Friday, June 27, 2014

HBO Round-Up

 **Spoilers for the season finale of Game of Thrones and season premiere of True Blood*

It seems to defy belief that the fourth season of Game of Thrones would end and nobody here at TV Sluts would comment on it. I mean, we commented on it to other people in our daily lives, but just not to you guys. Not because we don't love you, but because you would be surprised how hard it is to coordinate the schedules of several working adults to figure out a time when an online chat can take place.

So instead of a patented TV Sluts GOT chat, you'll just have to make do with little old me, sharing some thoughts.

First thought: WOW.

This season has been my favorite by far, and not just because we are into some real meaty plot stuff, but because it is also the season that has deviated the most from the books. Not in any real substantive way, but in some amazing character moments and relationships and yes, even some minor changes in the plot.

Remember this guy from the book? YEAH, ME NEITHER.

So despite having read all the books several times, I was still on the edge of my seat throughout the finale. Scenes like the Hound. vs. Brienne throw-down (not in the book) had me filled with anxiety because I had no idea what was going to happen! That must be how watching the entire show is for others. How do y'all take the pressure??

Even when I knew what was going to happen, such as the Tyrion--Shae--Tywin scene, everything was so well done and acted that I was peeking through my fingers because of the tension. Tywin Lannister, the most powerful person in Westeros, killed by his son on the shitter....oh, excuse me, the privy. Classic.

"Lord Tywin Lannister, did not, in the end, shit gold."

I don't want to go through and just rehash the finale with comments like "wasn't that cool?!?" because the whole thing was cool. This show just keeps getting better and better, and despite all the horror, death, and pain of the fourth season, they even managed to end on a hopeful note with Arya sailing off to a new life across the sea.

*cue "awwwwws" from the crowd*

....and as they say, out with the old and in with the new! With the conclusion of Game of Throne's most recent season, we get the premiere of True Blood's seventh and final season.

It seems like I might have been the only person who was excited for the True Blood premiere. Everybody I would ask "are you watching True Blood???" would look at me weird and respond with something along the lines of, "oh, I stopped watching X number of years ago." This saddens me, because I still find the show wildly entertaining. Silly, no doubt, but still entertaining.

The season premiere last Sunday followed a typical True Blood pattern. We started off with a bang, checked in with all the characters, laid the groundwork for the season to come, and had to make due with some meh plots.

There was no waiting for the action in the premiere; we opened the show right where we left off, with a horde of hepatitis V infested vampires attacking (and kidnapping and killing) many of the poor citizens of Bon Temps.

And then....we flash over to Tara's gross mother, who, in an astounding act of grace in last season's finale, finally "fed" and "nourished" her daughter by allowing Tara to drink her blood. And Tara's mother is weeping over a big pile of vampire goo that is....Tara. Yep, apparently Tara died. And off screen!

Clean up in aisle 3. 

Of course, I immediately call bullshit. No way True Blood is going to kill a major character without some more fanfare. But then I read this article by my favorite tv author, Jacob (who used to write amazing recaps for Television Without Pity). Jacob raises the most excellent point that the show has basically shit all over Tara's character since the second season, so Tara's potential death feels more likely. Sadly. Despite Tara's kind of...I dunno, uselessness? to the overall plot aside from being the person who wanders off and gets in trouble or yells at everyone a lot, I've always liked the character. Probably because the actress does such a great job, but still. Tara deserved better. 

Though like I said...if she ends up coming back in some fashion, I definitely won't be surprised.

The episode set things up nicely for the season: all the show's most annoying characters are locked in the Fangtasia basement getting eaten one by one by the infected vampires. Sookie is still making stupid decisions (wandering off in a huff when she KNOWS there is a pack of evil vampires close by) but somehow still being awesome and banging Alcide so at least girlfriend has made one good choice. Jessica is quickly becoming one of my favorites through her bravery in protecting half-fairy Adilyn, Andy has shown some of the best character development in the last seven years of any character I can think of, Bill is....well nobody really cares about Bill, right? Except his book does sound like something I would TOTALLY read.

This is totally my next book club pick. My Mom is gonna love it.

