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How Long Before NBC Kills The Event? April 16, 2011

Posted by Ted in : 24, CW, ER, Heroes, Lost, NBC, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, The Event, Tonight Show , add a comment

For a TV show to be truly great, I believe it has to have at least one of three things: aliens, ghosts, or conspiracies. The Event delivers two of these features (no ghosts so far) along with a fast-paced storyline that approximates the suspense of 24. The show also utilizes the Lost technique of keeping the viewer guessing by having strange plot developments in every show (SPOILER ALERT for you DVD watchers!) — there are disappearing planes, extraterrestrials held captive by the government, people who don’t age, kids who look like old people, and a villain who turns out to be a shape-shifter. And that’s just the first half season. This is an ambitious show that builds on the great shows that came before it.

Caught up in the middle of the dangerous interplanetary intrigue is an attractive young couple, Sean and Leila, who want nothing more than to get married and lead a normal life. While the two are on vacation, Sean returns to his hotel room to find that Leila is gone along with their belongings, and the room is now occupied by a different couple. The hotel desk informs him that they have no record of him or his girlfriend staying in the room. It turns out that Leila has been kidnapped, along with her father and sister. Sean eventually tracks her down and is able to free her, and they find themselves on the run from both her kidnappers and the government.

Leila and Sean connect the dots 

In the first few episodes, Jason Ritter and Sarah Roemer, the actors who portrayed Sean and Leila, had a humorous habit of stuttering and stammering in every scene, which I think was intended to convey the idea of average people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances — the sort of characterization that was pulled off flawlessly by Richard Dreyfuss in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, for instance. Once again the old saying, “Art has a life of its own,” has found a new example. The actors’ intention of realism plays on the receiving end as a comedy routine about people with speech impediments. Which, to me, translates into “the director is asleep at the wheel.”

Also, some of the dialogue in recent episodes seems painfully artificial. The extraterrestrials are all business, with no time for walks on the beach or picnics in the park, as evidenced by such matter-of-fact pronouncements as “The uranium will be used to create a portal…that will bring many more of our people to earth,” and “The future of our race hangs in the balance.”

Laura Innes, once famous as Dr. Weaver on ER, plays the leader of the other-worldly visitors. It’s ironic that her character on the show, Sophia, ages at a tiny fraction of the rate of a normal human, because the actress has aged considerably since her early days at County General hospital. It pains me to say this, as a long time Innes fan, but she could use some sprucing up in the hair and make-up department. I mean, come on NBC! She’s queen of the aliens. Let her have some sex appeal, for crying out loud.

In spite of the defects, I can say with confidence that The Event is a must-see for fans of science fiction television. The long-term fate of the show is precarious for a couple of reasons, the first obviously being that some people automatically turn off the TV when a storyline involves aliens. The second reason is almost as obvious: NBC is notorious for axing TV shows at the first sign of lower ratings. This is especially true for sci-fi shows — Heroes and Surface come to mind. The recent Tonight Show debacle effectively solidified NBC’s status as the network that makes really stupid decisions. I’m guessing Conan O’Brien’s butt still hurts from having the rug pulled out from under him after only seven months on the job at The Tonight Show.

Other, smarter networks, such as Fox and CW, give their shows a chance to develop, give the production staff a greater degree of creative freedom, and, most importantly, they respect the fans by letting shows end with dignity, allowing the writers to tie up all the loose ends and resolve any unfinished business. Supernatural is the perfect example. The show seemed pretty hopeless in its first season, and I gave up on it after one episode. The CW network, however, didn’t give up. They allowed the show to develop and improve over time. I caught an episode several seasons later, and I couldn’t believe how much better it was. The CW had done what NBC would find unthinkable: It had actually stood by one of its TV shows and made it a big success.

As I watched the once-compelling Heroes crash and burn over the course of its four season run, I developed the impression that it suffered from too-many-chefs-in-the-kitchenitis. I pictured NBC executives in Brooks Brothers suits hovering over the writers’ computers, leaning in to retype a word here and there, and micromanaging every conceivable detail of the storyline, creating the convoluted mess that left fans shaking their heads in dismay. There’s a reason why Claire-Bear leapt to her non-death in the final scene. She clearly hoped that her super-healing powers would fail her for just once, and the unbearable folly of Heroes would be over. The viewers were right there alongside her, ready for the death plunge.

