Thursday, November 1, 2007

Joss Whedon Return To TV: You Gotta Have Faith

I think I may faint.... the best news since.... well, I guess "Ripper"...

"Short of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reunion movie, this is just about the best news you could ask for: Eliza Dushku and Joss Whedon are reteaming for a new series! [...] It's a one-hour drama produced by Twentieth Century Fox to air on Fox. The first of the seven episodes to which the network has committed could premiere as early as spring. [...] Whedon is the creator, head writer and executive producer, and perhaps in part because Dushku convinced him to do the show, she's getting a producer credit."

So what is the concept, exactly? Explains Whedon: "Dollhouse is a suspense drama about a girl who can have any personality except her own." So it's part Alias and part Quantum Leap, "because Echo is literally changing who she is," he continues. "She gets into people's lives a little bit."

"Even Dushku's. "I relate so much to this character," she marvels. "Echo is essentially the story of my life. I've lived a crazy life the past 16 years, traveling around the world and then tripping and falling into this business. Everyone wants you to transform and be a different person every week.""

Full article here!

Monday, October 15, 2007

BIONIC WOMAN: Three Episodes In

I'm renaming this show THE LACONIC WOMAN. Jaime is dull as dishwater. There's a serious inconsistency with her character. One minute, she wants nothing to do with the secret organization -- the next, she want in on this "save the world" thing.

I thought the second episode was fairly bad... worse than the first (where I forgive them for at least trying to hurry and lay groundwork). That part where Jaime agrees to be a spy and asks for weekends off and be home by 6pm. Is that even a joke? I think we are meant to take it seriously. And Michelle Ryan isn't injecting any playfulness in her line readings. Too bad her micronanites or whathaveyous couldn't enhance her personality. Miguel Ferrer is a great actor yet he comes across as so inept when he lets "The Laconic Woman" talk to him like that.

I don't know what they are trying to do with this show.... Jaime is mopey, but then gets faux-empowerment lines... it's dark-realistic, yet contains some shockingly unrealistic government-ish agency protocol (why does Jaime have so much freedom??).

The second episode also featured Isaiah Washington in a completely (so far) useless role that is duplicated by Asian trainer Jae Kim and grumpy mentor Jonas Bledsoe. He gets a strange "trust test" scene in a bookstore that is best forgotten. All I can say is, this private security agency sure does run things all strange-like.

The third episode fairs better, mostly because Sackoff elevates the material. But, it could be a big mistake to make Sarah Corvus so sympathetic so quickly... Is anyone going to care what Jaime is up to, when we've got the much-more-interesting Sarah? When Katee Sackoff is onscreen, the show sparks to life. She's the Bionic Fonzie; Just watch, she'll take over the show.

She'd be better served as a psycho adversary the first season, though. Sarah should have kicked Jaime's ass in episode one, sending her scurrying to Jonas for help -- building up to a Bionic Women rematch mid-season. By season's end, Jaime would be the kick-ass heroine. And in season two, we could delve into Sarah's back story and perhaps ultimate redemption.

Urgh, I'll probably stay with this at least til mid-season but I hope it improves! If they can't salvage Jaime's character, she'd be better off having Katee Sackoff take over as the Bionic lead.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


PUSHING DAISIES had a fantastic pilot, but I wondered whether or not it could sustain a weekly format. I'm happy to report: It Can! I like the idea of a death-mystery every week. The second episode was another charmer. If they keep this up, it may be my favorite show currently on the air.

The triad of Ned/Chuck/Emerson works beautifully. I was initially worried about Olive as a character, but she won me over tonight. Random musical numbers? more, please. Ned and Chuck high-fiving using dandilions. What's not to love?

I finally placed the tone of the narration-- VERY Douglas Adams (Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy). Love it! So if you aren't watching it... you should.

Will Cupid's Arrow Hit a Second Time?

This is cool news. I liked the show when it was on the first go 'round. And I sorely miss VERONICA MARS, so Rob Thomas helming CUPID makes me giddy.

"ABC has pacted with scribe Rob Thomas ("Veronica Mars") to develop a new version of "Cupid," the short-lived but well-regarded Jeremy Piven starrer about a man who thinks he's been sent to earth by Zeus to help out romantically challenged souls. Project is one of two scripts Thomas has in the works via a just-inked one-year development deal with ABC Studios."

"Cupid" lasted only 15 episodes during the 1998-99 season, but it attracted a cult aud and helped establish series creator-exec producer Thomas as a TV player. Scribe said he didn't intentionally decide to resurrect his first big series.

"For the last couple years, I've been talking to ABC about how to do an anthological romantic comedy a la 'Cupid' or 'Love Boat,' " Thomas said. "We kept beating around ideas and kept coming back to 'Cupid' as the best of the group. So they said to me, 'Why not go back and do 'Cupid' again?"

source: variety

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

REAPER: Three episodes in...

REAPER was one of the shows I was really hoping I'd like. A lot. I really enjoyed the pilot. A lot. More than I thought I would. But three episodes in, I'm not where the series is going....

Every episode, Sam is bummed because he has to help the devil as he trips over the box containing this week's vessel. Then we learn of the escaped hellion, who has some gimmick (fire, electricity, bugs). The vessel is some generic electronic device (dirt devil, toaster, remote controlled car). Meanwhile, Sam must juggle his dead-end job at Workbench (where he will ultimately gear himself up to fight the hellion of the week). And in between that, he stammers around gal-pal Andi.

It's three episodes in, and already there's the feeling of a rut. There's not much ingenuity in the hellion-vessel combo. It's like there's a giant wheel in the writer's room to match up the gimmicks of the week. The show needs less gimmicks and more inventiveness.

Positives? Bret Harrsion and Ray Wise are both excellent in their roles. Tyler Labine has managed to not annoy as the slacker-overweight Jack-Black buddy that's becoming a staple. And the jokes are actually funny.

The show is quite fixable. It needs a serious through-line. There should be a build to something; Right now, Sam's situation is hopeless and he's not doing much about it. Is there a way to circumvent his new part-time job? Could Sam try to prevent the devil from doing other evil things? Could Sam become a comedic John Constantine?

The show should also dump its already-formulaic hellion-vessel plot structure and do different things. Either that, or the hellion plots are going to have to get a lot more interesting.

CHUCK: Three episodes in...

I thought I'd take another look at some of the new shows after three solid episodes. It's hard to accurately review a show on the pilot alone. Sometimes it takes a few episodes for a show to find its footing. And sometimes a great concept can't carry weekly installments.

So.... CHUCK three episodes in... Something about the tone of this show doesn't quite work for me. There's a real sense of danger (kidnapped in helicopter) and then there's the total camp-comedy (knife-wielding spy on the dance floor). Something isn't calibrated correctly in this show. The drama stuff just isn't very engaging. It seems like even the show doesn't know where to go with things. Are we supposed to take Casey (thee excellent Adam Baldwin) seriously while he's working at Buy More? In the pilot, the two spies were working at cross purposes and now they are getting orders together? Huh?

