Archive | September, 2011

Sons of Anarchy: “Dorylus” episode review

29 Sep

This week’s episode of Sons of Anarchy is full of great moments.  Yes, it took a couple of weeks to get there but it was worth the wait.  By the end of the episode, lines have been clearly drawn.  Clay‘s desire to take SAMCRO into the drug business has tested the limits of both personal and professional/brotherly relationships.  Most of all, it appears there could be the beginning of a rift between Clay (Ron Perlman) and Gemma (Katey Sagal) that might not heal.

SPOILER ALERT:

Clay plays every angle he can, from sweet-talking Tara (Maggie Siff), who doesn’t believe him when he tells her raising Jax is the best thing that ever happened to him and he’s pleased she’s marrying into the family, to telling Bobby (Mark Boone Junior) he will be President after he leaves the club no matter how he votes, to  killing (we’ll get to that shortly).  While we have seen Gemma excessively manipulative, I feel like this is Clay’s worst side yet.  Because even though he’s done a lot of bad things, he hasn’t seemed like such a bad guy at points, but this week something in Clay switches off.  First we watch him smother the guy on the Indian Reservation who has been unlucky enough to get chosen as the receipt of slow-death by flesh-eating ants.  Clay’s really done him a favor by suffocating him as the dying man was eavesdropping on Clay’s and Bobby’s conversation to screw their ammunitions contact out of the profits for running drugs for the Mexican cartel.

Gemma’s obsession with Tara’s knowledge about Maureen’s letters drives her back to Tara’s office to snoop.  She gets caught by Tara’s boss, who later lets Tara know.  When Gemma returns, she decides on the direct approach, telling Tara some version of the truth about her early relationship with Jax’s dad, in hopes of keeping Tara on her side.  By the end of this episode, it is fairly obvious sides are drawn, maybe only along club lines now, but after Piney informs Gemma they are running drugs for the Mexican cartel, things are going to change.  At least I believe they are since Gemma calls it “their club” to Clay to which he informs her she isn’t a part of it.  Probably not the best idea since it was Gemma who is really the heart of the club.  When Clay pushes her out of the way at the end of the episode and tells her to stay out of it, I am guessing something will turn in Gemma because Clay has shown where his true loyalties lie, not with Gemma or the club, but with himself.

Sheriff Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) pulls Juice (Theo Rossi) in for a talk.  He informs him that law enforcement knows that Juice’s father is black (which would mean ex-communication from the club, or whatever you might call it) and possible death.  Roosevelt offers for Juice to meet his father if Juice, uh, does a few favors for them.  Looks like Juice doesn’t have much of a choice.

Finally, Jax is looking more like a true leader for the club when he must fix Kozik’s (Kenny Johnson) screw-up, allowing their truck with a crate of the Russian’s guns heading for the Mexican cartel to get jacked.  Jax and the crew track down the missing guns to a fence, Vivica (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) who is slightly reminiscent of the Weeds mother/dealer, Heylia James (Tonye Patano), who Jax later says would give Gemma a run for her money when the mom/fence discovers her sons went behind her back and bought the guns.  They should bring her character in a bit more, it added not only a little comic relief but another layer of complicated morality to the show.

The Big Bang Theory is Back and Better than ever: Season 5 Premiere “The Skank Reflex Analysis”

26 Sep

If there is one show I genuinely missed this summer, it was The Big Bang Theory.  I had shunned sitcoms for a few years and a friend of mine sat me down and started me watching a marathon.  I remember not being too sure about it the first time but after that, I grew to appreciate it and by the end of the marathon I was hooked.  Then I had to catch up on two seasons, which seems to be the story of my life with television shows.  It’s become my favorite US sitcom.  There’s something reassuring about watching Leonard (Johnny Galecki) and Sheldon (Jim Parsons) navigate their way around a goony version of Los Angeles I never knew existed.  And although Penny (Kaley Cuoco) is an aspiring actress, the show just doesn’t feel like the Los Angeles I know.  Maybe that’s because to trek to Pasadena from West Los Angeles was like taking a day trip to Santa Barbara if you hit traffic at the wrong time.  But the characters are definitely as dysfunctional as most individuals living in Los Angeles.

