Sunday, October 28, 2012

Recapping AHS: Your Mother Dances for Soldiers in Hell

We begin where we left off last week with Teresa being chased by Bloody Face through the chute underneath Briarcliff. Teresa runs back to Leo, but Bloody Face is close behind. Bloody Face begins stabbing Leo repeatedly while Teresa cowers in the cell. Back in 1964, Wendy is talking with her fellow lesbians, vowing to break Lana out of the asylum while “Wishin’ and Hopin’” plays in the background. Nicely done with the irony there, show. Later that night, while showering, Wendy finds an open window in the house. When she goes to investigate, as all horror clichés do, she is attacked by Bloody Face.

Act 1! Sister Jude is leading a surprise search of the asylum. Pepper has a food violation hiding bread in her room. Shelly notes that she also has a cucumber, because why hide from any innuendos now? In Lana’s room, Jude finds notes that Lana has been taking about the conditions in the asylum. Jude confiscates the notes, but Lana says she has an excellent memory. Jude approaches Dr. Arden about using shock therapy for Lana as a therapeutic measure to help her get rid of her lesbian memories. Dr. Arden is surprised, saying that Jude has called shock therapy “barbaric”. Jude has prayed on the issue since then and has to come to a new appreciation of God’s tools. Lana is strapped down and the charges placed on her. Rather than perform the shocks himself, Arden asks Jude to administer them. She does, but seems conflicted about it. Maybe her humanity isn’t totally gone. We meet Dr. Thredson, sent to evaluate Kit by the state. Kit insists to Thredson that his wife is still alive and that the aliens have her. In the woods, Arden finds Sister Eunice feeding the creatures. Eunice wants to know more about them, but Arden defers and offers her a candy apple instead. Eunice refuses saying that indulgence is a sin, but Arden insists and she gives in, only slightly erotically. In the common room, Kit tried to get Grace to tell him how to get out of the asylum. Thredson tells Sister Jude that he’s appalled by what he’s seen here and that the conditions are less than, say, enlightened. Jude is all, whatever, I have to meet with a new family with a crazy son who is probably a chronic masturbator. Said family’s son actually has a much worse problem; the son has been seeing things not there and yesterday they found him in the barn covered in blood, having eviscerated a horse and eaten its heart while speaking a strange language. The staff confronts the son, Jed, and he immediately turns into Linda Blair.

Whatever else you do, don't let him get too friendly with the crucifix.

Act II! In the hydrotherapy room, Lana and Grace have been locked into the hot water tubs. Grace breaks them out and the two ladies are conveniently naked. Lana tells Grace she knows a way out of the asylum, but she needs help. In the kitchens, Shelly tries to get Arden to sleep with her in exchange for a few minutes outside where she can feel the sun. We learn that Shelly was only committed to the asylum after she lived a rather promiscuous life and her husband caught her sleeping with two Navy sailors. Arden is not impressed with her “it’s a man’s world” speech and calls her a whore. Meanwhile, the exorcist has been called for Jed. Monsignor asks that Thredson join them for the exorcism. In the common room, Kit helps Lana hide her notes as the orderlies send them all to bed early. Lana doesn’t trust him, believing that he is a murdered of women. The exorcism begins with Sister Jude barred from the room, despite her insistence that she’s strong enough to stay.

Act III! Arden is home setting up for a nice romantic dinner…with a prostitute. He tries to interest her in Chopin and a fine wine, but she begs off saying she doesn’t drink on dates or kiss on the mouth. Arden menacingly orders her to sit and then grabs a knife and begins to carve a roast all the while mentioning that she must be relieved that the local killer has been caught. Back at Chateau d’Pazuzu, Jed is getting demon-y. Jed taunts them, ending with the exorcist being lifted into the air and thrown against the wall. Monsignor rushes the exorcist to the infirmary and orders Jude to watch after Jed. Jed seems lucid, screaming for help and luring Jude into the room. Once she goes in, the demon attacks, calling her the smartest person in the room who’s worthless because she’s a woman and a slut, mocking her “red knickers” and the 53 men she’s had in her time. Flashback to a younger Jude singing in a nightclub for army soldiers in the war. She comes on to men, but goes home alone. Drunk, she accidently runs over a young girl with her car. Back in 1964, Jed is suddenly the little girl calling Jude a murderer. Jude snaps and attacks Jed and OH HELL YES do I want to watch Sister Jude bitch-smack a demon back to hell. 

Damn. "Hey Jude" indeed...

Thredson attempts to sedate Jed and in the process all the power in the building goes out. In the women’s war, the doors rattle then suddenly open by themselves. The women recognize their opportunity and Grace and Lana make a run for it, but Kit wants to come with. Lana yells for the orderlies saying that they’re escaping. The orderlies catch Grace and Kit, beating them. Back in Jed’s room, he’s going into cardiac arrest before sitting upright and then suddenly dying. As he dies, he stares directly at Sister Eunice who suddenly, ominously, falls backwards at the same time as the crucifix on the wall falls to the ground.

