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What I’ve Been Doing 29 Oct. 2012 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 31st, 2012 by Dan

Hurricane Sandy (2012): 60 km Wind Area Forecast

I hope everyone else who was affected by the hurricane is also fine. (Photo courtesy Canadian Pacific)

The hurricane barely did any damage to my place up in Baltimore, but I hope that any of you who were in worse areas of who have family in worse areas are fine.

Movies

Not this week.

TV

How I Met Your Mother – The competition for godfather was not that funny. This season in general: not that funny.

Key & Peele – Not their strongest episode, but I liked the Celebrity sketch and the electoral college sketch.

Happy Endings – S2 and the S3 premiere. Fantastic stuff. This show is hilarious. So glad it’s back

Saturday Night Live – Applegate’s monologue with the fake Muppets and Jason Sudekis as Dane Cook was great. Man, that Siren sketch was hilarious too. Smart of them to have Bruno Mars sing more than he acts.

The Amazing Race – This show is way cooler than I ever knew. I wish I’d been watching more. The taxi screw-ups really made the loss by the prosthetic leg hurt to watch. Lotta transportation issues, actually.

Scrubs – Started watching this to have on in the background while I played Pokemon. Season 1 of this show was really great, wasn’t it? They got a little too far away from the serious side as the show progressed.

Homeland – Holy shit, you guys! How did I wait three weeks to catch up on the latest eps? This show is so good! I love the Brody as a double agent thing they got going now. The car accident thing reeks of Landry and Tyra in S2 of Friday Night Lights.

New Girl – They were going for an I Love Lucy-esque level of physical comedy, but I don’t know if they quite achieved it here. The Nick stuff is hilarious, per usual.

NTSF:SD:SUV:: – Caught up. The 21 Jump Street parody was pretty great. Loved that one. The lack of technology one…not as much.

Childrens Hospital – Not their best, but it was funny to see Michael Cera in an old man getup.

Nashville – Despite only having a slight appreciation for country music, this show is actually pretty good. I mean, any show that features music from The Civil Wars is fine by me, but even beyond that I’m enjoying it a ton.

The Daily Show – That bit with Muppet versions of the correspondents was hilarious.

Fashion Police – Girlfriend time! The Halloween costume thing wasn’t as funny as they all thought it was, but Kelly Osbourne had a decent Katy Perry costume.

Arrested Development – Brilliant show. Too bad that Tiffany saved Good Grief and Amigos! for home. Those eps are hilarious!

Dexter – Everyone said this season was better. Everyone’s right so far. Two eps in, but I’m digging it. Love that they finally let someone important know Dexter was a killer.

Music

Hotline Miami’s got a hazy, dreamlike, excellent soundtrack. Enjoy.

Books

Not this week.

Video Games

XCOM: Enemy Unknown – It’s been a while since I’ve actually played this game, but I’ve gotta get filming some more eps soon.

FTL: Faster Than Light – Man, those Cowboy Bebop episodes were fantastic, weren’t they!

Professor Layton and the Curious Village – Beat it! The story was a little predictable, but it was still fun to do all the puzzles. Great series.

Theatrhythm: Final Fantasy – Randomly got some Dark Notes. Cool beans.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask – The transition to 3D hasn’t seemed to harm it yet. I love the more advanced graphics and I’m digging it.

Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit – I suppose I agree with the GB folks about the single player mode being nowhere near as good as the multiplayer. Love the multi and I’m glad that the GB community exists so that I could have a decent Autolog list to race against.

What I’ve Been Doing 17 Oct 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 17th, 2011 by Dan

Scouts

Those stupid hats everyone makes fun of actually do motivate me to play sometimes.

Movies

Bran Nue Dae – Disappointingly mediocre. I was expecting something interesting from a musical about aboriginal life in Australia, but it just wasn’t there. Uneven pacing, bland characters, and, worst of all, completely forgettable music. That’s the one thing you have to do right in a musical!

