Archive for the ‘ Television ’ Category

Party Down

I don’t watch a lot of TV shows, because, TV can be a desolate landscape.  Also, I don’t have cable, or even broadcast TV anymore thanks to that digital broadcasting.  However, I do have Netflix, and with Netflix comes internet streaming!  Thanks to this I’ve caught up on valuable episodes of King of the Hill, and discovered Community is actually a really good show.  Not to sound like a shill, but this streaming stuff is handy.  One show I’ve recently fallen for, thanks to its Netflix availability is the recently canceled “Party Down.”  Party Down follows the goings on of a Hollywood catering company as they go from job to job, hi jink to hi jink.  It’s got Jane Lynch, pretty boy Adam Scott, and the greatest actor of our generation, Martin Starr.

Only the Cran-Man can out act him.

Party Down belongs to the post modern family of sitcom, with no laugh track, more character based humor, and characters that manage to actually change and evolve.  (What a novel concept.)  Luckily, there’s no fakeumentary handheld cameras. Those things get old fast.  But that’s all moot.  What makes Party Down a great show is how goddamn depressing it is.  The catering crew is comprised from striving actors, failed actors, and one striving sci-fi novelist, who of course, is played by Martin Starr.  The manager, played by Ken Marino, just wants to open a chain restaurant, and he can’t even get that off the ground.  Adam Scott’s Henry is the only exception.  He’s done with acting after a popular beer commercial and wants to move on with his life.

I’m only five episodes in, but I plan on finishing the show.  This is some great stuff.  Not many shows have the skill to successfully mix funny and miserable, but Party Down gets away with it.  Scrubs this aint.  I’d recommend it to the Freaks and Geeks fans.

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Ten Things that Sucked in 2010

Don’t worry gang, I’ve got more lists on the way to commemorate things I did like, but first we’re going to warm up with the garbage pile.

10.      Dubstep-They (meaning the internet) keep calling dubstep the punk of electronic music.  At first I thought that meant it was noisier and rawer, but it actually means that it’s easier to do and is trashier than the regular stuff.  Besides, the bass is so heavy, you need 800$ speakers to even hear it properly.  Fuck that.  Not really seeing the punk connection.  It’s amazing how inescapable this shit has become.  Talking to somebody about dubstep recently, he kept calling it “wuamp-wuamp.”  It’s a dumb title, but it’s still more accurate.  “Dubstep” sounds too sophisticated for such stupid music.  Dumb isn’t necessarily bad, I just want them to admit it and stop taking themselves so damn seriously.

 

I don’t know man; maybe I just don’t understand this stuff.  Sure, they’re warping the sound, but it still sounds pleasant.  There’s not enough dissonance in most electronic music.  It’s cold and sterile.  Dubstep is only taking half-measures.  It does get dirty, but it’s not enough.  There’s still a lack of humanity.  The machines are doing the heavy lifting.  That’s what sucks about techno.  There’s nothing wrong with using robots, but there is something wrong with letting the robots do all of the work.   And all of them are so pretentious about it too.  Hey, look at me!  I invented my own genre!  I’m that different.”  Fuck you dude.  You’ve got all this technology at your disposal, and this is all you can do with it?  Dan Deacon doesn’t have a ridiculous sub-sub-subgenre next to his name on his Wikipedia page.  Y’know why?  Because Dan Deacon’s cool.  He doesn’t give a shit.  Electronic subgenres are fucking ridiculous.  It’s the trendiest shit and they’ve got a new one every month.  Stop trying to be different (because you’re not) and start trying to be good.

 

9.      Heavy Rain-The year’s most “revolutionary” (somebody must’ve said it) videogame isn’t really a game.  I thought Heavy Rain was going to be a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure type of game.  All you do is walk around, talk to people, collect clues and other shit like that.  The beginning is fun as you try to figure out how to play, but eventually, the ridiculous story becomes too absurd, the gameplay gets boring, and I realized that no matter what you do, the ending is always the same.  I had already seen a friend complete the game the proper way, so I was determined to have some fun with it.  Unfortunately, none of your actions have consequence.  The story progresses to the next scene regardless of how you play.  Even killing your characters doesn’t get anything done.  Heavy Rain isn’t a game, it just tricks you into thinking it is.  One more thing, for a game that prided itself on its realistic characters, I was a little appalled by the lone female character-a reporter who spends at least the first half of the game taking showers, being another character’s nurse, and making out with said character.  As soon as she starts doing some actual reporting, she gets date-raped.  Classy.

