Archive for the 'Television' Category

02
Aug
14

Breaking Bad Was Breaking Great But Not Breaking Perfect (AKA Endings Are Hard)

Breaking Bad is heralded as one of the greatest TV series of all time. I recently finished my first watch of the show on Netflix, and I have to admit, it was pretty fantastic. There are very few other shows that have such complex stories and deep characters, and are able to consistently deliver riveting television episode after episode. I’ll admit I was pretty obsessed with the show while I was watching it. I purposefully waited until the show was over to watch it, because I knew I would want to marathon it. Seeing every episode in such a short amount of time allowed me to view the character and story arcs as they naturally developed. Night after night, I couldn’t wait to see what kind of nefarious scheme Heisenberg had cooked up. And time after time, the show delivered things in fresh and satisfying ways. Watching the series, I knew why people were saying it was one of the best shows of all time. It had great acting, dark humor, complicated storylines, and it never pulled any punches. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a perfect series. Despite the writers’ best efforts, the show faltered in its final season and left a series finale that didn’t deliver what it should have.

When Breaking Bad starts, it’s about a schlubby high school chemistry teacher named Walter White who lives a boring life. He’s married to a bitch, his job sucks, and he just got diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say his life is terrible. So, wanting to provide for his family after his death, he does what any normal person would do, start cooking and selling meth. Walter, having such a shitty life, stops giving any fucks about anything, and lives a life that we, as viewers, only wish we could. He talks shit to people he hates, he blows up an asshole’s sports car, and he begins to grow a criminal empire. Living vicariously through Walter was one of the reasons the first season was so damn good.

Continue reading ‘Breaking Bad Was Breaking Great But Not Breaking Perfect (AKA Endings Are Hard)’

07
Dec
13

Justified Season 4, Person of Interest Season 2

Justified Season 4

Raylan and Boyd, doublemint awesome.

TV shows that can maintain an intelligent and engaging storyline are few and far between. Justified, however, is one of those shows. Each season is just as incredible as the last. This year, things took a slight detour, eschewing the usual central villain and supplanting it with a mystery. The mystery of season 4 is figuring out how a human body and bags of cocaine fell out of the sky. The mystery was fun, but a bit too convoluted for its own good. Watching the series weekly, it was easy to forget the details and get completely lost. Perhaps marathoning the season would make the mystery easier to follow.
All the things I love about Justified are back this season. Raylan is as stoic and badass as ever. Boyd is a creepy and lovable villain. The back and forth, cops and robbers games the characters play are just as intricate as ever. Boyd in particular shows some serious character growth this season, and further cements how fantastically written all of these characters are. Natalie Zea, who played Raylan’s ex Winona, left the show this season to take a leading role on Fox’s so-bad-it’s-hilarious show The Following. Fortunately, she was never really all that intregal to Justified, anyway. We also got the introduction of Bob Sweeney, a local constable played by the always funny Patton Oswalt. Although he’s a guest star, he was a great addition to the cast.
While the characters and story remain as great as always, this wasn’t my favorite season of Justified. I’d say season 3 was my favorite so far. Nevertheless, this was another great year for the series. There’s so much to love here. The recently departed Elmore Leonard would be proud. It’s only a shame more people aren’t watching Jusitifed. It is the best show on TV.
Verdict: Awesome
Person of Interest Season 2

Person of Interest main cast.

Almost all of my gripes about season 1 were corrected in season 2. Mostly, I complained about the focus on the case-of-the-week format, and the casting of Taraji Henson as a lead character. Both of these things have improved in the new season. Taraji Henson stepped up her game and when she acted alongside the other characters, she didn’t get lost in the mix. At times, she shines brighter than the others. I can only assume that she must have read my blog post, and as a diehard Awesomely Shitty fan, she got her act together.
The case-of-the-week format still exists in season 2, but it’s not as annoying as it was in season 1. The cases seem more organically linked together. There is a current running through the cases now that wasn’t there before. While it does still have a large case-of-the-week format, there is an extra emphasis on mythology now, which will carry the series over the long haul.
Somewhat annoyingly in the last episode, Root showed up and kidnapped Harold AGAIN. Although, the stakes were higher and things got crazier with a totally nuts scene where The Machine is one the phone with Reese, pointing out bad guys so he can shoot them. The ultimate reveal at the end of the episode was awesome and nicely set the stage for season 3.
Overall, Person of Interest is turning into a very good TV show. The acting is good, the main storyline engaging, the action scenes fun, and it includes an ever evolving mythology. At this point, its only drawback is the extended 22 episodes season. If it could be compressed into 12-13 episodes, there wouldn’t be much filler, and the series would be non-stop awesome.
Verdict: Good
05
Oct
13

It’s Pilot Season – 2013

The Fall 2013 television season is upon us. And that means we’re inundated with the worst the networks have to offer. Each year brings us new series; a few will be great, but most will be unwatchable trash. There’s far too many horrible series out there for me to review them all. So, I’ve decided to watch the three biggest pilots of this season and review them. Please note, my reviews are not necessarily what I think of the entire series, but simply my thoughts on the pilot episode.
Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD

Yawn.

