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Monday, April 11, 2011

The Borgias - "The Moor" Review

“Most things in life prove to be sad, sis. Again, I have been told.” -Cesare

I was not kind to The Borgias in my previous review. I found it dull, boring, and predictable. This third episode has proved to me that there is a lot of potential with this show. I found many of the elements still predictable, but I at least got the feeling that there could be some real drama present. Before, the characters were one sided and transparent, now it seems like all the characters have more of a voice and all have something to lose or gain. Each decision the characters made this past episode had consequences. The youngest son, Juan Borgia was perhaps the person who learned the most difficult lesson. His vain desire to please his father and prove useful lead to him getting in over his head. It was his botched attempt at the assassination of Prince Alfonso that lead to him having to kill him with his own hands. It was this Prince Alfonso character that I found to be most interesting.

The Borgias is largely a story of the family defending their papacy by any means necessary. This will undoubtedly lead to lots of scheming, backstabbing, and the making of decisions unfit for the pope. If the season were to just be one event after another of the pope showing us he’s villainous, then the show would fall flat and cease to be interesting. The Prince Alfonso story did a great job a weaving all of the members of the family story lines into one. The pope needed to marry off his daughter and needed a dowry. The death of Alfonso would net him a large sum from the Sultan of Constantinople. So he enlists his son Juan to do the deed for him. Juan anxious to prove his worth to his father asks Cesare to borrow his professional assassin to help him. Cesare, fresh off accepting the cardinal position he’s not exactly thrilled about, does not wish to see the moor die as he can see that his sister Lucrezia loves him. One thing that can’t be forgotten in all of this is Cesare’s love for his sister. He wishes he could be her husband, so he takes the marrying off of her very seriously. This leads to first time that Cesare calls out his father, who now is firmly in control of the papacy. Every decision each character made showed characterization and advanced the plot. It really was a beautifully told tale. I don’t think they should have a guest star each week to advance the plot consistently at this pace, but this really set up future events.

The show also proved two things to me that I was quite surprised at. The first is that it seemed it was being sold as this sexy drama where all the characters will get got up in scandalous affair after scandalous affair. However this episode did not have one scene of nudity and no sex or implied sex. It was just a drama about the moral quandaries of the papal family. I’m sure the sexiness will come back at some point, but I’m glad they’re not just solely relying sex to sell their show. The other is that it proved it could be light-hearted. The suitor scene was particularly entertaining. Every serious drama needs to show moments of levity and the bringing in of silly suitor after silly suitor proved to be a nice change of pace.

I also found the Prince of Naples to be awfully entertaining. The dining room of dead and stuffed adversaries was a chilling image. If Cardinal Sforza wants to be serious about dethroning Pope Borgia he’s going to find himself in some most unpleasant situations. Whereas Micheletto is right at home in the dining room of the deceased. My dad always taught me not to get into fights with stupid people as they will bring you down to their level and beat you with experience. I feel the same can be said for the cardinal and his dealings with getting rid of the pope. He’ll be faced with many moral quandaries and it will turn into a game of chicken between he and the Borgias family as to who blinks first and feels the guilt of their decisions. My money is on the Borgias. I admired though that this was not the central focus of the episode. It will be series long struggle for people to try and dethrone the pope, so there’s no need to constantly be putting him the cross hairs of those who wish him out.

It’s hard to believe that my opinion of a show can be changed so quickly. But this episode of The Borgias really has me excited about the future of the narrative. I look forward very much to the marriage of Lucrezia and what Cesare will do. Will Juan be able to handle this new life style? How will Lucrezia feel when she learns that she’s just a pawn in her father’s game? There are so many good places to go with these stories, I just hope that I am not disappointed. If the episodes are all like this one, surely I will not be.

The Killing - "El Diablo" Review

“No flowers. Flowers die.” -Darren

The Killing picked right up where it left off last week. The show is unapologetically dark and doesn’t sugar coat anything. There seems to be a lot of positive about the show, which is surprising for a show that is so dark and, for lack of a better word, unhappy. The show beats you up emotionally and we don’t get any real “wins” as a viewer. The Killing continues to further the murder mystery story but also provides us with great images. Two specific images stuck out in my mind from this past episode. The first it the view of “the cage” through the peep hole in the janitor’s office. Was he witness to the horrendous crimes against Rosie? Tough to think about. The second was Mrs. Larsen trying to feel what it’s like drowning herself. The view of the bathtub with just her hands on the outside was definitely stirring. The Killing has an ability to make us feel deeply for those involved through the cinematography and direction.

One aspect I really, and I hesitate to use this word, really *like* about The Killing is that a lot of the crime so far has involved kids. Drama involving teens always has an inherent sense of danger. They don’t fully understand risk, so they’re capable of a lot of damage. For this reason, I find the Jasper/Echols/Sterling story very interesting. I was definitely a bit uncomfortable watching the cell phone video of what appeared to be a duel rape of Rosie, but it seemed so real. Now I hope you can see why I hesitated to use the word “like.” It’s not that I enjoy seeing teens involved in such crimes, but it heightens every sense of justice when kids are involved. After watching what we saw at the end of the episode, we are now so emotionally invested in finding out just who killed Rosie that we will tune in every week and demand those involved get hit with the stiffest punishment possible. The Killing isn’t easy to watch, but dang it if it isn’t compelling.

Because of the nature of murder mysteries, this show will lead to a series of wild conspiracies due to pointers in the script. The newest ones are that Darren is being set up by the current mayor. He had the girl killed and framed his campaign. The other is that Hooper is holding some information that could impact the investigation. We learn about this because of his clandestine phone call. Murder mysteries always have to throw the viewers off the scent a bit. I’m not sure if any of these situations will materialize, but there were definitely some hints that there is more than just meets the eye with Holden and Darren Richmond. I never like it when in murder mysteries the killer is just some random person out of nowhere, so the writers need to introduce us to the killer at some point, make us think they are the murderer, then make us question that thought, and finally deliver them to us. As of right now, the only person we can really write off is Sarah Linden.

The writers have to be careful about the amount of time we spend with the parents of the deceased. I know they need to be present to humanize the situation and make us care, but at what point is it pandering? I know the show can’t just be about the investigation, or else it would be a procedural, but they need to serve and evolve just like everybody else. I’m still liking them, but I worry about that going forward. How much do we need to see of the two kids dealing with the loss of the sister, the dad trying to be strong, and the mom being broken up emotionally. They’re afforded this grieving time now, but at some point I’ll need to see more out of them. Perhaps they go rogue and try and take justice into their own hands because they aren’t satisfied with the pace of the investigation.

I’m curious why we’re spending so much time with campaign of Darren Richmond. It’s not that I don’t find mayoral politics interesting, but I wonder just how essential they are to the story. It has a similar feel to Carcetti on The Wire. It really rounds out the show, but in the first three episodes, we’re getting a heavy dose of it. Perhaps they needed to just show his quest to really get a grip on the race so it his involvement with the case will have higher stakes going forward. Either way, I’d like to see a little less of the mayoral campaign politics and more of the investigation.

Since we’re on the subject of things I think we can spend less time on, I submit Sarah Linden’s love life. I know that she is supposed to leave Seattle for a retired life in Los Angeles with her new husband and kid and that the case is keeping her here. We know she’s going to get emotionally involved and she’ll see the case out, so we don’t need to spend time every episode reminding us that she has somewhere she needs to get to. We should instead spend that time developing the relationship between her and Holden. I really enjoy seeing their two different styles of detecting playing against each other. They both have things they’re hiding and have their own demons, so I’m very intrigued to see how the situation plays out.

The Killing will undoubtedly put us through a roller coaster of emotions. I for one am very excited to be on this ride with the show. I’m a sucker for a good crime story and this seems to be no exception. I hope they take their time and really deliver some great drama. If the first three episodes are any indication, I believe we’re going to be in for a great season of television.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Justified "Brother's Keeper" Review

Every car salesman should pray to God Mag Bennett never walks into their dealership to buy a car. Mags put on a clinic in negotiation this week and made Carol look like a little school girl in the process.

