Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cinderella III on DVD

Disney’s latest direct-to-DVD offering, Cinderella III:  A Twist in Time is a pleasant surprise.  No, it’s not as good as the original Cinderella, but that sort of magic is exceedingly difficult to achieve.  It is, however, a more than acceptable addition to the franchise and diverting for it’s entire 70 minute runtime.  Director Frank Nissen (Pooh's Heffalump Movie) deserves much credit for tackling a difficult job in which it will be nearly impossible to receive accolades.

The movie opens on the one year anniversary of the ball, with Cinderella and the Prince celebrating with the help of the Fairy Godmother.  One of Cinderella’s stepsisters, Anastasia, see the Fairy Godmother using her magic wand and manages to steal it and turn the Fairy Godmother to stone.  Recognizing the power of the wand, Cinderella’s Stepmother takes it, goes back in time, and makes the glass slipper fit onto Anastasia’s foot, thereby altering history and making Anastasia the Prince’s betrothed.  The Prince, though skeptical of Anastasia being the one at first, is quickly convinced by a wave of the magic wand.

Meanwhile, Cinderella learns from her mice buddies, Jaq and Gus, what has happened (Cinderella is, of course, well aware that the shoe should fit her and is quite distressed that it fits Anastasia).  She then sets off with Jaq and Gus for the castle in order to put everything right. 

Despite numerous close calls, the Prince remains faithful to his proclamation that he will marry the woman whom the glass slipper fits.  It finally takes Jaq and Gus to explain to the Prince exactly what has transpired and convince him that he is going to marry the wrong woman. 

The movie doesn’t end here though, the wicked Stepmother still has a few dirty tricks up her sleeve.  Eventually, as this is a Disney film, good triumphs over evil, true loves wins out, and they all live happily ever after (at least until the next sequel). 

In true Disney fashion this movie is a musical, but the vast majority of the songs are uninspired, and definitely the weak spot in the production.  They tend to be overly sappy, and seem to exist solely so that the film can be a musical, and not as an intrinsic part of the movie itself.

The one bright spot in the songs is the number sung by Jaq and Gus, it is funny, charming, and just over the top enough to be a good time.  In fact, Jaq and Gus are the highlight of the film as whole.  Though they mainly exist as comic relief, they still advance the plot and are exceedingly true to their appearance in the original film. 

There are some Disney direct-to-DVD releases that have the feel of being a complete cash-in on an existing property.  Thankfully, Cinderella III:  A Twist in Time does not.  Cinderella is one of everyone’s favorite Disney characters (yes, I understand that Disney did not create the character, but they have certainly made her their own) and it is nice to see that she has been treated respectfully in this sequel.

No, this movie isn’t as good as the much-beloved original Cinderella.  How could it be, Cinderella is one of the best, most beloved movies, animated or not, ever made.  Not only will the movie not cause all visitors to the Disney World’s Magic Kingdom to shudder every time they see Cinderella’s Castle, it actually may spark one or two more fond memories of the character and her travails. 

Cinderella III:  A Twist in Time will be released to DVD on February 6th, 2007. All images from the film © Disney.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

This Film...It's Not Yet Rated

It is very easy for a documentary characterized by good technical filmmaking and an interesting premise to be completely subverted by an overly dogged pursuit and wholly biased point of view. Sadly, such is the case with This Film Is Not Yet Rated. Don’t mistake what I’m saying -- the film is still a good one. It brings up numerous interesting ideas, makes some very good points, and is hugely fun to watch. The problem lies in the fact that there are several excessively zealous individuals interviewed for the film that make clearly foolish statements that the filmmaker, Kirby Dick, does not refute, presumably because were the points true, they would bolster his argument.

Dick’s argument is a simple one, and it is possibly a correct one: The Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) system for rating movies is flawed and needs a second look. The two main issues with which Dick contends are the fact that the MPAA does not allow people to know the identity of the individuals rating films and that there is no specific criteria for how ratings are derived that are provided to filmmakers.

Not only are there no specific ratings guidelines on which writers, directors, and producers can hang their hats, there seem to be some patently unfair rulings put forth. Dick, and many others, feel that violence is more acceptable to the rating board than sex and that heterosexual sex is more acceptable than homosexual sex. Dick desperately wants to know the reasons behind why the board feels this way, and how the ratings are derived, and does his best to find out.

To this end, Dick hires a private investigator, Becky Altringer, to uncover the members of the rating board. Interviews with various filmmakers, critics, former members of the rating board, lawyers, and others are interspersed with Altringer’s attempts to find out who currently sits on the board. 

The real problem with Dick’s approach in this film is that he completely refuses to acknowledge, on any level, that the process that currently exists is better than what came before it, and maybe even as it exists now it’s not the single most evil thing in the entire world. One individual whom Dick interviews, a First Amendment lawyer, states that even government oversight would be better than the MPAA and their rating board.

Clearly this individual has paid absolutely no attention to the huge battles currently being waged between TV networks, affiliates, producers, and radio stations on one side and the FCC on the other. Certainly for television and radio the FCC uses a very loose, amorphous guideline for indecency, and there is absolutely no reason to expect that the agency, or an equivalent one for motion pictures would be any more definite in their attitudes, actions, and rules.

Yet, despite this being a clearly nonsensical statement, Dick seems happy enough to include it in his film and in no way comments on it. He simply piles argument on top of argument against the MPAA, and wholly fails to distinguish between good arguments and bad ones. This failure of Dick’s weakens the entire film, severely undercutting all the good, valid points he does make. 

Arguing for a more transparent film rating process than currently exists is, again, not without merit. Unquestionably filmmakers have the right to know exactly why their film was rated in the fashion that it was. However, this is an incredibly hard thing to do. To count the number of expletives uttered in a film clearly is insufficient because context is important. To count the number of seconds of nudity raises the same issue. Context is relevant. 

Dick seems incredibly irked by the fact that there are no specific rules (x number of curses equals y rating) on which he can depend. However, Dick also gives the sense in this film that if there were exact rules he would rail against them due to the fact that context is in fact important. His anger at the MPAA and the rating board is so huge and all encompassing that there seems to be nothing that the board or MPAA could do that would alleviate his anger (save, perhaps, following Dick’s own personal ratings system, whatever that may be). 

What’s absolutely fascinating is that following the release of this film the MPAA has decided to change some of their policies. Of course, Dick’s response (as noted in the article) is that this change is not sufficient and is not even a satisfactory first step. 

