Friday, March 28, 2014

Strictly Melodrama

So, a while ago, I wrote a post about The Paradise, in which I referenced Mr. Selfridge and stated that I really didn't like Selfridge all that much. Well, I do have a couple main qualms with the show, but the first SERIES (because it's British and they call it a SERIES) recently re-aired on PBS at like 3 a.m. and it ended up on my DVR and I decided to give it another go. I ended up actually... liking it. Okay, it's a pretty typical melodrama with touches of bodice ripping, but who doesn't want to listen to me yell, "Giiirrl! Giirrrlll! Ohhhh, giiiirrrrl he is a dawwwgggg, girl!" at my TV? AS I SUSPECTED.

Downton Abbey what?

Since Downton Abbey has completely jumped the rails, I have been seeking my costumed aggression elsewhere. However, I know I am putting off the inevitable, because like an unhealthy relationship, I'm sure I'll eventually be going right back to DA so it can let me down again. Then my friends will be all like, "Girl, why you going back to that? You know it's just gonna let you down" and I'll be like, "I knooowww. But I was wondering what happened and I thought maybe it would be better this time." And then my friends would be all

Since I need my dose of people sobbing in corsets, I have decided to give Mr. Selfridge another shot. Like Downton Abbey, Mr. Selfridge is an ensemble show. The protagonist is Harry Selfridge, the Brash American Who Defies English Stuffiness.

The drama is based on the real-life Selfridge & Co, and which opened on March 15, 1909. So there are big hats. And these newfangled automobiles. 

The show is based off the book Shopping, Seduction and & Mr Selfridge, by Lindy Woodhead, available at Barnes & Noble, Amazon and other fine retailers. Although I disagree with this book's tagline, "If you lived at Downton Abbey, you shopped at Selfridge's." Upon my word, ladies do not do their own shopping. That's servants' work. Heavens!

Jeremy Piven leads the cast as Harry Gordon Selfridge, the Chicago businessman who comes to London to open a department store in direct competition to the storied Harrod's. 

And I'm here to organize the River City Boys' Band.

Harry's brash style rubs the British press and many potential well-heeled investors the wrong way, and quite honestly, it's kind of easy to see why. I mentioned before I didn't like this show at first, and that's because I didn't really care for Jeremy Piven in the first three or four episodes. I'm kind of used to him at this point, but the show has done such a good job of creating an interesting ensemble piece that they've created a situation where the supporting cast is more interesting than the main lead. I don't know if this comes down to writing, directing, or personal taste, but I can't really say I am a fan of Piven's take on the role. I understand that his character is supposed to be the consummate salesman, but in every scene, and in every situation -- including many that are emotionally taxing -- he delivers every line in the same tone of voice while sporting the same shit-eating grin.

This is my concerned face. And my excited face. And my thinking face. And also my concerned face.

I just feel like an actor of Piven's caliber would be able to do more with this role than what I have been seeing thus far in the production, and I'd like to see Piven bring more dimensions and nuances to his character. I don't think he's miscast in the role at all, but I feel like he is trying too hard all of the time to put on a show and if that's deliberate it's coming across to me more as scenery-chewing than ironic emosadz.  I haven't read the book yet (but I made it Goodreads official by adding it to my to-reads) so I don't know if Harry Selfridge was as much of an ass to everyone in real life as he is portrayed to be on the show, but the production has created a lead role that isn't terribly likable or sympathetic. Don Draper he ain't.

Early character sketch.

Fortunately for us, the writers have provided us with a really fun and interesting supporting cast featuring characters whom we can root for and throw rotten produce at. The most likable and interesting character is our prosh ingenue, Agnes Towler. Agnes is a working-class gal trying to make a life for herself and her brother, since their mum died and their dad is a no-good drunkard. 

In the pilot, Agnes had a job at a swank store in London, until she was fired because someone named Harry Selfridge came into the store and encouraged her to try on a pair of gloves. Harry gives Agnes a chance to get hired at Selfridge's, if only his store was actually open. Harry is finally able to procure backing from Lady Locksley, and Agnes is one of his first hires. She starts off working at the accessories counter with Kitty and Doris, who develop plot lines and characterizations in their own right throughout the course of the first SERIES. 

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.

Agnes also has a romance (with a small r) with the Romantic (with a large R) Henri Leclair, ZEE FRENCH ARTEEST who Harry hires to create window displays for the store. This puts a damper on her budding romance (with a small r) with Victor Coleano, who works at the Palm Court restaurant in Selfridge's and has a thing with Agnes until his head is turned by Lady Locksley, who is kind of a ho. Lady Locksley's husband is apparently 100 years old and so she spends her time being a suffragette, backing odd business deals, and being the moral ruin of earnest young men. Just some full on Alexis Carrington realness. 

Yes, but dahhhling. It's good to be a gangsta.

Oh, and did I mention the part about Harry being kind of a philandering slut? Harry is a philandering manwhore. He is constantly cheating on his wife, the long-suffering Rose (exquisitely played by my girl Frances O'Connor). Harry's most significant affair is with Ellen Love, a London burlesque star (and Dr. Who companion reject) WHO WANTS TO BE A REAL ACTRESS SOMEDAY. 

Just no, girl. Just no. 

That's not to say that MRS. Selfridge isn't getting some somethin somethin. She meets an ARTIST FELLOW who paints her portraits and they fall in the lovez. Then Rose tells him she can't see him anymore. Then he starts paying attention to 17-year-old daughter Rosalee and all manner of unmentionable substances hit various electric cooling devices.

Hands off the artist, beyotch. 

So, despite the leading man's drawbacks, there are still a lot of plot lines that the show has going for it. The other major qualm I have with the production is the historical stunt casting. During almost every episode, the store is visited by some notable and inoffensive historical figure in actor form. During the first few episodes, it felt like the show was relying too much on the historical figures to keep the show interesting because none of the non-Harry plot lines had been fully developed. A couple of the later celebrities were more interesting, like polar explorer Ernest Shackleton and ballerina Anna Pavlova, but even they outshone the lead -- and Anna Pavlova didn't even speak any English. I'm a huge geek about Anna Pavlova. I read a biography about her in sixth grade for my English class and after we finished our book reports I checked it out about five more times afterward. Whenever I got to the part where she died of pleurisy I cried buckets. I also looked up pleurisy in the encyclopedia and learned its path of infection. There is nothing wrong with me. Not a damn thing. So I enjoyed seeing a couple of the historical figures, but most of the rest of the guests were mostly filler for me. But I am surprised Harry didn't try to get into her knickers. Or I guess it would be her tutu.