We've been waiting a long time the season to get Boyd, the Bennetts and Raylan all in the same place at the same time and Mags party is just that place. Once again Walton Goggins is outstanding playing Boyd with the quiet confidence of a man who is holding the winning hand. That winning hand happened to be the rights to Arlo's land. We need Boyd to find his confidence and ego once again. Justified and Harlan County are just more interesting when Boyd Crowder is a major player. Is there any chance that the deal struck between Boyd and Mags lasts? Especially with her final words to him "stay out of the weed business that's Bennett territory."

I love Mags and Margo Martindale deserves as much adulation for her performance as Walton Goggins does for playing Boyd. The negotiation scene between Mags, Boyd and Carol showed us a new side of Mags. When it came time to dealing with business, the flamboyant hill billy went away and a cold business woman took her place. You could nearly see Carol shrink when she realized she wasn't dealing with typical mountain folk anymore. Mags was able to put the screws to her all the while knowing the end result. Once Mags had Boyd and Arlo's land on her side, Carol and Black Pike Mining never stood a chance.

The other Bennett I've been itching to see more of is Dickie. We still didn't get a full helping but he did offer a bit of levity during the party. No one else could have pulled off pop and locking during Mags mountain singing.

I think we've all known for a while that when things started to progress with the Bennetts, Coover was going to be the first one to go down. During the opening scene when he overhears his mother talking about his shortcomings, you had to know things were going to spin out of control for Coover. The only question was who was going to get him? He's had several confrontations with Raylan this season, Mags smashed his hand with a hammer for doing something stupid before and now Loretta saw him wearing her daddy's watch. As it turned out it was a combination of Loretta and Raylan. But ultimately it will be Raylan that faces the retribution for Coover's death.

I'm still uncertain about Mags interest in Loretta. Was is purely that she only had boys and saw Loretta as her chance to raise a daughter? The way she turned her emotions off when Raylan wouldn't let her speak to Loretta made it seem as though her motives were something else. I'm guessing this is the last we'll see of Loretta.

With the business between Carol and the Bennetts wrapping up, I was actually glad to see Raylan rebuff Carol's advances. Raylan isn't that guy. He's no saint when it comes to women but his relationship with Winona is still in flux and I don't think he wants to do anything to put it in danger. Carol's failure to seduce Raylan pretty much completed her flop of a trip.

So with Coover dead, a deal struck between with the mining company and Boyd back in business, where are we headed? You know the Bennetts will be coming after Raylan now. My guess is Raylan will actually be facing a two front war as Boyd ramps up his outlaw ways again. I wouldn't be surprised though to see Boyd assisting Raylan as he faces off with the Bennetts. Boyd and Raylan have that relationship like two brothers on opposite sides of law. Even though they may see the world from opposite points of view, they're still joined by a common respect and connection with one another. A few weeks ago I thought maybe the Bennett arc was going to linger in to next season but now I thing we'll see a war progress quickly with a final resolution by season's end.

Now sing us a song Mags.

Random thoughts:
  • I missed Chief Deputy Mullen this week. Just like Boyd and Mags, I need my weekly fix of Mullen.
  • Every week that passes without seeing Gary or Duffy makes their scene a few weeks ago more bizarre.

American Idol One of 9 Voted Off - 4/7/11

I started to watch the results show while the kids were still up but once the rock medley started, I knew this train wreck would need my full attention. I turned it off until I could watch it without distraction. So here we go.

Let's get the medley awards out of the way first:

Lauren is the run away winner for worst outfit of the night. There's not even a close second.

Haley edges out Pia for favorite outfit of the night.

Paul wins for most natural performance during the medley.

Scotty, Jacob and James tie for goofiest stage presence.

Randy wins for taking my advice and ditching the hefty bag for a cardigan.

This year's Ford commercials have been lame at best.

Russell Brand on AI? God has officially forsaken us and the Earth is facing imminent doom. If anyone outside of Brand's immediate family sees the new Arthur movie Poseidon should release the Kraken and destroy us all.

Lauren, Casey and Stefano. If my predictions hold true I think Stefano should be in the bottom. Plus the guy's a one trick pony. Lauren deserves to be safe unless we deduct points for tonight's outfit. I thought Casey's performance was too safe but I also think he's regained his mojo so I didn't think he'd be in danger.

Do me a favor pause your DVR at the 24 minute mark and look just to the right of Ryan. That is the worst/dumbest hat ever worn. The guy would look better and less ridiculous sitting there in a fez. OK back to the show.

I thought we retired Unchained Melody when Simon left the show. I guess not because Constantine and his butt chin have brought it back tonight.

Paul, Scotty and Pia. If someone in the group is in the bottom it's going to be Paul. The other 2 have pretty strong voting bases. Pia had my least favorite of those 3 performances though. Wow Pia is in the bottom 3? I didn't see that coming but I'm not that disappointed. She's been boring for a few weeks now. Even doing a more uptempo song last night didn't do much to liven up her performances. I can tell you this though, Stefano just crapped his pants because he knows he can't beat her.

The TMZ/American Idol piece is completely unwatchable and definitive proof that the results show should only be 30 minutes. Absolutely brutal.

James, Haley, Jacob. James is the most deserving to be in the bottom but I wouldn't be surprised if it was Jacob. He went first and that's always a tough spot. Yep just what I was afraid of. The best part of this is that this should assure us that Stefano is going home.

Iggy Pop hasn't owned a shirt since 1968. Fact. Another fact is 1973 Iggy Pop would have killed himself if he'd known 2011 Iggy Pop was going to be on American Idol.

Here's my preference for who goes home of these 3. First Stefano, he sucks and ruins my Wednesday nights. Second Pia, she bores me but is nice to look at. Third Jacob, I like him and think he brings a R&B element no one else on the show brings.

Ryan that was just mean. You nearly killed that kid. Please be Stefano. Please be Stefano. What? How does Stefano keep dodging these bullets? Wow. The judges completely missed the point. Boring is the most unforgivable of all sins on AI. You can be off key, pitchy or whatever but if you're boring, America will make you pay.

I don't want to be the guy that says I told you so but last week when the judges told her to do something other than a ballad, I said watching her in the group performances she doesn't have that in her. She doesn't move on stage well enough. She was less likely to bore us by standing still and belting out Celine Dion songs than roboticlly (yes I know that's not a word) trying to imitate Tina Turner. Oh well. I still think Stefano should have been long gone but I don't vote.

On a positive note, I feel much better about my bet on Casey now.

The Borgias Premiere Review

“God will forgive us son. But I will not forgive failure from you.” -Rodrigo Borgias

At the risk of sounding sophomoric, I think I’ll rename The Borgias, “The Bore-gias” until further notice. There’s nothing too special going on in this period drama. The Borgias is the story of Rodrigo Borgias, played by Jeremy Irons, and his criminal family taking hold of the papacy. This story was apparently the inspiration for Mario Puzo when he wrote The Godfather so we all kind of know what’s happening from the beginning. Rodrigo buys the papacy and gets his position by any means necessary. This includes murder, bribery and seduction. As with any drama the most important element in storytelling is human change. I do not think we will get much change out Rodrigo. He is the constant force. This leaves our young hero Cesare. Cesare Borgia is Rodrigo’s son, played by Francois Arnaud, who has eyes to be leader of the papal army. However, Rodrigo has plans for him to join the cloth.

Cesare’s journey is what is going to carry the show. He appears to have convictions about what is happening in his life, but still chooses to honor his family. Because he is held in a higher standard by the audience his fall from grace will be more tragic. His decision whether to stay in this life of crime or leave it will provide our main source of conflict. Cesare has goals and objectives that are not completely clear to the viewer so we still have an interest in what he does.

I fear that the Rodrigo story line will grow tiresome. We get it. He’s a lecherous pope and the cardinals all want to overthrow him. What can we possibly find interesting about this? The big problem is that Rodrigo is not a sympathetic character. We aren’t rooting for him to keep the papacy because he deserves it, but instead are rooting for him to keep it so the show stays interesting. There will be a constant battle to make each attempt on his reign seem new and believable. He just seems to have such absolute power as Pope, that I’m not sure just how much I can believe he’s ever in any real danger of losing his position.

