Saturday, March 01, 2014

Best of the Week: 3/1/14

Quote of the Week: Guy threw his leg out the window, jumped out, slid down the light pole and then gave me the bird! C’mon, I love this guy, let me catch him. (Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens, Justified)

Song of the Week: Don't Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet – Juliet Barnes (Nashville)

Scene of the Week:

Big News of the Week: A Reboot No One Asked For Coming to NBC: When Veronica Mars got itself kickstarted back into existence, it started the inevitable discussion of what should follow it, of course Firefly, Terriers, and every Bryan Fuller show got mentioned. One show that has never gotten mentioned by anyone in the reboot discussion was Heroes. Yet NBC announced very late last Saturday night (if people dump bad news on Friday afternoon hoping that it will get forgotten in the weekend rush, what does it mean to drop a press release on Saturday night) that Heroes Reborn will be returning for a 13 episode mini-series event.

Not else was released about it other than creator Tim Kring will be back as executive producer. No cast has been mention, but not surprisingly most of the former cast is available other than the cheerleader (who may become available in May as Nashville is currently floundering, but then again, everything on ABC currently so it is really a tossup; a Lost reboot announcement may soon follow).

People who watched Heroes typically fall into one of two camps; there are those that think that the show fell off a cliff creatively after the first season, and people like me who never thought the show was very good in the first place aside from the occasional episode written by Bryan Fuller (who is currently the creator of Hannibal another rating adversed show so he may or may not be available by the Heroes gets started). But Heroes is coming back because superheroes are big again, Marvel launched an empire that came into the televised terrain this season (and will expand onto Netflix with five other shows soon) while DC is playing catch up with multiple shows (most of them not linked) in the works. But why NBC would choose to reboot a universally disliked show is still a head scratcher. If they were going to reboot a sci-fi show, why not the much superior Quantum Leap? I would even take a Misfits of Science reboot over Heroes.

Preview Picture of the Week:

"Brotherhood" Perception, Tuesday at 10:00 on TNT

Free Download of the Week: Live From Austin City Limits – Needtobreathe (Noise Trade)

New Album Release of the Week: G I R L - Pharrell Williams

New DVD Release of the Week: Garden State [Blu-ray]

Video of the Week: Orphan Black was easily the biggest surprise of 2013. It was BBC America’s first original scripted series, co-produced by a Canadian network (whose sci-fi shows range from watchable to laughably bad) starring an unknown in almost ten different roles, and airing on Saturday nights. How anyone found it in the first place is a mystery, but I caught up last summer thanks to On Demand (as far as I know the whole fitrst season is still there if you want to catch up). The show ended up being one of the best shows on television. Orphan Black returns April 19 and below is the first trailer for season two:

Next Week Pick of the Week: Shear Madness, Tonight at 10:00 on Nat Geo Wild: Just when yuou thought reality television had exhausted every occupation on the planet, tonight sees the premiere of Shear Madness. The show follows Natalie Redding, a former model turned shepherdess with a master’s degree in animal sciences who runs a successful sheep, goat, and fiber business. Her husband is Sean who is dubbed “son of hair care icon Jheri Redding” who I am under the assumption was the inventor of the Jheri Curl.

Friday, February 28, 2014

We’re All Self Conscious, I’m Just the First to Admit It

The College Dropout - Kanye West

It took me a minute to get into Kanye West. His first single was a mublecore track Through the Wire that he quite literally recorded with his mouth wired shut (hence the title of the song). He second single was a song called Slow Jamz and I am against rap slow jams (Bonita Applebum being the lone exception). Then I heard All Falls Down. That was a sit up and take notice moment. Base around an obscure Lauryn Hill hook (he could not clear the sample so that is Syleena Johnson singing) that loops throughout the whole song a self conscious Kanye debates himself on what he thinks other people want him to do and what he knows he should do.

By the time Jesus Walks dropped I was all in. The song is the rare rap song that sounds epic and timeless, something that could fill U2 type stadiums. Again, Kanye was rapping about an internal battle, but this time it was a war for his soul with faith on one side and the almighty dollar, through any means necessary on the other shoulder. Ten years later and it is still a tossup of which side won, but it was at that time I had to check out the whole album.