TV

How I Met Your Mother – The Jenson episode was great and the roommate episode brought us tantalizingly close to the “Mother”, but I’m catching up on this show by virtue of inertia alone. HIMYM is not a great show, guys. Not anymore.

The League – My favorite kind of crappy show. Can be super hilarious some days and middling other days. It’s a shame that they had to come up with an excuse to not have Nadine Velazquez on the episode. She’s funny and hot.

Homeland – Bizarre opening theme. So weird/surreal/cool. I guess it ties in with Claire Danes’ psychosis. The prince/consort subplot is boring to me, but we’ll see if it bears any fruit.

Prime Suspect – I like the main character, but I don’t love the procedural nature. I’m all about the season long investigations like The Wire. That show really has ruined cop shows for me…

Up All Night – After just watching Bridesmaids practically twice, I was a little tired of the female rivalry thing that Christina Applegate had going on in the class. Still a pretty good show, but this was the weakest episode I’d seen so far.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia – The writers on this show get so much mileage out of the title cards. So funny even if all of these people are terrible, horrible people. It makes me laugh when they call out Frank for being racist or a jerk, but they’re just as bad all the time.

Parka and Recreation – Not enough April this week! Ann being terrible at being a girl scout was awesome as was the Batman suit, but it wasn’t my favorite episode of this show.

Community – Super dark. Last week’s statement that the study group’s love was weird was right on the money. Seeing that Jeff, who brought them together is kind of bad for the group is really dark. I wonder if this has to do with Dan Harmon’s recent personal problems. This show is going some really heavy places this season.

Better Off Ted – “I think I need to get new breasts. These are covered in sad.” Finished S2 and, hence, the rest of the show. Not too bad. I can see why it was canceled, even though I liked it. Good light entertainment, but it’s not the greatest.

Dexter – This season has been bad so far. The story beats are obvious and too overbearing, even by Dexter standards. I don’t like following the “big bad” around, especially when they’re being annoyingly cryptic and awful. When they said this show would be really changing this season I didn’t think they meant that it would be getting awful. I really hope this season picks back up.

Music

Extra Hot Great – I love this show, but they made me think that maybe watching Footloose might be a good idea this week. Now to somehow suggest it to the girlfriend without letting on that I actually want to see it…

Books

Reamde – Finished the book. Very Stephenson. Brings to the foreground his love of guns, anarchy/distrust of government, MMOs, and his obsession with the way money/gold works. Good read, but not his best work. Anathem was more philosophically interesting and Crytonomicon had better characters.

(EDIT: You’ll note that there’s no talk of comics here. I might be starting a separate project to discuss them elsewhere.)

Video Games

The Binding of Isaac – Finally defeated the first form of Mom, but now I’ve got to get to her heart to slay her. I’m getting better at this game, but I’ve got a ways to go before I can beat the boss.

Mass Effect 2 – Kasumi’s loyalty mission is being annoyingly buggy, so I’m stuck on the final boss and I haven’t felt motivated to tackle it again after two nights of trying and either doing well and having it bug out on me or failing.

Team Fortress 2 – I painted Max’s Severed Head pink and it’s kind of awesome. Been getting a lot of Soldier and Demoman time in, two classes I really didn’t love before this. They’re not so bad, I guess…Had a killer round with Lee as a Heavy/Medic combo. We were unstoppable!

Gears of War 3 – So much Horde mode this weekend! I will unlock the Laugh Track! Just you wait!

EDIT: Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune – Forgot to mention that I started my replay of the Uncharted series to prepare for the third iteration’s release next month. Good game, but the visuals are starting to show their age after all these years. It’s still a pretty game, just not as pretty as Uncharted 2 or 3.

What I’ve Been Doing 3 Oct 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Oct 3rd, 2011 by Dan

Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles 8 May 2011

The MLB Playoffs continue. While most of my weekend was spent watching baseball, I also got tons of other stuff in.

Movies

Hesher – When I saw the trailer for this Joseph Gordon-Levitt movie I thought it would be a weird character study. I was pretty much right about that, but it’s simultaneously weirder and crasser than you’d think without really being comedic. Hesher is a truly bizarre character, the likes of which I’ve never seen in movies before, but he’s still very interesting. Not worth going out of your way to see, but it’s pretty good.