The NBC bean counters probably spend long hours in their mahogany-paneled conference rooms arguing that science fiction and supernatural TV shows are too expensive to make and don’t attract enough viewers. I can hear them saying something to the effect of, “We need to watch these dirt-bag sci-fi producers carefully and make sure they’re delivering a product conducive to the longevity of our lavish lifestyles.”

A part of me wishes NBC would just agree to never attempt any more sci-fi, then I could wash my hands of them forever. I’m sure they would do just fine with their current line-up of game shows, crime dramas, and really bad sitcoms.

Summer Viewing Report 2010 September 16, 2010

Posted by Ted in : America's Got Talent, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, DTV, ER, Friends, General, Hell's Kitchen, Inspirational, Lost, PBS, Reality TV, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, The X-Files, Whedonverse , add a comment

The DTV Nightmare Part IV: In spite of the umpteen public service announcements that promised all I had to do was hook up a digital converter box and my TV viewing would not be affected in the slightest by the digital television transition, I discovered after the switch that I was unable to receive my local ABC affiliate — in spite of buying two different antennas for that purpose — and was unable to watch the final season of Lost. Not the biggest surprise of my life. It’s OK, I’ll just pick up Lost on DVD. That show’s definitely worth owning. I’ve already started to accept the fact that this could the beginning of the end of free over-the-air television, thanks to the greedy telecom companies wanting to usurp all the extra bandwidth, and I could eventually be forced to pay for cable or satellite television for the first time in my life. Honestly, the thought of paying a monthly fee for TV makes my stomach turn, but I guess I’ll just cross that bridge when I get to it. I may have to change the name of my blog to Book Wormhole. God knows, I have plenty of books to read.

So maybe the fact that one of the major networks is out of my life for the foreseeable future accounted for the lack of things to watch on TV this summer. Although, that seems unlikely, since Lost is the only show I can remember watching on ABC since The Six Million Dollar Man. I guess part of the problem is I’m finally getting tired of some of the summer reality junk that used to amuse me on occasion. I once again elected to miss the circus of stupidity called Big Brother, and sidestepped the parade of wasted lives know as America’s Got Talent. I chose to opt out of Chef Ramsey’s masochistic cooking school for a second season in a row, maybe I’ll be bored enough to watch him next time Hell’s Kitchen rolls around, and yes, there will be a next time. There’s always a next time for these abusive British types.

Supernatural reruns: This CW show has been pretty amazing for the last couple of seasons in spite of the fact that I never particularly liked the Winchester brothers. Their melodramatic bickering and overwrought machismo are still annoying at times, but the show consistently delivers interesting, well written stories, with witty dialogue reminiscent of Buffy in her heyday (but don’t tell Dean I said that).

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Need To Know: I tuned in to the new PBS public affairs program, needing to know if the show was a worthy replacement for the recently ended Bill Moyers’ Journal. It’s not a bad program, but they seem to take more of an apologist stance on American foreign policy than I would have hoped for. In other words, more of the same warmed over middle-of-the-road opinions you can hear anywhere else. Well, we can look on the bright side. Maybe the talk radio Nazis will quit calling PBS liberal now that Moyers is gone. Of course, they would have to actually watch the network to figure that out, which seems unlikely.

Ghost Story / Circle of Fear: Lucky for me, I have a small stockpile of DVDs of favorite TV shows from the past. These are a real lifesaver at times when there’s nothing on but infomercials or court shows. Receiving top billing here in the crawlspace this summer was an old childhood favorite, which had never been officially released on DVD, but I was enthused to find it for sale as a bootleg. It was a supernatural-themed anthology show (meaning that each episode was a stand-alone story with a different set of characters) called Ghost Story, which was renamed Circle of Fear in its second and final season. The program is very similar in style to Rod Serling’s Night Gallery. This show originally aired in the early 70s, but I discovered through reruns in the 80s. The passing decades have only made it more appealing — the old cars, the clothes, the psychedelic music and directing style all add up to a nostalgia high for this aging potato. Plus, Sebastian Cabot adds a touch of class as a mysterious innkeeper who introduces each episode.

