Over Stuffing The Threadbare. Day 148 of The Year in Fun.

1. Use 3-D Printer to Make Top-Shelf Whiskey, Time Traveling DeLoren.

2. Release My Inner Middle Child.

3. Divorce Work Wife, Shack Up With Work Mistress/Work Love Child at Part-Time Taco John’s Job.

So Mad Men, is it Yankee Wrinkle or Yankee Whistle?
And just what is that? Google/Bing: You suck.

Pop Culture Today: After the first two new Arrested Development on Netflix,
I give you a hearty ‘eh.’
While nice to see everyone again, only laughing once was a problem. Both overcrowded and repetitive, AD is better in short, short bursts. And maybe, some things are just better when left alone.

On The 101, Comin’ At ‘Cha Low T-Style, Full Stop, D101 /YoF

On The 101, Comin’ At ‘Cha Low T-Style, Full Stop, D101 /YoF:

1. ‘Homosapien Like Me: Sexcapades With Hollywood’s Elite’ By Coco The Monkey. Foreword By Betty White.

2. Emily Litella Day.
“What’s All This I Hear About Sax and Violins on TV?” Etc.

3. Today’s Short List of What Will Financially Ruin Me:
–Low Antifreeze.
–Extra Pickles.
–Winning the Lottery. (A Lot of Those Dudes Seem Messed Up)


Hail to The Kaiser, Roll in the New Year, of Fun, Day ’94

Hail to The Kaiser, Roll in the New Year, of Fun, Day ’94:

1. Make the Math Work, Add More Variables.

2. Death Muddin’ 3000, Buck Wild Edition.

3. Starting at Zero, Figure Out How Long It Would Take You To Reach One Million Dollars On Your Current Salary. Pretend You’ll Live That Long.

Bitten By A Jelly Fish in The Sea of Possibility, Day ’93, Oh, The Years of Fun

Bitten By A Jelly Fish in The Sea of Possibility, Day ’93, Oh, The Years of Fun:

1. Today’s Random Number is 27.
Once Again, Today’s Lucky Random Number is 27.

2. Speak ‘N Spell Name Day. (G-L-O-R-I-A)

3. Build Cut-Rate Time Machine.
Kill Hitler’s Third Cousin, Luigi.

Pop Culture Today: Miss the Game of Thrones premiere? Watch it here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007HNFREW?tag=-10-15-20

The Event (2010)

When do you give up on a TV show? When I did my least essential guide to the new fall season a little while ago, I said I’d give The Event five episodes. Well, I’m ready to bail. This semi-review contains spoilers from the first two episodes. It’s okay, seems like the producers are intent on spoiling their own mysteries anyway.

The strange prisoners in episode one are aliens. Big whoop. It was the most obvious answer and the one I hoped wasn’t true. V is already sucking up the airwaves. It just seems lazy. I guess it’s nice we’re getting answers, but answers without new mysteries is not a very good story-telling technique. The characters aren’t compelling enough to warrant ‘why’ as the primary mystery. Breaking Bad and Mad Men are ‘why’ mysteries because we’re interested in the why of the characters actions mores than the actions themselves.

So, what is The Event? I guess it was a plane disappearing into thin air at the end of the first episode. The plane was going to crash INTO the president. Uh-huh. Wow, that’s, um, awesome, great flying. Where’d the plane go? Oh, it’s in Arizona (after disappearing in Miami). OK, mystery solved. And what about the passengers? Oh, they’re all dead except for Jason Ritter, our mechanical emotional ‘soul’ to the story. Really, it’s like every other character has zero emotional depth and is there as plot device. But Jason Ritter is trying to find his fiancée. So, every atrocity he commits is okey-dokey as he tries to find his girlfriend. But he was framed for murder. But, his crazy acts are okay because he’s looking for his fiancee and some bad guys have her because…? They’re real dumb? She’s in the credits and can’t die yet? Do not care.

But he loves her because of the multiple flashbacks show him meeting her and falling in love. You know, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that since she’s HIS FIANCEE, he loves her. No need to kill 10 minutes of show on the flashbacks.
Oh, how did the passengers die? The aliens killed them and they saved the plane to save the passengers. Uh-huh and killed them because….Hey, an actual mystery left over. Too late.
By showing how Jason Ritter met his girlfriend, the show is really just admitting that the audience can’t fill in ONE SINGLE BLANK. About anything. That’s a problem in a show that traffics in mystery.

Also, the show uses the real edgy jump around in time story-telling technique made popular 18 years ago in Pulp Fiction. And there’s no reason for it. None. A few flashbacks would work just fine.
I watched the second episode while goofing around on my iPad the whole episode (something that annoys me if I see Shells do it when we watch TV. Me=hypocrite). I missed nothing because they repeated the key points several times throughout the episode. An engrossing mystery should not be laundry-folding TV. It should be, um, engrossing. I put the iPad down once when President Hunk (Blair Underwood as a Black/Cuban US President, see Sci-Fi) was trying to get answers out of the head alien (Laura Innes, actress wasted in emotionless role). I want back to the boring farming game on my iPad after the second (of three) times she said she couldn’t say anything, but was good.