Holy fuck, we start right out the gate with a major shitfest. Even on paper, Agents of SHIELD sounds like a horrible idea. An Avenger’s show without the Avengers in it? What could go wrong? Recently, Fox picked up a show for the 2014 season that would feature Gotham city without Batman. People started making fun of it immediately and/or bemoaning how terrible an idea it is to do a Batman show without Batman. And you know what? Those people are absolutely right. Nobody gives a fuck about Gotham City without Batman. So, why would we give a fuck about SHIELD without the Avengers? The reason The Avengers was a massive hit was everybody wanted to see Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk together on the big screen. I guaran-fucking-tee you that nobody said, “Ooohhh I can’t wait to see Agent Coulson and some other nondescript guys in black suits!” And that is exactly what Agents of SHIELD is. It’s a generic spy/sci-fi series about a bunch of nondescript guys in black suits. Watching it is painful. You just keep thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if Iron Man just blasted through a wall and started kicking some ass? But it’s not going to happen. Instead, we see a bunch of non-superheroes acting like a bunch of idiots. Thanks guys, if I wanted to see that, I could watch any other genre of film or television. From a conceptual standpoint alone, this series failed miserably.
21
Jun
13

Haywire, Louie Season 2

Haywire

She looks better with her hair covering her face.

What do you get when you cross Ocean’s 11 with The Bourne Identity? A steaming pile of shit, that’s what. This 2011 movie was written by Lem Dobbs whose previous work included such gems as Dark City. It’s directed by Steven Soderbergh who filmed the aforementioned Ocean’s movies. Haywire is about a beautiful female spy (is there any other kind?) who gets betrayed on a mission and has to go on the run. 90% of the screentime is dedicated to Mallory (played by Gina Carano) avoiding capture by spies or police. At times she must outwit them, and other times she must beat the crap out of people. This is exactly what happens in all the Bourne movies. The espionage angle and the fights are portrayed realistically, just like in the Bourne movies. However, unlike the Bourne movies, this movie eschews madcap pacing necessary to build tension and keep viewers interested. Haywire insists on being slow and methodical, even during chase scenes. Mallory doesn’t seem particularly in a hurry even though everyone wants to kill her. For example, after she kills the man who was supposed to assassinate her, she takes a shower, does her makeup, and makes a phone call before vacating the premesis.

Carano, a former martial artist turned actor, is headlining in her first major motion picture. Her acting, as expected, is just as good as any former martial artist turned actor: shitty. You could easily replace her with Chuck Norris or Steven Seagal, and get the same caliber of wooden line delivery. The only difference is that Carano has a pair of tits, so I suppose that makes her better than those other guys. Soderbergh does a terrible job directing. Clearly, he wishes he had been a movie director in the 1970s. All the framings, the zoom-ins and zoom-outs, random use of black and white, and weird lens filters scream 1970s. Hey, guess what, Soderbergh? We aren’t living in the 1970s. Get over it. You can’t make a Bourne movie and film it like an Ocean’s movie. It just doesn’t work.

Haywire happens to have a pretty good cast, including Awesomely Shitty favorite Michael F. Assbender, Channing “C-Tates” Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Bill Paxton, Antonio Banderas, and Michael Douglas. Sadly, the good actors (Douglas and Banderas) get the least amount of screen time possible. The majority of the film is taken up by the people who suck at acting, namely Carano and C-Tates. Lastly, the story is goddamn retarded. The double-cross against Mallory makes no sense. If the bad guys hadn’t involved her in the first place, their plan would have totally worked. Let’s not forget how Mallory, who is a fucking spy, has a bad case of verbal diarrhea, spilling the entire events of the movie to a hostage who looks like the poor man’s version of James McAvoy. Why did she do that? It is a narrative device, obviously, but they could have just as easily told the story through a flashback, and not made Mallory look so stupid. All in all, this movie sucks ass. The lethargic pacing, the crappy acting, the faux-70s directing, and the fact that Soderbergh just can’t handle the material all make this movie a big ole turd.

Verdict: Shitty

Louie Season 2

Louie doesn’t look too thrilled to have his own TV show.

