Monday, July 31, 2006

Just one (or maybe two) of TV & Film Guy's Pet Peeves

TV & Film Guy has a bunch of pet peeves. Well, let’s be honest shall we, he has a TON of them, but as we are limiting ourselves here to TV & Film, it’s back down to just “a bunch.”

One of them will be solved this year with Lost airing new episodes several weeks in a row rather than sandwiching single new episodes between four weeks of repeats. Now, as long as the new episodes don’t turn out to be simply rehashing the storyline so far (did lost air three of four of those last season?) I’ll be a happy guy. Wow, speaking of pet peeves, how many recap episodes do we need (and the same is true of Desperate Housewives)?

I think the idea of going without repeats, doing a season like 24 has done theirs the past few years, or NYPD Blue did theirs for several years makes a ton of sense. It can be hard to keep up for some, but the ratings for 24 show that it can still work, even in a series like that where every episode is important.

In other news…

I don’t know if you’re paying attention, but Friday night on Psych they again mentioned the detective that appeared in the pilot. And, from the way it was brought up, it certainly feels as though it may be a recurring theme. Good for them. Way to make a change like that work as a recurring factor in the show. It’s not done as some crucial plot point, but rather just an amusing thing that keeps coming up. It makes the audience feel as though the producers see us as intelligent. Or, at the very least, it doesn’t make it appear as though they think us stupid. Which in and of itself is worthwhile.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

This Bond & Beyond

Last week the good folks at Sony/MGM and the James Bond producers announced that on May 2, 2008 the next Bond movie would be released (following this year’s Casino Royale).

Am I the only one that finds this ludicrous? Well, probably not, but am I the only one that finds it insane for the following reason: next year is their only chance for 1,000 years to do something truly special. Next year is their only chance for the 1,000 years to release a film in the year Double-0 7! They are going to completely pass up this chance.

I understand the hundreds of millions of dollars involved in this franchise (perhaps the most successful in film history), and the cost of delaying this year’s release to next year or moving up the 2008 release to next year. You risk over-saturating, releasing inferior product, and tons of other issues. But people, next year is the year 007! They have to do something HUGE for this and I haven’t heard any plans.

Danjaq! Barbara Broccoli! Michael G. Wilson! Sony! MGM! Anthony Waye! ANYONE! Next year is the year 007, there ought to be a worldwide fete of some sort. Is anything in the works?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pilots & Thereafter

It’s always interesting to see the way a series changes from its pilot to its second episode. There are clearly things that have changed because a producer or an executive (or several of each) sat down, took a look at what they made, and realized something else would work far better.

Famously, Elaine does not appear in the first episode of Seinfeld. People looking at the pilot afterwards thought that a permanent, strong female voice would be needed. And could Seinfeld have been successful without that character, or a similar one…probably not.

More recently, both Psych and Eureka exhibited the subtraction and addition of supporting characters in their second episodes. For Psych, the female detective character changed. A weak excuse was made about her partner transferring her out due to their relationship and then it wasn’t mentioned again. It’s not that the new detective isn’t likable, she is, probably more so than the initial character. It’s just that the change clearly comes from a re-imagining of the relationships, or an actor’s schedule not working into the filming, and always seems to cause a momentary stutter in a show.

In Eureka, Greg Germann’s character of Warren King disappeared and in his place we have been given Ed Quinn’s Nathan Stark. In the pilot King was clearly hitting on Allison and there was an intimation of a possible romantic relationship (whether over or on-going was unclear). But, King is out and Stark is in, and amazingly enough Stark is Allison’s estranged husband (clearly a romantic relationship). It immediately felt as though while King was removed from the show some of his traits were taken and given to Stark.

Of course Germann could be back in future episodes (and I hope he will be), but it felt as though his absence existed in order to make room for Ed Quinn’s character.

Will it be a successful, wise, change? Only time will time.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Eliminations and a Follow-up

Last night on Treasure Hunters the Fogals, deservedly, got eliminated.

And, ironically, the man of God got eliminated in a church. Seems as though someone smited someone that allegedly works for them because they lied, cheated, stole and otherwise acted in bad faith on a reality show.

Apparently the Good Lord doesn’t appreciate his employees ruining his reputation.
On the flip side, Hell’s Kitchen has been renewed for another year (and we all know by now that I’m thrilled with that). Seriously reader (I know there’s only one of you), Gordon Ramsey is absolutely fantastic and you should definitely be watching this show.

The recurring, actually "never-ending" is probably more appropriate, question is why we, as a society, enjoy watching these shows. Not having a psychology nor sociology degree I won't truly delve into that here, save to say that it has always been thus (feeding Christians to the lions, etc.).

