Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

REVIEW: The Hounds of Baskerville (Sherlock)

January 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Sherlock: Oh, this is Mycroft, isn’t it. One mention of Baskerville and he sends down my handler to spy on me, in cognito! Is that why you’re calling yourself “Greg”?
John: That’s his name.
Sherlock: Is it?
DI Lestrade: Yes. If you’d ever bothered to find out.

There’s a Stephen King short story called “The Doctor’s Case” in which Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson investigate the locked-room murder of … some rich guy. I bring this up because that previous sentence and the plot of the story itself unify a number of things about the second episode of the second series of Sherlock. Stephen King, noted horror author, clues you in to the horrific nature of this episode, written by Mark Gatiss as a 21st century haunted house story, where the house in question is instead a military base in Dartmoor where they’re doing all sorts of horrid things to animals–gene therapies and weaponization, etc.

In “The Doctor’s Case”, Watson solves the crime. In “Hounds of Baskerville”, no such thing happens; Holmes solves the case as always, with Watson providing much needed data along the way. No, instead, the most pleasant thing happened while Ailish and I were watching this episode with my mum. Around twenty minutes from the end, Ailish said “I called it!” Sadly, wasn’t entirely official–she hadn’t actually said it out loud earlier–but we allowed it cos she was ahead of us by the time she did say it. Watson solves cases sometimes, too.

“The Hounds of Baskerville” is based on the next terribly famous Sherlock Holmes source this season, being the first novel-length adventure from Conan Doyle after killing the character off in 1893’s “The Final Problem”, taking place at Reichenbach Falls. I have no idea what the book is about or how any of the references were worked into tonight’s delightfully modern horror story. Sherlock still feels as classic as ever despite references to Star Trek (or perhaps because of). Even with the stem cell demonization in the story, it’s retaining its thoroughly old-school feel. Read more…

REVIEW: A Scandal in Belgravia (Sherlock)

January 2, 2012 3 comments

John: Punch you?
Sherlock: Yes! Punch me! In the face!–Didn’t you hear me?
John: I always hear “punch me in the face” when you’re speaking, but it’s usually subtext.

If you’re a fan of Sherlock, then you should already be aware that the first episode this season contains the best use of “Stayin’ Alive” to fend off imminent death. If you’re not a fan, that fact should likely pique your curiosity about the series. Sherlock is the new adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes mythos/universe from Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, both late of the new series of Doctor Who. It’s also one of two adaptations competing for my affections this winter, along with Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows, the latest from the Guy Ritchie camp. Of the two series, Sherlock is the far more cerebral, deductive adaptation, with Holmes taking the physical route. It’s nice to have them both taking opposite approaches. It means you get to see how the two series cross-pollinate.

And cross-pollinate they have, with “A Scandal in Belgravia” taking all of the best elements of Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes into itself–including slow-motion analysis before fistfights, as well as a lot more comedic nudity and overt romance–and keeping the best of its own traits–the firecracker wit and the thoroughly modern atmosphere. The biggest barrier to a new audience for a Sherlock Holmes adaptation is the language and the setting. Victorian England is hardly relateable for a new reader, and it has a tendency to dull the characters. You either keep the setting and modernize the action or you change the setting entirely, usually changing the characters as well. A pair of high school students, maybe, dealing with things that aren’t murder mysteries. Or, you set the story of Irene Adler in present day London and make her a dominatrix. I don’t know if she was in the book. Read more…

Doing more West Wing while I re-read Watchmen.

April 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I think I know what I’m gonna talk about this post, because here is where it finally started trickling through–like blood through a wound under gauze. Back during the filming and release of the pilot for West Wing, some allegations started going around that the people behind the show were racists. You see, none of the principal cast members of the series–CJ, Sam, Josh, Toby, Leo, Mandy or the President–are visible minorities. This worry despite the fact that the President’s Hispanic–seriously, nobody noticed that the white guy’s last name was really Estevez? “From New England”–chyuh, right, the kind of New England that [some really racist joke that would likely be a step too far and that I’m not gonna be bothered to think of anyway cos it’s hard being racist]. But, the thing happening with all them people watching the series was, they said “Aaron Sorkin, did you exclude blacks on purpose?!”