Setting the validity of the arguments aside, the movie is incredible to watch. Right or wrong about his opinions, Kirby Dick put together a documentary that is enjoyable to watch and provides a lot for the audience to chew on. The number of well-known filmmakers he interviews is large, and getting to see their opinions on the issues Dick puts forth is wonderful. 

Agreeing with Kirby Dick and his feelings on the MPAA, the rating board, and the ratings process is in no way necessary to like this film. Nor should it be. Even if Dick is unable to consider, even for a second, a different point of view, hopefully most of the viewing public can.

Monday, January 29, 2007

TiVo Series 3: A Blessing and a Curse

Today, I thought I’d share with you my latest problem:  sometimes, it seems, you can in fact have too much of a good thing.  Those wonderful, wonderful people at TiVo recently ran a deal: if you own Series 1 or Series 2 TiVo with a lifetime subscription you could upgrade to a Series 3 HD dual tuner TiVo with a lifetime subscription for the cost of the new TiVo and $199.  For those not in the know, TiVo no longer offers a lifetime subscription (lifetime of the product, not the owner), so in the long run this could save a ton of money. Getting that kind of cash together took some doing, but I worked it all out, and am now the proud owner of a TiVo Series 3 HD, dual tuner personal video recorder!  Score!

I don’t even have an HD TV at this point, but the TiVo can send out an old-school standard definition signal to a regular old TV, so that problem worked itself out quickly. 

As for look of the equipment itself, it’s fantastic.  Gone is the completely flat look of the front panels of the old TiVos; this one sports a digital clock read out and a display that informs you what exactly is being recorded at any given moment.  Sadly, they also included some buttons on the front of the box as well (do people really use those and not remote controls?), which mars the look a little, but it still quite a wonderful aesthetic on the whole. 

Programming the box is completely intuitive as well, except that my cable company required that they send out an installer to put the cablecards into the back of the TiVo.  It’s not that it’s difficult, but it did delay the setup by about a week. 

The real issue here is that I now have a dual tuner TiVo, which I understand is exactly what I wanted, but it’s still a problem.  With a single tuner TiVo I was able to record three hours of primetime a night, start watching at 8:45 and finish with the rest of the world on-time at 11:00.  It was perfect, I’d gained 45 minutes of time on a daily basis.  With a dual tuner TiVo I find that I now record 4.5 to 5 hours of TV a night (and on occasion as many as 8 hours).   At this point it doesn’t matter how fast I watch, there’s no way on earth I can finish at 11:00.  Despite this setback, and the utter requirement that I stay up later every night in order to complete my TV watching, I’m still expected to arrive at the office at the same time every morning.  It’s just not right.  How am I possibly expected to be as bright and chipper and ready for work with an hour or two less sleep a night?  It can’t be done, and yet somehow I’m expected to do it.

Some out there might suggest, foolishly, that I cut down on the amount of TV I watch.  Silly people.  You tell me, do you cut 24 or do you cut Heroes?  How do you choose between The Dresden Files, The Apprentice:  LA and Desperate Housewives?  In this last instance I’m only saved thanks to SciFi, which airs Dresden several times a week, thereby making it possible to record the show on an off hour. But, despite some networks willingness to re-air the same program over and over during a single week, there are hard questions here that must be answered.  Hard decisions must be made even with a dual tuner TiVo, and right up until I’m delusional from lack of sleep I for one am not willing to make them (I won’t even get started  on the fact that my old TiVo still works and I can record stuff there too, that’s a nightmare I can’t begin to work out). 

The TiVo Series 3 box is both a blessing and curse.  I highly recommend that you use it, but use it wisely, because too much time-shifting is a dangerous thing.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Smokin' Aces - Ummm...Yeah...

Though not completely bereft of style, Joe Carnahan’s latest film, Smokin’ Aces, is almost wholly without purpose and substance.  And while the movie will certainly have its fans, make no mistake, Smokin’ Aces is not what it could, or should, be.

The plot, full of holes though it may be, is easy enough to understand:  a dying mob boss wants to rub out a one-time friend turned snitch and the Feds want to stop the hit from taking place.  The price on the snitch, Buddy “Aces” Israel (Jeremy Piven) is so absurdly high for the apparent ease of the contract that hitmen come out of the woodwork in order to attempt to cash in.  In case that’s unclear, don’t worry about it, that’s all explained in the first ten minutes of the film, after which point the plot takes a backseat to the action, such as it is.  Carnahan, acting as writer and director of the film, puts all the pieces (hitmen and Feds) in motion in the first two scenes of the movie and then sits back, relaxes, and lets the mayhem unfold. 

The film has a huge cast of recognizable actors:  Andy Garcia, Ray Liotta, Ryan Reynolds, Jason Bateman, Matthew Fox, Jeremy Piven, Ben Affleck, Alicia Keys, Wayne Newton, Nestor Campbell, Joseph Ruskin, Peter Berg, Curtis Armstrong, Alex Rocco, and Common just to name a few (I apologize if I left anyone out).   Why are they there?  I have no idea.  There are no real character arcs, no in-depth performances, and for many of them the appearance is nothing more than an extended cameo.  The two main characters in the movie however are Piven’s Israel and Reynolds’s FBI Agent, Richard Messner.  While both of these people garner a lot of screen time, their story arcs are still virtually nonexistent. 

Israel spends the entire movie (save for one or two flashbacks) strung-out in a hotel suite.  He’s nervous as he awaits a call from his agent who is putting together a deal for immunity with the Feds.  He cries.  He does more drugs.  He orders hookers.  He yells at his security guards.  Then he acts nervous some more.  That’s it. 

As for Reynolds, he plays a relatively unintelligent FBI Agent.  It doesn’t appear as though he’s meant to be unintelligent, perhaps a little green, but not unintelligent.  He does come off as a dim bulb though, because he’s continually behind on what’s going on around him.  This is far more a function of the inadequacies surrounding the script than his character.  At the end of the film, which I will not give away despite the “twist” being completely obvious, it is Reynolds that is expected to carry the emotional weight of the picture.  The problem with this is that nothing occurs up to this point that allows the viewer to bond with Agent Messner and so his upset, though apparent because of his tears, means little and has no impact on the viewer.  And, as the audience has already figured out what’s going on, there is more bemusement that Reynolds was in the dark so long than understanding at his distress.

