Saturday, September 28, 2013

In Pursuit of Pigeons

Kids, are your Thursday nights dull? Do you end up spending the evening watching Antiques Roadshow with your cat? Well, fear not. The good people over at The Eyeball have a rather fetching updated Sherlock Holmes murder mystery that may be right up your alley. As we've already learned from the Brits, murder is funny. And who doesn't like Lucy Liu?

"Oh, you're right, Arsenic," you say. "On second thought, I have no problems with Lucy Liu. I'll just slowly back out of here."

I know, I know. You're a Sherlock fan and you have qualms. "Bu-bu...Sherlock from the BBC is soooo good," you protest. This is true. I am huge fan of the Sherlock series. And who doesn't like Benedict Cumberbatch? People. Without. Souls. That's who. "How can the American version be worth watching?" you demand "It's not even associated with the Sherlock series. Isn't Elementary just a bad American rip-off?" Well, naysayers and people with too many First World Problems, I am here to spread the good news! I'm like Paul Revere, but in reverse. Elementary is entertaining, fresh, smart, and funny as hell. Sort of like yours truly, but I am not quite as dead sexy as Johnny Lee Miller. 

Hot (adj.) mess (noun)

So, how is Elementary different from Sherlock? Well, the major differences are that it's set in New York City instead of London, and Sherlock is a consultant for the NYPD, supervised by Captain Thomas Gregson (Aidan Quinn). Dr. Watson in this case is named Joan Watson, portrayed by Lucy Liu.

Yes. Yes, exactly like that.

Sherlock, for his part, is a recovering addict. I can't remember exactly which drugs he was doing. I am pretty sure it was all of them, but most specifically heroin. Sherlock ended up becoming a junkie after the death of his beloved Irene Adler, and Joan Watson was hired by Sherlock's mysterious, absent, and filthy rich father to be his sober companion. Joan had been a real actual medical doctor until she lost a patient and thus began doubting her abilities. She quit her hospital job to become a sober companion and that is how she ended up living with Sherlock. She accompanies him on murder investigations and to his addict meetings, helping him with both his sobriety and figuring out whodunit, all the while making it clear to him that she's not for a second going to put up with his bullshit. It is adorable bullshit, though.

I really like the way Joan's character is written. She's a strong female character, but the writing doesn't fall into the trap of turning her into the Asian Dragon Lady stereotype. The show begins with her being Sherlock's sidekick, but as the first season progressed, it became clear that Sherlock is totally dependent on her. 

Please tell me this investigation has something to do with your ninth step.

"But," you ask. "Isn't this just going to turn into a Moonlighting thing where there's all this sexual tension and they finally get together and then the show just isn't as good? Isn't this pairing just going to devolve into them slobbering all over each other?" 'Tis a valid question, but I don't think so. It's true that there's a male and female lead who are clearly hot for each other and completely repressing it. But, the thing that works with Elementary is that you know they'd both like to throw caution to the proverbial wind and bone, but you kind of don't want them to get together.  I don't know if that was intentional or not, but it really works and it's very refreshing. Sherlock and Joan live and work together, so it's almost like they're already in a relationship in a sense anyway. Since Sherlock has had so many drug problems and so many demons, Joan would totally be slumming it to get with Sherlock, and Joan is so the Scully to his Mulder that there's no way she'd ever admit to having feelings for him. There's also an intimacy to their relationship that I don't think can occur in a teevee (or real?) romantic relationship because they're working together toward a common goal instead of playing suckface.

These aren't the Gryffindor colors? No, I'm quite sure you'e wrong, Watson.

I guess the ratings haven't been all that impressive, but let's keep in mind that this is the same network that airs Big Brother (blech) so maybe there's not that much appeal within The Eyeball demographic. I really do feel like this show would be doing better ratings-wise if it were on BBC America, because the the British-meets-North American format is becoming their oeuvre (Yes, I just used "oeuvre" in a sentence. Going to punch myself now for being a pretentious fuckwit.) Regardless, it was renewed for a second season, so please go watch it before it gets cancelled. 

The only thing that rankles me a little about the series, and this may just be me, but I don't feel they've been able to naturally incorporate the Sherlock Holmes mythology as seamlessly into the series as Sherlock has done. Moriarty has made an appearance of sorts, but it felt unnecessary. I know, I know. Throw rotten produce at me now. The show can stand alone as a buddy cop murder mystery, and while I like the Holmes mythology thrown in there, Elementary is so character driven that it doesn't really need Moriarty to be interesting. There is Moriarty and Irene Adler stuff going on in the series, but I'm not going to spoil it for people who haven't seen the first season.

The Season 2 premiere, entitled "Step Nine," follows Sherlock and Watson getting mixed up in a murder investigation to help out Sherlock's former police contact, DI Lestrade(yup). Lestrade was investigating the death of a woman, and he's pretty convinced that her husband killed her. The only wrinkle in this is that Lestrade has been suspended from Scotland Yard because the woman's husband is a member of a prominent family, and so he and his legal team launched a smear campaign to discredit Lestrade and get him suspended from duty. After Sherlock and Joan succeed in nabbing a Gary Busey look-a-like perp, whom they were led to by staking out carrier pigeons, Sherlock gets a call from a desperate Lestrade, begging him to help out with the case. Sherlock and Joan head off to London (LONDON) to ostensibly help Scotland Yard look for the lamming Lestrade, but really they're going to help Lestrade prove that this shady dude offed his wife. 

