Tuesday, July 31, 2012

True Blood #56 "Somebody ..."

The official name of this episode is “Somebody That I Used to Know.” But I’m going to give it a title of my own “The Rabbits of Bon Temps.”

The science of evolution says that long ago, when the dinosaurs went extinct, an evolutionary niche opened up and a small mammal, maybe something similar to a rabbit, became the ancestor of all primates, including human beings.

The exact opposite is happening in the monster–ridden burg of Bon Temps.  The humans are like little rabbits, and they are headed towards extinction.  The supernatural beings are treating the humans as rabbits.

In the Vampire Vatican, where the Chancellors reside, a random young woman, a mother of two young children, has been captured and tied to the bedposts. (It’s always a bed on True Blood, they never tie young women to chairs or fence posts.) She has been procured by Salome, so that Bill may feed on her.  At first Bill demurs because he was once a sensitive vampire with a code of ethics that forbade killing humans. But he is no longer the old Bill, so this luckless woman becomes dead meat.

Over in the werewolves den, Alcide and J.D. have to undergo a contest to determine who shall lead the pack. J.D. has captured a young college student, a field and track star, because J.D. wants it to be a fair fight. He proposes to give the student a two minute head start, and then the two contestants will give chase. Whoever catches and kills the student first will become the new leader. Alcide, unlike Bill, still has a firm grip on his ethics. Alcide forfeits, thinking that he can thus spare the life of the young man.  But that is not to be. J.D. declares that the chase is on nonetheless. Run, rabitt, run. He captures the youth in an instant—it was never going to be a fair fight. Alcide catches up to J.D., fights him, and the youth escapes.  So this human makes it out alive.

Meanwhile, back at Fangtasia, Tara is tending bar. This is the season to tart up Tara. A new sexy S&M outfit each week, accented with over the top glamour make-up.  A faded prom queen sits at the bar and lords it over Tara like the high school bully she once was. Tara threatens her former high school classmate, only to be upbraided by her maker, Pam, who owns the bar, for being rude to the customers. But blood is thicker than water, so Pam “glamours” the woman into becoming a subservient slave who invites Tara to feed on her. This human may live, but wish she had not.

Even Merlotte is getting into the game. He shifts into a snake and menaces a prisoner at the local jail. But Merlotte is not as vicious as the vampires and werewolves, he doesn’t hurt the prisioner, he only threatens him to get information about the gang that is out to kill “supes.”

It is open season on rabbits in Bon Temps, and by rabbits I mean humans.



This picture is from http://ryanseacrest.com



Friday, July 27, 2012

True Blood # 55 "In the Beginning"

The fae people have a superpower—they can shoot beams of energy from their palms.  Sookie is only half fae, so her powers are finite. They will eventually be all used up.  Episode 55 ends with Sookie standing on her lawn at night repeatedly releasing these energy beams in an attempt to rid herself of her fae superpowers and become fully human. Oh, Sookie I wouldn’t do that if I were you. When you live in the midst of a maelstrom of monsters, a girl needs every advantage she can get.

Like the energy shooting from Sookie’s palms dissipating into the night, the energy of the show seems to be shooting off in all directions, dissipating the appeal of the show.  There is just too much going on.
 
The vampires have their own religion.  Their pope is “The Authority”.  His name was Roman.  I say was because Roman has met the “true death” at the hands of Russell Edgington, a particularly powerful and vicious vampire.  He had been delivered to The Authority by Eric and Bill.

The vampire God is Lilith, the first vampire.There is a vial of her blood, their most holy relic. Is it symbolic blood or the actual blood of Lilith?  Edgington breaks open the vial and the vampires of the Vampire Vatican each drink a drop. Apparently, it was the actual blood of Lilith. The vampires become bloodthirsty monsters—vampires are by definition bloodthirsty monsters, but they are now released from all inhibitions—and they invade a wedding party feasting upon men, women, and even children. The form of Lilith arises from the blood looking like a bronze statue, only made of blood instead of bronze. This can not bode well for the little town of Bon Temps.

Meanwhile, Lafayette has been kidnapped by brojos; Alcide is fighting a challenger to his leadership of the werewolf pack; Hoyt, the lovesick rejected lover of teenaged vampire Jessica, has joined up with a gang intent on murdering “supes” of all kinds; the surly Tara is pole dancing at the vampire nightclub, Fangtasia, run by Eric’s progeny, Vampire Pam, and is trying to adapt to life as a vampire; Terry Bellefleur and his army buddy are trying to escape from the Smoke Monster; Merlotte is trying to win back Luna; and more all packed into one episode.

The show seems frenetic, jumping from plot to plot. Some plot points, like the budding love affair between Alcide and Sookie seem to have been dropped---Alcide appears to have transferred his affections to a female member of his pack. It’s all a confusing jumble. No wonder Sookie is engaging in suicidal behavior. The show appears to be committing suicide.

The show needs to refocus and tell some stories with heart or it will be “dead to me” by the end of the season.


I found this picture on the official HBO website.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Episodes "Labia as in Labia"

The relationship between Sean and Beverly is the heart of the show. It is very much the heart of episode 4 of season 2.

Beverly is still very much in love with Sean, despite learning of his sexcapade with Morning. Sean, however, appears to be moving on. He’s joined facebook. He has a lot of new facebook friends.  His relationship with Beverly is more “old friend” than husband. 

Sean and Beverly continue to work together on the show.  Professionally, their chemistry is as strong as ever, despite their marital separation. (Sean left Beverly after he discovered that she had drunken sex with Matt because she falsely thought that Sean was having sex with Morning.  He wasn’t then, but he is now.)

