Tag Archives: Television

What I watched while I was sick

What I thought was just bad allergies on Friday turned into a full-blown head-cold throughout the weekend and even into Monday. Yay, 3-day weekend spent barely being able to move off the couch. Woohoo!

Seriously, there needs to be a sarcasm font.

I’m a comfort food kind of a guy when it comes to sick TV. For me that’s episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Buffy (with some Angel and an odd 30 Rock and Excel Saga thrown in for flavor).

You can tell I was sick by the fact that my TNG watching mainly focused on Season 1 and 2 episodes, which my wife mistook for TOS episodes from the other room. No blame there. Also, there’s really no justified time to be watching Excel Saga even in small doses.

I don’t tend to consume new things when sick, but I did pick one off the back-burner to try, and it was by the far the best way to distract myself from being miserable: BBC’s Luther staring Idris Elba.

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Pros:

  • Morally ambiguous main character. “Does dirty things but isn’t a dirty cop.”
  • Opening theme by Massive Attack, title sequence kind of reminds me of Jessica Jones.
  • Female foil equal parts antagonist and ally.
  • Crime procedural focused more on psychological elements rather than CSI’ing everything. We’re not trying to figure out who did the crime (we’re usually shown this pretty early). We’re waiting for our characters to find the baddie and figure out how they’ll ultimately take them down.
  • Wonderfully shot from the first scene. Mixes old and modern London.
  • Series long arcs particularly in the first series with great payoff and confrontations.
  • Characters experience some growth and change between series, particularly DS Ripley.

Cons:

  • Seriously! Only 16 episodes for 4 series! We’ve watched 12 of the 14 on Netflix and will probably buy the remaining two from Amazon. Pay Idris whatever he wants and make more!
  • Not really a con, but I do think I liked the six separate case structure of the first series as opposed to the two 2-part episodes in Series 2 and 3. Might feel different if there were 6 episodes (three stories) in series 2-3 (more in the Inspector Lewis model).

One other thing we noticed is that the show doesn’t always have the positive outcomes that American shows always do. In America, if we see both the abduction and later scenes with the character still alive in captivity, we know the detective is going to get to them in time. Don’t assume the same thing for Luther. The show doesn’t operate in a fantasy world, even though some fantastical things happen.

I know this has been out there for a while, but if you have a Netflix account and have never seen it, you really should try it out. We were hooked by the first few episodes.

Here’s to getting through the day then collapsing back on the couch.

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The Best and the Worst of Both Worlds

PicardFacepalm

I was raised on Star Trek.

Saturdays in the 90’s were spent with pizza and Star Trek, first Next Generation, then DS9 and finally Voyager. My mom taped reruns of the original series when they aired on Fox after the noon news so I could watch them after school (and homework). One of the best decisions I ever made as a college student involved dropping a database class after the first day, selling back the textbook, and using the money to buy all three seasons of the original series (before CBS decided it needed a CG update).

So naturally you’d assume I’d be pretty excited when CBS announced it will produce a new Star Trek series, airing in January of 2017.

And yeah, I think it’s pretty cool that there will be new Star Trek in the world. The new movies have been fun, and as a comic book enthusiast, I’ve been pretty stoked at the revival in Star Trek comics that’s been happening for the last 9 years.

That said, I suspect I’m not alone in really kinda hating how CBS is doing this.

The first episode will air on the traditional CBS network. After that, the rest of the episodes will be distributed exclusively on the CBS All Access platform, a Hulu-like service carrying CBS content exclusively for $6 a month.

According to executive VP Marc DeBevoise: “This new series will premiere to the national CBS audience, then boldly go where no first-run Star Trek series has gone before…

Behind a pay-wall.

At least in the United States. World-wide it sounds like the series will air via traditional over-the-air networks as well as the all-access app.

All 28 seasons of previously aired Star Trek (not counting 2 years of animated series because who would) were available for free over the air. I know we live in a “different era of television” but this feels a lot like asking us to pay for something we’ve always been able to count on for free.

