Thursday, April 28, 2011

Same Stuff, Different Day

Doctor Who has returned! For those not in the know, the umpteenth season of Doctor Who began airing on BBC America last Saturday. The good news is the episode was really good. The bad news is I feel like I have seen it before.

I wasn't all together pleased with last season (remind yourself of why I was disappointed here). After all the hype and expectation surrounding Steven Moffat's take over of the show, last season left me feeling kind of cold. Sure things got better at the end, and Matt Smith and the last moments of the season finale (where Amy "remembers" the Doctor back to life) were awesome, but overall I felt very ho-hum about the whole thing.

Last Saturday's premiere episode had a lot of things going for it. The entire production moved to America and we got some very cool shots of the Doctor and his companions (including River Song) frolicking in the Southwest, as well as Matt Smith adorably proclaiming that Stetsons are cool. Yes, yes they are. Oh, and remember that part where the DOCTOR GOT SHOT AND DIED. Like, for realsies. First he got shot. Then he started regenerating. Then he got SHOT AGAIN AND DIED. Yikes. I'm not sure how they're going to get themselves out of that one. But at least it was completely surprising and unexpected. Unfortunately, that was kind of the last thing about the episode that was.

Look, there's no doubt that Steven Moffat is a brilliant writer. I think fans of the news series of Doctor Who would almost universally list his episodes as their favorites. The Girl in the Fireplace, the Doctor Dances, Blink...these are genius. But I'm getting the impression he is beginning to run out of tricks and has been dipping into the same well a bit too often. The Impossible Astronaut featured a creepy child's voice (The Empty Child), a silent alien enemy that messes with your mind and sight (Blink), a lumbering astronaut (Silence in the Library), and frankly, a derivative episode title (The Impossible Planet).

Was it entertaining? Hell yes. Did it have me on the edge of my seat? Absolutely. Was it scary? Affirmative. But did it feel fresh? Eh. I'm excited to see part 2 on Saturday night and anything that puts Mark Sheppard on my tv is ok by me, but again, I can't help but feel a teeny bit let down. I'm hoping things will take a more surprising turn with second episode, and maybe Moffat can break away from his standard plot devices soon. And there's always the Neil Gaiman episode to look forward to...

Doctor Who airs on BBC America Saturdays at 9:00pm EST (they are also rerunning The Impossible Astronaut at 8:00 this Saturday in case you missed it).

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chris Colfer Makes the Time 100

Someone recently asked me, all incredulous, why I liked Kurt from Glee so much. This is why.

Monday, April 25, 2011

My So-Called Life Strikes Back

People (meaning bloggers meaning me) like to go on and on about shows they loved but nobody watched. Let me tell you about Firefly, let me tell you about Freaks and Geeks, blah blah blah.

But seriously. Let me tell you about My So-Called Life. Because it changed my life. You know the deal: high schooler Angela Chase goes through an identify crisis, is in love with grungy Jordan Catalano, has a crazy best friend, Rayanne, and just kind of fumbles her way through being a teenager. From the way I thought, to the way I dressed, to the things I wanted, this show changed me. I know that sounds really dumb (hello, it was a television show, perspective please) but when you're an impressionable 14 year old, some things just stick with you. And My So-Called Life will always hold a special place in my heart for a couple reasons:

1) It was the inspiration for my plaid-wearing phase in 8th grade.

2) Angela's stalking/crushing of Jordan Catalano was something I could ABSOLUTELY identify with.

3) It's release on DVD was the reason I signed up for Netflix.

4) Ricky was the first time I remember seeing a gay character television on tv, and as a lifetime hag, I can tell you that was a hugely impressionable for 14 year old Maggie.

So when I read on USA Today's Pop Watch Blog that the Sundance Channel was going to start airing My So-Called Life, I got really happy. Like irrationally happy. I mean, I own the DVDs, I can watch it anytime I want, but the idea that it would be back on tv just made me...joyful. More people can discover the angst of being a teenager in the 90s! More opportunities for discussion of Jordan Catalano vs. Brian Krakow (for the record then it was Jordan, now it is CLEARLY Brian)! More chances to cry over the Christmas episode where Angela learns about homelessness! More of Ricky's eyeliner and Rayanne's being crazy and wonderful and the worst and best friend ever! More quotes from Our Town!

