Guys, it’s here. Seriously, right there on the internets, the thing that was taken away from us well before we were able to become intimate. When it left, we solemnly wrote “Do Not Eat” on its paper bag as we placed it in the freezer. We held onto the hope that a return would be approved, but I think most of us quietly accepted the loss. Then the unthinkable happened; Netflix rolled up like Jake Ryan just to let us know that he hadn’t forgotten our birthday…I mean the show we like (this reference worked a lot better in my head). Cut to: Sunday morning, “Arrested Development” returned.
Steven Soderbergh has found this odd place in Hollywood where he is able to make the films that he wants to make. He experiments with the super independent with films like “Bubble”, but then will show that he has mainstream appeal with the “Ocean” films. This is the guy that made an epic chronicling the life of Che Guevara and then made male strippers into a blockbuster hit. So it should come as no surprise that he has chosen to tell the dramatic and complicated life of Liberace with “Behind the Candelabra”, because of course he did.
“The Office,” has been the flagship Thursday night comedy staple for NBC since 2005. An adaptation of the heralded British Show from Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the Greg Daniels led “American” office started as a mirror of its counterpart. It wasn’t until the show started to deviate from the source material that it really found its legs. The incredible chemistry of its talented cast paved way for successful careers for all of its stars, especially for Steve Carrell, who starred as Michael Scott, the awkward leader of the office.
I walked into viewing season 1 of Veronica Mars with very little background on the show. Outside of knowing that it was a UPN/CW show, that it starred Kristen Bell, and that it seemed to have a pretty solid Internet following, I had nothing on the show. (I believe, “Is that the show where she has psychic powers to solve mysteries?” was uttered in response to my wading into the first season [note: it is not].) The curiosity thanks to the Internet fandom was enough to prompt me to fire up the series and see what the clamor was all about.
I think the best way I can describe Veronica Mars to someone is to say: if Twin Peaks and Brick had a baby, and that baby eventually went to Sunnydale High, it would be Veronica Mars. Twin Peaks comes from the first season’s overarching Who Killed Lilly Kane? angle, complete with townsfolk with more going on behind the picket white fences (or the iron estate gates, as it were). Brick because of the show’s well-defined social structure, with each group and status playing off of the other quite intelligently in a noir setting. And Sunnydale High because it looks like Veronica is going to the same school that Buffy went to. I suppose an even better way to describe the show is: it’s good. Veronica Mars is a noir set in Neptune California, where Veronica (Kristen Bell) is a private investigator/high school student, working with her father, Keith Mars, (Enrico Colantoni), the disgraced ex-Sheriff of Neptune who runs his PI business and raises Veronica on his own after his wife (her mother) runs out on the family. Why did she run out? How does that tie into Keith Mars’s botched attempt to solve the Lilly Kane murder? And was it actually botched?
This is the overarching mystery that unfolds through season 1 of the series, bookending each episode’s “Case of the Week” approach to storytelling. Those cases are sometimes interesting, like “The Wrath of Con” where Veronica needs to snoop out a money fraud scandal akin to those e-mails from Nigerian princes, or “Clash of the Tritons” which has some of my favorite lines from the season, but are usually what you get through to get to the nuggets for the overarching mystery (in this sense, it is very much like watching a season of The X-Files in that the mystery of the week is sometimes cool and sometimes not, but the nuggets of the growing mythology keep us coming back). But even in those cases, Veronica Mars does an excellent job of deepening our understanding of the characters’ stories, which lets us forgive some of the more outlandish aspects of the series (sure, the ATF would totally ask Veronica for help to ferret out a bomb threat suspect), and also helps us try to puzzle out the solution to who killed Lilly Kane. The more we learn about the characters, the more fun we have trying to hold everyone to the light.
