Tag Archives: TV

“Gotham” Fox’s New DC Origin Series (Trailer)

With Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a qualified TV success for ABC, Fox and DC Comics are offering up their answer with Gotham. The new series appears to cover the origins of Jim Gordon, Bruce Wayne, and several of their most famous nemeses.

Creator Bruno Heller also co-created HBO’s Rome and CBS’ The Mentalist.

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Sneak Peek – ‘Fargo’s First 7 Minutes

Fargo, the new TV series based on the 1996 Coen Bros. film of the same name, premiers Tuesday, April 15 on FX. Yahoo TV has an exclusive peek at the opening 7 minutes of the show. [I can’t seem to embed the video, so click here to watch.]

I absolutely adore the original film, and my initial gut reaction to learning about this series was one of despair. How could you mess with such an original classic. But then I saw the impressive cast list: Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Keith Carradine, Oliver Platt, Glenn Howerton, Adam Goldberg, and even bringing the Coens on board for some of the writing.

And then I saw the trailer…

And now after watching these first 7 minutes, I can now honestly report: I can’t wait for this show!

It seems to blend the twisted ‘true crime’ genre of True Detective, with the quirky dark humor of the Coens. And that is an exciting combination.

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GrabBag – “Happy” Covers, and the Onion Takes On Divergent

 

It’s Friday, folks, and you know what that means… GrabBag!!!

  • I know I have a bad habit of posting a lot of “Let It Go” covers here. Well to change things up a bit, here’s a couple versions of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” which very nearly stole the Oscar win out from under the Disney anthem. Up first we have Stewie and other Family Guy characters…
  • And then there’s this absolutely stunning looped-trombone version you just have to hear to believe…
  • On the subject of marketing, ever notice how so many ads for large corporations look just the same? Yeah you’re not the only one.
  • This is cool: a collection of audition clips for some very recognizable actors and roles. (The “before they were famous” part is a bit of a stretch, though. Plenty of these actors were famous before the auditions in this video.)
  • Graph TV lets you chart the ratings (critical, not viewership) of any TV show you want, episode-by-episode. Try it out on your favorite show! It’s fun to see trends throughout a series’ entire run.
  • And finally, the Onion’s ever-poignant (read: hilarious) film reviewer set’s his sights on the new film Divergent.

That’s all for this week. Have a great weekend, and tune in next Friday for another GrabBag!

 

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Mystery Science Theater 3000 Returning to TV

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Mystery Science Theater 3000, known by it’s adoring fans as MST3K, has been off the airwaves since the 90’s. Its cult following remains strong due to the format of lampooning cult classic films, but perhaps also due in part to the show’s cast’s work since on RiffTrax.

RiffTrax is an online venture in which MST3K stars Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett recorded downloadable audio files to be played alone with all kinds of different movies – from the classic B-movies that made their reputation to the biggest and most popular recent blockbusters.

Now according to Screen Rant, via Zap2It, it looks like the crew is making their way back to the small screen. The National Geographic Channel will be airing at least 3 episodes beginning April 1. They’ll be keeping the RiffTrax name, but it looks like the original characters of Crow T. Robot and Tom Servo will be there.

As for exactly what they’ll be riffing? Well, according to National Geographic:

On April 1st, the guys from “Mystery Science Theater 3000” and RiffTrax are adding their very own commentary to classic National Geographic Channel programs, featuring excerpts from “Honey Badgers,” “Unlikely Animal Friends,” “Man v. Monster,” “Swamp Men,” “Alpha Dogs,” and more!

Well, I can’t wait! I just really hopes it’s not a… well… I’ll just keep my thoughts to myself.

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Brad Pitt in Season 2 of True Detective?

It’s far from a done deal, and may very well not happen, but it seems there’s real interest in casting Brad Pitt for True Detective’s second season.

The first season, which just wrapped up a few weeks ago, was a smash success in every instance of the word. That season’s stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson have already confirmed they will not be returning. That leave a vacuum that can only be filled with rampant speculation.