As most people probably know, sitcoms used to be family-centered.  They still are, only the family is the group of people who happen to be in your sitcom world.  In this case, Sheldon, Leonard and Penny make up the central family unit with Howard (Simon Helberg), Raj/Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar), Bernadette (Melissa Rauch), and the newest addition, Amy Farrah Fowler (Mayim Bialik) as the close relations.  Like any family, this one is completely dysfunctional.  And if you aren’t in a dysfunctional family, I almost feel sorry for you.  Last season was a bit more hit and miss and I was worried.  Some shows were great and others just made me wonder what the writers were thinking.  They seemed to be all over the place and not focusing on the core fears and desires of the characters.

The main fear and desire that comes from everyone but Sheldon is the need to be loved and in a relationship in this show.  It isn’t as if Sheldon doesn’t need that, he just processes his needs differently.  Honestly, I would like to see Penny and Sheldon end up together.  I believe they are the secret couple that essentially exists in the ether.  Over the years it is Penny that Sheldon usually turns to for comfort.  Certainly before Amy Farrah Fowler came onto the scene.  While Howard and Bernadette work as a couple, I never truly bought Leonard and Penny.  In fact, sometimes I think Leonard and Koothrappali should just get together since he (Koothrappali) has such a bi-sexual slant.  And I know all the homosexual jokes run between him and Howard as a couple (certainly in the following episode, “The Infestation Hypothesis,” with the simulated internet kissing contraption that made me laugh so hard I’m sure people heard me outside); however, for all the action Leonard gets, somehow he seems more asexual to me than Sheldon.  Maybe Amy Farrah Fowler would be better served with Leonard.  The problem with the coupling between Amy and Sheldon is that they are far too alike.  And Amy craves excitement and seems that she might even be sexually adventurous given the opportunity.  Sheldon, on the other hand, likes to play it safe unless he has calculated all the variables for risk.  Leonard, although different from Amy, also likes to be sexually adventurous and I believe they could function as a couple.  She’s not glamourous enough for him but it’s nothing a trip to Sephora and a few clothing stores couldn’t improve on.  Sheldon and Penny would be a fascinating couple.  An introvert and an extrovert.  I personally would like to see Sheldon stop being quite so asexual and move into adolescence.  And let’s be honest, this show thrives on sexual activity.

In this particular episode, “The Skank Reflex Analysis” we watch Penny deal with the fallout of her coupling with Raj.  What is particularly disturbing to me (and don’t forget I love this show) is that Penny is essentially called a slut by not only her close friend, Amy, but admits it herself.  Sure Penny sleeps around.  Guess what?  Adult women do that sometimes.  What bothers me is they are still considered sluts if they do and more disturbingly, they consider themselves sluts.  Conversely, Raj admits to her they didn’t end up having sex but she goes ahead and lets everyone believe they did to save his reputation, because apparently, in 2011, a man is still studly and not slutty if he gets laid and he’s drunk.  This double-standard, I was hoping, would be gone at this point in the game of cultural coitus but I guess not.  And thanks to CBS and Chuck Lorre, there are whole new generations stereotyping women as sluts.  And acting like it’s fine.  Now I’m not arguing that I think Penny shouldn’t have fun.  Nope, I think she should do who she wants when she wants but I think it is up to those who create culture to stop enforcing outdated stereotypes and come up with a term that explains it can be empowering for a woman to behave just like a man.  I know maybe some people haven’t looked but we aren’t in the 1950s or 1960s anymore.  But wait!  I think we might be, considering the two embarrassing shows that embrace the old patriarchal guard, The Playboy Club and Pan Am.  Thanks, Mad Men.  I suppose being progressive is still not synonymous with American network television.  Which is a shame.  I hope they get their act together soon.

Overall, the season premiere was funny and entertaining.  Raj is dealing with the fallout of his encounter with Penny, her rejection of him and Bernadette’s wrath for his dirty poems about her which have made Howard paranoid.  And watching Sheldon as the Captain of the Paintball team and his self-sacrifice scene  is what this show does best.  Amy Farrah Fowler’s excitement over having Penny as a sleep-over guest is, I would argue, one of the best elements in the show, reminding everyone that even if they were insecure as kids and things sucked, at some point in your adult life, they do get better.  A good message for everyone.

