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TV Rants And Raves 08.03.11: Screw Civic Duty!

August 3, 2011 | Posted by Ben Piper

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What’s up, my peeps? Welcome back once again to TV Rants And Raves. As per usual I am your thankless host, Ben Piper.

So perhaps you remember the little truthbomb I imparted last time out with regards to being called for jury duty. And yes, that was an actual real life occurrence for me. And so I went, and sat in a courtroom basically all goddamned day long bored completely out of my mind as lawyers for both sides of the aisle asked the same damned questions over and over again ad finitum of possible jurors for what seemed like infinity. All the while without my name being called.

But then, just as things looked to wind down and I would finally be excused from this mind numbing endeavor, the judge and the lawyers couldn’t agree to a to a final jury selection, so we were excused and told to come back the next day.

Oh, f*** me, are you kidding? I was not at all happy.

So I went back the next day, and after eventually finally being called and questioned?

Long story short, I had to sit through a five day civil trial as an alternate juror. As a result I had neither the time or energy to put together a column last week, and for that I sincerely apologize. And while all of this has colored how I view lawyer-type shows in a different way ever since? I’d rather have all my time back. Can you ever forgive me? Please allow me to make it up to you… Kinda…

TV Rants and Raves

Can I Get A ‘Hell Yeah?!’: So, Comic-Con recently. Lot’s of stuff to talk about and cover coming out of and ancillary of it.

Okay, this first one is quite obvious, so check it out if you haven’t seen it already, and I’ll talk to you about it afterwards…

Um, yeah. Now that’s what I’m talking about. I think it goes without saying and I’m quite sure that I’m preaching to the choir that the first season of The Walking Dead was phenomenal.

By all means above and beyond all expectations, and it sure does look like that they aren’t going to let us down in the second run. I personally can’t wait to see what they spring on us and what calamities may befall the survivors, as there looks to be dissention in the ranks. We’re going to have to wait until October to get our zombie goodness on, but I’m certain by the looks of it that it’ll be worth the wait.

Also, a comment in the last column I posted asked why The Walking Dead couldn’t have been considered for the Emmys best miniseries category rather than running up against the mainstream drama entries. Well, technically, on its own merits, yes it probably could have, if it had been a one and done sort of affair. But the fact that AMC so quickly greenlighted a second season basically cockblocked that notion. It could no longer be considered a mini, but rather a recurring and returning. So there’s your answer.

Breaking News: Word has come out that Showrunner Frank Darabont is stepping down, with rumor being that it’s due to the fact he is having difficulty adapting to a TV filming schedule. In other words, he’s exhausted. Glen Mazzarra (The Shield, Hawthorne, Crash) has been promoted to take his place. This turn of events really sucks, but hopefully with Darabont remaining aboard in some capacity it won’t derail the show entirely. Let’s keep our fingers crossed on that one.

Like many of you, I’m a great big fan of Uncle Stevie. I grew up reading his stuff vociferously (The first thing of his that I took in was It, which creeped me the hell out back in junior high, and a few years later, I consumed Misery the day that I got it when it first came out) So to say I’m a fan when his written works are adapted properly for other media kind of goes without saying. You all know what I’m walking about. Shawshank, Stand By Me, the aforementioned Misery, and to lesser extents the ABC produced miniseries version of The Stand. (I still think they kind of pussed out on the Holland Tunnel scene. That should have been so much more awesome than what was given.)

But for every project that is done right, there are countless more that go horribly wrong, and I don’t think I need to go into the endless list of what those are, because they are easily discernable.

Now here’s the thing I’ve come to notice. Whenever a Stephen King property gets adapted for either a movie or a TV miniseries, there are certain pitfalls to overcome. A) You take the original story and then deviate greatly from it. Bad idea. Never works nor lives up to the written work. B) You take the original story and live up to it and be true to the source material, but when that source material has a shitty ending, then yes, you should freakin’ change it, but don’t. And then C) You follow the first two rules I just laid out and still somehow manage to make a shitty movie despite the best of intentions.

Pet Semetary falls into this last latter equation, as while it was faithful to the source material, it just wasn’t all that good a movie. Wooden acting coupled with bad direction. Should have been awesome, considering it kept to the book, but it completely failed creatively.

