Thursday, October 30, 2008

I too am a Seeker

A two hour premier of the new series "Legend of the Seeker" will occur Saturday. Reviews have been...ah...mixed? But it is the pilot and we all know pilots today have to be crammed with everything. Typical are these comments from Variety:

"The producing team of Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert enjoyed considerable success a few years back with "Hercules" and "Xena,"....

"...There's nothing howlingly bad here (except perhaps for a few of the supporting performances), but nothing particularly distinctive, either. Rather, "Legend of the Seeker" feels like a hodgepodge of better sci-fi/fantasy fare, including slow-motion action sequences that looked way-cool in "300" and this time around merely feel like a cheap way of ensuring nobody gets clipped by an errant sword.

"Disney is producing and distributing the 22-episode order, which in light of the show's youth-oriented qualities could easily have played on one of the studio's cable platforms. Thus exploring the wilds of firstrun syndication is probably the most daring aspect of "Seeker's" familiar quest."

But I'm a great deal less jaded than many reviewers and feel more like these comments in TV Squad:

"Wow, "syndicated adventure series." Whatever happened to all of those cheesy syndicated adventure shows that used to dot the television landscape?...There aren't too many of them anymore, replaced by reality, home improvement, court shows, and talk shows, or not replaced at all.

"...It sounds silly and over the top and Legend of the Seeker is a horrible title (unless you're making a kids video game or a follow-up to the self-help book The Secret), but this could actually be a lot of fun...."

Personally, I like traditional fantasy over reality TV which is not only fantasy but frequently a depressing attempt to provide escapist entertainment. I prefer evil wizards to Donald Trump.

Because it's syndicated, it is offered on an independent or affiliated channel in each area of the country, though not in all DMA's. And, of course, it may not be available from your local channel in HD. But do not despair as it is offered nationally on WGN starting at 5 pm EDT (also see schedules for KTLA and WPIX). It will be repeated on Sunday.

The show has an official web site where you can put in your Zip Code to find out which local channel it is on. There is also a 10-minute preview video that was presented earlier this month on a 30-minute special hosted by Lucy Lawless (apparently the special is available from iTunes). An unofficial web site is also up and running.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Hilarious Video on The Absurdity of the Digital Conversion

A truly hilarious video from "Talkshow with Spike Fereston" is making the rounds on the internet.

You need to watch the video before any of this post makes sense. With that said, here it goes folks.

The video demonstrates how truly stupid the February 2009 digital "cutoff" is, a government mandated technological change that will have the most negative effect on the most vulnerable - mostly poor and dependent people.

There is no logical reason not to continue analog TV broadcasts for another five years while people discover that another choice for broadcast TV has been developing and actually represents something desirable. The cutoff is a move by the covetous, enabled by a bunch of mostly old men in Congress several years ago who either (1) really don't care much about what happens in the day-to-day lives of mostly poor and dependent people or (2) are just too dumb to see the big picture.

The video clearly presents the absurdity of the policy. Yeah, there are phone numbers in addition to web sites, and government coupons that are confusing and don't cover help with installation, and boxes that may or may not work in your location. None of that resolves the fundamental flaws in the policy.

Many are going to be surprised. No one took their "land lines" away from them before they began to appreciate the value of the cell phone, and most still have land lines. Before this video, I never saw anything in the new, spiffy media that truly addressed the impact of this change.

Unfortunately, some have gotten hung up because the video using humor portrays the difficulty affecting a member of the population that will have the most members struggling - old people, people my age.

Some have taken offense that the character is portrayed as an "elderly, almost senile woman." Senile. The term is applied to older people and it means a deterioration, an illness, which as we age we all fear more or less.

In fact, a better term has entered the lexicon more recently to describe what is depicted in the video: "clueless", which means "Lacking understanding or knowledge." ( The problem is "clueless" behavior at any age resembles to some degree "senility." It's just that old people get tagged with "senility" when they are just "clueless", which is ageism and is as disturbing as overt racism, sexism, etc.

In this case, an older person was used because a greater percentage of people over 60 are "technologically challenged" than in other age groups. Don't let your internal "politically correct" alarm stand in the way of understanding the basic message of the video. The person portrayed in the video is not senile, just clueless, and it has nothing to do with ageism.

The February 2009 analog TV cutoff will affect people of all ages most of whom are among the least able to cope with the change and who are most dependent on broadcast TV. And this humorous video brings that truth out of the closet.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Weirdly Misplaced Quality Show - Easy Money

Newly misplaced. One TV show. Surprisingly mature plot, clever writing, with solid direction and acting, Last seen in the vicinity of The CW on Sunday, lost in the noise. If found, call HBO or AMC. Answers to the name of Easy Money.

Easy Money is a show that is as well produced and as offbeat HBO's Big Love, AMC's Mad Men, and Fx's The Riches. The only problem is that it debuted in October on Sunday at 9:00 pm on, get this, The CW.