Pro tip: Say: "я не гаварю по-англаийски" when creepy guys approach you on the street. 

One final quibble is about the casting. Every actress on this show in a "serious" part (with the possible exception of Rosalee) is a brunette, and at first all the female characters look the same. I find this brunettist. Or anti-blonde. Anyway, most of the blonde or redheaded actresses are relegated to bit parts and, as a blonde, I find this to be a trigger warning about dumb blonde jokes. That is all.

Aren't sold yet???!! But wait! There's more! For only $19.95 you can watch the new SERIES of Mr. Selfridge on PBS starting March 30. Actually, it's free and everyone gets PBS. You get a PBS! And you get a PBS. AND YOU GET A PBS.


Monday, March 24, 2014

We Used to be Friends

After years of waiting and waiting (and waiting)...the Veronica Mars movie is finally here! There was no doubt this was a movie made for the fans, both literally and figuratively, since most of us ponied up the money through Kickstarter to get the thing made.

But was it worth the wait? In this post, TV Sluts past, present (and future?) comment on the film and discuss whether it met our expectations.

Oh, and it probably goes without saying...but spoilers ahead!

First up: Clovis!
The good – I love these characters and loved seeing them again. I loved the ending. Even though we knew from the first moment we started watching that there was no way in hell that Veronica was ever going to go back to New York and be a lawyer, it was still gratifying to see her (spoiler alert) taking over that Mars Investigations chair in the last shot. Also? More Mac. Always more Mac. I would watch a tech-heavy Mac spin off where she fights cyber-crime.

The bad – I wanted the movie to look as noir-y as the show did and it never quite managed it. All the saturated color and shadows of the show kind of got sunshine’d out in the movie. Also, the limitations that the movie was working off did have an impact – scenes that should have been rewritten clearly couldn’t be because there wasn’t time to do it; characters had to written flatly in case an actor couldn’t make the shooting schedule. (Though the fact that Rob Thomas and Co. pulled off everything they did that quickly is pretty amazing.) 
My big beef though was that never once did I ever believe Logan may have actually killed Carrie. In the show, Logan is written to be ambiguous about his actions – we believe that he can be underhanded or murderous. I would have liked there to be a bit more doubt about Logan’s guilt or innocence, and as such there’s no good tension there at all between Logan and Veronica. 
That said, I did enjoy the movie a lot although watching Veronica Mars was similar to watching Serenity in that they’re both total nostalgia bait and reminders that you’re never going to get back what you once had.

The only thing that I really didn’t like was the obscene number of “we used to be friends” lead-ins that all the media articles on the movie used. Come on, feature writers – think fresh.
Next: Sri!
My favorite Veronica Mars character is Eli "Weevil" Navarro, the leader of the local bike club (PCHers). The only thing we knew about his characters from the previews was that he had "gone straight" and gotten married. By the end of the movie, Weevil has survived a gunshot wound and had reclaimed his role as head of the PCHers. Someone commented to me about how depressing it was that he ended up back where he started. But what is a noble villain without the villainy? He's just a noble dude, and god knows Life kicks noble dudes in the teeth. Also, without Weevil, Veronica lacks the necessary underworld contacts/street cred to be a successful PI. Also... leather jacket. Enough said.
...and then, Priya!

The VM movie was like saying hello to an old friend. A two hour treatment of what made the show so great...a girl with an identity crisis unknowingly longing to return to who she was before and realizing that freedom comes from stopping that fight and taking up the mantle of crusader against the powerful. She is an imperfect heroine that doesn't always do the right thing but along with a rich diverse broader cast of characters finds a way to at least try.

Weighing in from Texas, here's Cheryl:
I adored it. It felt like a long episode, albeit a much darker one. Not that Neptune was ever sunshine and roses, but this was a whole new level of messed up. I get the feeling that it was probably the show Rob Thomas wanted to make but, you know, Standards and Practices. The only real complaints I have are how out of the blue Logan joining the Navy felt (not that I object, especially not to that uniform, I just would like to know what led up to that decision) and the path Wallace's life took. Why is he not an engineer? What happened that made him give up on the dream that was so important to him he stepped down from the basketball team? I think a lot of the movie was set up for the book series though, so maybe we'll get the answers there.
And finally, what did I think?
It's so rare for something to meet your expectations. And maybe it's just the excitement and a bit of rose-colored glasses...but honestly? I loved it. I have no complaints. I have no quibbles. I didn't go into the movie "wanting" anything specific to happen, I just walked in and let in unfold. It was Rob Thomas' story and I was beyond happy and content to just be along for the ride. It felt like hanging out with an old friend, where no matter how long you have been away from each other, you just pick up right where you left off. Of course, in this case the old friends happen to be some of the most supremely messed up people ever with major trust issues who wouldn't know a healthy relationship if it walked into the room and dropped its drawers...but still. My opinion might change upon further viewings, but for now? Nothing but love and gratitude that I got to revisit the world of Veronica.  
And let's be real. Vinnie Van Lowe, Cliff, Deputy/Detective Leo, Principal Van Clemmons...and OMG CELESTE KANE?? How could I ask for more? 
Feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments below!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Recapping AHS: Our Long National Nightmare is Over

Yup, it's been forever on this one, everybody. I wish I could say it was entirely because I was too busy to write this, but it's more than that. I'll explain more at the end, but in the meantime how do we start the final episode of the season? With a music video! Starring Stevie Nicks, naturally! Seriously – it happened.  Vaguely because we needed to see a montage about how each of the girls study for their finals the Seven Wonders, but really it just came off looking a lot like an early 90s VH1 hit.

The night before the trials begin, Myrtle has literally prepared a last supper modeled after DaVinci. Mrytle explains that any of the four girls competing could die in the process. “Childhood is over, my girls,” Cordelia tells them. “Kick ass tomorrow.”

The first wonder! Each of the girls must use telekinesis to move a burning candlestick across the table to their hands. Misty goes first and nails it. Queenie, Madison, and Zoe each follow. No elimination round here!

What "light as a feather, stiff as a board" would like like if high schools had sorority hazing rituals.

