Top Things for 04/08/13

What’s up guys! Welcome back to another edition of “Top Things,” in which I try to regulate your lives, one blog at a time. There’s a lot of good stuff coming out this week, so let’s get right to it, yes?

Books

This week sees the release of Blood of Dragons, by Robin Hobb. I haven’t read the series yet (Dragon Keeper), but it’s got pretty decent scores up on Goodreads. So maybe check that out. The only other books I see coming out are diet books, so…

Comics

If, by now, you don’t know that I’m going to recommend SAGA each month, well you clearly don’t know me. Last issue ended on a powerful, if somber, note. And as much as I’m sure our characters could use a minute to grieve, it looks like Prince Robot IV will be making his return to the series.

Over at Marvel, the new Hawkguy issue is out, which promises to be as fast-paced and fun as it has been since the first issue.

Movies

42 comes out this week, if that’s your jam. I don’t typically care for sports movies (with a few notable exceptions), nor do I care at all about baseball. That being said, Jackie Robinson is an important historical figure, so there is a story to be told I’m sure. At this point I’m really just biding time until Iron Man.

Music

Paramore is coming out with their fist album since two founding members left the band. From what I’ve heard/seen, the reviews have been pretty positive, but this could potentially be a make-or-break moment for the band. Will they use this opportunity to shake up their sound, or will they try to reassure long-time fans by sticking to what they’ve done so far?

Television

We’re really living in a sweet spot, television-wise right now. The network shows are still on and ramping up to their season finales. At the same time, cable has started rolling out some of their summer shows, such as Game of Thrones and Mad Men. This week, we’ll be seeing Cece’s bachelorette party on New Girl, Community will be a puppet show, and Leslie takes on the animal control department in Parks and Rec. And as always, Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Doctor Who on the weekends.

 

On the blog this week, I hope to have a review of Mad Men‘s premiere, or else maybe Game of Thrones‘ season so far, up on Wednesday, and a movie post from Will on Friday!

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Top Things For 4/01/13

I hope you’re all surviving your April Fool’s Day, everyone. I personally hate this stupid day each year, as my patience for outlandish articles and “shocking” tweets grows thinner and thinner. More and more, today seems like a day to just avoid everyone/the Internet. But worry not, fair reader, for you will always have a safe haven here! My lies will always be comforting and/or self-preserving, and never malicious! So without further ranting, let’s get to the best of this coming week! Because it can only go up!

Books

On Tuesday, The Sword and Laser is kicking off their discussion of The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey. While I won’t be reading this month, I always enjoy listening to the podcast, watching the YouTube videos, and creeping on the Goodreads forum. If you want to see this month’s sci-fi/fantasy releases, they have a calendar here. If you have any interest in their discussions, or want to see which six books I am currently reading, head to Goodreads.

Comics

This is actually a pretty light week, for once – for which I am immensely thankful. The last several weeks have been jam-packed with releases, and it was getting tiring. Probably the most notable release on Wednesday is the new Action Comics #19, which sees Andy Diggle taking over from Grant Morrison. Of course, Diggle walked away from the title almost immediately, and artist Tony Daniel will take over for at least an issue. Apparently more info on what’s next for the Superman series is forthcoming. So while there’s drama behind the scenes, Daniel’s art looks pretty amazing, and hopefully worth the price of admission so to speak.

Movies

This week sees the release of the Evil Dead reboot, but honestly I could not care less. The original is a cult classic – though I’ve never seen it. A roommate in college tried to get me to watch one of the sequels, but I just couldn’t get through it. Some of that might be because this guy had the worst. Taste. In movies. EVER. I mean, Daredevil, Electra, and Ghost Rider were unironically two of his favorite movies. His favorite actors included Nic Cage. So maybe I didn’t give the movie the chance it deserves. That being said, this reboot just looks… meh. Like a Cabin in the Woods without any sense of self-awareness or humor.

