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A big lover of all types of media, from Movies to Video Games, Books to Music, Television to Stage.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Television News For January 29th

Greetings all.  I'm here with the latest news and rumours regarding the television universe.

First up is Charlie Sheen.  Lot of websites talking about his porn star weekend, his rush to hospital, the concern the cast of "Two And A Half Men" have for his health, how the network is worried for him...well, as it turns out, Sheen has now voluntarily entered an undisclosed rehab, and production on the show has shut down for a hiatus as a result.  I personally love the show, hope Sheen pulls a Robert Downey Jr., and eagerly await his return.  Good luck, Charlie, I'm pulling for you!  Details on his publicist's diminutive announcement can be found at Entertainment Weekly.

In other news, "Charlie's Angels" is making a return to television.  Following in the very successful footsteps of the "Hawaii Five-O" remake, the new series will feature Minka Kelly, Rachael Taylor and Annie Ilonzeh as the female leads.

As for my current thoughts on the way the five premiere's I reviewed in my last post are faring a week later, I have the episodes PVR'd but have yet to watch them.  For those who care, I'll post some new thoughts soon regarding how I feel they are faring, and will also be getting ready to post about the new shows starting in early February.  Hope some of you are looking forward to that.

Until next time, leave a recliner free for me.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Thoughts On The Mid-Season Replacements

Greetings all.  Over the last two weeks, I've had occasion to take a look at five of the new shows that have been ordered to fill in the spots left by departing series.  Some I liked, some I didn't like so much, and a few need tinkering to reach maximum potential.  The five shows up for review today are "The Cape," "Off The Map," "Episodes," "Harry's Law" and "Perfect Couples."  Here is a rundown based on what I've seen, and be aware that for whatever information has been included in these episodes, the following should be treated as LOADED WITH SPOILERS.  Proceed at your own risk.

I listed the shows in the order in which they've premiered, and I might as well stick with that order for my reviews.  "The Cape" is a comic-book type superhero without any supernatural powers.  Think Batman if his only accessory was a BatCape, and you are right on target with this drama's basic premise.  The show wants to fill the void left when "Heroes" went off the air, but while the premise is sound and the characters and back-story surrounding the lead's acquisition of the titular clothing item are fitting, the writing on this show leaves much to be desired.  First off, we're three hours into the program, and the motives for the main villain are still murky.  The Cape (David Lyons) has a clear-cut motive, but it isn't all that interesting - save his reputation and re-unite with his family.  Yawn.  Then we have a mysterious aide to The Cape in the form of a hacking genius named Orwell (Summer Glau), whose intention is to bring down the evil mastermind behind The Cape's ruined rep, Chess (James Frain).  Add to that the group of circus performers that provide The Cape with all his training, lead by Max Malini (Keith David), and you have yourself a worthwhile cast - but the writers aren't at the level of the players.

Besides the cliches and one-liners being spouted, the story is simply plodding along.  Now, if the cape itself bestowed some supernatural power to the wearer you'd have something compelling to move things forward more definitively.  As it is, maybe the cape has a power to make the wearer evil, maybe not, but at the moment all it seems to be is a fancy way to reach long distances with a kind of elasticity that Mr. Fantastic would envy in his clothing line.  The show needs to move faster, it is as simple as that.  The titular item of apparel needs to be more than the writers are having it be, currently, or else the show will endlessly be seen as Batman without his wonderful toys.  In other words, boring.  Let The Cape save his family, reduce the number of big bads to one (currently, there are three, plus a group of evil-doers known as The Tarot), with the others (if others are needed) taking a back seat to the core villain, and get on with the action.  Oh, and for goodness sake, let Summer Glau out of the damn box, please!  She can do action, she can do mysterious, and she can look incredibly hot doing it...get her out of the chunky sweaters and show her figure.  That alone will keep the fan boys interested.