Now, I watched Grey’s Anatomy from the day it premiered to the Writer’s Strike and I can tell you this: casting in Hollywood is a bitch. No matter what you do, you always end up with casting directors sending you white people. And after about two rounds of auditions with nothing but white people, Shonda Rhimes asked the casting agents where all the black actors or Asian actors or Hispanic actors were. And for that matter, the big-boned actresses that the show would later become famous for. Turns out they had to be specified as “diverse roles” to even consider hiring a non-white person for them. But Aaron Sorkin, non-racist and egotist he is, says that he’ll show them who’s racist or not, and did one of my favourite things in television: cast pretty much all of the major supporting roles with visible minorities. Yes, it does get a bit Magical Negro at times, but–aside from this episode–race is never made into an issue with any of them. And this episode brings in the first black regular character in the form of Charlie Young. Read more…

Categories: Reviews, Television

Screw it, let’s do more West Wing.

March 23, 2011 1 comment

“”Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc”” opens with perhaps my favourite scene so far. Mandy Hampton has just been made very, very mad offscreen, so she drives her BMW front-on onto the curb, leaps out and starts berating the man she’s dating. While she’s yelling at him, visibly upset, a poor schmuck asks her, “ma’am, is everything alright?” Of course, he asked an Aaron Sorkin character a simple question and thus gets his verbal butt handed to him as Mandy continues yelling at everything in sight about the fact that her boyfriend just sabotaged his only chance to become President. After threatening to kill him with her shoes, she says “Do you know what the worst part of all this is?” “I think you might’ve banged up the suspension on your BMW pretty bad…” “It’s the party they’re having in the West Wing right now at my expense!”

VICTORY IS MINE! VICTORY IS MINE! Donna, bring me all the finest muffins and bagels in all the land!” – Josh Lyman

Welcome to the second episode of most-incredible-series-I-have-ever-ignored-for-being-popular, The West Wing. I’m gonna take some time to be the least interesting man in the world and apologize for not posting this sooner–let’s face it, this was a major ball… drop… sorry, Moira Kelly’s hips just entered the scene. Oh, and I just took a break to text a friend of mine and finish some cereal and all of a sudden, I’ve missed about ten plotlines and the title drop. The theme of this week (I assume given that the themes of coming weeks will be indicated by the title of the episode) is the idea of after it, therefore because of it–that just because the President said he didn’t look good in big hats, everyone in Texas wants him dead. Well, not wants him dead, but he did get turned down for a public appearance or whatever (photo oppportunity? sorry, it’s been five minutes) by the Ryder Cup team. Or as CJ says deflecting a question on how the Vice President seems distant, “twelve guys named Flippy.” Read more…

Categories: Reviews, Television

New stuff I’m engaged in: liveblogging!

February 5, 2011 1 comment

Liveblogging is when you take something that isn’t normally recapped by people better paid than you are–for instance, video games, comics or old TV series–and write about it online. TVTropes recently set up a liveblogging section on their website for people who wanted to try their hands at it for various things, but at the moment, it’s sort of like the Wild West. No one knows what to do and everyone’s just struggling to find out. So, I decided to try my hand at liveblogging and do The West Wing, the breakout series from screenwriter extraordinaire Aaron Sorkin. Here is the first post, which can be found with witty links at this link.