TV

Parks and Recreation – Haven’t gotten around to the most recent episode yet, but this is a show that is absolutely on its game. First episodes of comedies are typically kind of weak, but I didn’t mind it. This is a show that has matured and found its legs and you should be watching it, no excuses.

Community – I liked the first two episodes of this season a lot more than other people did. While I agree that the high-concept, gimmick episodes are usually pretty great on Community, there should absolutely be room for the low-concept episodes where the actors are relying on character development rather than gimmicks. The Cougerton Abbey and Inspector Spacetime jokes in the first episode were also ridiculously hilarious.

2 Broke Girls – Is it really ok to make jokes about female masturbation at 8:30 on CBS? I mean, the obfuscated one early in the episode was, well, obfuscated, but later on she full-on is all, “I was masturbating.” I don’t have a problem with going blue with jokes, it just doesn’t seem to fit the tone or the time slot. How about this one, “We’ve known each other two days and you’re already asking for backdoor.” I love Kat Dennings, but she mugs for the camera so hard every time she says something smug. This show is definitely not good, but it gets me to laugh at least a little. I’m giving it two more episodes per the “Eric Mesa Four Episode Rule” which states that you cannot truly understand a show without giving it four episodes to really lay itself out.

New Girl – Schmidt slapping Spencer was hilarious in episode two, but I’m not sure I’m in it all the way yet. Zooey Deschanel is absolutely adorable, but the show leans on that a little too hard and it’s getting me kind of tired of her. We’ll see where I fall after two more episodes, but I’m not optimistic at this point.

Archer – The mini-series has been good, but not great. I got tired of the longer plot by the end. Archer is better in one-episode arcs or the more disconnected two- or three-episode arcs they do in the regular season. Still funny, but not my favorite. Now I’ve got to wait for January for more. Danger zone!

Childrens Hospital – Did I perhaps enjoy this episode more because Lake Bell spent most of it naked while Malin Åkerman lusted over her? Ok, I’ll cop to that. The episode was funny, but not to the show’s usual standards. I’m amazed that it got me laugh at some of the jokes they tossed out there this episode. Good stuff, guys.

Up All Night – I’ve seen all the new comedies that I’m interested in and this is the best one. Will Arnett and Christina Applegate have a real handle on their characters. I wasn’t expecting to like this at all, but it’s genuinely funny. It’s kind of weird that I love this show about young parents considering that I’m neither married nor do I have a child, but it’s funnier than you think. I like that it’s dealing with getting older and trying to remain hip/cool, haha. I can relate!

Prime Suspect – A remake of a supposedly awesome English show, this was another revelation. I was expecting to find Maria Bello too smug and annoying as a character, but she’s tough without being obnoxious (even though she likes wearing that stupid hat). The storylines/crimes are dark and kind of freaky, but I like that they’re not glamorizing crime. After The Wire I thought I’d never be able to appreciate a cop procedural again, but this one isn’t bad. Really makes me want to go back to The Wire, though.

Glee – “Who doesn’t love the Go-Gos?” “I prefer The Bangles”. I totally hated the first episode until “It’s Not Unusual”, “You Can’t Stop the Beat”, and the line above had all hit the screen. Last season was a disaster, in my eyes. The show totally got off the rails, focused too much on boring storylines and dull characters, but so far we’ve had nary a Rachel/Finn drama moment and I’m totally ok with that. Bringing back Idina Menzel was brilliant and I’m digging where this whole Quin/custody thing might be going, assuming it doesn’t get really stupid. Way to return to form, guys.

Dexter – Showtime aired this thing before Dexter where they were talking about the themes and such and I watched it and I hated that I did because they were talking about how much this season would be about faith, blah blah blah, and that was in my mind all episode where they really hammered home the faith thing way too hard. Your viewers are not stupid, guys. You can be a little more subtle. Decent start to the season, even if I already don’t care about Angel and his sister. Like I really don’t care.

