Saturday, October 14, 2006

I don't usually like to talk about work or personal stuff here but...

Guess who's been invited to do a presentation at next year's NYC Comics Convention?  (No, it's not Penelope.)
And another new Torchwood trailer...

Friday, October 13, 2006

Read the first issue of the new comic, Criminal, by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips.  I had loved their work on the superhero noir comic, Sleeper, but I had really become a fan of Ed Brubaker's after the straight crime comic he did with Michael Lark, Scene of the Crime.  Brubaker and Lark are doing Daredevil now, and he's also writing Captain America.  And that's great for fans of those characters, because it means their comics will be good.  But it's nice that he's finally got something out for the rest of us to read.

And it's even nicer that it's great.
"Lost" Hit by Battleship Patinkin - Yahoo! News: "Forget the Others. The greatest single threat to the survival of
Oceanic Air Flight 815's castaways may just be Mandy Patinkin.

On Wednesday night, the mild-mannered star of stage, screen
and Crestor commercials saw his two-season-old CBS crime drama,
Criminal Minds, come within about 200,000 bodies of toppling
ABC's Lost."

Score one for the lovers of the instant resolution. I hear in next week's ground-breaking episode of Criminal Minds, Mandy Patinkin catches a serial killer.
Can I just say, real quick, how much I’m loving Google’s new
Mac widgets?  Makes posting to the
blog so much easier.
Totally need to go to bed right now, but Grey’s Anatomy
totally gets points for getting me to start liking Derek again.  Although it’s going to be hard to have
any sympathy for Meredith when he hurts her again.
  And Finn is right: he will.  (And Meredith knows it.)
And what a sad, sad surprise to hear Denny’s voice at the
end of the episode.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Just some quick notes about last night’s dramas:

(Here there be spoilers)

Lost probably provides more fuel for the side arguing that not enough happens. Which is true, if you believe that the only story the show is telling is about the island. Instead, I would argue that the show is about these people who are now physically lost on this island, but who all may have been spiritually lost for much longer. And if we don’t learn who these people are and how they came to be, if our viewing of their current circumstances isn’t informed by their backgrounds, then what is the point? We might as well just be watching a monkey in a smoking jacket sitting in a chair explaining everything to us. (That’s a reference to the highly recommended Lost podcast.)

(Speaking of the Lost podcast, this week, Damon LIndeloff wisely pointed out to people who don’t like waiting for answers that Criminal Minds on CBS is a great show. This week, Mandy Patinkin will be catching a serial killer.)

So, did anything happen on Lost this week? Well, we learned that Sun isn’t as trustworthy and honorable as we’d like to believe. As a child, she was responsible for a maid being fired because Sun blamed her for something that Sun had done. We learned that she did cheat on her husband, which may also explain how Sun can be pregnant on the island if Jin is impotent. (“This show never answers any questions!”) We learned that, when push comes to shove, Jin won’t kill when ordered to, and that he resents—or resented—Sun for putting him in the position where he would be ordered to. We learn that Sun will kill when threatened. We learn that the Others aren’t necessarily as tough as they’d like everyone to think, except for Juliette. We learn that Ben has been on the island all his life, which I believe would predate the Dharma Initiative. So they’ve been on the island longer than previously thought. And they have connections to the outside world, although if Jack thought they were lying about the World Series, I’m not sure why he didn’t at least suspect that the video of the game was faked. But still, we know it wasn’t, so the Others must have gotten it somehow.

So these are the sorts of things the average episode of Lost makes me think about, and that’s why I don’t accuse it of treading water just because it doesn’t explain where the polar bears come from.

And it’s getting late, and I still want to watch tonight’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy before I go to bed. (I work on Thursday nights, so I have to record everything to watch later. But I’m still really enjoying The Nine. Sure, it’s only been two episodes, but any more, I only give a new show about five minutes to hook me. So sticking with it this long says something.