Haven: “Business As Usual” pays off its fans

25 Sep

SPOILER ALERT:

If you’re a Haven fan and you are hoping for Audrey (Emily Rose) and Crocker (Eric Balfour) hooking up, you might be disappointed with last night’s episode; however, if you are on the Audrey/Nathan (Lucas Bryant) bandwagon, you might be very happy since last night’s episode gave the fans what they were finally waiting for… the kiss.

Writing about the “trouble of the week” doesn’t inspire me, although it’s fascinating how each trouble is usually caused by an emotional trigger and once its out there, there’s no going back.  Kind of like a mental illness you can never get rid of  and must learn to live with using only cognitive therapy as there doesn’t seem to be any medicinal cure for the “troubled”.  Which begs the question, just how does Audrey know how to fix the troubled?  I’m glad the writers/producers are finally beginning to address the mythology of Audrey’s past a bit more heavily into the narrative, although it wouldn’t have hurt to introduce it in slightly sooner.  And that introduction to the real Audrey at the end of season one and the beginning of season two left a great deal to be desired.  If you are going to build a premise up that far then you should go a bit deeper.  It would have been simple enough for Audrey to come across her memory double in another way that was less invasive if all they wanted to do was introduce the idea that Audrey’s memories weren’t her own.  Then after all the leading up to Lucy Ripley, we see her for a few minutes and while yes, we get some key information, I’m hoping we get to see more of her.  This is all contingent on whether or not Syfy actually renews a third season.  Which they should.  I already invested in the Season 1 DVD set and I rarely do that.  It even cost me more because I bought it in Canada so Syfy creative executives, I’d appreciate some good faith as I would be very upset if you failed me now.  Besides, there appears to be a hardcore fan-base for the show if you look at Dave (John Dunsworth) and Vince’s (Richard Donat) twitter following numbers.

If there is a season 3, as I sincerely hope there will be, I am anxious to see how the Audrey/Nathan relationship progresses since his father (in the preview for the season finale as a ghost, no less) tells Nathan that Audrey is too important to be in love with him (considering she does need to focus to save the entire town).  But Nathan’s dad is from the old school of thought.  There’s nothing that says Audrey can’t be in love with Nathan, have to figure out if Duke will end up turning on her on his own or because a trouble might possess him at some point, and fighting whatever ‘force’ it is that is causing all the havoc in the small Maine coastal town.  I will be watching closely, considering Audrey isn’t really Audrey or Lucy so if she finds out who she is, will that cause a problem with her relationship with Nathan?  More interesting, although Nathan is the troubled one who can feel nobody but Audrey, he seems a bit healthier in the ability to attempt a relationship.  At this point, it is almost as if the gender roles were reversed since Nathan never lived up to being a man for his father while Audrey was more than capable of handling many of the troubles.  I wonder if there are any other gender-bending issues that will arise if we are lucky enough to get a third season of Haven.

Follow Dave and Vince on Twitter.

New Girl: Pilot Review

24 Sep

Men are not always the best communicators. To be fair, sometimes their parents aren’t either and they are not taught exactly how they should express themselves when it actually matters. This doesn’t just apply to teenage boys or guys in their 20s or 30s, this also applies to my father. Who, instead of actually writing me emails, forwards me emails. Jokes, political commentary, news clips. Almost every day. Today I was struck by one about women being like apples. That men are sometimes too lazy or too scared they are going to fall if they have to climb up to the top of the tree to get the best apples (i.e. women), so they settle for the ‘fallen apples’ (I really want to send an email back and ask him if he interprets that as sluts or just sloppy seconds but that might just confuse him – and that would be direct communication something he isn’t comfortable with after 82 years of living). I’m not sure how I am supposed to interpret this. I suppose I am a top apple and most of the men are afraid of me. I could have told him that when I was 19 when guys started informing me I was scary (amazing what guys will admit when they are drunk) but what made me appreciate the email was the rest of it. Apparently, men are like grapes and women have to stomp the hell out of them to ‘create a fine wine’ just so they can bother to eat dinner with them. Now, I agree with the apple thing and the grape thing. I don’t think men really appreciate women unless they are properly stomped. In fact the more one stomps, the more the men seem to come back for more. Or perhaps I just attract extremely warped men. I’m talking about this because I hadn’t bothered to watch the Fox pilot, New Girl created by Elizabeth Meriwether. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel and I already have so many shows on my plate. But I was reading about the high ratings so I decided to watch it but if you missed it, just go straight to iTunes to download it. Unless you have the Dish Network, you’ll get a message on Fox’s website that you can’t watch the pilot for the first nine days after airing or something ridiculous like that.  Honestly, these studios are so stupid at times.  Uh, I’m a viewer.  I want to see your show.  I almost didn’t bother because I found it so annoying to get it.  And the only reason I didn’t want to bother with iTunes is that my computer and external hard drive are almost full of shows that I’ve bought so I’ve got to be picky.

