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New Shows That Might Be Good and Stuff September 9, 2013

Posted by Ted in : 1600 Penn, 30 Rock, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Crime Dramas, CW, General, Hannibal, Heroes, Lost, Lucky 7, Marvel's Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D., NBC, Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Reality TV, Reviews, Ringer, Sci-Fi, Siberia, Sleepy Hollow, Terra Nova, The 100, The Blacklist, The Crazy Ones, The River, The Tomorrow People, The X-Files, Uncategorized, Whedonverse , add a comment

Wow, the 2013 Fall TV season really snuck up on me this year, so I apologize for not getting this posted sooner. I’ll spare you the excuses. Since I haven’t written in a while, first I’ll say a few words about last season’s shows.

As I might have mentioned last time, I’ve started to question my faith in network television over the last couple of years, with so many great new shows getting axed after one season or even half a season. Earlier in the year, two more favorites, 666 Park Ave. and 1600 Penn were tossed into the TV mass grave with the corpses of The River, Terra Nova, and Ringer.

666 Park Avenue, in spite of its campy name, turned out to be one of my all-time favorites. I think if more people had given it a chance, it would still be with us. ABC delivered the final four episodes during the summer, as promised, and the show’s writers managed to wrap the whole thing up in a way that provided closure to the fans. The ending was a suitably dark leap ahead in the show’s timeline, showing us the destiny of characters in this creepy-but-fun drama. If you have a taste for the supernatural genre, this is definitely one to get on DVD (or to watch on Netflix or whatever. I fully realize that the trend of technology is away from physical ownership and toward internet cloud-based storage and consumption. Kind of depressing, really. We’ll be sitting in our empty houses with no DVDs or CDs or books, glued like addicts to our wireless electronic devices. Not to mention, all the music, movie, and book stores will be put out of business in the process. Is there any way I can opt out of the future?)

 

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Jane tries to figure out what happened to her show.

 

1600 Penn – NBC has come up with a lot of terrible sitcoms in recent years, but this show about a fictitious US president and his family was a winner in my book. Jenna Elfman co-starred as the first lady, and exuded a kind of warm, cub scout den-mother likability (and she looks pretty stunning for her age, I might add.) The adult son’s lovable-goofball antics in a White House setting seemed like a witty enough premise, but America has once again disagreed. Yet another great show cancelled after half a season. Somebody tell me again how the hideously terrible 30 Rock lasted so long.

Siberia – Just when I was sure there would never be another show as good as 666 Park Avenue, NBC aired this amazing serial drama during the summer. It tells the tale of a Survivor-style reality show that turns incredibly weird. The first few episodes are presented in the style of a reality show, which may have had some people mistaking it for the real thing. Siberia is also similar to Lost in many ways, but is more coherent and suspenseful. It keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat. The writing, acting, and directing are all top notch. I can already tell from the mania in various blog comment sections that this show is destined for cult status.

Too bad NBC made the highly questionable decision to run the show in the same time slot as the CBS series Under the Dome, which is based on the Stephen King book of the same name and has been killing Siberia in the ratings. I would probably be watching the show too, but I made a rule that, as a Stephen King fan, I wouldn’t watch any TV show or movie based on one of his books until I’ve read the book first. Anyway, I think most of the Under the Dome fans would love Siberia if they were aware of its existence. For the last couple years there’s been a lot of great shows to get iced before their time was due, but I think I’m really gonna be sick to my stomach if Siberia doesn’t get at least one more season.

 

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 Sam and Daniel await cancellation on Siberia

 

Hannibal – This dark crime-thriller featuring the famous movie cannibal debuted back in April on NBC. I watched an episode to see if I could keep my cookies down. I was in luck. This version of Hannibal is suave and stylish. He doesn’t tear at his victims’ bodies like a wild animal, but instead converts them into tasty culinary creations and shares them with unsuspecting dinner guests. By day the devious foodie works as a forensic psychiatrist who aids the FBI in tracking down serial killers, and his profiler friend Will sometimes gets lost in his visions and turns to Hannibal for support. Another factor influencing watchability is Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame in a recurring role as Hannibal’s psychiatrist. (Were you aware that psychiatrists have psychiatrists? I wasn’t either, but I could probably use one of my own after watching this show.) Hannibal has been renewed for a second season that will begin in 2014.

 

Here’s a quick rundown of new shows that might be good in the upcoming 2013 Fall season:

Sleepy Hollow (Premieres Monday, Sept. 16th on FOX) – As the name implies, this is a TV adaptation of the famous story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving. I’m assuming this modern-day interpretation will be a prequel of sorts, which takes place before Ichabod Crane’s fateful meeting with the Headless Horseman.

The Blacklist (Premieres Monday, Sept. 23rd on NBC) – James Spader plays an enigmatic crime boss who turns himself in to the FBI, then offers to rat out various big players in the crime world, but, for some unknown reason, will communicate only with rookie agent Elizabeth Keen. As you might know, I’m not big on the crime shows, but I will at least check out the premiere of this one.

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. (Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24 on ABC) – Despite the severely clunky title, this comic book-derived action drama could be one of the better new shows of the season. Why? It is co-written and co-produced by Buffy mastermind Joss Whedon, who has been having big success with the superhero movies in recent years. Expect lots of wisecracking and fight scenes.

Lucky 7 (Premieres Tuesday, Sept. 24 on ABC) – This one has a premise I can relate to: It deals with the lives of seven convenience store workers after they win a lottery jackpot. It’s based on a British show called The Syndicate. Maybe we’ll get lucky with this one. I suppose it’s a good sign that Stephen Spielberg is listed as a co-producer, along with ER‘s David Zabel. Then again, it seems like Spielberg’s name is on all the shows these days. He’s either cloned himself or he’s world’s biggest workaholic.

 

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Breakin’ out the bubbly on Lucky 7

 

The Crazy Ones (Premieres Thursday, Sept. 26 on CBS) – Sarah Michelle Gellar has risen from the ashes of the sort-lived Ringer and teamed up with legend Robin Williams in this new Office-style single-camera comedy. I would have preferred to see her in some type of supernatural or sci-fi thing, but I’ll take this as a consolation prize. Who knows, it could fly. Gellar’s comic sensibilities were part of what made Buffy such a huge hit. This girl desperately needs a second hit show, so maybe the viewers will smile down upon this one. In case you were wondering, this is Robin Williams’ first regular TV series role since Mork and Mindy wrapped up back in 1982! Let’s hope Robin is as good at picking TV roles as he is at picking movie roles.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (Premieres Thursday, Oct. 10 on ABC) – As you might have guessed, this is a spin-off of ABC’s excellent fairytale drama Once Upon a Time which focuses on the characters of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice will have a love interest in this version — a genie named Cyrus. Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman) was originally cast as the voice of the White Rabbit, but has been replaced by John Lithgow. Alice learned that curiosity can lead you to some really weird places, and hopefully the CGI effects in this live-action drama will do her adventures justice. Strangely, there’s no word on who will play the Mad Hatter.

