly for a quarter century.  Garson’s acting career began with appearances in 1986 TV movie The Deliberate Stranger and with guest spots that year in Family Ties, Cheers and You Again?  Over the next year, he appeared in TV movie The Leftovers, an episode of American Playhouse, an episode of My Two Dads, and in two episodes as two different characters in Newhart.  In 1989, he was busy, making appearances in Make a Living, Coach, Peter Gunn, and Chicken Soup.  Around this time, he also appeared in seven episodes of Mr. Belvedere as Carl who was the oldest son, Kevin’s, best friend.

He began the ‘90s with spots on Booker and thirtysomething and as well as Twin Peaks before appearing in three episodes of Quantum Leap, two as Lee Harvey Oswald, as Sam Beckett tries to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Over the next couple of years, he showed up in Moon Over Miami, L.A. Law, Flying Blind, A League of Their Own (the short-lived TV series based on the movie), Renegade and TV movies Daybreak, Black Sheep and Ray Alexander: A Taste for Justice.  He appeared in two episodes of show-I-have-never-heard-of Pig Sty, before appearing in MadTV as Lee Harvey Oswald again and in episodes of Partners, Mad About You and Touched by an Angel and TV movie The Barefoot Executive.  Around this time, Garson appeared in the first of his two X-Files episodes.  He was a medical orderly in third season episode The Walk.

He continued the circuit the next year with episodes of VR.5, Caroline in the City, two of The Practice as D.A. Frank Shea, and two of Melrose Place.  He got his first main cast role in absolutely ridiculous one season comedy on Fox Ask Harriet that got five episodes before getting pulled.  I’m curious to read more about this, but in very short the show featured a sexist sports journalist who dresses in drag to get work as an advice columnist after being fired from his sports job.  Garson played a security guard in an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and two different characters in two episodes of Ally McBeal.  He was in one Conrad Bloom and three Party of Fives.

He was in seven episodes of NYPD Blue as Henry Coffield, a loser and relative of Jimmy Smits’ Bobby Simone’s dead wife, and superintendent of the building that Simone inherits.  He was in a Friends, The One With the Girl Who Hits Joey, a Just Shoot Me, and an Early Edition and a Star Trek: Voyager.  He appeared in four episodes of Boy Meets World, including one as the minister who married Topanga and Cory.

He got his biggest role to date in 1998 as Stanford Blatch in Sex and the City.  Carrie’s best friend outside of the other three women on the show, Blatch is the only one other than the four main characters to occasionally receive his own storylines.  He is a gay talent agent who has known Carrie for many years and in the second Sex and the City movie gets married.

While he was working on Sex and the City, he was still busy elsewhere.  He appeared in his second X-Files episode, The Goldberg Variation, this time as Henry Weems.  Weems is a man who is exceptionally lucky, several times evading mobsters through bizarre acts of chance, and having been the only person to survive an airline crash that killed twenty.  He is trying to use his luck to treat a sick boy in his apartment building.  He also showed up in episodes of City of Angels (again, TV series based on movie), something called Hollywood Off-Ramp, two of Level 9, and ones of Spin City and Going to California.  He continued in two episodes of Special Unit 2, two appearances in TV miniseries Taken, single episodes of Greetings from Tuscon, All About the Andersons, TV movie Harry’s Girl, and an appearance in the minorly infamous furries episode of CSI.

He was in a Yes, Dear, a The Division, a Monk, a Wild Card and a Las Vegas.  He appeared in three episodes of Stargate: SGI as Marin Lloyd, a human from a non-Earth planet who desserted from his planet’s military when they were losing a war against another species.  He felt guilty about it, but was drugged by his fellow survivors so that he wouldn’t make trouble.  Eventually he helped start a campy TV show based on the Stargate program called Wormhole X-Treme!

He got another shot as a main cast member in HBO’s one season John from Cincinnati from Deadwood creator David Milch as Meyer Dickstein a lawyer and surf fan.  He had a cameo in David Alan Grier Comedy Central program Chocolate News as well as in a Wizards of Waverly Place, a Pushing Daisies and a Medium.

This all led to his biggest role to date, co-starring inUSA’s very successful White Collar as Mozzie.  Mozzie is main character Neal Caffrey’s best friend and long-time associate, and helps the team in weekly cons and with his contacts in the criminal world, for information.  He is a conspiracy theorist and calls FBI Agent Peter Burke “Suit” and his wife “Mrs. Suit.”  White Collar has been renewed for a fourth season.

