Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

Geeks Get Their Due

September 25, 2008

Chemistry is the study of change and this past sunday there was a change at the Emmy’s: a really deserving actor got recognition. Brian Cranston won Best Actor in a dramatic series for his portrayal Of Walter White on Breaking Bad. I’ve been a fan of Cranston since Malcolm in the Middle and am a huge fan of Breaking Bad. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Bad is the story of high school chemistry teacher Walter White who after discovering he has lung cancer uses his chemistry skills to create/deal meth in order to pay for his treatment and make sure his family is provided for. The show is pretty dark, surprisingly funny, refreshingly honest and incredibly brave. Despite the fact that John Hamm deserves an Emmy just as much I feel justified in Cranston getting it since Bad was robbed of a full season due to the writers strike and needs to get some attention.

Also want to give a well deserved pat on the back to Tiny Fey and the 30 Rock crew who won pretty much every category in which they were nominated. Tina Fey is completely brilliant on that show and it’s been a long time since something that well written has been on tv. I think it’s funny that there was all this attention around Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and 30 Rock which was just that other behind the scenes show is the one that is still around. Alec Baldwin is amazing as well and I can’t wait for the new season to begin in October.

Alec Baldwin’s award winning performance

And Finally congrats to Barry Sonnenfeld of Pushing Daisies for nabbing Best Director for a Comedy for the episode “Pie-lette.” Daisies (which was just released on dvd last week) is sweeter than honey for the homeless (it’s a joke from the show). Lee Pace and Kristin Chenoweth (who looked pleased as punch when Sonnenfeld won) unfortunately didn’t win their respective categories but I’m sure they’ll have plenty more opportunities. If you haven’t seen Pushing Daisies yet definitely check it out. It does require that you can tolerate a certain amount of whimsy, but if you can it’s awesome.

The season 1 promo for those who missed it

Th tv season has begun people. Grab some popcorn, set your Tivos, and check your local listings.

Bill Nye Environ-Guy

September 8, 2008

“When we do stuff, stuff happens.” That’s the basis of Stuff Happens, the new show from Bill Nye (the Science Guy, not the actor). So far I’ve seen two episodes of the show and I’m not too impressed. In fact, I’m a little disappointed since  I was super excited when I first saw the ads for it. It’s be far too long since his completely awesome show Bill Nye the Science Guy went off the air and since then, I haven’t seen a science show that lights my Bunsen burner quite like Nye’s did. Aside from my loving memory of the show, YouTube, and Bill Nye stalker articles, I rarely even see references to it. I mean even Beckman’s World is on in reruns and it isn’t nearly as awesome.

But I digress. My excitement for the new show began to wane when I realized Stuff Happens was on Planet Green, the environmental channel. I know our planet is important but I have never been able to get into conservation/environmentalism. I do my part. I reduce, reuse and recycle. I turn off lights when I leave a room. I cut up six pack containers. I turn off the water while brushing me teeth. Hell, I even sold my car. But I just don’t go for the full-on Begley Jr. Nothing’s been able to turn me around. Not Al Gore, not the joint efforts of John Ritter and Max Casella, and so far not Bill Nye.

The problem I have with his show is that seemingly everything I do is causing the end of the world. In the first episode of Stuff Happens, I learned that eating cheap bacon is causing the depletion of the anchovy population and thereby destroying penguins. The answer to all of these problems is to, of course, buy organic. You’d think the show was made by Whole Foods.

“..This exciting half-hour series engages the viewer with astonishing information, easy-to-follow science, lighthearted demonstrations, expert interviews and connective story-telling to amplify growing problems in the environment and important solutions we can all take to make things better. With trademark good humor, Bill Nye helps viewers get a grip on big topics and presents positive, upbeat solutions to the critical problems facing us all…”

The information is far from astonishing. I’ve been told the world was going to end any minute (and that we’re about to convert to metric) since I was a kid. Neither have happened yet. Plus I already know buying organic is better. Because of that, I feel like this is all old news and I’m not learning anything. Hecl I was more moved to be environmental after watching Batman battle it out with Ra’s Al Ghul on the beloved Batman: The Animated Series.