Despite the lack of plot, it still takes an awful long time to get to the action, which is the only purpose of the movie to begin with.  When the gunplay does begin it is loud, bloody, and by that point almost pointless.  So much of the film's running time is spent bringing all the characters to the hotel Israel is staying in in order for them to start killing one another that by the time the gunplay and violence begin the audience is already elsewhere.

Hands down, the best character in the movie is Jason Bateman’s Rip Reed.  Of course, as with everything else in the movie, he poses something of a problem as well.  While his character is over-the-top and funny, he’s also completely irrelevant and despite Bateman’s wonderful performance the movie is probably better without the additional confusion he adds.

In fact, a great deal of the movie exists solely to be funny, or to be bloody, or to be stylish, or to be weird, without ever tying into the plot.  It seems possible that all the characters exist simply because the producers were able to sign so many actors, that the blood exists because the special effects crew was able get fake blood, and that the style of the film exists because movies like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels were already around as well. 

Will this movie have its fans that think it’s the greatest thing to happen to cinema since the last movie exactly like it?  Unquestionably.  Does this movie have a couple of bright spots and some pieces that could have helped make it a good movie?  Certainly.  Does the film succeed as a whole?  No, it just doesn’t.  While it has some things to recommend, and almost certainly will have its fans, it is neither good enough to be good or bad enough to be good.  Much like the characters and action in it, Smokin’ Aces simply is.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Catch and Release or: I Throw the Fish Away and it Comes Back to me

It is quite a feat for a movie to be entirely, wholly, completely, and utterly predictable and yet still generate laughs and be relatively likable. Somehow, Jennifer Garner’s new movie, Catch and Release, manages this difficult task. Written and directed by Susannah Grant, who was nominated for an Academy Award for her Erin Brockovich screenplay, this movie follows the life of Gray Wheeler (Garner) following the death of her fiancé

Gray quickly finds out that her fiancé, Grady, was not the man she thought he was, at least not totally. Not only was Grady hiding a sizable bank account from Gray, he also hid a child and girlfriend. Left to pick up the pieces are Grady’s two roommates: Sam (Kevin Smith) and Dennis (Sam Jaeger), and a friend of Grady’s who currently resides in L.A., Fritz (Timothy Olyphant). Though it isn’t clear exactly why Fritz exists to begin with, save as a love interest for Gray, upon learning that Grady had a woman in L.A. (Grady and Gray lived in Boulder), Gray puts the pieces together: Fritz is there to clean up Grady’s mess.

From this point on, actually really from the very start of the film, virtually every single moment is predictable, even the inexplicable ones, like Gray sleeping (repeatedly) with Fritz. Even the jokes are telegraphed. Yet, despite this problem, the film proves relatively diverting for much of it’s nearly two hour runtime.

While Gray is a, mostly, believable character, and Jennifer Garner does a good job portraying her, switching from happy to sad, and back again repeatedly, the same cannot be said for her love interest. It’s not that Olyphant is bad as Fritz, it’s much more that Fritz is bad and completely transparent. His transition from slimeball to great catch is both way too easy and way too obvious. His character is a stock “he isn’t really bad, he’s just drawn that way and please ignore his bad actions, because he doesn’t mean to do those things” character.

At times the movie seems manic depressive, wavering uneasily between light-hearted romantic comedy and a deeply depressing study in the way a close friend’s death affects those who are left behind. There are actually some moments in the film that are so funny that the death and story of the movie are completely forgotten about, and there are others that are depressing enough that one can’t imagine the movie containing any jokes whatsoever.

Just as the film is a study in contradictions, so is one of the main supporting players, Kevin Smith. While he is unquestionably the funniest character in the film, he is also the weakest, providing little more than comic relief. He is, often, completely unbelievable in his role, and yet is able to somehow pull it off and have many of the funniest lines in the film. His character also has some darker moments, but they fail to ring true. Possibly this is because the reasons for them are never fully explored.

That too is a theme in the movie. Sam’s depression seems to vanish as quickly as it appeared, without him truly working through the problem. He does have a 30-second conversation with Gray about his depression, but it is then forgotten. It is, of course, not believable that after the conversation he’s all better, but after that point the subplot is dropped. 

This same issue occurs with Grady’s hidden finances. Where did his money come from, how much money is there, why did he hide it?  These seem pressing questions that quickly disappear after a 30-second hypothetical posited by Sam. It’s never followed up on and the audience is never quite sure what happened with it.

Somewhere in the awkward jumble of Catch and Release’s contradictions there is a good movie -- actually closer to two good movies. There’s a drama about the those left behind after the death of a good friend, and there’s a romantic comedy about ending one relationship and beginning a new one. Catch and Release attempts to make these two good movies into one, and while it has all the elements of both, it does not function as a single, cohesive whole.

Both obvious and inexplicable, comedy and drama, the entire piece makes about as much sense as the notion of catch and release, as described by Gray.  It’s likable enough, but one can’t help feel like there really ought to be more, or at the very least, different. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pondering the Academy Awards

I’ve thought long and hard about the Academy Award nominations that came out this morning, and here’s what I’ve concluded: I saw nowhere near enough films this past year. Sure, I probably saw most of the nominees, and there were some that I purposely avoided, but it still simply wasn’t enough. I can admit that, I’m a big enough person.

Can I ask -- and I know that I’m not the only one who wants to know this -- why must the vast majority of these films come out at the end of the year? Is the assumption that voters are truly too stupid to remember in January and February a great movie that they saw the previous summer? Really? And, let’s face it, if the movie was truly a great movie and stood out, it should be memorable eight months later. It should actually be memorable eight years later, and hopefully 80 years later, too. If it’s something that you’re going to shudder thinking about ten years down the line then it didn’t deserve to be nominated to begin with, did it? 

I’m not going to do anything as trite as to recommend an overhaul of the way movies are nominated and then selected as a winner, but that doesn’t mean that the process is without problems either. A recent opinion piece in Entertainment Weekly lamented the fact that the Academy Awards occur earlier in the year than they used to, and suggested that it was possible that voters wouldn’t vote for the best pictures, because they simply wouldn’t have time to see them all. It went on to suggest that it is entirely possible that voters wouldn’t bother with longer films like The Good Shepherd at all simply due to the time crunch. 

Wow. Those people shouldn’t be voting then, should they? And, again, maybe if the “best” movies were released throughout the year rather than just at the end of it, everyone involved would have more of a chance to see them. I know, that’s probably sacrilege, but just because it’s sacrilegious doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. 