Sean and Beverly have been told to take the show in a whole new direction. The focus will be on the young boys of “Pucks,” with a lot less emphasis on the coach, played by Matt LeBlanc. It’s usually women who are pushed aside in favor of younger actresses, but Matt is getting a taste of age discrimination.
 
When Matt discovers that he only has a handful of lines in the episode they are currently shooting, he gets very angry. So Matt does what Matt always does when he gets angry. He heads to a bar, he gets drunk, he calls Sean and/or Beverly.  As usual, Sean and Beverly come running to save Matt from himself. 

This time Matt is threatening to tell Merc, the producer of “Pucks” about his affair with Jamie, Merc’s wife. Sean and Beverly beg him not to do it. It will mean the end of the show. Matt doesn’t care about that. He won’t stand for being a minor character on the show. He feels insulted, and he wants to do something to get back at Merc.

Beverly gets Matt alone for a moment and begs him not to tell Merc about the affair.  She has a very personal reason. She wants Sean back. She tells Matt, if the show ends, she and Sean will return to London, and their marriage will be over. However, if the show continues, they can continue to work together, and perhaps Sean will take her back.

I told you Matt was a good guy, way down deep. He agrees not to tell Merc about the affair for Beverly’s sake.

At the end of the episode Sean and Beverly are ice skating. Sean is trying to teach Beverly how to skate. To keep her from falling he skates behind her, with his arms around her waist. Beverly leans her head back against his shoulder. She smiles with the bliss of being in Sean’s arms. You can not only see, but feel how much she wants Sean back.  

As for Labia, that is the name of a woman who stalks Matt. (Her name is pronounced labia as in labia, the lady part. Hence, the title of the episode.) Sean is friends with her on facebook.  I’m using my psychic powers now to predict that this means trouble for all.  Very funny trouble.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Weeds "Only Judy Can Judge"

Season 8 Episode 4 continues with the theme of one big happy family.  Nancy, her three sons (Silas, Shane and Stevie), her dead first husband’s brother (Andy) her sister (Jill), Jill’s daughters, and even a friend-of-the family* (Doug) are all living under one roof. Silas and Shane have even each invited a friend to join the dinner party on the patio. Nancy tempts fate by standing at the head of the table to repeat the toast she was in the midst of giving when she was shot. No one is shot..

[*I could also describe Doug as Nancy’s former employer (twice over), former sex partner, and former partner-in-crime, but friend of the family seems to best describe his current relationship to Nancy.]

Sweetest Moment of the Week:  Nancy and little Stevie go for a late night swim in the neighbor's pool. Stevie starts to emotionally reconnect with his mother after her long absence (prison, hospitalization, and for a time, Jill’s refusal to allow Nancy to see the boy who was in Jill’s care while Nancy was in prison.)

Dirtiest Moment of the Week: Doug gets into a war with a neighbor, and the excrement keeps escalating. It begins with the neighbor’s dog leaving a smelly token of his visit on the porch of the Nancy’s family’s home. It goes from bad to “oh-no, I can’t believe they did that.”

Coolest Moment of the Week: This is the coolest moment every week. The show opens with the song “Little Boxes” written by Malvina Reynolds.  (“Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of ticky tacky, Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes all the same.”)  This was the theme music for the show’s first few seasons, but then it was dropped.  Now that Nancy and family are back in suburbia (Connecticut now; Agrestic, California before) the theme song is back. Each week it is sung by a different vocalist with a different arrangement which makes the song new each time. I look forward to seeing what they will do with the song each week. As the song plays, a fast–motion hand is drawing the history of the show, depicting all the places Nancy has lived since Season 1, Episode 1. (Even if you don’t watch the show, catch the opening credits and song.)  

This is still a great show.  Get the DVD and watch from the beginning.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"Web Therapy" "Sister Act"

“Web Therapy” on Showtime continues to delight with its “walking wounded”, bloodied but unbowed”, win-at-all-costs  characters.  Season 2 Episode 4, entitled “Sister Act,” has Fiona sparring with her sister.

Fiona’s sister is named Shevaun. Shevaun is also a therapist. Shevaun is now Fiona’s therapist. Their interaction is devastating for both sisters. 
Shevaun is played by Julia Louis Dreyfus, currently the star of “Veep.” Julia is a great actress and she does a marvelous job of slowly unraveling before our eyes. Like Fiona her modus operandi is ego assassination with a thousand veiled insults and crafty manipulation.  It turns out, as good as she is at these ploys, she is no match for Fiona. Nobody can play this game as well as Fiona.  

Fiona needs to undergo15 hours of therapy in order to get accreditation as a licensed therapist. She had never bothered with this “technicality” before, but now that her husband, Kip, is running for Congress she has to get her house in order, so to speak.

And who will provide this therapy? None other than her sister, Shevaun.  Fiona wants her sister to just sign the paperwork, but Shevaun insists that there must be actual therapy sessions. Further, there will be none of this 3-minute stuff.  It will be 50-minute sessions.

Shevaun is trying to make Fiona face the truth about herself, her unhappy childhood, and her unhappy life. Fiona denies everything, and what she doesn’t deny, she  insists on seeing in a favorable light. The girls go at each other, dredging up things from the past, each insisting that the other one is the one with the unhappy life. 

Neither therapist is succeeding in “breaking” the other until in the penultimate session, Shevaun tells Fiona that red, a color Fiona wears all the time, is just not “her color”.  She says that Fiona only likes red because their mother liked red. This is the thing that takes Fiona down. She becomes so depressed she can’t get out of bed.

But nothing can destroy Fiona. Not for long anyway. Fiona decides that her sister is lying about how red does not suit her, and she rebounds.  She decides Shevaun was only trying to destroy her and vows revenge.

