Posts Tagged ‘TV’

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The Republic of Doyle

January 6, 2010

This is a new Canadian TV series about to start. It’s a detective show set in Newfoundland. It looks really, really Canadian, which is surprising, considering it’s about Newfoundlanders.

I might give it a whirl. I rarely watch network TV these days, but I’ll give anything Canadian a chance. And it looks like fun, even if the trailer makes it look like it was created out of a Rockford Files Choose Your Own Adventure.

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Under The Tree, As Seen On TV

December 27, 2009

I have never bought anything advertised on television. The closest I came was the Time-Life Soft Rock Classics DVD set, which I assembled through other means, because I had a lot of the music already but not the dollars for the whole deal.

Maybe it’s because of early disappointment. When I was a kid, I sent away for a full-sized Inflatable Batman, and it never arrived, and the $4 I included in that envelope was gone forever. As I got older, I tended to buy things I could fondle first.

This Christmas, we received three As Seen On TV items as gifts. And my initial scoffs were quickly proven wrong.

The first came a few days before Christmas, when the inlaws came down to give the kids (their step-grandchildren) their presents. And there was something for me: Tow Truck In A Box.

The timing was perfect. Someone had tried to back the minivan into its spot after a six-inch fall of slushy snow over a flash-freeze of ice, and had gotten a front tire bogged down in the sinkhole where that tree stump used to be. After a couple of hours of trying to rock it out, I decided to wait until Christmas Eve when my brother was due, so we could push it out. Hey, the guy fought a train and won, so a minivan is no big deal.

Tow Truck In A Box is a set of four aircraft-grade aluminum plates with bladed ridges. You’re supposed to put them under your tires — linked together or alone — and use them to get traction and drive out. So I tried them. And fuck me if they didn’t work right off the bat. I had to adjust them once or twice, but in five minutes I was free of the ice and slush and good to go. The plates? Not a scratch.

Next up was The Magic Bullet. This is a cup-sized blender that you sort of tap to make it work. I’ve only used it once, to make a smoothie on Christmas morning. It was lightning quick, and did the job nice and fast. We have a blender attachment for The Food Processor Of The Gods, but it takes forever to haul all the components out and set it up. This thing is quick and easy. I doubt I’ll use it often, but when I do, I’ll like it.

And finally: Slap Chop. I’ve been laughing at Slap Chop infomercials for a long time, and so have you, but now that I have one, I’m happy with it. It isn’t some piece of TV schlock, despite its cheap plastic construction. It’s a simple mechanism and it works, and I like using it, because I hate food prep, but I like to make food. I used it tonight to add veggies to my frozen pizzas, and it took all of 30 seconds.

Two minutes after I opened it, I dumped some mixed nuts on the dining room table, slapped, and said “You’re gonna love my nuts.” You may think I was riffing on Vince’s infomercial, but really, I’ve been saying that for years, which may explain why Inflatable Batman never showed up.

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Bad Ideas In Television: The New People

December 15, 2009

Hippies on a world tour crash on a mysterious island used for bomb tests. As you know, testing bombs means building a complete town filled with guns and canned foods. This is an early take on what would become Lost (and thanks to Scott and Elton from the Rethinking Lost podcast for putting me on to this). It’s also an excellent example of Hollywood trying to glom onto “youth culture” in the 60s.

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Bad Ideas In Television: The Second Hundred Years

November 26, 2009

A crotchety old man discovers that his father, long believed lost in the Arctic, has been found frozen in a glacier and is still alive … and hasn’t aged. Now the two of them — and the third generation, a posh young businessman — must learn to adjust to their changed reality.

There’s a bit of high-concept science fiction there, but this was a sitcom, so the whole idea was played for broad, hard-earned laughs. The show was The Second Hundred Years — Dad is 100 years old, but looks 30, get it? — and aired in 1967. It struggled from day 1, and didn’t do well, which you will understand if you start watching it.

I can see how it could have worked. Arthur O’Connell mugs to the camera on a regular basis, something that can be annoying but works for him somehow. And Monte Markham — a familiar face, a well-known character actor — does pretty well playing both the old prospector and the young slickster. But the idea of it is just so stupid, and you can see the actors wondering what they’re doing. For this kind of silliness to work, the cast has to buy into it, and that wasn’t happening here.

But you have to admit — it’s a neat idea, and would do well to be revisited at some point.

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Bad Ideas in Television: Dusty’s Trail

November 18, 2009

Dusty’s Trail was a short-lived American sitcom that staggered through the 1973-74 TV season. Bob Denver played Dusty, the sidekick to a wagon-train leader on a journey across the Old West. When Dusty’s group is separated from the rest of the wagon train, he and his fellow castaways must struggle to survive, but in a goofy way.