One of the main problems with the show is that the supporting characters, other than Cesare, aren’t interesting. I still have hopes for Juan Borgia, but we didn’t really get to see him do much in these first two episodes. I certainly have seen enough of Holliday Grainger and her portrayal of Lucrezia Borgia. For having as much screen time as she did, she never really gripped me. I do see that there is potential for her turn the crazy on when the incestuous relationship between her and Cesare is exposed. She’s playing very dull and dim, but maybe it’s a choice that will pay off later when she comes out of her shell. I don’t know how long he’ll be around, but I do think there is a lot of potential in the assassin, Micheletto. He is a total wild card as we’ve seen him play both sides already and we know he’s not afraid to kill. His cold delivery of the line, “I have smothered infants in their bed. But only when the parents paid me,” was pretty haunting.

As a whole, I’m not too enthused about this show. I’m not sure if it’s porn with costumes or porn for costumes. Either way, it just seems like Showtime’s attempt at the next great period drama. I think they’re really going to need to dig down and surprise us. So far we can see all the plot lines developing before they happen. We need to not be bored, and I fear that we are at this point.

Survivor: Redemption Island Recap and Analysis 4/6/2011

“This is going to be good.” -Steve

Zapatera camp life is home to glowing spiders and contestants all trying to justify their inadequacies. They voted off Sarita last week because she was week in challenges. As long as Grant is on the other team, they’ll always be weaker. David takes getting votes very well, but then again, he has too. Matt meets Sarita and is underestimating his opponent. He’s never seemed confident going into a challenge, so I worry for him. But that boy is smart. He starts getting information right away and contemplates switching to Zapatera when the merge happens. Like I’ve said, in order for Zapatera to have a chance post merge, they need both the Redemption Island dueler and Phillip on their side.

Ometepe is home to neon frogs and a disgruntled federal agent. They get tree mail (a term which I have hated since day 1) that suggests a merge is coming. I don’t know why they’re so surprised. It has to be top 10 so there can be an odd number jury. Rob and Phillip square off again about whether or not to gamble and leave all their stuff on the beach. And once again, Phillip claims he’s the red headed step child. As a side note, a “ginger Phillip” would freak me out. Zapatera wants the merge as well to try and get rid of Rob. Baby steps Zapatera. Maybe pick off a weakling first? No? Your funeral.

Matt is poised for his sixth duel! But there’s drama, he has cut his foot. It seems like the show is trying to build tension because on paper, Matt is the clear favorite to beat Sarita in a duel. Here we have it, the winner of the duel is back in the game. The stakes are high. And in true Survivor form, the battle is an endurance challenge. It looks like Matt’s foot injury might come into play. My money is still on Matt and his reentry would be very interesting. Would he defect to Zapatera? Or would he rejoin the team that voted him out? He’s had two weeks to think about it. If I were an onlooker, I wouldn’t let on to who I was rooting for. No reason to put my strategy out there for all to hear. And Matt wins the challenge! He’s an unstoppable Redemption Island warrior! And we have a merge! I’m not sure if this was the payoff the show was looking for, but wait, Redemption Island is starting back up again. This could be interesting now. The producers are trying to do everything to make sure Rob can stay around. That was quite a run for young Matt. Good on you kid.

The “merged tribe” shows up to their new beach and there’s a feast waiting! I remember seasons past when tribes would have to trade in their gear just to get more rice. They’re really making sure these contestants are well fed. Rob names the new tribe Murlonio. He claims it’s Spanish for “of the sea, united,” but it’s actually the name of his wife Amber’s stuffed animal ring leader. Oh Rob...The merged tribe builds a shelter together and Mike the Marine makes the astute move of trying to enlist Matt’s vote. He really can swing the vote. With that option available to him, it all but guarantees he stays in the game a while longer. I almost never see a tribe just run through the other team’s numbers without some sort of shake up. So even though the camp is very divided, I look for new alliances to be made very quickly.

And wouldn’t you know it, Matt wants to blindside the Ometepe tribe and enlists the help of Andrea. I think Andrea needs to tread lightly, because blindsiding Rob may be all well and good, but she’ll lose every single jury vote from each Ometepe tribe member she picks off. She’s best just letting Matt try and pick off the tribe mates with the other team. She also does not want to go up against Matt in the final vote, as he will almost assuredly win the vote.

Matt has an internal struggle going on where he doesn’t want to dishonor his God by playing a deceptive game. I believe Matt is the most outwardly religious player on Survivor. MIke the Marine is bonding with Swing Vote Matt over religion and Boston Rob thinks he should join in on the conversation, but has nothing to add. He wants to break up what he calls “the Christian Coalition.” And sure enough, Rob has eyes for my pick Mike the Marine. He wants him gone at the first chance, and I think he’s smart to do so. Mike is sharp witted and able bodied.

Immunity challenge is another balance and endurance challenge. The contestants have to balance themselves on a round log while balancing a ball on a plate. Phillip is wobbly, but hangs on. Julie is first out and they add a second ball to balance. Ashley falls. David falls. Ralph barely hangs on. The third and final ball is placed on their plates. And Andrea falls. Grant, surprisingly falls early. Then there’s a wave of exits as Matt and Rob both fall. Mike is looking strong. Only one former Ometepe is left. Ralph drops out. Natalie, Steve and Mike are all that remains. Steve falls out. Mike looks unbeatable. But after a fly lands on his ball and the sweat drips off his brow, he loses his balance and falls of the log. Natalie, a former Ometepe, wins immunity. So Mike is poised to be voted out.

Mike, with a great looking beard, hatches a brilliant plan back at camp. He wants to use Ralph’s idol to save himself and they’ll blindside Grant. The key to this move working is Ralph giving up his idol and former Ometepe putting their votes on Mike. The best laid plans never seem to pan out on Survivor, but this has the makings of a good move. However, as unbeatable as Matt was at Redemption Island, I think Grant would be that much more impressive. Rob and Matt share a moment alone on the beach and Matt decides to stay with Team Rob. He outs the brilliant plan to Rob and now Mike’s plan is all for not. Rob decides Matt can’t be trusted and wants him gone. And now the paranoia sets in for Matt. Mike writes Matt a note that says, “Matt vote for Grant and I’ll take you to the top 3.” Matt has said he doesn’t want to flip because of religious purposes and yet here he is debating whether to flip. I’m not saying he’s “less of a Christian” if he flips, but I think he’s played it up too much.

Tribal council starts off beautifully with David outing the fact that they threw a challenge and it launches Phillip into one of his most excellent rants. It has Zapatera uncomfortable, and Ometepe laughing. I really have no idea how this vote is going to go. Matt, Mike, Grant, and Steve all could be voted out. Ralph could still play his idol. Andrea could still flip and vote Matt out. For the first time in a while, I have no idea how the vote is going to go. Survivor has been lacking this drama for a while now. Ralph plays the idol for Mike and it appears he’ll fulfill my prophecy of wildly misusing the idol.

5 straight votes for Grant, one for Steve, and 6 for Matt. Matt is headed back to Redemption Island. Steve says, “Let the fireworks begin.” David says, “Genius is what that was.” Former Ometepe flushes out an idol, gets rid of the swing vote and fully enlists Andrea. Bravo Team Rob. Now it’s just a matter of time until Ometepe picks off each member of Zapatera.

Final Thoughts: Matt isn’t very good at Survivor, but he is great at duels. Former Ometepe has all the momentum. They have numbers and a hidden immunity idol. If they stay strong they’ll go far. Enlisting jury members is the next big task. Also, when will the Redemption Island winner reenter the game?

My Pick to Win: Mike the Marine

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

American Idol 9 Finalists Compete - 4/6/11

This is American Idol

Someone needs to tell Steven Tyler he just looks like an old man trying too hard.

Songs of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Scotty was probably hyperventilating until someone told him people like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams are in the HOF.

Who better to coach the contestants on R&R than Will.I.Am? Uh just about anyone. Unless they need someone to teach them how to avoid slipping in Fergie's crotch droppings on stage.

Jacob is up first. Probably a good decision to switch from Marvin Gaye to Michael Jackson. MJ is much more in Jacob's wheelhouse. Not surprisingly he knocked it out of the park.

I need to get to Randy. The hefty bag jacket is far less cool than a sweet cardigan.

