Monday, May 20, 2013

The TV Elite

I recently watched Doctor Who's "Blink" because, while I can't get into the series, I had heard too many great things about the episode not to watch it.  Sure enough, there is a little of the cheesiness that turns me off to the Doctor and his companions, but, for the most part, the episode is a strong psychological thriller with Carey Mulligan going insane as she is told by a strange man in a number of DVD easter eggs that she is being stalked by a monster.  It didn't get me interested in watching other Doctor Who episodes, but it did get me thinking about my favorite single TV episodes.  I'm talking drama here, so we'll leave comedy (Seinfeld's "The Contest"; Curb Your Enthusiasm's "The Survivor"; The Cosby Show's "A Shirt Story"; and so on) for later.  This is mostly off the top of my head and it's just a beginning.  I guess I'd consider these the essential episodes of the series in question, though certain ones require context for true enjoyment beyond the artistic qualities.  So, in no particular order and admittedly ignoring anything before 2000 (and feel free to add on):

  • Breaking Bad:
    • "Hermanos" (S4E8) -- The shocking backstory of the mysterious Gus Fring.  One of the rare TV episodes I've ever left on the DVR so I could watch it again the next day.
  • Mad Men:
    • "Shut the Door. Have a Seat." (S3E13) -- Sterling Cooper goes Oceans Eleven.  "Very good.  Happy Christmas!"
    • "The Suitcase" (S4E7) -- This may be the only other episode I've watched again the next day.  Just Don and Peggy, the great dueling personalities, stuck overnight at work, fighting and mourning.
  • C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation:
    • "Grave Danger" (S5E24 and 25) -- Tarantino directs a terrifying, edge-of-your-seat two-parter as one of the CSI team is buried alive and slowly dying.
  • Lost:
    • "The Constant" (S4E5) -- Desmond and Penny, the quintessential love affair of 2000s network TV.
  • The Wire:
    • "Old Cases" (S1E4) -- It's a fine episode, like all of them, but it's all about "that scene" as McNulty and Bunk survey the crime scene and keep saying the same word over and over.
    • "Final Grades" (S4E13) -- The heartbreaking finale to the inarguably most heartbreaking season in TV history.
  • The Sopranos:
    • "College" (S1E5) -- Tony takes Meadow to look at a college and discovers someone from his past.  Carmela asks Father Phil over for the sexiest communion ever.
    • "Employee of the Month" (S3E4) -- Dr. Melfi is sexually assaulted.  Hilarity ensues.
    • "University" (S3E6) -- Ralphie is not a good guy.
  • Grey's Anatomy:
    • "Sanctuary" and "Lockdown" (S6E23 and 24) -- Yes, indeed.  "Sanctuary" is the more gripping one, though they have to go together.  The disgruntled husband of a deceased patient walks into Seattle Grace and starts killing doctors.  As shocking an episode of TV as I can remember.
  • Buffy The Vampire Slayer:
    • "Hush" (S4E10) -- Not a great season, but this is daring artistically.
  • Dexter:
    • "The Getaway" (S4E12) -- The finale of the Trinity Killer season.  Oh, that ending...
  • The Americans:
    • "The Colonel" (S1E13) -- As finely plotted as you get, along with the next one.
  • Sherlock:
    • "The Great Game" (S1E3) -- Sherlock is sent around London solving seemingly disconnected puzzles that all come together around one man.
  • Friday Night Lights:
    • "Pilot" (S1E1) -- This may be my favorite episode of TV, ever.
    • "The Son" (S4E5) -- Saracen's father comes home.
    • "Always" (S5E13) -- The series finale, as Vince Howard leads East Dillon into the State Championship game and Mrs. Coach weighs her job options.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


I had taken a long respite from blogging -- about 17 months -- but I'm coming out of retirement.  It's partly because, with my brief tryst with fame over, I've been looking for something to do and partly because I saw something last night that so confounded me that my love for bad movies was rekindled and I had to spew about it somewhere.  Blame my wife for being out of town.

I had heard some good reviews of Dredd, the 2012 Rob Schneider-less adaptation of the Judge Dredd comics.  It has 77% on Rotten Tomatoes.  The special effects were supposed to be great.  It stars Karl Urban, everyone's favorite space doctor/ DeForest Kelly impersonator, plus Lena Headey, everyone's favorite incestuous mother of a murderous teenage tyrant/ Linda Hamilton impersonator, and even Wood Harris, everyone's favorite strong-side linebacker/ drug kingpin who says "The game is the game.  Always."

But even if Wood Harris had called in Michael Kenneth Williams and Michael Potts to do his dirty work and save this movie, even the combined awesomeness of Omar and Brother Mouzone couldn't have made anything from this mess.  "Oh, man, it's Omar and Brother Mouzone, awesome!  Wait, why are they walking around in this movie?  Why are we getting them delivering this awful dialogue instead of a season 6 where Carcetti becomes governor and signs in marriage equality and then goes and pops into Treme for a cameo when the Ravens go to New Orleans?"

I suppose the special effects were made to look awesome in 3D, but I doubt that was the case and, besides, it cost $50 million and only grossed $13.4 million, so maybe they should have thought about how it would look on people's TVs.  The visual nature of the film leads me to assume that director Pete Travis has only ever watched Zack Snyder movies and, perhaps, only Sucker Punch.  It is just frames of slow-motion after frozen shots of explosions after uses of light that even Lincoln thought was a bit too much.  He tries to make it creepy and it really just made me very sleepy.

The acting is just fine if you like Karl Urban's chin spitting out monotonous one-liners that got cut from The Expendables.  In fact, the dialogue is so heavy-handed that none of the performances would be good enough to get past it.  It's written by the guy who's writing the screenplay for the Halo movie, so I'm sure I'm being tough on him.  (To be fair, he also wrote 28 Days Later, but that movie happened to be directed by one of the best in the world and it's certainly more memorable visually than it is dialogue-wise.)

Maybe more than anything else, it's just overly violent.  Not in a Grindhouse way -- putting aside Tarantino's use of violence as satire of violence in Django Unchained -- but in a Robocop way.  Which was great when I was a kid, but as we get closer and closer to that OCP future, it gets less and less appealing.  There's just too much blood and too many closeups of blood.  It comes off, in violence and style, as a significantly less clever Sin City.

Dredd is the worst movie I watched in recent memory and, in the last four days, I've watched both American Reunion and Wrath of the Titans.  Do you get that?  I watched Wrath of the Titans and I liked it more than this movie that got 77% on Rotten Tomatoes!

Anyways, I'm back.  I may drool over Girls or Justified or the 30 Rock finale, but my main goal here is to get back in the swing of watching bad movies.  Amour was incredible, but I didn't want to think too long and hard about how it made me feel.  I'm happy to think too long and hard about how Dredd made me feel.