The characters tagging along were a bit familiar: A rich man and his wife, a showgirl, an intellectual and a farmer’s daughter. Here, see for yourself:

I have very, very dim memories of this, because I think it was advertised in the comics I would have been reading around that time. Now that I’ve seen a bit of it, I know why it failed. It just isn’t funny, and it’s trying too hard to be Gilligan’s Island when it just couldn’t. Gilligan’s Island worked because Denver could play off the rest of the cast; this ensemble was weaker and his schtick just became tiresome and annoying.

Both shows were created by Sherwood Schwartz, so you can’t call this plagiarism. It’s one thing to adapt a popular idea — this was at a time when Gilligan’s Island reruns were dominating daytime TV — but it’s another to be so blatant about it. Schwartz went too far, became too derivative, and the show died as a result.

Gilligan’s Island had a strange kind of magic. It couldn’t work twice, and it didn’t.

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V

November 1, 2009

Click here to see the new V.

This is the first eight minutes of ABC’s new take on the classic V. It was put online, officially and above-board, as part of the network’s blitz of marketing for this new series, which premieres Tuesday night (Nov. 3).

I like what I see. There’s enough of the 80s original to please me and other decades-long fans of the concept, but it has been tweaked and sparked for a 21st-century post-9/11 audience. I particularly like the little nod-wink to Independence Day that’s tucked away in there. Cast-wise, I can say so far, so good; Elizabeth Mitchell was aces on Lost over the past three years, and that guy from The 4400 looks good in a priest’s collar. I have never been sure what to make of Scott Wolf, though; he’s always looked and acted a little too much like the love child of Michael J. Fox and Tom Cruise for my tastes.

I devoured the original V miniseries, and its followup a year later. I wasn’t as crazy about the ensuing series, because a premise like this can run out of steam pretty quickly. The 80s ongoing series, which had a weird kind of Dallas opening credits sequence, was just another action show, really. I have the comics, too, and they’re actually better than the TV series. Think about that for a second: I have the V comic books. Feel free to steal my lunch money.

There’s an opportunity here to take the lessons learned in long-form serial TV — Lost, 24, Heroes — and apply them to the V concept. I hope that’s what happens. So far, I can say this new version of V seems taut and thrilling, but that’s just based on eight minutes. If the producers can’t find a way to sustain that power without it turning into fight-the-Visitor-of-the-week, I can’t see this lasting.

But like I said: take a lesson from Lost. Originally described as a show about people stranded on a desert island, Lost became much, much more than that. V is described as “aliens land on Earth.” Been there, done that. Let’s hope the new V offers us more.

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Ryan Reynolds and his Webophobia

October 5, 2009

Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds doesn’t like to Google himself. Here’s what he said about this recently: “One was ‘Make Ryan Reynolds Your Biatch’. I didn’t get into it too much because I know there are going to be PhotoShopped pictures of me with a ball gag and nipple clamps.”

PhotoShopped. Sure, Ryan. Those pictures were made with PhotoShop.

Ah, I’m just kidding. I actually like Ryan Reynolds a lot. Let me think of some positives:

  • He has played two comic-book characters already (Hannibal King and Deadpool), is set to play a third (Green Lantern) and would still play a fourth if possible (The Flash). Green Lantern is my favourite super-hero of all time, and I think Ryan can pull off Hal Jordan perfectly.
  • He’s got that smartass sense of humour I enjoy, but we don’t always get to see it. He reins it in when necessary, such as in a little movie called The Nines. I recommend that one. Even when he’s in stupid movies like The Proposal, he’s acceptable. I’ve yet to see a bad performance from him. I’ve yet to see a great performance, but nothing overly horrible.
  • He married Scarlett Johansson.
  • He was Macro on The Odyssey. Bet you didn’t know that. The Odyssey is a weird little slice of Canadian television; it was about a kid in a coma whose mind travelled through a bizarre parallel world occupied only by kids. If you follow that link, Ryan’s the guy in the military uniform.
  • He was in a really weird and cheesy TV series called Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place, but he made it work and was pretty funny on a consistent basis. Later, it became Two Guys and a Girl, but strangely starred three guys and two girls. I stopped watching it when it became Two Guys, and starred only five women. That made no sense.
  • He was funny in the underrated shot-in-Canada movie Just Friends. He led a great cast that included Chris Marquette and Anna Faris; this movie never fails to make me laugh. And I don’t much like comedies. He and Faris were in Waiting together too; that’s a good little movie.
  • He married Scarlett Johansson. In Canada.

I know a lot of people find him smarmy and cocky and smug, and don’t like him because of that. I understand, and I sympathize. But please bear in mind that he’s probably still hurting a bit from the clamps.

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