BASEBALL – The Rays win over the Yankees in dramatic, walk-off fashion was part of the greatest baseball day in my life. As far as the playoffs go, the important series are going better than I’d hoped. Rays/Rangers, Phillies/Cardinals, and Yankees/Tigers all have them knotted at one game a piece. I’d like to see Tampa, St. Louis, and Detroit move on, but we’ll see what happens tonight. Milwaukee has really impressed me this postseason and they’ve become my favorite to take the pennant and go for the series. If St. Louis knocks out Philadelphia it’ll be that much easier.

Music

Not much of note to mention here this week as I’ve fallen behind on my music podcasts. I will say that if you like video games and you’re not listening to the Giant Bombcast you’re doing something wrong.

Books

REAMDE – Classic Neal Stephenson, but with a lot more restraint than what you’d expect. I can see so many threads from his older books coming together to form this guy, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s really captured my imagination. It’s funny to me how a lot of books would be done by the 300th page (I’m around 350) and it took to 250 to introduce the book’s main villain. EDIT: Forgot to mention that a lot of the action has been taking place in Iowa and Xiamen, the places where David lives and Min is from, respectively. Good times!

(COMIC BOOKS FOLLOW)

Ultimate Comics Spider-Man – I’m really digging the new Mile Morales character. Bendis and Pichelli are knocking this book out of the park. Can’t wait for next week’s issue.

The Ultimates – Hickman’s take on Ultimate Reed Richards and his villainous Children of Tomorrow is super neat. They took away Thor’s divinity! Crazy stuff.

Ultimate Comics X-Men – Nick Spencer is also blowing this book out of the water. Kitty Pryde as a mutant terrorist is brilliant. Johnny Storm on the X-Men is hilarious. This could be great.

FF – Typically solid and really makes me anticipate each new issue. Good stuff.

Amazing Spider-Man – Not as good as I’d hoped it would be. Takes too much time recapping its tie-ins instead of progressing the plot.

SI: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu – Why did I buy this? Seriously…just kind of boring.

Venom – Excellent writing and story even if I think the resolution between alcoholic father and symbiote addict son was tacked on and forced.

Incorruptible – Weaker than I’d hoped it would be. Still good, but I was hoping for more. I really hope this isn’t becoming an afterthought for Waid because there are interesting stories to be told here.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – Apparently Morghan’s playing now. That’s pretty sweet.

Gears of War 3 – So much Horde mode! I still love this game. Epic at its finest.

What I’ve Been Doing 05 Sept 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Sep 6th, 2011 by Dan

Wild Flag

Best NPR First Listen!

Movies

Tokyo Godfathers – I wrote at length about this movie here, but I just wanted to take a few words to say how truly fantastic it was. Great movie.

Crazy, Stupid, Love. – Tiffany and I were choosing between this and Our Idiot Brother (ostensibly because they were the only two “date” movies, but really because of my dual crushes on Emma Stone and Zooey Deschanel), but I think this would have been the better choice. Crazy, Stupid, Love. was sweet and funny. Only real downside was the C-plot being a little creepy. Easily the best romantic movie I saw this summer (Best comedy goes to Bridesmaids).

Super – James Gunn is a sick man, haha. The movie was middling to me, but it was much better at showing how sick and ridiculous everyone involved would have to be than Kick-Ass was, so I liked it more than that. Ever wanted to see an awkward sex scene/quasi rape of Rainn Wilson by Ellen Page? This movie’s got it and it’s just as off-putting as you’d think it would be. Ellen Page does a great job playing a quasi-psychopath in this. She’s fantastic.

TV

Weeds – I can’t believe I’ve missed what’s been in front of my face this whole time. The whole season has been about Silas and Nancy’s relationship with each other after he found out who his real father was. Things are really ramping up here.

Top Gear – What a fantastic show. Makes me think stupid things like that I want to buy a BMW, but it’s a lot of fun to watch. The segment where they tried to escape that Italian town was hilarious.

