29 Jun

The Top 5 Episode of Community

Posted by Bryan White | Sunday June 29, 2014 | TVEye,Youtube

So NBC cancelled Community, a sitcom I consider one of the best in the history of television. This episode counts down my five favorite episodes of the show. Are your favorites on the list? Watch this episode of Cinema Suicide to find out!

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The Cinema Suicide theme song is ‘Boston Hardcore Caligula’ by Agoraphobic Nosebleed from their album, ‘Altered States of America’: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/altered-states-america-deluxe/id293674799

This week’s music bed is ‘Overdrive’ by American Sharks from their album, ‘American Sharks’: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/american-sharks/id776732932

15 Sep

The Top 10 Greatest Horror TV shows of all time

Posted by Bryan White | Saturday September 15, 2012 | TVEye

I recently submitted a top 10 list to Brian Solomon’s Vault of Horror blog as part of a sort of collaborative top 10 list of horror TV shows but the catch there is that we ordered these shows sorted by favorite and in the end, it’s going to be a single list and you’ll never get to see my actual submission nor did I get to extrapolate in exhausting detail why I happen to think that these shows are winners. I figured I’d throw it up here because I don’t think I’ve ever done any such thing. We used to have the TV Eye column but that covered what was happening in the world of television horror, science fiction and fantasy from week to week and didn’t actually represent what Tony Nunes or myself happened to think were actually good shows. So here it is, the official Cinema Suicide greatest horror TV shows of all time list in order of greatness!

Doctor Who: The TARDIS10. Doctor Who
I’ve had this conversation with a more than few people. With the return of The Doctor several years back, Doctor Who found its way back into the hearts of nerds everywhere and it’s a beautiful thing. It has routinely found its way on to top ten science fiction lists with such regularity these days, making sure only to reference Eccleston, Tenant and Smith and eschewing the notion of the other eight doctors that it’s fairly safe to assume that Doctor Who in its present incarnation is a towering modern epic of science fiction proportions but I dare say, it’s also one of the finest horror shows ever produced. I mean that! Straight back to the William Hartnell Doctor. Doctor Who is manic and cheeky and fun and dominated with future tech and time travel and all that awesome shit but it’s also peppered with arcs and episodes absolutely steeped in terrifying shit. Right from the get go you had the horror of the Cybermen, these hollowed out shells of people stripped down and replaced with machine parts, their awful modulated voices emerging from open mouths, hardly moving to speak the words. It’s some severely creepy shit. During the Tom Baker era (my personal favorite) you had The Ark In Space, which finds The Doctor and his companions on board a satellite orbiting a dead Earth where an alien organism has infected the cryogenically frozen humans on board, turning one of them into something else with the intention of turning them all into something else. In recent times, Stephen Moffat has turned up the heat with episodes about werewolves, the “Are you my mummy?” ghost kid, The Family of Blood and god damn it, The Weeping Angels (in what is my favorite time travel related episode of anything). I maintain that Doctor Who cribbed some inspiration from Hammer’s previous scientist dealing with scary shit, Professor Quatermass.

American Horror Story9. American Horror Story
I would ordinarily have a really hard time putting a series on this list that as of this writing has only one complete season of TV and hasn’t even started its second (though, that’s right around the corner) but the first season of American Horror Story delivered so fully on its promise of spooks and scares that I just couldn’t leave it off the list. So effective was it that the mid-season ending left us on such a weird spot that I wasn’t sure where they could possibly take it from there but when the show resumed it went even further off the fuckin’ rails! It managed to buck TV horror conventions and in a day and age when a haunted house movie, typically an extremely restrained affair, shows you everything and leaves nothing to the deadly machinations of your own imagination, American Horror Story went there, damn it! They kept their shit in check and gave you some spooky twists and turns in the story. I knock points off for Dylan McDermott’s affair subplot dragging on a bit too long but side players, Denis O’Hare, Evan Peters and Jessica Lange had me glued to the set week after week. The forthcoming follow up season takes (most of) the same cast, winds the clock back to the 60’s and sets the show in a completely unrelated insane asylum. Who comes up with this? This is a bold, fucking insane idea and it’s pretty much what basic cable horror needs right now. And all of this came from one of the dudes who created Glee.

Fringe8. Fringe
Fringe has had enough time on TV these days to be a fully fermented product that in spite of fairly drippy ratings, manages to stay on the air in true TV cult land. If ever there was a show that was the spiritual successor to The X-Files, Fringe is it. In its beginnings it was an extremely entertaining show even as it struggled to figure out what it was in the midst of a streak of monster of the week episodes but somewhere in between all these mad science gone horribly wrong episodes, Fringe started to tell a story about black hat scientists working underground in accordance with a secret manuscript. Of course, these were the days of Lost and every motherfucking genre show on TV had to have some extraordinarily convoluted metaplot running behind the scenes of week to week mayhem but it eventually figured itself out and gave us lots and lots of human bodies rendered to protoplasm, cleaved in half by closing pan-dimensional gates, spontaneous human combustion and whatnot and it was all kept on course by a solid cast of players who made the trains run on time. Fringe cribbed conspiracy theory and black science mythology from some of my favorite conspiracy theory sources, The Philadelphia Experiment and The Montauk Project and once it figured out what it was doing, it ran absolutely wild with great ideas for weekly horror.

Twin Peaks: Laura Palmer7. Twin Peaks
I had a hard time with this one seeing as how Twin Peaks isn’t exactly horror but it’s deeply unsettling and seriously weird in such a way that it puts its viewership on edge. Much of David Lynch’s work is like that. It’s hard to pin down to any one genre but everything he does is so uniformly strange and deliberately engineered to make viewers uncomfortable by genuine mystery that it sort of drifts into horror territory without ever realizing it. That is, until the show’s cancellation in the second season when the show’s narrative went completely bonkers, introducing the very idea of The Black Lodge, The Man From Another Place and so on. The mystery of Laura Palmer’s murder, clearly wrapped up in the film Fire Walk With Me, kept people hanging on and made the show one of the most off-beat noirs of all time but it was the addition of the usual David Lynch surrealism that made it so incredibly strange and compelling. Twin Peaks played itself out like taking in a production of Our Town during a particularly bad acid trip. It expanded on the themes of small town life’s facade and the corruption that lives just beneath the surface, ideas Lynch had taken for a ride with Blue Velvet only this time around, thanks to the Writer’s Guild going on strike and leaving TV networks hungry for content, Lynch had an easy in and provided prime time television with something so incredibly uncommercial and spooky that its cancellation midway through the second season came as little surprise to anyone.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer6. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
For the longest time, because I thought the original movie was so incredibly stupid, I held a firm grudge against the Buffy TV show which looked supremely lame from the perspective of someone who had already judged the show based not on its merits but on some bullshit uninformed opinion. Then I caught an episode called Hush and my world changed. Hush aired during the fourth season and by this point it had established itself with a firm mythology that left my head spinning. Angel and Buffy had established their tragic romance. Riley and The Initiative had been introduced. Faith had already torn through Sunnydale. Willow had a werewolf boyfriend and there was all this other stuff happening that suggested an ongoing narrative arc that is like heroin to me. Growing up on the continuing adventures of comic book super heroes left me with a craving for a show that did more than tell a single story in an hour or half hour of TV. Buffy did just that by lifting the narrative mechanism that made The X-Files so much fun by giving each season an ongoing challenge from week to week but lifting things from time to time with an monster of the week. By the time the credits rolled after Hush, I had raided my sister’s complete collection of VHS episodes taped from TV, including the pilot, and was caught up in no time by binging on four or five episodes a night. By the time the show reached its series finale I was a walking encyclopedia of all things Buffy and Angel. I actually think Angel is the better show but you couldn’t have one without the other so I’ll include Angel by implication. I still pester Stephen Moffat and Russel Davies from time to time via Twitter to inspire them to actually produce the Ripper series that was proposed but never followed up with.

