Virtuality

So, they showed Virtuality the other night, a science fiction pilot that Fox didn’t pick up. On one hand, it’s kind of nice to see dead pilots being aired again. It used to be part of the fun of summer to see all the shows they didn’t pickup. Often, they helped you appreciate the crap they chose to air, since you learned there actually was something worse. In other cases, you go “dang, why didn’t they pick up Curse of the Corn People? This is actually kinda interesting!”

Now, this series is done by the guy who drained Battlestar Galactica of all its fun and replaced it with darkness, meaningfulosity, and more darkness. With this, he takes a space crew on a desperate, long-term mission, gives them each their own personal holodeck-eqivalent, and persuades not to let anyone have any fun. Oh, okay, one of the virtual fantasies, about being a rock diva with wicked butt-kicking skills, was fun for a minute or two, until they made you pay for actually enjoying a couple minutes of the show. So instead it’s a show of drama and intrigue, with lots of questions about what is actually going on and why, what is real and what isn’t… and being a dead pilot, we’ll never get to know the answers. Not particularly something you must see.

The one thing that makes it odd for me: I’ve got some Virtuality schwag. I ended up in a Virtuality panel at the San Diego Comic Con a year back, as they were promoting the series they seemed confident they were making… and they handed out reusable bags with the logo of the Phaeton (the ship on the show.) So this will be a bit of nerd obscuria I can carry with me wherever!

Published in: on June 30, 2009 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Philanthropist

The Philanthropist – finally, a series about a guy who has affairs with a lot of women. Oh, wait, no, that would be The Philanderer. But I suppose that one could find something good to do about a stamp collector.

Oh, it’s not The Philatelist? Oh, okay. The nickel-version description of this new show – that it’s about a rich guy who uses his money to do good for someone different each episode brings to mind the old series The Millionaire. But whereas that series was largely an anthology show about the effect of large money on the recipient, this one is very much about the contortions the lead character has to go through to provide his help.

I was uncertain about this show going in; the summer season has been quite a dumping ground this year. But as the opening credits rolled, I saw names like “Tom Fontana” and “Peter Horton” which at least opened me up to the possibility that the show might be good. And it’s certainly well-made in a lot of ways. Well (and expensively, it appears) produced, well acted, some nice touches. They fae the main character a demon to wrestle with, and I think they made a good dramatic choice in that.

But they made one horrid mistake in tone in the first episode. When you’re dealing with an ultra-rich white guy who is the one guy who can save the day, you’re inherently on dangerously elitist grounds. But the first episode has him in Africa, dealing with the corrupt black folk and the criminal black folk to be savior to the village of innocent black folk. And when he saves the day, he is treated ilke a wonderful hero by all, surrounded by the happy faces of all those that only he, the white man, was able to save. And what was his vast achievement? Getting a box from point A to point B… a point B that a more local character was able to get to at about the same time. Along the way, he feeds the bribe coffers of government agents, he apparently parties down with a bunch of apparent prostitutes brought by their pimp (and while I have nothing against some form of theoretical prostitution where the worker enters into the arrangement of their own free will, that seems unlikely to have been the case in this instance), buys off a DEA agent in a very unlikely way, and in general seems like a win-at-all-cost businessman than the fun-loving but good-hearted soul he seems intended to be.

There’s good effort here, and I will watch it further… but if their White Man’s Burden imagery surfaces again, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stomach it.

Added a few hours later: Y’know, I not only watched The Philanthropist over a couple days, but I also wrote the review over a couple days. Because of that looseness, I ended up writing at one point about an impression which lingered in Nattime for a fair while, even though it was wiped out by the end of the show. So let me correct it… although I have to erect a SPOILER WARNING on the pilot to do so.

The “demon” I mentioned which was granted to the lead character was the death of a son, about a year prior, a death which apparently brought about the end of his marriage. There is much truth in that, death of a child often ends up in marital split. And it was a good touch…

…up until the point where a vision/ghost of said dead son points the way out of the jungle and thus saves our lead and ultimately the day. At that point, it all became cheezy.