"Stop pigs from eating me!"

"Stop pigs from eating me!"

The one technique for saving the world (specifically the anchovies I mentioned earlier) I did think was more interesting was to eat more anchovies. You see they are in danger because they are a good, cheap food source for pigs. Pigs love them and will eat them as much as they can, which means farmers buy a lot of anchovies to get pigs fatter quicker. But if humans eat more anchovies, the price will go up and theoretically pig farmers will stop buying them. But even this solution has it’s problems. First of all anchovies are the universal symbol for something most people are repulsed by. Secondly if humans start to love them so much they’ll still get over farmed. Just for a pig that can talk.

So it seems Bill Nye’s return to television is quite as triumphant as I had hoped. I wonder what Beckman is up to…..

A Geek Watches the Olympics

September 2, 2008

I am not what you would call a sports fan. I’ve never watched the Superbowl, couldn’t tell you who won the World Series last year and generally would prefer to poke a stick in my ear rather than listening to any kind of sports discussion. I didn’t grow up in a sports watching family since my dad never watched sports nor did my grandfather (unless you count horse racing but that was more about the monetary rewards rather than any love of sports).

Strangely enough though, I always look forward to the Olympics. I’ve come to think of the Olympics as an event for people who generally don’t like watching sports. Although I think they have gone a little crazy adding sports that I don’t thing are really Olympic in stature (BMX Racing? Ping-Pong? Trampoline?), it’s fun to watch the best of the best in every country come together to compete every four years. And while I generally enjoy the Winter Games more than the Summer Games (maybe because I was born in a blizzard?), the Beijing Games have been riveting.

I will fully admit that this is because I been hit hard with Phelps mania. I don’t ever recall watching the swimming finals in Olympics past but I have been glued to my television all last week. Often before the Olympics, the media will pump up certain athletes as the sure to be stars of the games only to see that them crack under the pressure. And the Beijing Games have certainly served up their share of disappointing athletes. But Phelps has been amazing. I managed to watch all but one race live (I missed the nail biter race that gave him the 7th gold because someone who shall remain unnamed wanted to watch Psych instead. Grr Argh!). Sometimes he won by wide margins, other times by freakishly close ones but watching someone actually achieve 8 gold medals straight in one week makes me believe that Phelps must be part fish.

But besides Phelps, watching athletes like Dara Torres, Jason Lezak, Ryan Lochte, Aaron Peirsol, Shawn Johnson and Nastia Liukin has kept me up til the wee hours most nights (why NBC decided to save most key events until after 11 pm is beyond me). And when Jason Lezak came from behind to crush Alain Bernard in the 4×100 medal relay had me jumping off of my couch like an actual sport fan would. And I’ve been reading the sports pages instead of tossing them aside like normal.

But I know as with every other Olympics, once the closing ceremony is over and some athlete makes their debut on the Wheaties box (Phelps have a deal with Kelloggs so the field is wide open), I will once again eschew anything sports-related for my traditionally geeky pursuits. Which I guess is how it will be until the Vancouver Winter Games roll around in 2010. And then I will become a temporary sports geek once again.

Attn: Animation Geeks!

August 26, 2008

Last night I discovered that Ovation TV is doing a 5 day salute to animation (Aug 25 – 29).  Last night they showed Triplets of Belleville and Chuck Amuck: The Movie.

I had seen Triplets before but this was my first time seeing Chuck Amuck. It was from 1991 but looked much older. A great look into the world of animation legend, Chuck Jones it also gave a good look into the art of 2D animation as well. It was kinda sweet to see a gentle older woman clean up drawings of the Road Runner. 

Tonight Tokyo Godfathers is showing followed by Wallace and Gromit Go Hollywood.

Check your local listings.

The Doctor-Donna: Doctor Who Season Four

August 20, 2008

The post below contains spoilers for Doctor Who Season Four.