Now, all that said? Mick Garris has made his name as the adaptor of King’s novels into TV miniseries. And he has always remained faithful to the source material to a fault. The Stand remains his high water mark, as it is quite good throughout it’s lengthy runtime up until the cheesy “Hand of God” shows up towards the end. And don’t even get me started on The Shining remake. Loved most of it, as it was far more true to the original novel than Kubrick’s admittedly great big screen adaption, but then King himself whom wrote the screenplay shot the whole thing in the foot with a bullshit unneeded cheesily sweet coda that just ruined everything that came before

And the less I say about Desperation the better. It sucked, by and large. Once Ron Perlman’s character was written out? Just like in the novel, it was all downhill from there.

Now, with all that said, I’ll now finally get to my point, Which is, that AMC has greenlighted a two part miniseries adaption of King’s Bag Of Bones to be directed by none other than Mick Garris. Now this I can get behind. Garris has proven in the past to be slavishly devoted to King’s source material, and this is one of those instances that it should prove to be a good thing. It was a great book, fun to read, and with a truly satisfying ending that made sense. All that said, I have a hard time seeing how they could possibly mess this up. I mean, dear God, they’ve already signed Pierce Brosnan to play the lead! How cool is that?

Seriously, this should be by all accounts looking in from the outside, quite fantastic, and I for one am looking forward to it. Color me optimistic. Sign me up!

And then there’s this.

That freaked me the hell out when I was a little kid. That was a minor snippet of Scanners, a 1981 theatrical movie directed by the great David Cronenberg. Its centered around a powerful psychic whom is strong enough to control others minds as well as cause great physical harm (Duh, see above clip) seeking world domination. Things get interesting when another powerful ‘scanner’ is discovered, and is then set loose to stop the first guy. Why do I bring this up?

Well, Dimension Films at first were considering doing a remake of this cult classic, but after considering all the success that recent sci-fi/horror series have been having as of late, they have decided to make it a TV show. Nice! Alexandre Aja is attached to executive produce and may direct the pilot. As more news on the subject comes out, I’ll keep you appraised.

But then there were the videos that came out of Comic-Con with regards to more returning shows. Such as this;

Gotta love the Chuck dudes. And Jeffster, that kind of goes without saying, but a little bit of them goes a long way in my own personal opinion. Yeah, they really kind of grate on my nerves. But I suppose that’s the whole point. Also worthy of note, the list of guest stars they have started to line up for the final season; Mark Hammill, Carrie-Ann Moss, and more.

And then there’s this; A film roll of alternate casting choices auditions for the Peter Bishop character on Fringe.

Is that last bit a tease of what and how I’ve suspected Peter will remain a part of the show after he was seemingly wiped out of existence? Quite possibly. And if it comes to pass, I called it, bitches.

But then again, the fact that they went out of their way to actually film that for the Comic-Con crowd could mean a red herring. Again, we’ll just have to sit back and wait and see.

And lastly, but not in the least, final proof that the showrunners of Lost knew what they were doing all along. Albeit completely bullshit and made up after the fact. But still kind of awesome.

Oh, wait did I forget something? Why yes, I do believe that I did…

Huh huh huh huh. God, I love those cartoon dumbasses. It’ll be good to have them back.

Alphas thoughts: Emmy winner and Oscar nominee David Straithairn stars in SyFy’s newest original series as Dr. Lee Rosen, a neurophysiologist that oversees a secret Department of Defense team that tracks down ‘Alphas’, individuals that have heightened physical abilities that may represent harm to society at large. What makes his team so competent to do this task? Well, because they are Alpha’s themselves.

Bill Harken is a suspended FBI agent that has the ability to turn his adrenal glands on and off at will, and when he does feel such a rush, it gives him super-strength. Nina is a ‘pusher’, whom with nothing but the verbal power of suggestion can manipulate others to her will. Gary is an Autistic that can visually see electromagnetic wavelengths. (cell phones, emails, any electronic communications that travel through the air) Rachel is able to heighten one of her senses at the expense of the others, to study something closely to find something minute, or track smells, or follow the sounds of footsteps from far away. And Cameron, (the newest member of the team, whom was the subject of their hunt in the pilot episode) when he focuses properly is capable of perfect aim and balance.