The second wonder! Mind control! Misty is up first again and makes Queenie smack herself repeatedly. Queenie retaliates by forcing Misty to pull her own hair. Madison gets more personal, however, and compels Kyle to make out with her in front of Zoe. Zoe, however, will cut a bitch and makes Kyle come to her for an extended make out. Madison then forces Kyle to strangle Zoe until Cordelia interrupts the entire test.

The third wonder! Descent into Hell. As Queenie learned last time, getting down isn’t hard, it’s the coming back before dawn that’s tricky. Each of the girls lies on the floor and descends into their own private hell. Queenie is back in the fried chicken shack. She rolls her eyes and makes it back first. Madison follows closely – gasping for breath. “It was horrible,” she cried. “I was stuck on a network musical. It was a live version of the Sound of Music. I wasn’t even the lead! I was Lisle.” Zoe surfaces later, coming out a hell where Kyle didn’t love and kept breaking up with her and oh Jesus really, Zoe? I don’t even want to talk about that. Misty, however, is not shaping up so well – she’s stuck in high school biology dissection class. Misty keeps reanimating her dead frogs until her jerk Bio teacher makes her cut apart a live one. Over and over. Poor Misty is not getting the point, screaming each time she’s forced to kill the frog. It’s getting light out and she’s still not coming back to the land of the living. Cordelia wants to help, but there’s nothing anyone can do but Misty herself. Unfortunately, the time runs out and Misty’s body decays into ashes in Cordelia arms. Which I seriously have problems with, because Misty rocked. Ugh.

Misty, we hardly knew ye...

The fourth wonder! Transmutation. Which basically just means playing tag, but with lots of vanishing. The girls actually start to break into levity, beginning to have fun until Zoe transmutates herself onto the spikes on top of the gates and impales herself where no one can reach her. Bummer. Time for the fifth wonder! Bringing the dead back to life. Queenie attempts to revive Zoe but isn’t able to for some reason. “Guess who isn’t the Supreme,” Madison crows. Cordelia tells Madison that the only way to prove that she can be Supreme is to bring Zoe back to life, proving that she can perform that Wonder. Madison, however, isn’t too keen on bringing in another competitor, especially since Queenie has effectively been eliminated. Madison finds a third way, killing a fly and then bringing it back. Game, set, match. “I’m starting to think Fiona had the right idea,” Madison crows. “Crown me, or kiss my ass.”

That night, Cordelia confesses to Myrtle that she feels she’s failed for allowing the Coven to die out if Madison is the best they can produce. Myrtle, however, sees it differently – Cordelia herself could be the next Supreme. Her own lack of building on her power has been because Fiona has held her back all these years. Game on! Freaky Eyes Cordelia goes into action the next day, lighting fires from a distance, making Queenie dance, levitating a grand piano, and generally making Madison start to sweat. It’s not until she comes back from Hell and still manages to transmute herelf across the house that things get serious though.

On to the sixth wonder! Each of the three witches must magically devine the location of particular items that belonged to former Supremes in the house. Cordelia locates hers within moments. Madison, however, has a much more difficult time. She’s unable to ascertain the location of her item, suggesting several possibilities and never getting a single one right. She throws a temper tantrum. “I’m going back to Hollywood, where things are normal,” she screams.

Like getting paid to make out on camera with the frankenstein'd version of your real-life boyfriend.

As she angrily packs upstairs, a grief-stricken Kyle approaches her and grabs her neck, demanding to know why Madison let Zoe die. Madison cries that she loves Kyle and that she did it for them. Kyle does what he does best and strangles Madison, leaving her body on her bed. But because not even death can stop things from being creepy, Ghost Spauling is on hand to “help” by removing the body for Kyle.

In the greenhouse, Cordelia makes her move toward the final of the Seven Wonders, reanimating Zoe’s dead body. Now fully a Supreme, Cordelia finds her eyes magically restored and she herself now in the full bloom of “glowing, radiant health.” And what to do with her new-found Supremacy? Press conference! After the passage of some time, Cordelia makes the decision to announce the presence of witches to the world and is being interviewed by Cable News. She issues an open call to all potential witches, urging them to come out of the shadows and come study at Miss Robichaux’s.

As the applications begin to pour in, Cordelia tells Myrtle that she wants to restart the Council with Zoe and Queenie as members. Mrytle agrees, but is more concerned about moving forward on a new era, needing to “clear the rot of the past.” By which she means that it is only right that Myrtle, as the one who murdered the past Council, needs to die. “At the start of your glorious reign, the last thing you need is a Watergate,” she tells Cordelia. Cordelia thinks of Myrtle as her true mother and isn’t keen on this whole process, but it’s what has to be done.

Back to the Stake! Myrtle is back where she started, doused in gasoline and about to be put to death for the second time. At least this time it’s done in love? Or something? And she gets to chose her own dress and her own last word. (“BALENCIAGA!”) And with that, Cordelia lights Myrtle aflame and heads back to the Academy.

Before long, there’s a line of goth girls trying to get into the real live Hogwarts. Cordelia officially asks Zoe and Queenie to be her right hands and her Council. The three of them go downstairs to open the doors, but first Cordelia says there’s one more thing she needs to deal with.

In the living room, who should be there but a withered and decaying Fiona. Turns out that vision of her death was planted into the Axeman’s head by Fiona as a rouse to suss out the next Supreme. Obviously, it didn’t go exactly as planned. Either way, Cordelia figures out what happened and can tell that Fiona is in her final moments. Fiona explains that all her life she saw Cordelia as a reminder of her eventual death, though she “loved you plenty” in her own way. It’s actually a testament to how good both these actors are and how good they are at playing apart from each other that this entire scene is ridiculously intense when it’s just two women sitting in a nice living room talking. It’s hard to figure out when exactly Fiona is going to strike and she feels like someone who you just can’t trust asking for a hug. The tension is so well played that when Fiona begs for and end to her own pain from Cordelia, you legitimately don’t know what’s going to happen. Until Fiona, true to her word, slips quietly away, dying in Cordelia’s arms.

Goodnight, horrible princess. And a flight of demons, etc. etc.

And then, Fiona awakes in a simple bed in a country house somewhere, nice but far from the glamorous surroundings we’ve seen her in. The sun is shining and she’s healthy, but she’s confused. The Axeman comes in from fishing and Fiona is repulsed. “Why are you always like this?” He asks her. Every morning, she wakes up and she doesn’t know where she is. It’s been like this for “eternity”, according to the Axeman. As she begins to realize where she is, a place that “reeks of fish and cat piss and knotty pine”, the Axeman tells her he’s in Heaven with her and she’s not going anywhere. Somewhere in the shadows, Papa Legba catches Fiona’s eye and laughs.