The College Dropout, March’s induction into the Scooter Hall of Fame, almost plays out like a concept album on the doldrums of working your way through college. Starting off with We Don’t Care about the mid-twenties with not much to look forward to because “we weren’t supposed to make it past twenty-five.” That concept then end with School Spirit which stand tall amongst the other great tracks on the album. On the track Kanye says goodbye to school without the paper saying he is finished to a piano bounce (which is only enhanced by the like, “I got a Jones like Norah.”) It is a shame the song never got a video treatment or was released by a single.

Even on the first album, you could see Kanye push the boundaries; who else could get Jay-Z to appear on the same track as a spoken word artist (Never Let Me Down). Or get two of the deeper thinking rappers, Talib Kweli and Common, get down and a pick up chicks song (Get Em High). The guy even closed out the album recounting the road to the first album by having everyone involve give an oral history to a beat (Last Call). And right before that, it may be one of the sweetest rap song that managed to not come across as extremely corny (Family Business).

The College Dropout was a game changer that topped my list of The 100 Greatest Albums of the 00’s. It set up a long career. In a genre that has one of the smallest shelf lives, Kanye is still very relevant a decade later and even a bigger lightning rod for better or worse. I would argue that Yeezus would be for worst, but this still does not keep me from hoping a new Kanye West album drops this year, be it solo, another Watch the Throne, an uneven G.O.O.D. compilation, or something completely different that we will never see coming.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Previewing Vikings: Season Two

Vikings on History

After the very successful first foray into scripted television with the Hatfields & McCoys miniseries, History quickly followed that up with its first scripted series Vikings. It was decent, but still did not live up to like historical dramas like Rome or Deadwood. Of course the biggest problem was its basic cable limitations which kept them from going overboard with the violence, nudity, and language. Reading about real life Vikings, their story needs to be told in a hard R setting and you are just losing a lot of story being hindered by a PG-13 limitation.

But the show was good enough to warrant a second season and tonight’s premiere ties up all the loose ends when the episode opens up with an epic brother on brother battle after last season Rollo chose to align with one of Ragnar’s enemies. There is a lot of bloodshed. Once that is over, Ragnor has to deal with other problems most notably the very pregnant princess who sails into his port much to the chagrin Lagertha. There is less bloodshed, but this is a loser leaves town situation where one can have the attention of Ragnor at a time (his suggestion of a harem is shot down).

With all the loose ends tied up tonight, season two kicks into high gear next week when the show skips ahead four years. The woman who won is pregnant again to add to two kids that were birthed during the time jump. The break also means we get a new Bjorn played by Alexander Ludwig (The Hunger Games). Enough time has passed now that it is time to go back to England and Ragnor and his new raiding partner this time happen upon Wessex, England which is ruled by a king said to be as ruthless as Ragnor. This info comes from the former monk who has grown out his hair in the past four years and has taken up the Viking lifestyle. It is his story is the most interesting in the second season as he travels back to his former land and struggles with his past his current lifestyle.

Vikings airs Thursdays at 10:00 on History. You can stream recent episodes on Hulu. You can also download Vikings on iTunes.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Previewing Inside Job and Save Our Business

Inside Job at the Hard Rock Hotel

I never watched Undercover Boss because it seemed like it was just some bourgeoisie coming down to see how the plebes lived for a week before going back to their golden castles. It was like a “let them eat cake” version for the televised age. Plus a second season sounded silly for the show launched by the Super Bowl, seen by a third of all Americans. They really could find enough places where the worker bees are not suspicious of the old newbie in a bad wig and glasses? So I am a bit weary of anything “from the producers of Undercover Boss.”

Inside Job takes the Undercover Boss formula and tweaks it so there is not that icky “let them eat cake” vibe of its predecessor. Instead of the boss going undercover, (s)he sends an employee undercover as part of an interview process to fill a new position. But those other three applicants, who also share a house during the episode, are unaware that there is a mole amongst them. Then after the end of the interview process, it is the mole, not the boss who will pick who is hired.

Inside Job does a very good job in pacing as they do not reveal to the viewer right away who the insider is. But it does reveal who it is about halfway through the episode. So for those that like to put on their detective’s hat and try to figure out who employed by the business, you have plenty of time to guess, but we find out before the gimmick becomes annoying. Even before we meet any of the applicants, I guessed that the insider would be the oldest and / or the most boring while the person hired would be the next most boring. Going with that theory I was able to guess who the mole was on one of the two episodes I saw and who was hired on both. (The cynic in me would say each company already knows who they are going to hire and the producers provide the two “applicants” for entertainment value.)