When the BBC announced that Catherine Tate was joining Doctor Who as the companion for the 4th season, I was a little leery. While I enjoyed The Runaway Bride episode that Tate had appeared in between the 2nd and 3rd seasons, I though her character, Donna Noble, was going to be a bit too intense for a full-time companion. She was a loud-mouthed, ill-informed and rather ribald low level secretary who spent half the episode screaming at the Doctor (although she did prove sympathetic in the end.) I was worried that 13 episodes of that would be too much. But having just seen the season finale for Season Four (or Series Four if you are British), I now must admit how wrong I was.

To see Part 2 click here.

I think I knew by the end of the season’s first episode Partners in Crime that Donna was going to be a good companion. First off, she and David Tennant have marvelous chemistry and you can tell they really enjoy working with each other. This was evident in the pantomime routine that occurs in Partners in Crime when Donna sees the Doctor again after many months of searching for him and the Doctor responds by being somewhat comically horrified. It showed some hilarious physical comedy between Tate and Tennant that boded well for their on-screen partnership.

Second, the fact that Donna in no way, shape or form had a crush on the Doctor was a well needed change of pace after what he went through with both Rose (whose feelings he did seem to reciprocate) and Martha’s (whose he didn’t). Having a third companion crushing on the Doctor would have been too much no matter how dreamy one finds David Tennant (and I’ll admit as a geek girl, he’s pretty dreamy). But Donna was having none of it, calling him a skinny beanpole and being rather insulted when anyone suggested they were a couple. Some fans didn’t like this, thinking it was disrespectful, but I thought it was hilarious.

The fact that Donna was older than Martha and Rose and had been around the block a few times, also gave her actions added weight. While being excited to travel the universe with the Doctor, she wasn’t awestruck and she was willing him to call him on it when she thought he was wrong. In The Fires of Pompeii and Planet of the Ood, Donna’s distinct sense of morality and innate human decency made a character that initially seemed overbearing become very sympathetic.

Throughout the rest of the season, I thought Donna made a wonderful companion. So much so that what happened to her character in the season finale was all the more heartbreaking. As Doctor Who season finales normally are, this one was jam packed and spread across three episodes. Not only did we see the return of Rose Tyler, but we saw former companions Martha Jones, Captain Jack Harkness and the crew from Torchwood, Sarah Jane Smith along with Jackie Tyler and Mickey Clarke. All of these past characters join the Doctor and Donna for another world ending battle against the Daleks (again!!! For a decimated race, there are an awful lot of them hanging about) and Davros.

Everyone has their little part to play in the finale but Donna winds up having the most important role. While she has spent many episodes saying she was nothing special and just a secretary, there have been hints that something huge and possibly tragic was going to happen to Donna and that she had a key role to play. It’s a little complicated to describe but in one scene, Donna gets what is basically a Time Lord brain boost and with the knowledge she gets access to she saves the entire universe from what would be certain destruction by the Daleks.

But unfortunately a human brain cannot handle having half a Time Lord brain and it starts to kill her (reminiscent of when Rose absorbed the Time Vortex in Season One’s finale and it started to kill her). In order to save her, the Doctor must erase all traces of himself and their travels together from her brain. And this reverts Donna back to the loud, ill-informed character that we met in The Runaway Bride, a woman who has no idea how special she really is and how she helped save the world. She meets the Doctor and has no idea who he is and barely bothers to say hello. For fans who came to love Donna (and I will admit that there are some that never warmed to her), this was absolutely crushing and almost crueler than if she had been killed. Not only did she not know how many brave and important things she did, all the progress her character made was destroyed in the process.

Doctor Who has long established that traveling with the Doctor can be devastating to his companions but I don’t think it was ever so evident as it was in this development. Although this plot twist made me sad, I also thought it was brutally effective. I knew that Catherine Tate was too big a star in Britain to stay on as a companion for more than one season so Donna’s presence was necessarily short-lived. But short as it was, it was definitely memorable.

Joss Whedon Has Ruined Vampires For Me

July 30, 2008

Entertainment Weekly ran a cover on the Twilight book series a few weeks ago. I can honestly admit that I had never heard of the books before I saw the cover and was a little shocked that poor, dead Cedric Diggory had been cast as the lead in the movie coming out in December.