Dark Shadows5. Dark Shadows
I’ve moaned about this in the past and pointed my finger at Hollywood numerous times about its contempt for the horror genre. It hates horror. The people who produce it are viewed as Hollywood pariahs and the people who consume it are viewed as degenerates whom you probably want to keep your children away from. Unfortunately, horror makes a lot of money and few things are as perfect an example of that than Dark Shadows. Dark Shadows began life as a marginally horror-flavored soap opera on ABC in 1966 but when ratings flagged and it was at risk of being cancelled, series creator Dan Curtis introduced the vampire Barnabas Collins, played by Jonathan Frid, and the show took off dramatically in a new direction. What was originally played down and kept to subtleties with the occasional ghost story all of a sudden involved the undead, werewolves, zombies and other horrors on a regular rotation. The dark Collins family secret of the tragic Barnabas took over the show and on a daily basis, this is a soap opera, after all, the show ran through a series of particularly ridiculous but extremely fun episodes, something in excess of 1,000. Unlike other horror TV shows and because it was an ongoing daily soap, Dark Shadows introduced the idea of the long narrative arc to genre television. Prior to Dark Shadows, this was unheard of and it helped the show sail deep into cult TV territory, constantly being rediscovered by new generations of fans and landing its own film adaptation (which I’m told is positively rancid) and dropping mad reference on Mad Men. You can also catch up with many episodes from the run on Netflix and for the truly dedicated, I’m told there’s an outrageously priced boxed set which has every episode from the run.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker4. Kolchak: The Night Stalker
To most people, Darren McGavin is probably best known as the foul mouthed dad from A Christmas Story but for those of us with a yen for old school TV, we immediately recognize him as Chicago journalist, Karl Kolchak, a writer with a weird tendency to find his way into crimes involving the supernatural. It began as a super popular made for TV movie called The Night Stalker, adapted by Richard Matheson from a novel by Jeff Rice and turned out to be really popular. Popular enough to find its way to a weekly series. Week after week, Kolchak pursues all manner of beasts in expertly written episodes that were ground zero for the Monster of the Week concept. This would later translate to shows like The X-Files, Buffy and Supernatural. Kolchak wasn’t exactly scary as broadcast standards at the time wouldn’t really let it go there like the TV movies that preceded it did and the vibe is actually pretty appropriate for younger audiences but it’s a quirky show that’s a lot of fun and the very foundation for weekly horror to come. Previously, the only horror on TV came in the form of anthology serieses like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and One Step Beyond. Dark Shadows had established the idea of the ongoing horror arc but Kolchak was the galvanizing moment for the generation that grew up with it. Unfortunately, it aired during the same tragic Friday at 10pm slot that killed Star Trek and suffered miserable ratings and was gone after a single season. Lucky for you, however, you can see them all, minus the TV movies on Netflix.

The Cryptkeeper3. Tales From The Crypt
My family had an intermittent subscription to HBO but it came and went depending on how much my parents were watching it. So when we had it, I would throw in a video tape around 10pm, set it to EP mode and record as much as the tape would allow throughout the night in order to catch those weird early morning blasts of this show. This is one of those shows that everyone remembers. It was minor cultural phenomenon. It spawned Cryptkeeper toys and a surge in sales of the EC reprints of the comic and how could a horror fan not want a piece of the action? It was spawned by some of Hollywood’s most fun directors, guys like Robert Zemeckis and Richard Donner. Week after week it featured a new tale directed  by the last people you’d ever expect to turn up in such a place. I mean, Michael J. Fox and Arnold Schwarzenneger not to mention actual horror directors like Tom Holland and Tobe Hooper. They also had a group of killer writers. People like Frank Darabont, Richard Matheson and Fred Dekker. They captured the essence of those awesome comics perfectly with unsavory characters meeting ironic ends and the results could be somewhere between extremely funny and exceptionally horrifying. Everyone who ever watched the show has a favorite episode, too. I’m curious to know what yours is. Mine, an episode which actually haunted me a bit, is called Television Terror, which features Morton Downey Jr. trying to stir up ratings for his ridiculous TV show by locking himself in a haunted house that turns out to be actually haunted.

Rod Serling2. The Twilight Zone
I am related in a distant way to Rod Serling. True story, bro.  But I’m not letting my relation color my judgement. If that had happened this would be in the first place spot, but that is reserved for another show. No. I realize that this might piss off a lot of people who hold dear to the idea that this is probably the greatest horror TV of all time but you must understand. It was a tough call. See, The Twilight Zone is the template for all horror and sci-fi TV to come in its wake. Week after week. Season after season. The Twilight Zone delivered some of the most clever short format anthology horror the world had ever seen. It had competition in the form of The Outer Limits and that show also had its merits but The Twilight Zone had Rod fucking Serling at the helm, that amazing theme song and a menu of extremely memorable episodes that everyone remembers. Burgess Meredith, henpecked and desperate to just crack a book and leave the world behind, finally left with that time after the bomb only to break his very much needed glasses. William Shatner in the grip of panic as a horrible monster on the wing of his airplane disassembles the engine. “The rest of the book! To Serve Man! It’s a cookbook!” This show was absolutely pivotal and even though I’ve seen them all, I still make time to catch the marathons on Syfy even though I can just catch them whenever on Netflix.

