Friday, August 12, 2011

Ahhhhh, Real Busy

Hey Everybody,

Thanks again for reading my silly blog. Right now I'm working a lot on my upcoming books ORGANIZING CLASSICS and ORGANIZING CRIME Second Edition. They will premiere at BoucherCon 2011 if all goes right. Yet there are three additional movies opening today I didn't have time to write full reviews. Here's some mini-reviews and additional stuff.

30 Minutes or Less

This is such an odd film. I was worried that I went to too early of a screening because it felt like it wasn't done with its editing. Yet the running time is the same... The cast is likable and the premise is amusing--even though it's apparently based off a real life tragedy. There are just too many things off about its timing, its stakes, and its world. It's a forgettable misstep with a few solid laughs.

Beats, Rhymes and Life

I am not a hip person so I never heard of A Tribe Called Quest. This documentary covers the four men who became a sensation in the 90s and then fizzled out due to internal conflicts. The film did a great job capturing the times and letting all of its subjects speak candidly. I loved seeing how the cool thing was to wear a bright colored jacket in a music video to the rich thug lifestyle as seen now in rap. I wish there was more music, since I wasn't the most familiar. Worth seeing.

Sarah's Key

Not every Holocaust film is going to be good. This one has a lot of good moments, surrounded by a lot of bloated ones. There is no surprise to where the story is going, which seems essential since there is someone obsessed about finding out what happens next. Far too many coincidences with the mystery and over-directing becomes a big problem in too many moments. The whole thing falls flat.

You can see Chris Lloyd and I argue about Sarah's Key in a commentary for The Film Yap. I was called a new insult during it!

I was thrilled to be able to write an article for Mystery Scene. I have a featured article on their website talking about the five best foreign thriller films. Add them all to your queue!

Finally, I can say I shall be on a panel at BoucherCon this year. Last Magna I created a game show where a panel of judges determines who is the Greatest Detective. I'm bringing it to St. Louis with an incredible panel of JoAnna Carl, Terence Faherty, Lauren Henderson, Harry Hunsicker and Simon Wood. I'm excited!

Once again, thank you everyone for reading my silly thoughts. There are plenty more on the way.


Film Yap: Terri

I really liked Terri because I didn’t always like Terri. Too many films about the high school outsider romanticize the character into becoming cooler than Ferris Bueller. In this movie, Terri is a nice enough guy. He cares for his uncle (Creed Bratton) who is suffering from dementia without every complaining. However, his social awkwardness and anger cause him to act harsh to people who are trying to be nice to him.

After being late to too many classes and only wearing his pajamas to school, Terri Thompson (Jacob Wysocki) is sent to visit with Assistant Principal Fitzpatrick (John C. Reilly). Realizing that Terri needs help, Fitzpatrick decides to meet with him every Monday morning just to talk.

The film could have easily gone down the path of Good Will Hunting, but that wouldn’t fit this movie. Neither of the characters are smart enough for one thing. They not as articulate about what they want to convey, but that’s fine. A good friend tries to always say the best thing, even if they can’t.

Terri’s high school is more centered in reality than most of what’s in the multiplex. Kids are cruel, but apathy is the tougher treatment. Terri spends his time mostly alone walking around trying to find anything that interests him. His talks with Mr. Fitzpatrick provide a little bit of hope, but plenty of new frustrations.

Everyone is wonderfully realized, especially the other kids who end up talking to Terri. Their flaws aren’t opportunities for easy plot points, but ways to create a stronger character. We don’t see their home life or anything about them when they’re not with Terri, but director Azazel Jacobs infers a lot thanks to strong filmmaking. It’s an atmosphere where the young actors are allowed to be organic which often causes for more pauses and confusion.

The film makes subtle references to films like Kes and The 400 Blows and it earns the comparison. I knew plenty of Terri’s in high school, but I don’t know the rest of the story. This is a character rich enough that I would love to see a reunion with him in ten and twenty years. Clearly the film has love for the character and what Wysocki brought to him because the closing credits begin with them and then has a card for the director.

This is a charming independent film that doesn’t have to be quirky or full of pop songs in order to be heartwarming.