Act IV! Arden has made his prostitute dress like a nun. Oh Lord. As the whore gets ready, she stumbles across his personal collection of sexy photos, which involve a lot of women tied up and possibly even hurt and bloody. Arden throws her to the bed and tells her to get with the sexy but she kicks him in the groin, running for the door. The next morning, Arden visits an unconscious Eunice in the infirmary as she recovers from her “fainting” spell. She’s still meek and mild as ever, apologizing for being only in her undershirt. He leaves and she lays down, throwing the covers off her, as the crucifix on the wall shudders. In her office, Jude tells Lana she’s proud of her and has a treat for her - she brings Kit and Grace into the room and Lana gets to decide on the size of the riding crop that Jude will beat them with. Lana selects on size, but Jude chastises her for picking such a small one. Selecting the larger crop, Jude goes to beat Grace before Kit takes the fall for her. Jude spits that Kit seems to think that Grace is much better than she is before lashing Kit as Lana and Grace watch on.

Next week, there’s something about (sister) Mary (Eunice)…

Friday, October 26, 2012


Uh-oh. I was all set to give Nashville a glowing review (it had the best pilot of the Fall season), but then I watched episode 3...and I found myself getting bored. So here is what is going to happen. I'm going to spend most of this post talking about all the good things about the show, and then at the end I'll just make a quick note of the things that started to get to me in episode 3. The take-away from this is that Nashville is a really good drama, and probably one of my favorite new shows of the Fall (my absolute favorite, Arrow, we'll get to next week).

You don't need to be a country music fan to like Nashville. I'm not (some Dixie Chicks albums are as country as I get)*. It's kind of like with Friday Night Lights, I could give two shits about football in real life, but while watching that show I was riveted. Oh, and I will watch anything with Connie Britton because she is amazing.

From wiki (because is blocked at work...lame):
The series stars Connie Britton as Rayna Jaymes, a legendary country music superstar, whose stardom begins fading. Her producers offer her a joint tour with the up-and-comer Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere),  the young and sexy future of country music. But both singers are pursuing their own goals.
There are other subplots swirling around our two stars, of course. Juliette wants to seduce Rayna James' band leader away from her (literally and figuratively) to head up her tour, and wants to be taken seriously as a singer and songwriter. Meanwhile, Rayna's Dad (Powers Booth--from Deadwood in a brilliant casting choice) is a millionaire up to no good, and convinces Rayna's husband to run for mayor as Nashville, for reasons that aren't exactly clear yet. There's also some other nonsense about someone's niece and the guy who is crushing on her trying to cut a demo but whatever. Drama!

Two things the show is doing really well: first, making its leading ladies interesting and substantial. They aren't just stereotypes or modeled too closely after celebrities in the real world. Sure, the "rising country music star" brings to mind Taylor Swift, but it's pretty clear Juliette isn't just a Taylor rip-off. Same thing with Rayna.  The "fading star" thing has been done before, but these ladies feel like real women with all their conflicting motivations and even inconsistencies. I don't think it hurts that Connie Britton is a wonderful actress and Hayden Panettiere has matured her acting way beyond Heroes.  They are both decent singers as well and it appears everyone on the show does their own singing.

"I want to be, like, respected and stuff. I can write songs too about boys and love and you know, other things that are super important."

The second thing that I really like is the hints of backstory. We know that Rayna and her father have had some epic falling out related to something in their past, but we don't know what. We also know that he is using her husband as a political puppet, but again, the reasons why aren't clear. Rayna and her band leader used to have a relationship, and there are hints that they still have feelings for each other. Even Juliette has a crack head Mom who pops up now and then, but I think there is something else going on with that story as well. I want to keep watching to fill in the story, and that's a good sign.

What isn't a good sign is how I felt after episode 3. Even though we are still in the beginning of the show, some of the plots have begun to stall. I get that Rayna and Juliette are going on tour, either together or separately--is that ever going to actually happen? I get that Juliette wants to steal away Rayna's band leader...but are they just going to keep dancing around that? Nashville has set up some really good plots, but they need to get the show on the road, maybe literally.

Despite these problems (which could disappear with next week's episode, who knows?), Nashville is a sold entry into this Fall's tv season and provides a welcome shot of estrogen of the awesome leading lady variety. You should give it a shot, even if you don't like country music. There's a lot here to love and I for one will put on my cowboy boots and sequins and enjoy the ride.

Nashville airs Wednesdays at 10 on ABC.

More sequins!