I guess Gwen Stefani thinks Haley should dress like Stevie Nicks. Not a bad performance of "Piece of My Heart" but I thought it was overdone. The judges liked it way more than I did but that isn't anything new.

Steven looks like he's made a recent trip to the botox doctor.

I'm more excited for Casey this week than anyone else. I hope the black eye pea doesn't get in his head and screw him up. Thank god he changed songs. That looked like it was going to be a train wreck even by Idol standards. Slap that bass Casey. I don't love the performance. Interesting take on the song but if nothing else he made it his.

I like Lauren more each week. She's got the big voice to pull off Aretha and I like the way she's mellowed it out a bit. Just for the record, Gwen Stefani is a terrible stylist. Lauren sounds great and looks terrible.

That shot of Christian Slater was the creepiest moment in Idol history. It took me a few minutes to realize it wasn't Kato kaelin.

By far the worst song choice of the night is by James. Nice job of not spotlighting your best asset. He could have chosen any number of slower songs that would have featured his voice better. Not a bad performance but a bad choice.

Jennifer is wrong with her assessment. What a fucking goofball. I don't get the crying. I don't get how you write your own version of a song either. Maybe I just don't get James.

My wife is obsessed with figuring out who all on the show is gay.

You have no idea how excited I am to see Scotty do Rock. Here's a surprise. His head is cocked to the side. Whenever Scotty performs you have a choice to make. You can take him serious by just listening and not watching the screen or you can take in the complete cheese by watching him perform. The hand wave was completely bizzarre and the two handing the mic still freaks me out but I probably enjoyed Scotty more tonight than any other time of the competition.

Pia is coming up. If you need to take a nap here's your chance. I have to admit I didn't pay a lot of attention to Pia's singing. I was too distracted by what has to be one of the 3 worst jumpsuits ever made. It takes something tremendously bad to make a body like Pia's look dumpy and fat. Congrats Gwen.

I believe I told you people last week that Pia lacked the ability to do the simplest dance moves. She can study the mount rushmore of dancing and she'll never have that talent.

I don't know what the rest of you think but Hanna looks like a damn good movie.

I'm calling my shot right here. Before I even see Stefano perform, I'm predicting he goes home this week. I hated the beginning but brought it home nicely. I really can't stand Stefano's cheesiness.

Wow. That was Paul's best performance of the competition. I didn't know he had it in him to put it out like that. Paul should never perform again without his guitar. It anchors him on stage and keeps him moving forward instead of falling all over the stage.

Probably the toughest bottom 3 decision of the season but here goes

Casey. This one really pains me but the other contestants took bigger chances.

ApeDonkey Power Rankings - 4/4/11

Top 5

1. Nancy Drew - As I wrote last week, my truck was broken in to and my wife's laptop and my ipod were stolen. Since that happened, my wife has been using all there Nancy Drew and Blues Clues skills to track down the perpetrator. The afternoon of the robbery she started scouring craigslist and ebay looking for postings that looked like they could be our stuff. In the meantime we had to buy a new laptop and I wanted to get a new ipod for the car. Last week my wife sent me a posting and said she thought this was my ipod. I completely blew her off but she continued to try to get information on it. Finally she noticed it was listed as a 7th generation ipod and mine was a 6th so she gave up hope that it was mine. However, they were selling it pretty cheap so I made arrangements to buy it from the person. It turns out they lived on my side of town and meeting them was easy. The person selling the ipod arrived and I approached his car to check out the item and make sure it worked. I turned it on and immediately recognized in the cover flow a record that only me and maybe ten others in the city would own. I went to the playlists and sure enough it was my ipod. At this point I wasn't sure what to do. This guy could have easily beaten my ass in an instance. I calmly spoke to him and told him I didn't want to make a big deal out of it but this was my ipod. I repeatedly expressed to him how important it was that I get the laptop back since it had all of our business files on it. As you would expect, he feigned surprise and told me how his girlfriend had found the ipod by stepping on it in a parking lot. Yeah OK. I just continued to calmly impress upon him the importance of getting the laptop back. Then he decided to be a good soul and knock the price down to $50 for my own ipod. Thanks.

I really didn't feel safe so I told him that was fine and paid for my ipod. I expressed to him a few more times that I wanted my ipod back and even if he didn't have it, if he could tell "whoever" did have it that I wanted to get it back, I would appreciate it. We then went our separate ways. A few minutes later I got a call from him telling me he felt bad about taking my money and offered to give it back. Once again I told him I didn't care about the money, I just wanted the laptop back. Anyway, thanks to my wife's detective skills we now have the guy's phone number, address and a picture of his car and plates. Unfortunately, this was over a week ago now and the police still have returned our call. We've spoken to them a couple of times and even had a police officer friend call and try to expedite the process but still nothing. Apparently there are two police officers assigned to work all the auto theft cases in Houston. Two! I'm not blaming the officers for this but the shitty system. We have essentially done the leg work to locate everything and have been completely ignored. On Saturday, we got a notice from the bank that our account had been disabled because someone had tried the wrong password too many times. I wonder who that was? So if either of the officers working auto theft read this please give me a call. I think we can close a case for you. Until then I'm going to go out a rob a few cars myself because auto theft is Houston's version of Hamsterdam.

2. Clank - This past Monday night Clank had a very good and well publicized evening. I don't know if someone thought it would be funny to replace the Final Four rims with some of those carnival game rims but neither team playing in the championship game could hit a shot. I don't know what UConn ended up shooting but it was beaten into my head yesterday that Butler shot an impressive 18%. I lost interest in the game about four minutes into the second half and started reading with the game on in the background. I couldn't tell you how good or bad the production was but I can tell you without pause how distracting the constant barrage of shots clanking off the rim was. At one point I didn't look at the television for a stretch of about 20 minutes and when I did finally look up Butler had the same number of points as they did the last time I looked at the score. It was just a pathetic performance by both teams. It reminded me of the Presidential elections of the last decade. No one deserved to win but they've got to give it to someone, so congrats UConn.

3. The Killing - A handful of new cable shows premiered this week including The Borgias, Camelot and The killing. Of the three new shows, The Killing looked to have something special. @heydannyv commented on Barry's review how much the cinematography, directing and use of music reminded him of Rubicon. I completely agree with that assessment. The previews gave me flashbacks to Twin Peaks but the reality is Twin Peaks was set in a completely different world where the supernatural and paranormal activity weren't out of the norm. The Killing looks to be an extremely well made murder mystery. 

4. Friday Night Lights Season 5 - FNL comes out on DVD today. We here at ApeDonkey have dedicate a ton of time to praising the series, season and actors of this outstanding show. One thing that hasn't been discussed enough it how stupid NBC is. NBC was set to cancel the series after the second season. Instead Direct TV stepped in to pick up some of the production cost and to broadcast the series on their channel 101 six months ahead of NBC's broadcast. This agreement has allowed me to see the entire series without ever watching a single episode on NBC. I was a late comer to FNL, becoming a fan during its season 3 run, so I saw the first two seasons on Netflix then watched the rest through uploaded episodes on the Internet. Anyway, like I said season 5 comes out today on DVD. If you have Direct TV you could have already watched season 5 on The 101 but NBC still won't be start showing it for another couple weeks. Genius. I'm a bit surprised they didn't cancel Community and Parks & Rec while they were making these brilliant programming decisions.

5. It was a tough week so just pour a little out for #5 this week.

Bottom 5

1. My Wallet - A couple weeks ago my six year old vomited in my Prius. Now I cleaned it up the puke but there's still that lingering barf smell in the car. I need to get it detailed to see if they can freshen it up. In the mean time I've been driving my truck instead. Nothing shocks the wallet quite like going from a car that gets 50mpg to a truck getting 15mpg. Especially when gas is nearly $4/gal. Since I've been driving the truck I've been going through $20-$30 of gas a day. That would last me at least a week in the Prius. If nothing else this week has reminded me why my 2+ yr old truck has less than 15k miles on it.

2. Catholicism - I'm not catholic, in truth I'm about as WASPY as a person can get. However, I did graduate from a catholic university and had to take catholic studies courses as part of the curriculum. So I do know a little something about Catholicism. I find the history of Catholicism fascinating and I tried to convince my wife to let me name our son John Paul so I could call him Pope. That idea didn't fly but I had to try. I do have quite a few friends and people I respect who are catholic. I don't know how they are going to feel about The Borgias but I can't imagine The Vatican being very big fans of the show.