As soon had Shevaun has signed and faxed the paperwork that Fiona needs for accreditation Fiona reveals her nefarious vengeance. Shevaun, like Fiona, has many problems. Presently, she, her unemployed husband ,and their four kids are living with Mother. Shevaun is broke and had nowhere else to go. 

Fiona reveals that she has gotten their mother to give her power of attorney.  She has used this to arrange for Mother, who is no longer mentally competent, to be moved to a care facility. The house has been put up for sale, and Shevaun must vacate the premises immediately. You do not want to get on the bad side of Fiona.

Stay tuned for further developments.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Newsroom Episode 5 "Amen"

“The Newsroom” continues to be excellent when it focuses on covering the news, and fairly dismal when it focuses on anything else.

Sometimes a show will “jump the shark’ after years on the air. “The Newsroom” jumped the shark on Episode 1 and has jumped the shark on every episode since.  (I just love saying “jumped the shark.”  Thank you, “The Newsroom”, for giving me the opportunity to say it over and over.)

So what implausible off-the-wall stuff happened this week?

There was an epidemic of injuries.  Elliott, the ACN 10 pm anchor, (Will anchors at 9pm) gets his wounds honorably, going out into the streets of Egypt to report on the uprising.  All the others were injured because they are morons. Jim needs a few stitches to his head because he walks into a glass door. Twice. Neal gets very upset about the news he is seeing on a monitor, so he punches the monitor, breaking a few bones. Don tries to break a down a door by ramming it with his shoulder.  (he fails, but ow, that hurts.) And these are all supposed to be really smart people, smart enough to work for the second-highest top-rated news show. I’d hate to see what happens to the ones who work on the fifth-rated show. Do they broadcast directly from the hospital?

McKensey is the best executive producer in the business, but she knows absolutely nothing about economics. Nonetheless, she agreed to appear on a panel discussion about economics.  (Smart move, Mckensey.)  Dr. Sloan has to tutor her.  And us. The whole point of these scenes provide an opportunity for the show to lecture America about the Glass-Speigal Act.  (Actually, I learned something, so thanks, but isn’t this supposed to be an entertainment show.)

And what would “The Newsroom“ be without the antics of the lovelorn and love -addicted. It’s Valentines Day, and so there will be lots of raving on the subject of love on the floor of the newsroom. The “raver-in-chief “ is Margaret, of course, who delivers an extended speech about the importance of Valentine’s Day.  This is followed up, in case we missed the point, by another hysterical lecture on the importance of Valentine' Day. This time it comes from Margaret’s roommate, Lisa, who doesn’t even work in the newsroom, but is dating (or maybe just sleeping with) Jim.

 And while we are on the theme of love, McKensey has to dump her new beau, Wade, because apparently Wade was only dating her so he could get guest appearances on the show in support of his upcoming run for Congress. Poor McKensey, the really, really smart MacKensey, was duped; she knew nothing about his plans to be a candidate for Congress. But there is a happy eneding---Mckensey is so broken-hearted that she falls into Will’s arms.  Will embraces her, suggesting that the rift between them may be mending.

One more overwrought plot point.  At the beginning of the show, everyone is talking about the movie “Rudy.”  This movie is about a college football player who sits on the bench for four years, and never once gets to play. It’s the last game of the last season, and he is not on the roster. Every player on the team, one by one, goes into the coach’s office and volunteers to have this luckless bench-warmer take his place in the game.  (All together now, Awww!)   

At the end of the show, we learn why the writers put the “Rudy” story into the show.  An Egyptian stringer, Amen, (pronounced Ah-min, but still sufficient for some amen puns) who was talked into providing on-the-ground reports on the Egyptian uprising for the show, has been kidnapped.  Will secretly pays the ransom, $250,000, but the staff discovers his act of good-guy-ness. Everyone in the newsroom lines up, and one by one, they walk into Will’s office and place a check on his desk to help defray the expense of the ransom.  (All together now:  Awww!  Okay, I admit it—it brought a little lump to my throat.)

That’s five sharks and I left a few out.
What “The Newsroom” does best, and the main reason, I watch the show, is cover the news, and in the process give us the fly-on-the wall view of what happens when there is “breaking news”. In the first episode, it was the BP oil spill. In Episode Two, it was the Arizona immigration bill; in Episode Three, it was the Times Square bomber, the Tea Party and Election night 2010; in Episode Four it was the Gabby Giffords’ shooting. In this episode it is the revolution in Egypt and the protests over union- busting by Scott Walker in Wisconsin.
 
My advice to “The Newsroom”:  Focus on the news.  And get some new writers for everything else.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Girls" on HBO

Last night, I needed a respite from the Colorado Massacre. I decided to watch a few Episodes of “Girls” on HBO. “Girls” has been nominated for an Emmy for “Best Comedy Series.” This surprises me because the show is not funny, not the least bit. It’s sad. 

Some have called “Girls” “Sex in the City” for the younger generation.  I don’t see the similarities. Yes, they are both about a young woman writer and a group of her friends living in New York City who have a lot of sex. And there the similarities end.

“Girls” is about 20-somethings.  “City” was about 30 and 40-somethings.

The women on “Girls” are drab in every sense of the word—looks, personality, lifestyle, and fashion.  The leading character, Hannah, especially, dresses like she shops the clothing put out as trash by Goodwill.  The women on “City” were beautiful, dynamic, successful, glamorous, and fashion-forward. Call me shallow, when I watch TV I like to see glamour.