I actually think it would fair much better as a half-hour show. The plots would move along quicker and they could play up the comedy a bit more. This could be a very clever 21st century GET SMART. The cast is great and they would be pretty adept at comedy. It would also make the siller plot mechanics easier to swallow.

As it stands, CHUCK is on the bubble for me.

LIFE: "Pilot"

LIFE is a new NBC series where a former police officer returns to the force after having been wrongly imprisoned for years. I heard good buzz about this show and I caught it at the gym. I found it fairly underwhelming. Take any procedural drama and add a quirky lead investigator. In this case, wrongfully imprisoned Charlie Crews survived 12 years in the big house by embracing zen philosophy. This allows him to bring a meditative sixth sense to crime scene investigation.

It's the type of thing we've seen dozens of times before... Lead character plays by his own rules and breaks procedure, while co-workers ha-rumph and gasp at his unorthodox methodology. But wouldn'tyaknowit, the eccentric detective knows exactly what he's doing and uncovers the key piece of evidence while everyone else is playing mental catch-up!

If the phrase CSI: Tibet intrigues you, add LIFE to your TiVo. Me? I'll opt for early parole.


The fact that the pilot episode is entitled "Pie-leete" sort of clues you in to the personality of the show. It's cute n' quirky.

You know you're in for something different by the opening shot: a citrus-colored Norman Rockwell scene with Dr. Suess meets Desperate Housewives narration. By the first commercial, I'm hooked. The show is charming without (yet) being cloying. The story is inventive and engaging. The characters are well-drawn and likable. Lee Pace is a great lead actor. There are moments in this episode that are pure joy - whether it's an odd camera choice, a devilish bit of dialogue or the way the show revels its own fantasy.

I like this show immediately for its insistence on being different. It's not a junk-culture reality show or another procedural crime-drama. It';s unlike anything else on TV. That either means its going to be a wild success or a dismal failure.

My biggest concern is whether or not this series can hold up with weekly installments. It seems like it would have made an excellent indie flick, but a TV series? When your new significant other tells you her/his funny spring break story the first time, you love it. But after hearing it several time, it loses its charm entirely. Here's hoping PUSHING DAISES has enough interesting tales to tell.

In short, PUSHING DAISES is either the most charming show in years or the most pleased-with-itself-cloying show ever. I'll let you know in three weeks.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Teen Titans Movie: Dream Casting

From Screenwriter Mark Verheiden was at Comic-Con to talk about his various impending projects, including the recently announced Teen Titans live-action movie from Warner Bros. "It's not light and frothy," he says. "It's not silly. I want to play the characters so they feel real to us, not like people we can't understand. And I think Nightwing is a great character for that. I love the Perez-Wolfman stuff, so we're definitely looking at that, but I don't really want to get into who the team we're picking is yet," he says.

While the roster or casting has not been divulged yet, that doesn't stop us fanboys from playing casting agent at So who should play who? Well, let's assume the cast contains the elements from the classic Wolfman/Perez run of NEW TEEN TITANS. Here at, you won't only see our picks, but you'll see each of them in their "hair and make-up screen test" thanks to photoshop.

Click on the images to enlarge!

Jake Gyllenhaal as Nightwing: Dick Grayson is the most pivotal role in the Teen Titans. Since the movie is going with Nightwing, you'd need a confident and charismatic leader-type. But to play Dick Grayson, the actor needs to be slightly insecure and emotive. Jake Gyllenhaal (DONNIE DARKO, THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, ZODIAC) is more than up to the task. He's played everything from a troubled teen as Donnie Darko – to a obsessed detective in ZODIAC. Combine all his experience, and you've got an awesome Nightwing!

Olivia Wilde as Donna Troy: It's not easy finding someone to play Donna Troy. You need an actress that is believable as a gorgeous ass-kicking amazon in one scene – and then a down-to-earth gal next door in the next. Olivia Wilde (THE O.C., THE BLACK DONNELLYS) is stunningly beautiful but she's also a charismatic actress as well. As Alex Kelly, she made Marissa's sapphic storyline sing on The O.C.; And as Jenny, she injected heart on THE BLACK DONNELLYS. She'd be wonderful as Wonder Girl.

Justin Hartley as Kid Flash: Wally West was always a good-looking corn-fed kid from Blue Valley, Nebraska. Justin Hartley (PASSIONS, SMALLVILLE, AQUAMAN) has that All-American look with a hint of charm. Hartley is no stranger to playing hero, having portrayed both Green Arrow and Aquaman. I think he's got the looks and acting experience to fill Kid Flash's running boots.

Chris Evans as Speedy: The Titans' ace archer is all about attitude – and Chris Evans (FANTASTIC FOUR, CELLULAR, NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE) has got it in spades. His portrayal of hotshot Jonny Storm shows that Evans would make the perfect Roy Harper. Physically, Evans even looks like Arsenal pulled directly from the comic book pages.

Matt Dallas as Aqualad: Hailing from Atlantis, Aqualad was always the sensitive outsider among his more colorful counterparts. Matt Dallas (KYLE XY) has played a similar role as the emo enigma on ABC Family's KYLE XY. Give the guy some purple contacts and you've got your Garth.

Summer Glau as Raven: Raven is distant, moody and has a terrible secret. Summer Glau (FIREFLY, THE 4400) played each of those emotions to perfection as the complex River Tam on FIREFLY. Glau's got the same ballet-dancer build as the empathic Titan, but also can shift from scary to scared in an instant. In short, the perfect Raven.

Jessica Biel as Starfire: Starfire's a super-sexy alien with a bad temper. Jessica Biel (7th HEAVEN, BLADE: TRINITY, THE ILLUSIONIST) already looks the part. And her action-star turn as Abigail Whistler in BLADE: TRINITY shows she has what it takes to play the alien powerhouse.

Gaius Charles as Cyborg: For Cyborg, look no further than actor Gaius Charles (FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS), who plays Brian 'Smash' Williams on the NBC drama. He's got the look and acting ability to play the tragic half-teen half-machine.

Shawn Ashmore as Beast Boy: With Beast Boy, it’s not all about the comedy. Underneath the joking exterior, there’s an insecure hero. For that, you need an actor to do the lighthearted stuff and also the weightier stuff. Shawn Ashmore (X-MEN, EARTHSEA) is no stranger to lighthearted heroes, having played Bobby Drake in all three X-MEN movies. His sweet scenes with Kitty Pryde and Rogue also show that he’s got the chops to give the Terra storyline the emotional depth it needs.