I can’t decide if CBS’ logic is that the exclusive content will attract more users to the service, or that the series is niche enough that it might be better to go the way of other streaming series like Arrested Development, Community and The Mindy Project. All of those shows had original broadcasts runs and were later revived by Netflix, Yahoo TV and Hulu respectively.

But there’s something about the CBS service that has always felt less than other services like Hulu and Netflix, even Amazon Prime. It sets a precedent for a la carte channel services. I like that my $8 a month to Hulu buys me current and past ABC, FOX, NBC, CW shows (and countless other networks). Just today I was marveling at how much obscure Anime, British television and Korean drama came with my $8 a month. I’m sure CBS has some of the same, but after a while it feels like we keep spending money to buy the same things over and over again with only slight differences.

I only watch two CBS shows currently: The Big Bang Theory, which I binge watch on DVD, and NCIS, which just got 12 seasons streaming on Netflix. The only other CBS shows I’ve been watching have been available on other services, Elementary on Hulu, Numb3rs on Netflix, etc. I’d watch more CBS shows when they come on services I already own, including CBS owned back episodes of Star Trek. I would even go back to appointment television if CBS aired the new series traditionally. I’ll probably buy it if/when they release it on DVD. But until then I’ll have to wait.

Unless we can change CBS’s mind…

If you think the new Star Trek should be available over the free airwaves for all, as it has been for 50 years, send a message using the hashtag #StarTrek4All to @CBS or @StarTrek. Tactics like forcing Star Trek fans to pay for a new series, run the risk of dooming that series before it starts.

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The Simpsons – Best Episodes for Writers

People who know me well, know that I try to keep up an encyclopedic knowledge of The Simpsons, and have a belief that a list of episodes can be created for just about any topic imaginable (something I often do at holidays or whenever some topic comes up in conversation, most often with my wife *sorry*).

Writing isn’t a topic you’d think would be well covered on The Simpsons, but actually there are a number of references to almost every member of The Simpson family putting out a book or two.

Bart Gets Famous – Season 5 Episode 12

A future jump ahead finds Lisa at the typewriter as a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist with Bart polishing all her awards. Best quote “Impaled on my Nobel peace prize. How ironic” after Lisa gives Bart a swift kick.

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They Saved Lisa’s Brain – Season 10 Episode 22

Several episodes involve impassioned letters by Lisa to the populace of Springfield, this one inspired by the riotous behavior at a low-fat pudding gross out contest. Her plea for more dignified discourse earns her a place in the local chapter of mensa.

Treehouse Of Horror VII (The Thing and I) – Season 8 Episode 1

Though not officially canon, unsold copies of Homer’s autobiography are seen in the attic. Apparently the book wasn’t very popular.

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Bart of Darkness – Season 6 Episode 1

Bart is trapped in the house with a broken leg, and TV is all reruns. Apparently his only alternative is writing his own play. “Is it St. Swithens day already? Tis!”

Diatribe of a Mad Housewife – Season 15 Episode 10

Marge writes a popular romance novel in which Homer is portrayed as a boor, and Flanders her sexy lover. Confrontations at the edge of cliffs ensue. Apparently all you have to do to succeed is write and you’ll immediately be popular.

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I’m sure there’s many I missed. Any other flavorites?

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The Old Ways are the Best Ways

I just want to watch a little TV at the end of my day. Why must it be so hard?

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See if any of these stories sound familiar:

  • The Netflix app on both the Wii and the Wii U “gums up” (for lack of a better term), after a while and needs to be uninstalled and reinstalled to be watchable.
  • After futzing with trying to get John Oliver to stream on the Fire TV stick, I plug in my computer which works, but only after I stop streaming in Opera and use Chrome instead. Ironically, the quality is much better than even when the FireTV is working.
  • I increased my download speed, which I’ve tested, yet shows seem to stream worse. Why don’t shows let me set the quality rate instead of trying to calculate what they think is best? They are almost always wrong!
  • A show on Netflix becomes randomly unplayable two minutes from the end and will not reload even after you reboot all your hardware.
  • A video on YouTube is easy to find on a computer, and impossible to find in an app.
  • I try to use my Roku and the TuneIn radio app to listen to the 24/7 stream of This American Life, only for it to stutter and fail after five minutes.
  • Both my Roku and FireTV stick are hot and can only be turned off by unplugging them which causes a really slow boot the next go around.
  • Hulu shows me that damn Windows 10 commercial for the 100th time. I am not going to raise my children to “lick the internet”. It’s just an OS, get over yourself! Also some weird girl who likes “orange crem” yogurt.