All the annoyance aside, I liked the show.  It’s a simple enough premise:  Jess (Zooey Deschanel) discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her when she shows up unannounced in the afternoon dressed in nothing but a raincoat to help him out with his fantasy.  Ok guys:  guess what, if you ask a girl to do that and she’s actually into you, at some point, she will actually decide to surprise you like this so you probably should not be screwing around on her because the way things work, you will get caught.  Jess’s boyfriend gets caught.  She’s humiliated standing there stark naked in front of him and his slut but I just kept thinking:  why did Jess take a cab home?  It was daytime.  NOBODY in Los Angeles takes a cab unless you are going to or from the airport or you are a tourist or your pet has a medical emergency and your car has just died (yes that happened to me).  Otherwise, people in Los Angeles like to think cabs are something only for New York.  Jess must now find a new place to live.  We don’t see lots of roommate interviews (I’m so relieved I missed that process in life), we just see the interview with her soon-to-be new roommates, three guys who are nice enough but basically jerks.  Personal trainer Winston (Lamorne Morris) can’t be nice or relate to women, Bartender (at least I think that’s what he is) Nick (Jake M. Johnson) is hung up on his ex-girlfriend but seems the most well-rounded one of the three, and finally, Schmidt (Max Greenfield), who believes all women love him and takes his shirt off for everyone of them (note to guys:  even if you have a good body under that shirt, women think you’re an idiot if you do that in person or online, nobody likes a showoff).  The only reason they reluctantly allow Jess to move in is because her best friend is a model and they figure there will be models hand-delivered for the taking.  Instead what they get is an ultra-geeky female who cannot read social cues and likes to watch Dirty Dancing and cry a lot.

The way this show is described is:  it is about the sexual politics between men and women.  I’d say it is more about wish fulfillment.  This show is about men having to become human with feelings because they see if they don’t, their living situation will become unbearable and they start to realize that other people’s feelings do matter.  I’m assuming each week Jess will do something stupid in their eyes and while they try to teach her what is acceptable to men, her emotional needs will teach them how to understand women and themselves more.  This is most likely why this show did so well.  Jess is non-threatening to men and women.  She’s average but can look better when dressed up.  She has a friend who is a model and you will notice that she’s far more self-confident and the ball-buster.  She cares about her friend but you will notice that the attractive woman is far more superficial than Jess.  She is the object they desire but can’t have while Jess is more accessible to all three of her roommates.  I don’t think this necessarily sends the healthiest message:  if you are an attractive woman you simply cannot be accessible.  These guys seem to have to learn from Jess, the apple that fell to the ground.  Now you can argue with me and say she’s high maintenance and worth the climb.  I would say, uh, every female is high maintenance but not every female is worth the climb, just like some grapes are so sour you wouldn’t waste your time stomping on them.  Conversely, if Jess were hot, there would be a different problem:  all three roommates would probably want to have sex with her and start to understand that she isn’t only a sexual being but a human as well.  Maybe that’s a different show.  And a different lesson.  Because these guys are in their training pants right now.

Yes, I’ll watch the show at least a few more times and see if it sheds more light on um, sexual politics.  Or, if it is just full of hot air.

New Girl airs Tuesdays at 9pm/8pm central on Fox.

Ringer: “She’s Ruining Everything”episode 2 review/recap

22 Sep

In the second week of the CW‘s new fall entry Ringer, things pick up a little for Bridget/Siobhan (Sarah Michelle Gellar).  The question is:  will it be enough to keep the show from the chopping block?  There has been a significant decline (26%) in viewership and if it keeps declining I’m sure the show will suffer a death earlier than some of the characters who will most likely be scheduled to die this season.  For the record, I’m enjoying the show and hope it makes it through as unscathed as possible.

