Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Film Yap: Week Two TV Contest Results

As an experiment in recommendations, Austin is watching every show that was suggested to him during one weekend. He’ll watch 2-3 episodes apiece and write about what he thinks every Saturday on The Film Yap. After he gets through his list, he’ll award TV related prizes.


Previous Relationship: I have never seen a full episode. I know of its prestige; I know the final shot; I know a bunch of the major characters including the spin-off Fraiser Crane.

I watched: Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Give Me a Ring Sometime”, “Sam’s Women”, “The Tortelli Tort”

And..? I loved it. Loved, loved, loved it. My current TV love lies with shows like nerdy things like LOST and Doctor Who, inventive dramas like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, and modern classics like The Wire and Arrested Development. Yet my real into television was M*A*S*H. I loved TV on DVD because twice a year a relatively cheap season of M*A*S*H to gush over every year.

I shouldn’t like laugh tracks or jokes with an obvious path, but this show really works. Not only did I laugh several times an episodes, the characters were immediately warm and likable. Every ensemble comedy ought to have a cast you’d love to hang around with and I can’t think of one that pulled it off faster than this show. The structure of the episodes are strong as well. Diane could have easily been the “new guy” in the pilot to awkwardly introduce everyone to, but she works around that by having a contrasting objective. Even when Carla is in danger of losing her job in Episode 3, there’s no real danger but at least there is a more interesting problem than usual.

Will I continue watching? Absolutely. I’m actually bummed I can’t watch the rest now. Many more shows to cover…

Grade: 5 Yaps

The Prisoner

Previous Relationship: I knew the basic plot of someone being taken to a creepy isolated world full of secrets and mysteries. I knew it was a major influence on LOST, which automatically puts it on a “to-watch” list.

I watched: Episodes 1-3 “Arrival”, “Free For All” and “Dance of the Dead.” Turns out there is plenty of argument over the order of the episodes which was very complicated. I’m going with the order on the new DVD.

And…? I don’t know what I expected with the opening episode, but it wasn’t that. The crazy editing, the long montage sequence, the evil floating white ball, the dramatic line readings. It was…awesome. This is the most 60s British show you can find. It is never winking at the camera or going too far in the other direction by being too self-important. When he shouts “I am not a number, I am a free man” I’m cheering along.

So these wackos kidnap an ex-spy because they want to know what caused him to resign. They place him in this bizarre world where people are known as Number Six, Number Two, etc. He tries to escape and figure out what is going on, but he is thwarted by their traps and drugs. It’s creative, trippy, and like I said really awesome.

Will I continue watching? Absolutely. It’s only one season long and I happily don’t know the ending. It does have an ending right?

Grade: 4.5 Yaps

The Doodlebops

Previous Relationship: No previous relationship, I promise Your Honor.

I watched Volume 1, Episodes 1-3 “High and Low”, “Tap Tap Tap”, “Queen for a Deedee”

And…? Okay, I understand this is a show for preschoolers. I am not a preschooler. That doesn’t mean I’m still not allowed to hate this show. It is about three annoying Doodlebops. How do I know they are Doodlebops? They purposely mispronounce their name in a silly way so that they can cut away to children to tell them it’s “The Doodlebops!” This is just the beginning of how they program these kids to obsess about this lame TV show.

Every episode does the same things, which is fine. Deedee and Rooney start the show, but Moe is a dick and is always late. They sing their creepy anthem. They interact with their wacky house. They sing a lame song. They talk to a rhyming black lady who I think they have locked in their closet. Moe pulls a rope and water falls on him. They go outside to do random stupid stuff. They go on the bus. Sing a lame song. Arrive at a concert. Repeat the first lame song. Show a knock knock joke. Sing another song. End the show. BAM. I get it; I read Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” as well. Repetition is important for this age.

What I don’t like is what the show is doing with that repetition. They all go to a Doodlebop concert every episode. They show plenty of stock footage of families taking their seats and having a blast. They’re dancing with the music and having a great time. That way the kids at home can beg their parents to take them to a Doodlebops concert. The show is more about branding than it is about having a show first. It’s a cheap looking show that is falling apart at its seams but without any moments of heart to bother and try to save it. Stick with Sesame Street.

Will I continue watching? What? God no.

Grade: 1.5 Yaps


Previous Relationship: I knew it was about modern art, because my friend kept telling me to watch it.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Location”, “Spirituality”, and “Identity”.

And…? I’m not good at discussing art. I’m best at criticism and observation when there is some sort of narrative. That said, I love hearing others talk about the things I can’t articulate. Documentaries about art and fashion are fascinating and this is another strong entry. The first episode is the best because it has some of the most interesting subjects.

The standout was Sally Mann (who constantly sounded like she was a Lord of the Rings villain). She took beautiful photographs of her children when they were younger. Their nudity is an easy source for controversy, but what I will take away from it is hearing how much time went into the shots. The children are now grown-up. They seem proud of the results, but there is still some resentment in how many tries it took to capture the perfect moment.

Having the artists speak about their work could be nauseating, but most of them treat the final product as separate from them. They remain curious about what they created. It makes for solid television.

Will I continue watching? I’m not sure. I liked what I saw, but it wasn’t pressing enough to keep with it.