While I thought the cover photo was one of the worst EW has come up with in awhile (second to the horrific Watchmen cover), I was mildly interested when the writer compared the novels to the Harry Potter series (for which I am a true geek). Since I’ve been looking for something fun to read, I figured I’d give it a go and see if it was worth the Potter comparisons.

While I still have a hundred pages to go in finishing this fast-reading but badly written book, I realized that Joss Whedon has totally ruined vampires for me. I know that there is a legion of crazy Twilight fans out there but after being immersed in the Whedonverse, every vampire-themed project seems lame in comparison.  It’s not just Twilight (which I will get back to in a moment). I tried watching the CBS show Moonlight and only lasted two minutes realizing that I liked this show better when it was called Angel.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer represents the ground zero of my geekiness and I can say for certain that I have geeked out over it more than anything else- more than Twin Peaks, more than Doctor Who, more than Harry Potter, more than Batman. Anyone who knows me can attest that I am ridiculously geeky about all of those things.

Honestly, I have to admit that I didn’t follow either Buffy or Angel until well into their runs. I had a brief, embarrassing Anne Rice phase in high school so by the time BtVS came on, I was sort of over the whole genre. Friends tried to convince me to watch and I heard TV critics rave about how clever and well-written the show was but it took me until the fifth season to start paying attention. I randomly tuned into the fifth season finale (The Gift) and was blown away. While still being vaguely confused about who the Billy Idol impersonator was and how the Taster’s Choice guy was involved in it all, I became immediately obsessed with the show.

I tried to catch repeats over the summer and lucked out when FX decided to run the whole series in the fall start to finish. Since FX ran two episodes a night, it was a crash course in all things Buffy and turned into a mad obsession. I would refuse to answer the phone when new episodes came on and would frantically rush onto the internet after the episodes were over to dissect them. Total geek behavior, I know.

Im the worse potential! No! Im the worse potential

"I'm the worst potential!" "No! I'm the worst potential"

While the later seasons had some serious flaws (the Potential Slayers being a very big one), a great episode of Buffy could left me thinking for days. Not only did the show have well-crafted, believable characters, but the writing combined elements of comedy, horror and drama in a way that was hilarious, scary and heartbreaking. Besides crafting a really entertaining show, Whedon also took the piss out of the vampire legend. Sure his vampires were mysterious and powerful but they could also be as downright ridiculous and petty as his human characters. Angel could never figure out how to work his voicemail and Spike had a passion, for well, Passions as evidenced in this quote:

Spike: “Passions is on! Timmy’s down the bloody well, and if you make me miss it I’ll —”
Giles: “Do what? Lick me to death?”

While Whedon’s vampires could be very dangerous characters, he never took them so seriously that he failed to have fun with them.  And I’ve found that it’s the self-seriousness that plagues most other vampire- themed projects that has completely ruined more traditional takes on the genre for me.

And here is where I come back to Twilight. Besides the fact that the book is just badly written, it’s so deadly serious. The fact that a vampire and a human are in love with each other is treated as the Most.Dramatic.Relationship.Ever. And the female character seems completely willing to throw her life away without even questioning what she would be giving up. Even relationship drama queens Buffy and Angel would tell these two to get a grip.

Plus the characters in Twilight don’t seem to have any fun or a functioning sense of humor. The two main characters (Edward and Bella) are constantly glowering and glaring at each other although they are supposedly in love. I can’t recall a funny moment in the entire book. Even Broody McBroodster (that would be Angel for those unaware) was funny on occasion.

I’m not sure if I’m going to bother finishing the book because honestly, it makes me want to smash my head against the wall. I guess I’ll just go watch some Buffy instead.

Update: Laura Miller at Salon just published an article yesterday that covers a lot of the same material. I thought this paragraph was spot-on:

Comparisons to another famous human girl with a vampire boyfriend are inevitable, but Bella Swan is no Buffy Summers. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was at heart one of those mythic hero’s journeys so beloved by Joseph Campbell-quoting screenwriters, albeit transfigured into something sharp and funny by making the hero a contemporary teenage girl. Buffy wrestled with a series of romantic dilemmas — in particular a penchant for hunky vampires — but her story always belonged to her. Fulfilling her responsibilities as a slayer, loyalty to her friends and family, doing the right thing and cobbling together some semblance of a healthy life were all ultimately as important, if not more important, to her than getting the guy. If Harry Potter has a vampire-loving, adolescent female counterpart, it’s Buffy Summers.