Hangin’ out with my Friends: Other shows in my DVD player recently included the first seasons of X-Files, ER, and Friends. You might not believe this, but I was actually going through an extended “I don’t watch TV” phase back in the 90s when the early seasons of these shows where on. But I fell off the wagon hard in 1996 when I discovered them, along with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Seinfeld. That was the year I became a TV fanatic. I couldn’t believe how much good stuff was on, and so happily rejoined the ranks of the low-brow and unrefined. My renewed friendship with the glowing box has gone on for 14 years now.

So sue me. I’m sure you anti-TV snobs that read that last paragraph will recognize me as a traitor to your cause, and call for an immediate intervention on my behalf. No doubt, you’ll have me sent to a TV watchers’ rehabilitation center somewhere, where my treatment will consist of a rigid daily regimen of life affirming get-em-off-the-couch activities, including skydiving, bungee jumping, horseback riding, cake decorating, metallurgy, tightrope walking, bee keeping, long distance swimming, marble sculpting, barehand tree climbing, helicopter piloting, CPR classes, square dancing, jazzercise, tennis, karate, taekwondo, tai chi, feng shui, and advanced survivalist training. Evening hours will be dedicated to group therapy and the speed reading of great literary classics. Concurrent with these activities, I’m guessing, will be daily deprogramming sessions involving the use of psychoactive medications and the forced viewing of Clockwork Orange-style propaganda videos. At the end of my 60 day stay I will roll my eyes at any suggestion of watching TV, and join the ranks of the sweater-wearing latte sippers at my local trendy bookstore.

Oh. ER’s not on anymore? November 8, 2009

Posted by Ted in : ER, Reviews , 2comments

 

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Time of death? No one’s really sure. One of the custodial workers wandered into Exam 3 one night and noticed the aging series had no heartbeat and negligible brian activity. Bag ‘em and tag’em. Bomp bomp bomp, another one bites the dust. The final season of the show was nothing more than a formality. Just wrap up some loose ends, bring in some old stars to pay their respects, and let the show live out it’s final days with a little bit of dignity. Truth be told, the ER that I knew and loved ended around season six, and its condition continued to worsen until the end.

Here’s a brief summary of the show’s ongoing medical problems:

The Departure of Dr.Ross and Nurse Hathaway

This marked the beginning of the slow hemorraging of the show’s original stars. During the nineties I became a huge fan of the Dr. Ross character. I saw him as a role model – an enigmatic loner with a bad reputation and a heart of gold, bringing smiles to the faces of terminally ill children, and slightly embarrassed about his heroic tendencies. In my quest for Clooneyhood I even considered entering the medical profession, until I realized that with no medical trianing my opportunities would be limited to emptying bedpans and wheeling gurnies down the hall. I still resent Clooney and his supersized ego for ditching the show so early on. And no, his one episode return in the final season didn’t make it better. More like a slap in the face. Too little too late, George.

The Knifing of Med Student Lucy Knight for No Apparent Reason

The super-cutie and potential love interest for Dr. Carter had only been on the show for one season. One of the patients went psycho and left her bleeding body on the exam room floor. The viewers were left to twist in the breeze and wonder eternally about the reason for actress Kellie Martin’s impromtu departure. Drug or alcohol problems? Eating disorder? Personal vendetta by a producer? Or maybe she was too grossed out by the surgery scenes to stick around. We’ll never know. They should be required by law to explain these things.

Dr. Weaver Becomes a Lesbian

This was in spite of having had relationships with men in earlier seasons. Isn’t it supposed to be a myth that people suddenly “turn gay”? Apparently the writers didn’t get the memo. This was really the end of the show for me. I always had a thing for Dr. Weaver, crutch and all (played by the lusty Laura Innes). She made my reclusive nerd heart go thumpity thump. When she switched teams, it turned my world upside down.

Television’s Blandest Couple: Abby and Kovac

Sure, Kovac was a hit with his 007 looks and European accent, but let’s face it – the guy had the personality of a can opener. He seemed permanently stuck in serious mode, and the occasional sight of his unnatural smile was reminiscent of a jack-o-lantern. Put the Croatian cutout together with self-absorbed everywoman Abby Lockhart and you get a romance that, well, kind of sits there like the old stump in grandma’s back yard.