Grade: 4 Yaps

Black Books

Previous Relationship: I kinda already love this show. I found the first season on a whim on Hulu and cracked up every episode. Season Two was a bit of a drop as it became too absurd for its own good. (Manny hides inside of a piano and plays it like a classical performer?) I just fell behind and never watched the last season.

I watched Season Three, Episodes 1-3 “Manny Come Home”, “Elephants and Hens” and “Moo-Ma and Moo-Pa”

And…? Oh it’s still funny. I was worried it would keep getting worse, but I laughed a lot each episode. It was full of the things I liked the most about the series. Bernard acting like a stubborn lunatic and Manny customingly bewildered. When Manny gets a job at a proper bookstore and his boss is Simon Pegg (a job reversal from Spaced) it’s a perfect playground for two brilliant comic actors to just mess a bit with each other.

Each of the episodes follows a regular sitcom plotline. The second one has Bernard and Manny making a bet with Fran about whether or not they can write a children’s book in a weekend. Instead of accepting their defeat at the end of the episode, they get drunk, go mad, and write a brilliant 1000 page novel and a pretty decent children’s book. Then they light it on fire.

I love the three leads and their insanity is inspiring, because these are three truly crazy people. They function…kinda, but they need each other more than they realize. It’s a blast of a show. If you haven’t seen it, the first scene of the first episode is a great test if you’re in it for the rest of the series.

Will I continue watching? I only have three episodes left so…yeah I think I can get around to it.

Grade: 4.5 Yaps

Men of a Certain Age

Previous Relationship: I know that it was recently cancelled. I know the leads involved and I know that TV critic Alan Sepinwall has really been pushing this show.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Pilot”, “Let It Go”, and “Mind’s Eye”

And…? Wow, this is way better than I expected. I have never been a big Ray Romano fan because most of his humor is really broad and then he shrugs it off. This show is more on par with Louie than Everybody Loves Raymond. It’s slower paced and has more observations about men in their 50s than just “Oh I hate being old!” The best way to speak to a wider audience is to fully understand your own niche.

Romano plays a recently divorced father who runs a shop. Scott Bakula is an actor who isn’t getting much work, but still attracts younger women. Andre Braugher is a family man who is often emasculated by his father who runs his car dealership. In the firs three, every plot moves by with an expert pace and have a ton of earned emotional moments by each plotline.

Easily the biggest surprise of the experiment. This is a great show that didn’t deserve to be canceled by the network that renewed Franklin & Bash.

Will I continue watching? Yep. I’ll finish off the two seasons.

Grade: 4.5 Yaps

Jersey Shore

Previous Relationship: Hatred from afar. Never seen an episode.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “A New Family”, “The Tanned Triangle” and “Good Riddance.”

And…? Shame on you America? This is popular? This is still on the air? PEOPLE LIKE THIS SHOW? What the….why? For those who don’t know, a bunch of idiots are brought to a house and then they party on the Jersey Shore. They are guidos and guidettes and if you don’t know what that means, they will spend the first 10 minutes of the pilot explaining it.

I figured they would drink, party, fight, and sleep with each other but I had no idea how dumb they would be about it. They all talk about how they are going to sleep with everyone. Then when Mike (“The Situation”) flirts with Sammi by holding her hand and cooking with her everyone makes fun of them. He’s still douchey, but at least he was almost sorta trying to be a gentlemen douche. The guys bring some girls to their place and they are bashed for it. The girls bring guys back and they are bashed for it. I don’t know how any of them are every happy! There is a thesis to be written about “Sexuality on the Jersey Shore”.

In three episodes, there were only two scenes that almost entertained me. One was Snooki—who may be schizophrenic—failing to figure out how to work the duck phone. She was accidently home alone trying to call people on this duck shaped phone and people keep calling on the other line. It was such a confusing moment that I really wanted the scene to end with a zoom to the outlet to reveal the phone was never connected.

The other was when Angelina was being called out by her boss for not showing up to work. Her argument was so confusing and empty, it felt like a surrealist play. I just wanted the boss to snap and yell “HOW CAN YOU BE THIS STUPID?!?!”

Stop watching this show, America.

Will I continue watching? **** no.

Grade: .5 Yaps

The Dresden Files

Previous Relationship: I’ve read the first two books in the series and I liked them. On a mystery standpoint, they weren’t very good because it was just Harry going from person to person asking “Do you know anything?” Yet they were fun and creative with the fantasy world. I should probably read more.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Birds of a Feather”, “The Boone Identity” and “Hair of the Dog”

And…? This did not work at all. With Jersey Shore, I could at least be appalled for the 45 minutes, but with this I was bored out of my mind. There’s no fun with the show. There is a ghost named Bob who lives in a skull and that’s even treated as super serious. Every person who hires the wizard Harry Dresden feels like they were rejected from a Law and Order episode for having even less of a personality.

There is voice-over for no reason. There are flashbacks to his boring childhood. Every case is solved by random bits of magic that they make up as they go along. Harry is melodramatic about everything! I hate it when shows or movies spend half of their dialog talking about how deep/dark/interesting/charming/scary a character is but never showing any evidence. This show commits that crime every episode with everyone. None of the villains are memorable or even that threatening.

The book series deserved better than this.

Will I continue watching? It was cancelled after one season and I don’t even want to finish it.

Grade: 1.5 Yaps

Next week I’ll be jumping back into Lie to Me, checking out Green Wing, and finally restarting Friday Night Lights.

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