Dracula (Premieres Friday, Oct. 25 on NBC) – NBC has finally clambered onto the vampire bandwagon with this reboot of the well-worn Bram Stoker novel. One good sign: It will be co-written by Daniel Knauf, creator of the critically acclaimed HBO show Carnivàle which aired a few years back (which I haven’t actually seen, due to my ongoing lack of access to cable television.)

The 100 (Scheduled to premiere on The CW as a midseason show in 2014) – The CW must have heard my prayers, they are cooking up two new sci-fi shows for us this season. This one is summarized by TV Guide as follows: “Nearly a century after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization, a spaceship sends 100 juvenile delinquents back to Earth to investigate the possibility of re-colonizing.” Sounds like fun, right?

The Tomorrow People (Premieres Wednesday, Oct. 9 on The CW) – If you loved Heroes, this could be the antidote for your aching heart. The Tomorrow People, based on a British TV show of the same name, has more than a few parallels to the ill-fated NBC superhero drama. It tells the story of several young mutants from around the world with various supernatural powers, and is written and co-produced by Phil Klemmer, who wrote several episodes of Chuck and Veronica Mars, of all things.

 

Comments on My Son’s Previous Post November 10, 2012

Posted by Mary in : CW, Fringe, General, NBC, Parks and Recreation, Reviews, Revolution, Sci-Fi, Skeet Ulrich, Smallville, Supernatural, Terra Nova, The Mentalist, The Office, The River, Uncategorized , 2comments

Hi. Mary here, Ted’s mother, and owner of the spacious basement that my son refers to as his “crawlspace.” I would imagine that if you have read his previous post, you probably have a lot of questions about me. You’re probably wondering, “Did Mary’s Skeet Ulrich Fan Club really get piss-faced drunk at Appleby’s, and have a six hour stand-off with the police?” and, “Is her fan club a terrorist group?” and, “Who bailed her and her friends out of jail?” You might also be wondering what my boss, co-workers, and friends had to say about those developments.

Thankfully, Ted has allowed me to co-author this blog post in order to set the record straight about my alleged recent arrest, which is kind of him, considering that I have taken away his computer. His Acer desktop is currently locked in the upstairs closet, where it will remain until Ted understands that he shouldn’t spread malicious lies about his mom. Now, that may seem like an extreme measure for a mother to take with her 38-year-old son, but my goal is not to punish him. I just think Ted needs a break from his internet fantasy world. He needs to get out into the real world for a while and do things like find a better job and spend more time with his girlfriend Sierra, who I think is adorable, by the way.

That being said, I need to clear up the questions Ted raised about me and my friends in his last post. First of all, nobody bailed us out of jail because we didn’t go to jail. We didn’t go to jail because we were never arrested, and we weren’t arrested because that whole “fan club” incident at Applebee’s never took place. That’s right. Ted made it all up. And for the record, I don’t go out binge drinking with my friends on the weekends. I just turned 60, for crying out loud! If you thought I was a little too old to be behaving that way, you’re absolutely right! Because I don’t! I didn’t even party like that in my college days. I’ll admit that I have a glass of wine every now and then, but that’s the extent of my alcohol consumption. Even doctors say a little wine is healthy for you, so get off my case, Ted! You were pretty hung over last New Year’s Day, if I remember correctly.

And last but not least, THERE IS NO SKEET ULRICH FAN CLUB! My friends and I don’t sit around screaming about some television star like teenage girls! How stupid can you get? All of these things were fabricated in Ted’s imagination. I would say that 90% what he has written about me on his blog is a complete and total lie. I also don’t have a bookcase full of crime drama DVDs as he suggested. Maybe 10 at the most. I never even liked Law and Order, where did he get that idea from? What an awful show that is.

As you may have guessed by now, Ted has always had a hard time discerning fantasy from reality. This is why I try to cut him some slack and not take these things personally. It gets to be almost debilitating for him at times. For example, when he was seven he dressed like Luke Skywalker for Halloween. I made him a costume to wear and got him one of those glowing light sabers. He had a great time trick-or-treating with some other kids in the neighborhood, but then after Halloween something weird happened. He started to believe he was Luke Skywalker. He kept wearing his costume all the time, even to school, and demanded that people call him Luke. On Thanksgiving, when his grandmother asked him for a hug, he yelled, “I’ll never join the dark side!” and jabbed her with his plastic light saber. This went on for several weeks until his costume got “accidentally” thrown into the laundry with a load of brights and turned pink. The shock of seeing his costume like that seemed to snap him back out of his fantasy and, thankfully, he became Ted again.

And, of course, I probably don’t have to tell you that his blog posts about visiting Lost Island and playing video games with 24‘s Jack Bauer are also products of his overactive imagination. I’m not sure if he really believes all these things are real. I just know that the line separating fantasy and reality for him is not as distinct and clear as it is for most people. Sometimes it seems pretty solid, sometimes it’s blurry, and other times it disappears altogether.

Well, I think that sets the record straight. I have asked my son to stop posting things about me on his blog in the future, and hopefully he will comply with my wishes. He has handed me a yellow legal pad with his handwritten comments about the 2012 television season, which I will include as the second part of this post.

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Well, my fellow TV fans, Fall 2012 has turned out to be a pretty bleak and dreary television season. Old shows I liked are disappearing and there are very few good new shows to replace them. Three of my favorite new programs from last year, The River, Terra Nova, and Ringer, were axed by their respective networks after only one season. In addition to that, two of my long-time favorites, Fringe and The Office are in their final year. In trying times like these, all a devoted couch dweller like myself can do is try to have faith that the TV circle of life will eventually produce some better shows to replace the classics that are leaving. Based on the new offerings this season, however, the circle of life has a lot of catching up to do.