They plan to stay at Sherlock's old London digs, 221B (natch), but when they arrive, they find that Mycroft (EFFING MYCROFT) has gotten rid of all of Sherlock's stuff and turned the flat into a sweet pad. Sherlock is super condescending to Mycroft, and Sherlock thinks Mycroft is being nice to Joan because he wants sommadat, but what Mycroft is really after are some tips on how he can better get along with his brother. As an added bonus, Mycroft is totally played by Rhys Ifans. 

You mean you don't love what I've done with the place?

Hijinks ensue and Joan, whom Sherlock has been training in his crime fighting ways, observes that Mycroft has a scar on his hand from surgery. She questions him about it, and he confesses that he had a bone marrow transplant and wants to repair his relationship with Sherlock, even though Sherlock banged Mycroft's former fiance. Well. D'aww. Joan's advice to Mycroft is that if he really wants Sherlock to listen to him, he should do something to get his attention. So, naturally, Mycroft takes this advice and builds a bomb and blows up a bunch of Sherlock's stored possessions.

Now I've destroyed things you love.

So shines a good deed in a naughty world.

Needless to say, Joan and Sherlock are able to assist Lestrade in proving his theory and arresting this super shady rich a-hole, but some questions do arise about the nature of Sherlock and Watson's relationship via Sherlock's speculation that Joan wants to bang his bro. I'm really hoping the writers aren't going to decide to ship them off because the dynamic they've already created between the two works perfectly well for the series' purpose.  

Elementary airs at 10 p.m.  EST on Thursdays on The Eyeball. 

You mean you're gonna stop yewwing at da teeveez 'bout how you can't bewieve dat ugwy old vase is worth dat much? Howcomez?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Agents of Snark

Nerds in the know have been waiting for this week with bated breath since just shortly after Robert Downy Jr. and company destroyed New York last summer. The reason? The premier of ABC’s new show, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (sidebar, typing out that acronym every time I reference the show is going to get old wicked fast.) The anticipation for this show? Galactic(us). The hype? Hulk-sized. The payoff?

Um. Good? Ish?

Let’s start with the technical aspects. The show is competently written, shot, casted, etc. We are introduced to our heroes, including the cocky super agent, the snarky super-computer expert, the nerd-bait twin British scientists and, of course, re-introduced to Agent Coulson, played with continued understated aplomb by Clark Gregg reprising his role from several of Marvel’s movies. But wait, you say! Wasn’t Agent Colson killed off in The Avengers as part of a cheap bit of plot phlebotinum? Turns out there’s more to that story than that, which gives us another required component of a new action-adventure story – the secret Byronic mystery of what happened to Our Hero. “He can never know the truth,” cameo-ing guest star Cobie Smulders mutters to a S.H.I.E.L.D. doctor. Cue intrigue and the sincere hope by fanboys that Smulders’ Agent Maria Hill returns to the show just as soon as How I Met Your Mother wraps its final season.

Her undercover persona is that of a Canadian pop star who sings about shopping at the mall. 

As for the plotting and the actors, what can you expect? As per usual, we have a collection of impossibly gorgeous people acting impossibly gorgeous while gorgeously thwarting evil and tossing around witty rejoinders faster than Hawkeye could notch those arrows in the movie. The pilot resolves around our nascent team hunting down a man who has inadvertently revealed himself to have super powers after he saves a woman from a burning building. Of course, nothing is as it seems and the burning building, the saved woman and even the reluctant super hero are all revealed to have much more going on.Along the way, the Agents recruit the aforementioned beautiful computer-ista who is also trying to hunt him down, though possibly only so that her blog could get a few more hits if she lands an interview with him or something. Her motivations are a little unclear. 

Nothing says "malcontent government overthrowing computer expert" like an unbuttoned cardigan.

So we have action, some high-falutin’ special effects, a bit of the old trademark Whedon dialogue (“with great power comes…,” intones one of the characters, “…a ton of weird crap you are not prepared to deal with.”), and a hint of mystery. Add to it that this is all Joss Whedon, King of the Nerds, being given mostly free reign in one of the nerdiest of playgrounds ever and it should be a recipe for EPIC nerdgasm.

And here’s the thing: For a lot of people, I think it will be. I was left a little…underwhelmed, maybe? I thought the episode was good, even if I honestly had a hard time paying attention to all the scenes. I noticed after about twenty minutes I was reaching down to play with my phone instead of devoting myself to each scene.  I’m a huge comic book nerd and a devoted Joss Whedon fan, but I’d be lying if I said that I haven’t been approaching this entire series somewhat cautiously since I first heard about it.