The downside of having these abilities is that they cause personality defects in each individual. This causes squabbles amongst the team as they get on each others nerves all the time, hence why the headshrink that oversees them. Well, that and he’s able to help them hone their individual talents while working with each of them on their own particular shortcomings.

Not to mention the fact that there is a rogue secret society of Alphas looking to start a war with a populace that would surely rally against and persecute them if they in fact knew they actually existed. “X-Men” much?

That said, the show is very well visually executed, even if its plot devices are by the numbers and derivative for the most part. But with a solid cast of actors and the characters so well-defined thus far and expanding as we move forward, I have to say that I’m quite enjoying it up to this point.

It’s not something that I have to see each and every week, but during the summer months it is a welcome diversion from the usual reality dreck the networks throw our way. I’ll take it, and I’ll do so gladly.

Not Exactly Catching Up: I haven’t watched one episode of the first season of USA’s Covert Affairs, but I do have the pilot stored on my DVR which I’ll hopefully get to eventually. That said, I’ve been watching the show steadfastly during its second season and I have to say, I quite like what I’ve seen. The very cute Piper Perabo stars as Annie Walker, a wet behind her ears yet still very capable newbie to the CIA. Seeing as she is an undercover spy, she has to hide her profession from her sister and nieces whom she lives with.

And again, while I like what I see thus far, it’s kind of hard to find any real emotional connection to most of the characters seeing as I’m a season behind. I get that Augie is her handler whom takes care of her whenever she sticks her neck out, and that he is himself quite capable to take care of his own affairs, despite the fact that he is blind. The recent episode that explored his backstory which revealed how this took place was quite fantastic.

But I still feel like the newbie to the club in many ways. I’m liking and enjoying the show to be sure, but past the surface, I still haven’t the first freakin’ clue what the hell is going on with regards to the deeper story therein. Peter Gallagher plays a big CIA boss under investigation, but I still don’t know for what. He’s married to Annie’s boss, whom likes her, but keeps her at arms length, because apparently that’s how the CIA rolls. Meanwhile, the scientist from Heroes is also a CIA player whom also happens to have a father that’s somehow a traitor against the U.S.

Which makes me realize that I’m going to have to wikipedia this whole mess to catch up and figure out just what in the hell is going on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a fan of serialized storytelling as the next guy, but I find it disconcerting to be left out in the dark as stuff progresses during the course of a show and I have no idea what the hell any of it means. *Sigh* Guess I probably should have climbed aboard on the ground floor, but it’s too late for that.

Shenangians!: I’ve watched Gene Simmon’s Family Jewels on and off here and there throughout it’s run on A&E thus far. Yeah, it’s the reality show that follows around the entrepreneur/KISS frontman and his family. What I’ve liked about it is that the family for the most part is level headed and down to Earth, while Simmon’s himself has remained an unbridled egomaniac so full of himself he’s convinced that since he’s so rich and famous and successful his shit doesn’t stink.

What I don’t like about it? It centers around Gene Simmons, an unbridled egomaniac that’s so rich and famous and successful that he’s convinced his shit doesn’t stink.

Now all that said, while this is considered ‘reality TV’, even before I bring up what I wish to talk about, I have to question how much of this reality is actually real. And I say that because a lot of the times that I tuned in to it it all came off as contrived and obviously staged, such as Gene renting a condo in his better half’s home county of Canada as a romantic surprise to her, only to find that another family somehow rented the same home at the same time and they were forced to uncomfortably co-habitate briefly as a result. Not to mention an entire episode devoted to a lost pet that escaped off the family’s palatial LA estate only to be found by the end of it. (With some added drama that son Nick wasn’t recognized by security at one of his dad’s concerts, and seemingly wouldn’t be let in. Yeah, right.)

Um, no. Bullshit. Far too convenient a circumstance to occur while the cameras were rolling. I’m not buying any of it, and you shouldn’t either. It’s all contrived staged drama/uncomfortable comedy for the sake of it made up to make you believe that these famous rich people are just like you and me. When they clearly aren’t. A lot of what you’ve seen has been manufactured for your consumption. And to make you like them.