Ranking the Shows I Watch – 11: Bored to Death

25 Oct

Bored to Death really isn’t like any other show on television, and I like that about it.  I struggled through the whole first season on how to place the show – where to group it, trying to figure out in what genre it fit.  During the second season, I just pretty much said to hell with that and just enjoyed it for what it was, and it was easier because the second season was significantly stronger than the first.

What is it?  Well… It’s a very dry comedy, as befits the Jason Schwartzman personality, and the Wes Anderson movies with which Schwartzman is often connected (or for that matter I Heart Huckabees to some degree in which he stars).  It’s incredibly New York and Brooklyn in particular, and the setting is very prominent (though certainly not a character – settings can never be characters, as I’ve argued with certain friends).  It’s absolutely a bit precious, and a bit madcap.  There’s a lot of drinking and a lot of smoking, but in a very different way than on, say, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.  Where It’s Always Sunny has a super low-brow feel, Bored to Death is very high-brow.  It’s Always Sunny cast members own an Irish pub and drink beer all day.  Bored to Death features members of the literary world who drink white wine.  If noir comedy was a genre, this would certainly fit in.

Ted Danson is wonderful as Jason Schwartzman’s editor and mentor, as part of the great Ted Danson revival of the ‘00s (featuring Bored to Death, Damages, and Curb Your Enthusiasm and now most bizarrely CSI).  John Hodgman is also wonderful as a recurring character literary critic who bashed Jason Schwartzman’s first novel, and is his rival.

The show is essentially just three characters – Schwartzman, Danson, and Zach Galifianakis, who plays Schwartzman’s best friend, who writes his own comic, Super Ray, who fights with his magically enlarged penis.  While normally a show with such a small cast feels limiting, I never get that sense in Bored to Death.   In addition, for a show that feels like it should be more of a smile and enjoy comedy like Entourage, I find myself laughing out loud frequently during episodes.

Addendum:  The first three episodes of the third season have been outstanding, even more consistent so far than the second so now’s the time to at least give the show a try – watching episodes out of order is not really a problem.

Why it’s this high:  It’s unlike any other show on television – and while I can see a lot of people not liking it, I’m probably somewhere around the perfect audience for it

Why it’s not higher:  Three character shows are always a little small for my liking

Best episode of the most recent season:  “I’ve Been Living Like a Demented God”  – this episode involves a wild goose chase in which Jason Schwartzman must track down a rare book which was pawned off by Professor F. Murray Abraham to his drug dealer – John Hodgman figures prominently, and he follows Schwartzman, who follows drug dealers, until they catch him, and the drug dealers follow them.  Hijinks ensue.

Power Rankings: The West Wing

24 Oct

(Power Rankings sum up:  Each week, we’ll pick a television show and rank the actors/actresses/contestants/correspondents/etc. based on what they’ve done after the series ended (unless we’re ranking a current series, in which case we’ll have to bend the rules).  Preference will be given to more recent work, but if the work was a long time ago, but much more important/relevant, that will be factored in as well)

Admittedly the past couple of power rankings have been kind of weak.  It’s time to change that in a big way.  The West Wing, like last week’s Malcolm in the Middle, also ended fairly recently in 2006 but its cast members have generally been far more active.  Oh, and RIP John Spencer, elected Vice President forever in my heart.  Sorry Mary McCormack, Jimmy Smits and Alan Alda.  I had to draw the episode cut off somewhere.  Wait for the In Plain Sight, NYPD Blue and M*A*S*H Power Rankings.

9.  Stockard Channing (as Abbey Bartlett) – she was in small films Sparkle and Multiple Sarcasms and in TV movie Sundays at Tiffany’s.  She was also in an episode of The Cleveland Show and in Pal Joey on Broadway, for which she was nominated for an Tony.  She also narrated the last season of Meekrat Manor.

8. Janel Moloney (as Donna Moss) – She appeared in six episodes of Showtime three season show Brotherhood and in a House, M.D. and a 30 Rock.  She also appeared in a Life on Mars and a Law & Order: Criminal Intent.  That puts her in the bottom rungs on this power rankings, but in less headier competition she’d be in the top half with just that.

7.  Martin Sheen (as Jed Bartlett) – They’re pretty much all winners from here on, so the ordering gets more difficult.  The year of The West Wing’s end, he appeared in Bobby and The Departed.  In future years, he was in films Imagine That, Talk to Me, Echelon Conspiracy as well as a voice in the video game series Mass Effect.  He’ll be appearing as Uncle Ben in the preboot The Amazing Spider-man next year.