Whedon is uniformly smart in his writing, but smarts doesn’t a good TV show make. I didn’t personally find anything about the pilot that hooked me aside from the Marvel pedigree and the creators’ names. It also didn’t help that the one character that I was most intrigued by is the one that lasted the shortest amount of time, dying before the end of the first episode This could easily be chalked up to pilot-syndrome. First episodes are notoriously hard to make and can easily crush under their own weight or fail to adequately capture what the show’s creators are intending to show going forward. Whedon is also a notoriously slow starter; look at any of his shows that made it past one season and tell me that they didn’t really start to find their sea-legs until much later into their run.

I share Coulson's non-nonplussed reaction to the large hyped-up attention ball in the center of everyone's vision.

I’m not ruling out Agents going forward. Joss Whedon has entertained me enough over the years that he’s bought the benefit of the doubt from me several times over. As to whether or not the show will be your new appointment television (there’s going to be an open spot in a lot of dance cards after Breaking Bad goes off the air this Sunday), that will likely depend on how much you’re willing to stick with a hero-less superhero story and the extent to which Marvel and Whedon’s partnership continues to be a productive one. They’re on top of the world right now, cinematically speaking, with several movies coming out in the next nine months and several more planned through 2018. Whether a weekly show is a rainbow bridge to Asgard too far remains to be seen.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Capsule Reviews

There's a lot of new shows premiering this week so let's knock some of these reviews out, shall we?

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.: Was there really any chance that I wouldn't like this? Joss Whedon wrote and directed the pilot, I mean come on. In case you've been living under a rock, the show follows Agent Coulson (newly resurrected from death in The Avengers movie) as he puts together a team of agents within SHIELD to handle strange cases. As is oft repeated during the pilot episode, it's a brave new world out there now that the public knows about the presence of super heroes. Oh, and that little thing that was the Battle of New York. You know, when aliens basically destroyed all of New York City and the Avengers had to save our asses. Anyway, SHIELD is starting to operate out of the shadows and there is another super secret organization working against them. Typical.

You've got all the hallmarks of a Joss Whedon show here: clever, self-aware dialogue, strong female characters, and lots of familiar faces from past Whedon shows (Gunn! Shepherd Book!). Though at times it felt a little too Hollywood-slick (and maybe a tad bit too cutesy clever for it's own good), consider me hooked. And based on the giant ratings for the premiere, I'm not the only one. If you're a Joss Whedon or Marvel universe fan, this one's a no brainer. If not, but you think something that combines the best elements of Buffy, Fringe, and Alias is interesting you should also give it a look. And if none of THAT appeals to you....then I don't know what to say. Clearly you live an empty and humorless existence and have bigger problems than I can solve.

Marvel's Agents of SHIELD airs Tuesday nights at 8:00pm on ABC.

The Blacklist: It all sounded good on paper. James Spader as a creepy member of the FBI's Most Wanted who one day mysteriously turns himself in to help catch the very criminals and terrorists that he himself used to help. But he'll only cooperate if paired with a young agent just starting her career as a profiler. In reality though...I was kind of bored. The show was just too derivative of Silence of the Lambs. There was a sort of interesting twist at the end involving the FBI agent, but I haven't made up my mind if I am going to stick with it or not. I don't consider myself a quitter so I might give it a few more episodes, but it's going to have to up the thrill factor if I am going to stay interested. NBC is certainly throwing a lot of money at the screen (and it paid off with big ratings), but so far I am just meh.

The Blacklist airs Mondays at 10:00pm on NBC.

Hostages: Ooooh, I was really looking forward to this one. Mostly because I love Toni Collette (have you seen Muriel's Wedding??), and because the premise looked interesting. Toni plays a surgeon scheduled to perform surgery on the President....when the night before the procedure she and her family are taken hostage by a group of people (led by Dylan McDermott) who want her to kill the President. OR ELSE.

It is very cinematic in quality and story, so much so that I am not sure how they plan to sustain it. I heard somewhere that this one is more of a "limited run" series in the British model with fewer episodes than a full season order, so that sounds promising, but I still don't know if the show can keep up the momentum of the pilot which was quite taut and fast-paced. Everyone in the show (even the teenage kids) have secrets so I am sure those will come into play. And I like that we aren't exactly clear on what the kidnappers/terrorists motivation is yet. My one big quibble is the music--tone down the dramatic moments, soundtrack. It's distracting. Bottom line: a well-thought out thriller that has me wondering what will happen next. I'll definitely be sticking with it.

Hostages airs Mondays at 10:00pm on CBS.

Coming soon: thoughts on the return of Glee, and reviews of new shows Betrayal, Ironside, and The Originals.

And in case you forgot to bookmark it, here is another link to TV Guide's Fall Premiere Calendar, including new and returning shows.

Monday, September 23, 2013

MUHDUH Most Foul

While we're bonding with our new royal bundle of joy, there's plenty of time to curl up with a cuppa and enjoy a couple of PBS's most recent Masterpiece Mystery offerings: Endeavour, Silk, and the series finale of Inspector Lewis. There's something comforting about shows that follow a predictable pattern of posh British people in fancy dress offing each other. 