Still, if this happens, it would be excellent news. If nothing else, I believe Se7en proves he’s up to the challenge. It would also be just another sign that the film industry is recognizing the small screen’s recent knack for high quality filmmaking, as more and more big names in film are moving to TV.

Brad Pit in Se7en

Brad Pit in Se7en

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Cosmos’ Critics Can’t Compete With Science

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Neil deGrasse Tyson’s reboot of Cosmos is fantastic. I’m a little late to the party, but I just caught up with the first 2 episodes last night. It’s exciting that at a time when science-denial is in such vogue in America, the willpower exists to produce this for primetime network TV – and on FOX, no less! Of course as crazy as that sounds, it just makes it that much more remarkable that Carl Sagan did the same almost 35 years ago.

Actually when I think about it, I’m not sure that science-denial is really all that “in vogue” anyway. Certainly the deniers are as vocal as ever, but I don’t think their demographic is as large as their volume would suggest. Even most members of the religious majority maintain moderate views on most scientific debates. The radicals scream because they’re being backed further and further in to the corner by new discoveries being made every day. Breakthroughs like yesterday’s announcement about cosmic inflation aren’t doing them any favors.

So it comes as absolutely no surprise to read Chris Mooney’s article in Mother Jones about all the complaints against Cosmos. Even only 2 episodes in, I honestly expected their outcry even as I watched.

I continue to hold out hope that such cries of ignorance are merely the death-rattle of the old ways of thinking. Sure, there will always be those few holdouts, but as they continue to marginalize themselves, their influence will continue to diminish, and scientific knowledge will continue to grow.

And that may be what I love most about Cosmos: the prevailing sense of hope that every day we will know more about the universe than we did the day before.

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Does Watching TV Condone TV?

Mascots for the Sochi Winter Olympics, apparently.

Mascots for the Sochi Winter Olympics, apparently.

The Winter Olympics in Sochi begin tonight. Well today actually. By the time you read this the opening ceremony has probably already happened, but that’s what we get for being in the Western Hemisphere. Over the course of the next several days, I will likely watch several events I could otherwise care less about (Ice Dancing?). But this is the Olympics; everybody watches them!

Except this year that’s not so true. George Takei (of whom I count myself as a Facebook Fan) and many others have been highly outspoken about boycotting this year’s games in protest to host country Russia’s draconian policies toward the LGBTQ community. Of course I fully agree with and support Takei’s stance. I hope beyond hope that the boycott gains traction and encourages IOC to vet their choices more carefully and maybe even shames Russia’s leaders into changing their policies. (That won’t happen, but we can hope. That’s what protests are about, hope for change. If change were easy we wouldn’t need to protest.)

The problem is, despite my support for the boycott, I just told you I’m going to watch the Olympics. I’m not the only one. In fact I’d be willing to bet that most of you reaching this are struggling (though probably less than you like to admit) with this same conflict. So how do we justify this kind of internal dichotomy?

In fact, this is a question I’ve been trying to answer for years. My fiancé is an intelligent, caring, progressive, liberal-minded modern woman who nonetheless loves watching Jersey Shore, 16 and Pregnant, and Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, among several other similar cultural abscesses. I know countless people who watch every single episode of American Idol. Hell, even I myself feel the occasional need to watch Michael Bay movies.

In my opinion shows like these go part and parcel with a vast stupidification of our American cultural identity. To paraphrase Billy Madison’s principal, everyone is now dumber for having watched them. I (playfully) take people to task over their TV preferences on a regular basis. But in all honesty none of that actually changes the respect, admiration, or love I have for them as friends, colleagues, partners.

For much of my adult life I have believed that by watching something, you are implicitly condoning what’s on screen. In a way I still do. No, I don’t mean that by watching 12 Years a Slave you are supporting slavery (obviously). But you support the values that these filmmakers and this story, being told in this way, stand for.

But in the case of culturally empty or aberrant entertainment, does it really matter if you watch? Does that implicit support actually mean anything? Yes and no, but mostly (probably) no.

I am not in a Nielsen home. I don’t think I know anybody who is. Nobody is going to know that I’m watching the Olympics except those I tell. I raise the conversation, and therefore awareness, by talking about these shows, but my voice alone is negligible in the dull roar that already exists. Putting those mascots at the top of this blog post is probably the worst impact I can make.