Dexter – Lent my mom Seasons 1 and 2 and ended up watching part of the first episode. Always neat to watch the pilot and see how the show has changed from its inception.

Better Off Ted – An adequate way to kill a half hour while I eat or need a break. The show wasn’t gonna break any funny records, but it’s better than some of what’s out there. Just no real place for it on ABC, I guess.

Retro Game Master – The affirmation section of The Wing of Madoola was really funny. This show is at its best when the Kacho is able to make all kinds of silly jokes. Also hilarious was the part where he called the game company to see if he could still win a raffle from the 1980s.

Music

WILD FLAG – NPR’s First Listen looks like might it’s still up. Go check it out. I listened to this disc all last week and loved it.

The Civil Wars – Really got into them last week. Joy’s voice is so sweet and John Paul harmonizes well with her. Delightful to listen to.

Jonathan Coulton – His new album, Artificial Heart, came out this week. Good times, good music. I really like “Dissolve”.

Books

Collected Stories – So far Márquez is obsessed with twins and death.

(Comics from here down)
Amazing Spider-Man – Spider-Island continues! Still lots of fun.

Spider-Island: Deadly Hands of Kung Fu – Felt just a little too stereotypically Asian for me. Good art, but the story was kind of boring.

Ultimate Comics Hawkeye – I can’t say I’m that interested in Hawkeye as a character, but Hickman’s writing remains really cool and the consequences on the Ultimate U are huge. To have the X-gene eliminated in all but one region is a tremendous tactical advantage. Wonder if it will stick.

Video Games

Bastion – I agree with most people, the Narrator is super awesome. This game is fun, but it couldn’t tear me away from TF2 and…

Star Wars: The Old Republic – Got in the beta. Can’t say anything else or I’d violate the NDA.

Team Fortress 2 – TF2 remains awesome. Playing with Dave and Lee this weekend was a lot of fun. Got a lot of new achievements, but Sentry Gunner continues to elude me. I will have it one day. Oh yeah, I also played with KENDRA. Killed her once too. She did not get me back…yet.

Dragon Age 2 – Still working on that second playthrough as a Templar supporter this time. Reminds me that I’ve gotta go back and fix my ME2 playthrough for ME3 in March.

Porn Rental [ER]
Jun 6th, 2011 by Dan

I already love Michael C. Hall from Dexter, but Ben Schwartz, who hilariously plays Jean-Ralphio on Parks and Recreation really sells this clip.

Best TV Shows of the Decade [Idiot Box]
Dec 15th, 2009 by Dan

You’ll notice that this list is weighted heavily toward the end of the decade rather than the early part and that’s all because I didn’t watch much tv in high school (2000-2004). The list is also pretty small because I didn’t have access to most tv shows during my years at the university unless I went and bought box sets (2004-2008).

Firefly

It may have come out early in the decade, but I was way late to the party, since I first started watching Firefly during the summer of 2008. I’m not what you’d call a Whedonite. To this day I’ve never seen an episode of Buffy or Angel, but, between Firefly (and Serenity) and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, I’ve come to see that he’s a damn good writer capable of creating interesting worlds filled with great characters. Firefly is definitely not the first space opera to hit the airwaves, but it’s definitely one of the few I’ve ever seen to focus on fringe members of society like Captain Reynolds instead of prestigious members of an organized army. The world of Firefly is not that different from ours, save for space, and it feels like an accurate representation of what space would be like in its exploratory infancy. If the wild west was possible on Earth, it seems more than likely that the space frontier would develop similarly. Firefly makes me happy because the crew is amazing. Each character (…minus Simon) is interesting, well acted, and hilarious at any given time. FOX did the world wrong by canceling this show and bringing back Family Guy

Arrested Development

Once in a while a great show comes along that revolutionizes the way you experience television for the rest of your life. Arrested Development is that show for me. I didn’t start watching until the third season (final) was set to start, but I fell in love with the show from the first zany episode. One of the leaders in the recent American movement to serialized television, Arrested Development is probably the first serialized comedy I’ve ever seen and that may have been its downfall. Rather than go with the typical American sitcom style of status quo ante episodes and unrelated plots, Arrested Development episodes depended and borrowed heavily from every episode that preceded it, a trait that blocked out potential future viewers who felt like they were continuously out of the loop with the jokes. Those of us who were in on the joke loved experiencing every minute of the Bluth Family’s fall from grace in this show that proves that smart comedy can be hilarious. Unfortunately, it also proved that smart comedy doesn’t sell. FOX canceled it during its third season, tragically ending the best show I’ve ever seen in my adult life.