There are more characters and subplots then you can shake a stick at, but it seems like this year True Blood has finally hit upon a main story that affects everyone on the show and is driving everyone towards related goals. Except for one notable exception.

Pam spent the premiere wandering around "exotic foreign" backlot sets in her search for Erik. We haven't seen hide (and what a nice hide it is) nor hair of him since he burst into flames on the side of a Swedish mountain last year. I love that Pam is looking for him, especially after he released her from the maker bond, but dear god, I am already bored with this plot.

Bring Erik back. NOW.

But that one flaw aside, I am very excited for what the final season holds. I haven't read the Sookie Stackhouse books so have no idea how things end up there and no expectations or hopes for how things end up on the tv show. As always with True Blood, the best strategy is just to enjoy the ride. Silly as it may be.

Erik is always starting fires. IN MY PANTS.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Lovin'

Oh, Summer. You fickle bitch.

As a kid, we waited with breathless anticipation for Summer to roll around and free us from chains of public education. But as means arriving at work having sweat through your clothes on the walk from the subway, trying to remember to slather yourself in sunblock so you don't look like Baba Yaga, and realizing that there is nothing good on television.

Sure, over on BBC America you've got Orphan Black and In the Flesh. And True Blood will be starting up again over on HBO. But not everyone has BBCA or HBO. But most people have Netflix streaming these days, right? So I humbly make the following suggestions for you to help take away the sting (if not the swelter) of those Summer nights.

--Orange is the New Black, obviously (the just released second season or heck, rewatch the first).

--The original version of House of Cards. I actually prefer the British miniseries trilogy to the current Kevin Spacey one (though I love it too).

--Alias. The wigs. The kicking of ass. Bradley Cooper before he was famous. And the inevitable slide into a plot so convoluted and confusing that even watching the episodes back to back you won't know what the hell is going on. But it will be a fun ride.

--Friday Night Lights. It may not be football season until the Fall, but you can get your fix here--whether it's for football or an amazing drama and one of my personal faves.

--Freaks and Geeks. Because, duh.

--Lillyhammer, another Netflix original you might not have heard of. An ex-gangster moves to Norway and awesome is the result.

--Ally McBeal. Is she as skinny and crazy as you remember? Yes.

And that's just the tip of the ice berg. I just spent some time scrolling through the Netflix offerings and saw TONS of good stuff. On my personal viewing list this summer: Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, and then maybe something lighter to break up all that violence and angst. Perhaps Ugly Betty?

Monday, June 09, 2014

The Wheaton, The Bad, The...Well, It's Syfy

So. The Syfy Channel.

It's come as kind of a surprise to me that the network that has supposedly devoted itself to all things science fiction and fantasy has somehow been epically failing at cashing in on the rise of the nerd culture trend. Since the end of the critically acclaimed Battlestar Galactica, the network has been in the throes of a massive identity crisis, oscillating between low-budget sci-fi niche shows, trashy reality programming, and oh, yes, SHARKNADO.

Free Willy!!!!

Although the first season of Defiance was reasonably successful, the silly but sometimes watchable Warehouse 13 and Eureka have gone off the air, and Syfy canceled Alphas, which was their best post-Galactica original series to date, and they essentially canceled Being Human. Syfy has, for the most part, seemed like a post-adolescent urban hipster experimenting with his facial hair -- one week, it's a waxed Edwardian mustache, and the next week, the cast of Opposite Worlds is chainsawing its way out of a shark abdomen. Just whatever you do, Syfy audience, don't think too hard. 

Next week, these two giant robots are going up against my hair gel!

They tried battling robots and they tried a nerd Jersey Shore. All to no avail.

The execs at Syfy, who clearly hate anything that is science fiction or fantasy, have finally rolled over and made their peace. They've given their demographic what they have always truly wanted in the depths of their soul.

Our market research and focus groups indicate... Fuck it. Just give Wil Wheaton a show.


My own show? So I can get wasted and crash it into shit? Rockin!

Okay, okay. Calm down. Clearly, The Wil Wheaton Project is an attempt to cash in on snarky clip shows like The Soup and Tosh.0, but this is a concept from non-nerd cable networks that might actually resonate with the Syfy audience.