Mark Harris, who wrote that Entertainment Weekly opinion piece, argues in a follow-up that one of the reasons the best movies will continue to bow at the end of the year, despite the shortened campaign season, is because the studios are able to make money with them that way. Right. Good movies can only succeed at the end of the year and blockbusters can only succeed over the summer and around the holidays. That doesn’t sound likely. Sure, he goes through several nominated films that didn’t generate big numbers that were released at non-traditional times for such fare, but ignores others such as Little Miss Sunshine.

But let’s leave that aside for the moment and head to other thoughts. To top it off, I’m not at all sure that it’s right to say that Dreamgirls got “snubbed” -- eight nominations is pretty good. I’m also not sure that it’s right to suggest that it’s wrong for the movie to have the most nominations and yet not get a Best Picture nomination. There is of course the fact that three of its noms were for Best Song, which probably indicates that the music is great, but not necessarily that the film is great. Additionally, couldn’t we be dealing with a situation here in which the parts are better than the whole? I’m neither defending the Academy’s decisions nor vilifying them, just pondering.

That’s right, they call me the ponderer, yeah the ponderer. I ponder around, around, around…

Monday, January 22, 2007

What Are Your Thoughts?

Dear Reader,

A quick check of the archives here indicates that I’m semi-rapidly approaching my 100th piece here on the site in just over 6 months. It seems like a good moment to stop, take a breath, reflect, and ask you a few questions.

There is a notion (I won’t argue it’s veracity) that on the internet, “content is king.” The idea being that a good site, with good information, will draw eyeballs (that’s you). In the absence of a vast marketing machine, large amounts of advertising dollars, and a famous spokesperson, people will still be able to find a website through web searches that contains information/articles that interest them and that should the content of the site be well-written and the sight be navigable, people will return in the future. Let us proceed with the assumption that this statement is, nominally, true.

I wonder if this doesn’t have to be, to some extent, a two way street. Sure, the articles need to be presented well, written well, and findable, but they also need to be what people are looking for, they need to be what people want to read. This brings me to my main question for you: what is it that you want to see here? Should there be a heavier emphasis on film? Should there be a heavier emphasis on television? There have been a couple of forays into the world of pc/video games, are those too off-base? There are have been several pieces that are far more opinion than review, how do those sit with you?

Seriously, I kid you not, I want to know. You’re here. You’ve taken the time to read even this letter. You must have an opinion. About a month ago the site was “tweaked” and now there are some Google ads present, no pop-ups, nothing that intrusive, but they’re there. Do they bother you, do they hinder your reading articles?

What are your thoughts on the site as a whole?

Either post a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

I can’t promise that everything you suggest will be taken into account. I can promise that everything you write will be read and considered.


TV & Film Guy

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ah, Jane Eyre, Whatever are we to do with you?

Airing over the next two Sundays as a part of PBS’s long-running Masterpiece Theatre, is a brand new version of Jane Eyre.  Or, at the very least, it’s new-to-you because while it’s aired in Britain, on the BBC, this is its first trip across the pond.  This adaptation stars Ruth Wilson as Charlotte Brontë’s title character and Toby Stephens as the inimitable Edward Rochester.

Most people are aware of the story, Jane Eyre. Abandoned to a cruel school by her family as a child, she grows up, becomes a teacher, and goes to work as a governess at Thornfield Hall, for the mysterious and moody Edward Rochester.  Despite mysterious goings-on at Thornfield, and a rocky start to their relationship, Jane and Rochester fall in love, only to have Rochester’s past come back to haunt him.  The relationship is threatened, looks doomed, but… well, that’s enough of the plot.  Needless to say, the story is often melodramatic, at times spooky, but not wholly without a sense of humor.

Certainly the BBC did not skimp in any way on the production budget, the sets are wonderful, the clothes perfect, and all the little details exactly right.  The acting, too, is good, with relative-newcomer Ruth Wilson more than able to carry the burden of such a large role. 

However, there is still something about the first two hours of the miniseries that fails to truly click.  Possibly the problem lies in the overall weight of the production.  Jane Eyre is anything but light fare, and at a running time of four hours, this entire production is in danger of collapsing in upon itself.  It’s not without its light-hearted moments and its humor, but at times all the pieces conspire to form a miniseries that is so crushing it can hardly stand. 

Thankfully, the second half of the miniseries seems to shake the weight of the first two hours, or at the very least runs fast enough to avoid its crushing weight.  It is only in the second half of the film that what is just around the corner is less obvious, and is more exciting to watch take place.  It is true that a great number of people watching will already know the story, and thus know what is going to happen, but even so, the second half is more enjoyable than the first.

Highlights of the miniseries include many of the scenes between Jane and Rochester, particularly where it becomes evident early on that the two are falling in love and the moments of their courtship.  Additionally, Jane’s interactions with Rochester’s friends in the first part of the miniseries play out wonderfully (as does the scene with the fortuneteller) as does Jane’s life upon leaving Thornfield.

One of the more fascinating aspects of the entire endeavor actually appears in the press release for the miniseries.  They quote Donna Marie Nudd in the 2001 Norton Critical Edition of Jane Eyre as asking numerous questions about the novel, one of which is “why has there only been one film or television adaptation with a heroine most people would consider plain?”  Shockingly, the Press release states that this “shortcoming” is “remedied in this Masterpiece Theatre production.”  This is fascinating because they’re referring to their star as looking “plain” which is tantamount to calling her ugly.  This should, at the very least, greatly displease Ruth Wilson, and is an incredibly odd statement to make about one’s star.  And, I think in this case, untrue. 

Leaving that aside, this new production of Jane Eyre has a lot to recommend it:  a good story, a cast that performs at a high level, and wonderful production values.  It is, often, a little much, but that may simply be an attempt to better fit itself in with the original work on which it is based.  Though more would have to be omitted from the novel than is here, an hour shorter running time may have made all the difference in this production. 

All fans of Jane Eyre, the time period, and the genre will most likely enjoy this Masterpiece Theatre two-parter, even if this version of Jane Eyre does not become their immediate favorite. 

Jane Eyre on Masterpiece Theatre airs Sunday, January 21st (part one) and Sunday, January 28th (part two).  Check your local PBS stations for listings. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Endings and New Beginnings of Television

In a great many ways the world disappoints me.  Virtually every day I find a new way in which I’m thoroughly disheartened by what I witness.  Be it Jack Bauer crying, Laura Spencer disappearing, or Kidnapped being prematurely cancelled, the world of television is often severely upsetting.  Next thing you know, CBS is going to take Barney Stinson away from me. 