Michelle Trachtenberg as Terra: She's the super-powered Lolita that rocked the Titans' world. Michelle Trachtenberg (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ICE PRINCESS, EUROTRIP) has shown her ability to shift from cute n' cudly to angsty n' confused. To play Terra, the actress needs to be believable as a smart-mouthed ingenue and later, a terrorizing teen tart. I think Trachtenberg would rock as Terra.

Justin Timerlake as Jericho: OK, for the portion of you saying "Wha?", calm down and hear me out. And for the portion of you that know what a great idea this is: are you feelin' me? The traits shared by both Timberlake (ALPHA DOG, BLACK SNAKE MOAN) and the mute Joesph Wilson are many: Both Justin and Joey are sensitive, expressive artists that women find sexy. Timberlake also looks like the Titans' mute hero - look at some older images and you'll see that both guys have the blond afro going on. With some movies under his belt now, the singer-actor would do justice to the Wilson kid that done good. And if you're STILL concerned, just remember that you won't even hear Timberlake utter one line of dialogue.

Adam Baldwin as Deathstroke: Baldwin (FIREFLY, ANGEL, CHUCK) is no stranger playing amoral mercs; He spent a full season as the jerk-merc Jayne on FIREFLY. His turn as the slick Marcus Hamilton in the last season of ANGEL shows that Baldwin can also do cool and cunning as well. Artist George Perez commented that he wanted Slade to be sexy and debonair -- that's something else Baldwin can provide. His seduction of Terra should be believable. The tricky thing with Slade Wilson is that you need to buy him as a sexy-charming-smart-killer. And Baldwin is a rare actor that can do all of that.

Stephanie Romanov as Addie Kane: Romanov (ANGEL) spent five years playing icy, sexy, mostly-evil Wolfram & Hart lawyer Lilah Morgan on ANGEL. Her attitude and edge would be perfect to play the tough-as-nails ex-wife of Deathstroke, Adeline Kane. I can imagine her shooting Slade's eye out as I type this... Wow, the comic book Addie never looked so good!

Nick Stahl as Grant Wilson: What's a Teen Titans movie without Deathstroke? And what's a Deathstroke origin without the Wilsons? Grant Wilson is the one that started it all with his ill-advised contract with the evil H.I.V.E. organization. Nick Stahl's (BULLY, TERMINATOR 3: RISE OF THE MACHINES) intensity is perfect for the chip-on-his-shoulder Wilson gone wrong. If you don't believe me, just watch the brutal BULLY and you'll see Stahl is perfect as the first Ravager.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Boy Band Bigwing Wants It "That Way"

It's like that episode of DIFF'RENT STROKES where creepy bike shop owner Gordon Jump tries to molest Arnold and Dudley. Only the bike shop guy is a sleezy record producer and the black boys are whitebread wannabes.

The New York Post Reports: "October 2, 2007 -- LOU Pearlman - the hog-fat, boy-band honcho who created *NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys and launched the careers of Justin Timberlake and Nick Carter - was a pervy pedophile who preyed on the young men he mentored, Vanity Fair reports.

"I would absolutely say the guy was a sexual predator. All the talent knew what Lou's game was," Steve Mooney, an aspiring singer who was Pearlman's assistant, told VF's Bryan Burrough. "Some guys joked about it. I remember [one singer] asking me, 'Have you let Lou [fellate] you yet?'

Mooney said he once asked Pearlman, who was known as "Big Poppa," what it would take for him to get into a band. "I'll never forget this as long as I live. He leaned back in his chair, in his white terry cloth robe and white underwear, and spread his legs," Mooney told Burrough. "And then he said, and these were his exact words, 'You're a smart boy. Figure it out.' " Mooney added that a singer groped by Pearlman told him, "Look, if a guy wants to massage me, and I'm getting a million dollars for it, you just go along with it. It's the price you got to pay."" read more

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Depressing Clichés

When I was watching the BIONIC WOMAN premiere, I was struck by a singular image of the depressed Jaime sobbing in the shower. My friend Matt short-handed it by describing it as a "sad shower scene". It made me think of the wave of clichés to fast-show someone has had a Daniel-Powter level Bad Day.

Wine and Candlelit Bubble Bath
Causes: Usually after a bad day at the office. Or maybe she's not fitting in.
Depression Level: Sigh.
After hitting the glass ceiling, struggling female exec drowns her troubles in the suds & vino combo. But there's always an awful lot of candles, isn't there? In a cocoon of ambient lighting and Dido music, wistful gal slinks into the tub contemplating her life.

Hagaan Das Therapy
Common Causes: It's usually after a relationship revelation (he's cheating! he's married! he's not committing!) or an unexpected visit from a critical parent.
Depression Level: Freaking Out.
We've all seen it. Down-on-her-luck lady drowning her sorrows in frozen dairy. And these frowny females are so down and out they don't have time for bowls. Nosiree, it's just a big spoon dug into the whole pint. She'll also rant with her mouthful of rocky road to sympathetic gal pal.

Walk of Weariness
Common Causes: He's left you, maybe this time for good.
Depression Level: How will I live without you?
It's time for contemplation, and usually when that happens, it's raining. The rain-soaked walk of the damned with soundtrack by alt-rock female whiner of the month. Walk through the streets and cry it all out, girlfriend! And if it's not raining, try walking on the beach. That works, too.

The Sad Shower
Common Causes: Everyone you've ever loved has lied to you! The parent you trusted is evil! The love of your life is gone, baby, gone! You now have bionic parts!
Depression Level: Basket case.
When you've just been hit with devastating news, daily hygiene may take a bit longer. When you're naked and alone with no one but your loofah sponge, you need to get it all out. So sit in that claw foot bathtub and sob uncontrollably!

Depressing, isn't it?

Monday, October 1, 2007

THE BATMAN: The Batman/Superman Story

THE BATMAN is a strange show. Every single season, it morphs into something different from the season before. It's as if the suits at Warners are disappointed the show isn't doing as well as their projections, so each year they throw something new into the Batcave and hope it sticks.

Season One featured a modern-kewl "year three" Batman and tried to go for a moody action adventure. It was rather generic. Season Two changed the theme song into a punchier surf-riff evoking the 60s TV show and upped the ante on villains. It was quantity over quality with many episodes featuring multiple adversaries. Season Three introduced Batgirl and Comissioner Gordon, rejecting the toon-created cops and the idea of Batman as a loner. Season Four brought in Robin (fresh from the cancelled TEEN TITANS) and the series became "Batman Family." Now, in season five, we've got the whole Justice League teaming up with Bats in "Brave and the Bold" type of adventures.

The problem is, each of the incarnations pales to most anything envisioned by Bruce Timm and company. For over ten years, Timm and his crew brought the DC characters to life with style and flair - sometimes even improving on the source material. I must admit, season four had some sparks of life (injecting some new writers in the mix, I might add) with episodes like "The Everywhere Man", "Strange New World", "Artifacts" and "Seconds" - any of which could stand beside some of the BATMAN" THE ANIMATED SERIES episodes of the 90s. "Seconds" was a particularly unique and moving episode.