Basically, the concept is The Soup. Wil Wheaton, actor, blogger, tabletop gamer, and fine purveyor of geek culture,  is your guide through the wild and wacky world of explicit threesomes on Salem and Game of Thrones.  I've watched the first couple episodes that have aired and it's what one would expect from the Master of Snark. Wil shows clips of various science fiction and fantasy shows that can be found across the network spectrum, and rightfully skewers them in ways that they totally deserve (yes, I'm looking at you, Dracula). The only problem with this show methinks is convincing people to watch.  Although the execs at Syfy have apparently given Wil free rein to take pot-shots at their less-than-stellar offerings, I'm not so certain that members of Wheaton Nation would want to willingly go watch Syfy. He's got clips aplenty, and the show has potential, but I think TWWP needs a bigger budget, more guest appearances, and more Drunk Neil DeGrasse Tyson.  

Wil Wheaton is a really funny guy. As I previously mentioned, he was quite hilarious on buddy Chris Hardwick's Comedy Central show, @midnight, but the show might benefit from more writers and more nerd jokes. There should also be more guest stars. He had on staples like Felicia Day and his BFF Hardwick, but I'd like to see more guests like maybe Carrie Fisher or Patrick Stewart. 

Please watch. As Wil himself said, "Or they'll replace me with redneck ghost hunters." Truth.

On that note, shall we move on to a Syfy show that has been inexplicably renewed for a second season, Heroes of Cosplay?

I'm just going to say that I am not a cosplayer and haven't been, really, since elementary school Halloween parties. Okay, there was that one time I came out of retirement and dressed up like Penelope Clearwater for Halloween, but other than that, I, as a grown adult, do not dress myself up in costumes and go to conventions with the aim of winning prizes. Obviously, I'm looking at this show as an outsider, so let me give my objective opinion. 

Basically, the premise of Heroes of Cosplay and Tiaras? I guess? It's supposed to be a documentary reality series about cosplayers who create their own costumes and go to conventions in the hopes that they will win prize money in the costume competitions. That doesn't sound like a bad way to spend a Saturday, amirite? Well, I have some qualms. 

First off, I don't understand the name of this show. Why are they "heroes" of cosplay? There's nothing particularly heroic about any of these people. I watched episodes from the first season here and there, but I got fed up with the histrionics of one of the female "stars" in particular, who appeared to wait until the last minute to finish her costume and then yelled at her boyfriend, whom she'd forced into helping her. There is a lot of un-heroic procrastination and bitchiness coming from several of the featured cosplayers, I can't tell if the production team is editing the episodes to make it look like they are running out of time before the convention, or if these "heroes," who claim to be semi-professional cosplayers, actually do wait until the last minute to finish their costumes, and they are total nightmares to their significant others and friends in the process. In which case, I have to ask, don't they know better? It seems like they're shooting themselves in the foot trying to create all this drama. The only one who seems to have her shit together is Yaya Han. According to the show, Han is a cosplayer whose costume creations and social media presence have enabled her to have a career as a professional cosplayer. Of course, she isn't really competing so much as she is judging and attempting to mentor her friends and fellow cosplayers.

Other mentors features this season include Brian Henson, of Jim Henson's Creature Shop Challenge. It's nice to see him on the show and his insight is interesting, and the inclusion of the mentors this season is a good improvement. But it doesn't really do much to diminish the cosplayers' narcissism and the fact that they act like cosplay is serious as bubonic plague, but the show makes it look like they procrastinate to finish their costumes on time. 

You guys, the cognitive dissonance is killing me. If you're going to throw your costume together in the hotel room and and assemble it with hot glue and hope it says together with a lick and a prayer (and PVC pipe), and then realize your shiz is scratched so you run out to buy paint at Walgreen's before it's time for you to go on stage, you might as well rename your show Heroes of Costco. Or Home Depot. Or something non-heroic. 

Also, who is judging these competitions? I don't go to cons, as I said, and I see some of the costumes that are chosen for prizes, and others that are overlooked, and I can't really understand why some costumes win big prizes and others get nada. Perhaps new judges are in order?