*Full disclosure--I really like bluegrass. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

666 Park Avenue

I thought I knew what this show was going to be about before I started watching. I thought it was going to be Rosemary's Baby meets Desperate Housewives--you know, that kind of slick and over-the-top drama that ABC likes to dish up with a supernatural twist. I thought John Locke (er, Terry O'Quinn) and Wilhelmina Slater (er, Vanessa Williams) were going to tempt various people into selling their souls and be all deliciously evil and bitchy.

It's actually not like that at all. And while I didn't know what I was getting into, the bad news is the writers don't seem able to figure it out either.

Don't start thinking that the show is terrible though--because it isn't. It's just suffering from the typical freshman year problem of not knowing what kind of show it wants to be. Is it a scary story about a haunted apartment building? Is it a tale of innocence lost and how easily men and women can be seduced and corrupted? Or is it a cautionary tale of being careful what you wish for? Right now it's trying to be all of the above, and none of those pieces are really working as well as they should.

But you'd watching him in anything, right?

 Here's the synopsis from the internets:
If you could make one wish, what would it be? And what would you do to get it? At 666 Park Avenue, all of your dreams and burning desires can come true: wealth, sex, love, power, even revenge. But just be careful what you wish for, because the price you pay...could be your soul. Welcome to The Drake, the premiere apartment building on Manhattan's Upper East Side. Owned by the mysterious Gavin Doran and his sexy wife Olivia, The Drake is home to dozens of residents who are unaware they're living in the dark embrace of supernatural forces. They think their dreams are all coming true, only to find they've been lured into making, what feels like, a deal with the Devil.

When a young Mid-western couple - Jane Van Veen and Henry Martin- are hired to manage The Drake, they soon discover that evil, obsession, and manipulation has a home. 
I just love putting the network-written descriptions of shows into these reviews because they are completely hilarious and overly dramatic.

I think I get what the show runners are trying to achieve with 666 Park Avenue. In a post-LOST world (there's that term again), if you tried to sell the idea of a show centered around a building where people make deals with the devil, the network is going to come back with, "but what ELSE is going on?" So now we need to make a larger, more twisty mystery with demonic possession and secret rooms and bleeding walls and creepy children and blah blah blah. But right now it doesn't feel like all these pieces of the puzzle are going to come together in any elegant way. We may only be 4 episodes in, but you need to get the feeling that there is a plan behind the madness.

So far, the most effective plot is the one that gets top billing in the synopsis above: people are tempted to sell their souls in exchange for their desires. Ok, got it. And it makes sense that Gavin has some kind of long game plan in store for the new couple in the building, Jane and Henry. But that doesn't actually seem to be the main plot at this point. The main plot is the new building manager, Jane, wandering through the building and discovering all these creepy...well, things, and just wondering to herself what is going on instead of RUNNING AWAY AS FAST AS SHE CAN. I don't know about you, but the first time I see a little girl dressed all in white with skin the color of a slug clutching an old doll and whispering, "don't let him out" I am out of there. Jane's response seems to be going for more unaccompanied nocturnal wanderings in her skimpy PJs to the basement. My point is that for the ostensible heroine, she makes some spectacularly bad decisions.

Oh, HELL NO. See ya wouldn't wanna be ya, bitches.

But again, it's not that the show is bad. The third episode actually had some genuinely scary moments (mostly involving the aforementioned girl and dolls) and I find myself wanting to know what the hell is going at The Drake. So clearly the mysteries are pulling me in...but I can recognize that they are kind of fumbling around at this point.

I'd recommend the show to genre fans, but if you're not really one who enjoys tales of the supernatural variety you might want to skip it. Personally, I have found this is a great show to have on in the background while doing something around the house. It doesn't require your total attention, but has enough of interest to keep me least for now. I'll give them through November sweeps and then see where we stand.

666 Park Avenue airs Sunday night at 10:00 on ABC.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Recapping AHS: One Flew Over The Evil Cuckoo's Nest

Hello, sports fans! We’re back for a second season of American Horror Story, this time set in an insane asylum in 1964 in Massachusetts, far away from last season’s Los Angele-based murder house. Let’s jump in, shall we?

Pictured: The American Heath Care System

We begin the episode in (presumably) modern times. We meet Leo and Teresa, newlyweds who are on a “haunted honeymoon tour” where the goal is to “visit the 12 most haunted places in North America and screw our brains out in every one of them.” They are sneaking onto the ruins of Briarcliff, a 100-year old tuberculosis sanitarium that has a particularly violent past, but then, don’t they all? As they sneak into the abandoned building, taking pictures and talking about how badly they want to sex each other up on each and every piece of medical equipment, Teresa notes that the staff used to get rid of the dead through an underground tunnel called “the death chute” and demands sexy time in said chute. There’s probably a double-entendre there in buried behind all the bodies. She also notes that once the Catholic church took over Briarcliff and turned it into a mental asylum, the most famous resident was a serial killer called “Bloody Face”.  Once all the expositioning is done, the lovers strap themselves into an shock treatment bench and commence with the sexy time, but are interrupted by a noise coming from somewhere in the asylum. They find a closed off cell with a meal slot that they can look into. Teresa offers to give Leo a blowjob if he sticks his arm into the room with her camera and we all can see where this is going – something is in the room, grabbing his arm and ripping it from its socket. Teresa screams as we lead into the main credits, which is all creepy images of nuns, crazy people and nuns having sex with crazy people. Yup, sounds right.