Revolution – I was looking forward to this show, with its premise of a future without any electricity, but it appears that NBC has delivered yet another stinker. Aside from the bland characters and the paint-by-numbers plot (righteous rebels versus an evil ruling militia), there are weird political undertones that didn’t sit well with my left-of-center ideological tilt. Revolution could be a sort of dystopic tea party vision of what the world will look like after the 2nd Obama term. People in this oppressed future aren’t allowed by the evil militia to have guns or American flags. One scene in the first episode depicts a group of people who are pulling a large piece of machinery through the woods with ropes — no easy task, to be sure. They are former citizens of the US who have been taken prisoner by the militia. One character reveals that “their only crime was not paying their taxes.” The extended fight scenes, the ridiculous amount of alcohol consumption, and the hostility of the characters toward each other seem like pretty obvious stylistic footprints of producer Eric Kripke, creator of the CW hit show Supernatural. Unfortunately, Revolution lacks the cleverness and wit of Supernatural, and plays as more of a grim post-apocalyptic adventure in the tradition of Mad Max. The dialogue is unconvincing; the characters are painfully serious and humorless. NBC’s recent promos for the show have claimed that Revolution is the “most watched new show on television,” which, I suppose, proves once again how out of touch I am with the pulse of the nation.

666 Park Avenue – I rediscovered the ABC network last year, and lately they seem to have a knack for coming up with imaginative shows in the fantasy genre. The supernatural-themed thriller The River was my favorite new show last year, but they inexplicably pulled the plug on it after one go-round. The network has redeemed itself this year with the surprisingly good 666 Park Avenue. For me, this serial drama, which documents the spooky goings-on in an upscale Manhattan apartment building, is really the only bright spot in the 2012 television season. It has a great cast, including Terry O’Quinn and Vanessa Williams, and a surreal atmosphere which is hard to put into words. In addition to the plush surroundings, your stay at the Drake will include such things as precognitive pickpockets, ghosts that live in old suitcases, and elevators that eat people. Top that off with Faustian bargains aplenty wherein characters experience the consequences of getting the things they think they want. If Mr. Doran makes you an offer you can’t refuse, you might want to head for the exit. That is, if you can find your way out of that never-ending hallway.

Fringe – In its fifth season, Fringe has taken a bold leap into a future where the Earth has been taken over by the Observers and the Fringe team are desperately seeking video tapes which contain Walter’s plan for defeating them. The writers smartly choose to focus on the relationship between Peter and Olivia, which gives us an emotional anchor amid all the sci-fi wackiness. I also like the more coherent and functional version of Walter. This final season will consist of only 13 episodes, ending in January. It’s been a fun ride.

The Office – This has been somewhat hit-or-miss without Steve Carell, but I will still miss this classic when it’s gone. Lots of questions to be answered in the final season. Will Jim and Pam finally experience some marital discord? Will Andy and Erin go splitsville? Will we find out who Angela’s baby-daddy is? Will Creed ever get his own storyline? I’m predicting there will be a “very special” episode at some point (probably around Christmas) in which Michael Scott returns with Holly and at least one baby in tow. Hopefully the producers can wrap things up without getting too overly-sentimental and sappy. I would actually prefer an ending that’s a little bit dark and serious and semi-tragic.

Parks and Recreation – I’ve been trying hard to remember why I liked this show lately. They’ve been running on creative fumes this season, and scraping the bottom of the humor barrel on a regular basis. Recent shenanigans include Jerry having a fart attack and Leslie conducting sex education classes for the elderly. Leslie Knope seems shallow and less likable than in previous seasons. Maybe the upcoming Joe Biden episode will help to bring some respectability back to the proceedings.

Supernatural – It will be interesting to see if this show can continue to deliver the goods in its eighth season. After stopping the Apocalypse, going to hell and then purgatory, hanging out with angels, meeting such big cosmic players as God and Death, and fighting all manner of freaks, monsters, and demons, you’ve got to wonder if there could be anything left on the Winchester brothers’ to-do list. I would guess that lead actors Jensen Ackles and Jarod Padalecki are itching for greener pastures. Bobby the Cranky Ghost seems to have dropped out of the picture, and for reasons I can’t explain, watching the show on Wednesday nights hasn’t been as much fun as watching on Friday nights. All of that being said, I will keep watching this show until the end, which hopefully won’t be for at least a couple of more seasons.

Arrow – Do we really need a show about Green Arrow? This DC-comic-based drama is not a Smallville spinoff, as one might have hoped, but a complete reboot with a different actor playing Oliver Queen. I haven’t bothered to watch it yet, so it could possibly be alright. The CW has had me worried for the last few years. I used to love the network, but they haven’t come up with anything I really liked since Supernatural. Hard to believe; that was eight years ago. Come on guys, give me something — anything! The teen soaps and chickafied vampire dramas just aren’t cutting it with yours truly.

The Mentalist – I find this laid-back crime drama to be strangely relaxing, not unlike the tea that lead character Patrick Jane drinks. It doesn’t change much from season to season, and it doesn’t need to. Jane is still not much closer to catching the notorious killer Red John, and his romantic attraction to Agent Lisbon remains vague and unrealized. If the rest of the viewers are like me, those things don’t matter that much anyway.

 

I’m in a TV State of Mind April 25, 2012

Posted by Ted in : 24, Dollhouse, DTV, Fringe, General, Heroes, Inspirational, Lost, Parks and Recreation, Reviews, Ringer, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Terra Nova, The Office, The River, Touch, Whedonverse , add a comment

Spring is here and the concluding 2011-2012 network TV season has turned out to be one of the better ones in memory. Here’s my take on some of the shows of the previous year:

The River

You may remember my rants about the DTV transition, which caused me to miss the last season of Lost because I couldn’t pick up ABC anymore. That was not a good situation for a TV blogger to be in, but luckily my local ABC affiliate has since boosted their signal enough that I can now pick up their nebulous station.

As a result, I discovered The River, which became my favorite show of the season. It’s sort of a cross between Lost, Blair Witch Project, and the Paranormal Activity movies. Set in the exotic locale of the Amazon jungle, The River really delivers the goods in terms of what makes for quality television: evil spirits, monsters, ghosts, conspiracies, native folklore, and even a demonic possession or two for good measure.

Admittedly, the premise of the show — a group of people on a boat navigating their way through a maze of rivers and fighting off various supernatural entities — seems a little too much like a video game. The River generally seeks to entertain without burdening its viewers with symbolism or deeper meanings. It dispenses with reality almost to the point of campiness at times, but that, for me, is usually more of a reason to watch than to change the channel.

I was surprised to read that this show hasn’t done too well in the ratings, and ABC was rumored to be in talks to sell the show to a cable network. In short, the future of this show’s not looking too good for those of us with only over-the-air channels.

