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What I’ve Been Doing 7 Nov 2011 [FB/IB/F/BT/GO]
Nov 7th, 2011 by Dan

Scott Pilgrim iPhone Wallpaper

Blast from the past week. (Photo courtesy robotspacer)

Movies

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – I didn’t technically watch Scott Pilgrim because I was listening to the director commentary with Bryan Lee O’Malley. Very informative to learn about how autobiographical the story is and about how integrated Edgar Wright’s movie was with the book.

TV

The Walking Dead – Not killing off Shane was the smartest thing this show did. He’s ice cold and his decision last week was awesome.

Samurai Champloo – Finally got around to starting this show. It’s interesting and the music is good, but I find the animation to be a little cheap looking.

The League – I haven’t seen Brie Larson since I saw Scott Pilgrim! This was actually part of why I rewatched Scott Pilgrim. The resolution between Brie’s character and Rafi was unexpected and awesome.

Prime Suspect – Ava from Justified! She’s not bad, but I miss the accent. This show’s not too bad for just hanging out and watching

Homeland – This show is getting so good! I wonder if he actually slipped him the razor blade. Super neat to watch all the twists and turns.

Glee – Not the strongest episode, but, per usual, I like any episode that has a song I love like “Bein’ Green”

Fringe – Back when Lost was on I watched three episodes of this show before Lost started (it was on at 2000 and Lost started at 2100). I watched the first four episodes of the season and I’m hooked! I just want to watch more, but it’s not streaming anywhere for free! So frustrating!

Music

Nothing really new here. Started getting back into Girl Talk

Books

The Last Best League – I swear I’m finishing this during this week. I’m pretty much at the epilogue.

Scott Pilgrim – I know I said no comic books in here, but this is an exception

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) – I meant to download a sample of Mindy Kaling’s book, but I accidentally bought it. It’s a woman’s book, but whatever…it’s funny.

Video Games

Batman: Arkham City – Completed my Calendar Man obligation to see him on Halloween. Finished the Catwoman stuff. Might go back to finish more sidequests. Might not.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Seriously great game. about as cinematically perfect as possible. Been avoiding playing in long bursts to stretch out the experience.

Dungeon Defenders – Still playing with Min, Lee, and Min’s friends from Utah. Good fun.

The Binding of Isaac – Beat the game for the second and third times with Cain and Magdalene. Still gotta beat it with Judas, Eve, and ??? and about 5 more times after that.

What I’ve Been Doing 1 Aug 2011 [FB/IB/BT/GO]
Aug 1st, 2011 by Dan

FLCL

My favorite cosplay from the con

Otakon was this weekend, but my stolen camera prevented me from photographing any of the cosplay. The example above was taken by Eric.

This week was comic book heavy. There was a huge sale at Eric’s shop that I took advantage of along with some Amazon orders to finish off small runs of series I was reading.

Movies

Barney’s Version – It’s weird to see movies prominently set in Canada. This Can-Lit adaptation is pretty good. I can see why Paul Giamatti won a Golden Globe for this. Again, solid, but not great. I think this one was probably better as a book.

Be Kind Rewind – I liked Eternal Sunshine, so I figured I’d give this Michel Gondry film a try. It’s another passable movie. It’s got heart, which I love, and Jack Black not Jack Black-ing it up too hard, which I also love, but, and this may just be me, Mos Def’s earnestness came off more like he might be developmentally challenged, not sincere. Not a terrible way to spend 102 minutes, but not the best way either.

TV

Better Off Ted – I thought this show was really funny when it was on. It still is, but I can also totally see why it was canceled. Not bad for when I want to watch something no streaming when I’m eating a meal or something.

Weeds – This season has been really good! I love how much this show evolves and I actually dig the new NYC setting. I’m interested in where this Doug plotline is going (for once!) and I’m also impressed by how much Hunter Parrish is killing it yet again as Silas. This week also brought back a character from the early seasons, which is part of what makes this show so great. There’s an established past that can be referred to even though the present keeps evolving…you know, like real life.

Books

One of Our Thursdays is MissingA REAL BOOK?! Yep! The Thursday Next series has always been remarkably funny and clever to a sneaky degree. Sure, some knowledge of literature is assumed, but it’s mostly stuff that any educated person would come across naturally. Any other gaps can be filled by Wikipedia. Funny in a way that books rarely are anymore, this one is really pulling me in.

Slaughterhouse Five – Still making progress, but sidelined by OoOTiM (see above), this story remains one of my favorites.