I might stick with The Event longer if Shells was watching with me. Then I could goof on the show like I used to do with 24. I got Shells to watch a few seasons of that show and goof on it’s ridiculousness. Nad TV shouldn’t be watched alone. I ended up watching the last season of 24 by myself and it wasn’t as good. I make this comparison because The Event more resembles 24 than Lost. It has many reality-denying action sequences and a focus on plot over characters. Shells said she wouldn’t watch The Event because of the way Lost burned us with it’s non-mystery solving ending and spiritual cop-out. I see that. I agree. The Lost producers said they had answers for every mystery they presented. They didn’t. The Event has the opposite problem, they have answers before the mystery is even fully allowed to blossom. I mean, it’s only been two episodes.

The Event should entertain on an acting level, but it doesn’t. The show has a bunch of decent character actors and TV show staples, but gives them no emotional depth or even hints at character shading. They’re card board cut-outs at this point, only to serve the plot.

See the man in the picture above. That’s character actor Zeljko Ivanek. He’s been in almost every TV show I’ve liked for the last ten years. And he’s died in each one of them. He even earned an Emmy for his best death in Damages. He was great in that as he is in everything he’s in. (oh, he did die in Big Love, right?) So, I thought I’d watch The Event until Zeljiko died. It should happen soon. He’s not an above the title listing in the cast. He’s in the ‘With…’ section which, if 24 (where he died) is any indication, this is where guest stars go to eventually be killed.

But not even the the thought of character actor Zeljko Ivanek’s awesome death can’t keep me watching. And that’s a low bar.

Also, I just learned Fox cancelled Lone Star, the one show of the new season I decided to champion. The second episode expanded their universe while keeping the plot tense and adding more depth to the characters. But now it’s cancelled. Booo, Fox. The Event is on NBC, but I’m taking out my anger on that because, well, I don’t know.
It’s a mystery greater than any on The Event.

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The Kingdom Series 2 (1997)

Kinda lazy today. I recently finished the Swedish TV miniseries The Kingdom which I talked about the beginning here.
In that review, I compared the emerging plot lines to a really strange paper Role Playing Game. After seeing all that Lars Von Triers had filmed on The Kingdom, the strangeness is ratcheted up ten fold.

There was to be a series 3, but a few key actors had died. Triers sent the season 3 scripts to Stephen King for the American version of The Kingdom, but ABC canceled season one in 2004 after just a few episodes. Too weird for the states even with King’s name attached. I did see it was on DVD, so I may seek it out.

I don’t have much more to say about the series after what I wrote before, but I did watch all 11 hours of sepia-toned Swedes and their (here it comes) shenanigans.

So, just some highlight to clue you in on how odd the whole thing was.

—A doctor wants the world’s largest diseased liver to research. The family wouldn’t sign the death consent form, so he has the organ donated to himself (as the organ donor card was signed), so he could own the liver. The surgery goes bad, he’s stuck with the liver. (in The Twilight Zone)

—A woman has sex with a man she didn’t know was a ghost, possibly The Devil. She gives birth to a baby who has a grown man’s head (Udo Kier) and can talk. The baby grows at a rate so astounding, his arms and legs are 10 feet long after just a few days, very brittle. The baby begs to die. The mom, after much agonizing, releases the baby from the large rigging holding him up and kills him when all the bones snap. Pretty cool.

Um, wow, that was probably the weirdest plot line. But every one of the twenty or so characters had strange stuff going on and to the shows credit, it all kind of worked because the production was pretty low-key and all the smaller moments were kept real.

If those two story lines interested you, check out The Kingdom on Netflix streaming. I can’t possibly see how the giant man-baby plot line would work in America (although, strangely enough, I saw Lake Bell give birth to Nick Kroll on Children’s Hospital the same week.)

It’s vacation time.

Going into low power for the next week and a half. Hopefully some game reviews to come.

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Lone Star (2010)

As the week plows on, I’ve trying out as many of the new shows of the fall TV season as I can get through. Everything I’ve made fun of in the Twitter feed (on the side), I’ve watched. Most of the new crop of shows haven’t really caught my attention enough to pull my eyeballs away from the more established shows I’ve been watching.
Except one, Lone Star. Of course, the one show I like got really crappy ratings. It’s already on death watch, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

And if you go to the Fox site or iTunes, you can catch the first episode for free.

Lone Star works because the lead is at once both charismatic and empathic, even though he’s nothing but a Texas version of Bernie Madoff. Newcomer James Wolk plays Bob, the son of a con man who’s surpassed the tricks of his dad (The very well cast David Keith) and in the midst of two separate long term cons which has netted himself two different lives with two different women. So, it’s a con man show. However, the twist is that Bob wants to go straight, but is so deep in both cons that to go straight he’ll have to con more.
The look of the film is that of an indie film like Up in the Air, it’s all show and little tell. Every other pilot this week, even that big, dumb mystery show The Event, the characters explained too much, not giving the audience too much credit in figuring stuff out. All the set-up is there in Lone Star, but it’s not showy and works more with the characters. And each of the characters, except maybe Bob’s newer girlfriend are shady enough and smart enough that Bob’s going straight won’t be easy. Also, it’s kind of hard to tell where this show will go. Like Lost in it’s prime, there’s enough different kinds of shows embedded in the pilot that each week could have a different tone. One week it could easily be a highly plotted soap, the next a mystery, the next a romance, the next a drama and of course, the big con.

This con man’s life is as it is, so we deal with the present and move forward. Some of the tropes of the con man genre are there, the different identities, the slippery escapes from simple questions and my least favorite, the dad who drags his kid into his criminal life. (Thanks, Paper Moon) That said, I like the dad/son relationship because it’s the most honest in the show and, unlike most movies of this genre, his dad does seem to love him.