That last one might just be me.

I love the convenience of being able to pick any episode of Star Trek and watch it without having to pull out my DVD’s, and I’m kind of bummed the same service doesn’t exist for Babylon 5. My wife and I started watching MASH because it came on Netflix, even though I also own all the episodes on DVD. And I’m glad I still have those disks because there have been several nights where I’ve had to use them instead when Netflix was being a butt.

I have yet to find a dedicated streaming device that is the equal of even a rudimentary laptop. And none of them compare to actually having the physical media. For all our cord cutting, we still aren’t getting the same reliability we used to get for free over the air, or for an exorbitant fee over the wire, or for a mid fee for a spinning disc. Don’t get me wrong, whenever I go back to over the air I’m shocked by the quality dip. But at least I can watch. I like solving computer problems for fun, but not network issues. That kind of stuff just needs to work, or I get cranky.

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Star Trek vs. Batman (Trivia Answer)

Trivia Question from Yesterday:

There were a number of notable actors who gave their voice talents to Batman: The Animated Series including at least 7 from the Star Trek films and movies. Can you name them all? Hint: As far as I know TOS, TNG, DS9 and VOY are represented as well as at least two actors from the movies.

Answer:

The Riddler (voiced by John Glover)

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Played Verad Dax in DS9’s “Invasive Procedures”

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Leslie Thompkins (voiced by Diana Muldaur)

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She’s actually been in two Star Trek series TOS and TNG. Her TOS episodes were “Return To Tomorrow” and more notably “Is There in Truth No Beauty?”

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But she’s probably best known (if not best loved) for her role as Dr. Katherine Pulaski on Season 2 of The Next Generation. Personally I like her McCoy-like personality in the TNG-verse and think she’s underrated.

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Red Claw (voiced by Kate Mulgrew). This one I didn’t know till I saw it on the Wikipedia page for Batman.

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Even before she was the first female Captain in a Star Trek show, Kathryn Janeway was a tough lady.

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And now she’s Red again (in Orange is the New Black).

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How colorful.

Ra’s al Ghul (voiced by David Warner)

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Portrayed Chancellor Gorkon in my favorite Star Trek movie “The Undiscovered Country”.

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As well as Gul Madred in the two-part TNG episode “Chain of Command”. There are four lights!

Madred

Also he played an ambassador in Star Trek V, but that’s best forgotten.

Mr. Freeze (voiced by Michael Ansara)

Freeze

Portrayed Kang in TOS and DS9.

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But not this Kang.

Kang

Lucius Fox (voiced by Brock Peters)

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Played Admiral Cartwright in Star Trek IV and VI.

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As well as Captain Sisko’s father Joseph in DS9.

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Dr. March (voiced by Rene Auberjonois). He appears in the first animated series episode “On Leather Wings”

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And all the time on DS9 as Constable Odo.

Odo

Never looks very happy.

Can you name any more that I’ve missed?

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Memories of an X-Millennial: Batman – The Animated Series

So I thought a good irregular feature here on the blog would be talking about something I remember from my childhood in the 90’s and looking into how it holds up now, as a guy in my 30’s. I’ll admit to owning more than my fair share of 90’s media on DVD and reading and watching things that are “technically” too young for me.

A word about the term X-Millennial. I’ve spoken before about not really feeling part of either Gen X or the Millennials. Technically speaking I’m probably a Millennial, though I’m not what most people think of when the use the term. And I’m not alone. There’s a group of us who have some of the values of the X’ers, and the idealism of the Mille’s. I’ve heard this called the “Oregon Trail” generation, but I’m trying on a new term today.