Ringer

Sarah Michelle Gellar’s double reincarnation on her native CW network has been better than I expected. Ringer just finished up its first season with a fan-pleasing ending that tied up most of the loose ends, and provides a clean slate for the start of the next season, assuming there is one. The show’s ratings haven’t been the greatest, but they got a big boost for the season finale, which is encouraging news.

Now that the dual murder plots against the twins have been resolved, we will undoubtedly see more of a direct confrontation between the sisters, Bridget and Siobhan (pronounced “shi-bahn”), in future episodes, perhaps battling it out for the allegiance of their mutual husband, Andrew Martin.

This mystery drama gets to be a lot like a soap opera at times, but have I found myself watching every episode in spite of the obviously female target demographic. The show might have fallen flat with a lesser actress in the starring role, but Gellar’s wit and energy has helped to keep this show interesting.

(Checking my notes, scribbled on a little piece of paper.)

Another thing I like about Ringer is the music. CW’s habit of playing snippets of contemporary pop songs during their shows usually annoys me, but song choices on Ringer avoid the usual melodramatic route in favor of alterno-indie fare that has, on more than one occasion, sent me wandering off to the CW website to find out what the heck I was listening to.

Touch

Another interesting new show, which started mid-season, is the highly ambitious sci-fi-esque drama Touch by Heroes creator Tim Kring. The show follows the story of single father Martin Bohm and his mute, seemingly autistic son, Jake. The actor who plays Martin, a Kiefer something, looks a bit like 24‘s Jack Bauer.

The son, Jake, has a habit of writing down pages of repetitive numbers, which seem to manifest themselves as signposts in the lives of random people, who are brought together in various beneficial and tear-jerking ways. “Aha!” you say. “It’s the old numerology-and-clairvoyance-masquerading-as-physics routine.” Apparently, it is Jake’s heavenly-designated task to make sure that these various characters connect with each other for their mutual benefit, resulting in bucketfuls of sunshine and rainbows and happily-ever-afters.

As with Heroes, there are a lot of things I like about this show, and also some things I don’t like. The most annoying of the latter — I hate to say it — is the eleven-year-old son Jake. Not only does he refuse to talk, he throws a fit whenever he is touched by another person. Also, he likes to wander off by himself and doesn’t respond to anything his father says to him. Dad spends most of the show on a wild goose chase, running after his son yelling “Jake! Jake! Where are you going Jake?” Somebody needs to call Nanny 911, and fast.

Even more nerve-grating are the kid’s pompous monologues that start and end the show, meant to impart deep wisdom to us, the unwashed viewers. It is unclear in these moments whether we are hearing Jake’s thoughts or if he periodically sneaks off with a tape recorder while no one’s looking, as if to say, “Ha, ha, the joke’s on you! You thought I was mute, but it turns out I’m just a brat!”

This is a show in dire need of a villain. My suggestion would be this: since the kid has already assumed the role of villain in my life, why not let him be Officially Evil on the show too? Give him telekinetic powers in addition to his clairvoyant ability, and maybe he could use his knack with numbers to create chaos and confusion instead of Hallmark card moments. Then bring back a few super-powered characters from Heroes to teach the wayward tyke some important life lessons.

The whole Touch experience feels a little bit like Josh Whedon’s Dollhouse, another show that I tried hard to like and stuck with for the duration of its short life. Except with smiley faces instead of brooding post-apocalyptic irony. When I contemplate the future of this show, the cosmic number receiver in my gourde keeps saying 86. That’s not good, unless it refers to the number of episodes that will be aired.

Fringe

Fringe is still hanging in there after four years on FOX, but the ratings this season have hit rock bottom. Still somewhat of a confusing mess with the alternate timelines and what not, it remains one of the better shows on television.

I think I’ve finally put my finger on what’s holding this series back: it relies too much on the stand-alone stories and has become too predictable, too much like a police procedural drama. I would like to see Fringe as a true serial drama with one long never-ending story arc. Then, instead of staying bogged down in the lab, let the setting change on a regular basis and don’t anchor the show to any specific location. I know that’s a lot to ask, but there it is. A new direction for the series might be just what it needs to boost its viewership again.

Terra Nova

I started out making fun of this show, but ended up liking it a lot. Having an army of executive producers turned out to be an effective strategy. The dinosaurs, thankfully, were not the central focus of the series, but more like part of the scenery. The real theme of the show was the power struggle that goes on in a small developing community and the ways people learn to co-operate for their common good. Like so many great network sci-fi shows of the past, it now appears that Terra Nova has been cancelled after one season.

Supernatural

This old standby of the CW network was less interesting without the Cass and Bobby characters this season. Luckily, both have rematerialized in the later episodes in slightly altered forms — Bobby as a ghost, and Cass unable to remember that he’s an angel. I have a feeling this show has yet another slam-bang season finale in store for us.

The Office

I checked out this show’s Facebook page early in the season and found a lot of predictable “This show sucks without Steve Carell” type comments. Personally, I think the quality of the show has stayed pretty high this season, except for a couple of weak episodes like the one where Andy gets a butt tattoo as a gimmick to boost the morale of the sales team. That episode was so bad I went online to find out who wrote it. Turned out that it was Paul Lieberstein, the guy who plays Toby. Hmmm, maybe we shouldn’t be letting the actors write the show? Just a thought.

Otherwise, The Office has stayed entertaining and has not yet devolved into the kind of unbridled childish stupidness that afflicts certain other NBC sitcoms. This is probably due to the continued involvement of Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, the producers of the original British version of the show.

Parks and Recreation

Another excellent sitcom that NBC has still not found a way to screw up. Leslie Knope has taken leave from the Parks and Rec Board to run for Mayor of Pawnee, and it will be interesting to see what happens now that Mr. Swanson had appointed the icy April as a Knope’s unlikely temporary replacement. Undoubtedly, many enquiries into P&R issues will be met with a cold stare and a distant, apathetic attitude.

Well, that wraps up my review of shows I watched last season. To be honest, I’m kind of glad that summertime is approaching so I can ease up on the television and get out and see the sun and maybe read a couple of books.

There is never a shortage of people in my life to remind me that all this watching of TV is a waste of time. They say that life is short, and should be spent doing things like climbing mountains, attending wine tastings, or memorizing the value of pi to a hundred decimals. What they don’t understand is that television is more than a time-wasting device for me. After putting in almost 50 hours a week at the local convenience store, I need a way to relax. When I get home in the morning after one of my grueling all-night shifts spent ringing up people’s cigarettes and energy drinks, nothing helps relieve the stress better than popping in a videotape of one of my favorite shows.