So when this past season centered around Gene’s better half and mother of his children (former PMOY and softcore porn actress Shannon Tweed) finally being fed up with his massive ego and womanizing ways to the point that she was ready to move on? And the children was on the same page with her as well? I found myself suddenly sucked in, for to see the raging egomaniacal rich rat bastard finally be humbled? I couldn’t help myself.

So yes, big emotions. The break-up. The awkward if you fly straight we’ll maybe get back together rigamaroll. Therapy sessions. The kids guilt tripping him. The trip to Simmon’s homeland of Jerusalem where he met brothers and sisters he didn’t know he had. (Okay, I’ll admit that was perhaps too real to be faked. Him sobbing at his father’s gravesite was devastating) Before the great big season finale when he finally decides that he’s going to do right by Shannon and do what he promised her never would; Ask for her hand in marriage.

But again, the whole thing came off as a contrived staged bullshit scenario. One thing after another. First the ring wouldn’t be ready on time. Then it was whenever he was ready to pop the question comically awkward circumstances conveniently prevented him from doing so.

And then once he finally got on bended knee and popped the question? We got a bullshit ‘to be continued’ ending. This episode saw the biggest ratings the show has ever gotten.

Not to mention that as little as a month ago, Simmons and Tweed were making the media rounds to promote the show and she made it clear that she was still not at all happy with him which stoked the fires of media coverage leading up to what we just saw.

And maybe I’m being a cynic? But it’s a fake reality show. Most of it is completely staged. At this point I’m kind of fed up with it. In hindsight, I probably should have known better. And looking forward, all I see is more of the same. Gene reverts to being his pervy old self, ego running rampant while Shannon and the kids keep calling him out on his bullshit which will all lead up to the eventual wedding, which again be met with a ‘to be continued’ as Shannon and/or Gene has second thoughts with regards to actually getting hitched.

This is why, as a rule, I try my best not to get sucked into ‘reality’ TV.

Random Strange Thoughts

Comparing Jesse Eisenberg to Michael Cera is old hat. Where are the comparisons between Ed Helms and Jason Sudeikis?

If Arby’s is truly ‘good mood food’, then why does it taste so freakin’ bland?

Chipotle should have on their menu a disclaimer next to some individual items that reads ‘may cause sudden and explosive diarrhea’.

What is with most of the fast food places replacing their regular french fries with ‘natural cut’. Seriously, they never taste as good as what was presented before, so what’s the freakin’ point? The fact that they are keeping up with their competitors for the mere sake of doing so? Way to differentiate yourselves from one another, great big mindless corporate conglomerates

Another reason why fast food french fries don’t taste as good as they once did? No trans fat. Sloppy, but true.

If you spend a better part of an afternoon camped outside a liquor store/supermarket begging people for money so you can ‘feed your dog’ (which you have with you, and he/she looks quite healthy and not skinny in any way, nice attempt on the guilt trip, though), you need to check your ass into rehab. Another reason why I won’t contribute? The fact that the second I state I have no money on me you’re quickly okay with that and ask for a cigarette instead. Not to mention you look like a walking talking skeleton.

You know that you’re a professional panhandler and all around scumbag when you train your three year old son to hang out with you all day at the main exit of a popular shopping center and to call everyone ‘asshole’ when they don’t chip in when you ask them for money. I apologize for calling social services on your sorry ass. I really do. But I was thinking of the child first, as we already have too many freeloading douchebags in society already.

When a single girl scratches herself in her private place in public, it tells all the guys that see it not to hit on her. When a guy scratches in the same place in the same situation? It’s because his balls itch. Well, that or he has crabs.

Who Tweeted What?

Kevin Nealon: Would like to get a rescue dog but so hard to find one drowning.

simonpegg Simon Pegg: I love the international ebb and flow of my twitter feed. It’s like perpetual dawn at a train station. Drunks and commuters sharing seats.

sutterink kurt sutter: darabont leaving WD sucks. for him, the show, the fans, the network. whatever the reasons, and there may have been good ones, nobody wins.