First up in the wayback machine … Batman – The Animated Series

Image Source: Wikipedia

Image Source: Wikipedia

According to Wikipedia this show ran from 1994-1995 (producing about 90 episodes), but I know it was in re-runs for years after that.

This show defined my early perception of the character and tone of Batman and his rogues gallery. It’s been pointed out to me that Joker is a little more impotent than his comic book form, the WB show didn’t allow for the depiction of murder which is kinda Joker’s thing. But any loss in tone is more than made up for in Mark Hamill’s gleeful performance. It’s not a coincidence that most of this voice cast showed up in the popular Batman games of the last few years starting with Arkham Asylum.

Watching the episodes now I can feel what might be perceived today as slow pacing in a couple of episodes, but this seems reflective of the Batman titles of the era. Indeed this was my first introduction to some classic tales by Frank Miller, Marv Wolfman and Max Allen Collins without even knowing it. I tend to favor a more light-hearted dark knight, without descending into full Adam West absurdity. We definitely see Batman’s angst in movies like Mask of the Phantasm and encounters with The Scarecrow. Guilt over believing he has broken his code of not killing it was destroys a Batman robot duplicate (from some of my favorite episodes involving the robo-cloning computer HARDAC).

My favorite episodes still are Blind as a Bat in which a temporarily blinded Batman must face off against the Penguin, the aforementioned HARDAC episodes particularly His Silicon Soul which features robot-Batman, the whole Mr. Freeze saga (starting with Heart of Ice), Harley and Ivy featuring the Joker’s girlfriend (sort of) teaming up with Poison Ivy on their own crime spree free of men.

Watching these again I don’t think I realized how many recurring characters and elements ran in the background, particularly Rupert Thorne and the gangster elements. The origins of most rogues are told, notably Harvey Dent as DA and eventual turn to Two-Face. The show isn’t just a series of one-off adventures, but does build on one comes before.

Overall, these are good as remember them, maybe not as good as some of the best of the comics, but they hold their own nonetheless. And despite some deliberate pacing, there are other storylines that are told more tightly and dramatically than serial comics can manage.

Trivia Question: There were a number of notable actors who gave their voice talents to this show including at least 7 from the Star Trek films and movies. Can you name them all? Hint: As far as I know TOS, TNG, DS9 and VOY are represented as well as at least two actors from the movies.

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Sex and The Simpsons

Long time readers of the blog know that my weekly Friday afternoon ritual is to listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour and enjoy a little reportage on the latest movies and musings on pop culture. Last Friday featured a discussion on the way sex is portrayed for parents with children, whether its played for laughs or if the people involved actually seem to have some passion. Usually I can count on fellow nerd Stephen Thompson to be right there with a way to relate almost any discussion to The Simpsons, but this week he let me down. Maybe you were just feeling you bring up The Simpsons too much Stephen, though I don’t know how such a thing could be possible. The Simpsons touches on almost all the areas you discuss when it comes to its portrayal of sex, something I will now demonstrate for you with 12 episodes.

Homer desired by other women

Despite being bald and overweight, Homer has had several opportunities for extra-marital affairs, all of which he has declined even in times of marital trouble. In “Colonel Homer” (Season 3 Episode 20) after a fight with Marge, Homer takes country singer Lurleen Lumpkin from cocktail waitress to country TV star when a song of hers relates to him. Lurleen is both grateful for Homer’s interest and faith in her, and lack of expecting something in return. She tries to invite him to “bunk with me tonight”, but Homer declines (and later asks Lurleen to clarify if she would have gone all the way, to which her reply is an enthusiastic yes).

Great line from this: “It takes two people to lie. One to lie, and one to listen.”

More notably in “Last Temptation Of Homer” (Season 5 Episode 9), a new employee at the nuclear plant, who shares Homer’s love of donuts, beer and sports, causes a real conundrum for Homer. He’s obviously attracted to her, and she to him. Despite being shown by the ghost of Colonel Klink that both his and Marge’s lives would actually be better if he left her, and being told by a fortune cookie that he will find happiness in a new love, Homer stays and shows Marge the night of her life. “Oh Margie, you came and you brought me a turkey, on my vacation away from workee”.