The X-Files1. The X-Files
I suspect that the key to a classic horror TV series is the theme music. Four of these shows are also on my greatest horror and sci-fi TV theme songs list. For many of my generation, TV in the 90’s was defined by either Seinfeld or Friends. If it’s an indication as to what sort of person I am, I have probably seen a combined total of four episodes of both of those shows and I can’t tell you much about them except that one show featured a terminal romance between someone named Ross and someone named Rachel, Elaine was a pretty lousy dancer and that Jerry Seinfeld played a guy named Jerry. I think. However, if you have the time and the desire, I can sit you down sometime and explain in excruciating detail every last motherfucking piece of the X-Files puzzle. Every monster of the week. Every appearance of the Cigarette Smoking Man. I can tell you where Mulder got his nickname (Spooky) from. For me and my kind, we were all singularly dedicated to The X-Files. Some of those assholes also made a habit out of Xena: Warrior Princess but you have to cut them some slack. The Internet was still a new thing back then and readily available lesbian porn wasn’t quite the abundant resource that is, say, right now. The X-Files was a perfection of timing. The post-Reagan/Bush 90’s was a time when public suspicion of the government was at an all time high. The Cold War was pretty much a thing of the past, the potential nuclear war that would kill us all was a shadow of its former threat. What the fuck do you get paranoid about? Aliens. That’s what. Aliens from space. Not Mexico. It was brilliant science fiction. Scary as fuck when it wanted to be with episodes about The Fluke Man and Eugene Tooms, The X-Files could maintain that horror vibe even when it was funny as hell in what is my all-time favorite episode, Jose Chung’s From Outer Space. Like The Twilight Zone, it lured in legendary writers like Stephen King and William Gibson and had a weekly cast of outstanding guest stars like Brad Douriff, Bruce Campbell, Michael McKean, Peter Boyle and Steve Railsback. Ordinarily, the final Duchovny-less seasons would disqualify The X-Files from my top spot since I figure the number one show on this list was going to have to be flawless from start to finish but let’s face it. No show, not even the later seasons of The Twilight Zone manage to stay that fresh. Plus, the running mythology of the show, the alien contact coverup, the fate of Mulder’s sister, Scully’s cancer, The Roush company and The Syndicate. Even in its waning years, peaking with the ultimate fate of everyone’s favorite b-characters, The Lone Gunmen, The X-Files maintained a consistent pace fusing horror and science fiction in a way that was extremely versatile and entertaining to the last drop. The X-Files is a show that I dearly miss.

Honorable mentions:

Friday the 13th: The Series
A product of Friday the 13th in name only, I badly wanted to put this show on the list but it missed more than it hit and early episodes were far better than later episodes. The idea was very novel, cousins inherit their uncle’s antique shop only to discover that a Faustian deal left items sold from the shop cursed. Every week had them tracking down and recovering a cursed item whats power had typically been discovered by its present owner. Mayhem ensued. It was a good show but suffered a casting change somewhere in the middle of season one and lost a bit of its footing in further episodes. I guess it runs in syndication on some of those mythical all-horror channels that seem to run only on the rarest of American cable networks. I think it was a Canadian production that went to network syndication as soon as it was released and it ran on Sunday afternoons for me locally with a syndicated (and extremely gory) War of the Worlds show right after it that featured the guy from Predator who kept telling big vagina jokes to everyone.

Forever Knight
Forever Knight used to run late nights on some of the former UHF channels turned into Fox/UPN/WB affiliates somewhere in the 90’s before it found a wider audience in reruns on the Sci Fi channel. That is, after it had a brief run on network primetime. This was probably the first vampire TV show that I can think of that embraced the Anne Rice model of the vampire. Prior to Forever Knight, vampires were still the predatory villains of horror but Forever Knight was one of the first instances that I can think of that took that stereotype and turned the vampire into its own tragic hero with some pretty significant flaws. The show suffered from some rotten acting and cheesy writing at times but it spawned a fascinating mythology and a cult audience that was as hungry for new episodes as fans of Dark Shadows or The X-Files.

1 Jul

TVEye for July 1st: True Blood, Falling Skies, Game of Thrones, The Killing, and More

Posted by Tony Nunes | Friday July 1, 2011 | TVEye

It’s been two months since the last TVEye and damn have I missed a lot. There have been a ton of TVEye worthy finale’s that I’ve missed reporting due to the hiatus, including the memorable and shocking season ends to GAME OF THRONES and THE KILLING. Now, summer is here and I’m back to report on the new seasons of TRUE BLOOD and FALLING SKIES, with a wish list for some new and returning favorites including BREAKING BAD, EUREKA, and more.

First, a brief reflection on the controversial Game of Thrones and The Killing finale’s. TV watchers stand by their shows with such devotion and familiarity that from time to time they can be thrown off guard, angered even, by the direction their beloved series has taken. Take Lost for example. Lost existed on a plane of mind-bending storytelling so compelling that it led to one of the most devoted cult bases of any show ever. When the show ended however, it polarized the very cult it created by taking what many (present company included) deemed an easy out. The payoff seemed cheap, and the years of devoted viewing seemed a waste. The Soprano’s finale had an equally polarizing effect as it concluded, quite simply, that life goes on. I found this to be a fitting end. Thrones and Killing just ended their respective seasons, not their actual shows, so cliffhangers should be expected for a season finale. However, both shows managed to end with a controversial jolt, causing even their respective channels to step into the light and defend them.

GAME OF THRONES – They killed off their lead without even making it to the end of their first season. The show’s best and most important character Eddard Stark (Sean Bean) was executed, beheaded at the behest of the pompous boy king Joffrey. I was SHOCKED! Granted, the show follows the popular George R.R. Martin book series, which I’ve not read. As my wife informs me, the first season of the show, including the beheading, follows closely with the first book in Martin’s series. But still, it was shocking, and it actually angered a lot of fans of the show who have not read the books. I found it to be a bold and clever move, as beheaded Eddard can and will stir a lot more drama than living Eddard. The shock and disappointment of some of the shows fans led HBO to release a statement standing by the decision. It was unforeseen sure, but I say get over it, Game of Thrones is one of the greatest new shows to come along in ages. On the week after Eddard’s death, another shock as the show killed off another huge character, the horse king Khal Drogo (Jason Momoa). Then the show ended, with the amazingly strong female lead Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) climbing into the fire with the body of her beloved Khal and her three dragon eggs, her favorite possessions. Panic came over me. They wouldn’t? Then, the final shot of season one began, with Daenerys emerging naked from the fire, a baby dragon breastfeeding off of her as two more climb onto her shoulder. Wow! And so ended the first season of my newest favorite series.

THE KILLING – AMC’s fantastic slow-burner murder mystery was a unique take on the played out cop genre, a class of shows that normally work off of the same old tried and true procedural narrative as all the rest. But The Killing was different, showing every step of every character for the days following the murder of young Rosie Larsen. The show appeared to be a one season mystery, and viewers, including myself expected the mystery to wrap up at seasons end. It didn’t, instead ending with more questions and no definite answer as to who killed Rosie. As a slow-burner, The Killing requires a certain level of patience, which, if not for the great performances of its cast, might have been a lot to ask from its audience. I found the new questions raised on the finale to be intriguing, and while disappointed at first, I’m excited for a second season. Many others were not as forgiving, and AMC like HBO, had to release a letter backing the decision.

Now onto the new stuff…

TRUE BLOOD – Where do I start? Well, the opening was like some sort of bad Syfy network Saturday movie with Sookie in the fairytale facade of a sand covered world of deformed faeries. It’s the opening of a new season, which basically sets the bar really low in my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the show, in fact, I still enjoy it for its entertainment value, but I do think its traced way off track from what it started out as. Season one presented a show that was in many ways a reflection of the gay rights movement, using vampires as the “societal outcasts.” It was quite brilliant. Now it’s become a processing plant for mythical creatures. We’ve had faeries, vampires, witches, werewolves, shape shifters, and more. There are fleeting moments of visceral violence and sexy creature on creature action, but the fun of the show just doesn’t make up for the lack of compelling angles. The new twist of the season is that Sookie was off in Faerie land for a year, thou to her it was only a few minutes. Arriving back in Bon Temps, she finds Tara off as an MMA fighting lesbian in another state, Bill the new vampire king of Louisiana, Jason a devoted cop, and Eric as obsessed as ever with Sookie, the girl he claims as his own. There was some interesting stuff involving Lafayette and a witch, and I’ll be interested in seeing how his storyline works out this season. As for everyone else, except maybe the vampires, I hope they can form this season into a more compelling and less ridiculous hour of television. We’ll see.