A very wise frog once said that life is a series of meetings and partings, that is the way of it.  I think this is nowhere more true than in television.  Everyone’s favorite show one season is gone the next.  The producers of Lost are talking with ABC about how long the show will run so they can figure out how to wrap the story.  Everyone is still very careful to say that the show will still be on for a while (after all, they have to hit that magic number of episodes in order to live forever in syndication), but it’s still seems likely that it’s going to end sooner rather than later (2 or 3 years as opposed to 7 or 8).  ER of course has been on its way out for years.  And, very soon, The O.C.  will be done.

But, I’d rather not be a complete downer, so here’s the upside of this whole thing.  If ER is taken off the air that bad taste left in your mouth after each episode will disappear.  And, very importantly, The O.C. will be done. 

Seriously though, that’s really all just the partings bit and I try not to look at it all that way, otherwise the disappointment would be too great.  Wonderfully, and wondrously, TV is also a series of meetings and those first episodes, those first seasons, and those original characters will stay with me forever.  From the first moment of John Carter’s tailored short white coat I knew that I was going to watch ER for years to come, and ever since that plane exploded in the first episode of 24 I’ve waited anxiously for Jack Bauer to save the world… again. 

Old shows end up making way for new ones, and there’s always a chance that the new kid on the block will be better than the former time period occupant.  There’s a great hope in the future.  You naysayers out there would argue that the hope is always there, but that the reality never quite matches up to what we’d have it be. 

Wow, are you a negative person, you naysayer.  As an incredibly wise man once told me (okay, he told me several times):  an optimist only has to be right once.  Trust me on this one:  the next great TV show is just around the corner.  So, if you already fretting that Lost will be gone in another 3 years, or that Idol only has a few months left until it disappears for another 8 months, take this thought with you:  television always has something up its sleeve.  The next great TV show is just around the corner.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Return of Jack Bauer

Jack Bauer’s back, baby! In a cold, cruel world, one man stands up to fight the good fight, to rid the world of terrorists, and to live out another one of the longest day’s of his life...

Jack Bauer!

FOX got the series off to what has become it’s standard method, two nights in a row, two hours a night. And, sure, it’s exciting, but it may have seen better days too. Every season 24 ends with some incredibly fantastic ending, something that makes me want to know what happens next. But, I never really find that out. Sure, they’ve started to put out little shorts with the DVD sets, but that doesn’t really cover it. The prime example of this is the end of season two: David Palmer is attacked with some sort of virus at a rally and goes down. Is he dead? Is he alive? What was the virus? What’s going on? The series picks up two years later and it turns out that there’s no problem at all, he’s just fine, his hand is a little disfigured but that’s it. Huge letdown.

And what about last season? Jack is taken to China. What happens there? What was the torture like? Who knows, he’s back within five minutes of the beginning of season six. Some would argue that it’s okay, because clearly what happened to Jack was terrible. Look at his hand, it’s scarred (just like David Palmer, surely they could’ve chosen some other part of his anatomy), and his hair is long, and he refuses to speak. He’s clearly been affected mentally by this horrible turn of events. He should be affected mentally, it should be a huge problem, and something really, really difficult to come back from. He’s practically catatonic at the beginning of the episode. 

But by the end of the first hour, Jack’s completely back and totally fine. He’s walking, talking, running, yelling, and doing all of those cool Jack Bauer things we want him to do. What happened? Can we really forget that quickly about his being held captive for such a long time? This worries me immensely as it harkens back to the weakest of the 24 seasons, number three, in which we are introduced to a Jack Bauer with a heroin problem that magically disappears a few hours in. In short, it’s problematic.

Of course, I’ll suspend disbelief. The show has good bits too. I’m thrilled to see that the President is at the White House and not, somehow, back in Los Angeles so that there can be another attempted assassination of a President. There may be an assassination attempt, and there’s almost certainly a mole in the White House, but at least he’s not in L.A. for the episode. 

So, with a certain amount of trepidation and excitement I’ve reentered the world of Jack Bauer. 

I just wish that after every time he did something ridiculously over the top he’d look at the camera and really intensely say, “Jack Bauer!” That would make the show truly fantastic. 

Saturday, January 13, 2007

In Case of Emergency - The Next Episode

It’s a week later, and now I’ve seen the second episode of In Case of Emergency. The question is, of course, am I going to amend my opinions from my first viewing? No, no I’m not. It is true that the second episode simply wasn’t as good as the first, but the show still absolutely has something to it, something that is going to make me come back for at least a third helping. Whether or not I’ll be tuning in down the line for episode 8 is still up in the air.

This time out, our ICE boys (and girl) find themselves dealing with the aftermath of the previous night (the first episode). Sadly, they realize, it was not a dream. Sadly for us, the plot doesn’t go much farther than this. Everyone is trying to recover from the mistakes they made the previous day and in true comedy fashion they make things far worse before starting to head down the right track. Actually Greg Germann’s Sherman seems to still be headed downhill at the end of the episode, but his friends are there to help him and it seems clear that he will get headed in the right direction before too long.

The storyline between David Arquette’s Jason and the emergency room doctor (Lori Loughlin) is still a weak spot for the show. Arquette is a fun actor to watch, but forcing him entirely into puppy-love mode for an episode and a half has already started to grate. He needs more to do than simply follow around a doctor that’s not interested in him.

Jonathan Silverman’s Harry is at the heart of the show, with soon-to-be love interest Kelly (Kelly Hu). The two of them make a good pair on screen and, maybe I’m na├»ve here, but I actually think their characters stand a chance of being happy together. They spend the entire episode trying to get Kelly’s stuff out of her crazy cop boyfriend Frank’s house, only to, predictably, got stuck in a closet when he comes home in the middle of the day for lunch (“who does that,” Harry wisely notes in a nod to what the audience is thinking). They, predictably again, get caught on their way out and have to make a quick getaway.

Actually, virtually every story beat in the episode is predictable, but the likeability of the cast manages to trump the fact that the audience knows everything that’s going to happen before it does. While trading on the audience’s good feelings towards the stars of the show may make it safe in the short term, it doesn’t seem like a long term solution in place of a good plot.