Daytripper – Twin brothers Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá created this fantastic, beautiful, somber series about the important moments that define our lives. Like real life, they frame the beautiful with the somber. Each issue is framed with the death of the protagonist, an obituary writer for part of his life, and an obit about where his life is when he “died”. Beautiful art, good writing, and a plot that is deep and engaging while remaining light and digestible.

Air – A series that’s supposedly acclaimed, but whose premise falls entirely flat to me. It’s about a stewardess who is afraid of heights and shadowy conglomerations trying to get air technology that doesn’t use oil. Just…boring. I didn’t really like the art either. Really did not resonate with me.

Thor: The Mighty Avenger – Finished off the eight-issue (over WAY too soon) run of the delightful and excellent series by Roger Langridge and Chris Samnee. Fantastic lines, beautiful art, and light, happy dialog that reminds us our heroes don’t have to be angsty or violent to be interesting. It’s just sweet and fun and if you don’t like it, it’s entirely possible that your heart has turned to stone.

Amazing Spider-Man – I gave the book another try after thoroughly disliking #665. The latest, #666, remains far too wordy and doesn’t let the characters or art breathe, but I also read some back issues around where Peter joins the FF that were absolutely delightful. More importantly, they were funny. That’s what Spider-Man books are all about. Sure, there’s plenty of Peter angsting and brooding, but there should also be jokes. Funny jokes! I’m on-board for Spider Island (or, should I say, #SpiderIsland (no, don’t ever say that))! Hope it doesn’t disappoint.

Ultimate Fallout – The book lost a little focus and fun this issue between Tony Stark’s mystery rich people secret society and Kitty’s angst (overusing that word today, I know), but I still enjoyed the writing of the latter while I was intrigued by Jean Grey and The Hulk. Not the best issue, but I can’t wait for the reveal of the new (Ultimate) Spider-Man in this week’s book.

Irredeemable – This book continues to get better and better. I’m all caught up in continuity and I’m just loving the drama and struggles between The Plutonian and the remaining, surviving heroes. The most recent issue had quite the cliffhanger as the end of the arc, which is disappointing to me only in that my favorite character may be out of the story for a few issues. Mark Waid’s book remains one of my favorite reads at the moment.

Incorruptible – The companion piece to Irredeemable has the world’s worst supervillain reforming and becoming a superhero after witnessing The Plutonian’s mass murder/destruction of Sky City. Max Damage (dumb name, I know) is initially clueless about being a hero, but his development (and the addition of Alana Patel, The Plutonian’s ex-girlfriend, to his cast) makes for a really interesting story. I love the unstable partners (Jailbait and Headcase) and the recovering alcoholic police lieutenant on his side. Irredeemable has a grander scale and a more interesting ensemble, but Incorruptible’s more focused nature makes for an equally interesting character study. I wish the two intersected a little more, but it’s not the biggest problem.

FF and Fantastic Four: Dark Reign – Guess what? I like Jonathan Hickman’s writing. You’ll see more of that later on in this blog, but I enjoy it. FF is currently mired in some backstory that has me intrigued, but most fans bored, while the old issues I read in Dark Reign were funny, satisfying, and tied in nicely with later Fantastic Four/FF books.

Ultimate Fantastic Four – Nearly done with my run through this series. Main continuity beats it in terms of quality, but the situations inherent to the Ultimate Universe are still interesting.

Secret Warriors – More Hickman, this time writing about Nick Fury exiled from SHIELD. Makes sense why he started the Brotherhood of the SHIELD book, but I’m wondering now if the two are related, especially since HYRDA called themselves “The Spear” in an early issue of this book. I’d love for Hickman to just revamp the Marvel universe’s perceptions of SHIELD and, considering the huge revelation of this book’s first issue, I’d say he probably succeeded at that. Yet another book for me to collect!

Moon Knight – Bendis’ attempt to revive the oft-canceled series about a multiple personality disorder superhero has been remarkably good. I don’t want to spoil any of it, but I doubt you can be disappointed with the first two issues of this. I haven’t read beyond that (there’s one more), but it’s a lot of fun. I’m digging it.

Cowboy Ninja Viking – Just trying to finish off the book. Two volumes. Most certainly canceled due to lack of sales, but not with enough lead time to get a satisfying conclusion. I really feel like the second set of issues didn’t deliver on the fun promised by the first five.

Morning Glories – I get such flashes of Lost every time I read this book, which is a good thing. Sure, the whole “violence at a prep school” thing has been done to death, but it’s quite interesting here in this context. I’m at the edge of my seat wanting to find out what will happen next issue.