Those characters are interesting because they serve the stories well. Indeed, the characters are broad arche(or stereo)types, set up for the audience to see the social classes Veronica is working with and against. As the season moves on, we learn more about their backstories, but it always seems to be in service of the plot, not necessarily of the characters themselves. But, as I mentioned before, it’s that development that keeps the episodes interesting. Some of the acting is pretty wooden and doesn’t look out of place for a UPN and then The CW show, with the pretty/handsome early-twentysomethings-playing-teenagers standard we’ve all come to know and love (not to mention great guest stars, like most of the child-cast of Home Improvement and Harry friggin’ Hamlin!). But really, honestly, this isn’t a detriment, and the writing is sharp, so even as stereotypes, they’re interesting. There are two exceptions to this generic CW actor/acting rule and they are Kristin Bell and Enrico Colantoni. In order for the show to work, Veronica has to work, and honestly, Bell has the character down pat. Veronica is defensively snarky, she’s smart, and a bulldog. Bell plays these parts pitch perfectly, and suddenly it’s forgivable that most of the other actors on the show are pretty broad and cookie cutter because Bell sells Veronica’s view so well, we’re seeing the people she interacts with the way she sees them. And her relationship with her father, who starts off as her only support network in a place that actively hates her, is spot on, thanks in large part to Colantoni’s performance as the shamed Sheriff-turned-PI. Those two performances and very sharp writing are the keystones to Veronica Mars’s success.
After tearing through season 1 of the series (twenty two 42-minute episodes in 1 week), I get the draw of the series. Veronica Mars is funny, dark, a nicely balanced noir, and playfully smart. It’s good television and like so many shows before it, appears to have been cancelled before its time. But for now, it’s new to me and I’m already eager to dig into season 2.
Sherlock Holmes has become almost something of a cliché. The deerstalker hat, the pipe, the “Elementary, my dear Watson”, the versions and revisions of the character and the stories have, over the years, greatly reduced the character from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s great scientific mind to something that passively conjures up a few of the notable tropes listed above or, quite possibly, a mental picture of a basset hound. Guy Ritchie attempted to shake loose the image of Holmes with his recent cinematic take on the character, although, for my money, there wasn’t much that was particularly Holmesian about the character, instead the film was more like a chance to watch Robert Downey Jr. in an installment of the Crank series, wearing fancy clothes. My point is Sherlock Holmes felt sort of tired and done. Which is why all three hour and a half episodes of the BBC’s first season of the renewed series, Sherlock, was such a wonderful, wonderful surprise.
Sherlock takes literature’s greatest mind and moves him and his counterpart, Dr. John Watson, to modern London. Holmes, a “consultant” for the police, takes on London’s crime puzzles using modern day technologies like texting and the Internet as he methodically works through the clues the police, and we the viewers, often overlook. Sound like a dumb recipe for disaster, Sherlock Holmes using his Blackberry to Google things? Well, it’s not. And the reason why it’s not is actually one of the largest reasons why the show succeeds. Sherlock, the character, uses these devices as tools in his arsenal to make his connections, verify his logic, and to move to the next step. Because, at the core of the show, Sherlock is about the character, not the crimes. This is no CSI. Steven Moffat (the man who is currently running the latest iteration of Dr. Who for the BBC) knows what is fascinating and puts the focus of the series squarely on that: Sherlock isn’t about the audience solving the mystery along with Holmes, it’s about watching and marveling as we, one step behind the titular character, continuously play catch up with the man as he puts the pieces together. Sure, the clues are often there, but they’re mostly alluded to subtly until Holmes pulls the mystery together for us at the very end. Instead, Sherlock spends the first three episodes watching this character and how he develops (or doesn’t) relationships with those around him.
True to form, the audience’s avatar in this series is Dr. John Watson. We meet Holmes along with Watson, and the series artfully uses the character to mirror the audience’s thoughts on Holmes. At multiple points throughout the three episodes, Watson vocalizes our feelings of awe as Sherlock draws correct conclusions from seemingly innocuous details, expresses our bristling thoughts as Sherlock’s complete lack of care for people’s feelings, and at one point, during episode three, calls out Holmes’s enjoyment of “the game” when actual lives are at stake, only to have Holmes yell back a brilliant retort about heroes that perfectly sums up the character and resets Watson and the audience’s perspective on Holmes. The season has a great arc, with the characters that are fully realized, developed (shy of maybe one or two ancillary characters [Sgt. Sally Donovan, I’m looking at you]), and grow.