 

8.      Passion Pit-No band this year went from mildly amusing to fucking unbearable faster than these guys.  Catchy songs and good hooks can only take you so far before the unbearably effeminate voice of Michael Angelakos becomes the only thing I hear.  I was hoping they’d win me over when I saw them live at the Sasquatch music fest, but they only sounded worse than they did on the record and the excessive amount of douche bags kind of killed the atmosphere.  Living in dorms with a bunch of other buffoons, I had to hear “Sleepyhead” four times a day last semester, and I’m glad to be through with it.

7.      Blackest Night/Brightest Day

Geoff Johns is starting to piss me off.  Has he not been reading Batman?  Dan DiDio clearly does not give a shit what DC publishes as long as it sells.  Johns has been given a massive corner of the DCU to play with with these two crossover titles, and what has he done with it? One good Martian Manhunter story.  Blackest Night didn’t really matter.  After an incredible first two issues, the zombie comic became textbook dull as the story progressed.  In the end, nothing really mattered, and a bunch of C-List characters got resurrected, because, hey, there certainly aren’t a lot of good living characters to write about.  All of these resurrected people then went on their own sucky adventures in the immediate follow-up Brightest Day.  Brightest Day is an example of comic-fandom at its worst.  Hawk and Dove and company were never compelling characters to begin with, and the comic makes no attempts to improve most of its 30-man cast.  Move on already.  Let a dead dog lie.  Is Aquaman so beloved a property that he has to be revived every five years for another shitty adventure that still won’t work?  Get over it, people.  Most of the stories weren’t very interesting.  Some of them were just plain stupid.  Only the Marian Manhunter tale has any bite to it.  The comic isn’t over yet, but I gave up after issue 13 anyway.  Can Geoff Johns be trusted anymore?  Or is he just a bond company stooge dead-set on maintaining the status quo?

6.      Kick-Ass-The Movie, not the comic.  Hey, what if the Spider-Man movie was just about a crazy kid in a wetsuit getting the snot beat out of him?

Okay, sounds cool.

Yeah, and what if the Spider-Man movie had more swearing, and shitty action, and it was kind of gory?  What if Peter Parker wasn’t relatably pathetic, but obnoxiously pathetic?  What if the fight scenes all looked like shit?  What if, even though we took away all of the superpowers, the script still had leaps in logic that made Spider-Man 3 seem plausible?  What if, at the end, the hero defined by his incompetence straps on a jetpack with attached machine guns and saves the day?

Wait, what?

Fuck this movie.  People have been sucking its dick for how bold and innovative it was, even though it was just a terrible looking, juvenile rehash of comic book tropes with added swearing.  Kick-Ass’s big selling point is the real world setting, but they forego nearly everything that makes the real world matter.  At least discuss hospital bills or something, sheesh.

5.      Kid Cudi-Kid Cudi is bad for hip hop.  He doesn’t make my blood boil the way Drake does, but his own personal brand of arrogance is still obnoxious.  He’s that stoner kid in your high school English class who loooooooooooooooooves drawing attention to how weird and interesting he is.  His music does often forsake traditional rap structure, but I’m not about to congratulate him for just that.  Get some lyrics, Cudi.  Stop rhyming words with themselves, stop writing so many songs about weed, and stop assuming that just because you’re sad, you’re also deep.

5.      Shadowland-Brightest Day might’ve been a great exercise in treading water, but at least that’s to be expected from a DC event comic (Even one only starring C-listers.)  After two groundbreaking Daredevil runs by Brian Michael Bendis and Ed Brubaker, it looked like this one was going to be the craziest yet, but Andy Diggle gave up halfway through and decided to make a comic that reads exactly as you expect, only more boring.  Daredevil, now the leader of the ninja cult The Hand, has declared martial law in Hell’s Kitchen and builds the title fortress in the middle of town.  Has he finally lost it?  Has he gone too far?  Nah, don’t worry.  It was just a demon controlling him.  The comic flakes out in the character development, and nothing of importance happens.  Unable to come up with anything better than a reset, Andy Diggle proved that he was indeed a bond company stooge.  In the miniseries’ final issue, Iron Fist and Luke Cage deliver some meta-commentary on the comic.  Motioning towards Bullseye’s corpse, Luke says “Well, at least he’s still dead.” To which Iron Fist replies “Small consolation.”  Indeed.  What could’ve been a decent story got bloated into oblivion until it was just another big pile of nothing.