Wolverine/Deadpool One-Shot – The first story in this book was funny, involving Deadpool, Wolverine, cross-dressing, and a robot, but the second story was a little too madcap and stupid.

Y: The Last Man – The reread continues after much delay! I really dig this story and how well it deals with the post-apocalyptic aftermath of the elimination of the Y chromosome.

Video Games

Team Fortress 2 – I’m tantalizingly close to realizing my Scout achievement goal of 2004 kills (3/4 of the way there is closer than you’d think!). Getting back into this game was definitely a shock to me.

Catherine – The central conflict of this game is choosing responsible, bossy Katherine or impulsive, immature Catherine. It’s impossible to go into this game without any baggage (unless you’ve never dated anyone) and mine is screaming out at me every time I play this game. Sure, I abhor cheating, but Katherine’s bossiness and smothering, maternal nature reminds me so much of my Ex that I can’t stand her character. Throw in tons of blatant (and subtle) masculine/feminine symbolism and Freudian levels of horror and fear toward women and you’ve got a game that is more interesting to think about than to play. The block puzzles are neat, but they’re not doing it for me. Probably doesn’t help that I’m not very good at them either…

What I’ve Been Doing [FB/IB/BT/GO]
Jul 25th, 2011 by Dan

Arte de Chris Samnee para Thor: The Mighty Avenger 4. O Deus do Trovão se estranha com o Capitão Britânia.

So glad I found this at my local Borders. An absolute delight to read. I'm keeping my eye on Langridge and Samnee

Movies:

Gentlemen Broncos – Netflix told me. It said, “Dan, you’re not gonna like this movie. Two Stars.” I said, “WHAT DO YOU KNOW, NETFLIX?! YOU DON’T OWN ME!” and then Gentlemen Broncos arrived and it was terrible. I didn’t really dig Jared Hess’ work on Napoleon Dynamite, but it was still funny. Broncos has all of Hess’ excesses without any balance. I watched it at 1.5 speed so I could still hear the dialogue, but be done with the movie faster. Don’t watch it.

Wet Hot American Summer – Saw this a long time ago. Didn’t really dig it. Heard Marc Maron talk with one of the creators about how it was the 10th anniversary this year. Since I last saw it I’ve gone a little deeper into the rabbit hole of comedy nerdiness and I actually liked it a lot more this time. There’s a lot of genuinely funny comedy in here, especially the intentionally bad comic near the end.

El secreto de sus ojos – Another rewatch, this time with Min. One of my all-time favorites.

Star Trek – Min and I went to see Captain America and he told me he never saw the remake. Naturally I figured we’d remedy that and Netflix’s giant Star Trek deal came to the rescue. Netflix Instant quality is way terrible for how great Star Trek should have looked, but it’s still a really fantastic movie. I also was looking out for lens flare this time. I’d noticed it before, but now that I was looking for it…HOLY COW. They need to tone that down a bit!

Captain America: The First Avenger – Better than I thought it would be. Aside from a few nitpicks here and there, the best action movie I saw this summer. There’s a lot of earnestness and honesty in Chris Evans’ Cap that makes this movie work. Stay until after the credits. You won’t be sorry (DISCLAIMER: You might be sorry).

TV:

The League – A little more of this. Finished off season 1. It was good to get a little background into season 2. Still very juvenile and silly, but a fun diversion.

Weeds – This season is only three episodes old, but they’ve really been fantastic. Post-prison Nancy has got some secrets up her sleeve that I know we haven’t had a chance to see. Her struggles with her son and sister are dramatic gold and I’m loving everything this season is bringing to the table.

Books:

Slaughterhouse Five – Rereading one of my favorite books. It’s quite good. Vonnegut’s talent for reducing things to the absurd is at its best with Billy Pilgrim. I love Vonnegut’s humanist ways and anti-war leanings. He’s a literary hero of mine.

Thor: The Mighty Avenger – I don’t really care for Thor. He’s kind of silly. However, everywhere I looked people were telling me that this mini-series was fantastic. Thanks to Borders’ going out of business sale, I picked up part 1 (of 2) of this book and I’m really quite amazed. Roger Langridge’s writing hearkens back to the Golden/Silver Age of comics where heroes didn’t have to be brooding, angsty messes without getting too corny. The relationship between Thor and Jane is so sweet that it’s a joy to read. On top of that, Chris Samnee’s art is just perfect. It’s got that old-school look of innocence and purity that works when you’re writing about a Norse god.