FALLING SKIES – This new alien invasion series on TNT, is supposedly “co-conceived” by Steven Spielberg, but it just doesn’t hold up to the quality expected with the Spielberg brand attached. Starring Noah Wyle of E.R. fame, the show exists in a kind of current apocalyptic world, not post, in which an alien race has colonized the planet. I am the most finicky person when it comes to the look of an alien in a movie or on a television show. I know, free reign can exist with the look of aliens because for all we know they don’t exist, but still, I have my qualms. My biggest qualm (which seems to be the trend) is the use of all CGI alien creatures, which Falling Skies does plenty of. The look of the aliens is like a cross between the aliens from Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, and the Fly from David Cronenberg’s remake. After two weeks on the air I’m still not sold on the show. It follows a group of survivors and rebels gearing up to fight the alien hordes. For some reason the aliens kidnap young teens to whom they attach a spinal control device which enslaves them to collect scrap metal. Yes, I’m serious, and I’m sure we’ll find out why somewhere down the line. Basically though, Falling Skies is another Jericho or Walking Dead, about a group of infighting survivalists trying to get by in their post-apocalyptic worlds. It’s entertaining enough, but lacks any real originality or depth. The characters are wooden, the plot is overdone, and the aliens look and move like cartoons. But if you like alien attack stories, you might still want to give this one a try for the popcorn value alone.

Other new shows to look forward to this summer TV season include AMC’s greatest show BREAKING BAD, back for its fourth season on July 17th. After last seasons truly cliffhanging finale, I cannot wait to see what hell Walter will unleash when he no longer has anything to lose. Don’t miss BBC America’s re-airing of the great, but short lived Sci-Fi series OUTCASTS. Also returning is a fun Monday night lineup of EUREKA (my favorite Syfy offering), WAREHOUSE-13, and the new superhuman abilities show that actually looks promising, ALPHAS. Keep an eye to the Syfy website as well for the highly original and incredibly well-produced and long awaited web series THE MERCURY MEN premiering July 25th. Also returning on Syfy in July is HAVEN, the series that I loved to hate last summer. Adult Swim on Cartoon Network introduces a new live action parody show about police procedurals called NTSF: SD: SUV on July 21st. On the animation front, FUTURAMA just returned for a new season on Comedy Central, BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD make their triumphant return to MTV later this summer, the Cartoon Network revival of THUNDERCATS airs in July, and G4 is airing the MARVEL ANIME parallel universe versions of Iron Man, X-Men, Blade, and Wolverine as well.

TVEye will return again in a few weeks, and every few weeks there after to keep you up to speed on all the goings-on in the world of television. Stay Tuned!

29 Apr

TVEye for April 29: Game of Thrones, Fringe & The Killing

Posted by Tony Nunes | Friday April 29, 2011 | TVEye

This week’s TVEye takes another amazing trip to Westeros with Game of Thrones, a detour down an apocalyptic alternate universe in Fringe, and a slow and rainy day in Seattle on The Killing.  

GAME OF THRONES (Episode 2 ‘The Kingsroad’) Biggest show on television right now?  You betcha.  Is Game of Thrones the best show on television right now?  This remains to be seen, but so far, after only two episodes, it’s making a damn strong case.  As the well-read dwarf Tyrion Lannister, Peter Dinklage is setting the bar high for his fellow cast mates.  With an arrogant air about him, Dinklage plays Tyrion to his most intelligent and appropriately selfish levels.  Sean Bean is equally perfect as the strong and sympathetic lead Eddard Stark.  Bean, known for playing the similar role of Boromir in LOTR, really shines with this type of character.  It’s impossible not to instantly love Eddard for his unwavering strength of character and genuine love and respect for his children.  It’s the interactions between him and his children that I find the most intriguing among all of the Thrones characters.  A touching moment between him and his bastard son John Snow seals a common love and respect between two characters that are supposed to be far removed by the strict protocols of royal servitude.  But they’re not.  Eddard breaks protocol with his youngest daughter as well, a precocious young tomboy who antagonizes a dangerous quarrel with the weak and spoiled teenaged Lannister Prince.  Eddard sides with his two daughters; however the king forces him to kill his older daughter’s dire wolf as retribution.  Eddard’s youngest son, now in a coma caused from being pushed off of a tower is the target for an assassin who attempts to kill him in the night.  The Lannister Queen and her twin brother, with whom she is in a secret incest relationship, hire the assassin who is instantly torn asunder by the boys dire wolf.  Each of the Stark children, including Snow have their own wolf.  The family dynamic is so strong in Thrones, and the Lannister and Stark drama far overshadows the storylines of Daenerys Targaryen, her family, and the Dothrakian barbarians she has married into.  I’ve not read the books, but my wife (a huge fan) insists that Daenerys will play a huge role as the story progresses.  I said it last week and I’ll repeat again this week; Game of Thrones is epic television.  Hell, its epic storytelling period.  The production value of this series is staggering, and as Thrones prepares to further introduce us to Castle Black and the Great Wall of the north, it will most certainly continue to amaze.

FRINGE (Episode 63 ‘6:02 AM EST’) The last two episodes of Fringe have been pretty special, sending my sci-fi sensibilities tingling into fanboy euphoria.  Two weeks ago we had the animated subconscious of Olivia in which Leonard Nimoy, Joshua Jackson, and John Noble fought there way through a horde of zombies and onto a floating zeppelin.  Yeah.  What’s better than that?  Last weeks episode was literally the start of the apocalypse, nothing big.  Walternate uses the DNA of Peter’s newborn (and still unknown) son to start the mysterious doomsday machine.  The universal rift this causes leads to massive universal displacement and results in the sympathetic powering up of the machine built on our side as well.  This was a duel universe episode, flashing from one to the other as the chaos ensued.  Walternate proclaims that his actions have forced him to “destroy one universe to save one.”  Fauxlivia, in a surprise move that makes one question how different her and Olivia (her other universe self) really are, tries to stop Walternate and cross over to warn Peter.  She fails.  Olivia meanwhile teams with Sam Weiss, who is revealed to be the author of the First Peoples Books, and from the looks of it, will be a major player in the final 2 episodes of the season.  The most heart wrenching scenes in Fringe history have come throughout the season as Walter grapples with his role as the instigator of this apocalyptic rift of universes.  We’ll see if he is indeed as responsible as he believes.  I have a hunch he is not.  In the meantime, I look forward to the final episodes of this intense and scientifically amazing season.  Forget 2012, the Apocalypse is now!