Season Five begins with a Batman/Superman team up. Comic fans have seen this done many times before. The episode even echoed the 3-part "World's Finest" episode of SUPERMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES in many ways. It was on par with most of what we've seen in season four. That is, the show has become watchable at last. Of course, it doesn't hurt when you have Andrea Romano directing the voices and bringing in George Newburn, Dana Delaney and Clancy Brown to reprise the voices of Superman, Lois & Lex. Good episodes. Good start to season five.

LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES: "The Man From the Edge of Tomorrow "

The premiere of LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES has injected quite a few changes into its second season. It's a couple of years later, there's a few new Legionaires, and now we've got two Supermen. More on that in a moment...

The episode opens with Brainy man-crushing on Superman. He uses holo-sims to ease his lonliness - and I can hear the click-clack of the keyboards burning up the slash-fiction. Seriously, I think they missed an opportunity with Brainy; Instead of the Robo-Pinochio, I'd rather have the prickly ego-genius from the comics. I think that would make the character stand out more - especially with the similarly impish Chameleon Boy now part of the team.

The show has definitely gotten a bit darker this season. Producer James Tucker regards season one as "Silver Age" Legion while season two is "Bronze Age" Legion. I definitely get that vibe. The threat of Imperiex is pretty dire and Triplicate Girl's loss of one of her own was fairly eyebrow raising on a Kids WB! show.

I'm not sold on the idea of the two Supermen. It seems to be something that arose from a focus group. Like, kids today thought the traditional Superman was too boring. So they made a Superman with no cape and 23% more bad-assery. To hedge their bets, they also threw in traditional Supes. But season one Superbo--er, Superman didn't track with the tween set, so they bring back a more experienced Superman. That's three versions of Superman in the span of 15 episodes. By season four, they can change the name to LEGION OF SUPER-MEN.

My super-conerns aside, this is perfectly entertaining animated fare. It's true to Legion-lore and they seem to be using more and more Legionaires as the episodes progress. It's not quite as compelling as the Bruce Timm DCAnimated, but it's better than the uneven THE BATMAN. Here's to looking forward to the future!

MOONLIGHT: "There's No Such Thing As Vampires"

Hmmm.. this is another one that has me sitting on the fence. I know a lot of people are calling it an ANGEL rip-off, but it actually has more in common with the lesser-known FOREVER KNIGHT (an early 90s TV series featuring detective Nicholas Knight, an ancient vampire fighting for justice in present-day Toronto, Canada; Hey, it lasted 3 seasons and the pilot featured Rick Springfield! "Don't Talk To Strangers", indeed).

MOONLIGHT follows Mick St. John, an immortal vampire and private investigator - and his struggle to exist after he was bitten 60 years ago by his vampire bride on their wedding night. The show takes on a very old school approach; It's a basic late 80s/early 90s style detective show featuring a good-looking loner who helps those in need - with the vampire overlay. Nothing incredibly new here. So really, the show has to rely on smart writing, good acting and a unique style.

The series is evalated by lead vamp, Alex O'Loughlin, who does a neat job as the brooding blooddrinker. Sophia Myles impressed me as Beth; In a lesser actress, the character would seem wafer-thin. Myles, so far, is a decent female lead. Jason Dohring (of VERONICA MARS (?)fame) is passable as Joseph, the vamp who sees humanity as his own personal Starbucks. I'm a big VERONICA MARS fan, but let's be honest... that show will never be known for its stellar acting ensemble. I'm just seeing Logan Echolls as a bloodsucker here.

The writing may be a bit of a problem. I easily pegged the teacher assistant as the murderer about 29 minutes into the episode. I love play-fair mysteries, so I was a bit disappointed at the ease of this one. My much-mourned VERONICA MARS featured clever-twisty done-in-one-episode mysteries. If MOONLIGHT could do that with vampires, It'd easily be a favorite. The backstory faired better, with the past connection between Mick and Beth. Still, that "watching over Beth" for the past 20 years was a tad creepy since she is the new love interest. I had "Celine Dion's creepy old manager now husband" shudders.

This is a slight pet peeve, but I also don't like all the nefangled (newfanged?) vampire stories that play fast and loose with the rules. I can handle one or two exceptions, but this show had quite a few. They don't turn into bats or rodents. They don't fly. Sunlight doesn't kill and they can walk in the daylight. Crosses are a no-go. Garlic is great on pizza but doesn't even give heartburn. I'm not a fan or so MANY exceptions; I mean, it gets to a point of "why do a vampire show?" [sarcasm on/]They kept the teeth and blood-drinking at least.[/sarcasm off]

I think the biggest strike against the show is that it doesn't feel particularly new. A show like BURN NOTICE (which, by the way, check it out on USA) took that "80s detective loner" convention and gave it a modern twist with its style and sarcastic voiceover. MOONLIGHT desperately needs something to set it apart from a stock night-time detective show circa 1992 syndication. Other than the website reporting, you might even think this pilot was sitting on a dusty shelf as a first draft for FOREVER KNIGHT. It needs style. It needs a modern edge. This really is an old school show about (their version) of vampires.

I'll give it 2 more episodes before I decide whether it gets a TiVo season pass. It's well acted and competently written, but I'm not sure if it has anything new to say. And that may result in a ratings-stake through the heart. Forget crosses... are their vampires immune to Nielsons?


"Bizarro" marks the season premiere of SMALLVILLE's seventh season. It was... OK. It clipped along nicely and had some nice action sequences. But I have my list of gripes. This show always falls short in the strangest ways.

They ruined Bizarro. Last year they ruined the Phantom Zone villains and this year they squandered Bizarro. Really, Smallville Producers, this isn't hard. I woulda much preferred "Three Evil Teen Krypto-Criminals" coming to earth rather than "Body Possessing Wraiths." Can you imagine Zod as a 20-year old smarty schemer, Ursa as a gorgeous uber-bitch with design on Clark and Non as a muscle-headed football jock? Man, that coulda been a whole season of teh awesome. Instead, they go with the Krypto-Mystical-blah-dee-blah.

So, Bizarro. Yeah. It would have been cool if Lionel tried to clone Clark and failed (thus, Bizarro). Instead, he's evil wraith that's not quite Bizarro at all. And, he's pretty much Red K Clark, which, y'know, we've seen. That's as bad as making Mister Mxyzptlk a foreign exchange student that runs a gambling ring. Oh, wait...

Then there's Lexie. Every time he edges closer to becoming evil dude, he goes emo on us. I don't want to see Boo-Hoo Prison Lex in the 7th season. I want scheming, evil, murdering Lex. And kill Lionel please. Lionel should have died in that explosion. Things I Learned Watching Smallville #28. "Head trauma is not nearly as serious as I believed it to be." I love all the explosions on SMALLVILLE that leave people slightly bruised and wincing slightly.