6. Bradley Whitford (as Josh Lyman) – Immediately after The West Wing, Whitford joined ill-fated Aaron Sorkin project Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip as producer Danny Tripp.    He co-starred in a British mini-series about climate change called Burning Up as an oil lobbyist.  He appeared in episodes of Monk, The Sarah Silverman Program, In Plain Sight, Law & Order: LA and The Mentalist and TV movie Off Duty.  He also co-starred in short-lived Fox show The Good Guys with Colin Hanks.

5.  Joshua Molina – Molina replaced Rob Lowe after the latter’s much publicized departure from The West Wing.  After the show ended, he appeared in three episodes of Numb3rs, one of Stargate: SG1, and two of The Nine.  He co-starred in one season show Big Shots on ABC with Dylan McDermott.  Since then he has appeared in single episodes of:  Medium, Grey’s Anatomy, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles, iCarly, House M.D., Psych, Bones, The Big Bang Theory, CSI: Miami, and Private Practice.  Wow.  He also is a recurring character in In Plain Sight, having appeared in 17 episodes as a car dealership owner dating the main character’s sister.

4. Richard Schiff (as Toby Ziegler) – in 2007, he appeared in two episodes of Burn Notice.  The next year, he was in an Eli Stone, a Monk, and a Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles as well as in the film Last Chance Harvey with Dustin Hoffman.  The next year, 2009, featured a In Plain Sight as well as films Another Harvest Moon with Ernest Borgnine, Imagine That with Eddie Murphy and Solitary Man with Michael Douglas.  In 2010 it was supporting roles in movies The Infidel and Made in Dagenham, a main cast role in short-lived Fox series Past Life and an episode of British Jim Broadbent series Any Human Heart.  This current year he’s been busier than ever with three episodes of The Cape, one of White Collar, four of Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, one of Up All Night and a role in Rowan Atkinson James Bond spoof Johnny English Reborn.  He’ll co-star in a new Showtime comedy with Don Cheadle and Kirsten Bell next year.

3.  Alison Janney (as CJ Craig) – After The West Wing ended, Janney appeared in a Two and a Half Men and had supporting roles in Hairspray and Juno.  She was in an episode of Aaron Sorkin drama Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.  In 2008 she appeared in the satirical Prop 8: the Musical and in the film Pretty Ugly People.  In 2009, she was in Away We Go and Life During Wartime.  She voiced a role in four episodes of Phineas and Ferb.  She was in a Family Guy, two In Plain Sights, and in one of the last episodes of Lost as the mother to the Man in Black and Jacob.  She co-starred in Matthew Perry’s failed series Mr. Sunshine and in this summer’s The Help.

2.  Dule Hill (as Charlie Young) – Hill hasn’t had a whole lot of variety since leaving The West Wing but he has had a very successful role in a very successful cable series, Psych, on USA, as Burton Guster, the straight man in the partnership with Shawn Spencer that run the detective agency Psych as well as a pharmaceutical representative.  Hill has played the role for five seasons so far and the sixth is currently airing.

1.  Rob Lowe – Lowe left the West Wing after season 3 when he was downgraded from the main character to one of an ensemble.  The season after his West Wing run ended, he got a chance to star in his own series, The Lyon’s Den which went all of 13 episodes.  The next year he got a new series on CBS, Dr. Vegas, which also ended after a single season.  He starred in a TV miniseries remake ofSalem’sLoton TNT.  On 2006, he finally found his way onto a show the lasted, as a main character in an ensemble again on Brothers and Sisters.  He left before the last season to co-star in NBC’s Parks and Recreation as state auditor Chris Traeger, known for being a physical fitness freak and his pronounciation of literally as “litrally”

Fall 2011 Review: Prime Suspect

22 Oct

Girl power isn’t just found in sitcoms (girl power sounds patronizing – woman power?) this fall TV season.  It’s also in dramas.  Prime Suspect is a police procedural but with more of an attitude than the standard CBS version.  Maria Bello plays a cop looking to move up the ranks, who has just been transferred to homicide somewhere in New York (from somewhere else in New York).  She’s a damned good cop, but apparently due to something she did (an affair with a senior officer? It wasn’t mentioned specifically in the pilot) the squad’s old boys’ club view her as an outcast who cheated her way up the ranks.

The homicide detectives in her new squad keep skipping her name when homicide calls come up, which seems pretty disrespectful to say the least, and while the boss of the unit seems to genuinely respect Bello and feels sympathetic, he doesn’t want to rock the boat and tells her she’ll just get the next case.  Only thing is, this particularly case she was skipped on was a brutal murder getting lots of press, and she thinks she has a novel theory – that it’s connected to an existing series of rapes, – which no one else believes, including the current detectives on the case.  So she’s both isolated and unable to solve anything until one of the detectives on the team, a veteran to the force, keels over and dies unexpectedly.  She makes a poorly timed request to her boss to take the detective’s place on the case, and though the boss is displeased by her timing, he gives her the shot.  She is curt and bosses her way around the investigation, getting respect from some but resentment from others, particularly the dead cop’s best friend on the force, but through it all eventually solves the case proving her theory correct.