The second season of Louie continues the harsh, honest, and hilarious look at the titular comedian’s life. After watching two seasons of the show, I realize that it doesn’t really conform to the typical narrative structure you see anywhere else. It is mostly a series of vignettes in the life of Louis C.K. If anything, you could say it is a bunch of disconnected short stories that can be pretty horrifying, but Louis somehow manages to extract humor from them. Although the first season was amazing, I think the second season was consistently better. Every episode was memorable, or at least had memorable parts. The two highlights for me were the episode where Louis meets comedian Dane Cook and they talk about Cook having been accused of stealing Louis’ jokes, and the hour-long episode where Louis inadvertently takes a duckling to Afghanistan while performing a few USO shows for the troops. Incredibly, the show manages to be extremely high quality with Louis taking on acting, writing, directing, producing, and editing duties. If he isn’t a one-man production team, then I don’t know what is. Season 2 continues the greatness of the first, and is highly recommended.

Verdict: Awesome

05
Apr
13

Person of Interest Season 1

Peoples of Interests

J.J. Abrams is the king of producing entertaining pilot episodes. From the incredibly awesome like Fringe to the good but flawed Alias to the hilariously terrible like Lost, he knows how to put together a first episode. Abrams, however, as a hands-off producer, isn’t the driving force behind this series. That title belongs to Jonathan Nolan, brother of famous film director Christopher Nolan. Jonathan is no slouch in the writing department. He wrote a short story which became the film Memento, and he was co-writer on The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Of course, when I started Person of Interest, I didn’t know any of this, I just started it, expecting another shitty, by the numbers cop procedural.

Surprisingly, this series offers much more than that. Let’s start with the bad stuff. Yes, the show has a case-of-the-week format. Yes, there are a lot of filler episodes. And yes, it airs on network TV which is usually not a good thing. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about the good stuff.

First, the premise is great. A computer genius named Harold Finch (played by Michael Emerson) created “The Machine” for the U.S. government in the paranoia following 9/11. The Machine is an omnipresent monitoring device the government uses to eavesdrop on everyone via security cameras, email, telephones, GPS, etc. If it finds what it perceives to be a terrorist threat, it passes that information to the government. If some piece of information is considered irrelevant, it ignores it. Finch realized that the irrelevant stuff often led to crimes and/or murders that he had no way of stopping. He eventually teams up with a disavowed CIA agent named John Reese (played by Jim Caviezel) and the two of them try to stop the “irrelevant” crimes.

“Let’s go save some people we are interested in.”

Second, the show kicks ass. Solving crimes doesn’t involve a bunch of CSI-style bullshit lab work. No, it typically features Reese following bad guys and then confronting bad guys. In order to solve crimes, he usually commits way more crimes including armed robbery, arson, kidnapping, assault, and murder. Of course, he is doing all this stuff to bad guys, but it is fun to watch him deal vigilante justice and cause way more destruction and mayhem than if he had just ignored the irrelevant crime in the first place. Anytime Reese throws down with someone, the show is plenty exciting.

Third, the writing is great. Despite having a case-of-the-week format, there are several story threads that run continuously throughout the episodes. Every character has a compelling back story, which is teased to the audience through flashbacks throughout the season. By the end of the season you know more about Reese, Finch, The Machine, and the two main antagonists, but you certainly don’t know everything. There are plenty of mysteries left to be unraveled. The show can also be surprising, as when Reese and Finch set out to stop a crime, they don’t know if the person The Machine has given them is going to be the perpetrator or the victim. A couple of times, the person they are protecting turns out to be the bad guy. It keeps the show more fresh and varied, and offers up a good deal of entertainment.

Time to shoot some interesting people.

The acting is kind of a mixed bag. Caviezel plays his character as a stoic, monotone warrior who would rather kick your ass than mince words. At first this seems to be a drawback, but as the character becomes more fleshed out, you get a sense of why he became that way, and it ultimately works in his favor. Emerson is consistently good as the nerdy and paranoid Finch, and manages to be dramatic and comedic in all the right places. Kevin Chapman, who plays a crooked cop (Fusco), is also consistently good. Even guest stars like Enrico Colantoni (Elias) can bring in pretty great performances. The major weak link in the acting is Taraji Henson (Carter), who plays a sassy cop who is hot on Reese’s trail. The material is beyond her capabilities, and she is completely unbelievable as a police detective. Any time she’s on-screen with someone else, she’s upstaged. She doesn’t have the acting chops to successfully pull off this role. I’ve never cared for her. She was annoying on Boston Legal, and she’s just as annoying here.