As I said, I don’t want to spend too much more time blogging, but one connecting theme that developed last night between two characters was the idea of doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. Now, Jeremy killing the comatose bank robber is the sort of vigilante justice that we’re often meant to applaud, but I suspect it’s not going to work out all confetti and bouquets of flowers. It just doesn’t feel like that sort of show. And seeing Nick, the cop, sell out, even if it was to protect the others, was also a bit of a surprise. I had expected that story to be a fairly typical, “I’m going to do what’s right no matter the cost” storyline, and it turned left when I expected it to turn right. So this one is definitely a keeper as well.

And both these shows can be viewed, for free, online at ABC's web site.

I also caught the first episode of 30 Rock, the Tina Fey sitcom set behind the scenes of a live sketch comedy show. (Not to be confused—in any real sense—with the great Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, the Aaron Sorkin drama set behind the scenes of a live sketch comedy show.) I wasn’t bowled over, but I made it all the way through and want to check it out next week. Possibly more later.

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Penelope enjoys her new Cat Sitter DVD.

New Torchwood trailer:

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

According to this week’s issue of TV Guide, NBC’s >Friday Night Lights isn’t doing too well in the ratings. It’s coming in third, after established hits NCIS (which I’ve been watching since the beginning) and Dancing with the Stars (which doesn’t interest me, but I’m in the minority here). So it’s already fighting an uphill battle.

It’s got a couple of other strikes against it, too. It’s about football, so it’s automatically going to lose that segment of the audience that isn’t interested in football at all. I mean, I’m not interested in football at all, and that was almost enough to make me give this show a pass. Only I tend to be less knee-jerk than the average audience member, I think.

Then there’s how it looks and feels. It’s about a bunch of high school kids, but it doesn’t seen one bit like Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill (another sports-oriented high school drama, come to think of it). It’s got different angles edited together, if you pay attention to such things, but it looks even more like a documentary than the “mockumentary,” The Office. So it’s a new show, competing against popular incumbents, and it doesn’t have the crutch of being comfortable and familiar to lean on.

What it does have going for it is a low-key feeling of verisimilitude. Tonight’s episode featured so many moments that most other series would have played for melodrama. Whether it’s the scene where Coach Taylor agonized over his team’s chances with their first string quarterback hospitalize while his wife comforted him, or the scene where that quarterback learned the true extent of his injuries, the dialogue felt like honest, heartfelt reactions, and the actors played it like real human beings. I’m all for the stylized, snappy dialogue of an Aaron Sorkin or a Joss Whedon, but sometimes, it helps to hear characters talking the way real people talk, not the way people would like to talk.

And, of course, it helps to have actors who can keep the tone real, like Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton, and all the kids who play the teenagers, who actually seem like real teenagers. Between this show, The Wire, and Heroes, maybe we’ve turned some sort of corner.

So I’m going to keep watching Friday Night Lights as long as it lasts, and I hope it finds a broader audience. Even if it is about football.
Now that the fall TV season has begun in earnest, it’s time for me to get back to the main intent of this blog, and talk about what entertains me. To start, here’s my current TV viewing list:


Prison Break on Fox

I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did last year. After the first seasons of Oz gave me enough hard-core prison anal rape drama to last me a lifetime, I was wary of another prison show. But it turned out to not be a prison show so much as a Mission: Impossible-type caper show. Now that the characters are out of prison and on the run, it’s more like The Fugitive with an ensemble cast, and I give Fox credit for letting the show evolve with the story. Plus it’s well made.

The Class on CBS
I decided I needed more comedies in my TV diet, and this one was getting good reviews in TV Guide. But the pilot didn’t really hook me. Then I saw most of the second episode at work, on my break, and found myself laughing. And really, that’s all I ask from a sitcom: that it makes me laugh out loud. So I gave it another shot, and it’s grown on me.

Heroes on NBC

This one was getting a lot of buzz from the comics fan community for obvious reasons. (Those reasons being it’s about superheroes, and it’s got comics creators Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale on staff.) But when Yahoo put the pilot online to preview, I really enjoyed it as a work of television. I love shows about an ensemble of characters who aren’t necessarily all connected by something simple and obvious like a workplace or a family or whatever, so I look forward to seeing how all these disparate characters end up weaving in and out of each other’s lives. I love the surprises and cliffhangers, like discovering that Pete actually can fly, or that Hiro can travel through time. And it’s a show that isn’t afraid to show people frozen alive, with their skulls cut open and their brains scooped out.

