Thursday, January 29, 2015

Quick and Dirty

I've been trying out a lot of random shows lately with varying results. Let's try something new where I just shout out my initial thoughts about this motley collection.


Backstrom:Dwight from The Office tries to be House. He's not House. I lasted all of two minutes before I was offended by this excremental show. 


Next!


Call the Midwife: BIRTH CONTROL. Seriously, you will not let any man near your lady parts after watching this show.  


Next!


Glee: It's the Final Season! They're all back at McKinley! Who cares?!


Next!


Grantchester: He's a hot vicar who solves murders. Too bad it's totally boring.


Next!


Z Nation: Still way better and more fun than The Walking Dead


Next!

Black Sails: Completely nonsensical and impossible to follow.


And finally....


Marco Polo: Everyone is more interesting than the main character, but at least he's cute. Oh, and the show is actually pretty good if you're into thirteenth century Mongol politics. AND WHO ISN'T.


Maggie Cats OUT.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Empire

I've had so many ideas for blog posts swirling around in my head the past couple weeks, it's been difficult to decide what to write about. And then I realized I was using that as an excuse to be lazy. So I'm kicking off some more regular posts with a review of my favorite mid-season premiere of the season: Empire.

Just to clarify....not this Empire.


THIS EMPIRE.

What's not to love about rich people scheming and backstabbing? Sure, this is kind of a common plot in television, but you guys. Empire is really really good. I think it's actually crazy good. It takes everything that's awesome about shows like Dallas, but isn't ridiculous or campy. I was completely hooked in just the first few minutes and every episode keeps getting better (and the ratings have gone up with each episode which is kind of unheard of these days on network television).

The plot is very King Lear set in the modern music industry. Lucious Lyon (Terrance Howard), is a former drug dealer turned hip hop mogul and the CEO of Empire Entertainment.  In the pilot episode, he's diagnosed with ALS and told he has only three years to live. Of course his thoughts turn to his legacy, and he tells his three sons that one of them will inherit Empire...and they will have to prove they deserve the honor. So basically, they are competing among each other for ULTIMATE POWER. Well, ultimate music power. Well, millions and millions of dollars. The stakes are high is what I'm saying.

Everyone instantly starts plotting against one another and the waters are further muddied with the arrival of Cookie, Lucious' awesome ex-wife and mother of the three sons. She's just out of prison where she served time for getting the seed money for Empire Entertainment by getting involved in some drug deals. Cookie is just an all-around badass with amazing fashion sense and is pulling for her second son (he's very much of the John Legend-type singer/songwriter school) to be the heir. But since the son is gay....Lucious is against the idea.

If Cookie ain't happy, ain't NOBODY happy.

I mean, seriously. THE DRAMA. There is so much going on with this show it's crazy, but it all makes sense, the performances (at least as far as the older characters are concerned) are really strong, and the music throughout the show is great. It's also really nice to have a black-centric show that doesn't feel like it was just thrown together (ahem, Blackish. Looking at you). This is a tight, well-made, compelling drama.

Empire has right off the bat established itself as must see tv for me, so give it a shot and I bet you'll get hooked. You can find it Wednesdays at 9:00 EST on FOX, and catch up with the three aired episodes over at the show's website.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Plot So Nice They Used It Twice

Anybody want to go on a Viking River Cruise? 


No? Okay then.

Kids, mama is facepalming hard over here.

So, last week's episode started off with Anna and Mrs. Hughes cleaning out the hot (literally) mess that Edith made when she tried to burn down Downton (accident, my ass). Anna finds the baby photo. She gives it to Mrs. Hughes. Edith, Mrs. Hughes IS SO ON TO YOU.

In rich white people news, the war memorial committee wants to build a war memorial. They want to do this on Robert's beloved cricket ground. Robert once again proves he Doesn't Get It. What do you think, Tom? Never mind, you're Irish and poor.


"Don't mind the nice man in the sunglasses, Tom. He's only here to erase your memory."

Jimmy is still fired for sleeping with Caroline Bingley. I'm sure he'll be back, though.

Thomas is sad that Jimmy is leaving. This is one of the few times when Thomas seems human. Yes, more of that and less of the puerile scheming. 

At breffie, Charles Blake is coming back to Downton, because he has a friend who wants to look at their della Francescas. Mary is a bit bummed because she's already promised Lord GingerAle that she will spend the weekend being his booty call. 

Rose is collecting evening gowns for Russian aristocratic refugees who have fled the Bolsheviks. She also wants a wireless. 

Escandelo!

Over at the cottage, Edith is still trying to get her baby back. Unfortunately, her child's adoptive mother does not want to give her up, since Edith's life is just the worst. 

Lord Merton is FRISKING AROUND Isobel's skirts. 


"Then Lord Merton invited me to go to Cleveland with him on a steamer. I've never been to Ohio."

Mary has to be certain that there aren't any Consequences to her weekend activities, so she straight up asks Anna to go into the village and buy some Plan B. 

I am super excited about Rose's Russian refugees and wireless.