4.5 Yaps

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Help

It has been awhile since I’ve left the theatre completely hating a film. I’ve seen plenty of bad films this year that weren’t a surprise in their lousiness. When Adam Sandler is starring in a film called Just Go With It, expectations are automatically low. The Help is a movie that desperately wants to be the most important film of all time and is empty inside.

Based off the bestseller by the same name, Emma Stone plays a college graduate living in the 1960s. Wanting to be a major writer, she decides to reveal the unseen story of ‘the help.’ These are the black maids who take care of the mansions and raise the white children.

All of that sounds perfectly fine. There’s a great story there, but instead writer/director Tate Taylor decided to take complicated issues and saturate them into ridiculous cartoons. In this version of reality, if you hired a maid you are Cruella de Ville level of racist. You are cruel, lacking all humanity and desperate for the next chance to be hypocritical.

The reason we know they are being hypocritical is because we are living in 2011. Therefore we should laugh when someone suggests that smoking may kill due to dramatic irony. Stone’s character Skeeter is essentially someone living with a 2011 sense of culture. There is no black and white. She is right and everyone else is horribly wrong.

The treatment of the maids during this time of civil rights was terrible. This was an embarrassing part of American history full of harmful repercussions that still have lingering consequences. Slavery was horrendous, but that doesn’t mean every slave owner in history was a despicable person. There were racists and bigots during this time, but that doesn’t mean everyone needs to be a harpy without a single ounce of humanity. The worst example of this is Bryce Dallas Howard who continues to be the embarrassing part of every ensemble.

This is just a problem with the approach to the story. This movie falls apart in every category. The direction is utterly lifeless; there is no emotion earned beyond “Oh look I’m watching a movie.” At one point, the brilliant Viola Davis is delivering a monologue and she does a fine job. I have no idea what she said in the monologue because the film just wanted me to notice how much she was crying instead of what she was saying.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the script says because it will change without warning. Throughout the film Allison Janney is part of the group of one-dimensional racists with no remorse for her behavior. Then she isn’t and she gives a supportive speech. For it’s very easy for people to chance their entire mindview over the case of a single night. Sandra Bullock at least fell down the stairs to overcome her hate.

However, it’s not all as dark as it seems. In fact, the film isn’t dark at all. The bright colors always have a warming effect, even though the characters occasionally mention they should be afraid for their lives. None of this is conveyed visually aside occasionally shooting a scene at night, but becomes irrelevant.

To say there is humor in this movie is a bit misleading. There is one joke, which is repeated at least 15 times. The first time it was told, it was an amusing, but broadcasted too much that the punchline wasn’t shocking. Then every single character in the movie makes the same wisecrack about it. Even if it was the funniest thing in the world, it’s diluted down to nothing by the closing credits. In fact most of the humor is so juvenile, it’s amazing how a film like Bridesmaids can do the same thing with greater results, both in terms of comedic timing and character revelations.

The Help also accomplishes the rest of the checklist of incompetent filmmaking: unnecessary voice-over only to have it disappear, not having any sort of forward momentum for at least an hour, terrible use of a period piece including covering Kennedy’s assassination for no particular reason, characters that do not change throughout the course of the story, unrealistic montages, and not knowing when to shave at least 30 minutes out of the film.

This film is a disaster of Crash level proportions. Again, I’m angry because this could have been done so well. There is nothing real about this movie and that leaves good actors and a great premise utterly wasted. There’s a pun to be made about this film needing help, but I refuse to stoop to their level.

Film Yap: Week Three 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.

Lie to Me

Previous Relationship: When the show premiered, I really liked the idea of the show. Knowing scientifically if someone is lying can be really cool, especially if you have a wildcard character who knows all of the tricks. I watched the first two episodes and I thought they were fine, but I had no urge to continue.

I watched Season One, Episodes 4-6 “A Perfect Score”, “Love Always”, and “Unchained”

And…? Oh man. This is way worse than I remember. There are several fundamental flaws with the show. The team itself doesn’t make any sense. They work in a giant multi-million dollar office with dozens of TV screens. All they do is consult. People hire them to see if someone is lying. So once they get past the initial conference with the suspect, why are they still working on the case? They’re acting as detectives for several days per case even though they were only hired for a small part. Also when you accuse someone of lying, that doesn’t mean they should automatically be arrested.