The movie I am actually excited about, however, is the re-release of Jurassic Park in 3-D. In general, I’m pretty cynical when it comes to these 3-D re-releases, as they seem like the absolute laziest way to make money. On the other hand, Jurassic Park is a phenomenal movie that still holds up twenty years after its initial release, and the chance to see it (again? I can’t remember) in theaters is just too great to ignore.

Music

My frankly embarrassing lack of investedness in the world of music is well documented. I mean, I probably spent $10 on music last year. And the year before that. And probably the year before that. I’M NOT THAT HIP YOU GUYS. But if I had to point out an album release this week, I’d probably have to go with The Band Perry. I don’t love them, but the only other artists I recognized were Rilo Kiley and NKOTB. And I couldn’t name a song by either. Rilo Kiley brings back really embarrassing memories of a phase I went through in college where I was really into indie folk music. So… yeah.

Television

I warned you guys. GAME OF THRONES GAME OF THRONES GAME OF THRONES holy crap did you see when they cut that guy’s nipple off and did you see the dragons eating fish and oh man Cersei wants to totally strangle Margaery Tyrell and she and Loras are her worst nightmare because she can’t seduce them and when are Jon and Ygritte gonna get DOWN and where was my homegirl Arya?

Sorry. Deep breaths. Calm.

Anyway. If epic fantasy isn’t your thing, Parks and Rec is coming back on Thursday after a few weeks off! And New Girl has been moved to Thursday too, where we’ll get to see Nick and Jess try to have a first date as Schmidt and Winston attempt sabotage! AND APPARENTLY MAD MEN IS BACK ON SUNDAY??? How did I not know this??? And Doctor Who is back on Saturday! SO MUCH TV YOU GUYS I CAN DIE HAPPY.

OK, well I just managed to make my own day with those last few revelations. I hope you guys find something to enjoy this week in the world of pop culture. Or in your fulfilling lives with your real jobs and stable incomes and significant others. NOT THAT I’M BITTER. Anyway. Peace out.

Fox Comedy Block

So last night was the much-hyped fall premiere of Fox’s new comedy block. We saw the return of New Girl, which led into new show Ben & Kate, and then more New Girl to lead into The Mindy Project. And in a television first, Raising Hope actually premiered over Twitter, so basically the future is now. So let’s talk about them, shall we?

New Girl

The first episode centered around two events: Jess losing her job as a teacher, and Schmidt getting his penis cast off after several months and throwing a party. Overall, I really liked this episode. I loved the reveal that Winston really loves fruity girly drinks, and gets weird after having them. Probably my biggest laughs of the night came from that. I enjoyed seeing a new status quo for Jess, which hopefully will last more than a couple episodes but not the whole season. And of course I enjoyed Schmidt being weird with fire. It was a solid episode, but not as strong as some of last season’s.

The second episode revolved around Jess deciding to be a new person and try to juggle two guys. This was pretty great. I enjoyed seeing a less-neurotic Jess, who was more comfortable with sex. In general I thought the whole prudish angle was pretty tired, so I’m glad they benched it. And this being a sitcom, her whole scheme fell apart about as perfectly as you could hope so that was nice. I also really loved Nick’s conversation with “Old Nick” from the future. Schmidt’s attempts to hit on Winston’s sister were less funny, and his mom was severely under-used. Overall it was a good night for New Girl, though not perhaps a stellar one.

Ben & Kate

I would have taken “good” for this show however. Or even passable. But it wasn’t. It was effing awful. I really tried to like it, but I couldn’t! There was no character to latch onto! Kate was just kind of pathetic, Ben was dumb AND pathetic (and pretty annoying), the British chick lacked any charm at all, the black guy was funny-ish but had only two lines, and the little girl was five. Who am I supposed to care about?!? Seriously, halfway into the show my brothers were begging to change the channel, declaring it “the worst premiere I have ever seen,” and then later “the worst thing I have seen,” though this was acknowledged as exaggeration. I will possibly give it another try, but it’s unlikely.