I don’t yet regret saying that I think the show is funny, but I can absolutely see a world in which I could 6 episodes down the line. Should Arquette do nothing but spend time in the hospital following Loughlin and Germann still be on the same downhill spiral (a different one could be fine) in a month and a half and should Hu end up pining for her crazy cop boyfriend for that amount of time, I can’t imagine that it could be played (well) for laughs.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Children of Men...Wait, Men Can Have Children?

Imagine the near future, 20 years or so from now.  Al Gore’s dire predictions are beginning to come to fruition. The world is falling apart, cities and entire countries have disappeared. And on top of all of that, women have been unable to conceive children for almost two decades. It all makes for some depressing thoughts, but it also makes for the backdrop of the brilliant new film, Children of Men, by Alfonso Cuarón, best known for Y tu Mamá También, and moderately well known for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

It’s not just the case in this movie that the story is a good one, though the bleak look into a future where the world is ending due to the infertility of all women is both horrific and somehow believable. It’s not just that it’s ably acted, though Clive Owen does a fantastic job, as do Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, and virtually everyone else. It’s not just that the film’s depiction of how our present day actions will significantly impact our future and that we need to actually consider what we do is important, though that is an unquestionable truth thrown into stark relief here. 

That’s right, on top of the wonderful story, allegories, acting, et cetera, Children of Men is also brilliantly filmed and edited. Virtually every frame of the film is completely filled with part of the story or part of the reality of the world in which the characters live. There’s always something taking place in the background, some little thing going on in the corner of the screen. And yet, for every frame being jam-packed with information, it never seems overly crowded or busy.

The film also utilizes several long tracking shots of Owen, which serve to help the audience better feel as he does: the nervous tension of what lies around the corner, the death and carnage that occurs all around him, and the general sense of unease that has a hold on everyone that populates London in 2027. 

Like the tracking shots, the movie follows Clive Owen’s character, Theodore Faron. A one-time activist, Theo now follows a more, though not entirely, mainstream existence, doing the same normal things day after day, despite the world crumbling around him. For years, illegal immigrants have flooded into increasingly fascist England as the rest of the world has collapsed, and are herded into refugee camps and deported. The youngest human being alive, an 18-year-old named “Baby” Diego has just been murdered, and humanity as a whole seems as though it’s been driven even deeper into a state of mourning because of it.  

But, all that can be changed. A lost love in the form of Julianne Moore’s character, Julian Taylor, finds Theo and convinces him to help her one last time. Theo becomes an accomplice in helping Kee, an illegal immigrant played by Claire-Hope Ashitey, escape England for the sanctuary of a shadowy group that can help her and possibly help save the world. Kee, as it turns out, is pregnant.

From the moment that Theo enters into this pact with Julian the story plows ahead full-tilt with ever-shifting allegiances and political intrigues. Even when the audience knows what is about to happen, Cuarón manages to make it powerful, emotionally raw, and completely revealing. Like all great science fiction, the movie shows not just a fictionalized world, but reveals truths about the society we currently live in, and in this case they are truths that we’d rather not face.

In a society replete with umpteen "best film of the year" lists I hesitate to create another. I hesitate to even provide a one-liner cliché that could appear as a stand-in for a full review, but, that being said, Children of Men is a fantastic film, well worth one’s time and entertainment dollar. What it has to say about us and our world may not always been kind or nice, but it is important to hear. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Conversation with my Dark Half

So, there I am last night, watching the premiere of The Apprentice: Los Angeles — yes, I watched it on Monday because my Sundays are booked with Desperate Housewives.  Despite the fact that Housewives  is a shadow of its former self I still watch it on Sunday nights and CNBC is nice enough to repurpose The Apprentice: Los Angeles on Mondays (and various other times throughout the week, check your local listings). And I promised myself that I wouldn’t discuss it at all, except to say that I watched. So, thank you CNBC for running the show in several different timeslots so as to better accommodate my hectic viewing schedule. 

I also sat there and saw How I Met Your Mother, but I’ve already made a futile attempt recently to harangue you into watching that bad boy, so I’m not going to spend too much time reminding you that How I Met Your Mother is one of the funniest shows on TV, and that you’re missing out. You should be watching this program. There is no reason no to. Seriously. 

What I would like to discuss, now that I’m done discussing that which I do not wish to discuss other than to say that I’m not discussing it, is a discussion I recently had with myself. 

You see, early last week I noticed my right hand was twitching from time to time, mainly my thumb. I kept singing theme songs to myself. I kept checking TV listings over and over and over again. It turns out, I realized, that I am a TV junkie and I was jonesing for a fix. 

That’s when the conversation with myself started. Why do I need TV, I asked myself, does it provide solace, does it provide comfort, does it provide something which my life is lacking on a day to day basis? Was I not loved enough as a child? Can’t I be spending my time doing something “more valuable?”   

Hogwash, I told myself, that’s pure hogwash. Television is a valuable artistic medium and a great conversation starter. Rather than being an isolating, sequestering, segregating medium, it is an engaging, enlightening, empowering one. The best television programs don’t just cause the viewer to engage with the program while watching, but after watching as well (it stays with you, you think about it again and again); the best television programs also make the viewer engage with others about them. They make you want to talk to others about what you witnessed, what you think is going to happen in the future, and what you actually want to see happen in the future. 

The darker me considered that answer for a moment and then decided that there was absolutely no way the lighter me truly believed it. Empowering? Really? Come on now, that’s lunacy.

But, it isn’t actually lunacy, is it? Love it or hate it, television does act as a conversation starter and allows people an opportunity to voice an opinion on something, even if it’s only at the water cooler. And so even if we’re watching it at home, all by ourselves, it’s a communal experience. Millions of others are doing the exact same thing. Even if I was watching alone last night, I could have a twenty-minute conversation at work about Barney Stinson’s latest saying. 

At that point the darker me threw up his hands in disgust, and walked off. But, he’ll be back. He always comes back (thankfully though I just use him as fodder for my next rant and rave and consequently look forward to his visits).

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Marble's Mercury Madness Meltdown Remix Edition

Back in 1984 a revolutionary arcade game was released. Using a trackball, players were required to roll a marble through various levels, attempting not to fall off a ledge, end up in acid, or get eaten by weird green things. Wow, was it fun. It was a short game, only six levels, and despite playing for weeks on end I never beat the uphill level. Seriously, it was hard. In fact, the whole thing was sheer madness and that’s probably where the name came from: Marble Madness.