Most of that can be stretched to be a decent procedural (not my favorite subgenre). The bigger problem is the show’s pacing. The lying doesn’t work. Most of the actors who are supposed to lie aren’t talented enough to pull off the subtle motions required by the script. Then the team of human lie detectors dramatically halts the plot to over-explain every single subtle motion. Then the subtle motions are repeated by a flashback. It becomes unbearable.

Throw in a bunch of boring cases, flat characters, and wasted potential by having Tim Roth as your lead and this makes for three dull episodes. I hope the show gets better as it smoothes out some of these problems. I know one of my favorite TV writers, Shawn Ryan, was hired to be a temporary showrunner during the second season. I don’t know what he could do though.

Will I continue watching? Nope

Grade: 2 Yaps


Previous Relationship: One of those shows I meant to start, but never did. I like the original Ron Howard/Steve Martin movie. Peter Krause is an actor that I will always check out what he was doing, but my schedule got away from me.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Pilot”, “Man Versus Possum”, and “The Deep End of the Pool.”

And…? This is a really likable show. There are plenty of actors that have a natural charisma about them. They all work well together making a believable family. It’s familiar, but it can still be something special. It’s all about how well they can continue their plotlines.

Individually, most of the storylines are compelling. I like Krause as the father who learns his son has Asperger’s and what that means to his wife and daughter. Dax Shepard is finally allowed to act like a real character by being the brother who struggles with commitment and finds out he has a son. (Shepard is also really good in the independent film “The Freebie”.)

Yet the scenes that work the best is when all of the family is together. I like the older siblings goofing off outside of the school while some of them smoke pot and others pass. It’s the best way to reveal chemistry and small character decisions. It shows why the family is worth investing the time in.

Will I continue watching? The friend, who recommended this series, lent me the first season. I plan on watching the rest before returning it to her. (Thanks Sara!)

Eli Stone

Previous Relationship: Despite having seen Season One, most of my memory of the show is from watching LOST. For its two years, it always aired after my favorite show so my friends and I had this ridiculous resentment towards it because if those commercials were saying it was coming up next, we only have a few minutes left of crazy jungle adventures. My mom was a big fan of the show and I watched her DVD of Season One and was charmed. Never started Season Two and then it became lower priority once it was canceled.

I watched Season Two, Episodes 1-3 “The Path”, “Grace”, and “Unwritten.”

And…? I was thankful of the season recap at the beginning of “The Path.” Basically Eli is a lawyer who has these visions (typically in the form of eleborate musical numbers) that encourage him to help people. Sometimes they are warnings like a giant earthquake or sometimes it’s telling him what case to take on. These episodes take on the mythology with shaky ground. There are a lot of Hero’s Journey steps in place and an interesting plot device of a book that can tell the future.

I typically prefer the mythological elements of a show, but the writer’s aren’t that good at covering it. The premise is limiting and their magical book ends up being burned by the end of the episode anyway. What it can accomplish is a sweet tone. It’s all about lawyers turning down money and trying to help people. It’s about faith and love and George Michael. Sometimes that causes for hokey dialog, but usually it’s a nice change of pace.

However, the character of Eli is flimsy this season. Jonny Lee Miller is a very talented actor and I’m sorry I missed his exciting Frankenstein performance earlier this year. When you have a show about accepting faith and goodwill and you have a character constantly risking his professional career to push those points, it shouldn’t be so grumpy about it all the time. Every first act shouldn’t be him trying not to take the case when this is his chosen lifestyle.

Will I continue watching? Sure. Only 10 episodes left. I’ll take my time though.

Grade: 3.5 Yaps

Brothers & Sisters

Previous Relationship: I’ve seen one random recent episode when I was over at my friend’s house. It seems fine?

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Patriarchy”, “An Act of Will”, and “Affairs of State.”

And…? I probably shouldn’t have watched this so close to “Parenthood.” Both of them are about older siblings with different relationships. I almost have no choice, but to compare them.