But that’s not to say that the procedural mysteries that act as the catalyst for each episode are pushed aside or undercooked. Each of the three episodes, “A Study in Pink”, “The Blind Banker”, and “The Great Game” all have gripping puzzles for our protagonist to solve. Each story is fleshed out, and whether you find the resolutions satisfying or not (I’ll concede that I wasn’t slack-jawed at the reveal at the end of “A Study in Pink”, although the final game that was played after that reveal was yet another perfect character study of Sherlock Holmes), you can’t help but acknowledge that they weren’t haphazardly thrown together. Everything about these stories were thought through and relayed back to the audience. The two main characters, played by Benedict Cumberbatch (who has quite possibly the most British name ever) and Martin Freeman (from the classic BBC series, The Office) inhabit and exude Holmes and Watson, respectively. This is truly excellent television.
If this review sounds like a loud trumpet blast touting the greatness of this series, good, that was my intention. Sherlock truly bowled me over with how much of a total package it was. Excellent casting/acting, producing, writing, direction, Sherlock spent its first season saying so much in only three (albeit long) episodes. I’m already clamoring for the second season, which I hear is hitting the British airwaves come August of this year. That season finale cliffhanger was about as nailbiter as they come. Watch this show.
The summer doldrums have arrived. Officially giving me more time to catch up on the film I missed during the television season. However, with many upcoming off season series returning from their own hiatus, it might be tough to fit in a new show. ‘Falling Skies,’ is definitely one to consider.
Created by Saving Private Ryan scribe Robert Rodat and Steven Spielberg, ‘Falling Skies,’ paints a picture of the aftermath of an alien invasion. Starring Noah Wyle, Moon Bloodgood, Will Patton, and a handful of fresh faces, led by Drew Roy.
Tom Mason (Wyle) is part of a group of resistance, fighting against the invading alien forces. Attacking humans in their various vehicles and “mechs,” the group is struggling to survive – being pushed westward, out of Boston, by the invading alien forces.
Mason and his son belongs to the 2nd Massachusetts, who also lead and protect a group of civilians, providing structure in total anarchy.
The first part of the pilot introduces us to a large ensemble cast, Weaver (Patton), is the commander of the 2nd Massachusetts, and it is clear him and Mason don’t see entirely eye to eye. Mason, with no personal military history is well read, a fact we are reminded of a little too often, but then again, this is basic cable, and we are only just meeting the characters.
We learn that one of Mason’s son’s was lost to the aliens. Who seems to trap young humans, while killing everyone else. A detail that will most likely come to play later.
The score featured in the pilot was excellent, and the production value is high for no doubt an effects heavy show – they’ve certainly put a lot of money into it, and it shows. Other effects heavy shows like NBC’s “V,” look pretty poor next to this one.
The second half of the pilot takes some unexpected twists and turns, non-of-which I’ll hint at or spoil here, but it essentially ensures that I’ll be watching the next episode.
Wyle is a great lead, an actor I’ve always enjoyed all the way back to his early days. I think ‘Falling Skies,’ has a strong, but flawed pilot, however, the talent behind the show definitely is going to have me stick through to see what is next.
‘Teenage Paparazzo’ is a great documentary from actor Adrian Grenier about 14 year old Austin Visschedyk, a young paparazzo. Going into the film, I wasn’t sure what I was going to see, I’m familiar with Grenier as an actor, but as far as his directing skills, I was curious to see what he’d done with this very captivating premise. The documentary goes much further then just about Austin, it delves deep into the paparazzi culture, and even examines our obsession with celebrities.
The film opens with a quick background on Grenier, and how he is in the position that he is now, a celebrity that has to deal with the constant snapping of the paparazzi. One day, Grenier is leaving an event, and a young boy runs up to him with a camera. At first, he assumes its just another fan. Once he’s hit with the snapping of 75 shots, he realizes, this kid is a paparazzi.