[EDIT: While awful, my brothers and I would like to make it abundantly clear that Ben & Kate was still VASTLY superior to The New Normal, which had absolutely no redeeming value and should never be watched by anyone ever.]

The Mindy Project

I went into The Mindy Project with pretty low hopes. I never loved Kelly on The Office, and haven’t liked that show in about five or six seasons. So when I heard she was going to be the star of a show, I was dubious. But I actually really liked it. Having gone to Baylor, I met more than my fair share of girls who grew up on romantic comedies, and continued to watch them weekly if not daily. I’ve seen girls agonize over why they’re single, search desperately for Prince Charming, and put WAY to much value on a meet-cute than they should. I found Mindy to be certainly a bit pathetic at first, but unlike Groan & Hate up there, the show actually acknowledged it and drew humor from it. PLUS, probably my favorite scene was her suiting up to deliver a baby, proving that she is actually intelligent, competent, and good at stuff. So even though I found the supporting cast pretty weak, I’m confident they’ll develop as the show goes on, much as New Girl has done.

Raising Hope

Spoiler Alert: Jimmy and Sabrina get engaged. Personally I think it’s pretty sudden, considering they didn’t start dating until half-way through last season, possibly even more recently than that (I’m too tired to check). But then again, Jimmy’s ALWAYS loved her, and she definitely loved him even when she was dating Wyatt. Plus the whole like raising a baby together thing probably bonds you a bit quicker than just dinner and a movie, so I’m down with it. The episode was pretty solid. We got flashbacks, creepy photos by Frank, a fake orgasm, some genuine “awww” as well as some genuine “ewww,” and a song by Kate Micucci, so overall it was highly indicative of this great show.

 

And that’s all folks! I’m off to save the day one sick teacher at a time, buy the crap out of some Aquaman comics (among others), blast my abs into oblivion, and then try to make it through the next couple days without having a seizure as I eagerly await the release of Looper!

The Season’s Greatest Surprises

This is obviously the BEST surprise. Sorry Americans.

This season, plenty of new shows lined up, eagerly hoping for our love, attention, and our passion. It’s like a pet shelter, except without the depressing soundtrack. So what were this year’s biggest surprises, for better or for worse?

The Good

New Girl

"Who's that girl? It's Jess! Oh yeah and some other people..." - New Girl

New Girl is an odd case to start off with, because I initially had very high hopes for it. I love Zooey D, and Max Greenfield was fantastic in Veronica Mars. Plus Damon Wayans, Jr. was in the pilot, and if you haven’t seen him in Happy Endings, you’re missing out. But after a solid pilot, I found the show increasingly problematic. Way too much of the focus was on establishing how quirky and cute Jess was, and the roommates really lacked the screen time to become more than stock characters. On top of that, I found Jess to be grating and whiney, so I was not happy.

All that changed around the fourth or fifth episode – the one with the wedding. The other characters forced Jess to calm down and dress up. And the show was instantly better. Plus, Nick stop whining about his breakup, and Winston began having traits! So win-win! Ever since then, the show has been getting better and better, and I couldn’t be happier. Schmidt has become the best part of the show. Nick has found a decent – if boring – groove as the under-achieving schlub. Even Winston and Cece have personalities! So mazel tov!

Revenge

Yes. Just yes.

OOOOOOOHHHHH!!! Emily "THORNE"!! Thorne like THORNS YOU GUYS.

Remember. When saying this show’s title, you MUST say it in a smokey whisper. rrrevennnge.

Anyway, I mostly checked this show out because it had Emily Van Camp in it, and she was in Everwood and looks like she does. I’m not ashamed. But it turned out to be really good!

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t amazing television. It’s soapy and sensational (as in it does things to create a stir) and sometimes cheesy. But not only does it know all of this about itself, it embraces it, relishes in it. In a lot of ways, the show is very similar to Ringer – which I’ll get to later – but done right. Revenge is a show that has taken some pretty standard tropes: The Hamptons, the lost childhood love, the Ice Queen, conspiracies, etc, and turned it into a show with layers, with realistic(ish) characters, and enough twists to keep you off-balance all season.