3.      The Lost Finale-What can I say about this that hasn’t already been said?  Even I got in on the action earlier this year, and anybody who cares about Lost already has their own opinion about the ending.  Regardless, the fact remains that they ended exactly how they said they wouldn’t, and wasted half of a season doing it.  Thanks for the memories, guys.

2.      Drake-There is only one logical explanation for Wheelchair Jimmy’s rap career. He and Lil Wayne are secret lovers, and Weezy ghost writes all of Drake’s good raps.  I’m not a homophobe man, I just call it like I see it.  But seriously, he doesn’t even have an original flow.  Listen to a Drake song.  Can’t you hear those rhymes coming out of Lil Wayne’s mouth?  Drake depresses me.  He’s a former child actor from a Canadian teen soap, he appears in Sprite commercials, he’s had it made for the majority of his young life, and nobody even bats an eye.  Given his circumstances, Drake should be a rapper with class, but god forbid anybody have some integrity.  He’s talking about the same stupid material shit all these young rappers like to rhyme about.  He’s just Lil Wayne-lite from Canada, and he’s got no taste in beats.  Fuck Drake.

1.      The Social Network-

Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole.  20 minutes later-Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole.  2 hours later-Mark Zuckerberg is an asshole.  I don’t care if he’s a real person, he’s still not interesting, and I want to punch him in the face.  Almost every single character in this movie is a rich douchebag, everybody wins in the end, and it doesn’t have anything insightful to say.  It left a bad taste in my mouth.  It’s like a 2 ½ hour episode of King of the Hill where every character is Peggy.  The Social Network is a movie we didn’t need.  It’s not a story worth telling.  Can’t we wait just a little bit longer, and see where this real-life drama develops?  I guess that’s the thing, though.  That’s all there is.  Everybody’s a rich asshole and that’s all they want to be.

 

This movie is boring.  Nothing ever really happens.   This shouldn’t be a problem for the guy who directed Zodiac, but it is.  There’s a few times when they pretend that something’s happening, like that idiotic rowing race,* but Fincher lets Aaron Sorkin’s script do the heavy lifting.  Every character talks in that stylized tone where they’ve always got something clever to say. It keeps things interesting for a bit, but it’s not enough to save the movie.  The characters are all kept at a distance.  It’s impossible to get inside anybody’s head.  We’re only given a chance to identify with one character, and he’s not even in it that often.  If the movie had been from Eduardo’s point-of-view, maybe we would’ve gotten a quality flick, but it seems doubtful.

 

Besides, what kind of loser makes a movie about Facebook instead of adapting Black Hole? Now Fincher’s next movie is going to be an American-ized adaptation of a best-seller that’s already been made into a movie.  I don’t want to say that that’s a Ron Howard move, but that’s a Ron Howard move.

 

I might be missing something, but I don’t care anymore.  I really hate this movie.

 

*A gold star for anybody who can tell why that scene matters.

A Letter to Robert Kirkman

Dear Mr Kirkman,

Word around town is that your comic series, The Walking Dead, is nearing the finish line.  I imagine you’ve already got plans on how to end it, but I’ve got some friendly advice you should hear-

Don’t pussy out.

So many of your contemporaries in the pantheon of popular storytellers have tarnished the legacies of their series by ending them on overly saccharine, sentimental notes that feel tacked on and not in spirit with the bulk of the work.

What brought this dilemma to my attention was the series finale of Lost.  While things wrapped up quite nicely on the island, the alternate universe that was created this season ended things on the single worst note possible.  (begin spoiler warning)Christian Shepard showed up again.  At first, I assumed that he was really the Man in Black, somehow still kicking after getting shot by Kate and pushed over a cliff.  After all wouldn’t that have made sense?  All season long, he was trying to get everybody together in the same place so he could kill them, and here everybody was-Every person in the show (except Michael and Walt, because I guess they don’t count.)  If he can turn into a smoke monster and assume the form of the dead, is it that implausible that he could also have done this?  Instead, Cuse, Lindeloff, and whoever else was involved with this travesty of an ending decided that the alternate universe was some sort of new-age pseudo-limbo.  Meaning everybody was dead.  You know, the thing they’ve been promising, since the first season, is absolutely NOT going on?  Was the big twist at the end that they lied to us?  “Sure, everything that happens on the island is real and it matters, but these flash-sideways don’t.”  What really burns me about the route they took is that it essentially doesn’t matter.  Every flash-sideways this season was pointless.  It doesn’t connect to anything in the rest of the series.  The producers knew people would hate this ending, I wonder why they did it at all? (end spoilers)

