thoughts on pop culture

Rubicon to Premiere in 2010

James Badge Dale

Variety reports that AMC has ordered 12 episodes of new drama Rubicon, a political thriller starring James Badge Dale (24, The Departed) and Miranda Richardson (The Hours). Early reports say the show has similarities to the conspiracy elements of Alias, which just happens to be one of my most favorite shows in recent years. From what I can tell so far, this sounds like a great asset for AMC to add to their growing stable of outstanding dramatic programming. The Variety report targets a 2010 premiere of the new series, which could allow it to fit snugly between the third seasons of Mad Men and Breaking Bad.

June 23, 2009 Posted by | Drama, New Series, Premiere, Television | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Rubicon to Premiere in 2010

Damages Season 2 Episode 13: Trust Me

As another stellar season ended this week, I found myself very sad as I listened to the best theme song on television.  Thankfully, another 13-episode season has already been ordered by the network, so it won’t be the last time I get to hear it.

I didn’t actually watch the first season of Damages until this past December, so this was more like a 26-episode roller coaster for me than two seasons with a long layoff between.  In fact, I would have had a real problem waiting that long for resolution.  I’m not going to do a full recap and analysis here, mainly because I think Damages is the kind of show that you just need to sit down and watch.  The action is frantic, the emotions are raw, and the suspense is very real.  Nothing I could say here can compare with letting yourself get drawn into the series.  Surprising performances from both Timothy Olyphant and Darrell Hammond really elevated this season.  Of course, those were just icing on top of the excellent work already turned in weekly by Glenn Close, Tate Donovan, Rose Byrne, and a resurgent Ted Danson.

If you haven’t seen any of the series, I recommend you drop whatever you’re doing and get season one on dvd (or better yet, bluray) as soon as you can.  If you aren’t hooked within two episodes, then your brain must be broken.

April 5, 2009 Posted by | Blu-ray, Drama, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Damages Season 2 Episode 13: Trust Me

The Mentalist Season 1 Episode 18: Russet Potatoes

I haven’t written about The Mentalist since October, but don’t think that means I haven’t been watching.

I’ve seen every episode, and while I may not have the names of all the characters memorized yet, I am definitely in love with the show.  The way the creators have taken a dry police procedural and injected the fun-loving character of Patrick Jane has left us with a fresh new look at an old genre.  On top of that, tonight’s episode was a great example of just how good the writing is, and why The Mentalist has the potential to be a part of our Tuesday nights for years to come.

As you may or may not know, I got my nickname from my wife because I was constantly predicting the outcome of shows like CSI, then making a big fuss (albeit a joking one) when I ended up being right about the endings.  Well despite my best efforts, tonight I was fooled no less than three times.

When the man brought the body to police in the opening sequence, I immediately ruled him out as a possible suspect.  Then, when Jane and the gang went to the hypnotherapy school and we were introduced to Dr. Daniel, I ruled him out because it was just too obvious.  However, when he left class and had his assistant take over, I recognized to things–One, the oldest plot in the book, where the pupil seeks to prove mastery over the teacher; and Two, I recognized the young actor playing the assistant, and young character actors are usually a shoe-in to be an eccentric killer on these shows.  Once it was revealed that the assistant had also been hypnotized and awoke at the murder scene, I was proved wrong.  Then when Detective Rigsby was also hypnotized I was sure I had it solved.  Carl, our opening sequence body deliveryman, was obviously the killer after all and he had put Rigsby under when they were left alone.  As it turns out, I was only half right.  Eventually we discover that the dead girl’s sister planned it all.  She killed her sister, hypnotized the assistant, who in turn hypnotized Carl to deliver the body, then she took advantage of Rigsby’s kind nature when he was interviewing her and put him under as well.  Lucky for us Patrick Jane is the true master and foiled her in the end.

Best moment of the episode – Rigsby in a trance is encouraged by Jane to do the thing he most wants to do, so he proceeds to make out with Grace instead of just secretly wanting her.

Best line of the episode – During the moment described above, the camera pans across the shocked faces of the other officers, stopping with Jane who says, “Oh yeah, that’s what I’m talkin’ about.”

On a side note, Owain Yeoman (Beerfest, Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles) turned in an excellent performance tonight, specifically in the scene where Jane is trying to break Rigsby’s trance at the playground.

March 31, 2009 Posted by | Drama, Television | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Mentalist Season 1 Episode 18: Russet Potatoes

Lost Season 5 Episode 10: He’s Our You

Let’s get straight to the recap/analysis on this very Sayid-centric episode.