The Bad

Public Service Announcement: Only Certified “Good” Shows get pictures.

Being Human

Being Human was never a great show – at least not the American version. The first season stuck very closely to the British version, for better and for worse. For instance, the relationship between the vampire and werewolf was wonderful. It was fun, there was good contrast, a bit of an insider/outsider dynamic, and a hint of bromance. At the same time, it was hindered by the ghost – who isn’t a bad character, there was just nothing she could do.

The second season however branched off from its parent, boldly forging its own path, which at times was great. I loved seeing more paranormals beyond vamps and wolves. We got to see more ghosts, mediums, and reincarnation in action. We got to see purebred werewolves, who actually want to be wolves. This was all good.

Where the season went wrong was its insistence on beating up its characters more and more. Don’t get me wrong, this can be fascinating television. Look at LOST. Or Mad Men. But that punishment needs to be balanced by something else. Really solid character interaction, or a vague and tantalizing hope of redemption, or intriguing plot. Being Human had none of these. All season long, it practically strove to make sure the three main characters, with the best chemistry, were NEVER TOGETHER. The few times they were, it was silent moping! Boooooo.

Plus – vampire politics. When did this become a Thing? It was fine in Underworld, but it’s the most boring part of True Blood. So why would a SyFy show try to copy that???

I don’t know. I’m just. Over it.

Supernatural

I love this show. I really do. And I have for quite a while. I love the way it slowly built. First they were after a specific demon. Then stronger demons. Then the queen of demons. Then the devil. I thought seasons 4 and 5, after the introduction of angels into the mythology, were amazing. I loved the end of season 5. Honestly, the show could have ended right there. It would be a bit of a downer, but it’s Supernatural.

But after you face The DEVIL, where do you go? After Buffy died to save her sister from a GOD, the show floundered for quite a while. Some say it never recovered. After Son Goku defeated Frieza, a conflict that had been building for three years, what do you do?? This is the problem when shows constantly try to up the threat – eventually you can’t. So even though there have been true flashes of brilliance in the past two seasons, overall I’ve been pretty let down. I think I heard next season is the last though, so hopefully that will give the creative team some direction.

Ringer

All I needed to know about this show was that it had Sarah Michelle Gellar Prinze, Jr. on it, and I was pretty much sold. Throw in Mr. Fantastic and Richard Alpert, a secret life, duplicitous twins, and a looming mob boss, and there was a TON of potential. So what went wrong??? Well, virtually everything.

The main character, Bridget, while good-hearted, is painfully stupid. Seriously, everything in her life is SCREAMING that her sister is alive, and she still hasn’t figured it out. And while taking her sister’s identity might have been a smart idea – what with the whole “running from the cops and the mob” thing going on, what was your exit strategy when you assumed not only her identity but her entire life??? Then there’s Siobhan, the evil twin, which could have been really soapy and fun, but instead was frightfully dull. It took the show way too long to develop her character, and never really gave her clear, relatable motives for anything she did, which made it impossible to connect to her – and therefore enjoy her storyline. Then there was the whole mob thing, which was practically abandoned a few episodes in, only to sporadically reappear, and the World’s Worst FBI Agent who really had no purpose most of the time.

About the only thing the show did right was the relationship between Bridget and Andrew, and that was mostly thanks to good chemistry between the actors, rather than good writing. And even then the relationship was flawed in the execution.

So, I’ll finish out the season, but if it doesn’t get renewed, I won’t shed a tear.

The Blah

At the end of the day, most shows are exactly what you hope and expect. Community is always going to be brilliant, even when it isn’t at its best. Fringe is always going to be weird and disturbing but also touching and profound. Modern Family will always be funny, even when it becomes lazy. Glee will always be wildly inconsistent but just on the verge of watchability to tantalize me, season after season.