THE KILLING (Episode 5) If you’re a regular TVEye reader than you know of my love for AMC.  They have the historically accurate genius of Mad Men.  Then there’s the ambitious zombie epic Walking Dead.  And don’t forget their greatest series, the darkest and most uncomfortable series on television, Breaking Bad.  With their new series The Killing, AMC has done it again.  The Killing is a slow burner crime story in which every little clue and detail is obsessed over carefully, with no jumpy moments of unrealistic pacing.  Like the amazing Twin Peaks once did, The Killing focuses on one crime throughout the show, the murder of the young Rosie Larsen.  As evidence surfaces and suspects are processed and released, we are treated to every facet of the case as it happens.  This means that the Larsen family and all those involved are shown in equally slow pace.  The heart of this story is Mireille Enos’ portrayal of Detective Sarah Linden, the lead homicide detective on the case.  Enos’ subtlety drives such realism in the character that she almost becomes comforting to the audience, haunting the dark and tangled crime scenes with an over-involved psyche of calm and safety.  The other major player in The Killing is its setting.  The gloomy, overcast rain drenched streets along the Seattle (shot in Vancouver) waterfront provide a perfect home for such a dark and depressing story.  This week’s episode revealed some of the mysterious organized crime connections of Rosie’s fathers past.  Mr. Larsen is a deep and complex character, holding strong for his family while breaking down behind the scenes.  It will be interesting to see where his involvement goes in future episodes.  How he fits within the tangled web of Rosie’s teacher, her past flings, and the political campaign of a prominent councilman will surely begin to unravel as the season moves along.  No matter how it turns out, The Killing is great storytelling, not as weird as Twin Peaks (my all time favorite show) but surprisingly dark and disturbing in its stark realism.  AMC has done it yet again.

Stay Tuned for more TVEye next week!

22 Apr

TVEye for April 22: Game of Thrones

Posted by Tony Nunes | Friday April 22, 2011 | TVEye

It’s been a short hiatus but TVEye is back!

In 2010 it was The Walking Dead.  In 2011 there shouldn’t be a single doubt as to what’s been the most anticipated new show to hit our TV’s.  HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s beloved fantasy book series Game of Thrones premiered the first episode of its first season this past Sunday night.  I have to say, I’m hooked, so hooked in fact that I’ve decided to devote this week’s TVEye to the premiere and nothing more. 

In full disclosure, I have not read a single page of any one of Martin’s books, and will be reviewing the series simply from the standpoint of a fan of television and fantasy with no basis for comparison.  My lovely (nerdy) wife on the other hand is an AVID fan of the books, and I’ll use her judgment to make mention each week to whether or not, as a fan, she’s impressed or disappointed with the course of the series. 

HBO does it time and time again.  Last years Boardwalk Empire premiere was epic in scale, and blew my mind with its sheer strength of production value, ensemble, and scope.  When it comes to scope and production value thou, I’m not too sure anything has accomplished what Game of Thrones has in TV history.  People refer to TV as the lesser little brother to film, but you know, networks like HBO and AMC seem to be outshining the film industry at this moment in time.  Game of Thrones might just be the new high watermark for the medium.  Medieval Fantasy at its core is a genre of rich detail, massive scale, awe inspired effects and complex story.  Peter Jackson delivered it with the Lord of the Rings films, but film is a horse of an entirely different color, with bigger budgets and shorter total run-times.  This raised a question with me weeks before seeing the pilot; could Game of Thrones live up to the demands of its genre?     Continue Reading »

28 Mar

TVEye for March 28; Fringe, Community, & Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Posted by Tony Nunes | Monday March 28, 2011 | TVEye

It’s been awhile, but I’m back with a new TVEye looking at this past weeks FRINGE, COMMUNITY, and BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLDOutcasts ended last week, and although I raved about it a few weeks back, I found myself quite disappointed with its end.  Turns out it was cancelled all together, so good Sci-Fi TV continues to be an allusive genre.  Except for Fringe of course.

FRINGE (Ep. 61 “Bloodline”) Before I dive into last Friday’s episode, I want to go back briefly a couple of weeks to episode 50, “Os,” which opened with John Noble and Jorge Garcia striking up a bong.  How awesome was that?  Hurley and Walter Bishop, a classic JJ Abrams TV duo.  Anyways, “Bloodline” was another in a season of stellar episodes.  An alternate universe episode, “Bloodline” followed Fauxlivia’s abduction during which her kidnappers accelerated her pregnancy.  In the mystery of who took her and why, Walternate finds it necessary to brief the Fringe team on the Olivia/Fauxlivia universe swap that took place earlier in the season.  He also tells them that the baby she is carrying is his grandson, a result of the dishonest affair between Peter and Fauxlivia.  The dramatic timeline of the episode plays on the fact that Fauxlivia has VPE, a genetic defect that would kill her and the baby if she were to give birth.  Because of the accelerated pregnancy, the VPE doesn’t have any affect, and Fauxlivia gives birth to what is sure to be the first biuniversal (concieved in one born in another) baby ever born.  Turns out (not a huge shock) Walternate was behind the kidnapping, a ploy to prevent her from terminating the pregnancy.  It looks like Walternate has a plan to use the child as a replacement for Peter in the season’s mysterious doomsday machine, which only Peter can control.  Perhaps the baby is a genetic match.  I can’t wait to see what this machine actually does.  I think it makes everlasting gobstoppers.  Let me just say, Anna Torv deserves an Emmy for her role(s) on Fringe.  Not only is she playing Olivia and Fauxlivia, two contrasting molds of the same person, she’s also taken on the role of William Bell whose soul entered hers in last week’s episode.  Torv’s cadence when playing the Leonard Nimoy originated Bell is so spot on that every time she speaks it creeps the hell out of me.  She’s really a strong actress with a great skill in playing subtlety.  Fringe won’t be new for another three weeks, so I implore anyone who has missed this season to take this time to catch up.  After all, it was just renewed for a fourth season, and it looks like TV’s best (current) Sci-Fi series isn’t done yet.  Thank God!

COMMUNITY (Ep. 44 “Critical Film Studies”) It’s Abed’s birthday, and Jeff plans a pretty awesome Pulp Fiction themed party to celebrate the occasion like a bunch of Bad Mother Fuckers.  In fact, the first gift Jeff gives Abed is a BMF wallet straight from the film.  This was another Community doing that which it does best; spoof, I mean satire (sorry Abed) our pop culture world.  Imagine if you will Chang (Ken Jeong) as Butch Coolidge, Jeff (Joel McHale) as Vincent Vega, Britta (Gillian Jacobs) as Mia Wallace, Shirley (Yvette Nicole Brown) as Jules Winnfield, and Pierce (Chevy Chase) as the Gimp.  You heard correct, Chevy Chase spent the episode in a leather Gimp outfit complete with zipper mouth.  Imagine some sort of National Lampoon’s Eastern European Sex Vacation film if you will.  Creepily awesome!  Jeff’s real gift to Abed was the actual (turned out to be a fake) mysterious briefcase from Pulp Fiction, which Troy and Chang obsess over for the entire episode until accidently causing the light inside to ignite the case in flames.  Abed meets Jeff at a fancy restaurant, and Jeff plans to take him to the surprise party.  Abed has another idea, staging the fancy dinner as his own spoof (I mean satire) of My Dinner With Andre.  Here, the episode went to some pretty poignant and very well acted discussions between Jeff and a very strong performing Danny Puddi as Abed.  The conversation within the parody is in a sense a parody of Community itself, a discussion on relevance and pop culture that touches on some great points about the nature of conversation.  Pretty brilliant writing expertly performed by an underrated and fine-tuned ensemble.  Abed persists as his cold disconnected self in the end, relating his emotional foundation to Data from Star Trek TNG, Johnny Five, Mork, and Hal.  In the end, pop culture is what allows many of us to relate, and that’s the genius of Community.  Also genius, Chevy Chase in a Gimp outfit.

BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD (Ep. 53 “Battle of the Superheroes”) I’ll admit, this is a Cartoon Network show aired on an hour where kids are most likely its intended audience.  That said, I still enjoyed the hell out of it.  The Brave and the Bold is a total spoof, part Mad Magazine (literally), part Adam West Batman, all hilarious satire of old school DC.  “Battle of the Superheroes” had it all, Mister Mxyzptlk, Metallo, Toyman, Braniac, and even the shrunken city of Kandor.  If you’re a comic nerd you’ve guessed by now that the episode is set in Metropolis, with Superman and Batman teaming up to fight a rising crime wave.  When Superman comes into contact with some red kryptonite, he turns into a violent egomaniacal nightmare, taking down Metropolis and turning its people against him.  Jimmy Olsen and Lois Lane have a hilariously underhanded conversation about Superman’s mood swing with Olsen remarking that he’s “turned in to a real di…” and Lois finishing “frent person.”  This brand of humor is peppered throughout the series, a show that playfully pokes fun at the iconic and ridiculously cheesy past of a comic character that has of late become the most serious and dark.  It’s quite refreshing.  Krypto, Superman’s superhero dog was even there to fight alongside the duo.  The inevitable Batman vs. Superman fight ensued, and Superman even told Batman and an on-looking crowd to “kneel before King Superman.”  Zod would have been proud.  Everything works out, and all ends well in Metropolis.  The inside humor of the series is boundless, a comic fans dream.  It’s the comedy that really raises this show to the caliber (albeit a different breed) of Batman cartoon fans are used to.  The opening scene with Batman and Robin dressed as mummies fighting Pharaoh was funnier than most shows that claim to be comedies nowadays.  Robin explaining that their mummy “wrappings are covered in buttermilk, the one thing that repels Pharaoh rays” is just the level of lunacy I adore.

The next few weeks are pretty weak for good TV, so I’ll probably be back with a Clone Wars finale TVEye next week that also previews some of the new shows in the works for later in the year.  After that, it might be a couple of weeks until a new TVEye, perhaps when GAME OF THRONES finally lands on our TV’s.  Stay Tuned!

4 Mar

TVEye for March 4; Fringe, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Camelot, and Face Off

Posted by Tony Nunes | Friday March 4, 2011 | TVEye

This weeks TVEye hops in the Delorean and goes back to 1986 with an incrediblly eye-opening FRINGE, followed by a final trip to ancient Roman Capua on SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA, a return (for the first time) to CAMELOT, and a zombie dance-off ala ‘Thriller’ on FACE OFF.

FRINGE (Ep. 58 “Subject 13”) Subject 13 was the best bit of television in weeks.  Going back for another episode set in 1986, we were treated to an hour of flashback involving young Peter and Olivia, and both Walters caught up in the event that sparked the inevitable collapse of universes.  Also, being set in 1986, we were treated to a replay of the amazing synth style 80’s opening credits sequence created for the flashbacks.  Everything about this episode played strongly in both the drama and science fiction realms.  The dynamics of Walter and his wife, and Walternate and his wife grappling with loss and regret from two separate universes was played out brilliantly by both actors.  John Noble who plays both Walter’s is such a strong actor, playing virtually three roles as Walternate and both pre and post breakdown Walter Bishops.  The child actors who played young Peter and Olivia were great as well.  Young Olivia was played by Karley Scott Collins who took the subtleties of Anna Torv’s adult Olivia and blended them seamlessly into her performance, creating the remarkable and rare sense that you are actually watching the younger version of a main character.  Normally, this level of care is not afforded on television shows, which goes to show how dedicated the Fringe producers are to creating a high quality series that puts thought into even the most minor of details.  Speaking of minor details, how many people noticed the toy store scene with boxes of authentic original Real Ghostbusters toys, original BSG ships, Atari’s and GI Joes all on the shelves in their original packaging?  I had some of those toys when I was a kid, so this little detail really resonated with me.  Any other show would have stocked generic toys on the shelves, but not Fringe.  The premise of the flashback was to see Walter’s Cortexiphan trials on young Olivia, and how he tried to manipulate her into crossing universes.  We learn that the whole point of these trials was for Walter to find a way to safely return Peter to his real parents in the parallel universe.  In a wonderfully edited montage, Walter observes Olivia through hours of betamax (another great 80”s reference) footage, trying to find a link between her emotions and ability to cross over.  Peter and Olivia meet briefly, but neither of them seems to remember the meeting as their adult selves.  The episode ends with Olivia unknowingly crossing over and speaking to Walternate who she believes to be Walter.  Explaining that her stepfather beats her, the vulnerable young Olive explains that she believes her ability to cross universes comes from a combination of fear and love.  Snapping back to the prime universe Walter confronts her, realizing that she had just planted the notion of the multiverse into Walternate’s head, a seed that ultimately leads to the war of the two Walters and resulting  universal instability.  Had she not crossed over and spoken to Walternate, he may never have realized the existence of the parallel universe.  These were some pretty heavy revelations.  It’s funny, after watching this episode I had a dream that another universe popped up on Fringe, and the whole multiverse thing took a different tone with Walters running all around.  It was kind of like Being John Malkovich, only Being Walter Bishop instead.

There’s no new episode on tonight, but be sure to check out the awesome new promo, complete with a guest spot form Hurley himself, Jorge Garcia.

SPARTACUS: GODS OF THE ARENA (Ep. 6 “The Bitter End”) At the end of this 6 part miniseries prequel to the Starz series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, I have to admit, I’ll miss these Gods of the Arena.  I went into this show six weeks ago with the distinct notion that I would hate it for its over-stylized effects and 300 rip-off existence.  I was wrong.  Gods of the Arena turned out to be a pretty decent story, about some divisive characters I never thought I’d grow to like.  The lanista (gladiator owner) Quintus Batiatus and his loyal yet manipulatively serpent like wife Lucretia run the house of Batiatus, a slave compound where they train gladiators.  It may at first have seemed like a house of prideful warriors, but as the show progressed it slowly unveiled the fact that this was a slave compound run by falsely guided masters who put themselves above everything and everyone else around them.  This kind of volatile setting no doubt breeds a current of emotions which all inevitably run together into an ocean of blood.  Man is not meant to hold reigns over other men, and in Ancient Capua, where the series is set, the men holding the reigns are more often than not a lurid, unremorseful group of hedonists with absolutely no inhibitions to guide their ways.  In a way, the dynamic of Capua is anarchy for everyone but the slaves themselves.  Gods of the Arena was absolutely drenched in sex and nudity, with orgies often intercut between blood and gore.  This was a time of great brutality, and this above all else is what I feel came across in the miniseries.  When masters make their slaves fight to the death, have sex with whomever they put before them, and wait on their every need at every hour of every day there is bound to be a growing resistance.  As much as this build up comes across, its payoff took a literal backseat to the blood, gore, and sex of the finale.  So keen on showing endless and extraordinarily gory arena battles, the finale seemed to miss an opportunity to make a statement.  During the end primus (battle between all gladiators), a drawn out sequence of overreaching style wasted about twenty minutes of this hour long episode.  While I’m sure many people stuck with the show just for the battles, I think they went a little too overboard with the length.  Only at the end of the episode do we learn that the slaves made their uprising, as the final and brief shot shows Quintus and Lucretia’s dead and bloodied bodies with a voice heard in the background declaring the freedom of the slaves.  This was it.  A great series ended with a bit of a disappointing and pointless hour of needless excess.  In a way, the producers overindulgence of excess violence and sex belittles the common viewer’s mentality much like the master’s did their slaves throughout the series.  You know what they say, were all slaves to TV.    Continue Reading »