The Death of Romano

Arrogant, trash talking Dr. Romano was one of TV’s all time great villians. As satisfying as it was to see the belligerent MD pulvarized by a falling helicopter, the show lacked direction after his departure. For a while the ethically challanged buffoon Dr. Morris seemed destined to become Romano’s replacement as the resident bad guy, but instead was utilized as the badly needed comedy relief for the aging show.

Uninspiring New Characters

The ever revolving door of new characters failed to restore the show to its former greatness, and the newcomers where decidedly less heroic than their predecessors. Jing-Mei, Gallant, Neela, Ray, and nurse Samantha all seemed more concerned with their own dull lives than with their patients. An exception for me was Dr. Pratt, who recalled the gritty sincerity of Clooney’s character, although with more of an inner city than bedside manner.

The Episode with the Chimp

In which Dr. Ray Barnett brought an ailing chimp into the ER to be tended to by the staff. Dr. Abby Lockhart and the nurses became attached to the furry fellow and objected when Ray attempted to take the patient away again. Abby told him, “You’re the one who started all this monkey business!” That’s when I turned off my TV and rarely ventured back into County General again.

We can all be thankful that the suffering is finally over, and the show has gone to a better place (DVD). No need for tears, 15 is a ripe old age for a TV show. Rest in peace, ER. You will be missed, although not enough to bring you back again.

Olympic Tidbits 2008 August 23, 2008

Posted by Ted in : ER, Sports , 6comments

 

 

  • Aaarrrghhh!!! I missed the opening ceremony.
  • I was impressed and inspired by Romanian Constantina Tomescu’s performance in the women’s marathon. She got about half a mile ahead of her competitors early in the race and didn’t slow down until she reached the olympic stadium. You might think a 38 year old would collapse from exhaustion after winning a 26 mile race, but after Tomescu crossed the finish line, she jogged laps around the stadium with the Romanian flag, smiling and waving at the fans. She’s the oldest person to win an olympic marathon.
  • Another favorite moment was seeing Jamaican runner Usain Bolt go up into the stands after he won the 100 meter race and hugging about ten people at one time, including his mother and cheering fans of various nationalities. Then later he hammed it up for the cameras, pretending to be a boxer and flexing his muscles.
  • The Bird’s Nest Stadium looks pretty cool at night, with its colorful lighting and spacey postmodern design. Unfortunately, from the air it looks like a giant toilet seat.
  • I couldn’t help but laugh after BOTH the US men’s and the US women’s relay running teams dropped the baton during the handoff, which disqualified them from the race. Apparently, they assumed during training that the handoff was not something to worry about. A perfect illustration of the saying once uttered by Dr. Romano on ER: “When you ASSUME you make an ASS out of U and ME.”
  • I’ve discovered how to use bullet points in my posts! The excitement never ends here in the crawlspace.
  • Water polo is the silliest sport of all time. It’s similar to hockey or soccer, but the players move much slower because the game takes place in a swimming pool. The teams paddle back and forth and try to make goals, and they wear silly caps that resemble baby bonnets.

On a more serious note:

I have developed a strange dislike of Michael Phelps that I can’t quit explain. Maybe it’s the media overkill. Maybe it’s his slight arrogance and his description of himself as the Michael Jordan of swimming. I know that sounds hypocritical after my praise of Usain Bolt earlier in this post. Bolt’s excessive showboating surely makes Phelps look humble by comparison. Do I expect better behavior from Phelps because he’s white? I’m not sure. Or maybe he reminds me of somebody from my past that I didn’t like. I may have to consult a psychologist to figure this one out. In spite of my feelings, I’m going to try to have some sympathy for Phelps. In addition to receiving nonstop coverage in the media, he is already making millions of dollars in product endorsement deals. All the sudden fame and fortune they’ve dumped on him won’t be easy to deal with at the age of 23. Whatever his personal quirks, Phelps clearly deserves credit for his eight gold medals. Congratulations, Mike.

"Won't you tell me where my country lies?" said the unifaun to his true love's eyes...