If your Angophilia doesn't extend far enough to your wanting to hear the phrase "the Queen's gynecologist" and "ZOMGZ THE ROYAL BABY" repeated several times in succession (HA! SUCCESSION! HA!) on the network newz, strap on your Wellies head over to PBS. Oh, you don't watch PBS? Oh, okay then.

I'm Alan Cumming and this is Masterpiece Mystery. I am also a bit of a wankah.

So, I was really sad about the ending of ITV's Inspector Lewis series. I started watching it on Netflix, then I watched the final season air on PBS. Who knew that Oxford had such a high murder rate? Is there anyone still living in Oxford now? Or is everyone dead? I visited there a few years ago and no one tried to off me. Perhaps I should have posed as a shady Oxbridge don? 

For those of you who don't know, Inspector Lewis is a sequel to the highly popular British MUHDUH mystery show, Inspector Morse. It follows the exploits of widowed Detective Inspector Lewis (Kevin Whately), who was Inspector Morse's partner. After Morse's death, Lewis was partnered with uppity college boy, Detective Sergeant Hathaway (Laurence Fox), and Inspector Lewis has to come to terms with all of his new partner's book learnin'. Hathaway and Lewis, of course, learn to set aside their differences to solve MUHDUHS, and the banter twixt the two gents is actually quite hilarious at times. Also, Lewis TOTES gets to get his flirt on with the lady medical examiner. So, there's that. 

I'm moody, haunted by my past and unconventionally handsome. What else can I do for you?

I have a great deal of affection for Inspector Lewis, and I'm sorry that there won't be any more episodes. However, after seven years, I can totally understand the actors wanting to move on to other projects. Inspector Lewis is available on Netflix streaming and DVD. Netflix doesn't have all of the episodes streaming yet, so you might be in a bit of a pinch if you want to watch later episodes.

Now, with Inspector Lewis off the air, ITV has come up with an interesting PREQUEL to the Inspector Morse series, which follows Morse's adventures as a young constable in the 1960s. 

ITV Exec 1: I know! Let's do Mad Men. But let's kill people!

ITV Exec 2: Oh, simply ripping idea!

ITV Exec 3: Smashing!

The Queen: How droll!

I'm keepin' Her Majesty's Peace, bijez.

Yes, there are only a few episodes for this first series, but it's worth getting into, especially since ITV has renewed the show for a Series 2. I feel like British dramas put a lot more time into making an episode of a show than American productions do, and that's why there tend to be fewer episodes in a season/series. Sometimes, American shows kind of just say, "Good enough" and crank out 20 episodes. The Brits take their time to write, film and edit each show, so the average quality level tends to be higher. And, you know, who else is going to create a crime drama and put everyone in period dress? WHO ELSE, I ASK YOU? No one. No one but the Brits.

No quip here.  I just fucking love the queen.

Endeavour is set in the 1960s, and while Mad Men comparisons are somewhat valid, it actually reminds me more of the now-defunct late-1950s news drama, The Hour. It even features the same wormy character actor as the leads' boss. What else could you ask for? An unconventionally handsome leading man? Yes, I'll take one of those. Check, please! 

The show begins with Endeavour Morse as young Constable Morse (Shaun Evans), forced to work his way up through the ranks of his local precinct, where he is not taken seriously, even after he solves, like, three murders in a row. There's a jealous detective in the precinct who is always throwing all kinds of shade at Morse. The police chief may or may not have been bought off. Really, his only ally is his ostensible partner, DI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam). 

Am I as fond of Endeavour as I am of Inspector Lewis? No, not as yet. However, it does have the same buddy cop drama vibe that Inspector Lewis has, with crotchety, hardened detective, Thursday somewhat suspicious of his college-educated young partner. Since everything in England is class-based, Thursday and Morse have the same dynamic as the working-class Lewis and the Cambridge-educated Hathaway. They do manage to put that aside and do things like solve murders and stuff. Excuse me. MUHDUHS. Seriously, when will the British learn to say "r"? The episodes are not available to watch online, but they are available on DVD and Blu-Ray.

We're lucky enough here stateside to be able to watch both BBC and ITV dramas on PBS, and I guess everyone in the U.S. assumes everything British is from the BBC, anyway, but it's pretty convenient to be able to watch all of this stuff on one channel. Rock on, Kermit.

Elmo hug Kermit. Elmo contract salmonella from frog.

But I digress. The next delightful offering, which is actually courtesy of the BBC, is Silk. Well, butter my crumpet. It's about a LADY BARRISTAH. 

If you've seen any of Law & Order UK or know enough about British people to find them adorable, charming and quaint, you will already be aware that the attorneys wear wigs during their more important court appearances. Seriously, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. How could you not be down with these peeps?


Silk, like many legal dramas, focuses on a law firm (or, as it's known in the UK, chambers). Martha Costello is a sassy blond lady attorney who kicks all kinds of ass. Her ultimate goal -- aside from straightening up pupil barrister and adorable screw-up, Nick Slade; convincing novice barrister, Naimh* Cranitch, that she DEFO SHOULD NOT FUCK office manslut/sleazebag Clive Reader; skirting around scheming fellow attorney, Kate Brockman; and managing an unexpected pregnancy -- is to "take silk." "Taking silk," as Alan Cumming condescendingly explains to the ignorant Americans, is the process whereby British attorneys earn the rank of Queen's Counsel. You can watch Silk online until October 8. 