The sex on “Girls” is soulless, aimless, and overwhelmingly prevalent. When they are not doing “the sex”, they are talking about it, usually with an overabundance of Anglo-Saxon vulgarities.  If all the sex scenes were removed, the show would be about five minutes long.  Furthermore, the sex is ugly.  Call me shallow, when I watch a sex scene on TV, I like to see beautiful people having beautiful sex.   

On “City” the sex was beautiful.  More importantly, the sexual relationships were about more than sex.  There was some casual sex, but the women were usually in love with their partners. 

Finally, the friendships on “Girls” are as dreary as everything else. Despite frequent declarations of love for each other, they appear to be a bunch of backstabbing you-know-whats. On “City, the friendships were strong and paramount in the women’s lives.  They were always there for each other.

This show is very popular, and has been renewed for a second season.  I guess I am just not the demographic for it. What is a little frightening to me is that the 20-somethings may like this show because it is an accurate reflection of their lives.  Now, I feel like an old scold on a rant about “kids today…”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Veep on HBO Nominated for an Emmy

Veep is a HBO comedy series, starring Julia Luis Dreyfus, set in the office of a fictional U. S. vice president named Selena Meyer. The show has completed its first season, but the episodes can be found “HBO on Demand.”  It is renewed for a second season of 10 episodes to begin in 2013.

I think that Julia is doing her best work in this series since leaving “Friends.”  No make that her best work ever. I think it is because premium cable TV has better writers than network TV.  Also, she has a great ensemble cast backing her up.  And she has grown as an actress.

The show is believable, although it clearly exaggerates the mishaps of a vice president.  The characters are believable and clearly delineated, although also exaggerated.  The humor in this series, as in all well-written comedies, is that the characters are exaggerated for comic effect, but not so much that they become ludicrous. The core of truth is always there.

Selena is a multi-faceted character, if you consider variations on a theme being multi-faceted.  She is by turns egotistical, scheming, ambitious, and demanding as she goes through her harried day careening like a billiard ball from one problem to the next. She’s also resourceful and clever managing to salvage the near-carnage she, her staff, and the word in general inflicts upon herself each day.  

”Veep” has been nominated for an Emmy for “best comedy series.”  In my opinion, her only competition among the six other nominees is “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” also from HBO, and another wonderfully funny show.




Thursday, July 19, 2012

Upcoming Season Premieres

Usually, I discuss the mini-series type of shows—the shows with central characters in each episode and continuing plot lines.  I don’t discuss reality shows, news shows, and for that matter, shows that don’t interest me all that much.

However, I thought that I would mention that “Real Time with Bill Maher,” currently off the air, will be back on August 17, 2012.  I may even add it to the list of shows I review.

Showtime has two premieres scheduled for September 30th, 2012.  “Dexter” will be back for its 7th season.  It sometimes feels a little strange that I am rooting for a serial killer, but that is what happens every Sunday night at 9pm when the show is airing new episodes.  At the end of last season, Dexter’s sister, Debra, has inadvertently found Dexter in the act of killing Travis, the main villain of the season.  Is Dexter’s secret life about to be exposed?  How will Debra handle this knowledge?

The second Showtime premiere scheduled for September 30th, 2012 is the 2nd season of “Homeland.”  This is a suspenseful psychological thriller. CIA agent, Carrie Mathison suspects former marine sergeant Nicholas Brody of being a terrorist.  No one else believes her, except for the viewers at home, because we get to see the scenes that the characters don’t see.  In the last episode, Carrie suffers a mental breakdown and is being prepped for electro-shock therapy, when she gets a crucial insight into the case.  Unfortunately, one of the side effects of electro-shock therapy is short term memory loss.  What will Carrie remember when she comes to?  Will Brody be able to carry out his assignation plans? 

If you haven’t been watching “Dexter” and “Homeland”, you have time to catch up by viewing the earlier seasons before September 30th.  I know six seasons of “Dexter” is a lot, but you will be glad you did.  “Homeland” is a little easier with only one season having aired.

I went to this HBO website for info on season premieres http://hbowatch.com/  You can check the site periodically for info.  I didn’t see any new series or season premiere’s for the next few months, but I did see that “Hung” was cancelled.  I liked that show.  Yes, it was about hos and pimps (male hos and female pimps), but it was also about love, and friendship, and family, and doing the right thing, or as close to the right thing as one could get given the exingencies.

I couldn’t find a web page with info about upcoming Showtime premieres, but I’ll keep looking.

If anyone has anything to add, please feel free to click on "comments" below and share your info and/or views.  And praise--you can always say something nice about my writing or about how much you like this blog.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Web Therapy "Publishers Cleaning House"

Season 4 Episode 4

Kip Wallice, the husband of Fiona Wallice, is just as egocentric as his wife. They make great sparring partners.

Kip is running for Congress.  He and Fiona look like the perfect political couple, both good looking, charming, and utterly superficial.

Ben, Kip’s campaign manager, and Fiona have a webcam session to discuss a few things that Fiona should say, and more importantly, should never, ever say, during campaign appearances.  Ben tries to gently guide Fiona to the politically correct positions, and Fiona listens to his advice and expresses her agreement while veering off to positions that will destroy her husband’s campaign. 

Is she really misunderstanding what Ben is trying to tell her or is she deliberately out to sabotage her husband’s candidacy?  Come on, this is Fiona we are talking about!  Do I even need to pose that question?  The poor hapless campaign manager keeps swallowing his objections—he must after all walk on eggshells around the candidate’s wife—as he moves on to the next topic.  The exchange is so funny as Fiona totally overwhelms Ben.

This scene reminds me of real-life political egotists.  Yes, I mean Sarah Palin.  In the HBO movie, “Game Change,” we see her handlers trying to guide her to be the candidate John McCain needs her to be. They have no luck—put her in front of a microphone and a TV camera and she goes rogue. 

