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A Long Overdue Update June 23, 2014

Posted by Ted in : Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Crime Dramas, Dollhouse, General, Marvel's Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D., Midseason, Once Upon a Time, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Reviews, The Mentalist, Whedonverse , add a comment

As our Earth continues to whirl around the sun, the only thing you can really count on is that things will change. Day turns to night, clothes go out of style, friends turn into strangers, old buildings are replaced with new ones, and phones become obsolete before you figure out how to use them. It’s a harsh state of affairs, and if you went to ask the old wise man on the mountaintop the reason for it, he would probably answer with some mysterious riddle, and you would say thanks and go back home, and then decide what he meant was that change is for your own good, because life would get boring if everything stayed the same. So, I suppose the thing for a person to do would be to somehow learn to enjoy change. Go with the flow. Roll with the punches. All of this is just a roundabout way of saying there have been some new developments in my life which have taken a toll on my blogging output recently.

Yes, I know it’s been a while. Not sure how many of you are keeping track of the frequency of my blog posts, but it brings me no pleasure to admit that it’s been nine months since new words graced the Crawlspace. “Why, that’s shocking,” you say. “No self-respecting blogger would post less than once a week.” Trust me, I’ve heard it all before. To keep your audience interested and growing, they say, you have to keep shoveling the new content. To be honest I’m not sure if I was ever a blogger in the first place. Most bloggers don’t think much about what they’re writing. Their words tend to go straight from their heads to their blog sites, with very little editing in between. I find it impossible to write that way. It takes me a long time to gather my thoughts and assemble them into a form that’s entertaining for other people to read.

On top of that, I’ve had a lot of things to distract from my writing in recent months. For example, after 15 years as a cashier at the Majik Market, I was finally promoted to assistant manager. Last year Nick, the other assistant manager, had to go out of town for one of his chess tournaments, and Rajnish decided to promote me so I could cover Nick’s shifts. I was reluctant to accept the position at first, because I knew it would bring longer hours and more responsibility, but I figured what the hell, I’m not getting any younger, and my sometimes-girlfriend Sierra seemed impressed when I told her about it.

My actual job duties have changed very little since my promotion. I’m still mostly just a cashier, but I have to come in a couple of extra days a week to order merchandise and help with the paperwork. My slight upgrade in pay and social status has got me feeling a little more optimistic about my future, and I’ve been wondering if it might be time to move out of Mom’s basement and get my own place. Then again, the rent here is cheap and Mom doesn’t seem to mind having me around to help with the yard work and whatnot.

I guess the deciding factor in staying or leaving would be Sierra, who remains the mystery woman in my life. We met at the convenience store a couple of years ago, and have been dating off and on since then, but our relationship status is still anyone’s guess. We have had a lot of fun going on dates and watching TV here in the basement. She always seems interested in my life, but I still don’t know much about hers. It’s always her idea to call or come over. She never answers her phone when I call, and sometimes I don’t hear from her for weeks. I don’t know where she lives, and when I ask her she just laughs and jokingly says she doesn’t know me well enough to tell me that, for all she knows I could be serial killer or something. I went by the restaurant one time where she said she works as hostess and they said they didn’t know any Sierra. Then she told me she doesn’t work there anymore, because she got a job at a law office somewhere. As you would expect, some of my friends have been saying that she’s just using me and that I should stay away from her because she could have five other boyfriends or be a drug addict or a criminal or who knows what. They might have good reason to be thinking those things, but I don’t want to believe any of it because she’s beautiful and I fall in love with her a little more whenever we’re together.

We’ve had another frequent guest here at Mom’s house for the last few months. It turns out that Sierra has an 8-year-old son named Garrett and he’s been spending a lot of time here with me when she goes out of town to visit her sister in Pittsburgh or has to work late at the office. Now, as you might have guessed, I’ve never thought of myself as being good with kids, and might have been freaked out about the situation, but I get along well with Garrett and we’ve been having lots of fun. Actually, I feel kind of honored that Sierra has trusted me to spend time with her son. Mom likes him too, and has given me lots of moral support. She said that this is a good chance for me to develop my parenting skills.

Normally, when I’m not working, I like to chill out on the couch and watch TV, but that doesn’t happen much when Garrett is around. He’s always full of energy, and constantly wants to go places and do new and interesting things. We’ve been to the movies, the amusement park, the racetrack, the planetarium, and a couple of baseball games. We have also logged a lot of time on the video game console. Sierra says she doesn’t want him playing anything too violent, but the games in my old Super Nintendo collection are pretty tame compared to today’s offerings. I’m guessing he would rather play the latest action-packed Playstation or Xbox games like his friends play, with titles like Morbid Enemy 7: The Reckoning, and War Patriot 2014: Operation Valiant Cougar, but so far he hasn’t complained.