Media Rights Capital (MRC) bought The CW's fall Sunday night prime time. At 7:00 pm they scheduled In Harms Way, a reality series from Dirtiest Jobs' Craig Piligian that features people with dangerous jobs in places like subway tunnels, avalanches, and hurricanes. Not being a reality TV fan, I can't tell you anything about this show. At 8:00 pm they offer Valentine Inc., a truly vacuous show about the Valentine family, a group of Greek gods living in today's Southern California attempting to keep their true identities secret as they do whatever it takes to bring soulmates together, including hiring a romance novel writer who is supposed to help them.

But at 9:00 pm is this incredibly misplaced quality show about a family that runs "Prestige Payday Loans", one of those strip mall check cashing storefronts, and making a fine living at it. The Buffkin's matriarch is Bobette, played by Laurie Metcalf. Morgan Buffkin, her son played by Jeff Hephner (The OC), helps keep the business and family together. The only problem is he's morally troubled by the nature of the business and he inadvertently discovers he may not be her biological son nor sibling to brother Cooper played by Jay R. Ferguson or sister Brandy played by Katie Lowes. You'll recognize the rest of cast as all top actors, also.

Supposedly MRC is committed to 13 episodes of Easy Money (and Valentine, Inc.). However, they have put the shows on 4- to 6-week hiatus supposed to give the writers time to catch up on scripts.

In fact, MRC should find a couple more reality shows to fill the time slots which were in the past, and are today, total losers for The CW. They should dump Valentine, Inc., and shop Easy Money around to the cable channels. Easy Money should have been on HBO. It's that good!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Eleventh Hour v Life on Mars - Brit Adaptations Skirmish

Two shows from British television premiered against each other Thursday night - Eleventh Hour and Life on Mars. We weren't impressed with Life on Mars in our household but more on that later.

Eleventh Hour, on the other hand, was better than the Brit version.

The surprise was how much better we liked Rufus Sewell as Dr. Jacob Hood than we did Patrick Stewart and how ok we were with Marley Shelton in the Rachel Young part played in the Brit version by Ashley Jensen (Christina in Ugly Betty).

Sewell really made the Hood part his own with greater force of personality than Stewart.

We hadn't expected the American version pilot to be the same plot as the Brit first episode. The two scripts had the same basic plot outline. The Brit version from Granada Television ran 90 minutes on ITV which did give more time to develop the plot and characters.

But apparently some kind of "artistic differences" at the producer level caused plot changes in subsequent episodes and the Brit version only had four episodes. I hope we will have four seasons and fully realize the show's potential.

Then there's Life on Mars. We watched the English show on BBCA. I loved it, my wife was ambivalent about it. We both did not like the American pilot. The show in this episode was just too much like the Brit version. Whatever else, there were significant cultural differences between 1973 England and 1973 America.

Harvey Keitel was fine (what else?). Jason O'Mara is an actor we like, but and O'Mara is playing Sam too much like John Simm did.

And Gretchen Mol just looks too 21st Century. Liz White in the English version looked and "felt" like a slightly above average young English woman in 1973 struggling to find a place in law enforcement. Mol looks like a 2008 hottie dressed up for a Halloween Party as a 1973 NYPD police woman.

And here we go again with post 90's American TV pilots squeezing it all in to grab every viewer. In the British version it took a few episodes before Sam even chats with Annie about his secret and his thoughts on what it means. They had no need to develop a male-female intimacy in the first hour because they weren't going to cancel the show if the female 18-39 demo wasn't impressed.

So in the American version we have the new guy, lost, confused and uneasy, just tell some woman in the station: "Hey, I think either I've traveled back in time, this is all a dream, or I'm nuts. Now take me home then let's go solve crimes with our guns and stuff." But hey, she has a degree in psychology. Yeah, maybe, if her degree was in parapsychology, maybe.

The premise of the show isn't bad - how does a 2008 top investigator used to all the 21st Century rules and csi gadgets and criminal databases function in a 1973 police environment? Opportunities for tension and struggle abound.

We will try a few more episodes. But I have my doubts.


One show carried over from the disaster of last year is extremely well written, has stimulating characters played by strong actors, and is directed with great care. Unfortunately it's on NBC.

The show is Life. Yes, on the surface it's just another police procedural. But it also has a backstory that drives a subplot that is actually moving towards early resolution, not something to keep up ad nauseum as in so many shows.

They did change a supporting character this year and it's a good change.

The show was "given a chance" by NBC airing new episodes on Monday night the past two weeks as well as on its regular time of 10 pm Friday.

I'm hoping that they scheduled it on Friday because it's a less expensive show to produce. And because of that, they might consider shifting it to USA where characters are welcome? Life has some great characters.