The new Showtime series is based on the 15th century Papal family that was rife with controversy and scandal. In the series Pope Alexander VI has several kids with one of his mistresses. His son who he appoints as a Cardinal is uncomfortably interested in his 14 year old sister. One of his other sons is the head of the Papal army and may as well be based on Uday Hussein. I thought the first two episodes were pretty good but not great. Jeremy Irons as the Pope is his normal terrific self and the show's stand out has been Fancois Arnaud as Cesare Borgia.

The catholic church has a long rich history filled with both incredibly charitable and despicable act. This story happens to be one of the dark times in the Vatican. Showtime has proven they can produce an excellent series and this one has all the elements to be their next one I just wonder how well it will be received by the followers of the worlds largest religion.

3. Toyota Service - I've only had to take my Prius in to the dealer twice for service. Once was for a recall on the brakes and the second time was to have the back seat belts replaced. Both times the service department at Joe Myers Toyota has sucked giant balls. When I bought they car I was given two free oil changes. I used the first free oil change when I had the brakes fixed. At that time the guy told me to skip a few changes before I used the second one because I couldn't use them within a certain amount of time of each other. What? OK. So I tried to use the second one this last time. The guy before never said anything about having to use them before 36k miles. Fucking Dickhead. On top of that the shit heads didn't wash my car like they're supposed. I'm almost glad my car is now out of warranty because I won't be tempted to take it to the retarded monkeys at the dealership. I have a place down the road that does good work and I trust them. For the first time in my life I'm actually looking forward to doing one of those service surveys for a dealership.

4. Brandon Lyon - This is where I was going to talk about Brandon Lyon blowing a 4-2 lead to the Phillies on opening day but the Astros have much bigger issues than Lyon and he's only had one save opportunity so far this season. The Astros are going to suck all season. The best gambling decision I've made this year is not betting the over on the Astros win total. I think they'll compete for the worst record in the majors this year. Thank God for fantasy baseball to make other games interesting to me.

5. Kavorka - I'm not a particularly handsome guy. I probably trend somewhere in the middle of the looks scale but for whatever reason women in the service industry just dig me. I'm a happily married man and don't invite this kind of attention at all. In fact, nearly everything I do should deflect it. I shave maybe once every other month or so. I sustain myself on donuts so that I'm as fat as I can possibly be. I rate closer to the Unabomber on the anti social scale than most. In person, aloof is the best I can do. Mean and flat out ignoring people is more of the norm though. I've adopted a French sensibility to hygiene. Yet, these women and some men still want me. I thought this curse had left me when I moved out to the burbs but then one of the women at the local McDonald's started giving me that extra little smile and wanting look. A few weeks ago though she turned on me and now has started a strict regime of giving me the cold shoulder. I figured out her issue the other day. She finally gave up on me leaving the wife and kids and got engaged to what I assume was at best her second choice. Sorry but I've got a good thing here at home. Now I'm getting those same uncomfortable looks and the eyes undressing me from the girl who delivers pizza. I've tried to tell my wife not to send me to pick up the pizza by myself. You never know when the Kavorka is going to send this poor woman over the edge with desire. My wife seems to be willing to take the chance of my shirt being ripped off but I have to admit I'm a little frightened every time we order pizza.

Lights Out Season Finale - "War" Review

“Kill the body and the head will fall.” -Pops

It is with a heavy heart that I write this final Lights Out review as this was the final episode of the series. As was announced before last week’s penultimate episode, Lights Out would not be picked up for another season. I had mixed feelings about the season as a whole, but after tonight, I really liked the direction it was heading. It was a show that needed to find its groove and I feel like it found it too late. I know what Lights Out was trying to do with the family, the pugilistic dementia, and the being broke and that’s all well and good, but ultimately boxing was the real dramatic element. Think back on all the episodes and pick out your favorite moments. Obviously the final fight is at the top, but other favorites are the scenes with Ed Romeo training Lights, and David Morse doing a wonderfully heartbreaking guest appearance. Who brought the most electricity to the screen? Barry K Word, every time. I think as the show grew the writers realized where the strengths were and started to lean heavily in the direction of boxing. After seeing the League of Extraordinary Boxers meeting, I could see where season 2 was heading. It makes me miss the show already. A season designed around the boxing world pitting Hal Brennan against Barry K Word with Patrick taking point, playing both sides, sign me up! It’s tough to let any series go, but the finale did provide very good closure and the season does stand alone.

The whole season has been leading up to the fight between Patrick Leary and Death Row Reynolds and it didn’t disappoint. I was relieved to see that they let fight play out essentially in its entirety. I never had any doubts since the show first began that Patrick was going to win the fight, so although I was curious, I still wasn’t quite hooked until the fight actually happened. The show did three smart things to make the fight more interesting. First was making Death Row claim all he needed was one round to take out Lights. This allowed for a flurry of action right from the beginning and allowed Patrick to instantly get beat up a bit. The second thing was having Barry tell Patrick that Morales took a dive. I had suspected this all along, but seeing doubt creep into Patrick’s eyes allowed for just the slimmest amount of doubt to creep into my own, thus making the fight that much more interesting. The third was the most obvious element: having the ref in Death Row’s corner. I was glad it wasn’t completely ridiculous and could all be justified within the fight. Slow counts for Reynolds and the implementation of the three knockdown rule. My only problem with the fight is just how easy it was for Patrick to come back in the second round. Now, I have never fought before and don’t watch boxing, so these comebacks might be normal. I do know that one punch can change the course of the fight dramatically. So when Pops told Patrick he needed to surprise him and get back on top, I think that moment should have been more obvious. I think the punch that swung the match was the quick right jab to the face when Death Row was winding up, but I can’t be sure. Either way, I though the fight was very well done considering we all knew how it was going to end.

Aside from the fight itself, I thought Patrick going to confession was a good moment. We needed our hero to be redeemed a bit so we can celebrate his victory with him. Death Row made too good of a point that Patrick was no role model. His absolution was necessary for us to be fully on his side. I’m glad he finally admits and takes responsibility for just how unfair it was to put the burden of secrecy on his daughter. That to me was his biggest crime given all we know about how Patrick carries himself. I do think the religious aspect of the Leary family could have been used more effectively. We saw hints of it at times, but it almost just seemed like a convention to get Lights to move on. It was after he talked to his priest that he let Ed Romeo go. I guess the intention was to soften the blow to the viewer about Lights letting go a very popular character, but I can’t be too sure.

Lights Out had some very great supporting characters along the way. I vacillated back and forth about Teresa and Johnny, but Pops, Barry K Word and Hal Brennan were always interesting. I also think, given the chance, we could have seen some great things from Hal’s right hand man, Gus. He just had that slimy look and darkness about him. Even when he was delivering neutral news, it always looked like he was playing an angle. I’ve always thought that casting leads was easy, but that casting great supporting roles is what makes or breaks shows. I think that if the show focused more on the great characters I mentioned above, the show would have had a lot more drive. The daughters never even registered with me emotionally and I never felt like Margaret was a part of the family. I’m not saying the reason for the shows failing was because it focused on the family. The show failed because no one really had an interest in boxing. And it’s really a shame, because I would have loved to see just where this show was heading.

Lights Out was always good, but never great. I never think the show quite pushed hard enough. The stakes never seemed like they were as high as they actually were. Holt McCallany delivered a great understated performance, but I would have liked to see him let loose from time to time. It almost felt like the show was timid for much of the season, but by the end they were ready to open up and let a flurry of punches fly. Hearing Patrick ask his wife, “Who won?” showed us that the show was ready to take his injury to the next level which would have provided a lot more intensity in every fight he fought. Lights Out will be missed, but not really for what it was, but for what it could have been. But as it stands, Patrick “Lights Out” Leary is your undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, and no one, not even FX or viewers with Nielsen boxes, can take that away from him.