Thomas, who is horrible, decides to go ahead and tell Molesley that his lady friend Baxter is a thief. Thomas is still trying to get Baxter to snitch on Bates, so can...I don't know...

Edith tells Robert and Cora that she wants to *cough* take an interest in a little orphan girl who is living at the Drews'. They suspect nothing because, I mean, Edith ain't getting any younger. 

Anna goes into the apothecary's to get some unmentionables for Mary and the scene proceeds with all the subtlety of an after-school special. The judgey lady pharmacist asks Anna personal questions and judges her, and this immediately turns Anna into a birth control crusader. 

Daisy is coming along quite nicely with Miss Bunting tutoring her in math (Maggie and I totally called that) , although Miss Bunting is still a Commie who also mouths off at dinner. She is TOLERATED at Downton.  Anyway, Tom clearly has his hands full.


#Gangsta

Molesley is quite convinced that Baxter would not have stolen from her former mistress. but Baxter won't tell him the whole story. Because nobody tells anyone anything on this show. They just perpetually spy and eavesdrop on each other. That is easier. 

Mary tells her parents that she is hanging out with one of her aristocratic friends while she is really with Lord Gallagher (what is she? fifteen?), but she misses out on getting to spend more time with Charles Blake (!!!!) and his art collector friend, who is 1) Totally Richard E. Grant and 2) Totally hitting on Cora. I have no idea why either of these things are happening, but they are happening simultaneously.

Mary goes to meat LordGingerSnap at the hotel in London where he has booked adjoining rooms (boom chicka waka). This is a bad idea on many levels. 


LG: You may think I'm after your money. Think again. What really interests me is your sweet, sweet aspidistra. 
LM: My aspidistra?
LG: Yes, I'm an amateur botanist. The Downton aspidistra is...quite rare."

And did I mention Charles Blake? 


How YOU doin'?

I rest my case. 

Rose gets her wireless, and they all gather to listen to the king give a speech, and the Empire remains solid, and you think that all is right with the world and THEN...

A constable from London randomly shows up at Downton to say that a "witness" has come forward and wants to talk to Carson about rapey valet Green's stay at Downton. LIKE WHO CARES? I thought we all agreed that we did not care.  Green raped Anna, he ran into a bus, and he died. End of story.

Are we REALLY going to do this plot again? The plot where Bates gets arrested for a murder he may or may not have committed, but we all agree it doesn't really matter because the victim was a horrible human being. Whyyyyyy? Is the twist this time that Bates is going to get convicted and executed? And then what will happen to Anna? Will she become a family planning crusader? 

What witness comes forward two years after the fact? And why would the coppers take it seriously? Lord Gallifrey certainly has a new valet by now, so I am going to call Green's death a net gain for our fair city. The only thing that would make it even remotely interesting this time is if Anna got accused. Girl already won a Golden Globe for being a rape victim. Let's see if accused murderer works out for her as well. But seriously. Get some new material, or call it a day.


I didn't do it, but if I'd done it, how could you tell me that I was wrong? PopSixSquishUhuhCiceroLipshitz

Monday, January 12, 2015

Constantine is the American Doctor Who

I know, I know.   A bold statement.  Especially given the number of other shows that could equally make the case that they are, in fact, as close as those of us in “The Colonies” will ever get to our own mad cap Gallifreyan adventurer (The Middleman certainly had a strong case to make).  But here’s the thing: all the main Doctor Who tropes are present in the new NBC show.  Wise but possibly ambivalent hero fighting dark enemies?  Check.   Companion who is mostly a rube but potentially possessing a vital power or skill that the hero will need?  Yup.  It’s-Bigger-On-The-Inside base of operations?  But of course.

All of which is not to suggest that Constantine is just some rip off.  If anything, having watched the first six episodes, I would argue that the show is trying to establish itself as something wholly independent of the rest of the comic book properties out there.  The mad Englishman with a special larger-than-it-seems home base and a crazy encyclopedic knowledge of terrifying things coupled with a potentially troublesome disregard for the people around him may echo our favorite fantasy adventurer, but this is a TARDIS of a different shape.

A flame-ier, angrier TARDIS...


The Comic Book
Wait, what?  “Clovis,” I hear you say, “Is this yet another comic book TV show that you can’t seem to stay away from?”  Of course it is.  Constantine is based on the DC Comics book Hellblazer about John Constantine, a 35-year-old con man, supernatural detective, and “petty dabbler of the dark arts” based in London.  But in order to understand this character and where he fits in with all those flying cape-wearers who are always saving the planet from alien invasions or some such, I’m going to have to take you through a couple of very brief points of fact about the DC Universe.

As always, those wishing to avoid the nerdy comic book talk can skip ahead.  I’ll let you know when it’s safe to come back and hear just about the TV show.