All complaints aside, the sixth season of Lost was probably the worst, but it was still better than everything else on network TV.  I don’t think the finale will do much to tarnish the reputation of the show.  The island is what really mattered, and they finished that side of the story with style and grace.  (more spoilers ahead) It reminded me of Bone.  Both involved dire showdowns in magic caves.  I was a little confused by The Man in Black losing his powers.  At first I assumed Desmond had become the new smoke monster when he uncorked the glowing magic light stuff.  (No, they never really explained what it was, but that’s okay, because it doesn’t matter.)  Oh well, at least Des got to return home to his family.  I didn’t see Jack’s death coming, but it was a slow death, so it wasn’t exactly shocking.  Once he went back to the cave, I assumed it was over.  Leaving Hurley and Ben in charge of the island was a fitting ending.  I loved Ben’s last lines, where he tells Hurley he doesn’t have to do things by Jacob’s rules anymore.  Sly and manipulative to the bitter end!  If there was a season seven and it was just those two going fishing and doing laundry I would watch it. Rose and Bernard would also be stars of season seven now that I think about it.  Nice to see them again, but why the hell didn’t Michael or Walt ever show up?(end spoilers)

All of this finale fallout reminds me of Twin Peaks, the show considered the best of its generation.  Coincidentally, Twin Peaks also had a lackluster finale, but hardly anybody ever talks about that.  The ending of the show was weak, but I can live with it.  It was a fun and engaging ride while it lasted, and I’ve got a new Favorite TV show now, it’s called Breaking Bad, it’s about a cancer stricken chemistry teacher who makes crystal meth and I look forward to catching up with the episode I missed the other day due to the Lost finale.

But I digress, Mr Kirkman.  I apologize for regaling you with details about Lost.  We’re here to focus on you and your work.  However, there’s certainly a lesson or two to be learned from Lost.  One-The pressure is on.  Two-If people are expecting you to screw up, and they are, this is how they expect it to be done.  Lost was not an isolated incident.  Garth Ennis got excessively sappy in the last issue of Preacher.  All of those letters are like the comic book equivalent to the excessive flashbacks that plagued the Lost finale.  The last chapter in Harry Potter almost ruined the entire series for me, it was so cheesy.  Planetary got away with it, but I imagine that’s because I read the trade.  If I had to wait a year between issues I probably would’ve been pissed.  The Walking Dead has never been a comic to pull punches, so it’ll be even worse if you blow the ending on some undeserved sunshine.  If you want to get sappy, save it for the ending of Invincible.

Rarely is the emotional finale done right, but Y The Last Man immediately springs to mind.  I don’t want to oversimplify things and give you the idea that it works because it’s also depressing, but uh, it works because it’s also depressing.  Still, I’d try to avoid something like that because 1) You’d be ripping off BKV, and 2) Heavy speeches aren’t exactly your strong suit.  Y was a great ending, but I’m most partial to the finishes that go out with a bang.  Take a look at Brian Michael Bendis’s and Ed Brubaker’s respective runs on Daredevil.  When the characters get written into a corner, sometimes it’s better to have the floor drop out beneath them than to whip out the dues ex machina.

Damn, I haven’t covered Deus ex Machinas.  Here’s another pitfall you’ll want to avoid.  Not that they can’t work, but I can’t see it working in the context of The Walking Dead.

I’ve got faith in you, Mr Kirkman.  You managed to keep The Irredeemable Ant-Man a pretty despicable guy all the way through his cancellation, so keeping the world of Rick, Carl and company bleak and gory should be no tall order.  You seen like a smart guy.  Don’t make the wrong decision.  Make sure it wasn’t all a dream or everybody was dead, or inside a giant cage being controlled by aliens.

P.S. –Could you make sure Bryan Lee O’Malley gets this too?