And in the academy, the doors are opened and a vast new generation of witches streams in. All wearing black, naturally. “We’ve survived,” Cordelia tells the witches-in-training. “It’s our time to thrive.”

And there we are – the end of American Horror Story: Coven. What with the bevy of talented actresses, the luscious sets, the gorgeous atmosphere provided by filming in New Orleans, it seems like this season had all the makings of an amazing season of television. So why did it feel so...flat? Somehow it became an example of something where the parts were greater than the sum. To borrow a quote from a friend of mine, the season was like a Bloody Mary - a final product that just wasn't good, even though each of the pieces are enjoyable on their own. This season also suffered from a critical sin - it just wasn't scary. Lance Riddick's too-little-too-late turn as Papa Legba brought some welcome chills, but by the time we made it to him the show was too far gone into the overly drawn out plot line of the next Supreme for us to really ever get scared. Given that the first two seasons did such a good job delivering genuine "pillow of fear" moments, it was a serious letdown to lose those here.

I'm not calling American Horror Story's death nell just yet - even strong shows can have weak seasons and given that this show is an anthology, we can't expect every story to be as good as the others - but I will say that the writers need to take a serious look at what they need to accomplish in next season's story and learn how to ensure that spectacle doesn't completely drown out what makes the show interesting to watch. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


Hey look, it's another guest post! I know what you're thinking. That I am just getting all my friends to write guest posts on the blog because I am too lazy to write them myself. Well, let me just say that you are absolutely right. This one comes courtesy of my awesome friend, Rosa, who is hilarious and watches almost as much tv as me. Almost. She reviews the new Hulu Original series, Deadbeat, which stars the hilarious Tyler Labine (whom I loved in the short-lived CW series, Reaper). I gotta say, the show sounds fun.

I honestly hadn't seen any of the new Hulu original series until I was given a Klout Perk* to see the premiere episode of Deadbeat before the release of all 10 episodes, on April 9th.

The tagline “Helps ghosts. Can't help himself” is a perfect way to get people intrigued for this show. It's about an unfortunate hot-mess named Kevin Pacalioglu, who happens to be a medium. He's a guy who can't seem to get it together but somehow finds a way to help the spirits of New York in resolving their unfinished business.

Deadbeat is the first collaboration between Hulu and Lionsgate and it involves a smorgasbord of well-respected producers co-creators. Troy Miller (Arrested Development, Flight of the Concords) directed and executive produced the show so I was excited to see how this new comedic series would end up. The playful retro horror trailers (there are three total) were a fun extra and I liked their whisper campaign. When I paired all of this with the fact that this supernatural comedy starred Tyler Labine, I stopped what I was doing to watch.

The first thing I will say about Deadbeat is that Labine has excellent comedic instincts and carries this series as its leading man with ease. It was refreshing to see him in a starring role and not in an ensemble or being the quirky best friend. The rest of the casting seemed just as strong but luckily they focused more on the main character in the pilot rather than trying to introduce too many people.

The episode starts off with some completely unnecessary racial jokes and there are a few sprinkled in throughout. Honestly, that was the biggest hurdle for me to get over. I know they're calling it "fun, edgy and provocative" but ethnic potshots are not fun, edgy or provocative. They're avoidable and unwarranted in a world trying to overcome stereotypes.

Some of the writing was obvious in trying to push for laughs and it was the only reason I never fully connected to Kevin. He is the type of character that is like a dumb puppy. You want to get mad or irritated at him but somehow you can't. It's like he just doesn’t know any better. He's already a stoner, a loser and bit of a simpleton... He doesn't need to make racial jokes as well as trying to get us to laugh. A lot of us respond to that type of underdog and if they ease up in future episodes, Kevin could be a guy we all and up loving. 

The whole episode was a bit campy (in a good way) and it definitely didn't take itself seriously. I think it may be a good show for people who will need to fill in the gap after the upcoming Psych finale, as it holds the same kind of ridiculous over the top scenarios.

There is some serious potential in this series, if they can stop trying to add one-two punch jokes or "funny" drug induced scenarios that come across as trying too hard. In a half-hour show that would be interesting enough on it's own, there is really no time to take away from the plot to try and get a laugh. There were a few times that the writing made me feel like I was watching Fozzy Bear try to push a punchline... (Waka Waka!) Which, let's face it, only works for Fozzy.

I will watch the next episode because I know a few shows that had rocky pilots but smoothed themselves out in to something really fun. I'm hoping that's the case with this series.

Overall, it was entertaining enough for me to be a little curious about the next episode but I'm not sure I'd rush out and get a Hulu Plus subscription just to see it.

If you already have Hulu Plus or a trial subscription to it, you may want to check it out.

See the Deadbeat trailer here: the full series starts April 9 on Hulu.

*For those that don't what Klout or a Klout Perk is, I'll give you the lowdown. is a website and mobile app that uses social media analytics to rank its users according to online social influence via the "Klout Score", which is a numerical value between 1 and 100. This is a great site or those of us who work (or have worked) a great deal with social media or for those who have marketing reasoning behind being online… of course, some of us just love the internet and Klout is cool for that too.

Regardless of why you sign up, you can earn "Klout Perks" based on your location, influential topics or Klout Score. You can be offered discounts, product samples or really fun opportunities. It's kinda neat… you become known for what you love and/or areas you have clout in. Clever naming, right?!

Anywhoo, this site was the reason I got to see the premiere episode of Deadbeat so far in advance, so there are some fun freebies to be had. Feel free to read about the perks here or sign up for Klout and look me up.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Save the Something, Save the Something Something

So, last night, I got caught up on the latest season of Lost Girl, and having affirmed that I am not delusional, and that the show keeps getting sillier at an exponential rate, I turned my attentions to NBC's latest offering, Believe


This show was heavily hyped during the Olympics in February, so I figured I would tune in so at least see what it was all about. After all, it's got pretty good cred, having been executive produced by J.J. Abrams and Alfonso Cuarón. I can see why The Peacock wants to get in on the sci-fi fantasy genre, given the success of shows like Orphan Black and True Blood, and the cult following of Joss Whedon. The show overall has potential, but I felt the pilot was formulaic, predictable, and its "touching" moments bordered on trite. 