23 Feb

TVEye for February 23: Fringe, Community, Face Off, and Outcasts

Posted by Tony Nunes | Wednesday February 23, 2011 | TVEye

It’s been two weeks since the last TVEye and I’ve been chomping at the bits in anticipation of discussing what is surely the next wave in science fiction television; Outcasts. But first, a look at one of the best Fringe episodes of season 3, along with a visit by Kunta Kinte on Community and a hopeful sign for the future of tangibility on Face Off.

FRINGE (Ep. 57 “6B”) The great thing about Fringe is their understanding and indulgence of their primary fan base. Among the shows core demographic, the adult 18-49 range, Fringe caters more to the sci-fi/video game generation within the group, a populace of pop-culture vampires consistently latching onto good, albeit rare, science fiction storytelling where they can get it. Fringe is a highly original show, but it does fall back to the many inspirations from which it has so obviously evolved. Everything from X Files, Altered States, and The Twilight Zone has in some way contributed to the sci-fi/horror amalgam that is Fringe. This past week, Fringe treaded in yet another new territory in sci-horror narration; the ghost story. As they often do, the writers took a played out genre, the ghost story, and tweaked it to seamlessly blend into the complex storyline of the two conflicting worlds of Fringe. In one of, if not the coolest arcs on television, there are these two alternate universes that are in many ways mirror images of each other, with some subtle and drastic changes strewn about. The fabric of the universes is tearing, both slowly breaking apart and collapsing into one another. Every case the Fringe team investigates in some way or another is an affect of the colliding worlds. This week, a tear in the universes leads a widower to see a ghostly apparition of her dead husband, which in reality is the actual alternate universe version of her husband who is still alive and seen through the tear. The tear causes all sorts of strange occurrences, which make the building tenants where the tear is occurring fear that the building is haunted. Queue the mad scientist archetype Walter Bishop, who comes to the “haunted” building waving around a radiometer, which looks strikingly similar to the Ghostbusters P.K.E. meter. And here we have some of that wonderful fanboy indulgence I was speaking of. Walter, who has the most out there notions perhaps of any character ever on television, concludes that he does not believe in ghosts.  Funny, but he then proves his theory in an instant. The episode was expertly handled, and very cleverly explained ghost sightings in a construct that genuinely fit into the Fringe landscape. It was determined that the tear was caused by the “quantum entanglement” of the two widowers, and was closed with their, well, closure. Walter was ready to amberize the building, a move that would have everlasting changes on the angle of the show. I’m glad he didn’t, for now, but the time will likely come.

COMMUNITY (Ep. 41 “Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking”) Add another to the ever-growing list of classic Community Episodes. It was unofficially, LeVar Burton week on the show, which meant that pop-relative jesting was sure to ensue. Pierce (Chevy Chase) was hospitalized in a ploy to lure the others with pity.  His goal was to be the center of the group’s attention, and toy with each and every one of their tragic flaws. The absolute greatest moments of the episode came when Pierce invited Troy’s (Donald Glover) idol, LeVar Burton to come and spend the day with him. Having told Pierce he never wanted to meet his idol in person, but simply wanted a signed picture, Troy was left crying in hysterics; “You can’t disappoint a picture!” For the entire episode LeVar tried to engage Troy in conversation, but he just sat their, wide-eyed, head cocked, and silent. At one point LeVar asks him if he is a fan of his from Reading Rainbow or Star Trek. Troy just stares, and there is a hilarious cutaway to him curled up on the bathroom floor crying while singing the theme song to Reading Rainbow. At the end of the song he hugs himself and yells; “set phasers to love me.” This is why I love Community. It’s comedy relevant to its core demographic, those adult Gen X an Y folks who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s. There were so many amazing one-liners in this week’s episode. I won’t go through them all, but I will end with Troy and Abed’s death pact which you Sci-Fi geeks out there will agree sounds like a good plan; “If one of us dies, we stage it to look like a suicide caused by the unjust cancellation of Firefly. We’re gonna get that show back on the air buddy!”

FACE OFF (Ep.4 “Bad to the Bone”) It’s a very sad fact that the practical special effects and special effects makeup trades are on the decline. The advent and oversaturation of CGI has seen to that. CGI can be great and memorable, and really can work when used sparingly and with careful placement. However, more often the opposite is the case. Nothing beats a good practical effect in a great genre flick. This is why I like Face Off. To see merit given to a show about makeup artists working with tangible supplies is a breath of fresh air. Sure, some of the artists on the show are yawn-worthy, but others are doing some pretty original and skilled work. Last weeks challenge was exactly the kind this show was made for. Creating their own horror villain, the artists were given a brief amount of time and free creative reign. The end result was a blend of good, bad, and cliché, but designer Tom killed it with his “Teddy Told Me To” psycho killer.  By grafting bits of ragged teddy bear into the mauled face of his character, Tom created a truly creepy persona. For the originality, Tom also won the episode. Lets hope this show in some way inspires a new generation of tangible artist’s ready to bring back the blood in place of the data.

OUTCASTS – I’m happy to bring this gem of a series to TVEye. Consider this a preview of the BBC miniseries Outcasts which I hope and have faith will come to US television screens later in the year. It has to, its that good. BBC One is killing it with the TV miniseries format over there in the UK. Last year I fell in love with their three-part Sherlock, which is making a return in late 2011, and now I’m in love with the 8 part miniseries that is Outcasts. This is science fiction storytelling at its finest. Set on the earthlike planet Carpathia, Outcasts follows the lives and conflicts of a colony of people who represent the first refugees from a war stricken Earth. Everything about this series is so well done. The acting is strong and personal. The sets and locations are genuine and epic. The script is a sci-fi wet dream. Imagine Battlestar Galactica combined with Children of Men and the short-lived 90’s series Earth 2. Remember Earth 2? That show too was about an earthlike planet inhabited by human refugees, only, it was really terrible. Outcasts took this concept and ran with it. They ran, and they’re still running. Outcasts is a marathon ride, and I’m not going to go into too much more detail, as I hope it will reach the states sooner rather than later.  All I can say is watch out for Outcasts, and you too will sing its praises like I am right now.

11 Feb

TVEye for February 11: The Cape, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Fringe, & Spartacus: Gods of the Arena

Posted by Tony Nunes | Friday February 11, 2011 | TVEye

On this weeks TVEye, another NBC failure, Sithy father issues, a blue powder of death, and Titus the tight-ass.