Lost

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, and 42. Oceanic Flight 815. The DHARMA Initiative. The Others. Jacob. The Smoke Monster. If you know what any of these things are, you know something about the best drama of the decade. I initially avoided Lost because of all the hype. If that seems petty and stupid, that’s because it is. People hear a lot about the show and how it never seems to answer questions or come to any satisfying conclusion, but I think that’s the talk of people unused to these long, serial dramas and the pace at which they move. Of course, ABC wasn’t helping any with the pacing when they were refusing to give the creators a firm end date. Lucky for us, the staff held their ground and told ABC they wouldn’t continue the show without a firm end date. Since then, things have moved along briskly (if confusingly) as the cast tumbles toward the dramatic conclusion of the most puzzling show of the decade. Will we all be satisfied by the ending when it airs in 2010? Expectations are running high, but I’m trying to keep mine neutral to low so that I’m able to enjoy the ending they’ve got planned for us. So long as it doesn’t go out like The Sopranos, I’m game.

The Office (US)

Bringing hit shows to America from across the pond doesn’t guarantee success. The television environment in the UK is just too different for that. Many of the best shows are extremely limited in scope and know when they’ve run their course. The original run of The Office in England comprised 12 episodes over two seasons and one two-part Christmas special. Within two seasons The Office (US) surpassed the episode count of its parent and finally managed to come into its own identity. No longer borrowing from its roots, The Office has stumbled here or there and struggled with the Homer Simpson effect (as I like to call it), but overall blossomed into a fine show all its own with a much happier outlook that reflects American tastes more than anything. Beyond that, Steve Carell has emerged as one of the premier comedy actors in the business thanks to his ability to express very human pathos into his comedic roles. While I personally think that NBC shouldn’t push the show beyond next season, it’s certainly been a funny ride so far.

Extras

While we’re already talking about shows written/created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, we may as well progress to the fantastic look at the life of a television/movie extra as told by Ricky Gervais. It’s unclear to me how much of the story is auto-biographical, but one can’t help but get a peek into the difficulties that Gervais must have faced trying to earn notoriety and bring The Office to television while also getting a glimpse into how different The Office could have been if Gervais and Merchant didn’t keep their standards up while chasing fame. Spoiler alert, but the first season deals with Gervais’ character, Andy Millman, and his struggle to both sell his idea for a show (a blue-collar workplace comedy with an obnoxious boss (ring any bells?)) and gain notoriety. Each episode features a cameo by a known (usually) British star in film or television as an exaggerated version of themselves and Andy eventually gains enough attention from the BBC to produce his show. Unfortunately, they turn it into a laugh track, lowest common denominator comedy to attract the highest audience possible and Andy continues to compromise his vision just to hold onto the scraps of fame that he has gained. It’s a sad story with a slightly uplifting ending that’s absolutely worth watching for no reason other than to see Orlando Bloom act like a self-centered jerk who hates Jonny Depp.

Weeds

This show has really gone and changed from year to year. What started as a satire on suburban misery has really ballooned into a far-reaching comedy tackling some seriously complex issues (maternity, masculinity vs. feminism, maturity, rape, murder, addiction, etc.) without ever getting too dark for too long. Just watching the opening shows how much the show has changed, since “Little Boxes” hasn’t played past season 3 when they, spoiler alert, burned down everything you knew and moved on. While some of the stereotyping jokes have gotten a little old (WE GET IT, SANJAY IS GAY! HAHAHA….MOVE ON), the show does still seem relevant and interesting in its fifth season and the most intriguing developments seem to come where you least expect it: from Nancy’s kids. Let’s hope that the show continues strong into 2010 with some fresh, interesting plotlines as Nancy delves deeper and deeper into a world she used to only scratch the surface of. It’d be nice to see Conrad again too…Extra bonus reason to watch: Mary-Louise Parker is seriously hot for an older lady.