The show has more going for it towards making it a weekly watch than an average procedural.  Maria Bello is certainly the biggest factor going for it.  She’s rough around the edges and a little bit irritable but effective, and I think it’s well played that even in the first episode, while you’re mostly on her side, you can understand why she gets under some of the detectives’ skin, aside from the one who really hates her.  She acts only as barely respectful as she needs to be and isn’t willing to cut anyone any slack, especially right after the death of the other detective.  The best parts of Maria Bello on the show though are still when she’s making things happen solving the case though.

It seems a little bit much in terms of the way she’s treated so poorly, particularly just because she’s a woman, in this day and age.  It’s one thing to have some minor resentment, but the cops in this episode definitely go farther than that, particularly the one cop that really, at this point, just seems like a jackass.  It’s one thing to forgive him at the beginning of the episode after the loss of his friend is so fresh, it’s another towards the end when he gets on her case for no real reason.  That said, it would only require a little tweaking to solve that problem, and move the resentment to focus on her attitude and demeanor and less solely on her identity as a woman.

Will I watch it again?  Again, probably not.  But I’m also considering it.  I could make up a middle tier of shows this season, and this would be right there.  I can see it growing up better and I think the characters could be fleshed out well.  These are all good things and it makes me think about it but it’s hard for me to really get into a show like this with at least a little bit of a more serial element.  Maybe if it was on USA.

Show of the Day: Heat Vision and Jack

21 Oct

I would wager to say Heat Vision and Jack, which was made in 1999, is the most well-known pilot of the last twenty years that never actually aired.  I’m sure there’s some other contenders, and I don’t think it’s hands down, but I do think it’s true.  Even more than that, I’d wager than more movie stars have broken out of this unaired pilot than any other, probably ever.

What I didn’t mention yet is that it’s also one of the more surreal pilots, a comedy/science fiction fusion in which Jack Black portrays a former astronaut, Jack Austin, whose exposure to some sort of dangerous solar radiation gives him super intelligence which is triggered by exposure to the sun, ie. sunlight.  In the dark, his powers are lost.  He also has a catchphrase when his powers activated, which entails him screaming, “I KNOW EVERYTHING”  It’s absolutely as ridiculous as it sounds.

We’re not even close to the levels of absurdity yet though.  Next, Jack Black’s character’s roommate, Douglas, is hanging around the space station to meet up with Black after a mission, when he gets shot with some crazy solar ray of radiation.  This radiation causes him to merge with his motorcycle, becoming Heat Vision, the talking motorcycle.  The motorcycle is voiced by Owen Wilson and has trouble righting itself if it tips over.

Heat Vision and Jack are both wanted by NASA for scientific prodding and such and are on the run from NASA all across the country.  They solve supernatural crimes and mysteries as they move from town to town evading primary villain NASA employee Ron Silver.  That is actor Ron Silver playing himself as a tracker of these fugitives, and who also appears to be invulnerable, able to take bullets without permanent harm.  A police officer even recognizes him as the villain from Timecop.

The show was created by Dan Harmon, now responsible for NBC’s wonderful Community and Rob Schrab, who co-created The Sarah Silverman Program.  Ben Stiller directs the first episode and has a cameo.  Christine Taylor also guest stars in the episode as a local cop, and this is where she met future husband Ben Stiller.

The first episodes opens with a monologue by Ben Stiller, introducing the show, and making several references to The Phantom Menace, which came out about the same time.  The episode involves some sort of alien which takes over the body of character actor Vincent Schiavelli and starts causing mayhem.  Heat Vision and Jack must stop him while evading Silver.

It’s worth a watch for its absurdity if nothing else.  I have my doubts about how the concept could have lasted six seasons and a movie, but for one episode the concept is hilarious and strange.  The special effects are truly atrocious and the camp level is extremely high and while Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Jack Black were not nobodies at the time, they were also nowhere near the peak levels of fame they’d achieve just a couple of years later as the Frat Pack movement hits its heights in the early 2000s.  There’s something enjoyable about watching them with that hindsight.  Also, enjoy Ron Silver, who died two years ago of cancer and sadly will not be doing any more acting as himself or anyone else.

