Archive for the ‘ TV ’ Category

Rust Cohle, The New Mike Hammer — True Detective Takes on Its Influences

So many words have been spilled about True Detective in the last few months, it’s hard to get one in. Whether you’re taken by the show’s red herrings (or yellow herrings, as it were) or disgusted by the lack of strong female characters, there’s no escaping that something about the show’s dark world view has grabbed people, much like the middling abyss we all desperately stare into awaiting the answers.

One of the things that seems amiss, though, in all the conversation about the show is where it sits in the pantheon of detective fiction. Obviously, for a show called True Detective this would be an obvious place to start. Rarely does the conversation shift over to genre traits or character archetypes. The show’s darkness comes from pushing  the ideas of Raymond Chandler, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Mickey Spiliane, and, hell, Dick Wolf and Shane Black onto premium cable. All of detective fiction plays a role in HBO’s hit series, which is part of what makes it so compelling. Continue reading

Four Ways to Get Boardwalk Empire Back on Track

In lieu of another recap, which I’m already late on, I’ve decided to take a look at  Boardwalk Empire‘s problematic fourth season. Uneven in every sense of the word, the show has overwritten the plot and underwritten the characters. Here’s how the show can get back to doing what it does best: blowing beautiful set pieces up. Continue reading

Review Repost: Brilliantly Canceled: The IT Crowd

Earlier today, Splitsider published my review of The I.T. Crowd‘s American pilot. And now I’m reposting it here. What an age to be alive?

So, without further adieu, here’s a look back to the alternate past that almost was, an alternate past without Community. 

Here’s a taste:

An American version of The IT Crowd was never a bad idea. With American audiences already going “bazinga” over nerd-based and workplace comedies, the combination seemed like a homerun. But it’s all in the execution, and The IT Crowd has a hard time letting go of its British base. Of course, while it uses the same script as the pilot, it also keeps the mix of multi- and single camera footage found in the British version, star Richard Ayoade, and the cluttered sets of the original. The show has a decidedly British look and feel to it with nothing to distinguish itself from its source.

Based on series creator Graham Linehan’s original script, the American pilot follows Jen’s first day as manager of her company’s IT department. When the department’s only two workers, Roy and Moss, find out she doesn’t know anything about computers, they attempt to undermine her position and get her fired. The script made the trip across the Atlantic remarkably well. Despite the new accents, many of the jokes that kill in the original, still work here. Most importantly, we get clear sense of who these characters are and why they’re acting this way. As far as pilots go, the script for “Jen’s First Day” holds up.

Read the rest here.

Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “Erlkönig”

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“Erlkönig” is the episode I’ve been waiting for, one that erupts in change for all of the cast. The cause and effect that made the first few seasons of Boardwalk Empire so engrossing returns with a bizarrely directed and universe changing installment. People die, people pay, and halfway through season four, Boardwalk finally reveals its characters.

Throughout Boardwalk‘s run, we have watched characters create their own systems of operation. Within those systems, they run things a certain way, some through violence, others through cunning, and some through sex. Season four aims to change this up and has done so in the past few episodes. For instance, the sharpshooting phantom of the opera who feels nothing for the lives of criminals, Richard Harrow, buried his gun after failing to kill his sick dog. He can no longer get the job done, a far cry from the dependable assassin of previous seasons.

Continue reading

Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “All In”

There are specific beats a good season of television should hit. Just like any narrative, a seasonal story arc has moments of rising action, a climax, falling action, and resolution. With the initial over-arching relationships and themes of the show far behind us, Boardwalk Empire has made attempts to make these moments count the best it can.

Last season worked as a Deus-Ex machina, a reset button for the world. Gyp Rosetti presented an element of catastrophic violence to help the audience move on from the Darmody dilemma and Nucky’s relationship to Margaret. While these were some of the show’s strongest anchors, the show must continue to move forward without them, even if they put the show’s star, Nucky Thompson in a bind and Buscemi nothing to do.

Left with very few places to go, Boardwalk has made a strong point early in the season to turn the supporting players into the show’s central interest. While Nucky remains the sun in this universe, episodes like “Resignation” and last Sunday’s “All In” show how integral Nucky’s minions and minions in general are to these operations. Piggybacking off the themes of “Resignation,” episode four examines why picking your partners remains the most important part of the game. For Nucky, his inability to do so in the past, with Jimmy, Margaret, and Owen, has cost him, and it looks like this time should be no different.

Many characters reveal their inability to handle the responsibility of crime in “All In.” Willy learns that boyhood pranks can be deadly if you don’t have a partner that knows his science, Van Alden passively joyrides with Capone, and Arnold Rothstein proves that simply looking for action isn’t the best way to do business. “All In” shows characters for who they really are (a child, a thug, a habitual gambler) in a way that’s tense and weighty. Actions have consequences no matter how harmless they seem and napping on the job can lead you to some uncomfortable situations. 

Boardwalk works best when it links themes through different characters and pushes them on clear path. The editing of the episode makes a distinct path from one thread to the other. By cutting from the FBI meeting about Nucky’s weakest link to Eddie or the violent jokes of Daniel O’Bannon to Willy Thompson, the show constructs a clean episode of rising action, a slow build to the problems the rest of the season will deal with.

Brilliantly Canceled: The 1/2 Hour News Hour

Here’s a friendly reminder to check out my latest piece over at Splitsider. In the article, I take a look at the Fox News “Daily Show” The 1/2 Hour News Hour.

Check out  a taste below:

The 1/2 Hour News Hour premiered on February 18, 2007 on Fox News. A response to the overwhelming success and ever-growing influence of fake news shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Fox News’s parody of the media’s liberal bias opened to 1.4 million people tired of left-leaning outlets and curious bystanders looking to see if conservative comedy actually had legs — a question finally answered in David Zucker’s atomic bomb, An American Carol.

Sketches usually avoid the headlines and instead put bastardized versions of liberal stances on display. One sketch entitled “Gun Free Zone” shows a world where signs that read “Gun Free Zone” stop a bad guy with a gun. Another where an anti-gun activist sets himself up as a victim of gun violence, only to reveal that he’s a career criminal tired of getting shot. The jokes celebrated the conservative view, but offered little commentary or insight as to why they think that way. While The Daily Show screamed for sanity in an insane world, The 1/2 Hour News Hour satiated audiences by assuring them that what they believe is right.

See the rest at Splitsider.

 

Recap: Boardwalk Empire, “Acres of Diamonds”

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Boardwalk Empire is a show that likes to take its time. So as the show ventures away from Jersey, it slowly constructs world’s elsewhere. Richard visits his sister in the midwest, where his mythology grows. Nucky heads south to Tampa and considers a new deal. Van Alden spends time in Chicago. Margaret is in Brooklyn—get out of Brooklyn already, Margaret! All of this world building, however, has not paid off in any significant seasonal arc just yet, and it hurts “Acres of Diamonds,” a slow, talky, and unengaging episode. Continue reading