I’m Not in Love With Bill Bixby!

July 17, 2008

Today our female correspondent, Brillen, has a story of geek oppression by an older sister. Enjoy!

 

Hollywood recently released another film version of The Incredible Hulk. I’m not sure why. The Ang Lee version was certifiably bonkers but usually they wait a few decades before trying a reboot.

Anyhow one good thing from the new film was that SciFi ran a marathon of the old TV show. As I watched the episodes again for probably the first time in two decades, I kept thinking of the following three questions:

1. Why do the Hulk’s pants never rip off? (An eternal question to confused kids everywhere)

2. Why is David Banner such a klutz?

3. How many cars did Jack McGee lose in pursuit of the Hulk?

These questions have been pondered by some before, my remaining question pertains strictly to a peculiar fact of my childhood- why my older sister constantly accused me of having a crush on Bill Bixby?

Now don’t get me wrong, Bill was a decent looking chap, a fine actor and all that but it wasn’t like I doodled “I heart Bill” all over my coloring books. But my sister always had a habit of claiming that I had crushes on people just to get under my skin (which was effective since I was shy and easily mortified). Usually while I was watching one Incredible Hulk episode or another and she wanted to change the channel, she’d start in on how much I loved Bill Bixby, that I wanted to marry him and I would try to concentrate on whatever poor wall Lou Ferrigno was destroying and wish that wall was my sister. When I was seven, one Bixby related taunting got me so angry, that I went in my room and slammed the door so hard that I knocked a framed poster off the wall. The glass shattered and my favorite teddy bear poster (don’t laugh!) was destroyed. The Hulk’s rage claimed yet another victim.

After she got bored of targeting Bill as the fake object of my girlish affections she’d switch to another (never actually landing though on an actor I actually liked at the time ie Tom Wopat- I remind you it was 1985) – the other two most frequent mentions being David Hasselhoff and Levar Burton. I admit there is some humor in accusing someone of having a crush on the Hoff (and I have actually met some who had a real true life crush on the man. No lie!) but she managed to ruin many an episode of Knight Rider and Reading Rainbow with her taunts.

This was all brought up again as I watched the Incredible Hulk marathon a few weeks ago. I came home early and I stumbled into a strange episode where David Banner and Jack McGee were trapped on the side of a mountain and Banner was dragging McGee around on the wing of a plane. Oddly Banner’s face was covered completely in gauze the entire time and he had lost his memory. McGee couldn’t tell he was in fact David Banner and was calling him John Doe.

Since I came in half way through the episode, I was baffled as to what was going on (it took me a minute to remember who McGee was). I googled the episode title “Mystery Man” and found that Hulk aficionados consider this two-parter a classic.

As it happens the next day I was talking to my sister (the same one who did all the taunting) and I mentioned watching the episode.

“I saw that too! What the hell was going on there? I couldn’t figure it out.”

“I think they were in a plane crash and David Banner had amnesia.”

“Is that why he had bandages on his face?”

“I think so. Those must have been annoying to act in”

“Oh you just didn’t like that you couldn’t see his face”

“Don’t start that again. I’m still pissed about my poster.

“That was your own fault.”

“Why did you start that by the way? The crush on Bill Bixby thing”

“Well . . .it’s because I kinda had a crush on him.”

“What?!?”

“I kinda had a crush on him.”

“You jerk! You rotten, rotten jerk!”

“You know on the show he was all tormented and sad. . . you know that’s how Iike ‘em.” That was true.

“So David Hasselhoff . . .”

“No I did not like David Hasselhoff.”

“Levar Burton?”

“No I didn’t like Levar Burton either. Although you did.”

“Oh shut up! You’re unbelievable.”

So I finally had the answer to why my sister tormented me through poor Bill Bixby but as to why the Hulk’s pants never rip off, that is still a question for the ages.