The TV world, in my opinion, is far superior to the real one. Everything there is interesting and nicely scripted — well, at least in the good shows. The people are quick-witted, sharply dressed, and usually know the right thing to do in every situation. There are no problems that can’t be resolved, no scenarios that are too far-fetched, no laws of physics that can’t be broken. That’s the universe I want to live in.

Recently it occurred to me that I might somehow live to be pretty old. Hopefully by then I won’t be living in Mom’s basement anymore. Not that it bothers me to be living here at age 38. I happened to have been blessed with a cool Mom. Times have been tough and she understands that, plus I’m sure she appreciates the yard work I do in addition to the $150 in rent I pay her every month. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, I was saying that one day I would be old and hobbling around with a cane and I would think back on what I had achieved in my life. Would I regret the fact that I had spent all of my years on the couch in front of the tube and writing a blog about it? Would I think that my life had been wasted? No way, people. This is what I was born for and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

 

Holiday Visitors Pt. 1 December 17, 2011

Posted by Ted in : Big Bang Theory, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Fringe, General, Grimm, Holiday Posts, NBC, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Terra Nova , 1 comment so far

Before I delve into more personal topics, I’ll make a few comments about the current television season, because after all, that’s what this blog is supposed to be about.

Terra Nova has turned out to be a lot better than I expected, and I haven’t missed an episode yet. It seems very retro, like a show from the 70s, something you can watch with your kids without giving them psychological problems. Dinosaurs plus advanced technology and complex inter-tribal conflict equals big fun!

I have finally watched a couple of episodes of Big Bang Theory, and I have to admit I laughed a couple of times and the show is probably not as bad as I suggested in my last column. And I do appreciate the many sci-fi references and I’m now wondering if I somehow missed the boat by not having my own collection of real-life nerdy roommates.

This season Fox has decided to air Fringe at the same time as Supernatural on Friday nights, and as a result I’ve had to watch Supernatural online.

Also scheduled in the same time slot is NBC’s new spooky-ish drama Grimm, the first episode of which I saw and was not terribly impressed. It seems to steal equally from both Supernatural and Buffy, while not breaking much new ground. Surely the network must know that airing it in the same time slot as two of TVs most popular shows amounts to a death sentence. I mean, this show might not be the greatest, but at least put it where it can survive until viewers start to watch it. Doesn’t that make sense, NBC? As usual, I fail to understand what you’re thinking. Maybe for some twisted reason they decided that Grimm would be dead on arrival. Office politics, egos, and that kind of thing? A better explanation might be plain old incompetence.

Anyway, Fringe has been pretty interesting so far this season, as Peter tries to convince Walter and Olivia that he used to be their co-worker, even though they can’t remember him. I’m guessing the Watchers might not be pleased with his reappearance. And now we have these new improved shape-shifters plotting to take over the earth. They don’t have mercury in their veins like the old ones — they are indistinguishable from real people, except for a little hunk of embedded computer hardware. Oddly, they can still only communicate with headquarters via an old typewriter. Where’s that “Can you hear me now?” guy when you need him?

My new sort-of girlfriend Sierra is also a Fringe fan, and she has been over to the crawlspace a couple of times to watch it with me. What’s that? You’re shocked? You thought I was a total recluse and a candidate for the nut house? Well, that might be true, but even us crazies need some company every now and then.

Actually, the story about how Sierra and I met is kind of interesting. I was working my usual graveyard shift (11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) at Majik Market on Saturday night a few weeks ago. Around 2:30, a car came screeching to a halt in the parking lot in front of the store. For a minute I wondered if I was about to be robbed, but eventually the driver-side door opened and a woman with a long winter coat got out and came into the store.

She seemed a little wobbly on her high heels, and she went over to the drink cooler, pulled out a can of Red Bull, and brought it to the checkout register.

Putting her hands on the countertop for support, she muttered, “Sorry, I had a little too much to drink tonight.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” I replied in my usual patronizing tone, which you develop only after years of working at a convenience store.

As I rang up the can, she started going through her pocket book. She laid down a raggedy one dollar bill and a handful of change. One of the pennies rolled off the counter and onto the floor. She started to kneel down in front of the counter to pick it up, then lost her balance and fell on the floor with a scream. I heard laughter from the other side of the counter, and my drunken customer showed little interest in getting up again.

I walked around to the front of the counter to see what the situation was, and she had managed to prop herself up on one arm.

She held up her penny, and said with a smile, “Here it is… I found it.”

By then the laughter had stopped, and she seemed to be crying instead.

Bending down, I put my hand on her shoulder and said, “Hey, listen. You don’t need to be driving in this condition. Why don’t you come sit in the back and try to sober up for a while?”

She agreed, so I helped her up and took her to sit in the big recliner chair in the manager’s office. On the way there she assured me that she didn’t usually drink so much, but the party she had gone to was boring and she didn’t know anybody there except for a couple of girls she had barely known in high school. After assisting her into the chair, I went back out front for a while. When I came back to check on her a few minutes later she seemed to be asleep, so I turned off the light in the office.

While she was out cold, my co-worker Somebody Else came by on his ten-speed to check his schedule for the following week. S.E. had recently started working at the convenience store to augment his lack of income from Somebody’s Webpage. That’s right, we now have two jobs in common, although I don’t hang around at the website office that much. I think that office might as well be Somebody’s apartment. It seems like he’s always there, and he’s even got a bed in the back room.

Anyway, S.E. looked like he had been out clubbing. He had his silk shirt opened several buttons down, and a gold chain around his neck, and his hair was combed back with some kind of mousse in it. I didn’t inquire about his adventures that night — I honestly didn’t care.

You might think from looking at him in that getup that the guy is kind of flaky and superficial, but don’t be deceived. He’s really a top notch writer, so good that he actually intimidates me a little bit. He turns out at least one article a week for Somebody’s Webpage, while I’ve only been writing a new post once a month or so. Anyway, I was happy to help him get a job here at the convenience store. I see it as a peace offering of sorts.

Luckily, I had the work schedule behind the counter, so S.E. didn’t have to go into Rajnish’s office and find out about the recovering damsel in the recliner.

S.E. and I talked about the weather and politics and the website for a few minutes, and when I brought up the subject of my blog, he once again commented that he doesn’t have time to watch TV, since he’d rather be doing something worthwhile like mountain climbing.

OK, whatever. Having accomplished his goal of annoying me, he paid for some bottled water then set off for home on his bike.

The next couple of hours at the store were pretty dead, as they always are right before dawn, and I sat down in my chair behind the counter and dozed for 15 minutes or so. Then I woke up, made some fresh coffee for the early birds, and started restocking some of the drinks and gum and stuff.