"In the criminal justice system..." Wait...

Oh, yeah, and also Martha was being stalked by a creepy former client.

It's good to see a legal drama on the idiot box that actually has a female lead. Because, after all, it is 2013 and rah rah votes for women.


Martha is portrayed with aplomb by Maxine Peake. She's a relatable character because, all lawyer jokes aside, you get the sense that she really is a good person, and it does bother her conscience that, for the sake of her career, she has to defend some scumbags who are likely guilty of the crimes they are accused of committing. One particular tough moment for Martha was when she was put in the position of defending a man accused of rape, because according to her own personal convictions, rape victims are the ones who end up being put on trial. Martha's superiors convinced her that she need to have a rape case on her dossier for her silk application, and she assented. Although the prosecuting attorney told the victim that Martha would go easy on her because "her heart wasn't in it," Martha crucified this woman on the stand and brought her to tears. As horrible as it made her feel, Martha knew that this was the kind of game she would have to play to get ahead in the male-dominated world of the British legal system. 

More British intrigue headed your way in a chaise-and-four. There's a new series of Foyle's War and PBS is also airing a new murder mystery drama called The Bletchley Circle. 

*It's pronounced "Nave." Jeez, Britain. Learn English, will you?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Henriad

It should come to no surprise to my fellow erudite TV Sluts that the folks across the pond are adept at creating one hell of a Shakespeare adaptation.  After all, THEY INVENTED SHAKESPEARE. It should also come as no surprise to any Anglophiles that Ben Whishaw is adorable and an amazingly talented actor. Anyone who has seen him in The Hour or Bright Star knows what a mad gifted artist he is.

Usurping my crown is, like, way not cool, bro.

But did you also know that Tom Hiddleston (aka our favorite comic villain, Loki)  is also hot and is playing Prince Hal in the BBC adaptation of The Henriad, entitled The Hollow Crown, airing in the U.S. on most PBS stations? That is a true fact that I just said. 

Drinking and whoring? Yeah, I can handle that. 

Yes, the Brits have gone and done it again. If you're feeling like you need a brush-up on your Willie Shakes, and you weren't able to make it up to the Stratford Festival in Ontario this year, take heart. The BBC adaptation is, SHOCKINGLY, very good. I have borne witness to so much bad Shakespeare in my life, that it does me little heart good to see it done well. Last night, PBS aired the oft-forgotten Richard II. True, it doesn't have the name-recognition and cache of the more popular and commonly performed plays, but it has a driving plot and some damn good soliloquies. We all know that performing Shakespeare is the litmus test of an English-speaking actor, and I was pleased with the Richard II cast. Shakespeare really is one of those cases where the actors' job basically is to get out of the way of the language. In this production, the cast performs with such honesty and the language percolates off the actors' tongues with crystal clarity, which just makes the whole production that much more compelling. 

The plot of Richard II is thus:  Richard II (Whishaw) was the last Plantagenet king of England. ("What's a Plantagenet," you ask? Go back to school!). He is replaced by the first Lancaster king, Henry Bolingbroke/Henry IV (Rory Kinnear). Richard is a young and ambitious king, but he's very wasteful and he spends too much time on buying useless crap from Italy. He also doesn't choose his counselors very well, which seems to have been a common thread among European royals. Richard starts renting out parcels of land to wealthy noblemen to raise money to fund his wars against Ireland. (That England. Always picking on the Irish.) He also seizes the land of his well-respected uncle, John of Gaunt (FUCKING PATRICK STEWART), after John of Gaunt dies.

But wait! There's more! Richard has a cousin named Henry Bolingbroke, who was John of Gaunt's son, and he is PISSED. Not only did Richard seize his land, but he had also exiled Henry six years earlier. 

You were in Skyfall? No way. Me, too.

Richard leaves England to fight a war in Ireland. (Again. WTF. Stop with the Ireland invading already.) While he's gone, Henry assembles an army and invades England. Richard's allies all desert him in his absence, and he returns to England. Henry takes him prisoner and ensconces him in a castle in Pomfret, where he languishes until a plot against Henry unfolds. An assassin takes it upon himself to murder Richard. Henry now feels like he has blood on his hands and jaunts off to Jerusalem to absolve himself of sin. Because that'll help.

I guess that didn't go well.

The only thing that bugged me about this production was, at the end, Richard's body is dragged into Henry's throne room (which is apparently where he sits all day...yawn). The scene pans up from two men standing over Richard's diapered dead body, to a sculpture of Christ and two disciples that is hanging from the ceiling. I was like, come on. COME ON. Come, on really? It's not that I found that offensive in a religious way (since I'm pretty much a heathen). I simply found it heavy-handed from an artistic standpoint. Richard II was murdered by political enemies, but martyred? Really? CAMMAHHHN.

The next installment of The Hollow Crown is Henry IV Part I, with Jeremy Irons as the much older Henry IV and Tom Hiddleston as Prince Hal. Michelle Dockery is apparently taking a break from being all weepy over Matthew to make an appearance as Lady Percy. 