If you have never seen it, watch it. If you saw it and loved it, watch it. It' Well, a so-called one. And is there really any other kind?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

I was all ready to write a happy post about the return of Doctor Who this Saturday on BBC America...but then things got sad.

Elizabeth Sladen, who portrayed one of the most loved and best companions of all time, Sarah Jane Smith, died yesterday due to cancer.

I am a relatively new fan to the Who-verse, meaning I started watching with the Ninth Doctor, but Sarah Jane's episode with David Tennant ("School Reunion") and K-9 was one of my favorites. The actress impressed me with her talent, and the character impressed me with her smarts, spunk, and obvious love for the Doctor. I also really enjoyed her spin-off series The Sarah Jane Adventures. And don't forget that Sarah Jane was back for the two-parter "The Stolen Earth" and "Journey's End" (along with a lot of the newer companions) to help bid David Tennant's time on the show a fond farewell.

The point of all this blabbering is that Sarah Jane was truly a cornerstone of the Doctor Who world, both to fans of the classic series and the newer incarnation alike. All yesterday people involved with the show tweeted and commented about the impact she had on the show, and I know she will be truly missed. Maureen Ryan over at TV Squad has a nice write-up about Elizabeth Sladen, and I recommend you check it out.

As we move forward with the newest season of Doctor Who on Saturday, take a moment to remember all the people who have been involved in this show over the past 50 years. It's more than just a television program--it's truly a part of our cultural history.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Secret Diary of a Call Girl: Season 3

God, I love this show. And I love the main character, Hannah/Belle. She is unapologetic for loving what she does (i.e. being a prostitute) and is in total control of her own body and sexuality. That doesn't mean her relationships aren't all totally screwed up; it just means she doesn't have the same kind of problems as your average gal. No, her problems are of a much more different sort, more in the vein of "I hope my boyfriend can handle me having sex with multiple people for money."

Monkey Sri originally wrote about the early episodes of Secret Diary of a Call Girl here and here, back when our main focus was the titillation factor of Rose from Doctor Who* getting naked. I devoured the first two seasons of the show on Netflix, which frankly isn't that hard since there are only 8 episodes per season and they are only about 25 minutes long. But it's an addicting show with just the right blend of drama, sex, clothes, and humor. Think of it as a steamier, slicker, more cynical, and less annoying Sex and the City.

The third season and the first few episodes of the fourth season are now available on my Showtime On Demand, so I spent some time this past weekend catching up. The third season finds Belle still working on her own (outside the control of her former agency and madame, Stephanie) and dealing with the publication of her first book, a tell all about the life of a London call girl. Her hot male editor is pushing her to write a second book that goes further into people's kinks and fantasies, so she begins to take on new types of clients, often to strange and yet entertaining results. Hannah/Belle is also very attracted to her editor which opens its own can of worms: where exactly does a whore draw the line regarding sex in the workplace? Add in a subplot about Hannah's sister beginning a relationship with her best friend, Ben, and Bambi (a fellow call girl) falling for a client and there is a quite a bit of drama.

But through all the mess, the show is, at it's heart, about a working girl in London trying to have it all. The "work" in question just happens to be sex work. Remember, Hannah wasn't abused as a child, has never been addicted to anything, and doesn't have any children to support. She just really likes sex, money, and not working a 9-5 job. Lucky for me her work is so damn entertaining.

*In the second season of the show, Matt Smith, the current Doctor on Doctor Who, appeared as one of Belle's clients. So at least we got the "will the new Doctor and Rose ever have sex?" question out of the way.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Game of Thrones Review

UPDATE: Game of Thrones has already been renewed for a second season. That was quick!

Today's challenge: organize my thoughts on last night's Game of Thrones premiere into a coherent post discussing what went right and what went wrong. The problem here is three-fold; 1) the show aired less than 12 hours ago and I am trying to wrap my head around it, and 2) when you've been waiting for something for so long (in this case a year) it can be hard to decide just how you feel when you finally get it.

But here's the big problem: I think I might have too much prior knowledge (meaning I am a fan of the books). George RR Martin's world building skills are masterful, and he created a land of endless details, not just about the geography, but mostly the people. Just the sheer number of characters in the books are daunting, to say nothing of what houses they are from, the land they control, and who has married who.