The basic premise follows the exploits of River Tam, Bo (if this is an obvious reference to Lost Girl's Chosen One heroine, it was not lost on me). Bo has special abilities that she's unable to control, but the pilot was overly vague about what those abilities are. I guess she's some sort of mix of psychic, empathic, telepathic and and Aqua Man.

Take that, whale! That'll teach you to beat up on helpless plankton!

Bo's real parents are maybe dead, or unknown, or something, so she's been shuttled around to different foster families since their demise. Bo and her guardians are, of course, being hounded and pursued by an Evil Shady Corporate Bad Guy, whose company may have created her/owned her, but anyway, they are after her. The pilot opens with Bo in a car with her latest foster parents. An Evil Secret Agent Lady (she is unnamed, so I'll just call her Mila Jovovich from here on out) runs the car off the road, and then breaks the necks of foster mom and dad in a really unlikely fashion (Mila's secret power is she gets two improbable neck breaks per day) and Bo ends up in the hospital. Bo befriends a young doctor who is experiencing a lot of self-doubt after he was unable to save the life of someone's grandpa. D'awww. Bo helps him rediscover confidence in himself by telling him he will save the life of a singer named Senga. He finds out later that Bo was right and the singer's name was Agnes. Which is Senga if it's backwads. F'real. For effin' real. Doctor Guy notices this when he sees Agnes's get well balloons (which spell her name) in the mirror and it says, "SEGNA" but when I see и, all I see anymore is a vowel so it didn't have quite the same effect.   

Help me, Bastian! The Nothing is destroying Fantasia! 

MEANWHILE, the good guys, whom I have affectionately named The Multicultural A-Team, because I have no idea who they're working for and why, have hatched a plan to spring OUR HERO, Tate, from death row. Tate has been wrongfully convicted of murder and he's about to be executed, when the MAT's leader, Winter, enters his prison cell disguised as a minister. He offers Tate a chance to escape from prison if Tate agrees to help Bo. Tate hems and haws for a reason I'm not really sure about. I mean, he says he was wrongfully convicted of murder and this guy walks in and tells him he'll help him escape and Tate's all like, "Gee, IDK" instead of "Hells yeah!" Anyway, at he last minute, Tate agrees to help Winter rescue Bo, and Tate escapes with the help of Winter's associates, Channing and a couple of other dudes who die later so I don't know their names. 

My acting coach told me to channel McConnaughey.

So, Bo's in the hospital and Winter arranges for Tate to get into the hospital by posing as an accident victim who has really badly applied and eyeshadow bruises, and he finds Bo in her hospital room. It doesn't take much convincing to get Bo to leave with him, but that's when Mila Jovovitch shows up, posing as a nurse. 

Tate starts to wheel Bo out in a wheelchair, but her rescuer and kidnapper soon see through each others' ruses and throw down on each other in the hospital hallway. Bo shoots Mila in the butt with a syringe she randomly found, and that drugs Mila and gives Bo and Tate time to run away. Undaunted, Mila runs through the hospital shooting at them, but not before she puts a silencer on her gun. Hello? Even if the bystanders at the nurse's station can't hear you shoot at them, THEY CAN STILL EFFING SEE YOU. Mila, you are the worst assassin. Mila realizes she is shooting at people and has wobbly drugged person vision, so she randomly finds another syringe full of something else that will undrug her, and then shoots herself in the butt with that, but it's too late. Bo and Tate have escaped. On the bus. The bus. That's their escape plan. Route 10 at 3:15. I also think Tate had no bus fare, but hey, a minor detail. He might have a metro card. 


Winter is the former partner of Evil Shady Corporate Bad Guy, and they had some kind of falling out. Car chases in SUVs ensue, and Bo ends up in hiding at this abandoned warehouse/pigeon factory with the MAT. Unfortunately, Mila Jovovitch finds them and she shoots two members of the MAT and makes her way upstairs, where she finds Tate, Winter, Bo, and Channing. They are about to escape, when Bo decides it's a good idea to leave their panic room and go get her stuffed turtle. Which I can kind of understand. I would like to have a stuffed turtle.
I'm NOT Yulia Lipnitskaya! Let me gooooooo!!!

Mila knocks Tate down and is about to shoot at him. This is when Bo remembers that she can summon birds. HOLY SHIT SHE IS GANDALF. 

The pigeons all form this full-on Hitchcockian pigeonado (PIGEONADO!!!!) around Mila and that gives Tate and Bo a chance to escape. The MAT escapes this time, but Evil Shady Corporate Bad Guy will not give up in his quest to capture Bo for his own nefarious purposes.Again, it is unclear about what those actually are.  It's also revealed at the end that Tate is likely Bo's father, which wasn't that difficult to guess. As for Mila, our last glimpse of her is her getting a call from Evil Shady Corporate Bad Guy boss, after she's been outwitted by Tate, Bo and MAT.

You had one job.

All in all, I would give the pilot a C-minus. I guess there's potential here, but Believe hasn't done much to set itself apart from the Female Chosen One genre, and I feel at this point the production is taking itself a little too seriously. I get that they are trying to be inclusive with diverse casting choices, but the main characters are still a white male and a young white female. The non-white characters are ancillary to the white characters, so it's kind of feeling like people of color stunt casting/tokenism. The writing is kind of bleh and relies on some already hackneyed plot points. Again, if NBC wants to attract the Buffy crowd, and entice them to watch Believe instead of Orphan Black, they've got their work cut out for them. It's unclear if Bo is a mutant, alien, superhero, or angel and I feel like she needs to have more agency in the coming episodes, because right now she's as capable of saving humanity as the Wonder Twins.

I want to Believe, but the show has to iron things out more in order to attract its target viewership. 

Believe premiered on March 15, with a special subsequent episode which aired March 16. Its regular time slot is 9 p.m. Sundays on The Peacock.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Close friends Kate Rears Burgman and Caroline Cho have gotten together again, this time to discuss the first season of True Detective, which just ended this week.  This time they’re in a loud bar, so nobody can hear them over the music and merriment, which is probably a good thing because they’re both drinking Manhattans (sort of a high-class drink for True Detective, but they didn’t have any Lone Star) and are just scratching the surface of all sorts of wild topics.  If you didn’t read their Breaking Bad review last year, here’s the scoop on these ladies: Kate was an English major and is therefore an overanalyzer of everything, even if it’s not on a page. Carol was a film major and therefore has reasons for her overanalysis of everything, or at least everything on a screen.  Here’s what they thought about True Detective’s inaugural season.