So, no secret—it’s taken me a while to get to writing this first recap of the pilot episode of West Wing. Why is that? Well, first off, I’m very inexperienced with doing recaps of television. I’ve only done one series all the way through, and those episodes were much shorter. Second, it turns out that while The West Wing is ridiculously easy to watch, being Dialogue Porn: the Series, it’s incredibly difficult to summarize for the same reason. Here I sit, fifteen minutes into the first episode, and already more things have happened than have happened in half a season of Squid Girl. How the hell am I supposed to be able to keep up with a series that has so little action that it has to make it seem like there’s action through a blinding fast pace? West Wing, if I had to classify it—and I will inevitably—falls under one of those things that’s too specific to be a trope—a unique form of Four Lines All Waiting I’m seeing more and more of lately. Four Lines No Waiting. It’s a work with so many subplots and so many characters that something, somewhere, is always happening and is always happening very quickly. Let’s play a game and see how far we can get into the first episode before we hit 500 words, running on sheer recap alone. Read more…

Categories: Reviews, Television

REVIEW: Squid Girl

January 23, 2011 Leave a comment
The cast of Squid Girl

The Squid's the one with tentacles.

The Japanese are a curious bunch at best. I realize that for a large portion of you, that’s akin to saying the sky is blue, my skin is white or I’ve said a lot of rather awkward and uninformed things about racism and gender. But I can only ever really leave it to the Japanese to use the same broadcast network and the same medium to produce works that vary as wildly as HighSchool of the DeadPanty & Stocking with GarterbeltKissxSis and Shinryaku! Ika Musume (which, for all of you English speakers out there, literally translates to “Invade! Squid Girl“). I have seen works this past anime season that do nothing but the minimum amount of escalation on the last year’s works: one more nipple there, a little less steam here, a little closer to out-and-out incest all over. Squid Girl, oddly enough, is set at a restaurant on the beach and doesn’t have a lick of fanservice.

Squid Girl focuses on a girl who happens to have several attributes of a squid. She can spit squid ink, she has ten tentacles which she can use for a variety of everyday purposes, she can glow in the dark like a firefly squid. She also speaks in perpetual squid puns. Quick lesson on Japanese: every sentence ends with the verb. You can also add an auxiliary verb, roughly meaning “to be” at the end of a sentence when you want to be polite. Samurai, showing selfless dedication to their duty, would end their sentences “de geshou” (someone correct me if I’m wrong). Geso being the Japanese for “tentacle”, Squid Girl ends every sentence “de geso”. In English, this translates to a whackton of squid related humour, but that’s sort of the point. She also vows to invade the surface world as vengeance against mankind for polluting the ocean. She proves… inept to say the least. Read more…

Categories: Anime, Reviews, Television

REVIEW: The Great Game (Sherlock)

January 10, 2011 Leave a comment

Watson: That’s the phone, the pink phone!
Lestrade: What, from A Study in Pink?
Sherlock: Well, obviously it’s not the same phone, but it’s supposed to look like–“A Study in Pink“? You read his blog?
Lestrade: Course I read his blog, we all do. Do you really not know that the Earth goes ’round the Sun?

“The Great Game” is Sherlock‘s third and final episode this season. As a season finale, it’s pretty damn good. It’s got plenty of back references to the earlier episodes, it’s got more mysteries per minute than the other two episodes combined. It’s adapted from a number of Holmes short stories, and that really shows: the case this week is a mad bomber who directs Sherlock’s attention to crimes that went unnoticed by the police. He gives Sherlock a time limit for each “puzzle” and if he doesn’t solve the murder in the time limit–boom. The running subplot in this episode is a case Mycroft brings to Sherlock’s attention at the start of the episode that Sherlock dismisses out of sibling rivalry–leaving Dr. John Watson to solve the case.

It’s a bit hard to discuss the plot of this episode without lacing this review in spoilers. As these three reviews are really my attempts to review episodes of a television series without recapping episodes, I’m going to do something I’ve planned to do from the start and talk about the characters. Sherlock is perhaps one of the best character driven series I’ve seen in my time watching telly. This series ranks alongside Lost in the quality of its character writing. Mind you, that’s not consistency–every series has its out of character moments if it goes on long enough. But Sherlock‘s strength is in building comprehensive, intricate and devilishly engaging plots on character rather than murder. Oddly enough, for a murder mystery series. Read more…

Categories: Reviews, Television