Over the years various emulations and re-releases have been issued; it was even packaged in Midway Arcade Treasures, which appeared as late as the PS2 generation of game systems (though that port didn’t use a trackball). An article on Wikipedia states that there is hope that due to its motion-sensing controllers the game will (or ought to) appear on the Nintendo Wii. Even if Marble Madness doesn’t appear on the Wii, fans will probably be okay as a version Mercury Meltdown, this one titled Mercury Meltdown Revolution, will appear.

Mercury Meltdown Remix, the PS2 version of the game, is a wonderfully fun update of Marble Madness (though, to be clear, it is in no way an official update, it’s just an incredibly similar concept done for the current generation of video game machines). Even the box art for Mercury Meltdown Remix makes it appear as though the player controls a marble ball, as in Marble Madness, and the background used is Marble Madness-esque.

The game plays out in a similar fashion: a blob of mercury must be conducted from a starting point to an ending point on a level, all the while negotiating a series of traps and not falling off the board. The most significant changes from Marble Madness are that rather than the object in question being a ball it is a blob that can break into smaller blobs, and that it is the board that tilts in order to move the piece rather than the player rolling the marble.

And guess what? The game forces me to gnash my teeth, pull my hair, and have just as much fun as I ever did playing Marble Madness. It is easy enough figuring out how to tilt the board using the controller, and how tilting the board will move the blob of mercury, but that in no way makes it easy to force the mercury to do what you want it to do or go where you want it to go.

Mercury Meltdown Remix has far more levels than Marble Madness, and they are arranged into various “labs,” which as far as I can tell really just denote the type of traps the player will have to bypass and a rapid rise in difficulty. There are bonus levels too, but the main “bonus” in them seems to be the complete and utter impossibility of ever, ever beating them.

As stated above, one of the main differences in this game versus Marble Madness is the ability of the mercury to break into smaller blobs. This allows for many different possibilities to play out in the game. First off, the requirement is not just that the player bring the mercury to the finish point, but that a certain quantity of mercury must survive (some mercury can fall off the edge of the game board, and points are determined by how much mercury survives). Additionally, the mercury pieces can be changed into various different colors (by putting them under different machines), so that should the mercury need to be purple to pass through a given gate, the mercury can be divided into two globules which can be turned blue and red respectively and then recombined in order to pass through the gate (red and blue make purple).

The gameplay is truly deceptively simple and provides enjoyment for both young and old. The puzzles that have to be solved to move the mercury from one end of the game board to another take little time to understand, but far longer to master. And, despite that, rarely does the game prove unbeatable or overly frustrating.

The graphics used in Mercury Meltdown Remix are nothing special; they truly do seem just like an updated version of Marble Madness, but they work for what the game is. This is a puzzle game that presents itself as somewhat visually stimulating but in no way requires top of the line graphics in order to lay out its puzzle. In fact, such graphics might prove detrimental to the game as a whole, serving solely to pull the player away from the game play itself.

There are “party” games included as well, some of which have to be unlocked via playing the levels, but as the game is a one-player affair (even the party ones), there’s not truly much “party” to be had.

Still though, if you fondly recall the days of Marble Madness, or enjoy puzzle games, Mercury Meltdown is more than worth your time.

Mercury Meltdown Remix is rated E for Everyone by the ESRB.

Four stars.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Nova scienceNOW Does a Story on Getting the Shaft

Nova scienceNOW is an undeniably likable show.  The host, Neil deGrasse Tyson is fun, warm, and knowledgeable; and the show itself educates as well as entertains.  It manages to walk to careful line between overly simplified and overly in-depth seemingly with ease. 

The third episode this season however does contain tweaks from the previous two, and not necessarily for the better.  First, at the end of every segment there are now a couple of interesting postscripts to the story given via text.  Second, the profile story is now the fourth and final story as opposed to being the third.  Third, and maybe it’s just this episode and an anomaly, but Tyson seemed to appear less often than before.  While the first two of these changes are interesting and maybe help the flow of the episodes, this last change serves to do just the opposite.  Without Tyson appearing as much the episode has more of a disjointed feel than the other two.  There was also the inclusion in this episode between the first and second stories of a promo for the third one.  Which, as there are no commercials on PBS, felt terribly awkward and made it even more segmented than it might otherwise have been.  Presumably though, if the stories being covered in the episode interest the viewer, they are likely to watch whether or not the episode works as a single complete entity.

Even if the show does not stand together terribly well, the stories are interesting.  Discussed this time are:  aging and possible aging genes, space elevators, Mayan ruins, and a professor who has discovered that bacteria actually communicate with one another. 

The story on aging and genes focuses on the discovery of various possible “aging” genes through looking first at various people who have lived to ripe old ages and then moving onto mice and various other animals and entities.  There are disturbing implications made throughout the piece about the amount we eat greatly affecting the age we can live to should we have the right genes present in our bodies (it requires a huge amount of calorie restriction that even the scientists in the story find distasteful).  Distilling the story, researchers seem to believe there are a couple of genes that affect aging and not-aging, and various factors, including diet, serve to activate some of these genes.  Where all this will head in the future is anyone’s guess. 

The second story of the evening, and by far the most compelling, is on a hypothetical space elevator, which is actually exactly what it sounds like:  an elevator that could take one from earth to space and back.  This might all be made possible through the use of carbon nanotubes, a substance made of carbon (and, shockingly, in a tube-like structure) that is stronger than steel and weighs far less.  Of course, no carbon nanotube has been made that is longer than 3 centimeters, so constructing a space elevator out of one may not actually be feasible.  Still though, NASA is trying to work out how to construct such an elevator, and has held a contest inviting the whole world to try to come up with the correct vehicle for such an endeavor (the nanotubes would form the shaft up which the vehicle would travel). 

Elevators in space may just be a dream, but satellites are a reality and they’re helping find ancient ruins here on Earth.  The third story shows how satellites are being used to pinpoint Mayan ruins that had heretofore been completely unknown.  Due to the Mayan use of limestone, tress that grew over Mayan cities appear different on satellite images than the surrounding area (the limestone has seeped into the soil).  Armed with detailed maps and a handheld GPS system, William Saturno, the archeologist in question, ventures into dense jungles and can head directly to newly discovered ruins.  It is Saturno’s hope that by doing this he (and others) can piece together more of the history of the Mayan civilization and its sudden collapse. 