Published in: on June 29, 2009 at 10:39 pm  Comments (1)  

The rule of the rule of 3

When it was announced that Farrah Fawcett died this morning, in addition to any “I hope her loved one are okay” thoughts I might briefly spare for someone I hadn’t met, I thought “oh, great. Now, people will be eagerly awaiting some minor ex-celeb to die five days from now, so they can declare how famous people die in threes.”

Guess I shouldn’t have been so… well, it’s hard to call assuming a famous person wouldn’t die soon to be “pessimistic”…

Published in: on June 25, 2009 at 4:14 pm  Comments (2)  

Buy UNDERGROUND

My pal and sometimes collaborator Steve Lieber just got burgled. They made off with his laptop… just as he was getting ready to do a hard promotion push for his upcoming comics miniseries Underground. So, let me do my little part to make up for the time he’s losing: order Underground. It looks purty and purty good. If you don’t believe me, read the whole first issue right here (the printed one’ll be in color, but it looks perfectly sweet in B&W.

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  

AfterScrubs

ABC will continue Scrubs (which was being abandoned by some of its lead stars) by taking a couple of the remaining characters and transfering them to a new milieu. And it’s a legit thing to try, on some levels. I don’t think it’s the artistically smart thing to do, as the story of JD, which was the story Scrubs was designed to tell, is over. But doing the Cox-and-Turk-at-a-college show is worth a try.

The question is, do you make it a show of its own, or continue under the old Scrubs name? That seems tricky to me. On one hand, keeping it under the old name risks diluting the brand. If people don’t feel like its the same thing, the interest in reruns and DVDs and whatnots of the “real” Scrubs is apt to be limited. I can’t help but to think that the value of, say, Northern Exposure is hurt by having kept the series running for half a season after Dr. Joel Fleisher left.

On the other hand, the list of shows that took over for a successful-but-ended U.S. show at some major switch in focus is riddled with failed series. AfterMASH is apt to be the one bandied about, but there’s also Three’s A Crowd, Golden Palace, Mayberry RFD… the only one that comes to mind as a success is Archie Bunker’s Place, although that is probably also an example of keeping everyone employed while not diluting the value of the original brand. (I won’t count Frasier in this list; it feels more like a spinoff that could have been done at any point along the way, rather than something to take the place of Cheers in production. To show I’m not just trying to weight things to one side of the argument, I’ll throw Joey into the same spot on the list. Oh, but then I have to add Lou Grant.) I suppose there’s an argument to be made for something in the Saved By The Bell history, a history which I will not claim to know (I think I watched an episode of one of the series somewhere along the way…)

But this is an academic discussion. There’s some talented people involved in Scrubs 2.0. If it’s good, I won’t complain too much about the nomenclature. If it’s not, I suspect it won’t be the only show on TV next season.

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 7:06 am  Comments (2)  

Saturdays, even on a Sunday

I’m a crossword puzzle doer – not one of those that spend their lives going to competitions and researching words, but I think I’m pretty good.

Now, for those who don’t do crosswords, you might assume that the pinnacle is the Sunday puzzles, the big one. Well, yes, they can take time, but they’re generally not the most tricky. No, puzzles start with the easiest clues on the Monday puzzles and get touger through the week, with the toughest on Saturday – and these days, I generally restrict myself to Saturday-level puzzles (plus Merle Reagle’s Sunday puzzles, which aren’t that tough, but are fun). Usually can’t quite finish the Newsday puzzle, the toughest of the bunch, without a lot of time and a few “cheats” (when you do them online, you can run a check to have the computer tell you which letters you have wrong.) I can finish a New York Times Saturday puzzle (done on paper, rather than on computer – puzzle books by my bed) about half the time, and generally come within a few letters when I don’t.

The Washington Post actually runs a Saturday-like puzzle on Sunday, rather than running a larger puzzle. L.A. Times runs a Saturday puzzle which is often more an example of impressive puzzle contstruction – 4 or 6 15-letter answers in the grid – than of tough clues, but the intimidating look of the clues makes them fun to do. Which leads to the point of this post: to record for my own purposes my quickest-ever solution of an L.A. Times Saturday puzzle. I did this Saturday’s puzzle in 8 minutes, 38 seconds. If only I could do useful stuff that efficiently…

Published in: on June 21, 2009 at 3:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bowing out

This week, I watched the last episodes of two enjoyable pro-human shows.