It is great how life imitates art and art imitates life.

Be sure to stay for the closing credits.  They are interspersed with hilarious outtakes.  The actors crack each other up as they deadpan outrageous statements as this improvised show is being filmed.

P.S: The title of the episode refers to a book that Fiona has written.  Her "sugar daddy," Austen, has fired his assistant and that clears the way for Fiona to get her book published at his publishing house with a double in her advance.  (Fiona says Austen had doubled her advance; with Fiona you never know if anything she says is true or not.  One of the things that make this show so much fun is her artful self-aggrandizing lying.)

Episodes Season 2 Episode 3

I’m in love with Sean and Beverly.  I want to be Beverly.  I want to marry Sean.

Stephan Mangan who plays Sean Lincoln, and  Tamsin Greig, who plays his wife Beverly, are so perfect together that it is hard to believe that they are not actually married in real life.  In fact, it is hard to believe that they are not actually writers from across the pond who have moved to Hollywood to write for an American TV show called “Pucks.”  In real life they are both actors who are married to other people.  At least, they are both actually English.

Sean and Beverly separated at the end of Season 1 when Beverly had drunken revenge sex with Matt LeBlanc, (played by Matt LeBlanc), the star of Pucks.  Beverly was getting revenge because she thought that Sean was having an affair with sexpot Morning Randolph, played by Mircea Monroe, the female lead of “Pucks”.  Sean learns about Beverly’s lapse of fidelity; Beverly learns that Sean is innocent.  The result—it’s splitsville for the happy couple. Sean cannot forgive Beverly, not just for her infidelity with Matt, but her lack of trust in him when he denied that there was anything between him and Morning.  

In season 2, it looks like they are moving towards reconciling when Sean is seduced by Morning.  Her motivations are not too clear.  She clearly does not want an ongoing affair.  Maybe she did it just because she could, a conquest born of boredom.  Or maybe, she believes that the occasional roll in the hay will mean better parts for her character on Pucks. 

Beverly quickly learns of her husband’s indiscretion.  It seems neither Matt nor Morning is able to be discreet when it comes to sex with someone else’s wife/husband.  Perhaps it is because actors have too much egoism. 

Now that Sean and Beverly are “even,” so to speak, will this help them to get together? There is perfect symmetry: The male writer has sex with the female lead and the female writer has sex with the male lead. Or will it sabotage their tentative movement towards getting back together?

You know Sean and Beverly so much want to return to their marriage.  Even separated, they have such a great relationship, a bond that many married couples probably only wish they could have. They are still so much on the same team.  I want to see them back together by the end of Season 2.  (I’m talking to you , real-life writers of “Episodes”)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Weeds "See Blue and Smell Cheese and Die"

Season 8/ Episode 3

You can feel the show wrapping up loose ends and coming to a close.  It’s like at the end of August (even in Florida) you can feel the impending autumn in the air even though it is still hot.  And Weeds is still plenty hot.
 
Nancy’s brother-in-law Andy has been putting in some serious sack-time with Nancy’s sister.  Even in Nancy’s hospital room.  Don’t worry, it wasn’t weird.  Nancy was in a coma at the time.  Anyhow,  Jill’s husband has left her,  Jill’s kids are starting to warm up to Andy when he becomes their hockey coach, and I think  Jill may be “The One” for Andy..  Will Andy finally give up womanizing and settle down.

Speaking of "The One", will Nancy and her second husband, Peter Scottson, be reunited? Nancy secretly married him in the second season, but he was a DEA agent and he was killed. Tragically, Nancy’s drug dealings appear to have played a role in his death.  Death makes the likelihood of a reunion between the two a tad unlikely, but, hey, this is TV.  .  Also, as I remember it, he is presumed dead; I don’t think they ever found a body. Perhaps his death was faked and he’s been working undercover all this time.  I always liked Peter and I’d like to see him and Nancy back together. 
 
The reason I starting to hope for this reunion is because Nancy’s son , Shane has discovered “the shooter” –the person who shot Nancy in the head.  It is Peter’s son from his first marriage Tim, who blames Nancy for his father’s death.  Perhaps Peter’s son has been added to the show as a foreshadowing of Peter’s return.  Nancy is clearly a “manizer” (if men can womanize, why can’t women womanize.?), but perhaps she will settle down at the end of the last season..

But I digress.  Back to the plot. When Nancy and her older son, Silas, learn what Shane his discovered, a mad dash ensues to find Tim and get him into hiding before Shane finds him and kills him.  All three of them find Tim at about the same time, but Shane does not kill Tim, he arrests him. 

Shane, who killed a woman in a previous season when he overheard her plotting to kill Nancy, and who has shown psychopathological tendencies ever since, has joined the police force. 

See what I mean about wrapping up the loose ends.


True Blood on HBO Episode 6 "Hopeless"

There’s a complicated mythology on “True Blood” about the relationship between vampires and fairies.  Sookie Stackhouse, the central character, is part fairy, part human.

Fairy blood is the tastiest, most intoxicating, ambrosia to vampires.  Consequently, fairies are on the brink of extinction because the vampires can’t resist draining them dry.

The remaining fairies now hide out in another dimension. They appear to spend most of their time at a hedonistic sexual-themed night club.  I assume they do this for our voyeuristic pleasure.

Sookie can hear the thoughts of other people due to her fairy lineage.  However, her “superpower” doesn’t work with vampires—she can’t hear the thoughts of vampires.  When Sookie first took up with Bill Compton, her first lover (and her first vampire lover) part of his appeal was that she could not hear his thoughts. It was a bit of peace and quiet, a respite from the constant din of other people’s thoughts.