Morning Glories – Nick Spencer’s series was described to me as Lost meets Runaways. Those kinds of x-meets-y descriptions don’t always bear fruit, but this one seems to work. It’s dark, violent, and horrific with a hint that there’s all kinds of intrigue in the pipe. If Spencer’s got a good plan, this could be really great. I’m liking it so far and the first trade paperback is only $10

Irredeemable – Another series with some acclaim, Irredeemable is about a Superman-like hero going ballistic and becoming a super villain. It’s really a character piece on what might cause a guy like Superman to just snap and turn evil. There’s a lot of suspense in the first issues because of how powerful he is as the remaining heroes search for clues and weaknesses. A real sharp read that I picked up especially because it’s by Mark Waid, who wrote the next thing I read.

Daredevil – It’s kind of odd that I never was into Daredevil. He’s another one of those heroes in NYC that gets no respect, kind of like Spider-Man, but perhaps a little darker. Well, Daredevil had apparently gone super, ridiculously dark in recent years. Like depressingly so. Waid has stepped in for a new #1 and a new take on Matt Murdock. He’s either got to start looking at the world with a little levity or go insane from his troubles and I’m digging it. Throw in some sharp art and Waid’s good writing and you’ve got a series that I’m really excited to keep reading.

Video Games:

Left 4 Dead 2 – Not a lot of change here, just going through the campaigns with David. Such a perfect game. Lots of fun.

Team Fortress 2 – Every time I check Eric’s inventory he’s got another item that I want for classes he doesn’t really play. It’s kind of unfair! We need to initiate some trades, pronto.

I love the art in this book!

Quit Claiming The Sky Is Falling [IB]
Jun 7th, 2011 by Dan

I’m gonna stick to tv here, but this is a general purpose post, really. Remember in the early aughts when the death of modern tv was imminent due to reality tv? Original programming was over! Reality tv was so cheap and got such high ratings that soon we’d all be watching The Bachelor, Survivor, and American Idol 24/7!

What happened instead? Nothing, really. There’s a smaller field of original programming, I suppose, but I think that allows networks to focus on fewer, higher quality shows. I mean, think of all the great tv that has happened since the end was near:

Lost, Mad Men, The Office, 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Battlestar Galactica, Justified, Community, Parks and Recreation. I could go on, but I won’t. Clearly we overreacted. These shows alone represent hours upon hours of quality television to watch. Networks had to deal with risings costs and lower revenues due to piracy, time shifting, and other innovations, but they still made things work on a tighter budget.

Next time you’re worried that something’s about to be irrevocably changed for the worst, remember that people like quality, despite evidence to the contrary. What comes out of the rubble may not be exactly the same, but it can still be good.

Lost Was So Good: Yesterday’s Scores That Matter [WMQ]
May 24th, 2010 by Dan

Hu go

Ok, so this space isn’t really about Lost, but how great was it? Oh yeah, there was baseball played too.

21 May

NPB
Hiroshima Carp (7) at Softbank Hawks (1). Kenta Maeda is a beast. Really. This guy is the best pitcher in the Central League with his 1.59 ERA and he’s consistently dominant.

Yomiuri Giants (4) at Rakuten Eagles (5). Always good to see the Giants lose.

MLB
Baltimore Orioles (5) at Washington Nationals (3). Shocked that the Nats dropped any to Baltimore, but I guess it can happen sometimes.

Tampa Bay Rays (1) at Houston Astros (2). This was an even worse loss. At least it wasn’t a blowout.

Florida Marlins (0) at Chicago White Sox (8). Mark Buehrle really dominates Florida teams and Ricky Nolasco had a terrible outing.

22 May

NPB
Carp (4) at Hawks (7). Hiroshima gets some runs in on the starter, but it’s not enough to hold back the Hawks’ strong offense.

Giants (5) at Eagles (3). Rakuten can’t afford to lose games Iwakuma starts. Sure, he gave up three, but the relief core gave up the winning runs.

MLB
Marlins (1) at White Sox (4). Another bad game for the Fish. The offense just couldn’t solve White Sox pitching.

Orioles (6) at Nationals (7). Sloppy pitching by both teams, but the Washington offense came out on top.

Rays (4) at Astros (2). This is much more like it. No more losing to bad teams, Tampa.

23 May

NPB
Saitama Seibu Lions at Carp. Rained out. The Carp end the weekend 18-27-0 in fifth.