We open with a scene in Tikrit where a father is trying to make his son a man by forcing him to kill a chicken in their coop.  After the father goes inside, a younger boy appears and proceeds to lure and kill a chicken with his bare hands.  It’s no surprise when we find out that this boy is in fact Sayid.  I believed the older animal-loving boy was Sayid for about 0.2 seconds, until my brain reminded me I was watching Lost and it was obviously a trick.

Back to ’77 and Young Ben is bringing another sandwich to Sayid.  Ben reveals it has been four years since his conversation in the jungle with Grungy Hippie Richard Alpert.  Ben wants to know if Richard sent Sayid to retrieve him.

Flash to ’04 off island and Sayid executing a Russian guy who makes a worthless attempt to bribe Sayid and avoid death.  After the hit, Sayid meets up with Ben, who tells him that was the last hit.  Sayid is pissed off, but Ben tells him the mission is accomplished and his family is no longer in danger.  “No one else in Widmore’s organization is a threat.  You’re free Sayid.”  I’m surprised we didn’t see the steam rising for the hot bullshit that Ben was serving up on a cold Moscow night.  I think it’s painfully obvious at this point that Ben is completely full of shit and the killings had nothing to do with Sayid and everything to do with Ben’s vendetta against Widmore.

Horace and Radzinski pay Sayid a visit in ’77.  Horace removes Sayid’s restraints in a lame-ass attempt to get on his good side and get some information.  Radzinski presses Horace to ask about the model of the Swan, but Horace gives Sayid an hour to start talking, or he’ll have to “take it to the next level.”

Cut to a preoccupied Juliet staring out the window.  When Sawyer asks what’s up, she confronts him about Kate and the gang returning and guesses that their time ‘playing house’ is over.  This moment almost gets lost as Horace shows up to tell LaFleur that they’re taking the prisoner to see Oldham.  I think the important thing to take away from this scene is that Juliet is genuinely invested in her relationship with Sawyer–and it really seems like he is as well.  They share a look right before Horace comes in that tells me that Sawyer may not ditch Juliet for Kate after all.

Sawyer quickly heads to security and tells Phil to go take his lunch.  Once alone, he invites Sayid to “join the party in Dharmaville,” but Sayid decides to go it alone.

Still in ’77, we get a quick scene in the Dharmateria that serves only two purposes: 1) To show us that Hurley is working in the cafeteria, and 2) To offer a lame pretext for Hurley to tell Kate that Sawyer and Juliet are living together, “you know, like, not as roommates.”

Back to Dharmajail and we get a cameo from Roger “Workman” Linus, who offers up a warning about Oldham to Sayid.  Then we are reminded that Roger is an asshole when Ben shows up with a sandwich for Sayid, only to receive a beating from his father.  It was nice to get a refresher on why we weren’t upset when Roger got the gas.

Back to the future (’07-ish by my guess) and Ben has found Sayid at his Dominican Habitat for Humanity.  Ben tells Sayid that he is in danger and then John Locke is dead.  He even has the balls to tell Sayid, “I think he was murdered!”  I laughed out loud at that–more confirmation that Ben will say pretty much anything to get his way.  He then reminds Sayid that no matter how many houses he builds for the poor, he’s just a killer at heart.  When Sayid says he doesn’t like killing, Ben apologizes and says “I was wrong about you.”

Back to ’77 and Sayid is tazed and taken to Oldham’s camp outside the village.  Sayid asks who this guy is and Sawyer says, “He’s our you.”  I said, no that’s Larry from Newhart.  You know the guy with the two brothers named Darryl?  Or perhaps you remember him from Blade Runner?  Whatever you remember him from, he gives Sayid a sugar cube soaked with truth serum.

Flash to the dock in ’07 with the gang splitting up when they realize what Jack and Ben want them to do.  After he leaves, Sayid is at a bar when who starts hitting on him–the Marshal.

Next we join a very loopy Sayid at Oldham’s place.  Sayid spills the beans about both of his flights to the island.  He almost blows Sawyer’s cover, but Oldham changes subjects to the Dharma stations.  When Sayid mentions the Swan and “The Incident” Radzinski loses his shit.  Sayid then warns them all of their impending deaths, causing Oldham to wonder if he used too much serum.  Sayid lets out a maniacal laugh and tells him he used “exactly the right amount.”

At the motor pool, we have another scene that exists to give us one piece of information. Kate tells Juliet she knows about her and Sawyer, then Juliet admits she’s glad Kate knows.  Juliet does make it clear she’s not giving Sawyer up easily.

The inquisitors gather in Horace’s living room to discuss Sayid’s fate.  Sawyer tries to sway the group away from execution, but Amy steps in and makes a plea to kill Sayid so she can stop ‘sleeping with one eye open’.  Her speech works and everyone votes for death.  Sawyer resists at first, but caves when Horace turns and says that he would like the vote to be unanimous.