I may be too sexy for this crown.

The Hollow Crown is airing on PBS as part of Great Performances. You can watch it online  or check your local PBS listings for air dates and times. 

Is this why I had a dream that I was Rosalind in As You Like It last night? Imma gonna go with yes 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sleepy Hollow

Greetings, fellow tv-nerds! It's that time of year again....the start of the Fall tv season! It's like Christmas for those of us who love television, with lots of new new shiny packages just waiting to be unwrapped. You never know what might be inside; it could be good, it could be bad....but either way, here at the blog we try to make it fun.

Last night was the first big premiere of the season with Sleepy Hollow over on FOX. All day long I have been getting messages from people asking me what I here goes.
Surprise! I liked it!

I'd characterize it as a fun retelling of Washington Irving's, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Was it perfect? No--in fact some parts were downright silly. But none of the faults were so glaring as to really distract from the elements I enjoyed.

Before we get into specifics, here's the premise (from Wikipedia since work won't let me access the FOX website from my computer, stupid government firewall):
After Ichabod Crane "dies" during a mission for General George Washington in 1781, he awakens in 2013 Sleepy Hollow, New York. But so does the Headless Horseman, whose head Ichabod lopped off before his perceived death. The horseman begins his nightly killing spree, and Ichabod must partner with newly appointed Sheriff Abbie Mills.
So far, there is a lot of stuff I like here. A tall, dark, handsome and British lead character, magic, ghosts, witches, spooky New England settings, and flashbacks to Revolutionary war times which I always find interesting. Waistcoats and corsets for everyone! FOX was wise to premiere the show early (since it hauled in some great ratings), but it really felt like a perfect companion piece for Halloween.

Of course, that doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. One thing I think the pilot got wrong was giving the audience too much information regarding the mythology right off the bat. After the first hour, we know a lot about the specifics of why Ichabod and the Horseman are linked and even a lot of the how. Basic plot spoiler alert: turns out the Horseman is actually one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse (and maybe actual Death himself) and of course Ichabod and Sheriff Abbie now have to prevent the world from ending by deciphering portions of prophecy in the Bible's Book of Revelation and fighting against the Horseman and other demons.*

Oh, and there are warring covens of witches (one light, one dark) who are also fighting against each other to prevent or cause the apocalypse. This means, of course, that there will be lots more supernatural monsters making an appearance in future episodes. I understand that the creators want to set up the show as a series (with a reason for different bad guys and creatures to show up each week), but throwing so much information at us in the first hour 1) takes away a lot of the sense of mystery and 2) makes it all seem really silly. Especially when one character tells another, "The answers are in Washington's Bible!!!"

But despite it all, the show worked for me....mostly due to the performance of Ichabod, played by Tom Mison. I don't remember seeing this guy before (except in the British miniseries Lost in Austen where he looks completely different), but in Sleepy Hollow he is really great. He has the gravitas to pull off what could be a ridiculous character in ridiculous situations, but he manages to bring just enough humor to the role to make him feel like a real fish out of water. I believe that he has been asleep for 250 years and has been thrown into a strange and alien world full of witches and demons. I'm not so impressed with the acting of the
Nicole Beharie (who plays Sheriff Abbie), but I appreciate the multi-ethnic casting which also includes Orlando Jones--Make 7Up Yours!

So, in a nutshell, Sleepy Hollow at times goes a bit too far down the silly rabbit hole, but it also has some genuine chills and a sense of creepy fun. I'm interested to see what happens next, and really that's what you're looking for from a pilot. Give it a try! The pilot is available on the FOX website and on On Demand.

Sleepy Hollow airs Monday evenings at 9:00pm EST on FOX.

 * Am I the only who gets really ticked off when tv shows and movies refer to the Books of Revalations? It's singular people (Revelation), NOT PLURAL. Not that I am a biblical scholar or anything (hahahaha), but COME ON. You're being sloppy.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

DragonCon: Star Trek The Next Generation Panel

Greetings, fellow nerds! (I'm just going to assume for the sake of that opener that we're all nerds here. If you aren't feel free to go read something more in line with your tastes).

I just got flew in from Atlanta and boy are my arms tired! Ok, fine, I've actually been back for about a week, but you haven't heard from me because I almost immediately went back out of town. This is actually pretty much the regular state of things for the next few weeks, so stop complaining and be happy I can post at all.

That sounded way bitchier than I intended.

Anyhoodle, I'm back for now and it's time to catch you up on the amazing television-related fun I had recently at DragonCon, a huge pop culture, multi-media, gaming, comics, sci-fi, etc. etc. convention in Atlanta every year over Labor Day weekend. There are panels for everything and television is definitely well represented--specifically sci-fi and fantasy themed television.

As we wander in the wasteland between now and the start of the Fall tv season (which is actually coming a lot sooner than you think), I am going to post about all the panels at DragonCon that I think might be relevant to your interests. First up....Star Trek: The Next Generation (ST:TNG).