This is much worse. There are only a few storylines with actual plots attached. Each one is poorly written and out of their depths. There is an embezzlement scandal with their father and Ally McBeal is on a political talk show, to the frustration with their family. Everything from PTSD to homosexuality to basic relationships feels amateurish. There is a good cast including Sally Field and Rachel Griffiths, but they can’t rise above flat material where everyone looks embarrassed.

Will I continue watching? I would have liked to see Rob Lowe, but I’m not going to make it that far. No more for me.

Grade: 2 Yaps

Friday Night Lights

Previous Relationship: I’ve read the book, seen the movie, and the first season. It’s one of my family’s favorite show but I just lost track of it. By being in the same house with them for a few months of the year, I have been spoiled on a few major upcoming plot points.

I watched Season Two, Episodes 1-3 “Last Days of Summer”, “Bad Ideas”, and “Are You Ready for Friday Night?”

And…? In the first scene, Saracen is talking to Landry by the pool in their typical naturalistic dialog. It was so funny and real, that I suddenly missed the entire show. The show created a place that was so genuine that it barely feels like a TV show at time. The only cracks in the show are when it’s obviously a TV show. Like when Landry murders someone and hides the body. Oh boy.

That bad decision aside, there is still plenty to love. Whenever Coach Taylor speaks his mind, I’m nodding along out of respect. I even like it when Julie is acting like an annoying high school girl because every choice she’s making is very believable for that age. Even though everyone says this is the weakest season, there is a ton of stuff that completely works for me.

Will I continue watching? Absolutely.

Grade: 4.5 Yaps

Keeping Up With the Kardashians

Previous Relationship: I knew of the show and I knew there was a spin-off. That’s it.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “I’m Watching You”, “Managing Mom”, and “Brody in the House.”

And…? What the hell did I just watch? Now Jersey Shore is a horrendous show, but at least I understand what it is. I don’t know what this is. This is the worst edited show I have ever seen. Of course, it’s staged but that’s expected of every reality show nowadays. This is…something new.

For example, in the first episode Kim is nervous about appearing on The Tyra Banks Show because they’re going to talk about her infamous sex tape. She says she wants a public forum to talk about what she really feels. She is saying that on her own TV show and then proceeds not to talk about what she really feels. She just makes jokes about how she was horny. Then when they show the clip from Tyra, I have no idea if she accomplished what she wanted to do.

I hate all of these people. I don’t know what most of them do all day and I just watched three episodes about their lives. In the worst episode, Kim’s mom, Kris, messed up yet another scheduling so Kim thinks about getting a new manager. She auditions new people in her mom’s house because…I don’t know. When the new manager-to-be asks what Kim wants to do with her career, the show cuts away because I don’t think anyone knows why she’s a celebrity. Then Kim tells Khloe to tell Kris about the managers to teach her a lesson. Kris then yells a lot, changes her answering machine to an angry recording where she tells the world Kim’s personal cell phone number, and then spends a day in the spa ignoring all of her children. This was, of course, to teach Kim a lesson. Despite being the worst manager, Kris keeps her job.

I hate these people.

Will I continue watching? Hell no.

Grade: 1 Yap

Hogan’s Heroes

Previous Relationship: I knew the basic premise and I’ve seen the great movie “Auto Focus”.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “The Informer”, “Hold the Tiger”, “Kommandant of the Year”.

And…? One of my all-time favorite shows is M*A*S*H. I’ve seen every episode; Hawkeye’s blend of Groucho and pain was a major influence on my writing. It’s unfair, but this show is no M*A*S*H and I really wish it was. Hogan is a POW during World War II. He’s up against incompetent Nazis as he tries to rescue Allies and hurt the Germans. Oh yeah, it’s a comedy.

Having a POW comedy is not easy and tonally the show works at being a light show. Yet it could be so much better than that. There’s no threat or danger in this situation. If it was funny enough, I’d allow it but it always appeared cleverer than it really was. Bob Crane is too smug because it feels like he’s always winking at the camera.

This was one of the shows, I was really looking forward to but this hasn’t aged well.

Will I continue watching? Nope.

Grade: 2.5 Yaps

Green Wing

Previous Relationship: The friend that recommended this one showed me a few funny clips.