Shortly before 6:00 a.m. — when the sun was beginning to rise — the mystery girl finally emerged from the back room. She assured me she was feeling much better and thanked me for the help. I went and pulled her can of Red Bull back out of the cooler and gave it to her. She got into her car and drove away in a much more dignified fashion than when she had arrived.

I honestly thought that was the last I would see of her, but she returned to the store about a week later to buy a pack of mints. This time she seemed like a different person. She had on an olive-colored sweater with jeans, and seemed completely sober and coherent.

We talked for a while, and I found out she’s working as a hostess at a restaurant called Jacques, and she’s also studying to be a paralegal. I told her about my TV blog, and it turned out that she likes most of the same shows that I do. There was definitely some chemistry happening there the second time she came in, and I finally learned her name when she wrote “Sierra” down on a piece of paper with her phone number.

Since then, we’ve had several phone conversations, and she’s been over to my place to watch TV a couple of times. She was impressed with my beanbag chair and my black light posters, but thinks I need to get a Christmas tree. I said OK, under the condition that she helps me decorate it. I’m not sure where this is all going to lead, but it’s shaping up to be a better holiday season than I’ve had in many years.

Ted’s Fall TV Preview 2011 August 14, 2011

Posted by Ted in : 30 Rock, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Crime Dramas, CW, Dollhouse, FOX, Fringe, General, Grimm, NBC, nikita, Parks and Recreation, Person of Interest, Reviews, Ringer, Sci-Fi, Supernatural, Terra Nova, The Event, The Office, Whedonverse , 5comments

If you believe the ancient Mayans, or the latest news reports on the economy for that matter, this could be the last full season of television before the world ends. I can’t think of a better excuse to kick back, let my calls go to voicemail, and renew my commitment to lethargically gazing for hours into the idiot box. Yes, the fall premiere season is almost upon us, and we can be grateful that the networks have once again managed to cook up a handful of new shows that might be good, and are bringing back some favorite established programs for a new season.

Here are some new shows I’ll be watching:

Ringer

Featuring the long-awaited return of Sarah Michelle Gellar to her native network (The CW, formerly The WB), where she not only stars as a pair of identical twins, but also executive co-produces the show. Ringer is described as a drama-thriller about a woman, Bridget, who is on the run from the mob, and takes over her twin sister’s life after the sister disappears. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Ringer turned out to be better than Joss Whedon’s recent two-season flop Dollhouse? Then we might realize that all that time we were worshipping Whedon, Gellar was the real power behind the Buffy throne. That’s probably a stretch, but this show is first on my must-watch list this season, if only for nostalgia’s sake.

 

 

Grimm

Maybe this is NBC’s consolation prize for those of us who were hoping that last season’s sci-fi thriller, The Event, would be worth a crap and would not get the ax after one season. Grimm is described on Wikipedia as a “dark fantasy,” and has a premise eerily similar to a certain CW show: “A homicide detective learns that he is a descendant of a group of hunters known as ‘Grimms,’ who fight to keep the balance of humanity safe from the supernatural creatures of the world.” Maybe NBC has finally realized that supernatural-themed shows are — gasp! — profitable. The prospects for Grimm are more than a little iffy, however, given NBC’s record on these kinds of outings, but there’s one clear sign that it might be more than a blatant Supernatural rip-off: David Greenwalt, who was executive producer of the Buffy spin-off Angel, as well as the short-lived but excellent paranormal show called Miracles, is an executive producer for Grimm. Cross your fingers out there, fans of things that go bump in the night.

Person of Interest

I generally avoid crime dramas like the plague — except when Mom forces me to watch one of her horrible Law and Order DVDs — but Person of Interest has a science-fiction twist and is produced by J.J. Abrams of Lost and Fringe fame, which is just enough of an alteration of the standard formula to push the show onto my “must-watch” list — for a couple of episodes, anyway. According to my sources, the plot involves “a mysterious billionaire who has developed a computer program that predicts future crime victims.” Could be interesting, I suppose. You gotta love those mysterious billionaires, putting all that money and free time to such good use and keeping America safe. I’m just wondering what kind of crimes the computer program predicts. Shoplifting, jaywalking, and that kind of thing? Entering a restaurant without shoes and a shirt, maybe?

Terra Nova

This is Fox’s latest sci-fi effort, in which a group of people in the year 2149 time travel back to the era of the dinosaurs to escape the end of the world. Hey, sounds like a good plan to me. I mean, why bother trying to fix your problems when you can just jump in a time machine and go hang out with the Flintstones? To be honest, Terra Nova sounds like a train wreck, but as a self-professed connoisseur of all things sci-fi and fantasy, I feel obligated to watch. Time travel, in general, has gotten to be the most over-used premise in sci-fi television for the last few years. Personally, I have never believed that time travel is even possible. I look at it like this: The past and the future don’t really exist — they’re just abstract concepts that help us understand our lives. How can you travel to a place that doesn’t exist? You can’t. That’s my theory and I’m sticking with it.

Getting back to my topic, Terra Nova sounds an awful lot like the old Saturday-morning show Land of the Lost. It remains to be seen if a prime-time audience will love the dinosaurs as much as kids in the 1970s did. Steven Spielberg is listed as one of 10 “executive producers.” His actual level of involvement with the show, I’m guessing, is somewhere between slim and none. They probably just called him up and offered him some money, and when he replied “uh…,” that was enough input to slap his name in the credits. Steven, your check for 10 million is in the mail…not that you’ll be looking for it.

I know what you’re saying: “Those sound like great new shows, Ted, but what about returning old shows? Tell me about those! More specifically, which ones will you be watching?” Well, I’m glad you asked.

Nikita

After avoiding this for a long time, I finally watched an episode and found it fairly entertaining. It’s about a rogue government agent, who generally kicks butt, rights wrongs and sneaks around in tight spandex. Starring the Hawaiian-born model Maggie Q, Nikita is sort of a cross between 24 and Dollhouse that takes itself less seriously than either. It will be taking Smallville’s old slot before Supernatural on Friday nights, which means I probably won’t miss an episode.

Supernatural

Somehow, over the years, this has become my favorite show. It seems to fulfill the same psychological need as Buffy or Angel, which might be something along the lines of “the struggle for personal power and sanity in a hostile world.” Also, the low-class, gritty vibe of the thing makes me feel a lot cooler than I actually am.

Parks and Recreation

Parks and Rec has been steadily closing in on The Office as NBC’s best sitcom. Sometimes it gets a little close to chick territory, with the various romantic entanglements, but otherwise, it’s consistently intelligent, funny, and original. In other words, the anti-30 Rock.