The thing about DC Comics that separates it from the other big comic book company, Marvel, is that DC has for years made a big show about all its characters existing in a multiverse.  (Marvel has a multiverse of its own, but a much more consistent effort is put into place with their books to streamline the characters and give them a common space to exist in.)  This is the narrative device that allows DC Comics to keep cannon a lot of completely out of date stories.  It’s what explains, for example, how it is that Wonder Woman can exist in our modern age and yet still have fought Nazis during World War II. The Nazi-fighting version was a different reality Wonder Woman from a different dimension in the multiverse.  Comics, everybody!

I could keep explaining, but it's just going to make you want to do a lot of this. 

In 1993, DC Comics created Vertigo, a specialty imprint that would produce comics that were more adult; more like literature than the flashy superhero adventures the company was primarily known for. Vertigo was the home to Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series, Alan Moore’s Swamp Thing and V for Vendetta, among lots of other riskier and, frankly, weirder stories.  Hellblazer was born into this world and while John Constantine would sometimes still find ways to interact with the occasional Superman or Batman, he mostly occupied a different reality in the multiverse.

Constantine as a character was known for being rough around the edges, unrelentingly cynical, and deadpan but also remarkably cunning and capable of getting out of the toughest scrapes, a key skill when the majority of your enemies are demons great and small, including the biggest baddie of them all, The First of the Fallen.  (Read: The Devil.  Sorta.)   Writers at various times have portrayed him as the ultimate pragmatist, willing to take anyone down if the ends justified the means, but also as someone who is essentially motivated by a desire to be a good person and make the world a better place.  Of course, the world isn’t often saved by people who are being nice guys.  You can’t make an omelet, etc. etc.

This actually qualifies as a light-hearted moment for most of Constantine's life. 


The TV Show
Okay comic-phobes, you can come back!  The good news for traditionalist is that the TV series did a phenomenal job casting John Constantine.  Seriously, you guys.  Matt Ryan looks exactly like how his character is supposed to.  I know that may seem like a small thing, but in this age of whitewashing and making changes because somehow the source material isn’t “relatable”, seeing Matt Ryan in his Constantine trench coat and loosened tie for the first time made a lot of folk feel like this show was on target.  

Seriously, you guys.  Nerd-squee. 

And then there was Liv…

The first episode serves up similar story notes from the comic books.  Constantine has voluntarily confined himself to an English psychiatric hospital after botching an exorcism that resulted in a young girl, Astra, being dragged into Hell. His rest cure fails to work, however, when a cadre of supernatural forces warn John that Liv Aberdine, an American woman who is also the daughter of one of John’s old magic partners, is in danger.  John manages to exorcise the demon that is chasing down Liv, but the experience is too much for her and she flees his company after providing him a scrying map showing John other locations throughout the country where something evil is afoot. 

And therein was the first problem for the new series.  Simply put, Liv shouldn’t have.  The part didn’t mesh with the story; there wasn’t a lot of there there and the actress was replaced with a new character, Zed who shares some of Liv’s psychic abilities but is a bit more world-weary.  Fans worried that the abrupt change in lead casting was a bad portent for the show.  Personally, I think John and Zed make a better pairing precisely because Zed has her share of secrets she’s keeping from John.  Plus it underlines a very major point in the comics: John isn’t a good person to be around.  He’s trouble and he’s not afraid to put you in between himself and it.  John acknowledges this to his only other compatriot, Chas, a man who is loyal to John but has the mysterious ability to survive being killed making him one of the only people who can probably stand to be around John for long.  Add to that the host of angels who are rapidly losing patience with John and not so squeamish about maybe handing him over to the demons who would love to have his head and Constantine's got a lot of motivation for screwing over otherwise fine people. 

Pictured (l to r): Angel, Hero Jerk Face, Woman of Mystery, Undead Cab Driver (really). 

Aside from the casting drama, there’s a lot to find in Constantine for folks looking for some light horror.  Storylines are taken from the comics, so fans will find plenty to wink at. (See below for more on that.)  At the same time, the show manages to keep exactly the right tone in relation to the demons and ghosts that make their way into Constantine’s life.  He’s not afraid of them, exactly; but he does take them seriously.  His deadpan humor is fully imported from the comics, but Matt Ryan gives his lines a gravity that shows just how unsure of himself Constantine is in the wake of that failed exorcism.  Most importantly, the show has been very careful about keeping the sanctity (pun not intended) of their main character in tact: John’s defining character trait in the comics is that he smokes.  This is a problem for network TV where characters aren’t allowed to smoke given network standards and practices.  As such, we’re given just enough subtle clues to suggest that John has just put out a cigarette that observers will understand how much this is a part of his character.  Likewise, the punk-rock sensibility from the comics is still on display.  In a scene where John must fight a demon without listening to its voice, he blasts The Clash on his iPod to drown out the sounds.

As a side note, between this and their other horror show, the incredible Hannibal, NBC seems to be interested in carving out a horror niche that I’m very much in favor of.  Both shows take significant risks for network television and it’s exciting to see these stories being played out.  Unless you’re Maggie Cats, after all, you can only watch so much Law & Order before you need something else on TV.