Kate: One of the things we wanted to talk about when we were sketching this out was, like, how this relates to your classic buddy detective – uh, what are those things called? I’m sorry. I’ve been drinking whiskey.

Carol: Oh, like “Detective procedurals.”

K: Yes. Detective procedurals.

C: Slash “buddy comedies.”

K: Slash buddy comedies. Well… or, like, buddy cop kinda stuff, because clearly it’s not comedy.

C: Well, it kind of is.

K: Well, it makes you feel good when you watch it!

C: When he’s like, “What are you, like, the Michael Jordan of being a son of a bitch?”

K: There was actually something really good in that deleted scene where he’s being a dick to his girlfriend. She says, “I can’t tell if you’re a mostly good person or if you’re just an asshole,” and he drawls, “I don’t want to have to make that call.” Ha ha. Oh, Matthew McConaughey.

C: He is amazing.

K: So we wanted to talk about that, and we also wanted to talk about it in terms of “cosmic horror,” or whatever that is.

C: Yeah, what is that thing that Lovecraft did? Cosmi-something. It’s basically about how we as humans are as insignificant as insects, or any other species. Essentially, we are not the most important thing out there.

K: Could an insect cause another insect to, like, stop serial killing insect children?

C: Well, yeah… I mean a lot of what we do is inherent population control, right?

K: Ah, so serial killing is really just like… because we realize that social Darwinism and survival of the fittest is no longer a thing, sometimes we have to decide who we think the fittest are and sacrifice everybody else. That’s good. Yeah. I’m gonna use this as fodder to go on my killing rampage…

'Sup? I will population control the hell out of you.

K: So yeah, we talked about this earlier this week in preparation for this, and there were a lot of Donnie Darko parallels…

C: They even have the same kinds of hallucinations.

K: Oh my god, right. And like… they feel some kind of higher moral calling, or quite frankly feel like the world would be better off without them. So after an individual like this has seen what happens when he’s living, he has to figure out a way, he decides how to get rid of himself. I mean Rust didn’t figure out a way to travel back in time, I think his approach to time was a little different and a little more mature than Donnie Darko’s. He was all about the whole “time is a flat circle thing,” like he didn’t have to go back in time to correct anything he’d done…

C: Right, because we’re all doomed to make the same fucked up decisions over and over again. That’s the philosophy behind the whole “time is a flat circle thing.”

K: What do you think Rust is gonna do when he comes home to their future Odd Couple-like living arrangement and he finds Woody Harrelson there with some floozy, making the same bad decision – did you see what I just did there, I called Matthew McConaughey by his character name but then I said “Woody Harrelson” –

C: Because nobody remembers “Marty Hart.”

K: Right. [in an unbelievably bad drawl] Rust-in Cohle and Mart-y Hart. But when they’re living together in their future Odd Couple thing that we’re never gonna get to see – I was super happy when I read that in the review you posted, because that reference was exactly what I thought of – but what’s gonna happen in that future world that we don’t get to see, when Rustin Cohle and Marty Hart are living in their two-bedroom man cave, or actually one of them is probably sleeping in the living room on a sofabed, actually they’re probably sleeping in lawn chairs because neither of them has any decorating sense – what’s gonna happen to their bromance when Woody Harrelson makes that same bad decision again later, y’know?

C: I dunno. I mean I think that’s kind of the beauty of this show, is that – you’re kind of – there isn’t that kind of resolution in their relationship, and there isn’t – we are left to wonder. Whereas in the case of Breaking Bad, everything is kind of, you know, tied down.

K: Yeah, but everybody had their own crazy theories about that, too, like “Oh, I thought the whole thing was just Walt’s dream. The whole last episode was him freezing to death in his car that he can’t get started, and everything else is what he hallucinates.” This is interesting – I’d like to draw some parallels here in the final episodes of these two shows, because I felt that both were pretty tidy in terms of how they managed to resolve things. Which I think is good, although if you ask a lot of people on the Internet, they say that’s bad, because they’re like, “Oh, it was too convenient…”

C: It’s an oversimplification… none of the theories that were flying around actually came to fruition… all of the symbolic things that you saw floating around during the show didn’t mean anything…

K: That’s almost the best thing, though, you know?

C: It is.

K: It almost smacks you in the face with the realization that believing in things like that is just as futile as living in general, it’s really hitting you over the head with the fact that existence is meaningless.

C: It’s like conspiratorial people, believing that everything is related to everything else.

K: And with Breaking Bad, there was so much more opportunity to get mired down into that sort of thing, because it was on for five years.

C: It gave you more time to actually come up with those theories.

K: Exactly. So the chief difference between that and this is, you know, that was five years of 12 to 13 episodes per season, and this was just eight episodes.

C: They also like to talk about how, basically, these kinds of like, larger literary references and symbolic kind of themes in both of these shows, for instance, a lot of people were drawn to the whole enigmatic aspect of the Yellow King, and I don’t know who the author was, but he kind of writes in that whole Kubla Khan kind of way, whereas there were a lot of references to things like Ozymandias in Breaking Bad… and like the empire…

K: Yeah, definitely. So it’s interesting, we were just having this conversation before this, not recorded, and we were talking about the MTV sketch comedy show from the ‘90s, The State, and the mixing of lowbrow humor with highbrow intellect, and the sort of painful reaction that we have to have when somebody makes a generalization and says, “Oh, TV isn’t highbrow,” or doesn’t make these types of references or whatever, and I think that’s something that we’ve seen shift in our adult lifetimes, as they make these types of consumable serial dramas.

C: They’re calling right now “The golden age of TV,” because never before have so many celebrated actors, authors, writers, directors, have crossed over into television. I mean if you think about David Fincher and House of Cards, you know, who else, like Martin Scorsese and Boardwalk Empire, etc.

K: Yeah. And you know Nic Pizza Latte [Pizzolatto, the creator of the show], as I like to call him, because those are both really delicious things, like… he wrote a novel three or four years ago. He was writing about the same type of stuff, true crime stuff or whatever, but clearly he was approaching this from a literary perspective.

File photo of Nic Pizzolatto.

C: I think he was an English professor for a long time.