Now we move on to "Off The Map."  Here we have a group of American doctors going to help people in South America, so it is a medical drama in an exotic setting.  We also have the same cliched characters you'd expect from a show of this type:  We have the neurotic doctor who looks too deep to answer a surface condition (Mamie Gummer); we have the thinks-he-knows-it-all smart-ass (Zach Gilford); and we have the willing to get her feet wet, try anything hopeful (Caroline Dhavernas).  Add to that the doctors who are all been there, saw that, still here, and this is simply a formulaic drama in a lush setting.  It is very obvious right from the start why the ads for this show repeatedly mentioned the pedigree being from "Grey's Anatomy," as it seems like they are already prepared to head down the 'love and lose highway for television drama' guidebook.  Watching to see if the show gets elevated into something more "ER"-ish or not.  Certainly hoping it does.  Moving on...

Next up is "Episodes."  Now, this one I do like, two shows in, and hope it continues to grow in the right direction.  A British sitcom, after being showered with awards in the UK, has Hollywood trying to wrestle it across the pond and onto American television screens - but are changing the entire show to 'Americanize' it along the way.  As the writers of the original British sitcom, Stephen Mangan and Tamsin Greig do a wonderful job of being totally abused by the studio system, and then you have Matt LeBlanc along for the ride playing an assholish version of himself...inspired casting, that.  Seriously, though, since the show is on Showtime in the States, and airs on TMN up here in Canada, the truly infuriating situation they find themselves in can honestly be expressed realistically, as displayed in an awesome explosion of foul language at the end of the second, well, episode.  The show has a good pace, the writing is there from the start, and the premise is not only believable, it probably happens on a daily basis in real life.  Tune in to this one if you have the chance, it is worth taking a look at.

Another show worth taking a look at is "Harry's Law."  Of the five shows I'm reviewing here, this one is the cream of the crop.  First of all, there is the pedigree:  David E Kelley has created this show, and he is known for some of the best lawyer based dramedys that have been on television ("Ally McBeal," "L.A. Law," "The Practice," "Boston Legal") as well as other shows both dramatic ("Chicago Hope") and quirky ("Picket Fences").  Then you put a strong female lead up front (Kathy Bates) and surround her with a wonderful supporting cast, including Nathan Corddry and Brittany Snow, and you're off to the races.  The premise, of a bored patent lawyer who is fired and gets hit twice (once by someone attempting suicide who falls onto her, the second by a car) all on the same day, and thereby discovering a location where she can start her own practice, has got all the ingredients needed in order to make this show successful.  By working out of a failed shoe store, the silliness is built right in, and the drama will come as a result of our lead working criminal cases for the first time in her career (the pilot set up the fact that she was a well-known successful lawyer, but not in the criminal ring).

While watching the show, I could not help but draw comparisons to "Ally McBeal," which I am currently viewing on DVD.  We have the lead, a mixture of the previous show's three female leads; we have the blonde assistant, an Elaine clone; and we have the uptight but awkward male associate, a translation of Billy.  In the pilot episode, at least, we also had a D.A. who exhibited all manner of John Cage-like behaviour, and there you have the right mix of fun and drama that is going to keep this show on the air for quite a while.  This is honestly the only new show in this entire season (Fall 2010 - now) that has grabbed me so quickly based on writing and acting from the very first episode.  There are shows that get better as they grow into their audience ("Raising Hope"), and there are shows that just fall apart episode by episode ("Running Wilde") - this started with a bang and will hopefully stay there.

What didn't start with a bang, but should have, was "Perfect Couples."  A series showcasing three different pairs of dating couples, and displaying how broken they all are in their own different ways, should have been hilarious right out of the gate.  Alas, it was not to be.  The show jumps in to story-line before giving the audience a chance to really get to know the characters, and did a poor job of trying to quickly outline the three couples in the opening minutes.  If shows like "The Big Bang Theory" or "Community" have taught the studios anything, it should be that without strong characters you can't proceed down the comedy path successfully.  Whether it is the actors or the writers of this show that are doing it a disservice will be seen in future episodes, but the pilot needed more.  There is potential, sure, but after looking forward to it for so long, I was let down by the lack of humour overall.