The Easter Eggs
As with Gotham and The Flash, DC Entertainment has again dropped a number of Easter Eggs for fans.  Many of them are more overt than other DC shows; John openly talks about Mucus Membrane, his former punk band.  In the pilot, Liv picks up a golden helmet before John warns her to put it back down, saying more than likely it will wear her before she could wear it.  The helmet is an exact copy of that worn by the character Dr. Fate.  In episode five, John and Zed work with New Orleans cop Jim Corrigan.  Near the end of the episode, Zed has a disturbing vision of Corrigan dead and bleeding but with a green light emanating from him.  Savvy viewers will know that Corrigan will eventually die and become The Spectre, a character who is the spirit of vengeance.

Other references are far more subtle.  In John’s Bigger-On-The-Inside base camp filled with magical items, you can see Pandora’s Box in one glass case.  Not far from it, there’s backwards writing on a chalkboard, a clear reference to the comic book character Zatanna who recites phrases backwards in order to cast magic spells.  One of John’s former associates now works at Ivy University, a school often referenced in DC Comics and home to several other superheroes.  A close-up shot of Constantine’s business card gives an Atlanta-area phone number.  Call that number and you’ll get a recording of Matt Ryan as Constantine referencing someone named Alec Holland


The Bottom Line
You know what I’m going to say here – watch this damn show.  Yes, that’s because it’s a comic book character and I’m firmly in the camp of believing that if comic book properties continue to be successful, they’ll stop becoming a special niche and will instead become a genre.  We’ve made great strides on this so far – Constantine stands on its own as a horror show; Gotham is doing a capable job as a police procedural; Agents of SHIELD, despite the slow start, has been doing reasonably well as a spy drama; the success of the Marvel cinematic universe all together has show that comic book characters don’t just have to be caped adventure stories with one-note plots.  Progress is being made.


As of now, Constantine is slated to run for 13 episodes in its first season.  It hasn’t been called up for more episodes or for a second season, though NBC and DC have both indicated that doesn’t mean the show will be cancelled.  For my money, the risks taken on bringing a show like this to television alone are worthy of supporting it, but I honestly think new viewers will be intrigued by the complexity of the characters and the gradual deepening of the storylines. 

Also, repeat after me: the movie never happened.  The movie. NEVER. HAPPENED.

Oh go be sad about it in a park, Keanu. 

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Burn It Down. BURN IT DOWN TO THE GROUND.

Maggie Cats: Well, hello there, m'lady! So any initial thoughts on Downton's Season 5 premiere?



Arsenic Pie: Just all kinds of insane.




Maggie Cats: It was certainly lightning quick in terms of characters moving around and plots being set up.

Arsenic Pie: I like how it started two years after the end of the last season, but none of the plots had changed. I felt like Thomas was still trying to get info, and Lord Gillingham was still chasing after Mary, even though two years had already passed.

Maggie Cats: Well, Downton has pretty much recycled the same plots over and over since season 1. And yet, we still love it. How many times have we heard, "Times, they are a-changing." And yet Lord Grantham is still as useless and nobody just tells him to get a job.


Arsenic Pie: I really don't get why Thomas is still plotting. Is he still plotting to get rid of Bates? Because I feel that ship has sailed.


Maggie Cats: It's very sad how one note he has become. I think EVERY scene he had involved him at some point badgering Baxter. I don't get it. It was the biggest flaw in an otherwise pretty enjoyable episode. Why does he even care anymore?

Arsenic Pie: I know, right! Isn't there something else they can do with Thomas? If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: If Thomas got laid once in a while he wouldn't be such a dick. Also, why is everyone in love with Mary all the time?


Maggie Cats: Again, see season 1. Also. Asking Mary to sleep with you. EVERYONE WHO SLEEPS WITH MARY DIES. Don't do it, Lord What's His Name.

Arsenic Pie: I KNOW!

Maggie Cats: Her vagina = death.

Arsenic Pie: I've been warning Lord Gillingham about this but he doesn't seem to be able to hear me through the TV. Also, I liked the other guy better, honestly. Well Lord Gillingham asked her to be his booty call in the season premiere so we'll see how long he lives after that.

Maggie Cats: The other guy, Charles Blake, was cuter; Lord G-Spot's teeth make me squirm.

Arsenic Pie: Charles Blake is way cuter. Also Lord G hires rapey valets. I think we're firmly anti-Lord G.

Maggie Cats:  There is that.


So...what exactly is making this a difficult choice for you, Lady Mary?

Arsenic Pie: There is that. And knowing how repetitive this show is, he's likely to do it again. And then Bates will shove him in front of bus. And so on ad nauseum.




Maggie Cats: You know, as much as I love Downton, I feel like I enjoy it more when I DON'T talk about it like this. Because I end up deconstructing it and realizing all the flaws. All the plots are the same, there is almost no real character growth (Lord Grantham is still an idiot, Edith is a sad sack, Cora is dumb as a rock...), and if I don't think about it....then I don't realize it. At this point, I was kind of hoping Edith would end up burning it to the ground. At least that would be something new.


Arsenic Pie: But Thomas got in the way.

Maggie Cats: But I will point out that was just about the only time I can remember Lord Grantham being very useful; I will admit he sprang into action and took charge when everyone else was just sitting on their asses. Thomas bumbles into heroism a lot.


Arsenic Pie: I just think the show is funny. You can't take it seriously as a drama because it makes no damn sense. But on a positive note. I like Tom's new girlfriend, the schoolmarm. She is adorbz.

Maggie Cats: OMG, she is insane. And while I do like her as a character, she is really fucking rude.

Arsenic Pie: But you know that's going to end badly.

Maggie Cats: Just because I agree with her doesn't mean it's ok to openly insult people at their dinner table. Oh, god yes. AND I LOVE IT.


Arsenic Pie: There's no way they're going to get together. THEY ARE SO DOOMED.

"Tom's going to teach me a lesson about how my attitude toward 1%ers actually makes ME the snob, and we've done this plot before, so don't mind me. Hey! Are those canapes? I LOVE canapes!"

Maggie Cats: I am sure she will get pushed in front of a bus. Driven by the proletariat.

Arsenic Pie: I bet that's what happened to Gregson.  I bet the Nazis pushed him in front of the Hitler bus. Like who goes to Germany in the 1920s? Nobody. It's just a bad idea.

Maggie Cats:  Do you think he is dead? Or will make a reappearance? I wouldn't past Julian Fellowes to have kept it open in case he has some divine inspiration reason to bring him back.

Arsenic Pie: Oh, I am sure he will reappear.

Maggie Cats: Maybe he joined SHIELD? Oh, wait that's the 1940s. My bad.

Arsenic Pie: Maybe he went TO THE FUTURE and joined SHIELD. I am totally waiting for him to reappear. Like reappear and be a Nazi. He's be like, "No, Edith. I'm totally a fascist now. And it's fucking sweet." I really don't know why we aren't writing for this show.

Maggie Cats: Ooooh, that is totally what is going to happen. "Can I have that German primer I left here? It had microfiche in it with secrets that I really need."

Arsenic Pie: Yes! Yes!

Maggie Cats: We don't write for the show because we are too good.

Arsenic Pie: Like really he joined them in secret and is passing secrets and he disappeared because he's a spy.




Maggie Cats: Let's talk some more about the Downstairs folk. Daisy wants to learn numbers, Jimmy slept with Caroline Bingley...

Arsenic Pie: Then Edith can be like, "Um. I burned it. But look! I made you a kid!" JIMMY TOTALLY SLEPT WITH CAROLINE BINGLEY WHO HAS NOT CHANGED AT ALL IN THE PAST 100 YEARS.


"Yes! Barged in on us in the midst of le grande delicto to say the house was on fire! The impudence!" 

Maggie Cats: Also: Duckface from Four Weddings and a Funeral. Watching this show I sometimes feel like a British IMDB. "Oh, it's THAT guy!"

"A little lower, Jimmy! No, lower! No, not to the right. To the left. The left!"

Arsenic Pie: Yes, Duckface was there, too. I like Daisy. I never warmed to Ivy and I'm glad she's gone.So is Alfred going to realize that Daisy is sweet and true? I really do think Thomas needs to get laid.

Maggie Cats: On one hand, it's great to have a gay character. There are amazing stories to tell about homosexuals in this era. On the other, Julian Fellowes has no interest in telling those stories, and since Thomas is gay and can't date any of the downstairs ladies, it seems there are no other plots for him. This bothers me.

Arsenic Pie: Right. It's one thing to be like "Look! We're progressive with this gay character" but he never has a relationship and he's always being an asshole. It's not a positive portrayal in any way. Aren't there any hot farm lads around for Thomas? Mary has some extra dudes. He could date one of them. I really do like the other guy for Mary. He is way hotter.

Maggie Cats: I would approve of that for sure.

Arsenic Pie: When was the last time Thomas had a date?

Maggie Cats: Um, never? And I say good for Daisy, and good for Mrs. Patmore for supporting her. She's not dumb and I think Tom's teacher will start tutoring her. Daisy clearly has a learning disability.

Arsenic Pie: I thought the same thing. :( Poor Daisy. I thought she had dyslexia or something. I thought maybe Tom's lady friend could teach her.

Maggie Cats: You and me share a brain.

Arsenic Pie: Or maybe the show is just that obvious. So, let's talk about Isobel. I like how Violet is trying to get her lord friend to be interested in someone else so Isobel can't raise her social position. We wouldn't want Isobel to be ranked higher socially than Violet.

Maggie Cats: This subplot fascinates me; beyond giving Maggie Smith more chances to be hilarious, it's one of the few times we see Violet actually scared. She is TERRIFIED of Isobel being ranked higher than her.




Arsenic Pie: AND IT IS AWESOME I really do ship Dr. Clarkson and Isobel, but this plot is good for a few laughs.

Maggie Cats: When Isobel figures this out, she will probably marry that lord just to have the win. Poor Dr. Clarkson. Also, how hilarious is that Violet's butler is named Spratt. And is a total snob. Even SHE thinks he's a snob.

Arsenic Pie: Spratt is the worst. I like how he won't serve Dr. Clarkson because he's, you know, middle class.

Maggie Cats: I love it. I would want some of that cake too. Except I would have said, "EXCUSE ME, BUT I WANT SOME CAKE, YOU ASSHOLE."

Arsenic Pie: I'd just take the cake from him. I'd be like GIVE ME THE WHOLE THING. And then I'd be like WHERE IS THE FROSTING.




Maggie Cats: I would have tripped him too, and caught the cake like Edward Cullen in Twilight.

Arsenic Pie: There was no frosting on that cake. I looked. If Edward Cullen shows up on Downton Abbey I will die happy. Like as a vampire.




Maggie Cats: And then come back as an undead. Edward should date Thomas. And they can be weird and stalk each other.


HOT. 

Arsenic Pie: That would be a match. Thomas would be totally into the sparkly boyfriend thing. I bet Thomas reads Twilight. Thomas reads Twilight and so does Ivy. Edith reads it sometimes but she realizes now that it was a lie. I bet that's what Gregson's book was.  It was a German translation of Twilight and that's why she burned it. It just sucked that much.

Maggie Cats: Thomas writes Twilight fanfic. OMG. Thomas writes Twilight fanfic that becomes 50 Shades of Grey, but with two dudes and set in the 1920s. Also: HAHAHAHA


Arsenic Pie: HOLY SHIT YES.


Look out, Evelyn Waugh!

Arsenic Pie: Aaaand we are officially off topic.

Maggie Cats: Perhaps this is a good time for final thoughts.

Arsenic Pie: Overall, better than the second and third seasons. I watched all of last season on Sunday and I liked it. So I think the show has picked up some of the steam it lost. I think Matthew was deadweight. I don't miss him at all.

Maggie Cats: I actually agree, and I remember being really sad when he died. I thought it was a good premiere and did everything a premiere should. And while I enjoyed it, I was disappointed in the plot recycling and the lack of movement in characters and relationships.

Arsenic Pie: Yeah, the season premiere was supposed to pick up two years after last season but nothing had really changed. It's kind of unrealistic for a couple of the plotlines not to have moved along any. I do like Rose and I like her plots. It's fun to watch the whole debutante thing because they never did that with the other girls.

Maggie Cats: Oh, definitely agree. We didn't touch on Rose, but I will say that it's surprising the show was able to add her to the cast and make her actually interesting.

Arsenic Pie: I like her. She's a good replacement for Sybil. I mostly just feel bad for Tom.

Maggie Cats: Yeah, me too. I hope he ends up leaving Downton and being happy somewhere else. You know, because he is a real character.

Arsenic Pie: I think overall the plots need to move. I don't care at all if Bates killed the valet. I think everyone agrees they don't care, so I hope they just let it go. Tom does seem the most real of the upstairs cast. He and Rose are actually the most sympathetic of the upstairs cast.


"These people are just insane."

Maggie Cats: Definitely agree. Well, it sounds like there are both promising and disappointing things about the season premiere. Let's hope the plots get moving in the weeks to come!

Arsenic Pie: Let's hope. I will continue to watch and laugh myself silly.

Maggie Cats: NOT watching Downton would be the hard part. As Violet said, avoiding your friends is the hardest thing. And scene.

Lady Mary's (Second? Third?) Wedding Cake, by Molesley Cakes & Bakery, Ripon, Yorkshire, UK

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Galavant

Happy New Year, fellow TV Sluts!

I hope you all had a wonderful non-denominational holiday season and rang in the new year in style. After the shit show that was 2014, I am certainly looking forward to 2015. Though the current television landscape is looking kind of...bleak, I guess is the best word? There's a lot of dark, gritty shows out there, but come on, give a girl a break.

ABC is certainly trying very hard to inject some humor and color into the Winter with its medieval musical comedy, Galavant. And yeah, you read that right. Medieval. Musical. Comedy.

I admit I did not have high hopes, and the eye rolling was mighty during the opening number. The "fractured fairy tale" thing seems kind of played out at this point...but dammit, Galavant ended up charming me completely by the end of the first episode. Mostly due to Timothy Omundson's delightful performance as the "evil" King Richard. Sure, he'll execute someone for overcooking the mutton and counts genocide as a hobby, but he really just wants his queen to love him. You can't fault a guy for that, right?

The plot starts off in your typical fairy tale cliche; Galavant is the brave, powerful knight whose lady love is kidnapped by King Richard. Galavant rides to her rescue...but (needle scratch moment), Madalena decides to marry the King and have guaranteed money, power, and you know, basic medical care. Feminism is all about women making the choices they want, right? Anyway, fast foward one year and Galavant is a drunk mess who has yet to get over being dumped by his one true love. His squire introduces him to a princess who is trying to rescue her parents from King Richard (or is she???) and off they all go on a quest. Wait, I mean a QUEST. During which there are ADVENTURES. And of course, lots of musical numbers, montages, and cameos. Yes, that's John Stamos cracking medieval Yo Momma jokes. Just go with it.

I think that's the best advice to give you before you start watching Galavant. Just go with it. Don't question it, don't wonder why ABC decided to make it, just enjoy it while it lasts. It's one of life's simple pleasures, like Kraft mac and cheese. Tastes ok, is less filling, but hits the spot on a cold winter evening.

Galavant is basically Spamalot meets The Princess Bride. It knows it's ridiculous, and while not all the jokes and songs are winners, there are enough that are to make it fun to watch. Check your brain and snark at the door, drink the Kool-Aid, and just enjoy the farce.

Galavant airs Sundays at 8:00PM on ABC. You can watch the first two episodes on the show's website.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Murder Ball

I took one for the team and watched Fox's American incarnation of the British murder mystery series, Gracepoint.


Look eeento my eeeeyyesss.

As I said before, I have not seen the British original, Broadchurch, so I am basing my overall thoughts on solely my viewing of Gracepoint. I read that the show has not been renewed for a second season (why would there be a need for a second season?), but I just wanted to state my thoughts and final impressions.

UPDATED TO ADD. I FOUND OUT THAT BROADCHURCH IS STREAMING ON NETFLIX. I MAINLINED IT. YOU GUYS. YOU GUYS. HOLY SHIT YOU GUYS. 

So I come to you now fully informed.

The series finale aired December 11, and while it was fun guessing who the culprit may have been, the final reveal was rather...underwhelming. The overall ending of Gracepoint is like Broadchurch, but they did add a twist to the end that differed from the Broadchurch ending.

If you haven't seen either Broadchurch or Gracepoint, I suggest you stop reading this now. 

It didn't really take a genius to figure out that Det. Ellie Miller's family was involved in the death of Danny Solano in some way. The writers kept dropping CONSTANT hints that Ellie's son knew something, and they dropped CONSTANT hints that since she was working all the time, she had no idea what was actually going on at home. (A win for feminism!) 

However, they heightened the creeper factor in a way that I didn't think needed to be heightened. Finding out that her husband Joe (Josh Hamilton, of American Horror Story) was a pedophile and wanted to get into Danny's 12-year-old knickers definitely upped the ewww quotient, but in this day and age of Law & Order SVU, a pedophile dad is pretty tame for prime time TV. Even cliche. They'd been dropping a lot of hints during the run of the show that Someone in Gracepoint was a sexual predator, so the fact that it was revealed to be Ellie's husband just made me kind of shrug. They advertised this as the "ultimate twist" but it wasn't really the biggest twist I could have imagined, honestly. So, I think they lost a bit of points in the creativity department.


  I'm not a creepy perv. I only play one on TV. 

I mean, everyone in this town HAD A SECRET or SOMETHING TO HIDE and the fact that we learned, yet again, that someone in Gracepoint was HIDING SOMETHING, just made me kinda go, "Ok, yeah. We get it. Everyone in this town is messed up and weird. Who cares who killed Danny Solano because honestly? These people are screwed."


Original filmed ending of Broadchurch.

I think it would actually have been a lot more tragic if Danny and Tom Miller had been out messing around and being boys, and Tom had accidentally killed Danny, and went to his father about it, and his father helped cover it up. Or if Tom had accidentally killed Danny, then spent the rest of the night freaking out and dragging his body down to the beach, then hastily trying to make it look like he fell. But yeah, point being. It was completely obvious, from the first episode showing Tom deleting text messages, to him trying to break apart his hard drive, that Tom was involved in Danny's death somehow. Also, his completely nonplussed reaction to Ellie telling Tom that Danny had died was a big clue. Having to wait nine more episodes to have my suspicion confirmed that he killed him on accident didn't really bother me so much as I think that they should have tried to make it a little less obvious from the get-go.


We've gathered some evidence and it seems to point to you being a terrible mother.


Another change they made was in the character of Paul Coates. In Broadchurch, Coates is harmless and adorable and RORY and is into the local hotelier lady. In Gracepoint, he is just downright creepy. So creepy, in fact, he was many of the fans' prime suspect for a while. Gracepoint Paul Coats is in love with Beth Solano, and is creepy and pervy and generally the cause of many an irk. I'm not sure why they made this change for the American version. As if that town didn't already have enough creepers.  I preferred the Rory version, because he wasn't weird, and he also developed a relationship bonding with the slutty hotel lady. I guess they had to try to do something with the Coates character because he was supposed to be a priest but, um, guys? There are Episcopalian ministers in the States, too. Just sayin'. He didn't have to be Catholic. I'm just throwing that out there.

DT: You a priest this time?
AD: Yeah. You?
DT: I'm a foul-tempered, lonely, bitter, jaded inspector trying to save these people from themselves.
AD: Way to play against type.

Overall, Gracepoint was not a point-for-point copy of Broadchurch beyond the first episode. Watching Broadchurch over this last weekend showed that while Gracepoint hit all of the main plot points and for certain scenes, the dialogue was verbatim, but other episodes and scenes things went off in an entirely different direction. The last scene of Gracepoint showed a Detective Carver (Tennant) calling Ellie, who was in a hotel with Tom, and had figured out through her super sleuthing skills that he had killed Danny, and Ellie ignored his call. So, they left the door open for a second season, but Fox chose to renew the series. That was definitely altered from the original. 


So...This blows.

That leads us to the manner of death. While on Broadchurch, Joe Miller strangled Danny Latimer in an act of desperation, and Broadchurch Joe was sad and pathetic and clearly mentally disturbed, Gracepoint Joe was totally predatory and a bit freaky. On Broadchurch, Tom Miller is a bit of a red herring, but on Gracepoint, Ellie figures out that Joe is covering for Tom. Gracepoint Tom follows Gracepoint Joe and as Danny is running away, Tom confronts his father and seems to be trying to protect Danny, and accidentally hits him in the back of the head with an oar. Then Joe tells Tom to go home, and proceeds to try to cover up the murder. 

One other change they made was in the character of the lady journalist, Renee Clemons (Jessica Lucas).  I dislike her character in Gracepoint, and I don't care for her on Broadchurch, either. She is the epitome of a bad journalist, making accusations about Jack without getting the (easily available) public records and back stories about his conviction. Just a crappy, crappy journalist, but a pretty good indictment of the laziness and sensationalism that our media can become prey to. They kind of redeemed her character on Broadchurch, but on Gracepoint her arc ended at Horrible Human Being. 


I'm going to work for cable news. You yokels aren't getting in my way.

My overall take is that Gracepoint, while being a very close copy of Broadchurch, is not an exact carbon copy of the British murder mystery. It was good, but not great, but it did create a bit of an addictive factor. However, there was something special about Broadchurch that I don't think the American version was quite able to capture.  One minor detail that I observed about the British version is that they definitely showed the change in seasons. I think setting this in NoCal (*coughcoughBritishColumbiacoughcough*) was a poor choice. It's scenically quite similar to the cliffs of Wessex, but it looked like it was cold and rainy ALL THE DAMN TIME. So, I didn't get the same sense of a passage of time between Danny being found dead and Joe's confessions. On Broadchurch, Danny died in summer, and Joe was caught in late fall. Again, a minor detail, but it made a lot of difference in terms of gauging how long this case was dragging on.


What time of the year is it? Dreary O'clock.

Gracepoint is still pretty engrossing, and it is stylish, sophisticated, and moody. It is definitely worth a watch if you like murder mysteries and horrible people. 

However, I do feel the American make-up team did a better job of making David Tennant look like shit. 

There was also this.


Buuuurrrrp.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

It's SUGAR, not crack. Calm yourself.

You've probably noticed I haven't been around a lot lately. My mother has been going through some serious health problems, and I've basically spent the last few months back at home helping her out. But she's starting to feel better which means that I can start to get back to life as usual. So here I am! Back and ready to talk about two of my favorite things: television and baked goods. Ahhhhh, yeeeeeah.

I've been watching a lot of Food Network lately. For the most part, the shows are mindless and filled with food porn. So you know, perfect for me. Your brain doesn't need to work hard while watching, and beyond thoughts like, "my God, how much butter is the Pioneer Woman going to put in this recipe?" or "where does the network find chefs for all these stupid cooking competition shows?" I don't get very engaged in the Food Network programs.

With one exception.

Food Network's Holiday Baking Championship. It is the cooking competition to end all cooking competitions. I'm not sure exactly how it manages it, but the show has hit upon the perfect mix of fun personalities, clever challenges, amazing food, and fair and entertaining judging.


I'll have one of each, please.

I was hooked from the first episode (which you can watch online here): Holiday Cookie Madness. 8 bakers compete in various cookie challenges, including having to make their best cookie recipe using a specific tool (some have to make drop cookies, some rolled cookies, etc.).

All episodes follow the same format; there's a pre-challenge where the bakers compete to win an advantage in the main challenge of the episode. Three judges, including Duff of Ace of Cakes, taste the results, pick a winner, and eliminate one of the bakers. The last baker standing at the end of the six episodes will walk away with a sweet $50,000.

The challenges have included the aforementioned cookies, holiday pies, a yule log (bouche de noel, if you're fancy), holiday cakes, and baking with certain classic holiday flavors like peppermint. In the final episode, which airs this Sunday evening, the bakers will be constructing gingerbread worlds. I repeat: GINGERBREAD. WORLDS.

I was having trouble getting into the holiday spirit this year. Chalk it up to exhaustion, both emotional and physical. But dammit, if the Holiday Baking Championship hasn't turned things around for me and made me excited for Hanukkah and Christmas. And for that alone, I'm thankful.

Also, just seeing all the baked goods is pretty freaking awesome.

 It's log!