Sayid’s hotel room in ’07 – He and the Marshal burst in while making out and find their way to the bed.  As he starts to undress her, she kicks his ass and pulls a gun.  According to her, the family of the guy Sayid killed on the golf course have hired her to bring Sayid to Guam.  Apparently she’s a bounty hunter and not a marshal after all.  I guess I’ll have to start calling her Boba.

In ’77 we’re back at Dharmajail and Sawyer is trying to help Sayid escape.  Sayid refuses and tells Sawyer that he now knows his purpose for being back on the island.  Sawyer leaves and finds Kate to ask why she came back.  Before she can answer, a flaming Dharma van crashes into a house and starts a huge fire.  Janitor Jack miraculously becomes Fireman Jack as Sawyer issues the all-hands-on-deck.  In the fray, Young Ben appears and offers to spring Sayid if he can come too.  Sayid agrees to take him along, saying “That’s why I’m here.”

Quick scene at the airport in ’07 with Sayid asking Boba if they can take the next flight once he sees Hurley and Kate waiting at the gate.  When Ben gets on the plane, Sayid asks Boba if she’s really working for him–she says no.  By the look on her face she’s either telling the truth, doesn’t know she’s working for Ben, or is just a really good liar.

Sayid and Ben race into the jungle in ’77, only to encounter a Dharma van.  The van stops and Jin pops out.  Sayid asks him to look the other way, but is forced to knock Jin out when he insists on trying to raise Sawyer on the radio.  Ben tells Sayid they need to hurry.  Sayid says, “You were right about me, I am a killer,” then shoots Ben in the chest and walks away.  LOST

Now I don’t think for a second that Young Ben is actually dead.  I could be a sucker, but I really believe in Faraday’s whole theory about not being able to change things.  I also like the idea of the symmetry between Young Ben returning from a gunshot in the same way Locke returned after older Ben shot him.  What I’m really looking forward to is finding out more about Widmore’s past on the island, but I’m starting to think that won’t be revealed until Season Six.

Another intriguing item tonight was Sayid’s mention of “the incident” during his interrogation by Oldham.  On this week’s Official Lost Podcast, Lindelof and Cuse revealed that the two-hour season finale has been written and is titled “The Incident Parts 1 & 2”.  They also said not to worry, both parts will air together on the same night.  One thing is for sure, once the finale has aired, none of us want to wait until next January for the next episode.

March 25, 2009 Posted by | Drama, Scifi, Television | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Lost Season 5 Episode 10: He’s Our You

An Open Letter to Grey’s Anatomy

Dear Grey’s Anatomy,

Do you remember premiere night in September 2006?  When our hopes for the new season were high and it felt like anything could happen?  I miss those days.

My wife and I did not start watching Grey’s until the summer of 2006.  Up to that point, I had heard about you, but hadn’t paid much attention due to my old bias against shows that premiered at mid-season.  Once the summer tv doldrums arrived, I decided to check out this show I’d heard so much buzz about.  We were hooked after one episode, and we couldn’t watch the first two seasons fast enough.  In fact, after watching the first 36 episodes marathon style, it really sucked waiting for season three to begin.

If only I could feel that way about you again.  Starting with all the off-screen drama around Isaac Washington and T.R. Knight, it seemed that less and less attention was being paid to making the on-screen drama worth watching each week.  I realize now I should have seen the end in sight when your sister show Private Practice was announced in Spring 2007.  But like an abused spouse, I just kept convincing myself that everything would be okay, you really cared about me, and we would recapture the magic we once had.

I was wrong.  It just got worse as Private Practice struggled and got more attention from your creator than it deserved.  There were a few sweet moments, and I decided to cut you some slack due to the writer’s strike.  That slack seemed to payoff when you rewarded me and other faithful viewers with a run of episodes to end season four that culminated in a classic two part finale–in fact I think they were the best two episodes since Denny died.

I can hardly bring myself to talk about season five–I mean did you seriously think I would be entertained by Izzie fucking Denny’s ghost?  I cannot believe that the high point of season five looks like it will be Mark Sloan’s broken dick.  Although, maybe at this point it’s appropriate that I would associate you with that kind of pain.

Ultimately I’m just disappointed in you, and that’s why I felt compelled to write this letter.  I used to watch you ‘on the night’, the highest honor for television shows in my house.  Now you’re lucky if I’ve watched your latest installment before the weekend is over.  I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I think I’m going to demote you to the other DVR that isn’t even attached to the big screen television.

The only way I can think to end is with a final question for you: What is it like to be on the downward slope of television greatness?

March 15, 2009 Posted by | Drama, Television | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on An Open Letter to Grey’s Anatomy