Monday, April 4, 2011

AMC's The Killing Review

“I should have said goodbye.” -Stan Larsen

AMC debuted their new drama The Killing on Sunday night and it appears they have found another hit. The Killing stars Mirellie Enos (Jodeen Marquart from Big Love) as Sarah Linden who is investigating the murder of 17 year old Rosie Larsen. It takes place in dreary, and very very rainy, Seattle and the backdrop couldn’t be more perfect. The mood, ambience, and atmosphere are essential to shows success. We are taken into the world of the show and are gripped from the beginning. The show smartly debuted with the first two episodes of the series. The pilot was largely introducing us to the family and the characters surrounding the investigation. The first 50 minutes is dedicated to finding out if Rosie is alive or dead. The show is called “The Killing” so it was obvious from the beginning that she would be dead. This is why it was so smart to air the second episode immediately following the first. The pilot, on its own, is not completely compelling until we get to the end of the episode where we are treated to such a heartbreaking scene that I believe will define the show.

The scene where the body is discovered in the trunk of a flooded car was so perfectly captured it moved me to tears. The father is talking to the mother on the phone as he approaches the crime scene and learns of his daughter’s death. All we hear through the phone is the father screaming his daughter’s name while the mother breaks down. Rosie’s brothers are looking on in complete confusion all juxtaposed against Sarah Linden’s stoicism. The scene is truly striking and moving. The parents Stan and Mitch are played by Brent Sexton and Michelle Forbes (most recently Maryann on True Blood). Their performances as the grieving parents is so gripping and real that you feel such deep sympathy for them instantly.

One piece of the story is a bit trite in that this was supposed to be Detective Sarah Linden’s last day of work before she retires and moves to California with her fiance. Naturally, the case sucks her in and she has to keep putting off her move until she solves the case, which will presumably be on the 13th episode of the season. The season takes place over 13 days. One day for each episode. In that respect, The Killing is sort of 24 meets Gone Baby Gone. It’s not as ridiculous and over the top as 24 is, but the convention of real time is similar. In being that it’s her last day, she gets a new partner for the day, Stephen Holder (played so darkly by the Sweedish actor Joel Kinnaman). His character might be my favorite one one the show as he adds some much needed moments of levity to the show. He’s a gunslinger type who flies by the seat of his pants in the investigation. He also has some real darkness to him as evidenced in the scene where he gets two young girls to smoke weed to gain information about the seedy parts of the high school. This is in stark contrast to Linden’s methodical approach. I really think their polarizing styles plays really well on the screen and it will be interesting to see where the show goes with this relationship.

The murder story isn’t so simple. Rosie Larsen was found in the trunk of a car belonging to a Councilman Darren Richmond’s mayoral campaign. Richmond, who is played by Bill Campbell (Carter Buckly from The OC), is running for Mayor and appears to be in line to win the position. This investigation could ruin his chances of winning so he and his campaign managers are forced to try and spin the story. At first, his involvement seems largely coincidental, but I highly doubt that we’d be focusing so much on his campaign if it were to just be a smoke screen. He’s the obvious first choice for being the murderer, so I hope that the payoff isn’t what I expected all along. I know that to keep a story interesting the investigators are going to have be lead down several paths that don’t lead to the murderer, I just hope that every false angle isn’t obvious.

The real worry for a series like this is the payoff. After 13 episodes will be satisfied with the catching and conviction of the killer? The danger is that the killer could be a red herring, someone we don’t even know or care about. But on the other side, it can’t be someone so obvious. Also, the killer has to be believable. We have to fully understand why they would do it. The first two episodes show tremendous promise, I just hope that the payoff is satisfying.

Camelot "Homecoming" and "The Sword and the Crown" Reviews

Whether you learned of King Arthur through Tennyson, Disney, Excalibur or Monty Python, the one constant is that his legend and the interest in it endures. My personal favorite is T.H. White's "The Once and Future King." Fresh off the success of Spartacus, Starz will now try to capture the fantasy market with their take on King Arthur in Camelot.

Adaptations on the legend of King Arthur usually fall in one of two camps, historical drama (2004's King Arthur) or fantasy (Excalibur). Camelot falls firmly in the realm of fantasy. Unless you believe in magic, then maybe you consider it a docudrama. However, even though we find ourselves in a world with magic, the setting is easily identifiable as Middle Ages England. The rustic atmosphere, collapsing architecture and warring territorial rulers help place our characters firmly sometime after the fall of Rome and before Egbert c. 839.

"Homecoming" begins with an argument between King Uther Pendragon and his daughter Morgan. She is obsessed with succeeding her father to the throne and is willing to stop at nothing to get there. Morgan a fledgling wizard shape shifts herself to appear as a young girl in a successful attempt to get close to her father and poison him. On his deathbed, Merlin urges him to sign a document before he dies by reminding him of his son.

The first time we see Arthur, he's sleeping with his brother Kay's girlfriend. This peak into Arthur's persona will no doubt play a larger part in the series. Especially once we learn that his new interest, Guinevere is the wife of one of the men sworn to protect him. Through flashbacks and stories told to Arthur in the first episode we learn his penchant for going after someone else's wife was passed to him from his father. Arthur is the product Uther's affair with a married woman, Igraine. This was made possible through Merlin and his ability to make Uther appear as Igraine's husband. Merlin's price for this favor? Uther had to give the child born from the affair to Merlin.

Much of the first episode is Merlin getting Arthur to Camelot to claim the throne while Morgan and Uther's rival King Lot form an alliance to take Uther's kingdom for themselves. The most significant moments are Morgan's refusal to accept her brother as the heir, Arthur killing King Lot's son in self defense and King Lot retaliating by killing the woman who raised Arthur.

In "The Sword and the Crown" Merlin must find a way to convince the public of Arthur's rightful place on the throne. He is on the brink of war with King Lot and Morgan and without the support of his subjects he won't put up much of a fight. To legitimize Arthur's crown, Camelot gives us a new twist on the story of The Sword in the Stone. The myth and legend is that whoever is able to pull the sword from the stone is the legitimate king and destined to unite all the Britons. The twist added by Camelot is that the legend was started and propagated by Merlin himself so that when the time was right he could put his chosen successor on the throne. The sword was placed there by Merlin and he was the only person who knows how to release it. Merlin uses his magical ability to tell Arthur how to release the sword who then falls from the water fall cliff.

Morgan begins communing with a mysterious power in the forest. Unexpectedly, she shows up at Camelot to warn Arthur of an impending attack by King Lot. During the impending battle, Arthur's mother's death is avenged when her husband, Ector kills King Lot but loses his own life in the fight. In the aftermath, Morgan once again visits Camelot. Arthur pleads with her to join him and they can rule together. She's has no interest in sharing power with a brother she doesn't know or respect. Merlin suspects where Morgan is getting her new found strength and warns her against getting involved with something she doesn't fully understand.

Now let's go over the good and bad of Camelot. One of the major strengths of Spartacus was the perfect casting. Camelot wasn't as successful with their casting. Eva Green is spectacular as Morgan. She's absolutely beautiful but with enough strength bitterness in her performance to really bring Morgan's scorned vengeance to life. I haven't seen enough of Joseph Fiennes as Merlin to make a definitive statement. He's been OK so far but well below terrific. I would watch Claire Forlani read silently for two hours so I'm not going to complain about her in the role of Igraine. Where Camelot falls well short of expectations is the casting of Jaime Campbell Bower as Arthur. His portrayal of Arthur constantly reminds me of Mark Hamill in Star Wars. If you're wondering, that's not a good thing. Bower is too fair, thin faced and completely lacking in stature to pull off a convincing Arthur.

The question then is how successful can a show be if the lead is the worst aspect of the production? We'll see I guess. I can say that I've yet to watch a scene in which I wasn't bothered by Bower as Arthur. The producers of Camelot better hope this is exclusive to me and not the universal experience of its audience. The other issue facing producers is managing expectations of the potential audience. Arthurian legends cover a vast realm of fantasy and historical territory. If a viewer turns on the show expecting knights in full plate armor and a Merlin casting spells like a Celtic Gandalf then they are likely to be disappointed. Merlin up to this point is more of an adviser to the king than a magic wielding wizard. Arthur himself doesn't believe in magic. The armor and costumes are more fitting of the early middle ages with leather armor supplemented with chain mail. If the show can catch the attention of the fan looking for an exaggerated historical drama with some crazy Celtic magic thrown in I think Camelot can be successful. Oh and it's Starz so there will be plenty of nudity, blood and sex.