ConanOBrien Conan O’Brien: Children grow up so fast. One day they’re taking their 1st steps, the next they’re taken away after a judge rules you’re a negligent parent.

eliroth Eli Roth: This no-parking-space situation is seriously turning me into Nick Nolte. #mumblegrumble

BastardMachine Tim Goodman: Trip to Playboy Mansion party tonight purely sociological. Need to find out if it’s more skeevy than Robert Evans’ iconic pad.

DonRickles Don Rickles: David Letterman’s dream is to watch me drop my pants and fire a rocket!

GhostPanther Adam McKay: Rappers rap bragging about owning Benzs is really pathetic. It’s a car! U better be able to afford a car Kayne. Do u brag about new blender?

rainnwilson RainnWilson: Saw the ‘Battleship’ trailer and, inspired, started my screenplay for ‘Yahtzee’.

ZacharyLevi Zachary Levi: That last tweet was done while on the toilet. I shall call it a twoop. Thankful it wasn’t twiarrhea.

NathanFillion Nathan Fillion: If you are in the left lane on the freeway and people are passing you on the right, that means you’re an asshole.


The Non TV Segment Of The Week

Proof that heavy metal isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. (NSFW with regards to lyrical content)

And where will the next generation of metal musicians come from? Well, this little dude is a start…


Let’s finish this thing up…

Okay, I addressed someone’s question up at the top with regards to why The Walking Dead wasn’t qualified to be considered for the best miniseries Emmy category. And since I don’t wish to be that guy that never responds to the questions that are posed, or the comments that you fine folks send my way? Here we go with the rest.

To Cap, glad you and your mom were okay after the car wreck. And trust me, we’ll leave the whole Acifex thing alone from here on out. I started to, but I thought better of it.

To my fellow 411 staffer Todd Vote, The Disney show that you asked about is something that I honestly never heard of. Seeing as I’m 40? Can’t really blame me for that as I’m not the target audience. I would suggest if you really want to know you hit up Leonard’s Ask 411 column. He’ll be your huckleberry.

And why does every crossover idea have to involve Burn Notice? Yeah, I get it, it’s popular and a lot of you love it. Again, I’m not saying that it’s a bad show, far from it. It’s just something that I never really got into. (But probably should have, in hindsight) I’m not in any way complaining, I was just hoping that you would all be more a little bit original. Because, really, how original is an idea when fifteen other people basically have the same one, but they each cross reference it with a different show. Just sayin’…

And finally, Modern Family dominating the supporting actor Emmy nominations in expense of others that are just as worthy. We’ll call that the Friends effect.

See, back when that program was on the air, as a show of solidarity to one another and to signify that they were all part of an ensemble that were all equals, until the final season (when Aniston put in for lead actress) all six main leads filed for best supporting consideration. And while that didn’t result in the cramming in that is taking place presently, Modern Family‘s cast is following the example of that previous instance of cast solidarity.

It would be an easy thing to nominate either Ed O’Neill or Ty Burrell (Not to mention Julie Bowen) in the lead categories, but because they submitted as supporting? The Emmy voting committee had their hands tied.

But that’s the other thing to consider; The Emmy voting body is an older skewing group, and when they really like something that’s actually good that shows up on their radar, they tend to nominate and award the crap out of it into the ground.

And as a result, other worthy work that deserves recognition gets passed to the wayside. The commenter Carlos cited Park And Recreation‘s Nick Offerman as an example. You’ll hear no argument from me on that. I would also offer up a couple of guys from Community to consider as well as a certain NPH. Because seriously, that’s one guy that’s overdue for some Emmy love. Sure he’s been nominated, but he’s never won.

Jon Cryer again? Yeah, I know he won previously, but he did so for playing straight man that lobbed softballs to Charlie Sheen for that nutjob to verbally bat at on a lower common denominator level. I know that the straight man is an important element, but the bottom line is that there are other people doing better and deeper comedic work.

And with that I’m outta here for this week. Beat me over the head with a big stick in the comments section if you feel the need to do so. Otherwise, I’ll just leave it at that, and catch you all on the flipside.



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