Vampires have a lot of superpowers including the ability to “glamour.”  A vampire can look into someone’s eyes and do a sort of post-hypnotic suggestion on them to make them forget what they have seen or heard.  However, vampires can’t glamour fairies.

In this episode, some people, including Sookie and Alcide, witness the vampires behaving badly.  The vampires want to kill everyone who saw this.  Eric intercedes and suggests that they all be glamoured instead.  Bill glamours Sookie knowing full well that she cannot be glamoured and Sookie plays along.  (The other vampires are apparently unaware that Sookie cannot be glamoured.)

Eric glamours Alcide and after telling him to forget, he adds a command for Alcide to protect Sookie.  But Eric just can’t resist acting on his jealously about Sookie and Alcide being on the brink of a sexual relationship.  So he adds that from now on Alcide will find physical contact with Sookie repulsive.

It isn’t long before Sookie touches Alcide and he recoils from her.  She immediately figures out the cause for this change, and quickly “unglamours” Alcide.  Apparently, this is another superpower of Sookie—she can unglamour people.  It appears that she transferred her thoughts and memories into Alcide’s head.

So Sookie continues to have three men in her thrall.  Four is you consider Sam Merlotte, the shape-shifter and owner of the bar where Sookie works as a waitress, which I won’t because Sam is apparently over the crush he had on Sookie in season 1. (He now romances Luna, the lady werewolf.)  But on “True Blood” you never know when old flames will be re-ignited.

It looks like Sookie has an additional superpower.  She can make men fall in love with her and carry that torch forever.  That is a superpower I wouldn’t mind having.  Wait, put that in the past tense. I’m at an age now where I would find it exhausting.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Newsroom on HBO Episode 4 "I'll Try to Fix You"

A woman throws a drink in Will McAvoy’s face at a party.  Later on in the show, another women throws a drink in Will’s face in a restaurant. I always thought it would be so cool to throw a drink in a man’s face.  I don’t think I ever have.  (I once threw a bowl of fruit salad on a man’s head, but that’s a story for another time and place.)

All this drink-throwing is a bit overblown.  No once, but twice.  And in between, the staff of the newsroom throws drinks in MacAvoy’s face, but it is just a joke.  Good thing Will has a sense of humor.

Will is continuing his serial dating.  A new woman every day, but he can’t seem to connect.  Will is smooth and in command on air or in business dealings, but put him next to a woman in a social situation and he goes to pieces.  I know some men are like this, even highly successful news anchors, but the show is pushing it too far.

Will McAvoy reminds me of the real-life Keith Olbermann.  Strong, intelligent, capable, and given to rants, but not so much off camera.  I have never met Mr. Olbermann, but when I saw him unscripted on talk shows, he seemed awkward. (I once had a dream that I was on a date with Keith Olberman, but that is a story for another time and place.)

The rants! Alan Sorkin uses McAvoy as his alter ego.  McAvoy has a lot of petty peeves.  He doesn’t like gossip columnists who “takedown” celebrities, he doesn’t like silly reality shows about “housewives” and, of course, he doesn’t like political fools (i.e. tea party pols) the least little bit.  Sorkin can get away with these rants with me because I agree with him and I love to see McAvoy reflect my opinions.  However, some viewers may start to tire of these preachy moments; they are like badly done “product placements.”  It pulls you out of the show as you think “Here it comes again.”

And, now moving on to some of the other characters.  Does anyone else think cute and perky Maggie is starting to get really really annoying?  And McKenzie is an executive producer, but most teenage girls can handle their emotions better than she can. Her behavior is rapidly getting old.  In fact pretty much, every character on the show is grating on my nerves except for Leona (Jane Fonda’s character) who owns a media conglomerate that includes the news station.  Leona is the only character that rings true.

Despite all my complaints, the show redeemed itself in the last few minutes.  SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading here if you have not seen this episode yet.

I was wondering why there was no follow-up to Leona’s threat to fire Will, and then, BAM—I never saw it coming.  It seems like Will’s mishaps with women was getting him some bad press because his dates were accusing him of sexual harassment, drug use, and pointing guns at them.  It turns out Leona was behind it all of this bad press..  She was setting Will up to be fired on a “morals clause.”  This lady is tough.

I heard that the show is renewed for a second season.  Someone is going to have to "try to fix this show" or it won’t make it through the first season.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

True Blood on HBO

True Blood has jumped the shark.  It’s the fifth season in the fictional town of Bon Temps Louisiana, and the show is running out of stories to tell.

The producers of True Blood reached in the grab bag of horrors and gave us every last one that the genre has produced—Every supernatural creature you have ever heard of and a few that you probably haven’t.

We have vampires, of course, but also werewolves, panther people, witches, fairies, voodoo practitioners, bruja (Mexican witches) maenads, and shape-shifters.  We’ve had story lines that involved spirit possession, necromancy, and ghost communication.

This season we have “ifriti” a smoke monster, bent on revenge for murders of Iraqi civilians committed by a couple of the residents of Bon Temps during the Iraq War. This monster consumes with fire.

And the human residents of Bon Temps are often a little bit monstrous themselves.

Sookie Stackhouse is the main character. In season one, she is a na├»ve young woman with a strange power—she can hear the thoughts of other people.  (It is later revealed that Sookie can do this because she is half fairy.  By the way, we think of fairies as harmless little creatures like--Tinkle Bell--, but the Bon Temps line of fairies can be as evil as any of the monsters.)