Plus, it’s one of the few new shows that’s doing well enough to be considered a hit.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip on NBC

And despite the massive hype, Aaron Sorkin and Matthew Perry’s return to series television is not a hit at all. I’ve read criticisms that it’s too much of a TV insiders’ show, or that the subject isn’t important enough, or that they don’t show enough of the comedy, for a show about making a live comedy show. I say, do you have to be a cop to enjoy CSI, or a gangster to enjoy Sopranos? (Maybe you do, since I’m not a gangster, and I don’t like Sopranos. But plenty of people do.) I don’t know how movies about making movies do, but for me, Studio 60 is just a workplace show that happens to be about television. And I don’t really want to see the actual sketches that they do, so much as I want to see the process and the characters. If I want to see a sketch comedy show, I’ll watch SNL or MadTV.

What I want to see is the characters under pressure to produce on deadline and from forces outside. The stakes don’t need to be huge, because that’s the sort of stuff I do every day, too, and the stakes aren’t huge in my life. I want to hear Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford and Steven Weber and Amanda Peet and Sarah Paulson and Tim Busfield spouting off that rapid-fire Aaron Sorkin dialogue I came to love in Sports Night and West Wing and A Few Good Men. And that’s what I’m getting from this show, and I’ll miss it if it goes away.

The Street on BBC America

Haven’t actually seen the first episode of this, since BBC America kindly let it run longer than it was scheduled, and so I didn’t record the whole thing. But it’s about the people living on a single street, with each episode focusing on a different group, as I understand it. So it’s an anthology show, sort of, mixed with what I talked about above on Heroes, watching how almost-strangers pass through each others’ lives. And it’s written by Jimmy McGovern, who created Cracker, one of my favorite shows of all time.


This has been a favorite for over three years now, and I’m not stopping watching it. Detractors can call it CSI Lite, but it’s the characters and humor that keep me coming back (and the lack of same that keep me away from the CSI franchise).

House on Fox

The previous two years have been fantastic; why stop watching now?

Friday Night Lights on NBC

Was totally going to give this a pass, despite the presence of favorite actor Kyle (Cloud of Pink Mist on Grey’s Anatomy) Chandler. But TV Guide gave it a rave review, plus it also stars Connie Britton, from Spin City and The Brothers McMullen. So I watched the first episode, and it’s shot in this nice, pseudo-documentary episode that really makes it very watchable. Which is a good thing, because I really don’t like football, and I still want to keep watching this show.

Help Me Help You on ABC

Okay, I loved Ted Danson in Becker and I loved the therapy background of the original Bob Newhart Show. And NBC’s decision to show two Law & Order shows back to back on Tuesdays completely burned me out on that franchise in just one night. So I decided I needed a sitcom, and this sounded good. And it’s gotten mixed reviews, and I’m not laughing at it as often as I do, say, My Name is Earl. But I am laughing, so I’m planning on sticking with it.

(Although this is what’s keeping me from watching Veronica Mars, which everyone says I should watch, and which I was almost willing to give another shot to. But I’ve tried to watch it twice, and both times, it didn’t hook me enough to keep watching. So I have to stick with what I know I’m enjoying.)

Bones on Fox

What I said above about NCIS probably applies to Bones, too.

Lost on ABC

I can’t actually respect the view that nothing happened during the second season of the show. I think there’s far too much fixation in the Lost fan community on just wanting answers to the mysteries, but if you don’t spend time on the characters, you get a soulless, shallow time-waster like Vanished (which will probably soon live up to its name). Or The Da Vinci Code. But the fact that Da Vinci is such a success probably shows what the public really wants.

(I’m not knocking Da Vinci Code as a work of nonfiction. But as a novel, it’s crap.)