I’m a fan of shows that talk about the nature of the American identity (Mad Men is the current reigning champ), we live in a country where re-inventing yourself is encouraged, where how we present ourselves to the world is more important that who we are inside. Our hero Bob has a problem in that he’s tired of presenting himself as the easygoing smooth charmer and actually wants to live the life he’s only been pretending. I think the trick of the show will be showing that in order to be what we want to be, we have pretend to be other roles for short-term gain. The role of boy friend, co-worker, friend and on and on.

Of course, I could be wrong about any deeper aspirations in the show. If so, that’s okay, there’s still a decent soap in Lone Star. Kinda like the vibe of Big Love, if Bill was a grifter, a soap about the costs of keeping a secret.

Anyway, check it out.

(Also, the third episode of Terriers was a winner and clinched the show into my full rotation. I love shows about anti-heroes.)

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The New TV Season (2010)

As a kid, September meant two things—A new Trapper Keeper and the new new TV season. While they don’t make Trapper Keepers anymore, I still put on the feety pajamas, break out the thick new TV Guide Fall Preview (or in this case the new Flabbytainment Weekly, do they still make the TV Guide?) and pick all the shows I plan to watch, sample and avoid. Until 2002, I also buy a bulk stack of VCR tapes to record all the goodness. Now, with two DVR’s, I can watch up to four shows at once, networked throughout the house. And it only takes me a half hour to put all the new shows into season pass. Nothing to do for the next two months until I bulk erase the shows my ambition wrote checks for that my eyes couldn’t cash (Hey, hey, even my references come from 1986). Whaaat?

For the last few years, it seemed like the networks staggered their new show premiers to try and build audiences. Not so this year, everything starts today! Yea!
(Full disclosure—I work for an ABC affiliate. While I certainly like some of the shows on ABC, my home recording doesn’t reflect my job tastes. That said, I probably wouldn’t have DVR’d Modern Family and Cougartown last year and missed out on some good shows. Then again, seeing The Middle so many times in reruns have made me hate Patricia Heaton with the passion of say, 3 suns. Sad, because everyone else on the show is fine.)

So, let’s get to it, TV babies, it’s the least essential TV Preview ever…

What’s on Bryan’s DVR This Year


What I’m DVRing, Sampling and Avoiding


Hawaii Five-O—The Entertainment Weekly seemed to like it, but I’m on the fence. Not a fan of cop shows and procedurals, but I’ll sample it because of Daniel Dae Kim and Scott Caan. 3 episodes to prove yourself.

Chuck—Half of last season is still sitting on the DVR. I like the frothy light fun of the show and the ensemble is excellent. Of course, it’ll go on the DVR, but do I just skip ahead to the new season or never watch the season because we never catch up on DVR? Skip ahead, Bryan, you need more light shows in rotation. Sometimes I think I write these reviews just to remind myself to do something.

The Event—How will NBC screw up it’s latest Lost clone? Of course, I’ll watch, but I have a feeling like all these shows (Heroes, Fastforward), I’ll give up midway season two because the ridiculousness or boringness will be overbearing. 35 episodes if it’s still around.

Chase—Doesn’t one of the networks, usually NBC, come out with a bad-ass lady cop show that just disappears? I mean, every year. Isn’t this show already on TBS or something. No DVR for you.

Mike & Molly—Who and what now? A fat people comedy. I hate the fat people reality shows. Roseanne was funny because Roseanne was funny. No thanks. Avoid. Plus that one guy’s vocal inflections bugged me when he was on Earl.

Lone Star—This one looks interesting, but could easily be botched in execution. Is it a con man drama (which I like) or a dysfunctional family drama (eh.) or a soap opera (which is all about execution)? I must say, I’m intrigued. Five episodes to sample. Hopefully, this will be the gem of the season.

Castle—I know it’s a returning show, but I’ve seen a bunch of episodes in reruns over the summer at work. I don’t normally work Monday night and I won’t be DVRing it. Why must this show waste Nathan Fillions’ immense charm in this generic procedural? Don’t watch so Nathan can move on.

House—Only seen about ten episodes. I know should like it, but the plot is the exact same every week. No, not enough time.

(Oh, the shows I don’t mention are either ones I wouldn’t watch in a jillion years, but just don’t have the passion to hate or are reality shows. When I watch TV, I want writers and directors and actors to get paid. Reality shows are for the hospital or while folding laundry.)


No Ordinary Family—I’ll watch it at work, but DVR it for Shells. Not expecting groundbreaking, but Julie Benz and Michael Chiklis have a lot of good will from their last roles. Plus The Incredibles Family Drama seems like a decent enough idea.

Detroit 187—Also watch at work and DVR if Shells wants. Not expecting much. The Wire’s been done, sorry D-Town. Seems like a show with a depressing, gritty outer shell covering a generic center. The actors look good.

The Good Wife—Missed the boat on this one. Will continue to miss the boat. The same goes for Parenthood.

Glee—Will DVR for others in the house and only watch occasionally. The good (Jane Lynch, about half of the songs) isn’t outweighed by the bad (Haphazard ADD storytelling, the relentless upbeatness-which has changed since the pilot-and the other half of the songs).