The issue is that I don't think I am an accurate judge of how well the show was able to provide this kind of knowledge to the audiencce, because I already know it. I already know that Ned of House Stark and Winterfell married Cat (from Riverrun in the South) and they have 5 children together but Jon Snow is also Ned's son, but from another woman so he is a bastard and that makes Cat really resentful so Jon always feels like an outsider. So when the show tries to elegantly fold this knowledge into their dialogue...I already know it. Did newbies get it? I hope so. I will say that it didn't seem clunky to me, and a lot of info was telegraphed by looks and actions, but I'm not sure if it was confusing to newcomers or if they would have caught all the subtleties.

But you don't really care about all that, do you? You want to know if the show is any good. Well, I liked it. I'll definitely keep watching; HBO for sure went balls out on this one, they must have spent a fortune and you can see it up there on the screen. The costumes, the locations, the huge cast, you can't say they didn't go for it. And they didn't shy away from any of the book material either: you got a full on shot of Jamie and Cersei (twin brother and sister) screwing like bunnies. We definitely met the incest quota of the night.

I only really have one complaint. And I know I am going to get some shit for this because it is such a DUMB complaint. But...I think they might have stuck too close to the book. Since I am familiar with the books, there were no surprises here. The opening of the show was exactly the same as the opening of the book. A lot of the dialogue came from the book. Things progressed almost exactly as they do in the book. To most people, that would be a plus. But I know other HBO shows (*cough True Blood cough*) uses the books as a jumping off point to create their own stories. Game of Thrones just isn't going to be a lot of fun if I know every plot twist before it happens.

So, yes. I am actually complaining that a television adaption is too close to the source material. I am just never happy.

But enough of this kvetching! Let's get to the good stuff: first of all, the cast. Top notch all around. It's no secret that I love (or am obsessed with) Sean Bean, so of course I think he was awesome. Ned Stark is something of a thankless role, he's loyal to a fault (literally), always does what's right, even when it's not smart, but can be tender with his family. I thought Sean Bean really depicted Ned's struggles well. I was also impressed with the guy playing Jamie who had the right combo of dashing rogue and scary badass, and while Lena Headey didn't have a lot to do in the premiere, there were enough hints of Cersei's ruthlessness to make me feel good about all the things to come. I'm not going to go through everyone in the cast of thousands, so let's just leave it at everybody did great and I love Peter Dinklage. I still say he is too handsome for Tyrion though.

Other good stuff: the Wall, the White Walkers, the scene in the Stark crypt, everything about King Robert, the Stark kids, the opening sequence (which was really awesome), also everything about Daenerys and her creepy abusive brother, and the direwolves who were so cute it almost made me want to throw up.

No one can argue that the plot here isn't enormously complicated, and again, it centers around the past of all these characters and how they interact. For my part, I thought the show did a good job of introducing all the different plotlines and hinting about how they come together. The show is called Game of Thrones after all: it seems clear that all these people are jockeying for power. And however far Daenerys might be removed from the action of the other plots, it was clear that her story will have as much an eventual impact on who holds the throne as any of the others.

Overall, I enjoyed it. Other than the "no surprises" thing, I don't really have any complaints. Well, Winterfell seemed less severe than I expected, and Robb's hair wasn't red enough, but whatcha gonna do? There's just no pleasing me. I'm excited for the next episode, and that might be all you really need to know. Feel free to leave a comment, especially discussing how well the show was able to impart the ridiculous amount of backstory.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sing it, Tyra.

America's Next Top Model is one of my (many) guilty pleasures. I'm not really sure what it is: the bitchy clueless models, the ridiculous and yet fabulous photo shoots, the behind-the-scenes-fake insight into the fashion world, Mr. Jay....but you don't see Tyra Banks on this list, do you?

The woman is undeniably gorgeous, but also kind of crazy. Certainly a bit self-obsessed. But you can't accuse her of pulling punches, or not telling it like it is. And sometimes, you just really need someone to lay the truth on one those wanna be models. And boy, did Tyra lay down some hard truth last week.