Darling, you rang?

The show isn't terrible, but it's also not that great, either. The most interesting part of the entire program is when they are at the conventions and they reveal their costumes, but there is a whole lotta unnecessary lead-up to get to that point. I think the producers could do something more interesting with the rest of the time other than trying to create fake dramatic filler. 

Ironically, the "extras" that are featured on the show's Syfy site are actually kind of interesting and perhaps they ought to be included in the broadcast. If they showed the elements of costume construction and how-tos, instead of "OMG I MAILED MY COSTUME TO MYSELF AND IT'S NOT HERE YET"  'twould be more compelling programming. I think that is where part of the success of Face/Off comes from. On Face/Off, contestants are given two or three days to finish a project on their own or in teams, from start to finish. On Cosplay, it seems like the "heroes" have an unlimited amount of time to finish their costumes. They're not under any actual time constraints that they haven't created themselves, and even those seem disingenuous. 

I do feel that they should put more emphasis on the costumes and costume construction and less on creating fake drama. The costumes people come up with are actually pretty cool, and they are the best part of the show. I really enjoyed the Skeksis costume that one of the cosplayers created, but it of course did not win a prize. IT'S WATER FOWL, PEOPLE. Like what the actual hell?

I really do feel like this show is a rip-off of Toddlers and Tiaras. Um, Syfy? YOU'RE RIPPING OFF TODDLERS AND TIARAS.

What's next, Syfy? Nerd brides planning the perfect nerd wedding? Nerd-themed cake competition? The exploits of a child redneck cosplayer and her family's sci-fi/fantasy-themed struggle against generational poverty and diabetes? I just.

Okay, it may appear as though she is about to devour you alive, but I applaud her use of proper headbanding.

Info about both shows available at

Thursday, June 05, 2014

A Deliciously Disturbing Meal

You guys.  You guys!  You watched Hannibal, right?  RIGHT???  The season finale actually occurred the other week while I was, as Arsenic Pie termed it, decamped to parts unknown, but finally caught up now that I am back home.  And damn.  That’s how you do a season finale. 

"I feel like this won't end well for all of us..."

We’ve talked about Hannibal here a couple of times in the past.  It remains the show that I am continually most flummoxed by on television if only because I have no idea how it is that this show is airing on network TV and has not yet been pulled by the censors or cancelled by the network.  Hannibal is artful in its presentation of murder.  It spends just as much time focused on the presentation and styling of the cinematically murdered dead bodies as it does on the cuisine.  The fact that it often merges those two worlds is completely intentional.  This is, after all, a show about a serial-killing cannibal. 

Creator Bryan Fuller is known for highly stylized television (he’s the mind behind Wonderfalls¸ Pushing Daisies, and Dead Like Me) but that style tends to be hyper-saturated and fairytale-like.  Hannibal, by contrast, is just as visually stylized but is far more grounded in the real world.  All those whimsical colors are de-saturated and made cold and steel-y.  The visual representations of Will’s inner mind, including the frightening representations of the Stag Monster that Will sees as the emblem of his relationship with Hannibal and his own growing inner madness, are muted, dark and disorienting to say nothing of the insanely creative and visually stunning ways in which people die on this show, which has included a human body being made into a string instrument so that the killer can "play" the body's vocal chords with a bow and bodies with the skin of their backs flayed and then displayed like wings while the bodies are posed like angels.  I mention all of this because these aspects of the show came into pitch-perfect place during season two’s finale.

Human being grown into a tree. That...can't feel good.  

For those needing a brief catch-up, Hannibal the show has been following the early years of Hannibal Lector (Mads Mikkelsen) during his time as a respected psychologist, aesthete, and member of Baltimore society.  His friend, FBI profiler Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) uses Hannibal to care for Will Graham (Hugh Dancy), a fellow profiler who is uncanny in his ability to understand killers but whose ability to do so has made him emotionally and mentally vulnerable.  Of course, turning Will over to Hannibal Lector for safe keeping is like asking the Republican Party to watch after women’s rights initiatives.  Which is to say, Hannibal is essentially on a psychological feeding frenzy with Will, distorting him throughout season one and manipulating him into his own deranged psyche.  