Raising Hope—This show and the next one are benefitting from my perceived lack of sitcoms in the DVR queue. Created by the My Name is Earl creator and featuring a durable cast, this show has earned this a 4 episode try-out.

Running Wilde—Alright Will Arnett, your wife is on one of the funniest shows on TV (Parks and Rec), it’s your turn to go beyond Arrested Development. And you’ve got the AD team to help. Do it. Oh yea, Felicity’s there too. Four episodes to prove yourself.


Better With You—I’ll be at work, but DVR for Shells. I think ABC may have shot their comedy wad with Modern Family. Better with You looks like an early 2000’s Fox or CBS three-camera sitcom, so it might be iffy. It’s all up to the writing and the jokes in the commercial look awful. This may be cancelled early like that Kelsey Grammer show on ABC last year. Although, I remember ABC put the worse jokes into pre-season press for Modern Family. So, 4 episodes.

Modern Family—Hells yea.

Cougartown—If you gave up on Cougartown after a few episodes last year, check back in. The show is a lot better, more durable comedy-producing machine. Very likable and it doesn’t rest on Courtney Cox’s, arguably the weakest link, shoulders.

The Defenders—Affable show-killer Jerry O’ Connell and Deal With the Devil Man of the Year Jim Belushi? Um, no. who green lit this? The hot girl from Dirty Sexy Money is also in it, but that’s not enough. Booooo.No.

Undercovers—This may be the show I’ll kick myself for not watching by next year, but I already have a light spy show featuring a sexy couple in Chuck, so it’s a pass. Also, after the massively stupid end to Lost and the mess of an end that Alias became, JJ Abrhams no longer has my trust. Maybe just watch the season one DVDs when they come out. And be thankful not watching it to the end.

The Whole Truth—I’ll watch it in the background at work. DVR if Shells wants. Looks generic.


My Generation—ABC’s done the whole twenty-something angsty drama show before (October Road) with mixed results. I’m in my forties and could not care less. No DVR.

The Big Bang Theory—I wasn’t a fan of the early shows, but now Big Bang is the perfect sitcom to watch before going to bed. It clears out all the darkness of the brooding dramas we watch, isn’t complicated, well-made and just nerdy enough. I’ve come around. DVR.

$#*! My Dad Says—Looks generic, but Shatner gives it a 5 episode try-out.

Community, 30 Rock, The Office—We watch the Thursday NBC comedies as a block. All are good, but both The Office and 30 Rock slipped last season (as Parks and Rec rose), but like The Simpsons, we ain’t not gonna watch. Oh, check out Community if you weren’t watching, it’s improved as the season’s gone on.

Outsourced—The beneficiary of our Thursday night viewing habit. It’ll get DVR’d. NBC must not have much confidence in it, as it’s at the end of the block and not hammocked in between more popular shows. And honestly, it doesn’t look like a NBC Thursday show, has more of a three-camera feel. 5 episodes to sample, but honestly, we’ll probably DVR all of them out of laziness.

Fringe—Still have half of last season to watch. I like the show as a weird successor to X-Files, but Shells and I like to dump-watch Fringe and we just haven’t had 8 hours to sit in a room and look at a screen. I really don’t want to jump ahead on Fringe like we’ll probably do with Chuck. But maybe we will.

Nikita—23 year old me would’ve liked this rehash, but 40-mumble mumble me just feels guilty. No DVR.


Blue Blood—The cast looks fantastic, but a) cop shows and b) CBS dramas turn me off. No DVR.

Outlaw—One word. RE-DICK-U-LOUS. I mean, c’mon. No DVR.

The Good Guys—I might watch this show if there were 70 hours in a day and 20 days in a week. Just not enough time. No DVR.


Hey nothing’s on. Time to catch up on the DVR.


Boardwalk Empire—I’m excited to watch that show in just a few hours. It’s your last chance at greatness HBO. Scorsese, Buscemi, Terence Winter, crime drama, the 1920’s, how can this not be awesome? Why are you not watching this RIGHT NOW? Don’t fuck it up, HBO. Definite DVR.

The Simpsons—Everyone bitches about how the Simpsons isn’t as good as it used to be. You make a show for 20 years and be not just awful, but good and not just good but great. OK, shut up then. A Simpsons episode from any era always cheers me up and I laugh OUT LOUD at least five times in any given new episode. I never laugh at most shows i find funny. And the High-Def looks great. DVR, now and forever.

The Cleveland Show, Family Guy, American Dad—All the Simpsons critics and the young folk have moved on to these shows. I’ve seen ’em many times over the years, I just don’t DVR it. The reason, I just don’t care about the characters. At all. Much of it is funny in an ADHD/absurd kind of way, but I just don’t care. ‘Kay?

I could go on and on. I actually have an opinion about crap shows like Desperate Housewives, Private Practice and Grey’s Anatomy, but even I don’t care about them. Here’s two other shows I’m looking forward to:

Dexter—For once it looks like they can’t just pretend last season didn’t happen and reboot back to the beginning. Maybe they can. But if they do, this season is my last.

The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margret—David Cross and Will Arnett in a BBC comedy airing on IFC in October. Looks cool in that Can-My-Get-Any-Worse kind of way.

So, what show’s did I forget? What shows are you looking forward to watching and how long do you give a show before you bail?

I’ll have longer reviews later on of those shows that catch my fancy.

OOOOOO, my fancy is soooo hard to catch…..