Act I! The year is 1964 – our hero Kit, played by the actor who played Tate last season, is at the end of his shift at the local gas station when something triggers the bell. Kit investigates and as he does, the power all suddenly fails and cows in the distance start yelling. The power comes back and on Kit is surprised by three “friends” who are drunk and asking to borrow Kit’s gun because the “niggers” have been messing with one of their sisters again. One of the guys asks about Kit’s new maid.  Later Kit returns home and we see the “maid” is actually his new wife which they’re keeping secret due to the racial difference between them. Kit and Alma head to the bedroom, meaning that less than 10 minutes into the new season we’ve already had two sex scenes. During the afterglow, the power starts shuttering off again and Kit sees a bright light like headlights pass through the windows. Kit grabs his gun, when suddenly a bright light from the sky shines down on him and Alma begins to scream. Suddenly everything (including Kit) flies up to the ceiling and Kit is briefly seen in a white room with a monster like hand moving toward him and frankly I’m amazed that it took this show this long to bring aliens into everything.  Cut to Lana Winters, a reporter who is ostensibly doing a story on the Briarcliff bakery, driving up to a hale and healthy asylum. As she approaches the main doors, a developmentally disabled inmate named Pepper startles her. Sister Mary Eunice, a young nun played by Lady Macbeth from last season, orders Pepper away. When Lana says she was just being harmless, Sister Mary informs Lana that Pepper isn’t harmless and in fact is here because she drowned her sister’s baby and cut off his ears. Sister Mary brings Lana to Sister Jude, played by Jessica Lange, who is currently shaving the hair off of inmate Shelley, a nymphomaniac who’s been caught with her hand in the boy jar again. Sister Jude believes that mental illness is just a fashionable way of excusing sin and that the goal of Briarcliff under her supervision and alongside Monsignor Howard is to purify those who need it. The interview is interrupted by Sister Mary who informs Sister Jude that “the bad person will arrive any minute.” Lana correctly infers that Sister Mary is referring to the notorious killer Bloody Face, who decapitated three women and apparently wore their flesh like a mask. Bloody Face himself is soon brought in under armed guard and surprise of surprises, he is Kit. 

Man, this is totally better than that Spelling Bee beat they had me on last month...

Kit insists that he is innocent, but Sister Jude tells him that she will make him repent for his crimes and that she doesn’t believe his story about seeing aliens. Kit says that what came for him weren’t human, but monsters. “All monsters are human,” Sister Jude states, clearly representing one of the thesis statements of this entire season. When Kit spits in her face, she has him whipped and sent into the common room where all the inmates are allowed social time while listening to The Singing Nun’s recording of “Dominique” on repeat. When Kit tries to shut down the music, he is stopped by a kindly inmate named Grace who tells him that it’s a rule to keep the song playing. When Kit asks why he should trust her, she says, “because I’m not crazy.” Kit may be able to get out of this until one of the other inmates picks a fight with him, causing pandemonium to break out in the common room until Sister Jude calmly enters, blows a loud whistle and sends everyone cowering into the corner like a boss.

Act II! Kit is in his room bound in a straight jacket and remembering Alma when Grace delivers a tray of food through a trap door. She admits that she’s in Braircliff because “they say I chopped up my family”, although she swears it’s not true. In the common room, Sister Mary is sobbing because one of the inmates has died suddenly. Sister Jude confronts Dr. Arden, the facility physician, about the dead inmate and why four now, all of whom were family-less, have now died under his care mysteriously. Dr. Arden isn’t afraid of her and says that he cremates the dead, but we see intercut images of bloody meat being tossed into bowls and then thrown to someone or something. Sister Jude gives as good as she gets here and watching these two antagonize each other, especially given that they’re both played by such strong actors, is really fun to see. Later, Lana is at home having dinner with Wendy, her partner. Lana wants to infiltrate Briarcliff so that she can write the story about what’s happening there, which Wendy supports. Wendy shuts down a kiss because the blinds aren’t drawn and she doesn’t want to be found out and risk losing her job as a schoolteacher. This marks the second time in this episode that we’ve seen a non-traditional coupling with the same fears. Back in the asylum, Sister Jude cooks what looks like a remarkably good meal. Intercut are images of her wearing only her habit and a red negligee and seductively applying perfume to her chest before covering up with her habit again. Later, she is dining with Monsignor Howard, whom its clear she has desires for, despite holding back on them. Monsignor compliments her cooking and flirts, though his motivations are unclear. Sister Jude wants to know how the Monsignor found Dr. Arden, but Monsignor asks for her trust and holds her hand, outlining a plan with her whereby the two of them would become so renowned for running Briarcliff that they would collectively ascend through the Catholic hierarchy together. As he speaks, Sister Jude slowly removes her habit and wimple, straddling the Monsignor in her underwear before we suddenly snap back to reality and see that this fantasy was in Sister Jude’s head and the dinner is progressing much more chastely in reality. Elsewhere, Sister Mary and Dr. Arden say that they can hear “them” outside in the woods and that they’ll be needing meat soon. Sister Mary heads to the forest with buckets of meat that she leaves in a clearing, while rustling and growling can be heard. Running back to the asylum, she finds Lana. Back in Kit’s room, Dr. Arden comes to his cell and injects him with something, saying that he has so much to learn.