Grenier tracks Austin down, and turns the cameras on him. Following him as he goes about his life, and interviewing the various people in and around him, including other paparazzos. The film is insightful and looks at many different aspects of the culture.
A great part of that is the journey of a photo, which is outlined for us in detail. For example, if one of these professionals snags a quick picture of Paris Hilton walking out of a coffee shop, how its downloaded, uploaded, and on a picture editors desk for a tabloid before she even gets home. It’s quite remarkable.
The films opening I’d say is its weakest part. It begins a bit on the self-indulgent side. I will admit, it is hard to not come off self-indulgent when you narrate the opening of a film telling us why you’re famous. But, I’m sure there are people who don’t know who Adrian Grenier is, and why he would be a “victim” of the paparazzi. Thankfully, we move right past this, and it only strengthens from there.
It is clearly evident that Grenier truly cared about this story. It apparent when he voices concerns that once Austin grows out of the cute, “I’m a 13 year old paparazzi,” he’s going to be wasting his talents as a photographer. The actor actively goes out of his way to encourage Austin to explore his talent in other ways, in hopes that he can make something even more out of his life.
Another great sequence in the film is when Grenier goes out of his way to test the lies many tabloid publications make up based on the photos they receive. He stages a shoot with himself and Paris Hilton, just to see how it comes out on the other end. And of course, the rumors fly that there is a burgeoning relationship between the too.
The most touching part of the film is the friendship and bond Grenier builds with Austin. Its amazing to see how this taste of fame effects Austin through out the filming process, as he is very different at the end of the film then from when we first meet him.
My favorite sequence in the film had to be the point where Grenier decides to get his own camera, and see what things were like on that side of the world. I have to admit, if this hadn’t happened, I would have left the theater extremely disappointed.
‘Teenage Paparazzo,’ features great appearances by a wealth of different personalities, Matt Damon, Eva Longoria, and Alec Baldwin show up giving their opinion on everything from paparazzi to literally how different your life is when you are in the public eye.
Baldwin makes an amazing statement, he discusses how media conglomerates profit both from his work as an actor, and his personal life. For example, while he was working on the Departed, he’s doing the talk show circuit, appearing on shows produced by Time Warner, whose WB arm produced the film. But then, one of the company’s other outlets, TMZ, is dragging his name through the mud for the scandal with the angry voicemail he left his daughter. So on one end their profiting off his work, and on the other, their profiting by exploiting a situation in his personal life. Showbiz…there is nothing like it.
I really enjoyed ‘Teenage Paparazzo,’ and I’m glad to see it premiere on HBO tonight. It is a great film that offers a lot of insight to the world of these photographers, and gives you a feel for what its like to be both behind and in front of the camera.
This is a new weekly column that will take a look at what is going on the ol’ boob tube! Wait. I don’t believe my TV has any tubes…
Everyone’s favorite Doctor is back in its 7th season, and it picks up literally where the last left off. (Quick Recap) Season 6 ended with House losing his patient, and running home to his last stash of Vicodin, and being stopped by Cuddy, who is most definitely not a hallucination this time around.
Cuddy and House spend the entire day at House’s apartment, basically building a foundation of their relationship. It is clear that much of this season will involve the “Huddy” relationship, and how it affects them and the rest of House’s staff and friends.
I love House because despite its repeating formula, the side stories of the characters are what keep the audience engaged. And occasionally, they do an episode unlike any of the others (I’m looking at you last years special season premiere that was essentially a mental hospital drama).
I think the season is definitely off to a good start and I can’t wait to see where it goes.
ABC’s last Lost replacement failed (Flashforward, which I got into and was sad to see it canceled), so now NBC is stepping up to the plate with a new event drama, called…The Event.
The first episode was thrilling, edge of your seat action, but honestly, I have no clue what direction the show is headed in. Am I interested? Yes. But the pilot focused so much on the “crazy” event that we didn’t get to learn more about the characters. Stay tuned for episode 2 next week.
Fresh off their Emmy wins, the ABC sitcom returns with a strong episode featuring an amusing situation with Cam and Mitchell trying to put together a castle for Lily, and Jay lending a hand. I enjoyed this show right away last year, and I’m glad to see it return.