30 Rock

I almost missed the boat on 30 Rock. iTunes gave me one free episode (the one where Jack things Liz is a lesbian) and I thought “Good, but not great” and didn’t watch through the rest of the first season. The critical buzz brought me back for season two and I fell in love with the show. Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin are comedic powerhouses in this, the second best comedy of the ’00s. In fact, 30 Rock and this most recent presidential election have both proved that Tina Fey was probably the only funny thing about SNL when she was still head writer while Mean Girls proved that she’s just plain good at writing. 30 Rock is brilliant in its subversive, but fair humor and takes the best parts of Tina Fey’s improv heritage and applies them to a sitcom that will have you guffawing every episode unless you lack a soul. It’s a must watch.

Dexter

I love shows that take place in Miami. More than that, I love shows that are unique in premise. Cop shows are a dime a dozen. Shows where the main character is the real villain are harder to come by. If you’ve been living under a rock, you don’t know that Dexter is about a cop who is also a serial killer. It’s not a unique plot in movies/literature/comic books, but it’s one of the few times I’ve seen it on tv and I love it. Dexter Morgan is a sociopath struggling with living with the urges that drive him to kill and staying out of the electric chair. The first season was based heavily on the book Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay, but subsequent seasons have had more creative freedom to mold Dexter beyond Lindsay’s strict characterization. I’m a little behind on seasons 3 and the current season, but I feel like the character is maturing rather nicely, if not a little unrealistically (he seems to exhibit more feeling than a sociopath should, but I’m no expert) and the show usually brings me back for more each season.

Pushing Daisies

Bryan Fuller had a great premise on his hands. Ned, the piemaker, could touch dead things back to life, but the renewed life had two rules: If he touched them a second time, they were dead forever and if he let them live longer than a minute, another life would be taken in its place. Abandoned by his father and harboring a power he does not really appreciate, Ned grows up to be a rather distant man who doesn’t let anyone get too close to him. He also teams up with a private detective, Emerson Cod, to solve murders once Emerson spots him using his powers. The status quo he develops (baking pies using rotten fruit that he brings back to life and solving murders for the reward money) comes crashing down when he revives a childhood sweetheart that was his one true love. While the show is often too sweet for its own good, the development of its themes of affection and intimacy (without touching, of course) are both interesting and well done. The storylines were clever and the show was funny, but it was ultimately too expensive to produce for the limited ratings it received and the show died before giving the viewers true resolution with all of its dangling plot threads. Worth watching because it is the most unique show of the decade.

Honorable Mention: Battlestar Galactica

There was so much promise here. The first two seasons of BSG were the best sci-fi I’d seen on television. How can you screw up the paranoia of the Cylon threat and the powerful storylines about a race driven to the brink of extinction? I’ll tell you how: haphazard decisions and haughty religious overtones. The Final Five were not decided upon when the show began. As I heard it, they shoehorned cylon origins onto characters who they never intended to make cylons and the see-sawing quality of the final episodes make that very apparent. When you combine that with one of the stupidest finales in the history of television (let’s just say it goes something like “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…”) you’ve gone and ruined what could have been the most significant show in recent science fiction history.

EDIT:

How did I forget The Wire?

The best police serial I have EVER seen. It deconstructs everything you know about television cop dramas by showing you both sides of the fence and the reality that good almost never triumphs over evil. David Simon must have really been affected by his days in Baltimore, because this love letter to the city tells the truth, giant warts and all, about how drugs have destroyed Baltimore and how the police are rendered powerless by bureaucracy to do much of anything about it. The show is a bit of a downer, but the acting is superb and the plotlines (save for one that I really hated in Season 5), will keep you interested through the five seasons. This show is a must watch.

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