Act III! The Present day – Teresa is tying a tourniquet on Leo’s severed stump, trying to save his life and get him to the car. As she runs to the front door, she finds it has somehow been locked with chains behind them. She runs through the asylum, finding her way to the death chute. Fade back to the same chute in 1964 as Lana and Sister Mary reenter the asylum. Lana wants to know what Sister Mary was feeding out there, but tells her that she won’t say anything to Sister Jude about it if Sister Mary lets Lana look around inside the asylum. Dr. Arden wheels Kit into an operating room on a gurney and asks about the murders, particularly why the victims were skinned, and Kit remembers his abduction experience including a monstrous arm looking like it is scooping something out of a corpse. Dr. Arden discovers something embedded in Kit’s neck and removes it, finding a microchip that suddenly sprouts legs and runs away. 

But wait, we haven't even gotten to the Ultra-Violence bit yet!

Meanwhile, as Lana and Sister Mary go through the men’s ward looking for Kit, Lana finds one of the orderlies getting a blowjob from Shelley, who tells her that Kit was removed to solitary. Lana finds Kit’s cell, opening the meal slot when something attacks her. Later, Sister Jude reprimands Sister Mary for “almost ruining everything” by smacking a riding crop against her desk and doubting whether Sister Mary is capable of what Sister Jude has asked of her. Sister Mary sobs and promises to be better, going as far as to suggest that Sister Jude get a bigger crop to beat her with. We see that Sister Jude actually has a wide collection of them to pick from, but Sister Jude softens and refuses.

Act IV! Lana awakes strapped to a bed with Sister Jude standing over her. Lana says she was attacked by something, but Sister Jude insists it was only her overactive imagination. Lana says someone will be coming for her, but in a flashback we see that Sister Jude has already blackmailed Wendy into essentially committing Lana to the asylum, saying that if she doesn’t, Sister Jude will expose Wendy. Sister Jude promises to treat Lana for her “inversion”, leaving her screaming in her cell. As she leaves, Sister Jude passes the cell that Lana says she was attacked in and finds Dr. Arden cleaning the cell with disinfectant. The cell walls have scratches all over them and Sister Jude is horrified that someone was living in the cell. Dr. Arden insists that was not the case and he’s only cleaning the room because he plans to use it for extra storage space. Back in the present, Teresa runs through the death chute before abruptly running into a man standing at the end with a bloody skin mask covering his face.

And with that, we start the new season. Good to see that the crazy has remained largely in tact. I’m definitely most intrigued to see how potentially political this season will be, given the recurring social themes that underlay this episode. Also, Jessica Lange is again playing with an extremely meaty role and infuses even more depth into what is already a rich part. Exciting stuff ahead!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Friday blues

It's Friday, and there's a lot of stuff I could write about. I could write about how much I like Nashville, even though its ratings are kind of sucking. I could also write about how disappointed I am so far in the new drama 666 Park Avenue. Or I could even discuss last night's winner of Project Runway and how the show seems to dip even further into mediocrity.

But it's raining, I'm stuck at work, and I'm tired. So I'll save those thoughts above for posts next week and instead share this:
 Look! They're puppies and beagles and they're adorable! Awwwww.

What? That doesn't have anything to do with television? GOD. FINE. You people are so demanding.

I'll throw you a bone (see what I did there?) and speaking of animals, the wretched new comedy Animal Practice just got cancelled (like anybody cares), and PETA is apparently having a field-day. Good for them.

Now, more puppies! And just to show this blog's commitment to ethnic diversity...

It's a puggle puppy! Half the beagle, all the cute.

When you have a tv blog you can post whatever you want on it, but for now you get puppies.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tricks and Treats

Ah, Halloween. One of my most favorite times of the year. What's not like about a holiday that centers around two of my favorite things? One being candy (duh) and the second being scary movies. I love a good fright, and we here at TV Sluts are dedicated to finding the best spooky television for you to enjoy throughout October. The embedded links below will take you to the relevant networks Halloween themed schedule or webpage.