THE CAPE (Episode 6 “Goggles and Hicks”) Predictably, the programmers over at NBC have failed again, this time with The Cape. This week they announced that they were dropping their order of first season episodes from 13 to 10, ultimately cancelling the new show less than a month after its premiere. Can’t say I didn’t predict this. The show suffers greatly from its horribly failed attempts at injecting heart into its characters. As a family dynamic, the character interactions come off as wooden, forced, and overreaching at best. The Cape himself (David Lyons), his computer hacking sidekick Orwell (Summer Glau), and Jedi protector Max Malini (Keith David) are all one-off clichés that don’t even attempt to bring something interesting to the their comic book inspired personas. Where The Cape does succeed however, is in its villains. Each villain is a wonderful archetype of over-the-top ego accentuated by extremely fun dialogue. This week introduced Goggles and Hicks, a villainous duo of two very different brothers. The episodes opening introduction of the brothers had the skinny, redneck Hicks camouflaged on an Afghani mountainside while his obese, soda-bottle spectacle wearing brother orchestrated his every move from the safety of his retrofitted conversion van. Hicks leaves a Chariot Tarot card at the body of his victims, no doubt a calling card for his electric wheelchair riding bro. I found the quickness and ease at which the brothers tracked down the Cape, and determined his true identity, partners, and hideout to be a horribly ambiguous plot hole. Goggles is the obvious brains of the operation, and he’s either better than anyone at tracking his targets, or the writers of the show just suck that bad. I’m going with number two. Look, if any fat guy with surveillance equipment can track down a masked avenger in minutes, then really, what’s the point of this whole charade to begin with. I guess this is where and why The Cape has failed. I really won’t miss this show, but I will miss amazing lines like “I’m a firm believer in the separation of church and crime!” Adios el cabo!

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS (Episode 60 “Altar of Mortis“) There are loads of patriarchal, and master/apprentice struggles in the Star Wars Universe, and this weeks Clone Warspresented a pretty solid one to rival even the Luke/Vadar conflict. The episode is part two of the three part Mortis arc, and continues last weeks exploits of Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Ahsoka on the mysterious Mortis planet. There are only three inhabitants on this strange planet, a father, and his son and daughter. Really, the planet is a physical representation of the balance between good and evil, the dark and the lights sides. The Son represents the dark side while the Daughter represents the light. Anakin’s place on the planet is as a test subject, choosing his path towards the light or dark side. The whole thing is quite complex. In fact, this whole struggle leading up to the third prequel is really much deeper and exciting than the film itself. The path Anakin takes towards darkness is told in such a religious, and deeply metaphoric manner, that you really feel the struggle. For a cartoon, its become a pretty heavy series. Maybe its become a little too heavy, deepening the folklore and powers of this bitter struggle to points that overshadow the Sci-Fi with fantasy. The scope of the dark and light, Sith and Jedi struggle is so huge here that the starship, Deathstar filled political wars of the films seem almost like child’s play. Its still a great story, and an enjoyable show, but I think they may be straying too far off course. Qualms aside, next weeks episode, the conclusion of the Mortis trilogy, looks incredible. I’m there. Continue Reading »

4 Feb

TVEye for February 4: Community, Fringe, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Archer, Face Off, & Star Wars: The Clone Wars

Posted by Tony Nunes | Friday February 4, 2011 | TVEye

This week, Chevy Chase in an epic D&D battle, weaponized humans, sex-crazed Capuans,  animated Bluth parents, naked models, and the brief return of Qui-Gon.  I apologize for being a bit late this week on the TVEye, but I bring you some great episodes nonetheless. 

COMMUNITY (Ep. 39 “Advanced Dungeons & Dragons”) This was the BEST episode of the series so far. Community is my favorite comedy show on television right now, with its nerd culture basis and roll-on-the-floor wit setting it apart from most everything else on TV. When I heard they were doing a Dungeons and Dragons inspired episode my heart leapt. I was not disappointed. Somehow the creators of the series made a LOTR style epic that was literally as scaled back as you can get. The whole episode existed with the core group of characters seated in their study room at Greendale Community College, much like every other episode. In editing, music and narration, they pulled off an adventure of the greatest comedic brilliance. A soft British-female voiceover sets the story by introducing Fat Neil, the player in a quest of Jeff Winger’s (Joel McHale) to redeem himself of the negativity he spouts. In an attempt to lift the alienated, constantly harassed Neil’s spirits, Winger and his crew of study buddy oddballs schedule an afternoon game of Neil’s favorite pastime, Dungeons and Dragons. Abed (Danny Pudi) acts as Dungeon Master, and plans out a detailed trip to the Caverns of Draconis. The single greatest moment of the episode was the hilarious Ken Jeong’s over-the-top Chang dressing in a white wig and black face, passing off the semi-racist move as him getting into character as a Dark Elf. Beheaded in mere moments of the game, an ominous score accompanies his slow motion walk out of the room. The villain of the episode was Chevy Chase’s lonely ignorant Pierce, who lorded himself over the group with his Saruman-like greed and power. All of this perfectly represented the absurdity of Dungeons and Dragons, a game where everything is talked out and made up as it goes along on its pointless quest. The single greatest bit of dialogue accentuates the pointlessness as the narrator describes the action; “And so it was that the group began to describe themselves walking, and as they described themselves walking so did Abed confirm they walked.” It’s hard to sell the comedy in a brief write-up, so if you get a chance, log onto Hulu and check it out for yourself. You’ll be instantly converted to the Community school of comedy, and if you were once a D&D nerd like myself, you will have more than a few moments of laughing shame.

FRINGE (Ep. 54 “Reciprocity”) Peter Bishop has been weaponized. In an episode that in parts vaguely reminded me of the film Contact, Peter visit’s the constructed Doomsday machine in a secure Massive Dynamics lab, triggering it with his mere presence. What reminded me of the Jodie Foster film Contact was the machine itself, an alien (other universe) blueprint constructed by man in the prime universe without knowledge of what it does. The danger of this blind act of faith is not lost on Peter, who goes around finding and killing the shapeshifters he’s discovered have been hiding in his midst. Seeing the machine almost entirely constructed means that by seasons end, we’ll probably see it in action, thus answering many questions without leaving us hanging in Lost-like territory. This is why I love Fringe. The story is moving along at a fantastic pace. Because of the staggering amount of episodes per season, sometimes they have to slow that pace down by entertaining the occasional episode where Peter, Olivia, and Walter focus on one episode long case that in some way or another plays into the greater story. It works. What I love even more is the massive production value blended into every scene of every episode. Instead of using cheap CGI effects, they actually built an enormous full-scale model of the doomsday machine. This show must cost loads to produce, and with the recent move to the dreaded Friday spot I feared the worst. Luckily, ratings are up quite a bit at the Friday spot, and hopefully, Fox continues to give Fringe the chance it deserves to keep telling its story of two-worlds. I’m very much looking forward to the next couple months of new episodes all aiming at that one big moment you know is coming. What that moment will be, I have not a clue, but you best believe I’ll be watching. Continue Reading »

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