So I’m okay with the interior of the hatch not being some sci-fi, James Bond villain stronghold, and I’m okay with not having the show answer all its questions right up front and then spinning its wheels for three or four years. I think the show is giving out information at the right pace, and balancing plot and character just fine.

And I loved the opening of this season. This is still one of my favorite shows currently on, and I’m really looking forward to the way this season is structured, with a relatively self-contained six new episodes in a row, then off until January or February, and then the rest of the season all in a row, without being interrupted by reruns.

The Nine on ABC

I just watched the first episode today, and I was totally caught up in it. I like the storytelling structure, where we see the effects of an event before learning the cause. I look forward to filling in the blanks, more than I would if things were told in a straightforward, chronological order. I’ve read complaints that the flashback structure just rips off Lost, but this is hardly the first time this sort of structure has been used. So you short-attention-span mother scratchers can just shut up.

Plus, it’s got a cast I really like, especially Tim Daly, Kim Raver, Scott Wolf, and Camille Guaty.

My Name is Earl on NBC

I don’t think I can really say anything about this show. I laugh harder at this than anything else (except maybe The Venture Bros) and that’s something I really need.

Smallville on CW

I’ll admit, I’m starting to feel a little guilty that I’m still watching this. On the one hand, I like seeing how they’re steering Clark Kent in the direction of becoming Superman. On the other hand, the actual individual stories are getting a little too cruel and exploitative to the women characters to be comfortable. I’m getting tired of seeing every female character either being a victim or evil, and I’m getting more tired of seeing them getting beaten up and tortured. Or photographed in the shower, and for me to get tired of that says something.

So we’ll see. Because I haven’t actually seen the first two episodes of the new season. So this may be dropped in favor of Ugly Betty.

The Office on NBC

Just started watching this show this season. It’s nowhere near as good as the original British version, because it’s still played too broadly. Plus they can’t seem to figure out that if you’re trying to make something look like a documentary, you can’t shoot it shot-reverse shot. But it’s making me laugh, which, again, is something I want to be doing more of. So…

Ugly Betty on ABC

I watched the first episode on ABCs web site, since I’m already recording Smallville and the NBC sitcoms. But I really liked the characters and the story. It had just the right tone for the subject matter, I thought: not too broad, not too serious. So I had sympathy for the characters. I plan on continuing to watch it online, but if Smallville fails to hook me this season, that may change.

Grey’s Anatomy on ABC

I’m not sure how it snuck up on me, but this is another favorite drama, right up there with Lost.

Six Degrees on ABC

Again, another show about people drifting in and out of each others’ lives, and I’m really enjoying it. Plus, it’s got some favorites in the cast (Campbell Scott and Erika Christiansen) and it’s produced by Lost/Alias/Felicity creator JJ Abrams. And while he’s probably not as heavily involved in this as he is in the shows he’s created, it’s got a lot of the same qualities as those shows. (And his involvement is why I’m going to give What About Brian another shot tomorrow night.)


Yes, it's been on forever, and yes, it isn't as good as it was 13 or whatever years ago. But it's still good, it's still a show I enjoy, and it still has Parminder Nagra on it (which is why I came back to it after a number of years away).


Doctor Who on SciFi

This isn’t a show; it’s a way of life.

Men in Trees on ABC

If I hadn’t enjoyed Anne Heche’s performance in Everwood so much last year, this would have been completely off my radar. But I did see her, and found her quirky delivery/performance really appealing. And while this show really does feel like a mash-up between Sex and the City and Northern Exposure, I don’t so much mind, because I like both those shows. More importantly, it seems to have recaptured what made both those shows special and interesting, instead of just copying the surface details. So it’s a total chick show, but I’m hooked.

Battlestar Galactica on SciFi

I don’t believe in any sort of must-see TV, but seriously? If there are people not watching this just because it’s science fiction and called Battlestar Galactica, it’s their loss.


Scooby and Shaggy: Get a Clue! on CW

The jury is still out on this Scooby-Doo Meets Venture Bros thing, but in the meantime, I’m still watching it.

