Archive for the 'Television' Category

26
Apr
15

Boardwalk Empire is Over

Boardwalk Empire quietly aired on HBO for the last five years, and the final season recently wrapped up. This was an interesting series because it had the pedigree of an all-out hit. It had Steve Buscemi in the lead with lavish productions values, a fantastic period setting, and a pilot directed by Martin Scorsese. Strangely, it never reached commercial mass appeal. It seemed to always be overshadowed by other series like Game of Thrones or whatever else HBO happened to be airing. Boardwalk Empire was always the bridesmaid on the progamming block. That was too bad, because it deserved better. It was a great series.

The story was about prohibition-era gangsters, their battle for control of the bootleg liquor industry, and the rise of organized crime in the United States. While it is ostensibly fiction, there are a lot of historical characters populating the series like Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and many others. Buscemi’s character, Nucky Thompson, was based on real-life gangster Enoch Johnson. They chose to fictionalize him so they could do whatever they wanted with his storyline, and not have to stick too rigidly to historical fact.

The numerous characters wove a fantastic tapestry of stories stretching over the course of the roaring 20s. The characters all effected one another, not always directly, but each player had a part that could influence events in everyone’s lives. It doesn’t quite get to The Wire’s level of interconnectedness, but it certainly does a good job, anyway. The characters are absolutely fascinating, from the lead played by Buscemi, to Michael Shannon’s rage-proned prohibition agent Nelson Van Alden, to Kelly MacDonald as Nucky’s wife, to Michael William’s Chalky White, to disfigured Richard Harrow, played by John Huston. There are many more characters than this, and they all electrify the screen.

Continue reading ‘Boardwalk Empire is Over’

05
Apr
15

The Other Woman, Broadchurch Season 1

The Other Woman

Blergh.

The Other Woman is the epitome of shitty Hollywood film-making. It features a braindead plot about a high-powered New York City lawyer, played by Cameron Diaz, who never actually has to do any work. She is unwittingly having an affair with a married man. She is “the other woman.” When the wife, played by Leslie Mann, finds out, she immediately gloms onto Diaz, and forces the two of them to become friends. They bond over their mutual hatred for the husband. Obviously, this would never happen. The movie tries to force insipid, unfunny buddy comedy down the audience’s throat. I guess you could equate watching this movie to being waterboarded. Anyway, the two women hook up with a third woman who is also unwittingly sleeping with the husband. The three of them team up to humiliate him. They eventually get revenge, and the movie takes a sudden and bizarre turn into gross-out/violence humor when the husband walks through two plate glass windows and gets soaked in blood. As an aside, what the fuck happened to Cameron Diaz’s face? It looks like an old catcher’s mitt in this movie. I wish I had a score lower than Shitty on this blog, because that’s what I would give this train wreck.

Verdict: Shitty

Broadchurch Season 1

These are our happy faces.

Broadchurch is a 2013 British TV series about a murder investigation in a small town. The series was so successful that it managed to snag a second season, even though it was originally meant to just be a mini-series. An 11-year-old boy is found dead on the beach in an idyllic coastal town. Police show up to investigate, but the lead investigator, played by David Tennant, has a black mark on his record, being unable to close a previous case due to a scandal. The media shows up, as well, making the investigation much harder to conduct. There are several central characters populating the small town, each of whom has some kind of secret they are protecting. The point of Broadchurch wasn’t really the murder investigation. It was how the investigation turned up all the town’s dirty secrets, and turned citizens against one another. It featured some brilliant writing at times, the case was riveting, and the performances from Tennant, and his co-lead Olivia Colman, were fantastic. This is a great series, and a great deviation from the usual procedural crap that plagues TV these days.

Verdict: Good

25
Oct
14

Justified Season 5, Louie Season 3

Justified Season 5

Justified is nothing if not consistent. It consistently provides some of the best stories on TV. Once again, we journey to Harlan county, although this time with the first detour to Florida since the first episode. Raylan goes head to head with the Crowe clan. The Crowes are the dumbest, most bumbling group of redneck criminals of all time. Despite their idiocy, they manage to pose a significant threat to the good people of Harlan. Raylan does his usual shtick of talking tough and quick-drawing on bad guys. He’s a fairly straight-forward character, it’s true, but you know exactly what you’re getting with him. The person you can never be quite sure about is Boyd. Once again Boyd weaves his way in and out of the lives of the other various characters in Harlan county. This season sees him travel as far North as Detroit and as far South as Mexico on his quest to become a drug kingpin. Boyd probably kills more people this season than in any previous. Despite him being a despicable criminal, he has so much damn charisma, it’s impossible not to root for him. The biggest surprise this season was that Boyd’s relationship with Ava became the driving force behind the story. The fifth season of Justified continues full-steam ahead, bringing awesome, complex tales week after week. The best part, as always, remains the lively cast of characters.

Verdict: Awesome

 Louie Season 3

I’m not sure what sort of glowing praise I could write about this series that hasn’t already been written. Louis C.K. remains at the top of his game in the third season of the show that he writes, directs, edits, and stars. That’s a lot of heavy lifting for one person. But with near total creative control, he manages to stick to his vision resolutely. It pays off nearly every single time. Each episode is funny, insightful, and somehow tragic all at once. He experiments more with long form storytelling this season than in the previous two. He features a long arc in which Louie is recruited to shoot a pilot to show if he has the right stuff to replace David Letterman. This late night “mini-series” was by far the highlight of the season, and David Lynch was a treat as the “mentor” (if you can call him that). Louie continues to grow, continues to take risks, and continues to pay off in spades. It is one of the best comedies on TV.

Verdict: Awesome

04
Oct
14

It’s Pilot Season – 2014

The Fall 2014 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 pilots that had the most promotional advertising 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.

Gotham

Holy shit on a stick, Batman! Gotham is Fox’s attempt at cashing in on the tiresome superhero craze that plagues the world. Last year, I complained that doing an Avengers show without the Avengers was an idiotic idea. Gotham is more of the same, as it is a Batman show without Batman. It’s a prequel to the adventures of the caped crusader. And, guess what? It sucks. Nobody gives a fuck about the origins of all these villains. What’s the point? None of them are ever going to die, because they wouldn’t live to face the dark knight. So, there is no tension whatsoever. This is combined with a cheap series of sets that look like they came from the 90s, plus an entire backdrop of CGI just for an extra layer of shit. The writers are trying to make this into long-form series by positing the idea that Bruce Wayne’s parents were killed in a conspiracy, rather than a random mugging. I think they are going to be stretching a thin idea too far. There is no way they can keep this going for multiple seasons and make it good. Not that the first episode was good either. It was a huge hunk of gouda, a slice of the stinkiest cheese imaginable. Everyone chews scenery, bringing in over the top performances which also belong in the 90s.  Continue reading ‘It’s Pilot Season – 2014′

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.



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