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Marge desired by other men

Marge has been pursued by a lot of would be Letharios, from Moe to Mr. Burns to a Manatee loving Alec Baldwin to old high school flame-out Artie Ziff. But the most notable is Jacques from Season 1 Episode 9’s “Life on the Fast Lane”. A selfish birthday present from Homer sends Marge to the bowling alley, where she meets a sensuous bowling instructor who invites her back to the Fiesta terrace. Marge is annoyed at Homer, and enamored of Jacques, and was saved only by “an ironic street” depicting love’s blossoming, to old age, to death, to skeletons in a shop window. This leads to one of the most classic endings of The Simpsons where Marge meets a depressed Homer at the power plant, and he carries her out in his arms. “I’m going to the backseat of my car with the woman I love, and I won’t be back for ten minutes!”

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Season 14 Episode 4 “Large Marge” also brought Marge a lot of attention, from her husband and other less desirable corners. Her new bazoomas even inspired Homer to song, though they did prove to be an awful strain on her back.

Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy

Season 6 Episode 10 brings a double whammy to the discussion of sex, “Grandpa vs. Sexual Inadequacy”. Here we see Marge and Homer’s problems in bed frankly depicted, with reasons for lack of loving being TV movies, enchiladas, and the classic TV trope of the kids running in. Grandpa has the solution, and while the idea of old people having sex is mostly played for laughs, Grandpa provides a tonic that puts the spring back in Homer’s step, so much so that the two decide to go on the road selling the tonic to everyone.

Both Abe and Mr. Burns fight over the hand of Marge’s mother in “Lady Bouvier’s Lover” (Season 5 Episode 21). Notably Mrs. Bouvier turns both Burns and Abe down for sex and marriage, but while some moments are still played for laughs, particularly Homer giving his Dad “play it cool” advice to get a kiss, some moments are really sweet and show Grandpa can be more than just an old coot.

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Homer’s weight is rarely discussed as an issue with his relationship with Marge (less than you might think), though a notable exception is “King Size Homer” Season 7 Episode 7, in which a scheme to get disability payments by gaining weight forces Marge to make the admission that she is less attracted to Homer.

Homer goes too far

Homer does occasionally get himself in real trouble with Marge on the issue of sex. In Season 1 Episode 10 “Homer’s Night Out” a photo of Homer dancing with Princess Cashmere circulates through Bart’s school and Homer’s work, eventually leading to Marge throwing him out. Homer redeems himself by teaching Bart that women are not just objects (sort of), but his impassioned plea is good enough for Marge.

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More ruinously, Homer reveals many of Marge and his private moments in Season 5 Episode 22 “Secrets Of A Successful Marriage”, thoroughly embarrassing Marge, and causing her to believe she can’t trust him anymore. His plea for forgiveness of “complete and utter dependency” is a little weak, but while Homer doesn’t always say the best things, he says them in the right way.

Homer the Lover

Homer and Marge have on balance a fairly healthy sex life, with some ups and downs. They do occasionally engage in roleplay (or at least winter coatplay) “That name again is Mr. Plow”. When the kids are away in “Kamp Krusty” (Season 4 Episode 1), Marge and Homer get frisky in the shower, though all the lost weight, new hair and love life evaporate as soon as the kids return.

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In “Natural Born Kissers” (Season 9 Episode 25) Marge and Homer’s dull anniversary leads them to believe the passion is gone. But after nearly getting caught hiding in a farmer’s barn, the element of danger adds new zest. This leads them to try nookie in all sorts of dangerous places, leading to nearly being discovered in their old love nest in the putt-putt windmill, and finally ending up standing naked in a loaded football stadium. While a lot of this is played for laughs, and there is definitely some “ew, gross” from the kids, much of the episode does show the two of them having fun.

So, as we have now learned, The Simpsons belongs in every discussion of pop-culture. You would do well to remember this, Stephen 🙂

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