SPOILER ALERT:

We get to worry about what on earth Bridget is going to do with that body.  The one of hitman she shot and killed in the last episode.  I’ve got to admit, I like how it’s taking her a long time to figure out what the hell to do with it.  Because if you not a ‘cleaner’ and you are in New York City, and you’re a small-framed female, your options are limited.  I particularly like her moment contemplating the power saw.  I believe the writers did a great job raising the stakes just when Bridget thought she would have an extra day or two to clean up her mess, her ‘husband’, Andrew (Ioan Gruffudd) tells her they are now going to have to have the fund-raising event (literally his company is procuring clients/investors) she didn’t know about in their unfinished loft.  She scrambles to get back to the loft and move the body but there is an event staff already there clearing up and setting up.  Now she’s stuck.  She must wait until after the party to finish what she started.

Now, I must once again voice my annoyance at the CW.  A friend of mine who writes for a TV show on a different network, but did once write for a CW show, explained something to me when I complained to her.  I was saying I was so sick and tired of every CW show having an ‘event’ each episode.  Apparently that is a CW mandate.  I’d go farther saying they believe it is their signature style.  I’m here to say:  hey, CW, that is stupid.  I get the need to have an event here and there but seriously, your events are interrupting the flow of your narratives at times.  This is especially true with shows like The Vampire Diaries.  Because the events have become so ridiculous I started to dread watching the show.  I am still watching it but I’m stuck in last season I’ve been so annoyed.  I just wish the networks would shut up and butt out and let the creative people create.  There is a reason an executive is not a writer.  Everyone at a network needs to remember that.  And that is usually why shows start to fail.  I’m bringing this up only because this is one of the times an event actually worked for the narrative and I would deem it fine.  What gives me that right?  I’m a viewer who is willing to invest something called “my time” in their show.  And if I’m investing “my time” that usually will lead to “my money” if I see something as product placement I admire or a product on a commercial if I don’t fast forward on my DVR.  It’s something networks tend to forget.  Or try to quantify.  Why don’t you stop targeting and just make the best show you can once in a while?  You might be surprised.   Now back to the episode.

It turns out that the assassin had a cell phone which goes off during Andrew’s Investor Pitch speech and Bridget has to lie that the one going off in a trunk must be one of the workmen’s.  I’m not buying it but I’ll let it slide.  A ‘waiter’ sees her reach in and grab the phone.  He eyes her menacingly and we know he’s not a waiter.  The stakes have been raised again.  The dead body isn’t Bridget’s only problem.  FBI Agent Victor Machado (Nestor Carbonell) is nosing around the loft and the party.  Juliet, Siobhan’s step-daughter is clearly developing a substance abuse problem and Bridget sees she can do her some good so begins to form a bond with her.  Finally, Bridget screws over Siobhan inadvertently by closing out her secret bank account and stashing the cash for an emergency run she’s planning.  Siobhan is less than pleased.  Oh and that body?  Well, Bridget goes back to the loft to proceed with her ‘cleaning job’ and the body has disappeared.  Somebody knows something.  I can’t wait to see what they have planned for poor Bridget next.

Castle: Season 4 Premiere Review

21 Sep

Last season of Castle wasn’t my favorite.  The things I love about the show are the strange murders, quirky investigations and humor.  Last season, it was hit and miss as the narrative went deeper into the mystery of who killed Kate Beckett‘s mother and why.  The tone was uneven.  Storylines featuring the conspiracy about Kate’s mother and later the involvement with the police department and city officials became increasingly convoluted.  I slugged through a number of episodes until last season’s finale when Kate (Stana Katic) got shot at her old boss Captain Montgomery’s (Ruben Santiago-Hudson) funeral.  When I tuned into the Season 4 premiere episode, “Rise”, I had forgotten two very important things that happened in the last two minutes of the show:  that Kate got shot and Castle (Nathan Fillion) professed his love as she was about to lose consciousness.  Just like any narcissistic man, too little, too late.