Are you seated comfortably? Then we'll begin.

Many channels are running special Halloween themed broadcasts during this month, but let's start with the obvious: American Horror Story: Asylum is premiering over on FX tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 10:00. If you missed the first season, no worries. Each season is telling a different story of terror so you can jump right in to the newest offering without any prior knowledge. But be warned: this show is definitely scary and not for the faint of heart. You might want to keep your Pillow of Fear (PoF) handy for any cowering that needs to take place.

If your tastes run more to the classic black and white, Turner Classic Movies (TCM) has you covered with its month-long salute to classic movie monsters. Each Wednesday, the channel is showing horror favorites from Hollywood's Golden Age, culminating in a Halloween-night showing of Frankenstein and The Wolf Man. You can find the schedule here.

But what about the kiddies? We can't leave them out of the fun. So if you have some munchkins in your household or you just can't handle the real scares, try ABC Family's 13 Nights of Halloween with more family-friendly fare such as a Tim Burton movie marathon, Practical Magic, and my personal favorite of their offerings, Hocus Pocus. Apparently their original series Pretty Little Liars is also known for it's Halloween episodes, but you'll have to take their word for it. I haven't been able to fit it into my schedule yet.


 Sometimes you want a good old fashioned slasher flick. You know the drill--teenagers who engage in sex, drugs, and whatever rock and roll the filmmakers could get the rights to are picked off one by one by increasingly supernatural circumstances. Naughty behavior is punished with a knife in the gut, and only the virgins survive. If you need a Jason or Mike Meyers fix, head over to American Movie Classics (AMC) for showings of the Friday the 13th series and Halloween, among other tales of terror such as Jeepers Creepers (which if you haven't seen is worth your time for it's super creepy ending).

Not to be left out of the fun is SyFy--which frankly is putting forth kind of a weak effort by billing it's normal prime time programming (like one of my favorite shows, Face Off) as Halloween fare. But their October schedule also includes movies like a vampire film marathon and the Pumpkinhead movies, so it's worth checking out to see if anything strikes your fancy. And if you live in New York City, they are sponsoring a ton of live events throughout the month that sound fun.

And for those who have BBC America, you can catch some of their more supernatural themed shows this month like Hex (see Michael Fassbender before he was famous, but alas not naked) and Bedlam. They are also showing "ghoulish" movies on Sundays. AND you can take in some of the X-Files creepiest episodes on Halloween itself.

And of course, we can't forget perennial favorites such as It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror (which unfortunately already aired on October 7), and other special Halloween-themed episodes of your favorite shows. But for that you'll need to check your local listings.

What? I don't have time to sit here and look up everything for you. There's horror movies to watch and candy to eat!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Decoding Doctor Who

Last week, fans of Doctor Who got to see the long-hinted at farewell to Amy and Rory, the current Doctor’s only real long-standing companions.  The mid-season finale, “The Angels Take Manhattan” was a greatest hits of the current era with Amy, Rory and the Doctor once again teaming up with River Song to fight the Weeping Angels, this time in 1930s New York. SPOILERS AHEAD – I’l let you know when I’m done with them.

The departure of Amy and Rory has been a known quantity for a while now, however the exact circumstances of that departure were carefully guarded prior to the episode airing. What we saw was a plot by the Angels to abduct people and send them back in time, as per their traditional motivation, and then house all of these time-tossed unfortunates in an apartment building in Battery Park. Once Rory is attacked by the Angels, the rest of the team goes back to find him, inadvertently messing up the timestream every which way such that the Doctor can purportedly no longer go back to that place and time ever again without undoing all of the universe.  There were a number of twists and turns to the plot, and a fair amount of dramatics, but the end result is that Amy and Rory are permanently sent back to the 1930s to live out the rest of their days there, forever away from the Doctor, but at least with each other.

As an emotional note, the farewell to these characters is earned and bittersweet. Amy tearfully saying goodbye to the Doctor by referring to him as her “raggedy man” was a nice throwback and you got an appreciation for how much the Doctor hates goodbyes. The episode also hit on an even more interesting theme – that the Doctor is so emotionally unable to deal with endings that the people around him have to go to great lengths to hide it when they fail him or even to show that they’re getting older. Given what little we know about the Doctor’s background in possibly destroying his entire race, this gives some compelling emotions for Matt Smith and other future Doctors to play with.

As a plot device, however, the story fails on a number of points. For starters, we’re assured that the TARDIS simply cannot go back to the point where Amy and Rory are sent and that to go there at all would unmake the universe. Ergo, Amy and Rory are forever in the past. The problem, however, is physics. The writers of this episode seem to forget that humans are, each of us, time machines, albeit ones that only travel in once direction. Why the Doctor couldn’t just wait until, say, 1940 and then go back up his two best friends remains a mystery. I can’t believe that the show is forever swearing off World War II stories after all.