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Terriers (2010)

FX is like Spike TV’s older smarter brother. The shows skew male, but have plenty in them to attract female viewers. I can’t think of a show on FX I don’t like, even the ones I don’t watch (Justified) I at least sampled and just decided I didn’t have time this season for them. I can’t say the same for HBO and Showtime which too often substitute boobs and gore for storytelling. (Although, this week on FX was male ass week, thankfully Louie ended last week) The Shield may have been unfairly compared to The Sopranos, but had more gas, was more emotional than The Sopranos and had a pitch perfect ending. That’s been FX’s problem, their shows get criticized as pay cable knock-offs and that’s unfair. Damages was easily better than any HBO show had on since The Wire (Sorry critics, HBO and David Simon failed with Treme, show don’t preach). As is Sons of Anarchy, although, so far, the new season is narratively running faster than I able to keep up. I like a show to be ahead of me, but SOA so byzantine, I’m lost on all the fine points of the Irish plot-line.
I think I know why FX isn’t given it’s due by critics, almost all of the network’s shows deals with very smart and resourceful poorer characters. Damages is the exception, but even the last season dealt with class in an almost Dickensian way. (How long have I been waiting to use ‘Dickensian,’ pretty long.) It’s Always Sunny—dirt poor. SOA–oh yea, poor. Even the middle class shows deal with financial problems. On regular TV, Showtime and HBO (except True Blood, but still nobody can miss that much work) everybody’s doing OK. Money isn’t the conflict, so the character’s problem and views on life are just different, more esoteric, less practical. (OK, I’m forgetting Nip/Tuck, but that was a cartoon of wealth)
The bikers on SOA read and are crafty and conflicted problem solvers, as on the little bit I saw of Justified and this new show Terriers.
I like FX because it seems to be programmed by Sawyer from Lost. Does that make sense?

Terriers has been compared to The Rockford Files and that’s fair up to a point. Hank and Britt are down on their luck unlicensed PI’s is coastal San Diego. The cliched parts—Hank (Donal Logue) is a recovering alcoholic disgraced cop kicked off the force because of an unnamed incident. He has an ex he’s trying to get back together with and she has a secret (it’s super easy to guess what her secret is, it’s what all ex’s do to the hero who’s still longing for them). She’s in the credits, but I’m not sure how she’ll stay around after the first two episodes I saw. Hank’s the motormouth with the plans, pretty much every character Donal Logue has ever played, but he’s damn good at those kinds of characters and he’s good here because he has someone to play off of. Britt (Michael Raymond James) is the quiet, more straightforward and deliberate partner. He was in jail, but of the two, seems less impulsive than Hank. Britt has a live-in girlfriend, a veterinarian student, who serves as the BS detector in the show. She’s a great counterpart to the two main leads and more naturally fits in the show. The last main character is the tough-as-nails cop (Rockmond Dunbar formerly of Prison Break) who was Hank’s former partner. He’s the duo’s ongoing adversary (and secret friend) and a constant reminder of how Hank’s life could of been. In the original Rockford Files, I was always annoyed at how dumb the cops were, but here, the cops seem smarter and, I think, a bit more willing to help the PI’s. Like in Rockford, they get all the credit for the major collars.

One of the reasons I’m not a fan of procedural shows like CSI and Law and Order is the static nature of the storytelling (body, questioning, twist, villain caught) and how they reset every episode like an ’80’s sitcom. You’d think the violent nature of their jobs and the sloooowww nature of police work would lead to more serialized elements like in Homicide and The Wire. The past would come back. Shit would mess people up.
Fortunately, Terriers has a serialized element or at least hints at one in the first two shows. That’s a big plus for me. The second plus is that the heros aren’t true blue. They cheat and lie and each case has a haphazard path to conclusion. Plus, those conclusions, in the first two shows weren’t what was expected. They’ll abandon one case to chase a larger one. I like that, it ensures the show won’t easily fall into a rut, case-wise, uses the methods they use to solve them as character enhancement. Also, being poor, they tend to barter to pay the rent, that’s cool. (One sub-plot shows just how valuable a dry cleaner can be.)
I like the show. The biggest draw is the easy-going banter between Britt and Hank, there’s a lot of ball-busting humor, but it’s okay because they’re friends. The writing is whip-smart and fun. And if you look at the credits, the producers, writers, directors all come from shows I’ve like in the past, so I’m willing to overlook any flaws as I’m sure they know what they’re doing. An example, Terriers hasn’t explained it’s title yet, but has on a few occasions goofed with what the audience may think the title means.
They’re having fun and Terriers is a generally light show about darker people, like Veronica Mars or Buffy.
I’m not 100 percent sold on adding the show to the rotation as I already have a bunch of shows I follow. If Shells want to watch it, I’m in. I do plan to give the show 5 episodes (My Mad Men rule—I hated the first two Mad Men, but by show five, I was hooked) before I decide. Next week looks fun, Olivia Williams (Dollhouse) will be on in what looks like a weird sex case.