What I do actually want to discuss is a brief follow-up to yesterday. I talked to people at my office (I did not initiate the conversation nor steer it in this direction) about The 4400. There were several people that all said that they enjoyed the show whenever they "found" it, but that in general they had no idea when it was on. And these people, mind you, are industry folks. So if people in the television industry have trouble finding programs what hope does the average individual have? If the schedules of cable and broadcast networks made sense a TiVo and/or a map wouldn't be required. Sadly though, this is not the case.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Shows and Where to Find Them

For the past 3 summers I’ve watched The 4400 without fail. I really enjoy it and have yet to miss an episode. The same is true for the random reappearances of Monk and various other cable shows. I feel like the only reason I’m able to follow these and other cable shows so closely however is because of my TiVo. Otherwise how would I possibly know when these things are coming back? Does having a TiVo allow me to skip the promos so that I don’t know these things are coming back or do shows just seem to magically reappear? I also find out about stuff like the premiere of Blade or even Hell’s Kitchen by reading TV e-mails that get sent to me on a daily basis. I do know to look for more new cable series during the summer, but with so many channels out there if I didn’t spend a lot of time looking for what to watch what would I find?

Even if the networks aren’t really going all out to program during the summer, cable networks are certainly picking up the slack. A show like The 4400 has been quite successful appearing only during the summer, doing short cycles, and has found a following 3 years in a row. So there are certainly people out there looking for this and finding it.

The corollary to this of course is that if I didn’t know I was missing it would it bother me that I was missing it? Surely there are other ways that I could fill my time (I am an avid reader as well, so let’s not venture down that path). Well, I believe that TV has done me good and TV will do me good (excuse the paraphrasing). I don’t see it as purely passive.

A good show will make you wonder, make you think, make you contemplate. A good show makes you an active participant with the text, and not in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” mode. It places you there and makes you care about being there. It makes you wonder what is going to happen after you turn the TV off.

And, perhaps most importantly, it makes you go and search out the next season and wait with baited breath, even if it is 10 months off.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Eureka

I will avoid any silly statements about SciFi finding the right program (and any comments that they may have made upon finding it), but the numbers for the first episode of Eureka seem to indicate that the new series will be successful. Apparently the numbers for the show were better than that of some broadcast networks during the same time period. Having watched the show I found it quite enjoyable. It certainly has a good cast, lots of interesting characters, and seemingly a lot of potential storylines.

But, that was just the first episode, and the first episode is always a little bit tough to judge by. The rest of the first season could end up being a complete disaster (not that I think that will happen, just that it’s possible). One has to see where the creators will take us. Will the individual storylines of each episode be compelling? Will the overarching season long story continue to develop in interesting ways? Certainly this first episode was interesting enough that people will come back for another one (not as many of course, but that is simply the way of the world).

One of the reasons Eureka seems to work is the ready-made set of eccentric supporting characters. In a town of super-geniuses there’s always bound to be something weird and different lurking in a corner of the town with a heretofore bit-part character that can be explored for an episode (and I’m sure that was part of the pitch). And, as a viewer, I look forward to seeing what happens in those lurking corners.

I’ll be back for trying to get such a look next week, even if Maury Chaykin isn’t a regular on the show (and damn it, he should be).

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Treasure Hunters, The Amazing Race, & Cheers

Treasure Hunters, which I actually quite enjoy, is most often referred to as something akin to a low-rent version of Amazing Race, a show which I assiduously refuse to watch.

Why, you ask? Surely if I like the former I should at least give the latter a try. I have, I did, my trust was betrayed (see my first post on how wrong such a thing is), and I’m done. The first season of the now long-running Amazing Race was cut short by several episodes. While the end of the race was shown, there were several large, intermediate steps that went missing. It still amazes me, though I don’t know why it should, that the first season was cut short, to the point where the arc made little sense, should come back for a second season, and a third and so on. Luckily the world at large has a short-term memory. Not me, I hold grudges (speaking of which, how is it possible that Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home??? What the hell kind of an ending to a series is that!?!).

Make no mistake, Treasure Hunters is not great television, it’s just good fun. It’s an enjoyable little diversion, even if it’s stabs at manufacturing history and being vaguely educational in some odd sort of way are laughable. And, have you ever met a less likable Pastor? Will God be protecting him and his family from their underhanded actions and blatant thievery? There’s actually an episode of Cheers where Carla flouts God left and right because her son has decided to be a priest and she says that as the mother of a priest she gets a direct ticket to Heaven. Are the Fogals working off the same sort of theory? And how about the Brown family, did anyone truly believe that they ever had a shot to win, or the Wild Hanlons? In the interest of creating diverse groups did they completely overlook who might actually be able to win? All three of these teams made for fun television, but not for a competitive race. Of course, that might be the exact reason they were chosen too. And they certainly do make for compelling TV, one absolutely does shout at the screen when they do dumb things. It’s just that they never could have won (I’ll eat my hat if the Fogals win the whole shebang). Maybe there could have been a compelling AND competitive team.

On the other hand, maybe it’s all in how the show is cut.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Some Television Basics

Due to having a full-time job and my family commitments I can’t watch as much TV as I like (hence my wanting to review for a living), so what follows is what I plan on watching this fall (not including various HBO, FX, USA, Sci-FI, TNT, and other cable series which my TiVo grabs for me and I get up early on the weekends to watch). It is far more abbreviated than I would like, but gives you some idea of who I am and where I’m coming from:

Sunday: The Simpsons, Desperate Housewives, & Football (if there are teams I’m interested in)
Monday: The Class, How I Met Your Mother, 24 (when it returns), & Studio 60
Tuesday: Friday Night Lights (still debating this one), Veronica Mars, & Boston Legal
Wednesday: Jericho (or should it be 30 Rock, I’m torn), Lost, & Kidnapped
Thursday: My Name is Earl, The Office, Grey’s Anatomy, & ER
Friday: Las Vegas
Saturday: maybe one day networks will program stuff on this night again, as for this season it truly is a vast wasteland.