Let me set the scene: Alexandria is a control freak who is universally hated by the other girls on the show. Unfortunately for them, she is also one of the strongest competitors. I've never really found her as heinous as some other people, mostly because I can relate to her controlling tendencies and I always take reality television editing with a grain of salt.

Now, Brittani, who is also one of the top contenders for this year's prize, has apparently been leading the "I hate Alexandria" wagon train. In the girls' most recent photo challenge, Alexandria was the winner and got the prize of a new car. A Ford, but still. Free car. Brittani decided to let loose with a tirade on the set sidelines about how the judge (Nigel Barker) had picked the wrong woman, Alexandria was a terrible role model for Ford's campaign to aid breast cancer research, blah blah I'm a jealous bitch rant.

Alas, she chose a poor moment to rail on Alexandria, who managed to stay calm through the whole encounter, because judge Nigel was standing right there and saw the whole thing. He didn't say anything about it at the time, but he awesomely called Brittani out at panel for her horrible behavior. Pointing out that not only did he hear her rant, but the client (i.e. Ford) heard it too.

And then Tyra, sweet Tyra. She called out Brittani for being unprofessional, a terrible role model herself, and a bad model for not just shutting the hell up and doing her job. And I cheered. Literally, sat up on the couch and cheered for Miss. Tyra Banks. Brittani of course had a "panic attack" and had to leave the stage, but really it was just a temper tantrum. When she returned to the set, Tyra upbraided her again and almost eliminated her ass. The only reason she wasn't eliminated was because the other judges outvoted Tyra.

You guys, this might be my second favorite Tyra moment of all time. The first is, of course, when Tyra screamed at poor Tiffany for not being upset enough when she was eliminated way back in cycle 4. If you want to read the whole transcript of the tyrant, you can find it here courtesy of TWOP, but here's a taste:


Pure poetry, people.

So here's hoping Tyra keeps it up and goes more for tough love and less crazy. Because 16 cycles or so in, this show still has enough bitchery, sequins, stilettos, and homosexuals to keep me interested.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Big Love: The Final Season

This post contains spoilers for Season 5 and the finale of Big Love. You have been warned!

Well, that's another show over. After 5 seasons (and three almost four wives), HBO bid a fond adieu to Big Love not too long ago. Yes, I am a bit behind, and no, I don't care. That is what On Demand is for.

The show went out with a bang...literally. As you may or may not know, Bill kicks it in the end, shot by his crazy neighbor. And it didn't have anything to do with polygamy or politics or really anything...nope, the neighbor had just been slowly descending into mental problems following the loss of his job and his feelings of inadequacy. Apparently, Bill resodding the neighbor's lawn without being asked was just too emasculating and he felt the only recourse was to shoot Bill in the chest. Dude, it's called Xanax. Try it instead of bullets next time.

But Bill died as he lived, surrounded by his loving wives. And, in what I found to be a nice touch, at the end he finally accepted that his first wife (Barb) also has a touch of the divine in her and asked for a blessing. For someone who had been unable to accept that a woman could hold the priesthood, he sure came around fast, didn't he? Of course the three bullets that had just torn up his chest probably helped with the change of heart. Get it? Change of heart? Bullets in the chest?

Oh, shut up. Everyone's a critic.

Other things that I liked about the ending of the show and the last season in general: the destruction of the Juniper Creek compound, Alby FINALLY getting his comeuppance (seriously, has there ever been a more effed-up creepy villain?), Barb calling Bill and Mormonism in general on his/its misogynistic bullshit, Nikki admitting that she is a horrible person and gaining some personal insight, and Margene getting the hell out of dodge and getting to live her life. Oh, and Ben ended up with Heather, yay!

Whitney mentioned to me the other day that she was hating the last season, but I have to disagree. Things certainly got melodramatic, but hey, it's tv! At times you just had to wonder what else could possibly happen to these people, but the show was still able to retain its central premise: this may be an unusual family with three times the usual number of wives, but at the end of the day, it is still a family. A lot of their problems are our problems (who will pick up the car from the shop? How do we survive in a failing economy?) and while I don't need to deal with crazy in-bred polygamous false prophets coming after me, sometimes I have trouble talking to my family members, you know?

And honestly? Any show that kills off Bill Paxton is ok with me. Despite really liking the show, I find him SO ANNOYING. In everything. But especially Twister.