SPOILER ALERT:

In this episode, Kate survives the gunshot – barely.  Her doctor boyfriend helps save her and she dumps him later.  In all fairness, that was the right thing to do if she wasn’t in love with him.  Life is too short to stay with someone you only just like.  Or in turn, to stay with someone who can’t express his feelings at appropriate times.  But Castle is doing his best to make it up to Kate, and, like any somewhat rational adult woman, she is willing to forgive if he can prove himself to her.  Without the backsliding Castle is so famous for.  So as Kate recovers from her gunshot in relative solitude, Castle is helping Ryan (Seamus Dever) and Esposito (Jon Huertas) work on discovering who the sniper was, who hired him and why Kate is still in danger.  All of this is done under the new regime of Captain Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald) who is a good foil to all those in the department and should add to a more interesting way of solving mysteries.  As soon as the Captain is on the detective’s sides, it’s not half as much fun to watch Kate and Company essentially bend the law to its fullest to investigate their way.

This episode does include a mystery – a tabloid chick who was murdered while her boyfriend was presumably in her house.  He claims he didn’t do it.  Actually, in Castle, this is usually the case.  The murderer tends to be someone who is close to the victim but not as close as we realize.  It’s always fun to guess who as they investigate.  This mystery is truncated though, since the majority of time is spent on the Kate conspiracy.

The most revealing and perhaps promising moments came at the end of the show.  First, next week’s episode is a comic book murder and everyone looks like they are having a good time so let’s hope we will get back on track, at least slightly.  Second, Kate goes to a psychologist to confess that she remembers her shooting (and obviously Castle’s confession of love).  Such a healthy response, her hiding for three months and not talking to him.  I guess it’s better than her telling Castle to get lost and leave her alone.  But not much.  Let’s hope Kate can grow a bit more emotionally because when Castle is the adult in the show, things can get scary.

Castle airs on ABC at 10pm/9pm central.

Breaking Bad: “Salud” Episode Review

20 Sep

If I had been feeling a bit slighted this season with episodes that didn’t have quite enough action, Vince Gilligan made it up to me with last night’s episode, “Salud”.  Breaking Bad is picking up speed as it nears the season ending and it isn’t disappointing its fans.

SPOILER ALERT:

We begin the episode with Jesse, Gus and Mike waiting in an open field to get on a plane and fly to Mexico to do “the cook” for the Cartel.  Jesse, surprisingly, rises to the occasion, channeling Walt and impressing Gus.  He not only pulls off the cook but intimidates and insults the cartel chemist in charge.  That was most likely cathartic after what he went through with Walt.  Things go so well, in fact, that Jesse is informed he will be staying in Mexico for all the cooks.  He is not pleased to say the least.

In the meantime, Skyler tries to reach Walt, who is passed out after taking many painkillers.  He misses Walt., Jr.’s birthday and giving him the ridiculous PT Cruiser.  The gift is an epic fail.  Later, Walt, Jr. goes to Walt’s and finds his dad beaten up and wasted.  Walt ends up crying in front of him.  Junior responds by comforting and taking care of his dad.  The next day, the closeness ends when Walt tells Junior he doesn’t want him to remember him like that and Junior says he prefers crying Walt to the Walt of the previous year.  There’s always some fall out when you become Meth King of Albuquerque.

Skyler has problems with Ted.  She’s instructed Saul to give Ted money to pay off the IRS and pretend it is an inheritance.  Instead of paying off his taxes, he leases a Mercedes and decides to start up his business again.  Skyler pays him a visit and ends up insisting he use the money she gave him to pay off the debt.  That was most likely a bad idea as we can all see Ted is an idiot.

Walt has more to worry about than he imagined since Jesse ends up using the poison Walt gave him to kill Gus to kill Don Eladio and his lieutenants.  We’re not sure what story Jesse has told to Mike and Gus but we see Gus ingest the poison then go throw it up.   Not sure if that’s going to work for him and as Cartel members start dropping dead, Gus doesn’t escape unscathed.  He’s doubled over in pain as they run for a getaway car and things only get worse when a Cartel member we thought was dead shoots and hits Mike.  Jesse drives both of his wounded comrades out of the compound as the episode ends leaving all of us to wonder:  who will die?  Mike?  Gus?  Both?  I prefer Mike.  Gus creeps me out so you know who I’m banking on to survive.

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