Everyone is waiting to see how this season goes, we all know its Steve Carrell’s last, who will take over, what new story arcs will this season bring? The premiere introduced the new office assistant, who just so happens to be Michael Scott’s nephew. I enjoyed the episode, especially the lip-sync open. Off to a good start, I hope they can sustain it.
NBC’s new culture shock comedy telling the story of Todd Dempsy (Ben Rappaport) as an American office manager sent to India to manage a Mumbai call center staffed with a bunch of misfits. The pilot wasn’t anything that blew me away, but it has potential to grow. I’ll give it a few more chances, as long as it stays away from the heavy Indian stereotyping.
Didn’t make it through past the first commercial break. (Sorry CBS) I may give it another chance…
Shows I missed before writing this article: Lone Star, Boardwalk Empire, Bleep My Dad Says, and Fringe. I’ll follow up before the end of theweekend with an update of those shows!
Two of my most favorite shows have gone off the air, and I thought despite Lonelyreviewer.com only covering Film recently, I’d like to do a review/write down my thoughts for a significant week in television. There will be spoilers herein, so please take care, if you plan on watching them in the future, or aren’t caught up, I will be discussing the shows in detail. So. One more time SPOILER ALERT.
Despite a lackluster past few seasons, the creative team behind 24 pulled out all the stops in what became the shows final season. Moving the locale to New York City
(something as a fan I’d wanted since season 5), we joined Jack Bauer as he’s brought in to provide his usual assistance on the eve of the signing of a historic peace treaty.
The producers admitted recently that they didn’t make too many changes the way the season was going to play out despite it being Jack’s last outing on television. However, it certainly did feel like at least in the last 6-7 episodes, they pulled out all the stops. Jack became even more vengeful then he’d ever been, out for blood, to hurt everyone responsible for the death of his friend and now lover, Renee Walker.
In the series finale, we watched Jack, despite wanting nothing but to kill everyone responsible, be talked down by his long time friend Chloe O’Brien. The most touching moment of the finale came in its last moments, when Jack, having been saved once again by Chloe’s intervention, Jack thanks Chloe for all her dedication, and friendship over the years. It was a great moment in television, and we watch Jack run via a drone feed.
The finale is a total set up for the film, but, I’m ok with that, I think it was a classy way to end the show.
We’ve had a season full of answers, what the deal is with the smoke monster, what the island is, who is jacob, what the “numbers” represented. From day one, showrunners and exec producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse have said that ‘Lost’ has always been a story of the characters. Flawed, but at the same time, special, the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 were brought together by fate, to a mysterious island. They’ve traveled through time, they’ve been shot at, attacked by polar bears, drowned, kidnapped. You name it, these guys went through a lot.
This last season started with what we eventually called a “sideflash,” where the plane never crashed. What we learn in the finale is, this “alternate reality,” is a purgatory of sorts. A world created by them, which gives them a chance to relive their lives the way they wanted, the ideal way. Of course, there is no happiness either, and realizing that they were in a false world, helped them “pass on” or “move on.”
It was beautifully put together, sure people are upset at the pile of things they didn’t explain, but to be anymore detailed would have been dumbing down the show. I applaud them for sticking to their vision, and like I said, I’m completely satisfied with this finale (albeit, sad, but I know I’ll be rewatching from season 1 soon). I think the episode was the best of the season, cinematically epic, and the best 2 hours and 30 minutes of TV (with commercials) I’ve seen. Ever.
So, now what am I watching? The Summer is here, so I’m going to have to play some catch up, maybe I’ll finally pop in ‘The Wire’ box set thats been sitting next to my TV for weeks. Here’s hoping for some great new shows this fall, anyone watching V?
It was the end of the television season in 2007, and I’d hung on the entire season. Jack Bauer had been a personal hero since the first season of 24. I was an addict, so much to the point that I had a CTU mug and Jack’s messenger bag from season 4. At the end of Season 6, I was worried that my love for the show was fading. [Read more...]