This panel was on my must-view list, especially since it contained my favorite Star Trek actor of all time. No, it's not Patrick Stewart or George Takei (wrong Star Trek, people), but John de Lancie, who played the omnipotent Q. He was fun evil, funny, enigmatic, and everything awesome. And because I am a kind tv blogger who loves my reading audience, I took notes!

There was a surprisingly large number of questions for John de Lancie about his other acting work, especially his voice acting. Hopefully you are aware that he voiced a popular character on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. The character was essentially Q (in pony form) and he told an amusing anecdote about how he had never heard of the show when his agent called and told him they wanted him on the show. He was surprised how good the show was when he read the script, went in and recorded for the episode and promptly forgot about it. Until the episode aired and his email blew up with people freaking out over how amazing it was and how great the character was (by the way--the people emailing him were not little girls, they were bronies). Since that first episode, he has come back 4 or 5 times and will even sing a song in an upcoming episode. Later, de Lancie learned from the creators that his pony character was actually inspired by Q and the network had specifically requested that he do the voice.

John de Lancie was also asked about his recent work on Breaking Bad. He talked about how terrific the writing is and what "consummate actors" Brian and Aaron are (though referring to actors that way kind of seems like a cliche to me). He also mentioned that when the writing is that good, all you have to do as an actor is get out of the way of the words.

Moving on to Brent Spiner, he was asked how he felt about the ending of the last TNG movie, Nemesis. Spoiler alert: Data dies (gasp!) but there is a second Data called B4 (beta Data?) who could have conceivably carried any Data-centric story-lines. The ending of Nemesis was fairly controversial among the fans with most people basically hating it. But Spiner said that he was fine about the demise of Data and figured the writers would always find a way to bring him back in the next movie. And in the end, since there did not end up being another movie, it became a big dramatic moment for Data.

Someone also asked Spiner about the rumor that he never actually watched a full episode of ST:TNG. He responded that he did watch some of the earlier episodes...but just flat ran out of time to watch in the later years. Suuuuuuuure.

Marina Sirtis also had some really interesting things to say about the character of Troi throughout the run of the show. She mentioned that if you go back and look at it, Troi was actually always right when she warned Picard against some course of action....but he more often than not ignored her. Sirtis also complained that Troi often had stupid lines (her words, not mine) along the line of "He's hiding something." On one memorable occasion she said her line to Patrick Stewart ("he's hiding something") and Stewart shot back, "We know that, you stupid cow." Apparently she got all up in his face calling him "Your Majesty" and he had to go and hide behind Brent Spiner. She's a spirtfire, that Marina Sirtis.

Other random Troi-related facts: the only time you saw her real hair was in the pilot (when it was all frizzy). After that, it was wigs. Also, the development of Troi as a character throughout the series is kind of fascinating. She basically went from mere window-dressing to a full-fledged officer. Sirtis notes that Gene Rodenberry wanted a counselor as a prominent member of the crew to show the importance of both mental and physical health to the society of the future. But then the writers didn't really know what to do with her. It was only when Denise Crosby left the show and Troi was the only woman left on the bridge that the writers really started thinking more about her character.

In closing, I just want to say that it was a real thrill seeing these actors in person. Say what you want about Star Trek, it was my first fandom and the first concrete thing I can remember having in common with my brother. In fact, we still bond over it to this day. It was also fun sitting in the room surrounded by other Trek fans--and since it was DragonCon, you know a lot of them had really fun costumes.

 Trek cosplayers march in the DragonCon parade on Saturday morning.

 Coming up next: the Buffy the Vampire Slayer panel!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Break Out the Spreadsheets

Can you believe it is almost the middle of September? I don't know about you, but my brain is still stuck firmly in summer mode. I keep thinking, "I have weeks until the Fall tv season starts....there is no rush to whittle down the DVR!"

...and then I looked around and realized the new and returning shows were premiering soon. As in NOW.

So in an effort to help you, my dear reading public, I spent 5 seconds googling a Fall tv premiere date calendar. It's amazing the amount of time I am willing to spend to help you all out. I mean, I could have like, picked my nose or a wedgie in the time it took me to find this information and link to it. That is the meaning of SACRIFICE.

 TV Guide really gets all the credit though.

So what new shows am I planning to watch? I'm glad you asked! Here are some things I am definitely tuning in for (and their premiere dates).

Sleepy Hollow: Monday, September 16 at 9:00 on FOX. Hot old timey guy wakes up in the modern world and has to help catch the headless horseman? SOLD.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Tuesday, September 17 at 8:30 on FOX. Andy Samberg in a buddy cop show. Sounds promising.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D: Tuesday, September 24 at 8:00 on ABC. Two words: Joss and Whedon. Seriously, you don't need any other explanation, do you?

Reign: Thursday, October 17 at 9:00 on CW. The Tudors meets Gossip Girl. Yesssssssss.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

We're Going to Be Doing a Fur Transfer

Hello, my good people. It's Arsenic Pie here. Sorry for falling off the planet there for a while. But, here I am. I am back. Please groan or applaud accordingly. I was busy polishing my grills and appropriating ratchet culture for questionable artistic purposes. Takes a lot of energy.