Pushing Daisies ended with a wrapping up episode. They ended one major storyline in a way that, if not integrated into the main story of the episode, was still given enough time not to feel tacked on. (They ended another one with a quick tacked-on ending, mind you, but it was less central to the show.) All in all, a nice exit.

Cupid (2.0) ended with another charming episode that didn’t try to advance things paritcularly – which is hardly surprising, as this show had a short run and this one was likely in the can before they knew that they’d not be coming back next season. Still, they give a tip of the hat to the possibility that the show might be ending. The final scene includes a couple of the episode’s characters singing ELO’s “Sweet Talkin’ Woman”, which seemed appropriate as the episode was largely about the woman of the duet undergoing training to lose her working class Queens accent. But by going with that song, they managed to close off the episode with “So sad if that’s the way it’s over.”

And yes, it is sad that both of these shows are gone. Pushing Daisies did something wonderful for its fans, but it turned out that we were too few of the people who tried it; Cupid just didn’t seem to get people trying it. I think we’re starting next season with fewer good shows than we started this one, and the Lenoization of prime time isn’t likely to help that score in the future.

Published in: on June 19, 2009 at 3:35 pm  Leave a Comment  

Like, he listens. He listens -hard-!

If there has ever been a lousy title for an adventure drama, it’s: The Listener. I mean, who thought that would invoke action and excitement. Nothing like watching listening for an hour. Oooooh, listening! The Wide World of Listening.

A name like that could bring failure to a good show. Luckily, it hasn’t a good show to bring failure to. It has a very earnest show to bring failure to. A show that through visual style and musical accompanyment constantly announces itself as very serious. It takes being a show about a telepathic EMT very seriously. This is a Canadian show (if you didn’t know, the reference to “Kraft Dinner” is a dead giveaway), and it actually feels a lot like the recent Canadian success Flashpoint, a watchable if horribly generic cop drama. But that same seriousness, flatness, and absence of a sense of fun absolutely sinks this show. Ya can’t take it seriously, and ya can’t be bothered to not take it seriously.

I think it’s good that Canada is getting into the game, but the things that are making the network aren’t as good as the round of things that made the cable networks in the previous round (Da Vinci’s Inquest, which is still deadly earnest but a mite less generic; Corner Gas, which while not sui generis is its own beast.) Let’s hope they get something on with a more interesting point of view soon.

Published in: on June 9, 2009 at 7:37 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Importance of Not Being Doogie

So months ago, we saw that the L.A. Theatre Works had upcoming performances of The Importance of being Earnest starring Neil Patrick Harris, and we wuz happy. We have long had positive feelings for NPH, me going back to Doogie (those of us who went to college young can’t help but to have an association with him), Mrs. Nat TV seemingly more linked to his Sondheim work. (Both of us collide on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, natch.)

Now, depsite the name, L.A. Theatre Works performances are not what you think. They’re not staged plays. Rather, they are done for radio — no sets or real blocking, just actors doing a radio show version of some play. We’d seen one before, and was fun, and couldn’t pass up this chance to see NPH do his stuff. Bought tickets. Only with less than two weeks to go, we’re seeing new ads for this – and NPH is nowhere to be seen. James Marsters has took his spot on the roster. Now, we have very positive thoughts about Mr. Marsters. But dadgummit, it’s like you were told you were getting cherry pie, and someone serves you up some chocolate ice cream instead. As much as you might like chocolate ice cream, your system has geared itself up for cherry pie, and this just won’t do.

We’ve got the tickets, we’ll go, but we’ll definitely feel some NPH-shaped void that will be left unfilled.

Published in: on June 8, 2009 at 3:17 pm  Comments (1)  

Shame on 'em

I’m at the Licensing International Expo. Whichever studio is making it has a huge poster for the new movie based on Brian Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim comics (which are very good, BTW. Read them.) The thing is at least 30 feet tall, I’d say. A great big Brian Lee O’Malley image fills the image area, and beneath that there are dozens of credits of people linked to the film.

Guess what name appears nowhere on this humungous poster?

Yup, it’s Brian Lee O’Malley.

Published in: on June 3, 2009 at 3:25 pm  Leave a Comment  
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