I watched Season One, Episodes 1-3 “Caroline’s First Day”, “Rumours” and “Lodgers”.

And…? Oh, I love British shows. My theory stands that there are only 15 working British actors because they all appear in the same shows. This has Black Book’s Tamsin Greig, Coupling’s Sarah Alexander, Spaced’s Mark Heap, and Episodes’ Stephen Mangan just in the main cast.

Since it’s a mad comedy set in a hospital, it’ll be easy to compare this to “Scrubs” but it’s more like “30 Rock.” It’s not so much about believability, but having a lot of jokes in the time span. There is a wide selection of the comedy spectrum, from the more humanly neurotic Caroline to the utterly insane Sue White, who may occasionally screech random noises or dress up like a “Nazi from a film.” It all fits because everything is funny.

They’re witty, absurdy, silly, and sexual usually all in the same scene. The only fault of the show is that it overuses its speed-up/slow down editing and 50 minutes does feel a little long for this type of show. That said, I like it when a comedy equips great comedic talents and gives them a great platform to show their range.

Will I continue watching? Of course. The whole series is on Hulu.

Grade: 4.5 Yaps


Previous Relationship: Whenever I talk about my love of LOST and Doctor Who, someone always brings up Supernatural. During a free trial to Netflix, I watched the first disc and liked it. I didn’t love it, but it had some cool parts. Then, like so many other shows in this series, I just never picked it back up. UNTIL TODAY.

I watched Season One, Episodes 5-7 “Bloody Mary”, “Skin” and “Hooks”.

And…? If I just watched “Skin” and “Hooks” I would give it a good review and then let the show drift away again. Yet, I started with “Bloody Mary” which is a crazy good episode. This is what I want from the show. It was clever, but most of all it was scary. The show has a distinct style with its drained color correction. This particular episode used that to really terrifying effects all the way up to the satisfying conclusion. It’s a more visual show than I ever expected.

This is The CW’s version of The X-Files as two brothers drive around stopping any supernatural threat while they try to find their missing father and solve the murder of one of their girlfriends. That means it’ll be monster-of-the-week with the occasional mythology episode to forward the plot. These were all of the former, but they were each good. I like them blending different cultures to find stories from. Even though the leads aren’t the best actors, they are serviceable. They don’t work beyond the range of handsome young investigators who will wield a weapon (meaning the shapeshifter episode wasn’t the best use of them) but they know how to be moody without being annoying.

Will I continue watching? Yes. Will I be caught up to Season Seven anytime soon? No. Need another summer for that. I do really want to get to Mark Pellegrino as the Devil.

Grade: 4 Yaps

Next week, I will try my best to finally finish this experiment. I have 12 shows left including the beloved “All in the Family” and “Hill Street Blues”, the overrated “Modern Family”, and obscure “Nathan Barley” and “Beast Wars”.

Film Yap: Why GenCon Matters

At one point during GenCon, I was standing at the McFarland booth glancing at their selection of pop culture analysis books. A man walked up next to me and told the man at the booth “Excuse me, sir, I am on a quest and your booth has sparked thy interest. May I question you for information?” Without missing a beat, the McFarland worker started to explain their catalog.

There are several people walking around the floor in costumes, but only a few are keeping “in character.” It’s incredibly silly and dorky, but it is fun. GenCon is predominantly a gaming convention devoted to the card, board, and tabletop gaming. Yet it’s also a celebration of geek culture. Any ironic detachment isn’t going to work in a place like this. Everyone is at a place like this to have fun.

It’s why people play games. All of the dragons and intricate building designs and experience points make them seem unapproachable. That’s only because most of them are. Those who have learned all of the intense rules for the complex games love GenCon because it’s four days to be surrounded by people who can play along. There are plenty of easier games including the very fun ones we were allowed to test out: The Red Dragon Inn 2 (D&D characters play drinking games after an adventure) and Tom Jolly’s Wayword (A competitive Boggle.)