Now, as I said, this is my abbreviated schedule, when I had more time there were shows for every hour of primetime (and sometimes more than that). This schedule also fails to take into account the fact that Scrubs and The Apprentice will be back and that Kidnapped may get cancelled quickly (I’ve already slotted in The Nine in case that happens).

But as for the summer and summer TV, my schedule is far more restricted. I’m limiting myself to: Treasure Hunters, Hell’s Kitchen, old episodes of Veronica Mars (I’m just starting to watch that and so find myself playing catch-up in order to be ready for next season), and tons of cable series (Rescue Me, Entourage, Blade, Eureka starts tonight, Monk, Psych, The 4400, and a few others).

There really is good TV out there (not that everything listed above should necessarily be considered “good.”) and people that say there isn’t are pushing an agenda of their own. Throughout history new forms of entertainment have been thought of as crass, lewd, unnecessary, and simply not as good as older forms. When first introduced novels were thought of as light fare and infinitely inferior to poetry. But if you go back to ancient Greece, Plato stated that he would banish all poets from his ideal republic because they would diminish it. It takes time, an indeterminate amount of time, for the new to take hold.

The push and pull between the established and the new will continue indefinitely, change comes only with some upheaval and upset. Someone will always win and someone will always lose, and everyone is territorial.

The moral of the story is that everything, to some extent, is redeemable, except for those people that insist that some things aren’t.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Who I am & The reasons behind it

Do you go to the movies? On a regular basis? Well, you should. You should go once a week, you should go more often, you should definitely go during the day in the middle of the week when it’s just you and the movie. Take a day, take an afternoon off, but do it.

For me going to the movies isn’t just going and watching something unfold in front of you for 90 minutes or 2 hours, or if it’s a Bollywood film 3 and a half hours, it verges on a religious experience. Okay, I just lost a bunch of you and I know it. Just hear me out, you don’t have to feel the same way, just give it a shot. You’re not going to find God, that’s not what I’m suggesting, it’s something different.

Okay, some people have stopped reading, but back to going to the movies. I love going to the movies. There you are, you bought your ticket, went to the restroom, maybe got a popcorn (never with butter), and sat down about two thirds of the way forward and dead center. Other people are talking around you, but you say nothing. Just sit there, make sure your cell phone is off and wait for that magical moment. Just when you think you can’t wait any longer, it happens, that glorious moment: the lights dim.

You are now surrounded by darkness, in front of you an image flickers, it’s some useless commercial. Wait for it, the next moment will come, and about 5 or 10 minutes later there it is: the previews. Who knows if the movie you’re about to watch is going to be any good, but surely one of the 5 being offered up before it will be. Rate them, give them all a thumbs up or a thumbs down. Not mentally, really do it, extend your arm, make a fist and give that movie a rating, right there, right then, based on the previews. If you’re truly excited a little dance in your chair is totally acceptable (seriously, find me in a theater when they’re advertising a James Bond movie, I may even hoot).

Previews rated, popcorn in hand, the moment has finally come. Sit back for it, rest your back against the chair and even slouch a little, it’s better that way. Oh wait, maybe they’ll also tell you about the sound system at the theater you’re at. Personally I always boo THX, not that it’s not a great sound system, it is, but I have my reasons. That over with, in front of you are little mini-ads showing you what production and distribution companies put out the film you’re about to see. Guess what production company it is before the name appears, tree getting struck by lightning? Boy jumping into a lake? Distorted shot of an amber studio lot? These are all things you should know.

Then the movie itself actually starts. The opening credits, the mood is being set and now you must accomplish the hardest feat in all of movie going, something I like to think I excel at, suspension of disbelief. Like the man said, you have to accept that or nothing that follows will seem magical or wondrous. Give in to the movie, suspend your belief that it is fake, and watch, trust the filmmakers. One immediate difference between a good and a bad movie is if the filmmakers betray your trust, if they pull you out of that movie, if you are not there with the main characters despite your best efforts then they have failed you. You need to make that effort though. If you’re not there trading war stories about your scars in the bottom of the boat at night after too many drinks, if you’re not just as desperate to try and get the beer back from Texarkana despite the fact that Smokey is on your tail then it’s your fault. If you simply can’t accept that the Smokey has two brothers, one of whom is a Mountie, that he can call in at a moment’s notice with hundreds of other cars to help him out, well, that might be the filmmaker. But give it a try, you have to. And if you can do that, and the filmmakers don’t betray your trust, well, then you really have something. The movie just washes over you and you can bask in the wondrousness of what you’re witnessing. You are there. You are communing with the people that gave this incredible gift to you. For me, there’s nothing like it. Give me a never-ending bucket of popcorn and bottle of water, a never-ending series of movies that don’t betray my trust, a catheter, and I’m in. I’m in.