It’s late, night night.
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Louie, God (2010)

A few years ago, while working on my own beliefs, I became fascinated with conversion stories and de-conversion stories. The religion didn’t matter because the stories were generally pretty similar. I’m not talking about people brought up one way and therefore never have to convert, but people who do a 180 in their lives after years of being a believer or non-believer.
The conversion stories were generally fraught with great emotion, the person generally went through some serious trauma or saw something unexplainable. Many said they could hear God’s voice, telling them to do something they didn’t want to do, but something they felt the should do. The nature of the act could be either unethical or ethical, in the Bible or forbidden in the Bible, didn’t matter. The key moment was some kind of other worldly epiphany. Very quick and very emotional. Fireworks and a flash of light.
The de-conversion stories could not be more dissimilar. The de-conversion stories took a long, long time. They were based in tiny steps of reason and not giant leaps of emotion. There were usually slip-ups and false paths and bargaining inherent with coming to accept the new beliefs. See Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God for a good example of a de-conversion story.
As always, these are some generalities based on the stories I’ve read and everyone’s different. I know my de-conversion was a slow process, while I remember my conversion as happening quickly, even though I’d been exposed to Christianity for most of my life.
Why people change their minds and beliefs is a fascinating concept to me, as most are far too fragile to even consider the other side or make such a giant change. Saying a large part of your life was wrong is a big ego crush.

Looking back over my previous entries on this blog, most of the reviews are of darker material, of thrillers and gore. That’s funny because I mostly watch comedies. I watch two or three MST3K’s a week (I’m watching them in order and up to the mid part of season 3), Shells and I have a whole bunch of shows on Comedy Central, Adult Swim and the comedy nights on each of the three networks and pay cable that we plow through weekly. All but a few of the podcasts I listen to are comedy related. The only blind spot is movies, it seems like the last truly funny movie I saw was Raising Arizona (Disclaimer: probably a lie).
FX’s Louie isn’t the laugh out loud funniest comedy on TV, but it may be my favorite. It’s my favorite because Louie CK isn’t squandering his latest opportunity at a show. He’s treating his comedy as art; it may not be high art, but his intentions are examination through comedy. One measure of true art is if the art is exploring the world or trying to make a kind of sense of the world. Through his comedy, Louie certainly seems like he’s just trying to figure shit out.
Louie also got what can only be described as an artist’s dream deal, FX gives him 250-thousand dollars an episode (for the whole production, it’s not much for a show, so if it fails FX doesn’t hurt much) and complete artistic control. This never happens. He also seems at an age to not crumble under such pressure, but flourish and use his comedy ideas to make a different kind of show. He usually has a bit of stand-up that launches into a short movie. Most episodes have two full bits.
A lot of the early reviews compared the show to Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm. And while he does traffic in the uncomfortable, anxiety based humor of a CYE, his targets aren’t the outside targets of CYE, like our social constructs and behavior, but more about Louie himself. He wants to care, but it’s kind of hard. He has trouble fitting in with a newly divorced life and the trappings of freedom. He’s obsessed with sex, gay and straight, and how it’s all sort of passed him by. He has strange, outrageous ideas, but to me they feel like the sorts of stuff you think about, but tend not to say out loud (in that way, it’s like CYE).
But he’ll take a small joke and spin it into a larger commentary. That’s why the show is valuable and has me writing about it.
The God episode is my favorite of the now finished season. (New episodes aired last night. I’m really a day late in writing this review. Get the DVD’s. I suck at promotion.)
God starts with the most offensive and most apt analogy on the nature of faith I’ve seen on TV. Louie is in a dumpy gas station rest room. A well-dressed, older man comes in and notices a glory hole in the wall with the word ‘Heaven’ written above it. The man starts unzipping his pants to put his penis in the hole.
Louie, “Hey, why are you doing that? Have you done this before? Something bad could happen.”
“No, I’ve never been here before. It says Heaven. Heaven…”
“But you could get you dick ripped off.”
“Then I guess you have to have faith.”

Maybe that sequence is an old joke, I don’t know, but it was played perfectly. Louie CK’s become a great actor, vulnerable and low-key. He wasn’t this good on his last show, Lucky Louie (and I was one of the few that liked that show because real people kind of talk that way). He also surrounds himself with other good lesser known comedians and actors who get the style and tone of the show.

The stand-out in God is Tom Noonan who usually plays quiet creepy authoritative types. He’s great in everything he’s in; go rent House of the Devil, an excellent 80’s satanic panic movie throwback from last year.

The longer second part of the show doesn’t even have Louie in it, but his 12 year old self, a bit gutsy and to me another indication that Louie CK is more interested in the idea than himself. Young Louie’s mom sends him to Catholic school because ‘every kid should be exposed to religion.’ After the nun catches his friend and him goofing off during a lecture, the nun brings in a doctor (Noonan) to do an autopsy on Jesus to show the kids how Jesus suffered for their sins. Noonan has Louie’s trouble making friend be Jesus and has Louie be Pontus Pilate. The doctor describes in inappropriate, Passion of the Christ detail, the horrific death of Jesus. Very graphic detail. He then has Louie ‘kill’ his friend to show how every time Louie commits even the smallest sin, he is driving the nails into Jesus’ wrist. Louie is always killing Jesus, every day. A completely innocent man who died because of and for his sins. (An extra bonus, the church gets to decide what sin is, helloooo masturbation and nails into Jesus.)
The whole autopsy sequence is hard to watch and seems like it should never happen to children. But if you’ve ever spent any time in Sunday School or ever listened close to the hymns sung, you know it does. Every atheist I know became one AFTER reading the bible. It happened to me.
So, later, wracked with guilt, Louie breaks into the church and pries the nails from the massive, blood soaked center piece Jesus statue. He wants to help and free Jesus. Of course, he gets into huge trouble, the nun can’t see why Louie would do such a horrible thing, defacing Jesus.
Fortunately for Louie, his mom takes him out of this parochial school after seeing how screwed up Louie and the school had become. This episode strikes me because it’s the only time I’ve ever seen a de-conversion story on TV. Most of the time, people on TV just replace one faith for another, if faith is ever even mentioned.
Oh, the last shot—A disinterested handyman, cigarette dangling from mouth, haphazardly hammers new nails into Jesus’ wrists.