As to the actors themselves, I am not familiar with any but one - Olivia Munn.  Now, having watched her for years on G4TV as herself on "Attack Of The Show," I can safely say she can be at once hilarious and adorable - two things missing from the pilot of her new show.  I don't feel this is a reflection upon her acting skills whatsoever; rather, I blame the writers, who I don't think know what kind of comedy gold they have in this actress.  The character she is portraying here seems stuck up, full of herself, and thoughtless of others.  Okay, if that's what they want the character to be, that's fine - but you have to let Olivia shine through, and it appeared she was stiffled in the pilot episode, like a child dying to point out something but forced to sit still and keep quiet.  I wanted nothing more than to have Ms. Munn's truer personality blast out, but nought was to be had.  If they don't get more involved with who their actors are, the writers will doom this show to early cancellation.

There you have it folks, my reviews of some of the new shows airing this mid-season.  I'll be watching all of them, for a while at least, to see how they fare.  If a few of them don't pick themselves up by the writers, though, I'm afraid I'll have to stick with the ones that do.  I'm genuinely pulling for all five of these shows to still be airing next season, but only time and viewership will tell the tale.

Until next time, keep the recliner free.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Golden Globes Wrap-Up

Morning all.  Don't have a lot to write about today, since there are a multitude of websites outlining who won what last night, and this isn't a site that will ever be about who was wearing what, so given the fact that there are certainly places you can go to get that kind of writing, please feel free to do so.

I will congratulate some of the winners here, based solely on the stuff I watch and who actually won.  First off I'd like to cheer for "Boardwalk Empire" for winning Best Television Series - Drama.  Also, a shout out to Steve Buscemi, for his Best Performance By An Actor In A Television Series - Drama...he has been one of Hollywood's most under-rated actors for years now, and it is truly great to see him finally getting the roles and recognition he deserves.

My current favourite sitcoms did some good business last night as well.  Jim Parsons from "Big Bang Theory" nailed Best Performance By An Actor In A Television Series - Comedy Or Musical, and "Glee" not only won Best Television Series - Comedy Or Musical, but also brought home Best Supporting nods for Jane Lynch and Chris Colfer as well.  Kudos to both of you, for standing out in the ensemble that is the incredible cast of "Glee."

See, like most people, I'm not really thrilled with any awards given to people who are acting in stuff I don't watch.  Congratulations to them all around, but I'm not likely to mention everyone who won, simply because I'm not invested in other shows that got nods.  And as for the movie-based awards, I have a whole other blog for that, and any award recipients that I'm happy got their statues will get their shout outs over there.  You can find that particular site at Real To Reel, and when that post has gone up the name of the site will become an active link.

For now, have good days everyone, and I hope last night's winners don't let it go to their heads too much - I personally still need more entertaining!  Keep that recliner free for me!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Passing Of A Hero

While he would constantly argue that he personally wasn't a hero, Major Richard "Dick" D. Winters was just that, whether he liked it or not.

If any of my readers here have not watched "Band Of Brothers" you should go out and buy it immediately.  It doesn't matter if you are American or not, it doesn't matter if you happen to be interested in films and series involving World War II or not.  Simply stated, "Band Of Brothers" is mini-series perfection from a number of standpoints.  It is a character-driven drama, based upon real, documented events, and with the full support of the actual people who had been there.  The sound is amazing, the cinematography is stellar, and the actors chosen to portray these young men are downright incredible and believable in their roles.  Sounds an awful lot as though I am describing the attributes of a movie, doesn't it?  Watch the ten episodes and you'll understand.

If you happen to be a World War II buff, like myself, you'll certainly get a lot more out of watching the set than others will.  There is so much depth to this mini-series, and as for realism the only way you could get more accurate is by being there yourself.  The series is likened favorably with "Saving Private Ryan," which is not in the least bit surprising since both Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg are behind both projects.  Unfortunately, their third attempt to do a WWII series, "The Pacific," paled so much in comparison that for me personally it was an enormous let-down.  But, I digress.