Legion of Super-Heroes on CW

Back in the 1980s, Teen Titans and Legion of Super-Heroes were two of my favorite comics. The idea that either of them would ever be turned into cartoon series was unthinkable, let alone that they would be any good. But they were, and they are, and even though I almost wish I were ten again and watching them as a kid, I’m loving them just fine now.

The Batman on CW

While the 90s cartoons are arguably better, I’m enjoying this new Batman cartoon quite a bit. I like that it’s more action-oriented then the earlier cartoons, because my Batman comes in many flavors.

Flight 29 Down on Discovery Kids

I love this little half-hour drama about a bunch of high-school kids trying to survive on a desert island after a plane crash. It’s like Lost like Campbell’s Chicken Soup is like prime rib. The kids are well-written and well-played, and writer DJ MacHale manages to get a great deal of drama out of these kids struggling to figure out what they need to do to survive. When I was a kid, I remember watching half-hour live action dramas for kids like Ark II and Space Academy. Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, and Fox all used to do stuff like that, and now it’s just this show and Power Rangers Mystic Force, as far as I can tell.


Everybody Hates Chris on CW

As the first week’s ratings showed, Sundays at seven is just an awful time slot for a show like this. It’s already being moved to Mondays. But it’s still hilarious, and for a show about a black family in 1984, it’s very universal.

The Amazing Race on CBS

Easily deserving of its multiple Emmy wins. I love the whole visual excitement of seeing so many different countries, and I love that the challenges actually have something to do with the cultures of the country, instead of being completely random.

Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on ABC

It’s totally emotionally manipulative, and chock full o’ product placements, but it’s all for a good cause. And I end up crying like a baby every time they shout out to move the bus. (And Paige Hemmis is cute.)

Desperate Housewives on ABC

Loved the first season of the show, but I was watching the second season very much out of habit. With the third season, they seem to have done away with the idea of an overarching mystery, and this may be a good thing. Instead of finding something contrived to connect the stories (like the Betty Applewhite story last year), it may be more comfortable to just tell stories about the characters. However, I’m already growing tired of the story of Lynette vs the mother of Tom’s other kid (whose name I can’t even think of right now, which shows how invested I am in that story). So we’ll see how long this one holds my attention.

Brothers and Sisters on ABC

To be honest, I probably would have given this one a pass if they hadn’t hired Greg Berlanti (creator of Everwood) to run the show. Between him and Ken thirtysomething Olin behind the scenes, there looked like a chance for greatness. And it is, indeed, turning out to be a very good family drama. No fancy gimmicks, but I honestly can’t think of another show like this currently on the air. It’s just well-written and well-acted, and it deserves to be one of the two most successful new shows on TV this season, along with Heroes.

The Wire on HBO

Considering how finally the third season ended, I was very surprised to see this one back. But back it is, and already renewed for a fifth season. Which is great, because it’s a very low-key, down-to-earth, realistic-feeling series, and there aren’t enough like those around. (It has that in common with Friday Night Lights, which is probably why I’m enjoying both of them so much, even though neither one is about a subject that I would have thought I’d have wanted to watch.)

So that’s the overview; as the days go by, I’ll be trying to write something specific about each episode as it airs.

Lest it sound like it’s nothing but TV for me, I should mention that I just finished reading Never the Bride, the latest novel by Paul Magrs. Another fantastic work of Northern English Magic Realism, and perhaps one of the best sequels to several classic works of British fantastic literature I’ve ever read. Highly recommended

Monday, October 09, 2006

Television & Movie News BBC Confirms Life on Mars End : "The BBC have confirmed that the second series of Life on Mars will bring an end to DI Sam Tyler's adventures in the 1970's."

This comes as no real surprise, and it's nice to see a show like this reaching its natural end, rather than being unnaturally extended. Makes you wonder how long a life the projected American remake could possibly have, though...

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Nebulous, my new favorite science fiction comedy radio series (which I completely missed the second series of), written by Graham Duff and starring Mark Gatiss, is now available from iTunes! It won't be out on CD until next year.
Here is the first official full trailer for new Doctor Who spinoff Torchwood: