Tuesday, June 30, 2009

BTW ... WTF?

In case you've been under a rock, word on the street is that the director of the gag-reflex inducing Buffy movie is considering a remake, sans Joss. It think this article from NPR sums it up best ... Very Bad Ideas: Making A Whedon-Free 'Buffy' Reboot.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Moon... Prism... POWER!

I love anime. The characters are expressive, constantly jumping and flailing about. The dialogue is completely random - possibly because something gets lost in the Japanese-to-English translation. The plots are so fantastic that a willing suspension of disbelief is not only helpful, it is necessary. I think it has to do with the manga/anime market in Japan - the audience is voracious, and is willing to read weird-ass stuff. The result is a lot of WTFery, but also a lot of awesomeness. Case in point: Sailor Moon.

Original manga cover. Seriously.

Possibly one of the most well-known anime shows in the U.S., Sailor Moon was at the forefront of the Japanese cartoon invasion. It has something for everyone - short skirts and fighting for the boys, romance and badass chicks for the girls. Serena, the heroine of the show, is a below-average student, a goof ball, a klutz. She also has an enormous capacity to love and can vaporize baddies with a wave of her magic wand. Her pure heart inspires loyalty - she is the undisputed leader of the Sailor Scouts, even though everyone refers to her as "meatball head."

In their defense, she doesn't have to wear her hair like that.

And okay, maybe a sexy superheroine who can't do math is not the best role-model for impressionable young girls. But I'm currently watching the third season, Sailor Moon Super, and was pleasantly surprised at the inclusion of a genderqueer character. Sailor Uranus (pronounced Ura-nis, plx kthx) always dresses in men's clothes when she's not on duty. She has "manly" hobbies and habits, and speaks in a deep voice. It's treated as something surprising but not freakish or wrong, and several of the other Sailor Scouts develop crushes on her masculine persona. Spoiler alert: though she and Sailor Neptune are billed as cousins in the English dubbing, everyone knows they are lesbian life-partners.

"Cousins." Riiiiiiiiiiiight.

It's unusual for a show that is purportedly for children to deal with such issues, at least in the U.S. Even sanitizing of the Uranus/Neptune relationship, in Sailor Moon Super you can't get around the fact that the character is a girl who acts like a boy. Which is probably why DiC Entertainment (a subsidiary of - you guessed it - Disney) only licensed and aired the first two seasons. Oh, well. That's what Netflix is for ... or friends with awesome anime collections. Thanks to Rachel for the loan!

Monday, June 22, 2009

In Plain Sight

The summer can be boring. And let me tell you television goes down in caliber. And this year between Entourage seasons and reality drivel I have been entertaining myself on Sunday nights with USA's "In Plain Sight." Initially I was reluctant to begin watching this show, the commercials were blah and I didn't have the energy to commit to yet another program. However,I couldn't resist trying out the new show after the Law and Order CI time slot.

First of all, the show is good. The characters are well rounded. The main character, Mary (played by Mary McCormick) has got a lot of depth and you can really feel her inner turmoil. She is a US Marshall helping place witnesses into protection in Albuquerque. Each episode has elements of the US Marshall service mixed with details of Mary's social life. She has a mom who is a drunk, a sister who is a drug dealer, and a HOT baseball playing bf.

Each character is interesting. Fred Weller who plays Mary's partner Marshall Marshall (yes punny huh). Adds some much needed comedy show. Their partnerships, as is most male female partnerships on television, is up and down and mixed with comedy and sexual innuendos. As a huge West Wing fan, I was happy to see Joshua Malina (Will Bailey) and Richard Schiff (Toby) show up this season.

I don't think during the regular line up in the fall I would watch this show, and in fact, I doubt I would have noticed it. However, during a blah television summer it fills an ever growing void.

"The name is *Mer-lin.* And I happen to be the world's most powerful wizard! "

Summer television premieres continued last night with NBC broadcasting a BBC import, Merlin. I assume you all are capable of figuring out the basic plot (come on, it's called Merlin people), but think of it as the CW's Smallville meets BBC's Robin Hood.

In the same vein as the recent Star Trek reboot, Merlin, Arthur, and the whole gang have been youngified to appeal to a younger demographic and hijinks predictably result. The show's basic concept is simple: Merlin is a rare person born with innate magical ability (most people have to study and use incantations to make magic, but Merlin can just...do it) who has come to Camelot to study with King Pendragon's and the court's physician. While there he instantly takes a dislike to the King's son, Arthur, a toothy pretty boy bully, but is told by a talking dragon that it is his destiny to protect and guide Arthur so he can become a great King.

Other characters from the Arthurian legends making an appearance are Lady Morgana, a young ward of the King who is a seer and not evil (yet), and "Gwen," Morgana's maid who is also her best friend. She takes a liking to Merlin, and really, who wouldn't, since he is all big-eared, floppy-haired adorkableness.

The show is well-acted, has great production values, and seems so far to be a quintessential summer program: easy on both the eyes and the brain.

It's always nice to see Anthony Head from Buffy, who plays King Pendragon, and some other familiar faces pop up as well. Torchwood fans will recognize Eve Myles as an evil sorceress, and John Hurt (Mr. Ollivander in Harry Potter) provides the voice of the dragon. Word on the street (and by street I mean wiki) is that Michelle Ryan from the defunct Bionic Woman will play this season's big bad.

While the plot seems to deviate pretty sharply from established Arthurian canon, it's fun, doesn't take itself too seriously, and has pretty costumes and people. I wouldn't suggest viewing it to see what life in a medieval court was really like (I'm pretty certain they didn't have teeth-whitening capabilities), but if you like action-adventure and fantasy shows this is right up your ally.

Old Merlin...

....meet young Merlin.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Other Summer Drama

We all know and love Burn Notice, but what of it's successor Royal Pains? It seems like USA is trying to reproduce a formula - handsome young man, being punished for his precocity by the people who were supposed to be the good guys, decides to become a vigilante and use his powers for good. Michael Westen is a spy who gets burned by his government agency. Hank Lawson is an ER doctor who gets fired by his hospital. They both have some serious MacGyver skills - Westen can build a bomb with what you find in a hardware store, and Lawson can perform surgery with what you've got in the kitchen. Throw in a couple of sidekicks and/or family members, set everything at the beach, and boom - instant smash hit!

Time for a nap.

I will give USA some credit - the premiere of Royal Pains had some artistry to it, like the montage of Lawson's decline into destitution or crazy Ms. Newberg's wrap billowing in the wind as she looks over the Hamptons. And I dig Divya, Lawson's PA, an Indian American princess who dreams of doing something with her life. Sure, if this show was coming out on network TV in the fall, I probably wouldn't give it a second glance. But it's the summer - what else am I going to do, go outside?

Work it, Reshma Shetty.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hell: Summer or War?

Sure, I’m trying not to write another blog/story about the doldrums of summer for TV, but it’s an annual rite of passage, right?

I’ve never been a fan of reality TV (okay I admit I did watch a couple seasons of The Real World and Road Rules but American Idol and Survivor never really appealed to me). So the summer is even more troubling for me than for some. Couple that with my recent decision to give up on satellite. Well… in actuality my wife and I recently moved in the house we are living in, and thus no longer have access to the satellite. Sure, we could go downstairs and watch, but why bother when we have an HDTV upstairs and most of the shows we watch during the year can be found on Hulu or ABC.com For those rare shows we do like to watch live (CHUCK) we have a trusty pair of digital rabbit ears. And to be honest, it hasn’t been too bad, except for that fact that for some reason we cannot get the local ABC station. So with summer now here and in full bloom, what am I to do?

Let me back up a week. My Grandfather was a WWII Vet. In fact he landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day. This past summer was the 65th Anniversary of D-Day, and because my Grandfather was a Vet and because we live so close to the National D-Day Memorial, I dragged Andi to an hour long ceremony. It was a beautiful day to get out of the house, a bit too sunny, but all in all a good day. Being there got me to thinking how I had not seen Band of Brothers in a year or so.

It took me a while to find some time when Andi wasn’t around (she is not a fan of war films), but I finally popped in the DVDs and started watching. You know what surprised me most? How many current TV stars were in this show. Names most people wouldn’t know then, but now may know. Actors from Band of Brothers went on to current and recent hits (and bombs) like Life, Boomtown, Desperate Housewives, Fringe, What About Brian, Battlestar Galatica, Life on Mars (US), and others [Pop quiz: Can anyone match the actors with the shows I just listed?]. Not to mention hit movies like Wanted. Now, Band of Brothers is not for everyone but there are some amazing moments in that mini-series and it shows in great detail, not so much the acts of war, but the day-to-day grind of war. Mostly though, it’s proving me a road map for shows to watch this summer. Ways to pass the time.

I’m starting with Boomtown. It’s a natural evolution since one of the writers for Band created Boomtown, while dragging some actors with him. I’m already two discs in to Season 1(will Season 2 ever see the light of day?), and I have to say how much I miss this show. Not so much for the basic premise of showing the crime from different perspectives as much as the heart of the show, which is these characters. There are definitely some shows out there that could learn a thing or two from this show. But after watching Life, I’m not sure where to go as I have to wait for some of these shows to hit DVD (after watching Star Trek I think I need to give Fringe another shot).