Sure, Hulu keeps track of every time my fiancé watches Honey Boo-Boo, but our subscription would be the same whether we watch that or The Office. I’m not spending money I wouldn’t otherwise spend. I’m not financially supporting these shows or their advertisers any more than I otherwise would. When was the last time you bought something directly because of a TV ad? I bought a Pizza Hut pizza after a football game a few weeks ago, but other than that I can’t think of a single example.

Ok so as I write these arguments, I keep coming up with more and better counter-arguments. Reasons I should turn off the TV and tell you all to do the same. But you know what? I’m not going to. Why? I don’t know; I just don’t feel like it. I want to watch the Olympics.

And that’s as good an answer as you’re going to get. When I started writing this article, I wasn’t sure which side of the titular question my eventual answer would fall. Now at the end, I’m even less sure. You’re going to have to choose your own answer. Or don’t. Do what ever feels right or good or fun or whatever.

Me, I’m going to go eat cake and nachos and complain about not losing weight.

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Canceling Cable, Part 2: Should You?

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(This is the second in a 2-part series. Part 1 was posted posted yesterday. Read it here.)

It’s the common wisdom that we are entering a Golden Age of Television, that the best quality filmmaking is now happening on the small screen more than the large. The most talented moviemakers are flocking to TV in droves. Steven Soderbergh gave a speech last year talking about the current crisis-state of the movie industry, and why he’s only going working in the TV sphere going forward. (Or so I have read; I haven’t actually had a chance to listen to the speech myself, yet.)

It’s worth noting that even in the face of all these feature filmmakers jumping ship, we have just had one of the greatest years in recent memory for outstanding quality films, and the spectacle that is Gravity has reminded us that the small screen still cannot compete with the scale of possibility that the big screen affords us.

But it’s true. There are far more options for excellent quality on TV than ever before. (There’s far more everything on TV than ever before.) Most of the best shows are on cable channels. So it would seem that for any lover of quality filmmaking, having cable TV would be a must. But I would consider myself part of that demographic, and I would argue the opposite.

The biggest problem with cable is that the decades old channel-package model just doesn’t make sense anymore. The multiple streaming options I listed yesterday, and countless others, let you pick and choose what you want and when you want it for a fraction of the cost. Cable companies and their channels need to go back to the drawing board to compete. They could start by letting people pick and choose channels a la carte. It would be absolutely the least they could do. They could even work that into the basic structure of their old package model.

But remember that one streaming service I use? The one for an unnamed premium channel that requires a cable subscription to use? That I can only use by borrowing a friend’s password? Well, despite the excellent quality of those shows, if I didn’t have those awesome friends, it still wouldn’t be worth it to pay for cable. Even if I could pick and choose my channels, I would just wait for the DVDs. Unless I could get that channel and only that channel, just for the use of their streaming service, I would be wasting my money.

To really meet the needs of the modern public, the channels need to move away from the idea of a schedule. Life doesn’t fit into perfect 30 minute blocks that begin and end at the same time. People don’t want to be tied to that. When TiVo and similar devices first came out, people first had the option of recording a show and then watching it whenever they wanted. Ever since, cable companies have offered renting similar recording devices with your cable box. But that’s just a fix to a woefully out-of-date structure. They need new ideas.

You know who has new ideas? Netflix. They have been leading the charge against the old guard. They were the first major streaming option for TV shows, and recently the first to create original programming exclusive to a streaming service. I’m not saying they’re perfect by any stretch, but they’re paying attention to what their customers want. Now Hulu and others are following suit. This is where cable companies need to look if they don’t want to get left in the dust.

The cable companies are getting old. They are run by the most deeply entrenched corporate capitalists. But suddenly their precious free-market is scaring them. People are beginning to move away from what they’re offering. Well? Let’s let that free-market do its thing. Cancel your cable. Support the companies who are actually giving you what you want, the way you want it. Maybe they’ll get the message. Maybe they’ll change. And maybe we’ll come back if they do.

I hope so, because there really are  some great shows to be seen.

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