Aside from the video games, Garrett doesn’t have much interest in TV, except for some of those Toonzai cartoons that come on Saturday morning. When I get engrossed in one of my TV shows, he goes upstairs and hangs out with Mom. He helps her with the dishes and she has taught him several card games. He also plays with our old dog Randy who lives in the backyard. Garrett tries to get him to chase sticks or a frisbee and usually Randy just lays there on the porch and looks at him like he’s crazy.

You might have thought I would find out more about Sierra by spending time with her son, but you would be wrong. Whenever I ask him anything about her, he says, “I’m not supposed to tell you that.” I have considered the possibility that she’s involved with the CIA or black ops or something crazy like that, and that she could even be gathering information about me for some secret mission. I asked Garrett one time, “You know you and your mother are making me paranoid, right?”  He just replied, “Don’t worry, she likes you a lot.” Mom says I should let Sierra have her space and not worry too much about her. So, hearing that from them, I feel better about things. I’ve got an attractive girlfriend, and it’s not the perfect situation, but fairy tales are the only places where problem-free relationships exist.

Well, that’s what’s been going on with me lately. Here are some thoughts on a couple of TV shows from the 2013-2014 season which is drawing to a close as summer approaches:

The Mentalist – The sixth season brought the long-awaited end to Patrick Jane’s search for Red John, the demented serial killer who claimed the lives of Jane’s wife and kids several years ago. Our teacup-wielding hero, without disheveling his hair or rumpling his sport coat, calmly strangled the villain, and then set off for two years of R&R on a Caribbean Island. The end of the Red John saga brought some ambitious changes to the show. After the disbanding of the California Bureau of Investigation and a two-year fast forward, three of the characters, including Jane, Lisbon, and Cho, are working together again as FBI agents, with Rigsby and Van Pelt leaving the show after getting married and starting their own high-tech security service. Yet another big shake-up toward the end of this mother-of-all Mentalist seasons: looks like Patrick and Teresa are finally going to take their long-standing platonic relationship to the next level and give the love thing a try. That should be interesting.

Once Upon a Time in Wonderland – This Once Upon a Time spinoff was the only new show of the season that I got really attached to. It had a totally likable cast and some great romantic sub-plots. In my opinion, it was a lot more engaging than its parent show, due in no small part to the smaller number of characters. Instead of trying to include every fairytale character of all time like its forbearer, OUATIW focused instead on just a handful from the Lewis Carroll books, along with the unlikely inclusion of Jafar from Disney’s Aladdin movies. The evil sorcerer, as played by Naveen Andrews of Lost fame, ranks as one of the all-time great TV villains in my opinion. I didn’t understand the need to cram the whole name of the parent show into the title. “Wonderland” would have been a lot catchier and easier to say to your friend there at the water cooler or in the coal mine. Sadly, we won’t be getting another season of this show. Ted’s curse has struck again. It was cancelled by ABC the day after I liked it on Facebook.

Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D. – What to say about producer Joss Whedon’s latest incursion into television? It seems a lot more focused than Dollhouse, his previous effort, and having the watchful eyes of Marvel Comics looking over his shoulder has probably also contributed to the quality of the show. This was one of my girlfriend’s favorites of the last season. Sierra, like me, is a big Buffy/Angel fan from way back. I watched a couple of episodes of the new show with her, but I have mixed feelings about it. It’s hard for me to warm up to this bunch of government secret agents who keep tabs on various super-powered individuals. I can’t figure out who the good characters are supposed to be, if there are any. Coulson, the main agent guy, seems hopelessly smug and aloof. You can’t just slap a protagonist up there and expect me to like him. You’ve got to give me reasons to like that person, so that I care about their story. I realize that some of the ambiguity of the SHEILD characters may be intentional, given the questionable nature of their employment. Overall, this is not a bad show at all. In fact, I’m contemplating the first-season DVD as I type this.

 

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 , 4comments

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.

————————————————————-

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.

 

Learning to Coexist with CBS October 22, 2011

Posted by Ted in : Amazing Race, Big Bang Theory, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, CBS, Crime Dramas, How I Met Your Mother, Lost, News Programs, Person of Interest, Reviews, The Mentalist, Two and a Half Men , 3comments

CBS has recently billed itself as “America’s Most Watched Network.” Really? The thought that this could be possible is slightly mind-boggling. Am I that out of touch with my native country?

For the past decade or so, I have tended to lump all of CBS’ programming into a category I call “Loads of Pointless Crap.” The chief component of this catagory is that ever-existing, never-changing staple of network television, the crime drama. CBS never met a crime drama it didn’t like. The network currently has eleven of them in their prime-time lineup. This includes three different versions of CSI and two of NCIS. For the sake of fairness, I decided to check out a couple of the network’s currently airing crime dramas.