"Band Of Brothers" follows Company 'E,' Second Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, from it's creation at the Currahee jump training site at Toccoa, Georgia through to it's disbandment after the capitulation of Germany and Japan at the end of the war.  The series follows Major Richard Winters as the main character for the majority of the first five episodes, but as his progression through the ranks pulls him further from actually physically participating in battles, the story settles more on the actual soldiers doing the fighting under his command.  Portrayed wonderfully by Damian Lewis, Winters parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, and fought through France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and ultimately into Germany.  During the Korean War, he was called back into service to train officers at Fort Dix.  He was to be sent to Korea, but while issued deployment orders he was not sent there.  Upon retirement, he created his own company of farming products, and went to live in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

He contributed to the creation of the mini-series, being shown during interviews, and ending the series with the story of a letter he received from Sergeant Mike Ranney, "I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day when he said, 'Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?' Grandpa said 'No… but I served in a company of heroes…'"

Major Richard "Dick" D. Winters passed away after suffering from Parkinson's Disease for a number of years, on January 2, 2011.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Get To Know Me Through My Shows

Morning everyone!  Thought that today I'd let everyone in on what we watch here in this household, kind of a Neilsen view of our television habits, so that you can get a feel for what topics will be covered more frequently here in this blog.  Don't get me wrong:  Just because we don't watch a particular show doesn't mean I won't write about it, not at all.  I am more likely, however, to chat about what I do watch rather than other programming, so it would be helpful for my readers to know what to expect, that's all.

Thusly, with no further ado, here's what we watch, on a weekly schedule, starting with Mondays.

First off, we have our daily infusion of the CTV News at Noon.  That's a given for each and every weekday.  If for some reason we miss it, no worries - I actually record it so I can view it when I am able.  Next up is the daily Corrie episode, again every weekday.  Then we get into the prime time stuff.  Often I will try and catch Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy, just to keep the gears active in my brain, then its on to "How I Met Your Mother," "Chuck," "Two and a Half Men," "Mike & Molly," "Hawaii 5-0" and "90210."  We then go to late night, with "The Daily Show" and "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon."  Those late night shows are constant throughout the week as well, with Jon Stewart being only available Monday to Thursday.  Also, please take note that since we have a PVR, we can record stuff on both east and west coast time, and therefore can watch everything I list, even if there are four things on at once.

Tuesday's prime-time line-up includes "The Rick Mercer Report," "No Ordinary Family," "Glee," and "Tosh.0."

Wednesdays are big days around here.  We have "Survivor" and either "Hell's Kitchen" or "Kitchen Nightmares" tonight.  We also have "Hellcats" and now "Off The Map" as well.

Thursdays are once again comedy nights, starting off with what I still consider one of the best sitcoms ever produced for television, "The Big Bang Theory."  We also have new episodes of "Wipeout," "Shit My Dad Says (no I'm not going to censor it)," "Community" and "Outsourced."  I am not going to spend this particular post defending certain choices of what watch; suffice it to say, I know quite a few Hindus, and they love "Outsourced" as much as I do, so morally I have zero guilt.

That brings us to Fridays and "Blue Bloods," the only thing we watch that night, and the only thing worth watching on the weekends is now "The Cape."  Wish there were more to list down here, but I'm afraid that's all there is.

Now, I'm certain that there are many of you wondering where some of the really big shows are, shows like "30 Rock," or "Grey's Anatomy," or such.  Simply put, we have reasons we don't watch some of those shows, and I will expound on that in another post.  Also missing are some of the reality shows we watch, and they aren't there based on the fact that at the moment the next seasons have yet to be announced as to start date.  To that end, we watch "So You Think You Can Dance" both American and Canadian versions.  We also watch, when they air, "True Blood," "Weeds," and "Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew."  Finally, there are some new shows which have yet to either have a start date, have yet to air, or have yet to be renewed.  These include "Rookie Blue" and "Perfect Couples," as well as "The Chicago Code."

There you have it, what we generally watch in a given week.  If I've missed anything, I will be certain to add it in a future post.  Titles such as "Gordon Ramsey's Masterchef" and the like.  We watch a LOT of television, so sometimes it is hard to keep track.  Also, be aware that this list also doesn't include anything we've been watching and had to stop for some reason, such as "Fringe," or shows that the networks cancelled way too early, like "My Generation."  Again, topics for another day.