The reason I say that the show has jumped the shark is that the nature of the stories has changed.  It used to be about Sookie Stackhouse and her amiable (if somewhat oversexed brother), her best friend Tara, a young woman trying to overcome a childhood of neglect and abuse, and Sookie’s friend (and Tara’s cousin) Lafayette a gay, druggie, good-hearted cook at Merlotte’s, the local bar where Sookie works as a waitress. 

The stories were about love (Sookie falls for the “good” vampire, Bill), friendship, and overcoming obstacles.  Supernatural havoc abounded, but the show was about the relationships.  Now the show seems to be all about quick cuts from scene to scene and how much blood and gore can be packed into the hour.

Season Five begins with Tara being “turned” (made into a vampire) and pretty much going berserk. (If you woke up one day and found out that you were a vampire, wouldn’t you go berserk?) Sookie is responsible for her friend getting turned. Sweet Sookie is no longer all that sweet, and certainly not innocent any more.

Sookie dropped Bill as her lover and took up with Eric, a Norse god, if I ever saw one.  He was a fierce, icy, don’t mess-with-me vampire with “the hots” for Sookie.  Sookie hates him until she doesn’t.  A witch’s spell turns Eric wimpy, and that is when Sookie dumps Bill and takes up with him.  Eric is back to his former self now, and he’s been dumped.  Sookie is now getting cozy with Alcide, a werewolf.
 
Alcide is tall, dark, strong, and sexy, exactly what a man who is part wolf should be. If I still cared about what Sookie does, I’d be on “Team Alcide”, but since I don’t, I’ll just imagine that Alcide wants me. 

I’m going to stop here and pick it up again next week after I watch tomorrow’s new episode. Yes, I’m still watching.  I’ve committed four years to show; my interest is still strong enough to keep me tuning in. It’s just that instead of identifying with the characters, I’m more detached now.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Weeds on Showime

This is Season 8 of “Weeds”.   It’s been an adventure!

It started as a jaunt way back in Season 1. Nancy Botwin (played by Mary-Louise Parker) finds herself a young widow in a suburban community of Agrestic, California.  She has two young sons to support.  She starts selling a little pot on the side to make ends meet. Complications arise due to her various sexual escapades and criminal activities, but it is all light and funny.

By Season 2, things start to get a little darker, and with each season things get darker and darker.  It is not fun and games anymore. People are getting killed and Nancy herself, as well as her family, are in great jeopardy.  At the end of season 7, just when you think she has resolved all her problems, she is shot.  We don’t see the killer.

At the start of Season 8, we find Nancy in the hospital recovering from a gunshot wound to the head.  Is she scared straight or has the head injury given her a personality makeover? She is now all sweetness and light vowing never again to turn to her old ways.

Unfortunately her old ways are too deeply ingrained.  And besides, she has vowed to go straight before, and it has never lasted very long.
 
Her first lapse is with a volunteer at the hospital, a rather nasty man, who performs at the hospital as a clown.  He has a little business on the side also—baked goods with a secret ingredient—cannabis.  Worse yet, he overcharges.  Nancy pretends to have Mafia connections as she warns the clown that she will bring the Mafiosi in to punish him unless he stops charging the patients who are buying his goods for pain relief.  But a man has got to earn a living, so she says it is OK to continue to overcharge the staff. 

As the show has gotten darker, ratings have fallen.   The ratings have fallen a lot—down more than 50%.  A show where a happy-go-lucky MILF (it’s also the name she gives to her homegrown blend of weed) is quite different from one with plot lines that include  murder, prison, and sons, now grown, who are also involved in the criminal activities of their mother.

The show is now a dark comedy.  I still find it fun to watch.  The cast is very engaging and the plots are sprinkled with some less-than-deadly hi-jinks.  It is a very clever show, as we watch Nancy get into some extraordinary bad situations and extricate herself using her wits.

I watched it from the beginning and I will watch it to the end.  Season 8 will be the last season. However, if you have not watched it, I don’t recommend starting now.  Instead, get the DVD’s and watch it from the beginning as I did.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Episodes on Showtime

Lisa Kudrow is not the only former “friend” to star in a smart and funny cable TV series.  Have you seen Matt LeBlanc in “Episodes”?   Please, see Matt LeBlanc  in “Episodes” on Showtime. 

Just like “Newsroom” is a show about a fictional newsroom, “Episodes” is an ensemble comedy series about making a ensemble comedy series.  And a darn good one. (I mean that the Showtime TV show is darn good, the show within the show is delightfully dreadful.)

Episodes tells the story of a British couple Sean and Beverly Lincoln who wrote a critically acclaimed hit TV series in England. They are the center of the show—the action revolves around their experiences.  I consider them to be the “straight men” of the show—the “normal” people for the other “wacko” characters play off. This is not to imply that they do not have their foibles and quirks as do all the other characters; it is just to say that they are the relatively normal characters that viewers can identify with.

Sean and Beverly have been brought to America to do a knock-off of their British show.  Of course, the American show is tweaked for American audiences until it no longer resembles the British show at all.  Sean and Beverly cope with the indignity of having their show transformed from a high brow comedy to a silly sitcom called “Pucks.”

Sean and Beverly have a lot to cope with.  Matt LeBlanc (played by Matt LeBlanc), the star of “Pucks,” is an egotist with good intuition about what makes for a successful American TV show, but who is rather dense about everything else. But he is essentially goodhearted (in his own selfish way) and wants very much to be friends with the Lincolns.  The Lincolns tolerate him for the sake of the show, but they gradually are warming to him.  At the end of season one, the friendship, and the marriage, is derailed when Matt seduces Beverly.