So... any suggestions on how to survive TV hell, after all Burn Notice is only on once a week and Eli Stone will only be back for 3 or 4 episodes?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

MSCR: Word Girl

Recently, I switched from cable TV to a digital antenna ... please contain your gasps of horror. It's actually been great - instead of flipping endlessly before finally settling on some random VH1 "reality" show, I stick to the network shows that I actually want to watch. Besides, I do a significant amount of watching online (if Hulu subscriptions are in the future, I may have to succumb - it will still be most cost-effective than paying for 50 channels of crap). But I do miss a few things ... like cartoons. More specifically, random toonage from Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.

Cartoons are a colorful, zany escape from the daily grind and the laws of physics. I added “Monkey Sri’s Cartoon Round-up” to the blog a long time ago, to celebrate this genre. Once I cut the cable, I wondered if I'd be able to continue these posts. Luckily, it's PBS to the rescue! While these cartoons lack the senseless violence and adult humor I've so grown to love, many of them are freakin' adorable. Take, for example, Word Girl.

If you read her back story, it becomes obvious that
Word Girl is an... *ahem*... homage to Superman.

Okay, first off - she has a pet monkey. Bonus points right there. Secondly, she flies around town, using her super speed and strength to battle costumed villains, all while improving your vocabulary. Each segment of the show teaches two pretty tough words - things like "edible" and "cumbersome." The key of course, is repetition and colorful demonstrations. It's actually quite entertaining, and I can see how it would be great for kids.

According to Wikipedia, Word Girl started as a short that aired along with Maya and Miguel. This spin-off is now going strong in it's second season. The show's website also offers several flash games and puzzles, as well as a ton of resources for parents and educators. It airs (at least where I am) Monday-Friday at 5:30 pm.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Secret Boyfriend of the Week: Mark-Paul Gosselaar

Some shows from your youth stay with you forever. They don't have to be particularly good, they just have to come along at a particular time. Saved by the Bell is just such a show. And anyone in their late 20s who grew up with a television in their home and doesn't agree is lying.

I happen to think that Saved by the Bell was a good show that had good actors, but that's neither here nor there. What actually is here is the awesomeness of Mark-Paul Gosselaar. Most tv-savy people know that he went on to find success on shows like NYPD Blue and the current Raising the Bar (which I hear is kind of terrible), but he will forever be known as Zack Morris of Bayside High.

And you know what? He owns it. He doesn't disavow the show that made him famous and gave him his start, he's ok with it. He likes talking about, and he sure as hell as a great sense of humor about it.

All this was confirmed in his appearance on Jimmy Fallon's late night show last night when Mark-Paul came out as Zack Morris. And conducted the entire interview as Zack. He never broke character, never let on that it was just a joke, but he played it straight the whole time. And it was awesome. But don't take my word for it:

I found this interview with Mark-Paul about his appearance here. And what really makes him SBOTW worthy, is that the whole thing? Was his idea. He had to sell Jimmy Fallon on the plan to come out as Zack. And thank god he did, because it's one of the funniest and best things I have ever seen.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Drinking the Kool-Aid

When Gossip Girl started two years ago, I was over-stuffed with shows and it didn't make the cut. And then I resisted the urge to get involved even though a lot of people kept going on and on about how great it was. It's not every show that gets consistent A+s from Jacob over at TWOP.

And then I went to Las Vegas with my friend Chris and he brought the first season on DVD. And we watched the first episode. And I got hooked.

It's not like I really wanted to get addicted to a show about a bunch of privileged self-involved high schoolers. And it's not like ANYONE's high school experience is actually like this. And don't point me in the direction of Bravo's new series NYC Prep, because you know those kids are lying through their teeth and just want to be on reality television.

ANYWAY. Gossip Girl is really good, the characters aren't as one dimensional as I was expecting, the clothes are just as ridiculous as I was hoping*, and this show is totally going to be the current generation's Dynasty.

And how can I resist something that has the involvement of Kristen Bell? She is the gossip girl, after all.

*speaking of clothes, what the eff is up with Chuck Bass' wardrobe? Seriously, it just gets more and more weird. Scarves are his thing? Ugh. Also, I have some trouble telling all the white boys apart on this show. Chuck, Nate, Dan...they kind of all look the same.

Scarves? Really?

I mean, seriously.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

I knew it was too good to be true...

Something about Hulu always seemed too good to be true. All the network shows I want, free of charge on my computer, with only minimal commercials? It just never smelled right.