Okay, spoiler-phobes. You can come back now.

So with a fond (Pond?) farewell, we see off Amy and Rory and anticipate the arrival of the newest companion played by Jenna-Louise Coleman. Which leads to the inevitable question of just what is going on this season in Doctor Who?

The shape of things to come

Show runner Steven Moffat has somewhat remarkably said that, unlike the past two years, this season will carry no long-form story-arc and instead will treat each episode like a big blockbuster movie. Simply put, I think he’s lying through his Scottish teeth at us. While we haven’t seen anything as explicit as a widening crack in reality or the appearance and disappearance of The Silence yet, there has been one major feature that has bound together each episode: has anyone else noticed that the Doctor is slowly disappearing?

Just follow me on this one: Each episode has had either a major or minor moment focused on the notion that the Doctor, who just two seasons ago had gotten so notorious that he managed to stand on a rock and talk an entire invading space fleet of bad guys into not obliterating him with a ray gun of some kind, is routinely running into people who don’t know him and can’t identify him. Starting in the first episode, “Asylum of the Daleks”, the Doctor is effectively erased from the memory banks of every Dalek everywhere. In “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”, the collector’s computer-of-instant-knowing-things has no record of the Doctor. Last week, we learn that River Song has long ago been freed from prison because it seems the man she murdered, the Doctor, actually never existed. It’s implied this is some kind of computer error, but I think it’s more than that. I think The Silence is slowly erasing the Doctor from all history.

We know from last season’s finale that there is a terrible question in the universe, something that references “the fall of the eleventh” and that a question that could unmake reality (or something) will be asked and that question just might be, “Doctor who?” We know The Silence is dedicated to eliminating the Doctor as a threat to creation, and so it stands to reason they might be behind all this.

If it’s the case, then, that there is in fact a long-form arc to this season about the Doctor’s identify, conveniently timed to dovetail into next year’s 50th anniversary of the show, it makes sense to also wonder how the new companion will factor in. We’ve already seen Jenna-Louise Coleman in a somewhat puzzling role in the first episode this year as a woman who (again, SPOILERS) was turned into a Dalek and didn’t even realize it. Might she have something to do with all this erase-y nonsense as well?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Das Boot, American Style

It’s no secret that ABS is desperate for a new show that will fill the void left a few years ago by Lost. The problem for most attempts has been that none of them really resonated, probably because they were trying just so damn hard. The key to a successful Lost replacement is only going to come from a show that has enough similarities to hearken back to the fan favorite without trying to recreate it entirely. It remains to be seen, but ABC may have found a candidate for the job.

Last Resort tells the story of the crew of the fictional USS Colorado, a nuclear submarine patrolling the waters of the Indian Ocean in the very near future. She has a crew of 150 men and women and is fully equipped with all the latest in high-tech hardware, including an experimental new device that effectively makes the boat invisible to radar. In the world of the show, global tension is high after several mounting wars in the Middle East and a contentious US President who is in the midst of being impeached on unclear charges. In the midst of all this, the Colorado receives a sudden and mysterious order to fire its nuclear arsenal at Pakistan, stating that the US is under attack and Washington DC has been effectively destroyed. The skeptical crew questions the order and is fired upon by another US ship. Realizing that something has gone very wrong in the US Chain of Command and now effectively labeled enemies of their own country, the crew of the Colorado seeks refuge on a remote island and considers how to prove their innocence and solve the mystery of what has happened back home.

America's Heart Will Go On

For all its futuristic aspirations, the show is a complete cold-war throwback. It’s all there - the Mutually Assured Destruction, the possible evil empire enemy, the nuclear submarine setting, the subtle suggestion of an inside invasion of the US government by a foreign interest that is out to destroy us, even Captain Chaplin’s first act speech about how crazy Ronald Regan seemed to Russia. But honestly, Lost capitalized on a fair amount of Cold War-era throwbacks, so really this just bolsters the argument for Last Resort as that show’s successor. 

In terms of mechanics, the show has some faults. The acting is somewhere just on the good side of “stilted”. With the exception of a couple of legitimately good zingers, the dialogue also needs some work. Too often it comes across as wonky without explanation as an attempt to recreate the verisimilitude of military life on a submarine and then at other times it is completely pedantic when it could use a little more technical oomph. For those keeping score at home, the lead female officer is in full on Deanna Troi mode, often supplying the audience with the critical translation of the jargon.

The plot devices veer a bit too often fall into cliché, as well. In a particularly well-worn plot device, Scott Speedman’s character is heading out one final time before getting to go home to his wife just before the action sets in. Poor Speedman also has to get through a “saying goodbye” scene that feels like the writers just cut and pasted from some low-budget made for TV movie. (Seriously – why does this scene always happen in a living room in the middle of the day? Does the military not require you to show up in the morning for your deployment anymore?)