K: Huh! I can tell… full disclosure, I was an English major in undergrad, and I felt as though – and I think a log of English majors will feel this way with me, but I think a lot of film majors like you, Carol, will feel this way too – it’s kind of our curse to overanalyze things for the rest of our lives, and we apply that sort of focused – er, or unfocused – analysis to anything that we consume, whether it’s books, TV, film, conversations, our relationships with other people, like…

C: Life…

K: Life, in general, our own selves. There’s that kind of constant analysis and neurosis that goes along with it that we know all too well, and, um, that totally would not surprise me, because that means if he had that experience as an English professor, leading students through that level of analysis, understanding what it means to analyze something that’s been written, film, whatever, and then extend it to writing something that’s pretty much ripe for analysis.. it’s not like you write it and then think “Oh, there’s nothing to analyze here, and if somebody finds something, that’s a load of bull hockey, it’s all face value, it was just supposed to be the words on the page” or whatever. He clearly knew when setting out that this was gonna be something that could be analyzed, and I think that’s also why they did those little specials after each episode, which if you didn’t watch it On Demand and you have access to it, definitely watch these – at the end of every episode they had like a six or seven-minute thing where they talked to him, they talked to Cary Fukunaga, they talked to a lot of people about the episode and what happened in it and how to think about it critically. And what’s really interesting to me is that it’s almost like – not a Cliffs Notes or whatever, I mean it’s not a substitute for reading the actual thing but it’s like a readers’ guide, or if you’ve ever read a critical edition of a book…

C: Like questions and answers…

K: Yeah, there’s a section that’s got questions, exactly, things that you should think about when you read or re-read this, or when you have a conversation about it – how are you gonna analyze it? Not just a general “how do you feel” but giving you guidelines. And they were more than willing to discuss those and kind of wrap it up at the end. Which I think for people who are more TV-focused and haven’t really done any critical analysis of literature or film, it’s a really nice introduction to that, like how am I going to think critically about this thing? And they make it fun. Yay, TV is finally highbrow.

C: Well I think there was also a kind of – I feel like he wrote the whole show with the intention of a subtext. With the intention that it was very much, you know, bringing attention to – you know how a lot of writers or filmmakers will actually bring attention to the medium itself? He did that a lot, by kind of making these grand remarks about not just philosophy and life and all those things, but the idea of storytelling, and how much that in some ways is ingrained in our culture, whether we’re referring to religion as being, like, the greatest story of all time, or just, like, the story of humanity, and how we’ve progressed and how we’ve developed civilizations and how we’ve destroyed civilizations in a lot of ways. And stories kind of drive us to do things.

K: And interpretations of stories. That comes together with the “identity” thing as well, our true identity vs. how we present ourselves, just thinking about interpretations of stories and interpretations of religious things… it’s what gets us into trouble all the time, applying our own interpretations to these stories, where two people can read the same text or experience the same thing and have a different account of what happened, like the “unreliable narrator” that they showed us a couple of times, like when the guys go rogue and get their guy, then act like they did everything procedurally. It’s so important to someone and it’s so black and white, and whatever someone’s interpretation of something is becomes the moral code by which they live their lives.

C: What was the criticism – these stories that we constantly tell ourselves, we convince ourselves are true. Therefore we should live by the truths that we think are somehow right in our minds, but in reality don’t matter. And I think Rust is like the polar opposite of that, and he kind of approaches everything in a way that’s really kind of cynical, really kind of critical of those types of mind sets, or cultures, or ideas.

K: He thinks about events that happen as just kind of like “things that happen.”

C: Yeah.

K: He doesn’t want to apply any sort of unnecessary interpretations. Which unfortunately for him includes emotions, and has an effect on his emotional wellness. Again going back to this deleted scene with his girlfriend about whether or not he would have kids with her, she’s trying to take a strong line about it being related to what he went through before, losing a child, but he is adamant that he’s moved past that and that decisions are not made out of consideration for feelings, for other things that happen in the past or whatever. It’s just that no-nonsense, negative, nihilistic approach. It’s interesting – thinking about enlightenment and people who approach these things from a very positive, spiritual or religious perspective, those people like to think about everything in life all being interconnected.

C: It gives you some sort of solace.

K: Nothing happens for no reason, everything happens for a reason, everything has an impact on everything else, etc. etc. etc. And I think in order to be truly nihilistic like Rustin Cohle, you have to not buy into any of that.

[and now, a Big Lebowski segue, because… why not?]

C: He believes in nussing, Lebowski!

K: Say what you want about the tenets of national socialism, Dude… at least it’s an ethos.

C: We believe in nussing, Lebowski, except for the money! Where’s the money?

Ve fucks you up!

K: It’s not fair! She gave up her toe! Actually if they were truly nihilists, they wouldn’t have given a fuck about the toe!

C: I believe the same kind of thing is happening with Rust, you know? I think to a certain degree…

K: He would truly give up his toe and not give a fuck. I think. I dunno.

C: I don’t know. Maybe not. I think to a certain degree, he DOES care. He DOES have an ethos. He DOES have a driving force. He keeps saying – what did he say to Marty? “We gotta finish what we started.”

K: Okay, yeah… and who knows if it took him like ten years to get to that point, it sounded like 2010 was that point at which he realized they might not have gotten all the guys…

C: But they’re never gonna get all the guys.

K: Well right, and that continues to bum him out. Like after they got the guy that was actually doing the killing, he wanted to keep going, he wanted to get everything in the corrupt government and religious institutions who was involved and bring them all down.

C: Well he sends out the packages to all those networks…

K: Which is good, because that’s how they found out about it. And it was the bartender, the sniper bartender – what an awesome scene, by the way – who sent them out.

C: Well, he [the bartender] also lost his daughter. So I think he found him kind of, maybe his daughter was a victim also in what was going on with that whole Tuttle plan. And also… in the article, a really interesting kind of fact that he brings up is the idea of the passing of these ideas from generation to generation. Not just ideas, but scars, good things, bad things, and how generationally these things happen, and how that’s all kind of like tied together in that whole “time is a flat circle” thing, over and over again. And probably Errol was a victim of what was happening. It probably started way before, generations before that, of what was going on. He was merely maybe a henchman.

K: Or do we think that Tuttle’s family was so big and so varied because there were babies born by the kidnapped girls?