And, oh, I need to "call" Jor-El on his surpreme superdickery. All this "tough love" parenting was to prepare Kal-El for this fight we are seeing now? Call Galactic Child Services! He is sooo not getting father of the year.

I always enjoy the SMALLVILLE hospital scenes for their unintentional comedy. Things I Learned Watching Smallville #27. "Listening to doctors is highly optional. People like to leave hospitals without doctor's consent, and often enter rooms when they are told they are restricted." I love how Clark just busts into the room! And I love how Chloe is declared dead and just burns her own death certificate, as if that solves everything. Nah, hospitals don't care about missing dead bodies that have been toe-tagged.

The whole Clark-Bizarro showdown was kewl-fight, but introduced "magic sun rays" previously unseen on SMALLVILLE. They magically heal now? Since when? Oh, since we need it for this scene and then never again? OK! Oh, SMALLVILLE!

I did chuckle (in a good way) at Chloe's line, "He can fly? Clark, you gotta get on that." Chloe has actually become my favorite character on the show. She's usually calling everyone on their smallvilledickery. But then she has a graoner when she calls Bizarro Clark's "Bobbsey Twin." Yes, all the college kids are referencing obscure turn-of-the-century comic strips these days. I blame the schools.

But then I chuckled, in a bad way, at Lana's Shanghai Surprise. Really, we all knew she was alive even though we all wished her dead. And I love how halfway around the world, she find security in a bad Britney Spears wig. Hilarious! Like, Ed Wood level hilarious. She is truly Clark's greatest enemy on the whole show. Just when we think she's gone... It's a slow painful torture, this Lana Lang.

Supergirl looks kinda cool.

Sunday, September 30, 2007


I'm not 100% sold on this one. The first few minutes of the show grabbed me. I liked Nick George's unique relationship to the Darlings while growing up. It's also ironic that Nick would end up working for the family that usurped his father from him. The series bolstered by strong actors like Peter Krause, Donald Sutherland and Jill Clayburgh.

But once we started meeting the Darlings, my patience began to grow a wee thin. The show devolved into BROTHER & SISTERS on a bender. It also suffered a bit from quirkitis. Quirkitis began sometime in the 90s, infusing post-modern quirks on old standards. So, for example, it isn't enough that William Baldwin's character has a mistress. Add a little quirkitis and you get a trannie hooker(?) mistress. Likewise, Mick's chief rival among the Darlings is a selfish, hypocrite with at least one bastard child he refuses to acknowledge in public. Sprinkle a little quirkitis and hey, he's also a reverend! For good measure, let's have Mick and Rev. Darling wrestle like children during a swank dinner party.

The last 10 minutes saved the show, grounding it back to reality a bit. Even juicier, Mick learns that one of the brood may have murdered his father. That twist gives Mick good reason to stick around - and maybe me too! The series has potential as long as it doesn't get soap-silly.


Yup, I was a semi-fan of the original BIONIC WOMAN. It's not as cheesy-campy as people make it out to be. The most memorable episodes for me were the excellent Fembots/Dr. Franklin/Weather Control 3-parter AND any of the episodes with Jaime's evil double, Lisa, who used a drug to mimic bionics. And, Lindsay Wagner was charming as Jaime.

With one episode to judge, the new BIONIC WOMAN gets a cautious thumbs up for me. They certainly laid a lot of groundwork in the first episode. I like how each character has a specific role and I can't see any 'useless' characters that appear so often in pilots.

I'm a little unsure if the lead actress plays "tough" convincingly. Her line at the end of the episode and during the fight scenes... didn't quite sell it. She's pretty good overall (and easy on the eyes)... but can she carry the whole darn show? Linsday Wagner had a certain charm, a certain charisma... you instantly related to her. I do also think things were rushed, as far as Jaime's development. She goes from Sarah Conner (in TERMINATOR) to Sarah Conner (in TERNIMATOR II) in 14 minutes. Sarah Corvus should have handed Jaime her non-bionic ass on that rainy rooftop. And Jaime should have then gone to the government seeking help and reluctantly agreeing to "work" with them. Then the whole first season could have been her development into bionic ass-kickery extreme. The tough Jaime didn't work in the last 15 minutes; It didn't ring true.

The show took some hits for writing out the deaf sister and replacing her with a computer hacker sister... but honestly, the change will only ultimately help the show. The angry deaf sister, I believe, would ultimately be marginalized; less a 'character' and more a symbol of Jaime's good heart. The computer hacking aspect will undoubtedly get sis involved in plots. (Of course, deaf sis could have been a computer hacker too-- but she wasn't in the original pilot...)

Miguel Ferrer is a casting coup and lends suitable gravitas as "Oscar Goldman 2.0." I liked the backstory with his wife. The boyfriend serves dual role as scientist who gave Jaime bionics as well as love interest. Good call. Also, his dad on the evil side gives plenty for the character to do. The asian guy has intertwined backstory with Sarah Corvus, good move. The blond agent seems like a weak link for now, but it's way too early to tell. The actress seems capable and her scenes were good.

Katee Sackoff as Sarah Corvus lifted the whole pilot from "competent" to "above average." She's totally convincing as the complicated bionic psycho and gave a jolt to every scene she was in. "Without getting too dramatic... I'm the first Bionic Woman... tada." Sackoff takes that line and makes it her bitch. She was just great to watch.

Here's the thing tho. This show is brought to us by the same people that gave us BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. That's both good and bad. I'm a fan of BG and they've done some great episodes and some complex characters. They can tell a great story. That's the good. BUT, I feel BG got enveloped by its own story; It's become this convoluted space-soap where not even the Cylons know what their plan is anymore (and, apparently, the writers never truly did). I would hate to see BIONIC WOMAN fall into the same trap, of everything revolving around Sarah Corvus and Evil Science Dad's consortium. ALIAS fell into a similar trap with Sloan.

It's got potential. I like it so far. I'm probably sticking with this one for the season unless the wheels fall off the bionic cart.

REAPER: "Pilot"

I was hoping I would like this one and I did. This was very enjoyable. Thumbs up! Good premise well executed.

I feared it might be over the top, but they thankfully kept the humor organic to the plot and fairly restrained all things considered. I also liked the black comedy and sly humor they employed throughout. Hell is the DMV. The devil helping Sam win the ham; "See? I'm a nice guy!" (as he follows his latest victim no doubt). Devil: "Yeah, overcrowding. We weren't expecting the influx, personally I blame myself."

I like the odd situation of the Devil becoming a sort of father figure to Sam. He actually encouraged him to succeed at something, whereas his own parents never pushed him.

Bret Harrison is great; I liked him in THE LOOP and he's great here too. Ray Wise is just perfect as the devil.