The companies participating in the premiere season will be Mazda, House of Blues, Johnny Rockets, Abbyson Living, David Barton Gym, and And where a second season of Undercover Boss seemed silly, more seasons of Inside Job could work because it will undoubtedly have a smaller audience. And even if future applicants are familiar with the twist, it would still be entertaining to see them try to figure out who among them already have a job within the company.

Inside Job airs Fridays at 9:00 on TNT.

Save Our Business coming to TNT

Save Our Business is another “from the producers of…” whose show sounds like a small variation on their previous series. This show comes from the guys behind Kitchen Nightmares but instead Gordon Ramsey coming in to turn around failing restaurants, British entrepreneur and millionaire Peter Jones (who reminds me a little too much of Taran Killam as the recently unemployed Piers Morgan on Saturday Night Live) comes in and helps turn around failing businesses. Jones is less of a prick than Ramsey, but he still gives very blunt assessments of the businesses he encounters. During the first season, Jones will lend his expertise and tough-love guidance to an online retailer of “vintage inspired” woman’s clothing, an indoor kids theme park, a karate school, a combination florist / wine store, and a New York City bagel deli.

Save Our Business airs Fridays at 10:00 on TNT.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Previewing Diggers: Season Three

Diggers tries to unearth Steve Jobs original mouse

Tonight sees the return of the excitable Tim Saylor and George Wyant for a new season of Diggers and tonight they are looking to dig up “the greatest find of our lives.” These guys have never met a hyperbole they did not want to go over the top on. This greatest find they speak of is actually a mouse. Of course this is not just any mouse; it is the mouse from Steve Jobs’ first mass marketed Lisa computer.

Back in 1983, Jobs gave a speech at the now-defunct International Design Conference in Aspen and was asked to include a personal item for a time capsule that would also include Mad Magazine, a Rubik Cube, and beer for those who opened the time capsule. Sure the beer sounds silly and insignificant, but since the actual time capsule is plastic, the aluminum can will help metal detectors find it.

There is one small problem, no one remembers where the buried, the three people who were there had three different locations in mind for the time capsule, which was supposed to be open in 2000, but gained renewed interest with Jobs’ passing. And that is where Saylor and Wyant come in and they have to bring out the big guns to find it: Deep Seekers 10 feet which can find items as deep as ten feet. And the length of the thirteen foot long time capsule will make it the biggest dig of their careers. Also this season, the boys dig up bayonets and rare bullets, rare buttons to Colonial cannonballs, historical coins, and even a piece of gangster history..

Diggers airs Tuesdays at 10:00 on National Geographic Channel. You can also download Diggers on iTunes.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Previewing Dallas: Season Three

The cast of Dallas back in the boardroom

Season two was a hard season for Dallas. Midway through the filming, Larry Hagman died throwing all the plans up in the air and the writers had to redo the rest of the season to deal with JR’s death on screen. It was a valiant effort but the whole season just felt weird. The show returns tonight and it is back in tomorrow that the writer have proper time to prepare for a full season. But it may be back to an all too familiar form. Sue Ellen is drinking again while Bobby is trying to keep J.R. Jr. from drilling on Southfork.

What is new this season is that Elena is out for revenge after she learns that J.R. switched the deed of Southfork with her father’s land which turned out to be dry. So she sets up a secret alliance with Cliff who needs Elena’s help to prove the Ewing have set him up for J.R.’s murder. And the person she turns to at the end of the finale whose casa is being guarded by multiple armed guards is going to be very integral to the plan.

The hot new ranch hand on Dallas
But forget the Barnes family tree, the most interesting and most messed up antagonists on the show remains the Ryland family. Last season Emma set her father to prison who in turned earlier in the season sent his mother to a forced rehab, giving the control of Ryland Transportation to him. With Harris in prison, that control reverts to Emma. That is going to make for an awkward Thanksgiving, well if anyone is able to make it. Of course J.R. Jr. is quick to exploit that relationship as he ended last season in bed with Emma instead of his new wife Pamela. If my knowledge of the Ewing family tree is correct, that means J.R. Jr. is married to his second cousin and his mistress is a first cousin. Again, that will be a very awkward Thanksgiving especially if his cousin and her ex-husband Christopher shows up.