Other shows aren’t bad, they’re just less than you’re used to and you would like. For example…

How I Met Your Mother

Seriously you guys. This season. What is it even about. Lily and Marshall are in the city. No the suburbs! Oh wait, back in the city! Barney’s with Nora. Nope, Robin! Wait, maybe not! Now there’s a stripper! Ted is finally figuring out who he is on his own, without a woman. Oh wait he’s whining! Wait. He loves Robin again? KILL ME NOW! With the exception of the episode where Robin found out she’s barren, this season has been completely forgettable. I’m sure the finale will be good, and after seven seasons I’m obviously in it for the long haul. But this just wasn’t what it could have been.

Dexter

OK so technically this was a summer show, but I’m including it anyway. And I really thought about putting it in the bad list. Because for realz, I did not like. I mean, Edward James Olmos was appropriately creepy, and Colin Hanks too, and yes the end with Debra finding out was good, but all the rest was just… meh. I mean… girls who steal evidence? Broken engagements? Incestuous feelings? Is this what Dexter should be?

NO. NO it is NOT. So let’s pretend this season was season three – as in NONEXISTENT KTHNXBAI.

So, I know this post is later than normal, and I know it was long, but there you have my breakdown of the season: some good, some bad, but really just a lot of “meh.”

Fall TV In Review, pt. 3: New Girl

New Girl was probably the new show from this season that I had the highest hopes about. I mean come on: “Zooey Deschanel is in it” is really all I needed to hear. But add to that Max Greenfield from Veronica Mars and Damon Wayans, Jr. from Happy Endings, and I was sold. I basically liked the premiere, though at the time it felt like 90% Zooey and 10% everyone else. I remember saying that the guys felt like caricatures. And I remember saying that Zooey was aggressively awkward, and that it made me uncomfortable.

After the first episode, they got rid of Damon Wayans, Jr. This was because he filmed the pilot before Happy Endings got picked up, and was already committed to that show. His replacement, Lamorne Morris, felt shoehorned in, and inferior to Wayans. And I really wasn’t vibing with the show. There was way too much Jess/Zooey, who despite Fox’s constant assertions, did not seem “adorkable” to me, but genuinely annoying. I found myself liking the guys way more.

Things changed for me a few episodes in, at the wedding. Maybe it was because we got to see Zooey in nice clothes looking sexy. Maybe it was because the guys forced her to calm down. Maybe it was because the show actually started developing the guys. I don’t know, but I liked it. And in general, I’ve liked it since.

My favorite character – by far – is Schmidt. He’s the perfect distillation of every guy I met at the Baylor Business School. He’s good-looking, he wears short-shorts, he says incredibly douchey things, he cares way too much about what others think of him, and he’s surrounded by women who advance ahead of him. Did I mention I didn’t love Baylor OR my major?

But he also feels real. He’s obviously overcompensating for an inferiority complex. And he’s obviously a romantic softie at heart, which makes him really endearing. It also makes his budding relationship with Cecelia vastly more interesting that Jess and Justin Long’s character, or even with Nick.

Speaking of Cece, I really like her too. She has thinly-veiled rage and barely-conceiled weirdness that totally explains her friendship with Jess. She provides a perfect balance to the occasionally oppressive “quirkiness” that is Jess, and the sausage fest that is the rest of the cast.

In short (ha!) the show continues to get better. Jess is over her old boyfriend, thanks to guest-star Justin Long. She can now explore an actual relationship with an actual adult: Nick “Puppy Eyes” Bartender. OK, I know “Bartender” isn’t his last name, but I’m nowhere near invested enough in the show to remember his real last name, let alone look it up. Cece seems to have feelings for Schmidt. Winston will probably be hanging out with more kids. Things are looking up.

My recommendations for this show:

1. Tone down Jess. Reveal that her weirdness is a result of crippling insecurity, then relieve that insecurity.

2. That’s actually it.

In conclusion, I watch a lot of comedies. This is easily the weakest of the bunch. But it’s still better than Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, or that show about fat people.