Season two follows Will’s descent into madness and suspicion that his friend is not the kindly man we believe, but instead is “The Chesapeake Ripper”, a serial killer known for a highly inventive and poetic murdering style. At the start of season two, Will has been incarcerated in a mental institution based on Hannibal’s convincing the FBI into believing that Will is the Ripper.  Will is eventually released and begins a dangerous game of cat and mouse with Hannibal, trying to convince him that he has become Hannibal’s protégé and is, like Hannibal, a superior being able to murder and maim just as poetically and meaningfully. All the while, Will is playing double-agent by working with Jack Crawford to bring Hannibal to justice.  Or is he? 

Will’s madness and instability is a key theme throughout the season and it’s left mostly ambiguous as to whether or not Will is truly working with Jack or has become an honest to God killer like Hannibal is training him to be.  The back and forth culminates in a season finale where everything comes to a head – Jack confronts Hannibal in his home, attempting to bring him down but in the process is attacked by Hannibal and possibly left to die from a mortal stab to the neck in Hannibal’s own pantry.  Fellow psychologist and sometimes-friend to Will Alana Bloom is shoved out of an upper story window in Hannibal’s home and left to die, broken and bleeding in the rain on the sidewalk.  Will himself is stabbed by Hannibal and, you guessed it, left to die in the kitchen (of all places) after coming clean about his attempt to bring Hannibal in.  Hannibal himself displays what might be the most unhinged moments of his life as we’ve seen them so far in this series, clearly hurt by the betrayal of Will whom he has come to invest so much in.  “I gave you a precious gift,” Hannibal tells a dying Will, “but you didn’t want it.”  The homoeroticism of Hannibal’s attack on Will, the intermingling of their relationship with each other, and the almost tenderness with which Hannibal carries out his final sentencing on Will is one of the reasons why I am amazed this show is still on the air.

Subtext entirely intended.

Season two ends with Hannibal leaving his own home as three of our main characters lie extremely close to death behind him.  Hannibal walks off into a cleansing rain, away from the police who are about to arrive and discover exactly what has gone down.  His life under the radar is over; Hannibal knows this.  And so our final shot is of him fleeing on an airplane to France with a surprising traveling companion: Dr. Bedelia Du Maurier, his own therapist who had previously been open with Will about her beliefs that Hannibal was dangerous and Will innocent of the crimes he was accused of.  Why Bedelia is on that plane and why she smiles so lovingly at Hannibal in the final shot given how clearly terrified she has been of him throughout the season is one of the mysteries that Fuller has promised we will learn in season three.

A special note about Bedelia Du Maurier – she’s played by Gillian Anderson at her iciest.  Everything about Anderson’s concept of this character, a mysterious former colleague of Hannibal who has been seeing him as her only patient after being attacked herself at some point in her past by another patient, is dead on.  Everything about her communicates a frozen person, from her almost white-blond hair that never moves to her slow, controlled walk.  This is a woman who has been traumatized and is so terrified that she’s concluded the only way to stay safe is to remain utterly still.  Anderson is an amazing actress and manages to make that iciness come off as damage, rather than bitchiness.

But at least she has a well-apportioned kitchen?

Hannibal will definitely be back next year and I already can’t wait.  The focus will reportedly be on Will Graham’s hunt for Hannibal, leading into the events from the books that fans of the characters will already know.  (The first book about Hannibal Lector, Red Dragon, is set after the events we’ve seen so far in Hannibal with the most famous volume, Silence of the Lambs, occurring after that.  Fuller has said that the show has a plan to include the events of both of those stories, including that most famous compatriot of the good Dr. Lector, Clarice Starling.)  Hannibal probably isn’t one of those shows that I can tell you to start watching if you’re not already inclined – the disturbing visuals coupled with the general concept are high bars for folk who aren’t particularly interested in this genre.  But if you can stomach (heh) the concept, the show is so well worth the watching that you won’t regret the attempt. 

When you were a kid, your mom likely told you just to try a few bites of the food on your plate before you could say you didn’t like it.  Appropriately enough, the same is true for Hannibal