“Gosh, just one more seemingly simple mission on a prototype ship carrying a nuclear payload and a cast of diverse characters in a troubled part of the world? I’m sure I’ll be home by dinner, right?”

The sheer number of characters, most of whom dress exactly alike by virtue of being members of the armed services, also takes some tracking. With so many petty officers thrown into one frame, it can take some doing to keep everyone straight. The characters are, however, interesting and the pilot had moments in it that made me seriously have no clue what they were going to do or how they were going to get out of a problem – which is a good thing.

I’m willing to give a pass on these bits though. Pilots are notoriously hard to write and even with the faults of this one, you could see the potential shining through pretty brightly.  All the necessary components for a good show were well placed to make a really intriguing set of questions and mysteries.

The show’s big selling point (which it lands well) is the mystery of who ordered the attack on the Colorado and why? The entire show rings with a kind of post 9/11 The Way We Live Now in the sense that the crew has to adapt to life that they weren’t ready for. The country is plunged into war in the first half hour of this show and the crew find themselves not only in the position of being in the literal direct line of fire in a nuclear engagement, but also in potentially acting as a patsy for a corrupt faction of the government. Which is also to say that the crew, All American Heroes, become a kind of terrorists, literally throwing a nuclear missile at DC in order to call the bluff of the (likely) bad guys.

If nothing else, this show does crazy well. It’s a controlled study in watching how characters routinely fall into situations where they make bad decision after bad decision and the bad decisions just come faster and faster. Bomb Pakistan. Relieve the Captain of command. Throw the crew member in the brig. Shoot the traitor with all the critical information in the head, risking court martial. Upset the chain of command. The thing is, all of these bad decisions are ones that we exactly understand why the characters make them. It lends to the overall feeling of sinking that this show explores. The submarine literally sinks and people are sinking right along with it as situations force their hands into areas they can’t control. Which, I think we can all agree, sounds like exciting television.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Revolution--A rebuttal

This is "kind of" a guest post. My co-worker Bill and I like to discuss TV over email (because we're basically too lazy to walk across the building to do it in person). We started chatting about Revolution recently and he made some excellent points re: the lack of realism in the show. I've heard a lot of people talking about how the science behind the show just doesn't make sense, and while I'm the kind of person who doesn't really care about whether something is plausible, many of you take such things seriously. So here are some of Bill's comments about the show, copied with his permission.

I am trying with Revolution, but the premise and science are so ridiculous, I am having a hard time suspending belief.  Too many holes in the mythos, and not enough action or character development yet to truly hook me. Still trying, though.  But really, where are the steam engines?  And lightning? 

I can understand nothing happening for a year or two after the blackout, okay.  Maybe you were busy surviving.  But no one comes up with windmill?  I am not talking big time stuff here.  A flour mill.  A steam car on the railroad.  Apparently they have great looms and sewing machines, but can’t generate mechanical power?

The idea that a natural force like electricity could be snuffed out is just too farfetched.  Lightning.  A magnet moving past a wire.  Leyden jars. Static electricity, for crissake!!!!!! It makes no sense.

I read a story a few years ago where a scientist released a bug/organism/nanobot type thing that ate oil.  Designed to stop spills.  Only it kept going and ate all petroleum and petroleum products (by design, the inventor was nuts).  THAT made sense.  It could happen.  And we could reverse it by stopping the bug.  Oil was created through a series of events (dinosaurs, time, pressure, etc.), and the world could go one without it.  But electricity?  Nope, sorry.  It would require altering laws of nature, and I have to think such a thing would cause so many other problems that we would not survive. They come up with a plausible (in their own mythos) reason for it, maybe I’ll bite, but right now it magnifies every other gripe about the characters and writing.

[I then commented on how I totally agreed with all his points, but when watching television I possess a remarkable ability to turn off my brain and just enjoy the story]

I am with you on the turning off/tuning out.  I LIKE getting lost in the show. But for me, the premise was fishy, and they just kept piling improbable on impossible, and that made me look for other mythology problems.  And I found them.  Lots of them.  Too many to shut down. If they had not tried to be all science-y, I could just accept it.  Magic, voila.  But they indicated this was based in science, man made stuff.  And they can’t use OUR world, our time, and ignore what every high school science student (okay, science geek) knows about electricity.  I realize that if science is foreign or unimportant to you anyway, you can set it aside and watch for the ‘venturing.  And I envy that.  But they need to give me something to care about more than how the lights could go out.

So it sounds like Bill is passing on Revolution. I hope some of you (like me) are still enjoying the show, but fair enough if you can't get past the implausibility. Hopefully you can find something else to get your sci-fi fix!