For now, take care everyone, and don't forget to leave me a recliner for when I come over!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

How Being Ten Months Behind Sucks For Canadian Corrie Fans

I was thinking this morning, as I groggily made my way to the front room, that it really wouldn't be fair to start off a television-themed blog without addressing the world's longest running serial drama, Coronation Street.  As I have mentioned in a previous blog entry from my non-specific blog, here, I have become a HUGE fan of the Street, and often comment to my wife that I wish I had tuned in to the weekly Weatherfield goings-on long before I actually did.  The biggest problem when tuning into a show like this one is that there is no possible way, at least until after you've discovered a passion for it, to get the back-story behind the plots you find yourself embroiled into when you first tune in.  When I started watching, almost as a whim one morning before anyone else in the house was awake, I knew from the outset that the show was decades old and that I would have no hope of getting anything straight right away, especially if I was only planning on this being a one-off viewing.

Thankfully, the stories grabbed me right off the bat, and I was sucked in just as solidly as large sections of many countries have been for years.  And, as many people probably do when a subject suddenly grabs their undivided attention so completely, I craved more.  I felt that the omnibus edition of Corrie that I was watching on Sunday mornings on the CBC just wasn't enough.  I had to have more, because one day a week, even at two and a half hours at a go, just wasn't enough Corrie.  So, I looked through the CBC schedule for starters, and discovered almost immediately that the show did in fact air daily, Monday to Friday, in wee half hour chunks, each and every weeknight at 6:30.  I was thrilled!  Corrie at once became my daily habit.  I am stuck in the house with a heart condition, so I can watch the noon news rather than the 6 o'clock, so Corrie was all set to rule the 6:30 time slot!  Wonderful!

However, my glee slid away.  Suddenly, I started to think about all the years I had missed, purposefully avoiding watching this institution unfold, and I began to think.  We're talking about a show that currently runs five episodes a week, every single week, all year long.  There is no possible way to go back and catch up, no way to watch year after year on DVD, it isn't possible.  I mean, how many discs would the entire history of Corrie actually take up?  It boggles the mind!  Thankfully, there are a few good sources of information, and as I took to the online shopping aisles to discover what there was to bring home to sate my need for context, I found books, small DVD compendiums, and behind the scenes glimpses at the stories and the actors bringing them to life.

Still, it just wasn't enough, so I dug deeper, and that's when I found the rich wealth of Corrie blogs.  It wasn't long before I stumbled into Corrie.net, and for the most part my search (I thought) had come to an end.  Then, I took a look at the main photo on the front page of the site.  Wait, I don't remember that...why on earth is Gail in prison?  She was smiling and happily discussing her son David's girlfriend, Tina, just the other day!  As an aside, I really do like those two together, I think that relationship will stay steady for a long time, as long as Gary doesn't foul it all up...but I don't understand what this photo is all about?  Was Gail in prison before I started watching?  It took me a moment to pull my eyes away from the picture and take in everything I was seeing on that website.  And then, my eyes flicked to the left, and the truth hit me like a ton of bricks:  Canada is behind the actual airdates!  There was a little "Coming Up" picture of something about some Kelly person leaving the Street, and then below that there was another picture with the caption "In Canada."  In Canada?  What the heck do you mean, in Canada?  You mean we're...we're...delayed??!!?

Yup, as a new visitor to the Street, I had no idea for the first couple weeks or so that Canada is indeed behind the times as far as episodes go, and we're not the only country that is either.  Notably, Australia shares this awful humiliation as well, though I'm not entirely certain how far back they are in relation to us here in the Great White North (sorry, glanced outside just now, and the 'light snow' we are to be receiving seems to be trying to make my impending trip to the dentist a test for the taxi taking me to the office).  What I know for certain is that here, yesterday, on Friday, January 7th, 2011, my wife Andi and I watched an episode that originally aired across the pond on Friday, March 19th, 2010.  That puts us about nine and a half months behind the times, and that saddens me.  A lot.  See, because I didn't stop there on the front page of the Corrie.net site, no, I had to venture further, and sooner or later I found the Episode Archive.  And there, laid out for my reading pleasure, was months, years, what looked to be episode summaries dating in their completeness all the way back to December 1995!  Now I can read, read, read, and catch up to where I am for years of missed shows!  The thrill carried me away - for about all of a minute.  Then, I saw what I didn't expect to see:  2010 was there as well.