For a weekend, the obscure becomes the mainstream. On Thursday I went with two of my friends, Lauren Hall and Keith Jackson. I was dressed as Doctor Who (11th incarnation), Lauren was Princess Leia, and Keith was Guy Wearing a Looper Shirt. More people recognized who I was than Lauren/Leia. At one point someone asked if she was the second Ramana to match my attire in which she immediately responded “Of course” and her picture was taken.

Then why was there such Who love? There was a giant Doctor Who North America booth and several others in costumes ranging from The 4th Doctor to Captain Jack Harkness to Idris from “The Doctor’s Wife.” During this weekend I was able to make a William Hartnell joke—that worked!

People become obsessed with this show not because it’s a chance to be part of a niche group. There is a high level of quality and entertainment throughout its almost 50 year run. It’s a show worth putting the energy towards, because it’s rewarding.

The same goes for the people who spent hours and hours making fantastic costumes of characters from Batman or Metal Gear Solid. They find new games to play and new people to play them with. It’s an event worth going to for any fan of pop culture, but there are always surprising things to find there. There is a booth selling orcarinas from The Legend of Zelda, a Game of Thrones related game, impressive Indiana Jones related art, Conan the Barbarian replica swords, and more zombie stuff than you could ever imagine.

When my brother, Ryan, went on Friday he was out of his element. He plays basketball, football, soccer, golf, and every sport ever. The geekiest outfit he could come up with was gym shorts and an “Always Sunny in Philadelphia” t-shirt. Even he couldn’t help but having a lot of fun while constantly repeating, “What is going on over here…?”

To experience genuine enthusiasm about anything is contagious. This is a conference that keeps that love simple and doesn’t bog down the day with too many panels or busyness. GenCon is a chance to experience it all. It’s highly recommended because if you’re looking at blogs and sites to read film commentaries, this is for you.

For more pictures, click the link to the original article:

Film Yap: Eastbound and Down Season Two

You do not have to like your protagonist. You do not have to agree with your protagonist. All you have to do is find the protagonist interesting enough to carry you through the story.

Meet Kenny Powers.

When we last saw Kenny Powers he discovered that he was not making it back to the big leagues so he abandoned the love of his life at a gas station. He drove off without telling his family or his (sorta) co-workers where he was going. Just like the massive jerk he is.

He ended up going to Mexico to gamble in a cockfighting group. He used to be a big shot baseball pitcher, but his arrogance and obnoxious behavior left him sinking lower and lower. The only friend he has is his creepy superfan Stevie Janowski (Steve Little), who will travel to the ends of the earth just to make Kenny happy. And he does. He joins Kenny in Mexico, abandoning his life of teaching.

Just like Season One, this season is shot like a full-length movie. The seven episodes tell one full story of pseudo redemption and enlightenment for the man too thick headed to learn anything. He recognizes certain moments would be a time for an epiphany, but he treats it like accomplishing a checklist instead of feeling genuine emotions.

The extreme vulgarity of Kenny Powers is the draw of the show. Danny McBride is at his best when his character is unredeemable. He never wants sympathy, which allows him to reach new levels of terrible behavior. The character is at his best when he’s up against relatively nice people. The school provided that in Season One, but in Mexico some of the strongest laughs are when he’s tormenting the minor league baseball team in the area.

That said, my favorite scene in the series is just Danny McBride, Adam Scott, and Matthew McConaughey riffing and thinking of the dirtiest metaphor they can up with. The show is full of great talent including the hilarious Michael Peña and Ana de la Reguera. Jody Hill and David Gordon Green take turns directing every episode; they have established the perfect balance of rooting for and against Kenny from scene to scene.

The arc really ends at Episode Six, but the show is smart and adds one more episode. They take the character to a place that hints at a great conclusion in Season Three. The show tells a dark story that could only be on HBO. Audiences haven’t always responded when this team has told this sort of humor in cinemas. On cable, they are able to fully voice their comedy that I hope will find its way into a new story after this ends next year.

The bonus features are relatively slim. There is a 9 minute making-of, which is the cast and crew complimenting each other. The outtakes are a bit fun because the Mexican midget sidekick may actually be a crazy violent person. There is also a feaurette on cockfighting, deleted scenes, and audio commentaries.

Season: 4 Yaps

Extras: 3.5 Yaps

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.