I also liked that the whole show wasn't a yuck-fest. The scene with Sam and his mother, where he spares her and she offers her own life -- that was sweet. Also, his relationship with the girl has started off well. I hope she eventually learns about Sam's part-time job, because that will keep things even more interesting!

My only slight reservation was Sock. He's the slob stoner best friend we've seen a ton of places before. Very Kevin Smith-ish, which could be both good and bad. He had a few funny lines in the pilot, so he's working ok so far. But they will need to give him some depth.

But so far, favorite new show!

CHUCK: "Pilot"

The premise looked intriguing. I thought this was going to one of the shows where I'm either instantly hooked or instantly turned off. Turns out, I'm neither. I felt a whole lot of "meh" during the pilot episode. The set-up is interesting, but they didn't do anything particularly entertaining with it. I didn't really laugh and I didn't really feel for Chuck. His friend sorta annoyed me.

I realize the show isn't meant to be realistic, and I'm willing to let it go "out there" from time to time. I mean, the whole premise of the "e-mail with secure info stored in images" is a lot to swallow. But I'm willing to go with it. The scene where the blond spy dances and throws knives around the club was a little much, even in the context of the show. No one in the club notices this? MUCH BETTER was the street chase, where blond chick hit the button that activated the road spikes. More of that, please.

The scene in the Home-Depot type store was odd, in that the store was completely empty except for vaguely-European-black-leather-jacket-assassin-ish dude (another in the long list of New Cliches) -- and then after Chuck has his "flash" and panics, he turns around and the store has TONS of people milling around. And this wasn't a dream sequence? I have no idea what they were going for in that scene.

I think that's the problem... The tone of this show is all over the place; It shifts from Emo break-up Chuck (awww) to "the wacky" to "we're serious about the danger now". It lacks that BUFFY-like balance of the serious, funny and dramatic. (yes, everything gets compared to BUFFY with me).

Then there's the whole idea of him continuing to work at Buy More. There's no way the government (especially Adam Baldwin's character) would let him run around freely and NOT extract him. I get it, it's a pseudo comedy — but the idea of Adam Baldwin working at Buy More, given his character, is perhaps more than I can take. I think I would enjoy the show more if he was given a 'cover' job (a la Sydney Bristow's bank job) and had to keep a secret identity from his sister and friend.

Given its premise, I'm not sure how many times we can see the same types of scenarios without it getting grating. We'll see. The show MAY find its footing. I'll give this one a couple of more episodes, but I think the over-reliance on shennanigans will eventually turn me off on this one.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

HEROES: "Four Months Later... "

The season premiere was OK, pretty much "more of the same." There is going to be an episode coming up called "four months ago" where we see events directly after the Kirby Plaza showdown, so it doesn't bother me that they glossed over some of the changes. That said, the series still falls short in certain spots, and there's gaps of logic in some of the plots. And there's annoying little ticks this show has that drive me nuts. The show has shown moments of brilliance, but more often than not, it sorta takes the cliched easy road.

First, Mohinder. Why are his "science classes" like high school poetry readings? Tis ridiculous. The actor that plays Mohinder is also terrible. He emphasizes strange syllables in every word he speaks. Or, sometimes he emphasizes every word in a sentence. And when he has to threaten somebody, I want to laugh in his 90 pound face. I mean, really.

The Bennet family's "witness protection" was a bit ludicrous. They all have the same names and a slightly different last name? No one has changed hair color or appearance? If "The Company" is so clever, they will track them down fairly easily, no? Also, aren't the mother and brother mind-wiped? Why do they seem to know they are 'in protection'? Also, who would ever marry bizarre dog lady that is Claire's mom? Beyond that, the bitchy-blond cheerleader is one of the oldest cliché's of the high-school movie/TV scene. I was disappointed at the laziness of relying on that.

Claire father's new job was similarly eye-rolling. Anyone else sick of the cliché of the loser-guy in menial-management job that takes it way too seriously? His boss was so over-the-top ridiculous. Can't they find a more interesting way to convey the ennui of Claire father's new life?

The Matt Parkman stuff was OK, for the most part. The scene with the teacher was a little silly, with her being extremely judgmental over a lot of not much. Weird drawing and the girl is having bad dreams. Lordy, Call child services! Also, the words that come out of lil' Molly's mouth vary wildly. Sometimes, she sounds like an adult, like when she challenges Matt about using his powers — then she morphs into 3-year old tantrum girl. Methinks no one has any nine year old kids on the writing staff.

The Nathan stuff was a little "typical." the drinking and the beard growth and wife leaving him. It's only been four months, I would think Nathan would be doing something more productive – but the plot 'needs him' to be depressed. The scene with his mother had all the sublety of a sledgehammer; She's musing over a photo of both of them. Boo hoo! It BREAKS, signifying their emotional breakdown, get it kids? Then we get terrible expository dialogue and Nathan even calls his mother evil. The line was something like, "You're evil, mom." And it was said without sarcasm. It was meant to be played for reals. This show is capable of BETTER than this clumsy scene.

The Dominican Wonder Twins look interesting. I wonder what their powers are?

The Hiro stuff was OK. Mostly set-up, but I'm interested how this will weave into the show's overall mythology.

The murder-older-"heroes" mystery had a good start. Although their warning method (marked photos) is a little silly.

I liked the semi-shock ending of discovered amnesia Peter.

FAMILY GUY: "Blue Harvest"

Something strange happened. Once upon a time, the SIMPSONS was the crown jewel of smart-funny animation. And FAMILY GUY was this bastard child only-sometimes-funny show. After one and a half seasons, FAMILY GUY found its own voice and figured out which jokes worked (mostly anyway), while SIMPSONS became safe and predictable.

So here we are. The SIMPSONS premiere is mildly OK-level entertainment, while FAMILY GUY gives us a laugh riot parody of STAR WARS. If you are a fan of the beloved space saga, you owe it to yourself to check out this very funny hour-long episode.

SIMPSONS: "He Loves to Fly and He D'ohs"

On the heels of the marginally-funny SIMPSONS MOVIE, the 19th (!) season begins. There's a clever bit where the opening sequence shows the town still devastated by the events from the movie. That was kinda funny. In the first few moments, we get a joke about the iPhone being price-lowered to 20¢. Heh. So I'm starting to think maybe smart-topical SIMPSONS may rear its head again.

But once some of the fun scatalogical humor gives way to the actual "plot", we are back to SIMPSONS-lite, which is where the show has been for the past 4-or-so seasons. It's ok, but it's not the appointment TV it was for its first 12 seasons.

Death Of Bart Allen: Flash Backward

The big reveal everyone’s been talking about finally hits stands as Bart Allen, the latest Scarlet Speedster, heads for that big marathon in the skies in The Flash: Fastest Man Alive #13. Rest in Peace, Bart Allen. It was inevitable that you would succumb to Didio’s killstick of death.