But then again, the Ewing’s do not need to wait for Thanksgiving because they are now all living on Southfork, Bobby, Christopher, J.R. Jr., Ann, Emma, and Elena. Maybe even Sue Ellen who may not have moved in but spends an awful lot of time there. There is even a new ranch hand (see at right) who catches an eye of an Ewing, and probably all of them by the end of the season. As for the new season, in the first couple of episodes there are plenty of double crosses and bombshells dropped that you have come to expect from Dallas, the one at the end of the second episode is a doozy that will make for an interesting rest of the season. And just a heads up to Survivor fans, keep an eye out for a former contestant who gets wooed by J.R. Jr. in the background of an episode next week.

Dallas airs Mondays at 9:00 on TNT. You can also download Dallas on iTunes.

Dallas is not the only show returning to TNT this week, tomorrow, Perception returns to close out its second season with it four final episodes. Fist up, Dr. Pierce gets to live out his Field of Dreams fantasy. And by fantasy I mean it because it is all a hallucination when he is visited by a player on the last Cubs championship team. More humorously, Lewicki is stuck with a prodigy that Pierce is supposed to impress but hide by working with Kate. Next week is a little less humorous when Lewicki's brother comes to town with trouble not that far behind.

Perception airs Tuesdays at 10:00 on TNT. Perception on iTunes.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

57 Channels and Only This Is On: 2/23/14

Shameless: Well that was a very serious episode of Shameless. I prefer my Shameless with even a little bit of black humor. I still wonder even if Fiona give up Mike’s brother if that will be enough for her to maintain guardianship of Liam.

The Walking Dead: This week was a lot more entertaining than Carl’s coming of age tale the week before. Any of the storylines this week would have made for a better full episode than Carl’s. Well maybe not Maggie and Glen irrational love story. They could have even made the Tyrese storyline its own spin-off. Call it A Man and Three Little Ladies. And I am glad the lesbian faux-cop made it through the assault because one of the more entertaining characters they have introduced in a white that was not instantly eaten by a zombie. Hopefully the three new characters live up to their hype from the people who read the comics and are not a letdown let when they spent the second season imploring, “Just wait until The Governor shows up” only to be severely disappointed.
You can download The Walking Dead on iTunes.

House of Lies: Who could have guessed that canine murder could be so entertaining? And who needs curling uniforms when you have Doug’s suit?

Switched at Birth: The murder mystery party was so stupid and silly, I actually wanted it to be the focus of the whole episode. It surely was much more entertaining than the Daphne love triangle. And I am not sure what it says about me that when Mary Beth said she was invited to the frat party that Bay was not, my initial though that it was a dog party that it turned out to be. But hey, I was right.
You can stream recent episodes on Hulu. You can also download Switched at Birth on iTunes.

Castle: Just when you thought Castle has run out of idea on absurd plotlines, zombies, vampires, ghosts, they make a telekinesis episode. Awesome.
You can stream recent episodes on Hulu. You can also download Castle on iTunes.

Pretty Little Liars: It was revealed to the audience last season so it is sometime hard to remember that it is not clear cut that Ezra is A to the Liars. All they have is that he drinks Board Shorts Ale and they found Alison’s diary in his classroom which very well could have been planted there by A for all they know. But after Aria found that manuscript, it has to be pretty obvious to the Liars that he is A. That is close to a smoking gun they may get after they botched the sting in the reptile house. But if Ezra was with Aria, who was there in the reptile house. Mona seems too obvious. I have always had a sinking suspicion since it was revealed Ezra was A that he is being forced to help by the real A or has an evil twin so the writers can justify putting him and Aria back together. They like that creepy relationship way too much.
You can stream recent episodes on Hulu. You can also download Pretty Little Liars on iTunes.

King of the Nerds: Just when you thought Midas Touch Attack could not hit a new low, they lost a debate on Star Wars vs. Star Trek taking the pro-Wars side with the highly biased Lando Calrissian as one of the judges. This is one of the most epic reality losing streaks ever. And while a spelling bee on The Challenge is awesome, having one on King of the Nerds just seems lame and way too easy for the nerds.
You can download King of the Nerds on iTunes.