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Rubicon (2010)

Here’s the lead to every Rubicon review I’ve run across,

“AMC has been on a roll lately…”

And lazy me, every way I’ve thought to start this review was some variation on that sentiment. So, let’s just go with it…

AMC’s shows have specialized in characters who are at once an enigma, yet also an archetype. As well as sympathetic. You get the feeling Don Draper or Walter White could be capable of anything given the appropriate situation. There was a point in Mad Men’s season one where I would’ve bet Don was going to kill his brother and Walt, well, Walt has killed more than once. And still we root for them and empathize. The shows are slow boils, where what isn’t said is as important as what is, where appearance and perception is often passed off as reality. Plot is secondary to the character and tone is king.

Rubicon fits the mold of Breaking Bad and Mad Men in many ways, but also adds a different element, the element is the notion of plot as enigma. The plot of Rubicon feels like a character, an amorphous enigma of conspiracy, doubt, hidden knowledge.
On the surface, Rubicon is a conspiracy mystery. The lead, Will Travers, is mostly a true blue trying to work out a conspiracy surrounding a death. I don’t want to give too much of the plot so far because the show isn’t about surprises, but about the slow build. The viewer doesn’t even have a firm grasp of what Will does for a living for the first three episodes and most of the show is set at his work place. That’s what I mean about the plot as a living character, it lurks in the corners and, for the most part, the characters have to work to draw out the plot instead of outside forces mostly shaping the actions of it’s characters. Most of television is an examination of a character’s reactions to plot. These reactions force a tidy resolution, in say, 48 minutes. No so with Rubicon.
This may be why many have called the show slow-moving(that’s code for boring). Watch the first three episodes of Mad Men, very slow plot-wise, but the show kicks in on other levels by episode five. This is where Rubicon is now. Last week, it’s sixth episode, is where the really episode kicks in.
The show’s tone is of a classic 1970’s paranoia movie like Day of the Jackyl. There’s a grimy dated quality to the sets. It wasn’t until I saw a picture of President Obama on a back ground wall that I was certain of the year of the show. They don’t work at CSI or rarely use anything high-tech. The cinematography likes to surround the characters inside doorways and frames inside frames (shout out to ’40’s noir, y’all) and the exterior shots look like elaborate, warped mazes or stereo-eye pictures. The interiors are bland, florescent-lit affairs. Another criticism I’ve read is the show looks cheap, but the show looks this way for a reason.
The ambiguous acting, the small apartment, the dinginess, the officiousness of the higher-ups, the slow pace, everything adds to the tone of creeping paranoia. Will and the other show’s ‘hero,’ a widower trying to understand her husband’s suicide, could move on easily from tragedy, like many of the other characters around them apparently have, but their sense of paranoia, in part, compels them forward.
In many conspiracy movies, the conspiracy itself is a large overwhelming behemoth crushing those who interfere. Here, it seems, the conspiracy moves slowly and quietly. Rubicon isn’t a show like Lost or Heroes where mystery upon mystery thrown at the viewer in a vane attempt at some connected meaning. I don’t think Rubicon will become victim to this mystery overload for a few reasons. One, the focus is narrow, just a handful of characters. Two, the characters drive the conspiracy solving, not the other way around. Their compulsion is, in part, not just emotional, but intellectual. Three, the ‘bad people’ can and do good things and vice versa. Their motives, so far, aren’t based in arrogance. And four, the tone is low-key.
Another reason to watch is the actual work-place lives of the characters. It’s unique and interesting and the show does a great job of showing the effect and cost of doing such a specialized job. These people are thinkers and over thinkers and obsessives and paid to be such. And they all have to lie about their lives.
I know I didn’t do a good job of explaining what the show’s about, but you figuring out the explanation is the big lure.
Like Mad Men and Breaking Bad, you’re encouraged to fill in the blanks.
So far, Rubicon has plenty of blanks. Just give it a few episodes.

Oh, and AMC’sThe Walking Dead is going to be balls-out awesome, for reasons entirely different than Rubicon and Mad Men.

(AMC has already renewed The Walking Dead for a second season and it doesn’t air until Halloween. No word on Rubicon, get on it public and watch it and get on it AMC and renew it.)

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The Kingdom (1995) and the RPG Heaven and Earth (2004)

Lars Von Trier can be a real heavy-handed sumnabitch. Movies like Dogville-that bloody anti-Our Town-spend half of it’s running time bludgeoning it’s message at the audience in such a relentless manner that literally every character becomes a martyred symbol by the end. That said, it was an extremely interesting failure. Might as well aim for the bleachers.

So, I’ll generally give a Lars Von Trier movie a chance if I’m in the right mood. I liked his last film Anti-Christ because the dreamy symbolic and dark imagery worked and I’d watch Willem Defoe in just about anything. Yea, the ending was a bit much and lacked subtlety, but, honestly, I give most horror/thriller/dark dramas a pass on ending because I expect to be disappointed. The main selling point in these types of movies is ‘What is the central idea and is it executed well?’