The characters on Episodes are wonderful.  They are just real enough for us to see them as “real”, and just exaggerated enough to be comical.  Although they are all people behaving badly, we, as viewers, are captivated by them. Every character is perfectly drawn: The producer, Merc, and his show runner, Carol, (who is also his mistress) and his blind wife--literally blind—Jamie; the actors on “Pucks”, Matt, and the sexpot, Morning, and various other co-workers and family members. The complex interactions of these characters are laugh-out-loud funny.

This show is on my I-can’t-wait-for-the-next-episode list.

Newsroom on HBO--Episode 3 "The 112th Congress"

Breaking News: My opinion of “Newsroom” just went way up.  Again it was the story about how the news was covered that captured me, and not the silly storylines about the various romantic entanglements and personal relationships of the characters.

Again I have to compare “Newsroom” to “The West Wing.”  “The West Wing” gave us President Josiah Bartlett, a president that never was and never will be, but who nonetheless exemplifies everything we wish a president would be.  (Even Barack Obama, a president who I believe is the best president of my lifetime, is not as good as President Bartlett.)  The “Newsroom” gives us Will McAvoy, a news anchor who never was and never will be, but who nonetheless exemplifies everything we wish a news anchor would be.

The show opens with Will McAvoy on-air, giving an impassioned speech about how news organizations have failed this country and the dire consequences of that failure.  He apologizes and promises to do better.  And then he starts to do just that.  It is wonderful to watch as goes after the tea party, showing how “the big-money interests” in this country co-opted the tea party. 

The show covers the six months leading up to the 2010 midterm elections. He exposes ignorance, stupidity, and shamelessness, and bemoans the fate of “solid conservatives” who lose their seats to the demagogues and “crazies.”  He refuses to sensationalize the news or give time to trivial fluff pieces. It is obvious now why it was a smart move for the shows writers to have McAvoy be a Republican.  It gives his exposes credence; if the character was a Democrat, his truth-telling about Republican tea-partiers would be dismissed as partisan politics.  

 None of the exposes on the show come as a surprise to me.  I saw it all on MSNBC in real time. McAvoy has become an anchor who would be right at home at MCNBC.  In fact, in this episode, one of McAvoy’s co-workers actually says this—only it is an accusation, not a compliment.

Of course, McAvoy is not going to be allowed to tell the truth. The owner of the Atlantic News Media, the company that employs Will McAvoy, is Leona Lansing (played by Jane Fonda).  The imperial Leona is furious—she is losing her friends in high places because of McAvoy, and worse, she is losing money and not just because ratings for the show are down. She angrily shouts, “I have business interests before this Congress!”  Jane Fonda is wonderful in this role.

She warns the shows genial, but equally fierce president of the news division, Charlie Skinner (played by Sam Waterson), that if McAvoy doesn’t return the show to its former blandness she will fire him.  McAvoy has a three-year non-compete clause and his career will be ruined.

How will the show resolve this?  If McAvoy caves, there is no show.  If McAvoy is fired, there is no show.  The field has been set for an epic battle.  I guess I’ll have to watch next Sunday.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Web Therapy on Showtime

I love "Web Therapy." If you haven't seen it yet, go to Showtime right now, find this show, and watch it. This is the second season, so next, find the first season's shows and have a marathon viewing. (Sometimes I record shows I like so I can view them as a marathon--watch several episodes in succession on a rainy Saturday afternoon, for instance. not this one, though. I have to watch this one as soon as it airs.)

Lisa Kudrow is a genius. The fact that this show is not scripted, but instead is improvised, makes it all the more remarkable. The show is smart and funny--not rofl funny, but a brilliantly, satirically, wittily funny. (rolf = rolling on the floor laughing.)

Lisa Kudrow portrays Fiona Wallice, a therapist with an innovative "therapeutic modality". She does three-minute therapy sessions with her clients via video cam instead of the standard 50-minute in-person sessions. She claims the shorter sessions force both therapist and client to get to the "nitty-gritty" faster.

Most of the action on the show takes place as video-sessions between Fiona, her patients, and the various people in her life (her husband, her mother, her staff, her lovers and would be lovers, etc.) Kudrow is in virtually every scene, and this reinforces the essential aspect of her character-- she is a narcissist.

I suspect that the real reasons for the three-minute sessions is Fiona's narcissistic personality. No one can hold her interest for more that three minutes. Additionally, she doesn't have time to do actual therapy--she spends a lot of time trying to get investors for her "therapeutic modality." She is also very busy manipulating (or trying to manipulate) everyone in her life. 

She is a devastating diva who is largely successful in manipulating her hapless victims. She fails only with her mother. She has met her match with her mother, and the interactions she has with her mother show us the origins of her pathology.

The caliber of guest stars testify to the fact that this is a first-rate show.  (Big-name stars are not going to appear in drek.)  Last season we had Lily Tomlin playing Fiona's mother; this season, we have Meryl Streep who spars with Fiona while hiding behind a mask of sweetness and innocence.  I think Fiona is about to be bested again.

Lisa Kudrow plays this character to perfection.  She is always impeccably groomed and beautifully dressed.  Her speech is very well-modulated and clearly enunciated.  She speaks slowly and deliberately so as to hold the attention of everyone around her that much longer. Or perhaps her speech reflects her desire for control, self control as well as control over others--she never has a spontaneous moment.

Back in 2005, Lisa Kudrow played a another finely-honed character on a great show airing on HBO, a mockumentary called "The Comeback."  Kudrow played a fragile actress filming a reality show as she tried to make a comeback.  Again Ms. Kudrow was pitch-perfect.  Her character was always in so much pain that it sometimes hurt to watch her.

Lisa Kudrow has come a long way from her wacky characters on "Friends". (Characters, plural; she played a minor character as well as one of the six leads.)

Did I mention that I love this show?