Person of Interest

This is a new show, and based on early reviews, I anticipated that this J. J. Abrams twist on the crime genre might be worth watching. It has a semi-interesting sci-fi twist, and features both Michael Emerson of Lost fame and Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus a few years back. The show follows the adventures of former CIA agent John Reese, who gets information about bad guys from his billionaire boss who has a crime predicting supercomputer. He also gets into a lot of gunfights and car crashes and that kind of thing. Caviezel has the Clint-Eastwood-whispering-badass persona down to a T, if you’re into that vigilante-type thing. Reese’s boss, Mr. Finch, lacks the flair and depth of Benjamin Linus, Emerson’s character on his previous show, Lost. This is not a terrible show, but not one I feel bad about missing. Maybe I’ll watch it a couple more times, but life is short. I’ve got places to see and people to be.

The Mentalist

After my unremarkable viewing of the Person of Interest premiere, I found myself watching The Mentalist for the first time. This is a very laid-back, less predictable take on the detective genre. The lead character is tea-sipping Patrick Jane, a former psychic entertainer, who now uses his mental trickery to solve crimes. He’s also trying to track down a guy named Red John who killed his wife and daughter. This show is so well-written it makes me forget I’m watching a crime drama. Score one point for the network.

CBS is also the home of various popular sitcoms, which I try to avoid watching at all costs. Here are my thoughts on a few of them:

Big Bang Theory

This seems like a show I should be able to relate to, with its underlying nerd theme. But let’s face it, no self-respecting nerd wants to see himself portrayed as a social reject who can’t get laid, no matter how true that may be. Nerds prefer to think of themselves as suave, mysterious James-Bond types that nobody can figure out. This is one of the things that made Benjamin Linus from Lost a nerd hero of the ages. He may have been a flop with the ladies, but he was the one running the whole show. Not only could he play Rachmaninoff on the piano, he could also kick butt when necessary. Big Bang Theory, by comparison, only rubs salt into the wounds and reinforces negative stereotypes. Of course, that observation is only based on the ten minutes I’ve spent watching the show, so correct me if I’m wrong.

How I Met Your Mother

Here’s my problem with How I Met Your Mother: Alyson Hannigan will always be Willow to me, and Neil Patrick Harris will always be Doogie Howser. I really don’t want to see them as crusty, jaded adults. I also don’t get the premise of the show. The title sounds like a nostalgic story of how a couple fell in love and got married. I have no idea which character is supposed to be the mother, or who is meeting her, and I don’t even care enough to look it up on Wikipedia.

 

Neil and Alyson of yesteryear

Two and a Half Men

This is the sitcom equivalent of Darth Vader, with syndicated episodes popping up on every channel at all times of the day, grabbing you by the throat and beating you into unconsciousness with a barrage of manly-man humor. I could never quite figure out which character was the half man — the drunk womanizer, the groveling loser brother, or the kid. Sadly, the show had to part ways with wonderful Charlie Sheen, so it looks like I’ll be watching it even less than I did before, now that the equally wonderful Ashton Kutcher has replaced him (hope you caught my sarcasm there). This begs the question, is it possible to watch a show a negative number of times? Looks like my hatred for this program may have warped the laws of physics.

I guess at this point I should try to find a couple of good things to say about CBS. I’ll definitely be watching The Mentalist some more. The Amazing Race was always pretty good — I’ll probably watch that some more too. And let’s not forget about all those great CBS shows of the past like Jericho and…The Dukes of Hazzard and…Touched by an Angel?

CBS Evening News

Back in the 90s I was a fan of Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, who started in 1981 as the successor of the famous anchorman Walter Cronkite. Dan had a deadpan delivery and dry wit, and gave the impression of having something approximating journalistic integrity. He was forced out in 2005 after being accused of reporting a false story about George W. Bush’s military service record. Rather was replaced by Katie Couric, who wasn’t bad, but seemed out of place behind the anchor desk. She looked a lot happier covering parades on the Today show.

Katie stepped down in May of this year, and was replaced by Scott Pelley, who worked for CBS News for several years before landing the anchor chair. Now, I’m not saying that Pelley lacks integrity, but I’m guessing that his typical workday as anchorman consists of the following routine: He calls up one of the conservative think tanks and asks them what information he should be reporting that night. They fax the script over to him, then, he spends several hours calling all of CBS’ sponsors to make sure none of the news stories are offensive to them. This usually results in most of the day’s news being deleted and replaced with various types of filler about dogs and people-making-a-difference segments. Keep up the good work, Scott. I’ll be watching Brian Williams on NBC, who probably isn’t much better, but at least seems sincere.

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