The Office (Mini-spoiler ahead!)

Steve Carrell has set sail for the land of bad romantic comedies. It will be interesting to see whether the show withers or blossoms without him (I’m hoping for the later — Michael Scott was never one of my favorite characters). Also, Pam will be carrying Halpert baby number two at the start of the season.

Fringe

Peter never existed, according to those bald guys in fedoras and suits. I assumed this was an elaborate way of writing Joshua Jackson out of the show, but according to the show’s producers, he’s still on the payroll.

I’m not going to lie. I’ve been kind of frustrated with this show lately. Time travel and alternate universe doppelgangers and blah blah blah. I’m just not buying it. I’m also going risk the wrath of Fringedom and say that I find Walter to be incredibly annoying. Sure, he was amusing for the first couple of seasons, but there’s only so much drug-induced babbling in a Shakespearian accent that a person can take. Forget all those exotic diseases — Walter needs to find an antidote to himself.

 

 

How to improve Fringe? The same way any show could be improved: Forget the complex plot gimmicks and special effects and focus more on the characters. Bring them to life. Make me care about them. That’s all there is to it.

That wraps up my fall preview for 2011. Hopefully, some of the shows mentioned above will spiritually prepare you to meet your maker if those end-of-the-world rumors turn out to be true, or will at least drown out the screams while the earth is overrun with four-headed dragons, scary bat-like creatures, giant lions with pharaoh heads, machine-gun toting gorillas on skateboards, and vacuum cleaners that come on and vacuum by themselves.

 

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.

Crawlspace Confidential February 20, 2011

Posted by Ted in : Crime Dramas, General, Lost, Sci-Fi, Snacks , 1 comment so far

Hello, fans. No, your eyes don’t deceive you, it’s a new and exciting post on the newly renovated T.V. Crawlspace. Yes, I played around with the theme and the styling, changed the colors and whatnot. I think it’s pretty spiffy looking. Here’s what the blog used to look like.

You may remember that in my very first blog post a couple of years ago I insinuated that I live in the crawlspace under my mother’s house. Well, I should probably come clean and admit it’s not really a crawlspace, it’s actually a small basement that my mother rents to me for $150 a month. You see, I really named my blog T.V. Crawlspace because my name is Ted V. Crawford. It seemed like a clever play on my name, and it nicely reflected the state of my current living arrangement. So now you know. I repeat, I don’t live in a crawlspace, so you can stop sending me all those emails asking me about my health and personal hygiene. I’ll have you know, Mom lets me shower in the upstairs bathroom once a week whether I need it or not. Ba-boom, crash.

A few of you, I’m sure, are wondering when I’m going to start writing more again. Somebody, the editor-in-chief of this blog’s parent website, has also been wondering. He called me this morning and we had a lengthy phone conversation about that very subject. When the phone rang I had just gotten into bed an hour earlier, after returning home from my graveyard shift at Majik Market, and I was too dazed to understand what he was saying at first. I began to wake up a little bit when the yelling started. “Two blog posts in a year?!! What’s up with that, Ted? This is the last time I’m going to tell you. You have to give me a post at least every two months! Can you handle that? ‘Cause if you can’t then my neighbor’s got a 10 year old niece who’s submitted me 1003 pages of insightful commentary about Glee and Vampire Diaries.”

I rubbed my eyes and told him what he wanted to hear. “OK, OK. It’ll be bi-monthly from now on, I promise.” I started to wonder why I was taking abuse from this guy. He’s given me nothing in return for two years of writing except a gift card to Olive Garden. He keeps saying we’ll all be rolling in the dough one of these days when the site goes viral. But he’s right about my blog, my output has been beyond pathetic lately, so I’m going to try to make good on my promise.

The truth is, certain aspects of my personal life last year prevented me from posting regularly. For one thing I spent three months on assignment on Lost Island without internet access. It was my second trip to the island, and it was a lot more enjoyable than my first trip back in 2008. I had some interesting discussions with Benjamin Linus, and learned a lot more than I did the first time. More about that in a future post. After I got home I recuperated for a few days, and hoped to dive back into the blog writing, but I ran into a couple of problems.

First, I had to get my job at the convenience store back, and then I had to arrange to work extra shifts to make up for the three months of rent I owed Mom. She had been none too pleased about the late payments, and during my absence had decided to use my living quarters as a storage area for her massive crime drama DVD collection, which includes every season of every show in the Law and Order and CSI franchises. They were stacked up on the card table where I usually eat, crammed into my bookshelves, and piled high in several big shopping bags. She said she brought them downstairs to keep people from stealing them. What kind of person would steal Law and Order DVDs? I’ll tell you who: her friends — middle aged ladies who think stubble faced criminals with black stocking caps lurk in every alleyway and behind every 3rd SUV in the Walmart parking lot, waiting to either rob them, or kidnap them and give them that thrilling escape from suburban drudgery they’ve always dreamed of.

There’s one new show in particular that they can’t get enough of — Law and Order: Los Angeles, which features an actor named Skeet Ulrich. He was most famous for his starring role in the action drama Jericho, about life in a small town after the collapse of the federal government due to a nuclear attack. He also starred in the excellent but short-lived paranormal drama Miracles. Mom and her friends love this guy so much they started a fan club. They have meetings every weekend, starting on Friday night and sometimes lasting until Sunday afternoon. These things are basically an excuse for the girls to party like it’s 1999.

Skeet! Skeet! Wherefore art thou, Skeet?

Can you imagine a house full of old hens drunk on margaritas, dancing with each other to disco music loud enough to shake the entire house? It kind of makes it hard to concentrate when I’m trying to write and do my research. On weekends I’ve been forced to wear earplugs and watch TV with closed captioning turned on.

One time I made the mistake of going upstairs to heat up a frozen pizza while one of their celebrations was in progress. Debbie Schwartz, the club’s President, had sent Mr. Ulrich himself an email invitation to attend that night’s meeting, and two minutes before I went upstairs they had been joking that Skeet was going to walk through the door any minute. Some of the ladies who had not met me before apparently thought I was a close-enough approximation of their heartthrob. The shrieks were deafening, and were accompanied by a barrage of hair-ruffling, groping, and pinching.

Mom, temporarily returning to her senses, stepped in and told them to back off. Shaken and disheveled, I proceeded to the kitchen and cooked my pizza, which those bitches promptly ate before I could get back downstairs with it. By that point I didn’t even care anymore. There’s nothing that will make you lose your appetite faster than getting hit on by your mother’s friends. Well, except for that one brunette.