Random Thoughts:
  • I loved James Purefoy as Mark Antony on Rome and he brought that same energy to the role of King Lot on Camelot. Unfortunately, he's dead by the end of the second episode. 
  • People who tune in expecting to see the Lancelot and the Round Table are going to be disappointed. A lot of fans probably don't realize Lancelot wasn't added to the Arthurian mythology until much later. I don't know if he'll ever be a character in Camelot but he definitely won't be one in season 1.
  • There's really no challenger for eyes on Friday night.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Thoughts on A&E's Breakout Kings

I don’t watch many procedural dramas. I don’t often find them compelling to watch. I often feel like they are just mad libs shot on screen. Shows like CSI, NCIS, and Law & Order are a dime a dozen. Opening scene: show the crime. Through the middle: the police go through a series of smoke screens and start figuring out the crime. End of show: Hooray! Mystery solved. Nothing special. So why is it that I enjoy Breakout Kings? I mean, I don’t love it or anything, but it’s not terrible, and I find that strange.

The Premise: A group of convicts are assembled to form a task force with a US Marshall and a convicted con who was once an officer to catch criminals who break out of prison. The criminals all have special and uniques qualities that help catch the escapees. This is more than likely where my interest comes from. All those other shows feature some sort of murder or white collar crime. I was a huge fan of Prison Break, so the idea of people breaking out of prison appeals to me. Each opening scene fits the mad lib formula but it has the chance to be extremely clever and interesting. Each of these convicts gets one month shaved off their sentence for each convict caught. They’re also expert escape artists, so it’s interesting to watch the criminals weigh all their options in each case.

The Cast and Characters: The cast features Laz Alonso, who I know as Zeke from Stomp the Yard, as the leader of the task force and Domenick Lombardozzi, Herc from The Wire, as the second in command ex officer turned con. Their relationship is one of the rockiest parts of the shows. I don’t know if either actor is commanding enough to carry any scenes on their own. The chemistry between the two is a tad bland as well. The success of he show will rest in the hands of the convict team. Perhaps the most interesting character and certainly best performance comes, not surprisingly, from Jimmi Simpson. You’re probably most familiar with his work as one of the McPoyle brothers on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. He plays a sort of boy wonder super genius who psycho analyzes each criminal. His flair for creepy and slimy is not lost on this character as well. There’s one character that is being developed very smartly by the show. Brooke Nevin, who you know from probably nothing, plays Julianne the fact finder office worker type person. It’d be really easy for the show to just use her as a convention for getting the case solved in a remarkable fashion, but instead they’ve afflicted her with a social anxiety disorder. I know it’s just a small thing, but a little bit of characterization goes a long way in my book.

The Network: Breakout Kings airs Sunday nights at 9 PM CST on A&E. Sunday nights are packed nights for television. AMC puts most of their dramas on that night. Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and now The Killing all air on Sunday nights. Showtime is also airing The Borgias now that Shameless is over. I don’t think there’s a lot of crossover viewers between the shows, as people who like crime procedurals don’t often go for period dramas and heartbreaking teen murder stories, but it’s still noteworthy to say it’s going up against some great shows. Without knowing any numbers, I’d say Intervention is A&E’s most watched show, so I think that through advertising during that show, Breakout Kings can gain an audience. A&E also airs Sopranos reruns, so I do think enough people watch the channel to get the viewership strong.

Final Thoughts: The show is flawed, but fun. Yes, it has some bad dialogue. Yes, a lot of situations are far fetched. But it’s better than most crime procedurals. It’s not going to change your life, but it’s very good filler for those of us caught in the spring doldrums of new TV programming.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Justified "The Spoil" Review

It's taken us 8 episodes but the wheels are finally moving towards the Harlan County showdown between the Bennetts, Raylan and the mining company we've all been waiting for.

So what's all the fuss about in Bennett, Ky? All we learned tonight is that the mining company wants to mine the land around Bennett and is willing to contract out Boyd to offer protection to those residents willing to sign on the dotted line. If I've got Dickie and Coover coming to my door with an angry animal  in a bag, Boyd's exactly the kind of protection I want. Boyd's job has the added degree of difficulty of being harassed by Bennett Police Chief Doyle Bennett.

We learned that being assigned to protect mining company executive Carol Johnson is a shitty job when you're sober, much less when your severely hung over and fretting over whether or not you boss knows about your ex-wife's involvement with a bag of missing money.

The town hall meeting was terrific for several reasons. If you've ever read up on or watched documentaries on the coal mining industry, you know what a polarizing entity a mining company can be in a community. The company provides jobs, money and a sense of stability but they also ravage the land, prey upon the poverty of their employees and hold them under their thumb. There's a reason no one has ever written a positive song about coal mining. We got to see all the major players featured and at their best in this meeting. Carol attempts to make Raylan appear to be a mining company sympathizer but he quickly turns her attempt on it's ear. Raylan's a former miner but he's educated enough to know the evils of a mining company. His only interest in being at the meeting is to protect Ms. Johnson. Boyd, on the other hand is a mining company employee and is there to convince the towns people that selling their rights is the smart thing to do. Boyd uses every ounce of his backwoods logic to sell the people on the jobs and opportunity the mining company offers. His speech though is no match for the power and charm of Mags Bennett. Mags whips the crowd into a fury over the history of empty promises and the crushed dreams left in a mining company's wake. She invites them all out to a party at her place to solidify their union against the mining company. She even invites Reggie who's already sold out.

As much as Boyd tries to convince people to sell out to the mining company, you can tell there's a piece of him that isn't sold on what he's doing. When he show's up at Arlo's house to sell him, Arlo reminds Boyd of how disappointed his daddy would be in him for doing the mining company's bidding. I think this was the final spark that finally made Boyd look for a way out from under the company and the Bennetts. I come to love the thought of Ava being Boyd's protector. When Dickie and Coover show up to convince Boyd to leave the company Ava emerges with her shotgun and a poor disposition. If Coover wasn't so dumb, he'd know that Ava is absolutely capable of shooting a man. I think the writers missed an opportunity for Boyd to remind the Bennett brothers that it was Ava who shot and killed his own brother. They didn't miss a chance for Ava to shoot and kill Charlie. The nasty creature the boys have been taking around to change peoples mind on selling. After his confrontation with the Bennett boys, Boyd breaks out the maps to try to figure out why the Bennetts want the land so much and by the end of the episode he thinks he's figured it out and a way for him and Ava to get out of the crossfire.

One mystery was finally revealed. Raylan told Carol about the "history" between the Givens and Bennett clans. Who couldn't have guessed it went back to prohibition and bootlegging. The Bennetts were once busted by the feds and blamed it on a tip given to the law by the Givens. This led to a Hatfield and McCoys type of feud that has lasted 80 years. Raylan found himself in the middle of it during a baseball brawl between himself and Dickie. Raylan took a bat and shattered Dickie's leg resulting in the limp Dickie still has.

So here we are with all the major players on the move and five episodes left in the season. Raylan claims that he's not going to get caught in the middle of their fight but Raylan's never been one to avoid trouble and I'm pretty sure Coover will be the first to catch his wrath. It's been a while since Raylan promised to protect Loretta so that's bound to come back soon. We still have that strange meeting between Gary and Duffy to be expounded on. Art's knowledge of what Winona did is still and issue. And Mags, I'm looking forward to seeing a ton of Mags in the coming weeks.

Random Thoughts:
  • Where's the Dixie Mafia?
  • Boyd just misunderstood Raylan when he said he wouldn't be around to clean up their mess right?
  • I couldn't stand Ava last season but in smaller but powerful doses I really like her this season.
  • Congratulations to Justified for earning a much deserved Peabody award for excellence in electronic media. I know it's probably not but it should be the precursor to many awards this year.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

American Idol Two of 11 Voted Off - 3/31/11

Ryan just declared he's going to crush the dreams of two youngins tonight.

55,000 votes sets a new record for this point in a season. OK?

Fantasia. I didn't like her during her season.

This duet thing is a whole hell of a lot better than the traditional terrible group performance. It's almost as if they're trying to make me watch more than 15 minutes of a results show.