So, this season of Face/Off maybe was supposed to be the most exciting season of Face/Off to date. Anyway, I was stoked at least. I say "was" as in the past tense in order to indicate that I am not, in fact, stoked.

I don't know if you good people missed the unnecessarily long Face/Off season preview special (and if you're watching this season), but in case you aren't already aware, this season has an added twist. Instead of solely bringing in an entire new season of Face/Off contenders, they have brought back previous season contenders (read: losers) and they're competing against the newbies for the title of Ultimate Glenn Hetrick.

Wilkommen auf mein lair, minions.

I am actually quite keen on most of the Face/Off alumni, because it features previous season favorites such as Roy (season 3 fabricator extraordinaire); Tate (TATE!!); future Tim Burton employee RJ; ultimate sweetie Alana; former dark horse and likely season champ Miranda; and Laura (WHO WAS ROBBED). However, I have to wonder about the wisdom of bringing back this Frank individual. 

Pouty Puderschmidt of the Quahog Puderschmidts.

In case you don't remember Frank from whichever season he graced, he was just kind of an asshole whom nobody much liked. I wondered  during the season preview why they would be bringing Frank back and then I realized, duh, dramz. DRAMZ. I guess they are hoping that if there aren't enough catfights amongst the artistes in the workshop, they can always count on Frank to be a turd. I think of all the veterans that they brought back, Frank and Eric Z. are the weakest links. I was kind of looking at them to be the first veterans who get the boot. Again. So, I wasn't really surprised when Eric couldn't get his shiz together and got booted a week or so ago. It's somewhat ironic because Eric Z. won the online Redemption challenge. Whatevz. Frank has been in the bottom looks as well, but this past week Frank actually got it together and ended up in one of the top looks. So, hurray for Frank for not sucking so much. I guess.

The first week started with some fairies plugging the new Syfy show which highlights the world of costumed aggression, Heroes of Cosplay. (As a side note, in case you're wondering if Heroes of Cosplay is Toddlers and Tiaras but with nerds, it's Toddlers and Tiaras but with nerds.) 

My name is Yaya but everyone just calls me "Fairytits."

The first foundation challenge was to create a cosplay character based on the Halloween costumes from amongst a group of volunteers. So, if cosplay has always given you the irks, this might have been a good time to FFW. One hour later, the winner of the foundation challenge was...not Laura. Huzzah! It was Tate. TATE!!

Which one's Fluffy? Dude, they're both named Fluffy.

As far as the contestants go, the veterans are kicking ass and taking names. The final results are generally not even a contest, with the veterans' work looking polished and professional and the newbies' work looking...well, a hot mess.  All of the challenges have been won by vets, and the vast majority of the people who have gone home have all been newbies. So, the whole result is kind of meh. I don't mean to sound entirely negative about this season, but the new people really haven't impressed me that much. None of them are really that interesting and I can't get a good gauge of their talent level because they are getting kicked off the show early on because the vets are just that good. A point in their favor is that none of the newbies are histrionic drama queens who go around the workshop causing 99 problems, so that's at least a step in the right direction.

However, Imma gonna have to stick up for my girl Laura here because she is getting shafted right and left. Laura landed in the bottom last week, although her look was not THAT BAD. It could have been better, but it could have been a lot worse, and she was paired with Frank. However, she's been in the top looks the rest of the time, but she has not won. This was the whole story during her season, and the finale particularly sucked because freaking what's-her-face won even though Laura clearly deserved to. So, I guess we're going to do this again. I guess this whole season is going to be another round of Laura being the bridesmaid and never the bride. 

 I know, right? Completely fucking hosed.

I am not sure if I can even continue to watch this season.  I don't know if it's me or if it's the show. Do I need to break up with Face/Off? I like Miranda and all, but does she really deserve to win every challenge. I cannot even look at Laura anymore. It's too painful. She's always in the top looks, but she doesn't win the week's challenge? Even when she was paired with Alana and their team was the number one look, the judges chose Alana as that week's winner. This past week, the judges heaped praise on Laura's look, and unless there were critiques that they left out of the editing, it really looked like Laura was going to win. Then Glenn announced that Miranda had won, and Laura was visibly shocked. Do I even need to sit and watch this whole season or has The Hetrick decided he wants to get into Miranda's pants and thusly crowns her the winner every fucking week? I guess Miranda is talented, but is she really better than Tate? And Laura? And Roy? And RJ? Really?

I don't want to go so far as to say or speculate that the female contestants are being rewarded based on their relative cuteness and/or likeability. I am all for rewarding hotness in its due time and place. I feel as though Glenn gets the final say in who wins and who leaves and so as long as he feels like Miranda and Alana are creating better looks than RJ, Laura, Tate and Roy, I guess I haven't felt like sitting through an hour of them creating looks if I already know that Glenn is going to choose Miranda's looks over all the others. 

I am also not sure how I feel about Face/Off turning into this huge show with all of these big-name guest stars and themed events. Sometimes I feel like they've taken this little show that I liked and turned it into this huge...Thing. Anyway, I'll keep you all posted on the end result. 

Guys! Guys! Guys! There's a treasure map on the back of John Travolta!