That's right.  Directly below 2009's list of months, there it was, 2010.  At this point, it was Christmastime on the Street, and I knew which year it was (some of you are undoubtedly thinking, look, buddy, if you saw it was Christmas, how did you NOT know the show was behind the actual airing...in hindsight, I was being an arse, I know that, so shush...actually, if memory serves, they only started decorating the Street and talking prezzies at about the same time as I discovered the delay), so I knew EXACTLY what I was looking at:  a crystal ball.  Here, I could do more than catch up to the stories on Corrie, I could get ahead, I could jump to the present, I could rub people's noses in the fact that I, and I alone in my household, knew the secrets and twists that would unravel before their eyes in the ensuing months...

So, I became a cheater.

I'm not proud of it.  Not really.  However, at first I read ahead only a little, to get to the end of some of the more interesting developments that were currently unfolding.  But then, I found a new wrinkle, and I had to follow that...and suddenly, I'm reading into the summer episodes of 2009, and next thing you know I'm reading about Christmas 2009, and...oh, I had to slow down, I was getting so far ahead of our airing of the show it was ridiculous!  Tony and Maria planning to marry!  Molly and Kevin starting an affair!  Peter burning down his flat when drunk!  Claire almost died!  Norris almost smiled!  Becky and Steve are still together!  What do I do with this overload of information?

But then the worst thing that could have happened did indeed occur:  Somehow, I'm still not sure from where, I got wind of the 50th anniversary plans, and everything fell apart.  Now I have insight into the biggest event on the Street, I know the details, I know the life and death decisions the show had to make, and I know the worst thing of all - I have to wait until this freaking October to see it all!!!  Now I knew I had a problem.  So, I stopped reading ahead.  Almost.  If you are reading this from Australia, these next bits may be a spoiler, depending on just how far back you are in relation to us in Canada, so proceed with caution:  I had to know if Simon got home from Blackpool in one piece, and wanted to see how Peter handled George as a result.  I actually skimmed over other parts without reading them, so this whole Molly going back to Tyrone thing surprised me, as does Nick buying into Underworld (like I said, I know what's coming, so his being part of the naughty bits factory doesn't add up - yet).  Still don't read forward anymore, because having to wait until even more interesting stuff unfolds would probably stop my heart then and there.

Well, now you know the whole truth.  I was a cheater, I'm now reformed (didn't Peter say that once or twice about his drinking?), and the Street is unfolding at it's normal Canadian pace.  The only problem I can foresee is what we do when we move to the Dominican Republic.  Do they even get channels that carry Corrie down there?  If not, move is off, sorry.  Now that I found it, I'm not leaving it behind!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Letting The Set Warm Up

Greetings to one and all!  This blog is going to focus on television, mainly a current what's up with what I'm watching, and what I'm avoiding.  I spend a lot of time in front of my big LCD widescreen, and while during the day I'm all about gaming and movies, at night I'm all about prime-time programming.  That's where this blog will be focused.

So, if you are looking here to find scoops as to what this particular actor is doing time for, or whether or not some celebrity relationship will break up, this is not the place for you.  Here I will be covering information about my favourite shows, my impressions on new shows and old and why I will or won't watch them, and I might even repeat some upcoming plot points once I've gathered them from various sites and bundled them together for easy perusal.

I might even be tempted to discuss T.V. on DVD and Blu-Ray, which I am not currently covering on any of my other blogs.  Sounds like it will fit here, so - EXECUTIVE DECISION - that'll be found here too!

If you wish to contact me to ask me to look into any particular titles, or to get my opinion on anything, you can e-mail me here or find me on Twitter here.

So, get your comfy clothes on, grab a blanket, curl up in your chair, and let's see what's on the tube together!