My biggest complaint of TV in general is that seasons are too long. With a 22 episode order, and maybe 11-12 episodes worth of ideas, the writers are stuck shoe-horning in 9 or 10 shitty episodes every year. If the networks followed cable’s example, and did 13 episode seasons, the writing of all their series would be much better. With Person of Interest, it becomes obvious which episodes are meant to move the story along and which are written as afterthoughts because they needed to fill an order for a specific number of episodes. The filler episodes are generally weak, and easily skippable. The important episodes, though, are a blast, totally engrossing, and definitely worth watching.

Sure, Person of Interest isn’t revolutionary. It’s not meant to be. But it is a step above the typical procedural dreck that plagues network TV. If you are in the mood for something a little different, with a cool premise, fun action, and good writing, then you should check this one out.

Verdict: Good

01
Mar
13

Louie Season 1, Season of the Witch

Louie Season 1

Louie looks confused.

Comedian Louis C.K. has the funniest show currently airing on TV, aptly titled Louie. You have probably never heard of it. Instead, you spend most of your time watching Two and a Half Men and The Big Bang Theory, and laughing your ass off because you think recycled shit is hilarious. Guess what, dumbass? You need to change the channel to FX and watch Louie. The show is an honest look at the daily life of a single-dad living in New York City who happens to be a comedian and an enthusiastic masturbator. No joke is considered off-limits. In the first episode Louie is accompanying his daughters on a field trip, and the bus breaks down in Harlem. Solution? Put all the black kids next to the windows to ensure the safety of the bus. With all kinds of jokes about race, sex, religion, inadequacy, aging, parenting, and more, there is nothing that Louie won’t touch. His brand of humor can often times be like the British version of The Office. Some situations can be laugh out loud funny, but other situations can just be relentlessly cruel and awkward. At times, the show can be soul-crushing. But no matter what, in every episode, you are always guaranteed to see something completely original and well worth your time.

Verdict: Awesome

Season of the Witch

Cage looks confused, too.

Nicolas Cage’s choices in movies can be considered questionable at best. Horrifyingly shitty at worst. If you check out his IMDB page you’ll see he does 3-4 movies a year. 75% of those are guaranteed to be crap. The remaining 25% has a 50% chance of being good and 50% chance of being awful. Is that enough math for one day? Well, I’ll simplify things. Season of the Witch is absolute crap. And not campy, funny crap like The Wicker Man. It’s stinky rotten crap so putrid you shouldn’t go within 500 yards of it.

The movie offers an interesting parallel to the movie Black Death. In Black Death, Sean Bean led a group of medieval knights to a village to kill a witch responsible for the plague. It turned out she wasn’t a witch at all, the villagers sacrificed the knights to some pagan gods, and HOLY SHIT I JUST REALIZED THAT MOVIE IS A TOTAL RIP-OFF OF THE WICKER MAN! EVERYTHING HAS COME FULL CIRCLE NOW! OH MY FUCKING GOD! Ahem. In Season of the Witch, Cage and Ron Pearlman lead a group of medieval knights to a village where a witch who was responsible for the plague will be put on trial. The key difference between the two movies is that in Black Death witchcraft isn’t real, and in Season of the Witch, it is real.

The movie started off promising with Cage and Pearlman speaking in really half-assed English accents as they killed hundreds of people in literally every battle of the entire Crusades. After that, the movie takes a nosedive into boring mediocrity. Nothing exciting happens, Cage brings in a very restrained performance, the CGI is horrendous, and the story is thread-bare. In the end there is a huge battle against the forces of darkness, and of course the good guys win. Yawn.

To be honest, I wish Cage and Pearlman would have used their regular voices instead of making the movie even worse with their terrible English accents. There is no rule that says every historical movie has to feature people with English accents. That’s a bourgeoisploitation fallacy. The fact that these guys were fighting demons excludes the notion they were going for historical accuracy. Why not just let them speak normally?

As an aside, why does everyone in Game of Thrones have English accents, too? They aren’t in fucking England, and the author is from fucking New Jersey. HBO should fuck off.

Verdict: Shitty

01
Feb
13

Fringe – Season 5

Season 5 title screen.

Fringe Executive Producer and Showrunner J.H. Wyman said this about Season 5, “My biggest concern was telling an authentic, honest story that I could stand behind, and that I would feel I was giving the fans the love letter that I think they deserve.”

Well, if the final season was a love letter to the fans, then the final episode was a gigantic fuck you.

General Thoughts

After watching the final moments of the show, a show I have invested years in, I couldn’t help but be furious. I wanted to smash something. Seriously. Wyman took a damn good season, a damn good series, and crushed it in a few confusing, contradictory final moments. He did two things: 1) he fucked up because he insisted on using time travel while failing to understand its logistics, and 2) he fucked up because he doesn’t give a shit.

Continue reading ‘Fringe – Season 5′




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