C: Possibly. Or remember when they go visit the old housekeeper lady… she knew about that whole mythology, and she was like “Oh it’s a shame what they did to the Childress boy.” I think he was unfortunately a victim, and he also wanted to be freed from that kind of circle. The fact that he was never even on the books… he was never even born.

K: Exactly. He was some kind of bastard child. The circumstances surrounding his conception and birth had to be so horrific. I thought for a while that maybe the lady he was getting jiggy with – they were saying that was his half-sister – I thought that was his mom.

C: I thought that was his mom too.

K: And that his father was his grandfather.

C: Maybe. And he also had like multiple personality disorder.

K: Right. Different from schizophrenia, btw [unrelated armchair psychology rant about schizophrenia that I will not share here]. It’s hard for young men, if they feel mentally unstable – they can’t be in touch with their emotions, so instead they typically turn violent. I’m bringing this back, I swear to god – we talked a little bit about how the men in True Detective have this reticence to confront their own emotions, you know. They have the things they need to do to keep them strong, in the ways that men need to be perceived as strong in the public eye, it means not being true to your own emotions, not analyzing your own emotions…

C: And I think Hart was very much a product of that too. He’s a man’s man. He’s the guy who everybody gets along with, but then under the surface he’s totally fucked up.

K: Yeah. It’s like that with anybody who has the potential to snap. Like all the Yellow King theories, “Oh my god, what if it’s Rust? What if it’s MARTY?” Like – they were setting it up so that everybody could look at the way these men were and the events that they were engaged in in ’95, ’02, and 2012, and you could look at any of them and be like “Yeah, I see how maybe they could all be the killer,” because they all have fucked up shit going on beneath the surface that ultimately could come to that.

C: Yeah. I agree. I mean I just think that… I just think that, you know, it’s definitely a character study. It’s kind of an analysis about character development, like… in some ways plot is only the vehicle to engage us in this study.

K: I wanna talk about that – like, I watch TV, but I’m not a regular watcher of these sorts of serialized dramas, because I don’t care so much about plot. If books, movies, or TV are plot-driven, I typically will pooh-pooh them. Even Breaking Bad took me three or four episodes to get into, but by the time I was able to see some real character development and see that this was about the journey of these characters, I was hooked. And here I was hooked immediately.

C: These dramas, the ones that are the most compelling are the ones that are character-driven.

K: Compelling to the widest audience, too – because plot draws all kinds of people in, too, like… they want to know who the killer is.

I...I can't even. This was just such a touching interaction.

Friday, March 14, 2014


I don't think I told you guys that At Midnight is my new favorite show, but At Midnight is my new favorite show. It is hosted by the totes adorbz Chris Hardwick, of Nerdist fame.

Hi, ladies. It's Pi Day.

I have been watching it for a few months now and I haven't told you to go watch it right now, but you should go watch it right now. 

Seriously, I liked this show before it was cool. Fo shizzle. My fangirldom reached new heights the other evening when Wil Wheaton, of TNG and internet fame, appeared on an episode the other evening and made fun of Florida.

I really do hope they have Patrick Stewart on as a guest at some point.

I don't even feel compelled to do any ab workouts anymore because I laugh so hard for the 23 or so minutes of this show. 

Basically, it's an improv game show, sort of on the order of Whose Line with less physical activity. And no props. I actually think they should add in props. I love props. Three comedians appear and are awarded points to their responses in categories based of whatever happened on the internet that day, and they can also be awarded points by saying something off-the-cuff that makes the audience laugh. Game categories are some assortment of: Rapid Refresh, FTW (final round), New Netflix Categories, Hashtag Wars, Confession Bear, Rich Cat or Poor Cat, Unfriend Me and suchlike

At Midnight airs, shockingly enough, at midnight, on Comedy Central, after Colbert. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Cosmos

And now a few words from guest-poster (and big science nerd) Chris!

When I asked to write a guest post for Cosmos, it turns out I inadvertently snatched it away from the likes of Jays. So now the pressure is on! And why was I so excited for this show that I wanted to post about it?* Because I’m an astronomy geek? A simple nerd? Of course! But also because science is cool. No, really! This isn’t a show hidden away on PBS or a cable-only science channel. There it is, on Fox, broadcast in prime time for all the world to see.

Cosmos is a reboot of the 1980 series hosted by the late Carl Sagan (I vaguely remember watching a few of these in science class growing up). It's not a simple retelling of Sagan’s series with fancy new graphics, however. Hayden Planetarium Director Neil deGrasse Tyson, a rockstar astrophysicist of late, hosts our voyage across the Universe on the Spaceship of the Imagination.

The first episode is dedicated to how small, and young, we are when compared to all of space and time. We board our Spaceship for an amazingly graphical search for our cosmic address, and go on a tour of the solar system, the Milky Way, etc. And, what?!? Our Universe may be one of many universes in the Multi-verse?

Cosmos spent a good part of the episode in a Deathly Hallowsish animated (thanks Maggie!)** history lesson on the story of Giordano Bruno, who theorized that the stars were suns, that other planets existed, and that life existed everywhere. He saw this as an obvious extension to the glory of God, but of course the Catholic Church took a dimmer view, convicted him of heresy, and burned him at the stake. I wasn’t a huge fan of this section. Yes, I learned a lot, admittedly having no prior knowledge of Bruno. But I’ll admit it, I’m in this show for the awesome voyages we have planned, not a deep science vs. church history lesson (yes, I know it was deeper than this, but still).

Next, we bring on the amazing graphics again, and Tyson introduces us to the cosmic calendar, where the Big Bang occurred at midnight, January 1. And you know what, we humans ain’t nothing. On this scale, the Sun itself wasn’t formed until late August, the dinosaurs were wiped out on December 30, and all of human written history took place in the last 14 seconds before midnight on New Year’s Eve. 14 SECONDS! Again, no matter how grandiose we think we humans are, we’re rather insignificant in the grandness of the Universe.

Next week, we change course completely, going from examining the vastness of our Universe, to the inner workings of molecules. There’s nowhere our imagination can’t take us. Will I be watching? Of course! Because science is cool.

Cosmos airs Sunday nights at 9:00 EST on FOX. You can also watch the episodes online!

*It is, after all, one of the very few posts I’ve written that wasn’t an obituary for someone my grandmother’s age that I completely identified with.

**Actually, I was wrong! It's not the same animator, though the style was similar, but here's some info about the animation in Cosmos--so cool! --MaggieCats