Is Jennifer wearing a costume from Black Swan?

Not surprised at all that the country couple Lauren and Scotty are getting through. I'm not the biggest Scotty fan but he has a strong voting base.

Is Scotty's head permanently cocked to the side?

Naima and Jacob doing Ashford and Simpson.  Eh not my favorite and not nearly as good as the country couple. Good decision America. Naima deserves to be in the bottom.

I can't stand Fantasia's voice or face so I'm skipping over it. Damn, We can stop the search. I just found where all of Jennifer Hudson's weight went.

Pia, Thia and Haley doing Katy Perry and I mean that exactly as it sounds. OK lets cancel that order Randy put in for Pia and Thia to do uptempo songs. Pia and her from the Kardashian collection outfit is safe. I'm a little confused America seems to be getting it right tonight. That doesn't happen very often. Thia joins Naima in the bottom.

Paul, Casey, James and Stefano doing Band on the Run. Which one of these things doesn't fit? Stefano plays the keys just like Linda McCartney used to, without plugging them in. Casey safe and damn well should be. James is deservedly safe. Neither of the two guys left were very good wouldn't be surprised to see either in the bottom. It's Paul.

My prediction is Paul and Thia going home. I think Naima has a bigger voting base than the other two.

Here we go. Paul is safe. Another week of thin voice and bright teeth.

Thank you America. I didn't think you had it in to you send the correct people home. You've restored my faith in......Nah you're going to have to do the right thing a few more times for me to believe this isn't a coincidence.

To wrap up the duet and smaller group songs were a giant improvement over the usual group torture. The still haven't had a guest singer on that I care for maybe next week. I doubt it though.

Survivor: Redemption Island Recap and Analysis 3/30/2011

“I hope you love Redemption Island as much as I love writing your name down.” -David

Zapatera is a tribe on the fritz. They were at one point very strong, but karma for throwing a challenge is coming back to get them. Ometepe has won 3 of the last 4 challenges and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. David the lawyer is proving to be an antagonist in the camp and it appears that it will be either he or Sarita at the next vote.

Meanwhile, on Redemption Island, Matt ushers in another contestant, Stephanie, to challenge him. Matt is obviously undefeated in duels and I don’t look for him to stop winning now. Stephanie apparently has a mouth that won’t quit, and by the power of God Matt is going to smite her!

Philip doesn’t trust Rob so he’s going to watch the Redemption Island duels with him so he doesn’t pull any funny business. What funny business you ask? How about enlisting numbers from the opposing tribe? Or hiding a hidden immunity idol from your alliance. Philip is right not to trust Rob, but he’s wrong in thinking he can be the one to put a chink in his armor. On the flip side, Rob feels like he has to go with Philip because he has a huge mouth and is “dangerous because of his stupidity.” I agree Rob, you got to keep a lid on that guy.

As Matt and Stephanie approach the arena, Jeff Probst tells us that Matt has spent 12 days on Redemption Island and won 4 duels! My math is shaky but that’s one duel about every three days. Some serious quality alone time is spent between both contestants on that island. I’m not placing this on Matt, but if ever there was a time for two Survivors to get busy, I’d think that would be the time. Anywho, back to the duel! Probst tells Matt and Stephanie they’re playing “memory” for their life. Matt and Stephanie both hit about a 1 in 400 long shot and match a pair sight unseen. Pretty incredible actually. Matt blows his advantage, but gives Stephanie gives it right back. The game becomes simple probability towards the end and not a guessing game, but neither contestant figure that out and Matt wins again! Stephanie cries and David, his sole defender on Zapatera, stirs in his seat. Stephanie goes out with a bit of bang bye enlisting Ralph’s help to take out Sarita and telling Rob Zapatera is gunning for him when the merge happens. Going to the duel proves once again profitable for Rob. He is living a charmed life right now. And with Matt’s latest victory, Philip dubs him samurai-esque. He’s, at the very least, sporting a pretty rad top knot.

After the duel, Philip suggests they withhold the information and Rob is ecstatic. Rob uses that tidbit to turn the tribe fully against Philip. Rob lays out the plan, that if they lose again, he’s the first to go. Notice Rob suggests nothing about throwing a challenge. Why? Because Rob is smart. I say that, and then he comes up with a very not smart phrase in saying that he’ll “frontside Philip.” Sorry Rob. Lost you there. I don’t need an image of you front siding Philip and his pink underwear.

Post duel at Zapatera is a bit of a different feel. Ralph and Dave lie to their tribe mates, saying Stephanie didn’t say much on her way out. Ralph told her he would stick around to take Sarita out, but he’s giving the tribe everything they need to succeed. I still contend that Ralph does one of three things with his hidden immunity idol: 1) Give it away. 2) Get voted out without playing it. or 3) Use it and get no votes cast against him. Long story short, I do not think he’s going to use it well because bluntly, he just isn’t very sharp. Ralph should take Stephanie’s advice and switch the tribe up and put him on top of the numbers. It’s not about keeping a happy tribe, it’s about winning. Speaking of winning, I don’t think David will be doing much of that this game. He’s annoying all of his tribe and me. I wouldn’t mind seeing him go. The only reason why I would mind is because it would be a very predictable vote. Survivor can’t get to the merge soon enough.

After some landscape shots that make me feel like I’m in the live action version of Land Before Time Philip goes on a childish rant that makes me beyond annoyed. He’s a self righteous ass with delusions of grandeur and a bizarre sense self entitlement. He has officially worn out his Survivor welcome in my eyes. Philip reminds me a lot of Sue Sylvester on Glee. Yeah, some of his rants are funny, but he’s largely out of place and insufferable. An Ometepe loss would be welcome and liberating as it would spell the end of Philip’s tenure on Survivor.

The immunity challenge is very physical in nature. This is a chance for Sarita to prove her physical worth. I also like that both tribes are even so we get to see every member participate. I look for Grant to make a huge impact on this challenge. Jeff forgets to mention the reward and the survivors react to hearing about food like they haven’t seen it since they last had it for a reward a few days ago. Apparently Natalie isn’t a drinker? Ok. Glad we now know that. This challenge is full of mud and that always provides for good title sequence shots. The challenge is quite exhausting as the lead fluctuates back and forth, but Grant pulls out a last second shot that seals the win for Ometepe. This was easily the most exciting immunity challenge yet. No one particular individual, aside from maybe Philip, held their team back. It was neck and neck from beginning to end, but Grant, once again is the difference in the game. Ometepe wins and Philip lives to see a few more days.

The helicopter ride that Ometepe takes is actually pretty breathtaking. They land in an active volcano and crush a picnic. Philip feels like a member of the tribe and Rob finds yet another hidden immunity idol clue that he doesn’t even need. I think my favorite part of this exchange is seeing Rob have to fake how delicious the biscotti is. “Oh man, all this other great meat, candy, and beer, but you have to try this! SOOO GOOD!” Then Rob tosses the clue in the volcano, like you would.

The music switches to dismal, so we must be at Zapatera’s camp. Hey look! There’s my pick to win, Mike the Marine, talking about how bad it sucks to lose. No one is positive on this tribe, except for Ralph. Zapatera will fizzle out in the merge unless they can convince both Philip and the Redemption Island winner to join in there cause. The vote looks to be between David and Sarita. Surprise surprise. Another predictable vote where I don’t care about the outcome. The only thing of note in the tribal council is that David is a way better arguer than Sarita. I mean, that should be clear because he’s a lawyer. Oh, and naturally Ralph doesn’t know what the word “cohesive” means.

Sarita is voted out at tribal council and realizes she didn’t bring her stuff. David with the dagger trash talk retorts, “Don’t get too confident.” Looks like we know where the next Zapatera vote is going.

Final Thoughts: Survivor needs the merge to come soon! All the votes are becoming predictable and the show is lacking the drama that it had at the beginning. If Ometepe loses, Philip is out. If Zapatera loses, David gets the axe. Ometepe is proving to be dominant and their success will lie in their ability to either retain Philip at the merge or enlist the Redemption Island castaway. I think they’d only need to get on of those two wild cards to run the game if they stick to their numbers.

My Pick to Win: Mike the Marine (though Grant is still my fashionable number 2.)