And now I know why.

They were just lulling us into a false sense of security before charging our asses for content! According to articles all over the internet, Jonathan Miller, the new chief digital officer* of the corporation that owns Hulu stated recently that he sees Hulu charging for content in the near future. Meaning you would need a subscription to view all your favorite shows.

So I would think twice before throwing out my television for good....

You lied to me Baldwin! Lied to meeeeeeeeee!

* Chief digital officer?? Seriously? LAME.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Viewer Discretion Advised

One of the benefits of living near your parents (well, it's a benefit if you actually like them), is being able to stop by and visit whenever you want. In fact, I have a standing Wednesday night appointment with my Dad and Stepmother; they agree to provide me dinner and I agree to grace them with my presence. Seems fair.

During these visits, we typically watch one episode of a series television show, and it's kind of our "family television hour." But I realized the other day that the shows we usually pick are not what you would call family friendly. Actually, they're pretty much as far from that as you could get.

Example: the first show that kicked off this lovely tradition was Showtime's Dexter. That's right. Our family television hour was centered around a serial killer (on a quest for justice!) and included explicit violence and language. We followed that up with Supernatural, Dexter Seasons 2 and 3, and have now moved onto True Blood. Which not only has graphic violence and adult language, but also has the added bonus of really explicit sexual content.

As we sat around the table eating our dinner and watching a vampire fucking a woman from behind while drinking her blood, I started wondering: is this normal?

I know a lot of families watch television together, but I find it hard to believe that most watch such adult shows. But the thing is, my Dad has a loooong history of allowing his children to watch what most people would consider inappropriate television and movies. Every other weekend when we stayed with him, he would often nap on the couch leaving my brother and me to our own devices and with possession of the remote control. This meant a steady diet of movies such as Predator, RoboCop, Rambo, Jaws, etc. etc. I wouldn't say I became desensitized to R-rated movies, but it has definitely made me something of a connesieur.

So it's not a surprise that now as a family we enjoy such adult entertainment. After a steady diet of R-rated movies in my youth, my Dad and I connected in later years over shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dark Angel, The West Wing, and Veronica Mars. If you think about it, all the premium cable series we now watch are really just mature extensions of those other shows. I guess.

Or maybe we're just a really odd family. Either way, it's going to take a while for me to get totally comfortable watching graphic sex scenes with my family, but we'll get there eventually. I just haven't figured out if that's a good thing.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

+2 Intelligence, -3 Charisma

You may know her as Penny from Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog, Vi from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, that ballet snob from Bring It On Again, or even as that girl from the Sears commercial. But Felicia Day is actually a formidable script-writer and producer, as evidenced by her delightful web series, The Guild. Which is why that you should love her as much as I do.

Of course, I have a well-documented weakness for redheads.

The Guild will make you crack up, but it will also make you cringe. The show concerns itself with the lives of six painfully awkward role-playing gamers who finally meet each other IRL ("in real life"). Each of them is hilariously inept and uncomfortably real. My favorite is Zaboo (played by my homeboy, Sandeep Parikh). He's a "HinJew" - Hindu mother, Jewish father - with a stalker-ish crush on Day's character, Codex. Parikh steals the show - his comedic timing is second to none.

Damn, but these geeks are hot.

You don't have to be a gamer to enjoy The Guild. You just need a couple hours to watch the entire series (a total of 22 episodes, each 3-9 minutes long), and a l33t dictionary. Some key phrases...

QQ moar, n00b
Keep crying/whining, newbie. It amuses me.

Away From Keyboard (this happens very rarely).

I just made you my bitch!

The latest news is that Microsoft has signed on for a third season of The Guild. Bonus: there will be a sneak peak at Comic Con in July! Meanwhile, catch up and support the show online.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Does anyone watch the MTV Movie Awards live anymore? Or more importantly, do the MTV Movie Awards represent anything more than a 3 hour commercial for upcoming movies? Answers: no and no.*

So, confession time. I did not watch the MTV Movie Awards. Shocker! But then again, I'm not really their target demographic anymore. I'm a girl, yes, but I am not 14 years old. But even though I missed the show, after reading about the best and worst moments on EW.com, I decided to check out some of the clips on MTV.com.

While I probably could have skipped seeing Sacha Baron Cohen smash his genitals into Eminem's face, I had to see the New Moon trailer and the Harry Potter preview. Oh, and check out the clip for best kiss. It's pretty hot.

*Ok, so I took a little artistic license. The awards show actually had it's best ratings in the last 5 years....most likely due to all those tween Twilight fans. Never underestimate the power of the tweens!