Remember those innocent days in the 1990s? People like to wholesale-bash the 90s as the comic book era of mega-crossovers, holographic covers, all-style-no-substance comics. But that’s rubbish. Spider-clone sagas aside, the 1990s brought us the Death of Superman, a brand-new Superboy, a retooled Legion of Superheroes, the wonder of Ordway’s Power of Shazam, Conner Hawke, the Birds of Prey, Morrison’s JLA run, Kyle Rayner, the joy of Young Justice, Waid’s classic run on the Flash and – last but not least - the infectious exuberance of a certain young speedster named Impulse. Not bad for a much-maligned era in comics. But these days, anything in the 1990s seems disposable at DC Comics.

When Dan Didio took over DC, there was a dramatic shift in tone that started with Identity Crisis. The new DC seemed to be intent on telling darker stories, while – ironically – changing many characters back to their Pre-Crisis, Superfriends-era constructs. All the changes wrought in the 90s (both good and bad, mind you) were undone. It sorta reads like Challenge of the Superfriends with an NC-17 rating. So, naturally, the light breezy fun of Young Justice and Impulse would need to be replaced in this new order. Geoff Johns re-imaged the Young Justice characters in a new Teen Titans series, with Bart emerging as the new Kid Flash. In Didio’s new DCDark, it seemed something had to be done with a character using emoticon thought balloons. Geoff Johns – to his credit - smartly retained a lot of Bart’s core personality and set him on a new ‘hero’s journey’ to start growing up in a new heroic identity.

Then came Infinite Crisis.

I won’t get into a whole critique of the series here, but there seemed to be a great desire to evoke a lot of the story beats of the first Crisis. Now, homages are all well and good. And certainly, the first Crisis has become a milestone, with certain panels and sequences that have been burned into the brains of fanboys far and wide. But some some of the story choices didn’t seem to be completely thought out. Exhibit A: Bart Allen becomes the Flash.

Now, wisely, DC didn’t kill Wally West; They merely took him ‘offstage’ for awhile. Poor Bart, though, was hyper-aged and brought make to evoke Wally’s sequence in Crisis on Infinite Earths #12, where he assumes the Flash mantle (a panel-by-panel recreation). The parallels are obvious. First Crisis: The 20-year old Wally West gives up his Kid Flash identity to assume the mantle of his fallen mentor, the Flash, and rockets into his ongoing (and successful) series. Infinite Crisis: The 20-year old Bart Allen gives up his Kid Flash identity to assume the mantle of his fallen mentor, the Flash, and rockets into his ongoing (and unsuccessful) series. Oops.

Flash: The Fastest Man Alive seemed like it had the success formula. Two Hollywood writers (comic book companies seem to hire anyone with a SAG card) and a ‘hot’ artist. Yet fans balked. Sure, sales were higher than the previous series, but that’s always the case with a new #1. The decline started immediately and that’s when it seems Bart was a marked man. But instead of trying to back-peddle and somehow restore the Bart fans liked to begin with... Well, death is the new order of the day at DCDark.

It’s a shame and a waste of a once-great character. Bart-as-Flash bore little resemblance to the Impulse character or even the Bart-as-Kid-Flash character in Teen Titans. By slowly stripping away his unique character traits, Bart became a DCDark character; The fun was sucked right out of him. And the sadder part is, as much as you may want to think it’s part of DC’s great master plan, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

In Didio’s analysis of the Countdown preview image, he mentions: “And then we also did one other bit, which may have been too subtle for the picture, and that was Flash having one foot on the statue and one foot off the statue, which meant that particular Flash, at that moment, had one foot in the grave.” Except, when you look at the picture... Neither of Flash’s feet are on the ground. Both are on the statue, According to Didio’s logic, that should keep Flash safe.

Then there’s something else... In this oh-so-meticulously crafted preview image, Flash’s eyes are blue. Bart’s eyes are yellowish-brown (consistently colored as yellowish-brown in both Teen Titans and Flash: The Fastest Man Alive). He's in Barry's costume. Barry has blue eyes. I don't believe that was Bart in that image-- but his series wasn't successful enough and they decided to kill him. And then also this: "Dan Didio inadvertently answered that the Flash in the teaser image released several weeks ago is Barry Allen and Red Robin is Jason Todd.." Hmmm...

Bart didn’t truly die at the hands of the Rogues. His death was the result of DC’s “act first and figure it out later” current editorial regime. It was more important to echo a segment in the first Crisis than to serve a mainstay character for the next ten years. It’s like they barely thought Bart-as-Flash through, and then just arbitrarily discarded him once they were done changing him beyond recognition. There’s a lot of talk about creators merely being “keepers” of these characters while they are working on them. Looks like someone needs to call Nanny 911.

I thought things were supposed to be brighter after Infinite Crisis. But I guess we are still stuck with DCDark, where character death is equated with “powerful storytelling.” Where old stories have to be ret-conned as “dark thrillers” with rape, death and gore we didn’t see that happened in-between those too-innocent panels. Where once-fun characters have to be changed into brooding heroes with psychological issue to be taken seriously.

Hey, isn’t THAT what we REALLY didn’t like about the 1990s?

30 Things I Learned Watching Smallville

I wrote these up as they occurred to me watching SMALLVILLE:

1. Lying to your best friends is more noble than just trusting them with the truth.

2. Evil rich people like classical music.

3. Sixteen year old kids can run coffeeshops as a small business while attending high school.

4. Science labs and newsrooms have fantastic ambient lighting.

5. Evil rich people like to hammer a point with a historical metaphor.

6. Never use a simple phrase when a pop-culture metaphor can be used. Bonus points if you can utilize the word "pulled." "He pulled a Harry Houdini" vs. "He disappeared."

7. People often use computer passwords that are not only sentimental, but easily guessable.

8. Kids in high school and college have an uncanny knowledge of 1970s and 1980s pop culture. [Or, you know, their writers do.]

9. A lot of street thugs wear skull caps and brand-new leather jackets.

10. Teenagers have favorite classical authors and poets.

11. Male best friends talk an awful lot about their feelings for each other.

12. Police officers like toothpicks.

13. Major metropolitan newspapers allow teenagers to write headlines and articles.

14. If you have an incriminating object in your possession, you should regularly take it out of hiding and stare at it.

15. You can download architectual schematics of any building right off the internet, regardless of the year it was built.

16. Ancient alien technology is Mac/PC compatible.

17. If you are concealing a secret, dart your eyes wildly.

18. People who live in mansions have super-high-tech security, but tend to leave their front doors wide open.

19. When you see a farm from a distance, you will hear a cow moo. It reinforces you are looking at a farm.

20. Millionaires in huge mansions prefer to spend all their time in a single room.

21. Friends with money will always fly in the "best doctors" and "best lawyers" in the world - at a moment's notice - to help another friend in need.