Eagles (7) at Chunichi Dragons (2). Something happened to Chunichi’s starter, because he was pulled after 3.2 after only giving up three. It’s strange to see Rakuten’s offense awaken at random times, but it does exist. They close the weekend at 21-27-0 in fifth.

MLB
Orioles (3) at Nationals (4). Washington wins this one in extras on a walk-off home run by The Hammer, Josh Willingham. Washington closes the weekend at 23-22, tied for third with the Marlins.

Marlins (13) at White Sox (0). The recent trend is for the Fish to kick major ass whenever Josh Johnson is on the mound shutting out the opposing team. Johnson destroys the Sox over six while the Fish hit five home runs, two by Cody Ross alone. Their record sits at 23-22 in third.

Rays (10) at Astros (6). David Price has an uncharacteristically bad start, but the Rays offense helps him out by scoring a ridiculous amount of runs while the bullpen held the Astros to only one. Tampa Bay’s record jumps to 32-12, putting them a HUGE six games up on the Yankees.

Lost Mid-Season Thoughts [Idiot Box]
Apr 1st, 2010 by Dan

hty lost fundraiser

This is it! The final season of Lost! With so few episodes left, surely the producers behind Lost are dishing out answers like crazy, right?

Well, kind of. Some pretty significant questions have been answered, like who/what the smoke monster is and what the significance of the numbers is, but the big ones probably won’t really be answered until we get to the finale. Why is the Man in Black imprisoned on the island? Who is Jacob, really?

Some random thoughts about this season:

– The show keeps artfully dodging the answer to the question, “What is the name of The Man in Black (AKA Smokey)?” This has GOT to be important to either the mythology behind the show or the characters within the show.
– Smokey sure has been accessing a lot of thoughts/memories from John Locke, whose form he is stuck in. Some have theorized that the Locke in the flash sideways is actually Smokey, but the only time he’s seemed Smokey-like to me was when he suggested to Ben that he take over as principal.
– Why does Widmore need Jin? It’s got to be more than simply denying Smokey access to one of the candidates. I wonder if he’s still in partnership with Sun.
– Welcome back Des (FINALLY!). I was going to headline this post with a sexy picture of Evangeline Lily, but instead opted for Des since he was this week’s cliffhanger.
– “Ab Aeterno” answered a lot of questions about who Richard Alpert was and why he was on the island, but, more importantly to me, it muddied the waters as to what exactly is going on with Jacob. Why are the instructions to kill Jacob and Smokey word for word identical? Why wasn’t Jacob his usual stoic self this time? I think there’s more to it than Jacob = good Smokey = bad. That’s just too easy.
– The whole “Sun can’t speak English anymore” plot development is kind of stupid. I don’t really like it. Too convenient. Some are theorizing that this sets up why Sun doesn’t speak English in her flash sideways, but I pose this question to you: Why can’t she understand English in sideways world? Theory. Destroyed.
– I’m totally digging Terry O’Quinn’s acting as Smokey. He’s doing an absolutely brilliant job being manipulative and seeming like he knows what’s going on like Smokey. His scene this week where he told Claire that she could kill Kate once they were leaving the island: chilling.
– Claire as Rousseau was cool for a bit, but now I’m concerned because Sayid has become a boring character ever since he caught the “disease” and can’t feel emotion. I thought that maybe a spark of emotion could be seen in his face when he saw Desmond at the end of this last episode, but I could have misread that. I still have faith that Desmond’s “Brotha” powers will save Sayid.
– Weak flash sideways so far: Sun/Jin and Sawyer.
– Strong flash sideways so far: Jack, Kate/Claire, Locke
– OK ones: Ben, Sayid
– I’m loving that Hurley is taking a more important role this season. He’s still comic relief a lot of the time, but he’s also been very important.
– Miles is still my favorite character. So snarky and funny. Fat Hurley jokes aren’t as funny.
– My coworkers keep wondering why Lapidus is still around. It’s kind of obvious, he’s there to fly Ajira 316 away from the island at the end of the show.
– Will we finally find out who Juliet shot in season 5 when they were randomly being shot at in the outrigger? It could be one of Jacob’s crew, but, now that I think about it, I think it could be one of Widmore’s. I have no idea why I don’t think it’s one of Smokey’s
– Zoe looks like a cross between Liz Lemon and Laura Roslin. It’s uncanny.
– If they make Sawyer and Kate get together in any universe I will be annoyed that they’re throwing away the whole Juliet thing. I was annoyed that they used her in that way in Season 5 anyway, but I want them to be honest with it.
– I bet we see Libby in next week’s episode.