I saw The Kingdom (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108906/) on Netflix streaming and had always wanted to see the mini-series because I’m a sucker for the core set-up: a seemingly normal small town or location that hides dark or supernatural secrets. Blue Velvet, although it doesn’t hold up well, is one of my favorite films. I read Stephen King’s Under the Dome (great idea and 3/4ths of a story with a lame ending, but that’s most of King’s books). There was an American adaptation of The Kingdom with King’s name on it that I saw a little bit of few years ago, but it was a dreary affair. So I was kind of pumped to see the original Danish mini-series. I’ve only seen the first two hours of eight (more later tonight), but I’m liking it and it has me thinking about some other topics I’ll cover in a bit. I love it when a movie I just saw before bed also seeps into my dreams as the tone on last night’s dream could have been an episode of the show.
So, The Kingdom refers to a Danish hospital built on spooky grounds. Much of the show could play as a dark medical comedy about the arrogance and just plain haphazardness of running a modern hospital. The characters already have flaws and mysteries and obsessions that make them at once mildly compelling and empathetic and also deserving of a grizzly end. The main character in the show has to the most arrogant SOB doctor character in the history of the arrogant SOB doctor genre. Love it. (Also learned that the Swedes looks down or at least this guy looks down on the Danes. He would go up to the top of the hospital and loudly scream profanities at his Danish counterparts.) There’s rapid disfunction, a literal crumbling of the institution, secret societies, and even an adorable Down Syndrome duo that serve as a Greek chorus. Of course, there’s some supernatural shenanigans which hopefully will turn down right Cthulhu as the show goes on. On the heavy-handed side, director/writer Lars, himself tuxedoed, would show up at the end in the credits and go on about good and evil and god and the nature of interest in such things. Odd. Anyway, this isn’t really a review as the show got me thinking about a Role Playing Game I ran for seeshells a few years ago.

Heaven and Earth(http://www.abstractnova.com/heavenearth.php) had a real compelling mystery at it’s center that I won’t spoil here, but the tone of the game made me want to run it and adapt it to my own style and write some plots and characters to fill in the mystery. The game centered around my favorite place, a small Kansas college town chock-a-block with weirdness and secrets. Every character had a secret. The RPG book gave some supernatural explanations for most of the secrets, but also supplied realistic reasons for the strangeness. My idea to expand the core book was to actually have some of the secrets be mundane and some supernatural and to be like an onion so that mundane mysteries would lead to other other-worldly secrets and vice-versa. I wrote about 50 NPC’s. Most characters only knew a tiny part of the big mystery and some believed the wrong thing about it or only a part of it, some were skeptical about some of it, but not other parts. Some were oblivious and most concealed something. Heck, some characters were ghosts who were credulous about some explanations. Anyway, I wanted to make a sandbox for the player character to go anywhere, soak it in and find mysteries everywhere. The game failed a bit because it didn’t always present a strong compelling course of action for seeshells’ characters. Basically, there was almost too much to do and I had her create a bunch of different characters to knock around town with. But I would like to use this place to solve on of the mysteries seeshells stumbled upon to show how you can use a character in the weird town genre to open up a wider story. (An aside, I was attracted The Kingdom because it was a mini-series so there was more room for multiple explanations and multi-layered mysteries. The same for the too-short ABC show Happytown which at least resolved it’s central mystery without resorting to cheap left-field supernatural explanations. Maybe it would have it it dragged on a few seasons. BTW, boo to Lost for it’s cheap non-explanation spiritual ending. Ang-ry.)
So, one of seeshells’ characters was staying at a Bed and Breakfast run by the sweet widow of an ex-mayor. The widow had a bulldog she was extremely attached to. Seeshells’ inquisitive character soon deduced that the bulldog was really the spirit or reincarnation of the widow’s husband. That’s pretty simple, mystery solved, right? Well, the widow did believe the dog was her husband, she did the satanic ritual to ensoul the dog in her basement. But why did she do it? What the widow didn’t know was the mayor wasn’t dead, the circumstances around his ‘death’ opened up a new mystery as also the whereabouts of the mayor. But there were people using supernatural forces (or being used by them) to control the dog to get the widow to carry out their bidding for their own strange ends. And down the rabbit hole we go.

I guess what I’m getting at is that most movies are too cut and dry in their telling of supernatural stories. It’s almost always the big bad ghostie pulling all the strings at the end of the day. It’s never ever a natural explanation if the supernatural is hinted at in the beginning. The only place that happens is Scooby Doo and then the reverse is true, wouldn’t you love it if a ghost DID gobble up Shaggy in just one episode? Mini-series offer the hope of the onion.
Man, I hate that recent rash of the skeptical/supernatural movie. (Only can think of Signs, but there’s also that movie with Hillary Swank and some river of blood) You know the plot, a skeptic who used to be a believer but lost faith because of the death of a child or wife now is a full time debunker of supernatural hoo-haw. In the first scene, he does expose a fraud, but then has a case too good to pass up. For half the movie, weirdness and disbelief abound until, something so bizarre happens (usually involving the ghost of a small girl), and the skeptic loses someone close to them. It’s only through coming around to full-on belief and eventual self-sacrifice is the big bad supernatural averted. And of course, no one believes him and everything is reset X-Files style.

I hope The Kingdom doesn’t end that way and the douche bag doctor is just eaten by Cthulhu.

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