Anyway, I have installed a couple of extra dead bolts on the door to the upstairs for added security. Nobody gets in here unless they’re invited. The fan club meetings have settled down a little bit since the last time the police showed up and took a couple of the Skeet Sisters away in handcuffs. Now maybe I’ll be able to get on with blogging. Stay tuned.

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).

supernatural-290

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.

A First Glimpse Inside the Dollhouse February 17, 2009

Posted by Ted in : Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Reviews, Sci-Fi, Whedonverse , 3comments

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Dollhouse, the new offering by Buffy creator Joss Whedon, premiered last Friday on FOX, amid unprecedented levels of fan anticipation. The general premise of the show is as follows: a girl named Echo has escaped a prison sentence by volunteering to live in a facility known as the Dollhouse, where she becomes a human guinea pig for unscrupulous employers. Their shadowy operation resembles a sort of high tech prostitution ring, and they possess technology capable of reprogramming a person’s brain to give them specific character traits. The reprogrammed “actives”, as they are called, are then rented out to wealthy clients for various purposes, legal or otherwise. After the mission is completed, the active’s memories are wiped clean, and his or her mind is reverted back to its original state. Here are some additional thoughts on the show:

  • The proceedings seem fairly gloomy, and would definitely benefit from more of Whedon’s trademark humor. I’m also wondering if the brain altering technology will be a permanent feature of the series or just a starting point. It would seem a little gimmicky (and boring) to rely on this as the central plot device indefinitely. Also, as a viewer I really don’t want to see Echo being used by these laboratory creeps week after week for the benefit of the Dollhouse’s high paying clients. I would like to see her somehow turn the tables on them and maybe even use the technology for her own advantage.
  • You would think having all your memories zapped from your mind and replaced with a new set on regular basis would take a serious toll on a person’s brain, especially considering the limited medical technology we have in our day and age. I mean, our sharpest pharmaceutical minds can’t come up with a drug that isn’t accompanied by a list of dangerous side effects. This seems like another logical reason why Echo’s “treatments” shouldn’t go on indefinitely.
  • The general opinion about the premiere episode among fans seems to be a feeling of slight disappointment tempered with cautious optimism. Viewership numbers for the episode were less than stellar, and Whedon undoubtedly feels like he’s on trial this week. We should all keep in mind that his shows typically don’t come flying out of the gate with apocalyptic greatness. The debut seasons of both Buffy and Angel consisted largely of stand-alone episodes which served to establish the characters and settings of the shows, with few earth shattering developments.
  • Whether or not Whedon is purposely lowering our expectations to a more realistic level (not a bad idea, really), I’m predicting that the show will improve greatly over the course of the first season, and the wavering faith of the fans will be restored.
  • The Dollhouse facility reminds me of Angel’s old hotel hangout. Just my imagination?
  • The first line spoken on the show was “Nothing is what it appears to be.” This seems like an easter egg of some kind to let us know that some unexpected developments are on the way.
  • Is Echo’s predicament perhaps a metaphor for capitalism? Maybe I shouldn’t even go there. Nobody wants to be that serious on Friday night.
  • It’s good to hear the badly drawn monster go “Aargh!” at the end of a TV show again.

Continuing Adventures on Lost Island February 10, 2009

Posted by Ted in : Lost, Sci-Fi , 2comments

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In the previous installment I decided it would be a clever idea to visit Lost Island in order to find answers about the mysterious show on ABC. I hitched a ride to the island on a freighter ship, and managed to assimilate myself into the Lost beach community without much trouble.

After a couple of weeks of attempting to pick the brains of the series regulars with questions about the ghostly apparitions, the hatch, the four toed statue, the whispering voices, and countless other phenomena on the show, they began to tire of my incessant badgering. One day, while I was talking to Juliet, Jack clapped me on the shoulder and said, “Look, Junior (as he had taken to calling me), we don’t know the answers any more than you do. If you really want to learn something you need to go visit the Others’ camp.” To which I replied, “Wouldn’t that be kind of dangerous?” He smiled. “Nah. You’ll be OK.”

It seemed like a risky proposition, but the next night I was compelled into action. I had joined several of my fellow islanders who were conversing around a campfire. I noticed Charlie sitting on the other side. “Are you the real Charlie or ghost Charlie?” I said half jokingly. He gave me a glare. “Just as real as you, mate.” To prove his corporality, Charlie picked up his guitar and launched into a never ending rendition of “You All Everybody”, in the style of “99 Bottles of Beer”. After Hurley and a drunken Sayid joined in people started to get up and leave. Then suddenly everybody was gone. Not just the people, but the whole camp site too, including the bag of Dharma marshmallows I had been contemplating. Apparently I had gotten a demonstration of the islands new annoying time-spaz feature.

After unsuccessfully looking around for a few minutes for clues of my when-abouts, I sat down in the sand and began to consider my options. I looked out at the dark ocean and didn’t see any lights from nearby ships. It began to sink in that I had gotten myself stuck here for the unforeseeable future. I decided the next morning I would take Jack’s advice and head for the Others’ camp. I would find Ben or Richard, and hopefully one of them would point me in the right direction. Luckily I still had my backpack with me, which had been sitting next to me when the timeshift occurred. It contained my notebook, some snacks, a compass, and some other helpful survival items.

In the morning I set out on my journey through the woods. It wasn’t long before I encountered Desmond again, and I was relieved to see that somebody else was still on the island. This time he had fashioned himself a loin cloth out of scrap boar hide. He ran after me frantically, yelling “You’re gun tah die, Crawlspace!” I asked him what the hell he was talking about. He handed me a religious brochure explaining how I could gain eternal life by joining his new nature-based religion. I thanked him for the information, and promised to return later to discuss what I had read. After I resumed my hike, it occurred to me that I should have mentioned to Dez that his long lost girlfriend Penny might be on her way to the island and that he should get himself cleaned up a little bit.

A couple of hours of later I stopped to drink some water from my canteen and munch on some dried mango. Suddenly everything went dark and there was a strong gust of wind that knocked me off the rock I was sitting on. At first I suspected another time shift, but when I looked up I realized that the infamous smoke monster had found me. I grabbed my gear and started to run, but the dark cloud knocked me down and started to drag me by my feet. I kicked my way free, then picked up the largest rock I could find and hurled it at the thing. The rock went through the middle of the cloud and bounced on the ground behind it. A big toothy grin appeared where the rock went through and the smoke monster started to laugh. “You’re not too bright, are you?” he said.

(to be continued)

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