Fall 2011 Review: Free Agents

20 Oct

The inevitable fact of spacing these reviews out of the course of a few weeks means that some of the shows will be already cancelled by the time I write about them.  Free Agents, moreso, was just about dead on arrival.  It was one of the easiest shows to call as a quick cancellation, but unlike other easy calls like The Playboy Club and How To Be A Gentleman, it’s not simply because it was bad, though it was by no means great.  It’s because it was a bad fit, time and network wise, and didn’t receive much promotion.

I was mildly pleasantly surprised upon watching Free Agents, not because it was great, but because my expectations were relatively low.  That said it really wasn’t bad.  It wasn’t good either, but it wasn’t bad.  Here’s the premise.  A couple of relatively recently single middle-aged folks work at a public relations agency.  Hank Azaria plays a recently divorced dad, and Katherine Hahn, a recently widowed woman.  The two of them have gotten together on a one-night stand at the beginning of the first episode, and the show continues as they go back to work with sexual tension and a will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic.  They’re surrounded by some wacky co-workers, played Al Madrical and Mo Mandel, a wacky British boss, played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer librarian Giles, Anthony Stuart Head, and a wacky janitor played by Judd Apatow bit part player and former The State member Joe LoTruglio.

What works best about the show are the two leads.  They’re generally likable and they play their parts well,  A couple of their lines hit and all the best scenes of the show were with them and particularly when they were talking to one another. Even the parts where Azaria is crying about his divorce don’t seem nearly as cartoonish as they could.  The side characters are another story.  Irritating and over the top for the most part, they seem like a bunch of cardboard cut outs particularly put next to the genuinely engaging lead actors.  Head, though I love him as Giles, was occasionally excruciating to watch in his scenes as the incredibly inappropriate boss who makes his employees feel uncomfortable.  The other awkward side plot about how one of the friend characters wanted to go out on the town and the poor married friend wanted to come along but didn’t understand single life did not work either.

Will I watch it again?  Well, it’s cancelled, but I wouldn’t and didn’t.  It’s not dreck though, for what it’s worth, and it was a little rough to have only four episodes of it to air.  I’m not crying about it though.

Ranking the Shows I Watch – 12: The Walking Dead

20 Oct

This is the second of two shows I admit I may have overrated slightly because I wrote these entries right after seeing them.  AMC can just about do no wrong in its post-Mad Men original programming days (just about because of the “noble failure” Rubicon and the Prisoner remake miniseries which everyone seems to have tried to forget and mostly succeeded).  From Mad Men to Breaking Bad to now Walking Dead and The Killing (well the start of The Killing), AMC has hit after hit on their hands.  After the incredible success of the six episode season of the Walking Dead (six episode season, I know – what is this, the United Kingdom or something?), I read an interesting article concerned whether it was so successful that it would change AMC’s entire strategy.  The first episode of the second season has been no exception rating-wise, as the show shattered all sorts of AMC rating records, especially in terms of younger, advertiser-attractive demographics.

Based on a graphic novel, with which I was not too familiar before the series started, it comes on top of a decade long zombie fascination, second only to the more broadly popular vampire trend – made up of the resurrection of the Night of the Living Dead franchise, Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead, Planet Terror, 28 Days and Weeks Later, Zombie Survival Guide, World War Z and probably a couple of others.  Like most zombie works, even though the zombies are the enemy, they have no personalities, they’re simply unthinking, unrelenting enemies who the humans have to strive against.  The remaining humans, overtaken by the zombies have to figure out a plan to survive.  The real personal conflict is between the different factions of humans who are a bunch of unlikely folk brought together due to the strange circumstances of zombie attack and must work together in tough scenarios or face inevitable doom.

The tension is palpable, and both the action scenes and the personal drama are handled extremely well.  Finding the correct balance between out and out zombie action and relationship tension between the characters will continue to be an issue, but initial results are positive.

The season ended in a bit of a strange place, but due to the general strength of the season and the fact that the graphic novel is widely acclaimed, I’m more than willing to give the creators the benefit of the doubt.  The show faced an unusual level of behind-the-scenes drama this summer, as show runner Frank Darabont left, and going forward, the fact that I’m not sure who exactly the writers and show runners are going to be gives me a great deal of pause, but there’s a really good start here that I sincerely hope doesn’t get messed up.  They’ve started so well and have so much to work with, if they can just avoid a The Killing, it should be pretty promising.

What It’s This High:  Dark zombie drama which is constantly on the move and changing the status quo, so far anyway

Why It’s not higher:  The last episode was a little bit weak; I’m not sold on how it will continue to evolve just yet

Best episode of the most recent season: “Days Gone By” – the series remained pretty solid over the first six episodes but it was the pilot that won me over.  The episode felt cinematic and was so gripping that I was in for the whole six episodes whether or not the next five were terrible.