That’s about it for now.

Seasons 1-5 of Lost in 8:15 [Embedded Reporter]
Jan 11th, 2010 by Dan

Take a shot!

JACKFACE!

If you fully intend to catch up on Lost, do not watch this video! It has spoilers to catch you up to the events so far. So good.

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.

Lost Season 5 Finale [Idiot Box]
May 14th, 2009 by Dan

SPOILERS!

Wow, what a crazy season it’s been! The finale went and blew away everything we’d all been expecting. Who could have guessed that the final episode would be Jacob-centric? What the heck happened? Where is this going next year?

It’s the home stretch for Lost. Sixteen episodes left and you can bet that Abrams, Cuse, and Lindelof know that there’s no more space for filler. It’s balls-to-the-wall time.

I have to admit that I didn’t guess that Locke was the body in the crate, but I knew it was someone. What I did know was that Locke was somehow being manipulated by Jacob’s nemesis (hereafter known as Esau, cause, why not?) because, as a bunch of characters have stated, dead is dead, even though it really isn’t. What does it mean that Ben killed Jacob? What will happen to the island now?

I’m 99% sure that the bomb Juliet managed to detonate at the Swan will not eradicate the future. That would invalidate the recent murder of Jacob and I don’t think the show wants that to happen so soon. I predict that the bomb and the electromagnetic energy will combine in some way to just send them somewhere else in time. I don’t think that the Lost folk would want to sacrifice Juliet, Miles, Hurley, Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and Jin to this, although they might :sob: keep Juliet dead.

No, I don’t think they will erase the five seasons before it and start anew, although that would be pretty ballsy, wouldn’t it? For the show to just throw away everything that’s already happened, start from status quo ante collisio (fragor is supposedly Latin for crash, but it’s also Latin for crack, so it could be just the sound…I’ll use the Latin word for collision instead) and go from there in what is turning out to be the epic struggle between Jacob and Esau.

Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, they elevate things higher. You go from it being about Widmore and Ben to this new conflict.

Things we learned:

– Jacob interacted with most of the main characters
– He did not interact with anyone currently dead on the island, Juliet, Rose, Bernard, Lapidus, Miles, or Ben, that we know of
– He physically touched each one of them in some way at pivotal moments in their lives
– He was unable to be killed directly by Esau
– Esau is able to assume forms. We can probably assume that he was the Alex who commanded Ben and that he might be the smoke monster, another creature known to assume forms (Christian, a spider, the horse, Locke, Walt, Mr. Eko’s brother Yemi)
– Richard Alpert probably came to the island on the Black Rock
– Someone hijacked Jacob’s cabin. Since it’s not Jacob and since Christian has appeared in there, it’s probably Esau
– I think Ilana is another ageless one like Richard. Either that or she knows about Richard from Jacob. Since they’re both servants of Jacob, I’m going to assume the former.

Things We Still Don’t Know:

– Why does the statue foot only have four toes?
– Why the ancient Egyptian motif?
– Where the heck is Claire?
– What happened to the people in 1977? Quick aside: it’s pretty clear that Jack did what he was supposed to do and as Miles said in causing the incident. The fact that Dr. Chang got his hand impaled supports this, since it probably wouldn’t have happened that way without Jack and the gang showing up and shooting the place up. The environmental dangers on the island probably stem from fallout of some type. This is probably why babies die on the island too.
– What is Jacob?
– How is Richard Alpert kept alive?
– Will dead Jacob mean aging Alpert?

That’s all I can think of right now. Too bad we have to wait for January to see the next one.

Miscellany [Uncat]
Mar 19th, 2009 by Dan

Too many different things to talk about!

Cuba’s been eliminated from the WBC by Japan! It kind of bums me out. They’ll play a final seeding match against Korea to decide who plays Team USA and who plays Venezuela.

Lost was great last night. Tune in to see Sawyer absolutely ream Jack at the end of the episode. The reveal of young Ben was kind of obvious, but the best Ben-related moment was the super-startling thump on the head that Sun gave the bug-eyed freak mid-sentence with Lapidus.

I might talk about some RE5 DLC on Saturday, it seems that there’s controversy about the announcement of multiplayer that’s basically in the game, but would cost $5 to unlock. At least it’s better than talking about racism!

I leave you, my loyal readers, with a fun little Domo picture I like to call Xerox Domo:

Xerox Domo

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