Last up is the story of “The Bacteria Whisperer,” Bonnie Bassler, a professor at Princeton.  Bassler is a leading researcher in “quorum sensing” which is how bacteria communicate.  It is through quorum sensing that bacteria determine the numbers of like and different bacteria around them so they can plot their next move (some bacteria glow if there are enough of their compatriots around while others cause disease).  It is Bassler’s current hope that by being able to disrupt bacteria communications disease can be prevented. 

Nova scienceNOW, as I’m sure I’ve said before, manages to move along at a fast enough clip to provide an in-depth look at an issue without getting bogged down.  The in-segment animated diagrams are both amusing and enlightening.  It’s really very much science in a way that is both accessible to the vast majority of the population and still interesting. 

You should of course check your local PBS listings to determine when precisely this episode of Nova scienceNOW in your area, though most places will be showing it Tuesday, January 9th at 8PM (EST). 

Thursday, January 04, 2007

In Case of Emergency Laugh

I can’t help but feel I’m going to one day regret the following statement, but here goes:  I think In Case of Emergency is funny. 

In Case of Emergency is a new sitcom ABC premiered last night at 9:30 PM. It has a good cast comprised of Jonathan Silverman, David Arquette, Greg Germann, Kelly Hu, and Lori Loughlin. The premise is simple enough; a bunch of high school friends, Arquette, Silverman, Germann, and Hu, are all experiencing various crises in their lives and need the support of one another. The first three of this group of four have remained friends since high school, while Hu’s character, Kelly (just like the actress's first name), joins the group after Silverman’s character, Harry, meets her at a “sensual massage” parlor where she works.

As for Loughlin (Joanna), she is something of the odd-woman-out. She is first met by David Arquette (Jason) in a hospital, where she works as an emergency room doctor, following an aborted suicide attempt by Jason. All the other characters then meet her again at the hospital after Harry gets beat up by Kelly’s drunk cop boyfriend. 

Does any of this sound familiar? Maybe it’s vaguely reminiscent of another comedy that has been on the air since September? Something that airs on CBS called The Class? That show follows far more characters from the same class that have all been brought together for a reunion. The main difference between the two shows lies in the fact that The Class is simply not funny, whereas, at the very least, In Case of Emergency’s pilot episode is. Whether or not that distinction will make a difference with the audience it is simply too soon to tell.

In Case of Emergency and its characters work far better than The Class, and that’s the main reason it is a better show. Where The Class has gone for several broad stereotypes and caricatures, In Case of Emergency has chosen to focus on far fewer people, and consequently has done a much better job drawing them. It is true that the characters in In Case of Emergency are over the top, as are the situations they are put in, but the characters are far less shrill, far more real, and failing that, far more humorous when predicaments arise. 

Sadly for In Case of Emergency, not only did The Class premiere first and have a similar basic premise, but there is more than one nearly identical situation in which characters in both shows find themselves. Again, In Case of Emergency handles these situations in a far better manner, but it may not make a difference for its long term survivability. Some of the similarities are generic -- bad boyfriends and wives/girlfriends leaving -- but some are less so. For instance, Jason contemplates attempting suicide in the pilot of In Case of Emergency, just as a character did in The Class. Whereas The Class plays the actual attempts for a laugh, In Case of Emergency has Jason step back from the brink before going for a laugh, and certainly indicates that this was a momentary thing, not a long, thought out process. While using suicide attempts as a form of levity I think to be distasteful, it is certainly dealt with far better in In Case of Emergency than in The Class.

Will In Case of Emergency survive? Who knows. It’s even unclear if something like The Class would help or hurt it. It is clear however that last night’s results for the show weren’t particularly good; it came in as the number four show in its time slot both in total number of viewers and in the adult 18-49 demographic. While those results certainly aren’t promising, I’ll still be tuning in next week.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Happy TV New Year!

Wow, so it’s been weeks since I last ranted and raved to you, dear reader.  And what, you ask (though begrudgingly so) has TV and Film Guy done with his time?  Well, I’ll tell you, I watched television, and because everything in the world was a repeat I watched stuff that I’ve never watched before, and though I liked some of it, I will probably never watch it again.

An example, you ask (again begrudgingly so)?  Sure, no problem, on New Year’s Day I watched many, many hours of a Flip That House marathon on TLC.  Boy, is that show fun!  Or at the very least, it is when the story is compelling.  There was this one guy, an assistant for a talent agent, that was working with his friends on a house on the weekends and hadn’t a clue as to what he was doing.  He went over-budget, we went over-time, he practically went broke doing it, but the house, should it be sold at the appraisal price, will make him a pretty penny (technically, $88,000 worth of pretty pennies).  There was also an episode with a shrill woman that plays in a band.  That episode wasn’t as good, because the woman was shrill; she was too perky and too peppy and just not as much fun (sorry lady, it’s true).  At the end of every episode they go over the cost of the place, plus the cost of the improvements made and then show the new appraisal value.  Everyone seems to make money, it’s unbelievable.  Even the people that had to tear down the entire house and completely rebuild it made money.  Frankly, I think there’s something a little fishy there, but I’ll roll with it.  Seriously, if everyone can just get a bank loan, buy a $200,000 house, hire someone to fix it, put in $30,000 and then sell the whole thing for $380,000 two months later, I’m in the wrong business.  After watching hours of Flip That House I have to believe that there are things the audience just isn’t being told. 

Anything else, you ask (sure that you’ll regret it)?  Ignoring the hours I spent watching Indian soap operas on Zee TV (no, I can’t name which ones they were, but can tell you that the plot of soap operas seem universal), it was a lot of “news” and holiday coverage.  I put news in quotes, because there are only so many times that the same old recycled stories can be counted as news. 

Why, I want to know, can we not have original, good programming on during the holiday season.  Does everyone really turn off their TV for two weeks?  Surely, in the evenings, after spending days on end with our families and extended families and extended families’ friends and their friends’ friends we could all use two or three hours in front of the TV, right? 

Thank goodness some of the broadcast networks are starting airing new stuff tonight, I just don’t think I can deal anymore with repeat after repeat. 

So, in a nutshell, here’s how this TV and Film Guy sees it:  yes, branching out in one’s TV habits can be a good thing, but happy days are here again on network TV starting tonight.  And, in a few short weeks, Jack Bauer is going to be back on the case.  Wouldn’t it be great if every time he did some impossible thing he looked at the camera and said “Jack Bauer!”  I really think it would add to the show.  Think about it, “Jack Bauer!”