22. High School and college students can afford a brand new car at least 3 times a school year.

23. It's surprisingly easy to sneak into restricted government and civic areas. Also, Crime scenes with police tape are unspoken invitations to disrupt evidence.

24. Small towns are surprisingly unalarmed by a high volume of mysterious deaths.

25. Life DOES have a reset button! If you find yourself in an impossible situation: find a cave with alien scrawls, wait for the flashing lights, and everything will be made right again. Repeat as necessary.

26. Saving a girl's life countless times will not gain you any "trust points."

27. Listening to doctors is highly optional. People like to leave hospitals without doctor's consent, and often enter rooms when they are told they are restricted.

28. Head trauma is not nearly as serious as I believed it to be.

29. Farming largely consists of moving bales of hay from one side of the barn to the other side of the barn.

30. Never trust Lana Lang to do anything important. It never ends well.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sopranos Final Thoughts

"Oh, the movie never ends
It goes on and on and on and on"
- Journey "Don't Stop Believin'"

Ok, even for David Chase, that was a strangely loose ending. Upon some reflection, I didn't mind it as much as most of America. It wasn't exactly satisfying, but it wasn't the "We Got Punk'd!" situation everyone is claiming it is. Actually, the more I think about the ending, the more I like it.

First, for any fans of the show, the ending shouldn't have been that much of a shock. David Chase has written a mob show as a character study. It was never meant to be the epic mob saga of "Godfather" or even "Goodfellas." It was more a pulling back of the curtain on mob life, without completely condemning it or glorifying it. The show has never been about pat resolutions, sorta like life. Y'know, sometimes things don't get resolved.

That's the way David Chase has written it since day one. I actually found the show rather frustrating until I realized that each episode was thematic, dealing with a particular issue. Oftentimes, the C-plot about gunrunning or Meadow's school problems actually would mirror the larger theme the other characters were dealing with. Example: Meadow complaining about the poor treatment of Arab-Americans while the Tony is arrested for a minor gun charge. Both instances, a group of people are being 'persecuted' because of their background. That's how this show operates.

This episode title was "Made in America." A.J. talks about how f'ed up everything is, where everything is a sham and you work hard but it's for nothing. The public is charmed into thinking everything is rosy with shiny new cars and a pro-America attitude. In truth, A.J. points out in a clumsy way: the America dream is B.S.

Tony's version of the "American Dream" is something he achieves in this episode... but it's actually a sham. He avoids death, eliminates Phil and makes peace with Phil's boys. His relationship with Carmella is solidified. Meadow's pursuit of law is actually a 'noble attempt' to fight persecution of Italian-Americans and others. A.J. finally comes out of his funk and gets a real job and direction. The episode ends with the happy family meal.

But all that happiness is actually a sham. A fleeting moment that can be undone in a moment. The underlining theme of the episode is dark and foreboding: "Enjoy the present, because your future is uncertain."

We have a few subplots this episode, the biggest being A.J.'s turnaround. Remember, everything on this show is thematic. A.J. condemns the "American Dream" and the war and our dependence on oil. After Tony offers him the "path of least resistance" job, he's quickly living the sham he just condemned, driving his Beemer, rationalizing it's "good on gas." Another one is Uncle Junior, once a high-level mob guy, now in a state-run facility and he can't remember his own name. In Uncle Junior, Tony sees his own possible [dark] future, which is the opposite of what he hopes for.

A.J. Introduces the issue of America’s dependence on oil. Then we get several bits with car throughout the episode. Think of the metaphor of Phil's head being crushed by the SUV. The SUV, which has become the symbol for the modern suburban American Dream. Nothing with David Chase is random. Also consider that A.J.’s epiphany occurs when Tony’s car goes up in smoke. Tony’s “dream” going up in smoke? Also, A.J.’s Beemer (more on that in a moment).

There's more 'shams' in this episode. Like the Fed who isn't all he seems, not exactly serving his country as he should. And David Chase is specific about the little things: "We are now in Little Italy. Once this neighborhood spanned 40 blocks, but is now relegated to this one strip of shops and restaurants." The mob, like Little Italy, isn't what it used to be. The Dream Tony had... it no longer exists... much like Little Italy has been reduced to one street. It’s gone up in smoke, much like his car.

Tony's happiness, his achievement of the "American Dream" (or, in his case, The “Italian-American-Mafioso Dream”)is a thin veneer. He was unable to resolve any of his issues with Dr. Melfi. At any moment, his relationship with Carmella can fall apart. A.J. can tire of his job and be back in his depression (he will forever be without direction or conviction). Meadow, who started with pre-med, could easily change her mind again about law... or about Patrick (we never even learned why she broke up with Finn, who she was engaged to). The Feds could arrest Tony and throw him in jail (a threat always over his head). Someone could put a hit on him. Or maybe some wronged gangbangers might kill him out of revenge or impulse.

That's Tony's "Dream." That's the last 5 minutes.

We actually live Tony's "Dream" with him in those last moments of this episode. For the moment, he's happy. But the threat of jail looms. The threat of a hit looms. His family can be torn apart again. The camera lingering on the mysterious bathroom-guy and the gangbangers show you how Tony views everyone around him -- with suspicion and apprehension. Even the odd choices like Meadow's parallel parking... every moment, every deed... everything is apprehension to Tony (as David Chase creates for the viewer). The black screen is Tony's uncertainty about his own life, at every waking moment. Remember what Tony said about getting whacked in the first episode this season: You never see it coming.

The message: "Some dream."

So, even with understanding the ending and Chase's intention... it was too oblique. I think Chase purposely subverted viewers expectations by letting them draw their own ending. Did the bathroom guy shoot Tony? Do the gangbangers off him? Does the family die or just Tony? Doe Meadow witness her father's execution and escape? Or does the family just enjoy a pleasant meal and a slice of happiness for once? You decide!

But the very-deliberate camera choices and blacked-out screen seem like a complete refusal to say much of anything. What was the show about? What is it trying to say? Chase is very deliberate in everything he does. But it seems like sometimes the writer keeps his secrets, not allowing the viewer to actually experience his writer intention. The last scene is an odd choice (if perhaps a brave one). But Chase’s pretensions sometimes get in the way of his themes and messages. Chase's 'message', such as it is, is as baffling as A.J.'s rant about America.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Welcome to Snarkytainment

Greetings three people that are reading this.

Bill Walko here. I'm an artist, graphic designer, copywriter and pop-culture afficiando. I've been writing and posting my various mini-rants on TV, movies, comic books and entertainment at various places over the web. And the more I posted, the more people would tell me, "you should post this stuff somewhere."

Welcome to "somewhere."

Expect a sly sarcastic eye on all things media-related. So sit back and enjoy a slightly snarky look on entertainment. That's snarkytainment.