Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Showtime's Dexter #809 “Make Your Own Kind of Music"

Family Matters
By Catherine Giordano

Darri Ingolfsson plays Oliver Saxon on Dexter
HBO’s “Dexter” is not about serial killers; it is about family. Episode #809, “Make Your Own Kind of Music”, airing on August 25, 2013, clinches it. Substitute the word ‘family” for “music” in the title of this episode.

“Dexter” is about Dexter and his father, Harry. It is about Dexter and his relationship with his son, Harrison. It is about the relationship Dexter and his sister, Debra, have with each other. Before Rita’s death, it was about Dexter’s relationship with Rita and his step-children.

It is about the relationship between Hannah and Dexter, especially in the last couple of episodes when they decide that they want to have a life together. Little Harrison says he wants Hannah to be his mom. A new family is forming. They are planning to flee to Argentina (the real Argentina, not the metaphorical Argentina) and start a new life.

Even Debra and Hannah are getting chummy. Elway is trying to track Hannah down for the reward money, so Hannah needs to lie low until they can leave the country.  Dexter stashes her at his sister’s house. They are starting to feel just a little bit sisterly.

It is about the “work family” at Miami Metro. They have their differences, but with a few exceptions--Debra killing LaGuetra, the animosity between Dexter and Doakes-- they are always there for each other. Batista, who is now in charge at Miami Metro, is urging Debra to rejoin the “family.” Debra wants to return to Miami Metro, but is conflicted—how can she go back to being a cop when her brother is a serial killer and another serial killer is hiding out at her house.

It is about forming families-of-choice, a situation that occurs when people who are not actually related to each other take on family-like roles with respect to each other.  The short lived maternal role of Vogel with Dexter, Debra, and Zach. The even shorter relationship, between Dexter and Zach, a relationship cut short when Zach was murdered by the Brain Surgeon.

And to underline the importance of family even more, even Matsuka now has a family—he has met the daughter born from his long-ago sperm donation to a fertility clinic.
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In episode 809, we learn about Vogel’s family.  She had two sons—one dead and the other believed to be dead. The shocker in episode 809 is that Vogel’s older son, Daniel, was a psychopath, and at the age of 14 he killed his younger brother. Vogel and her then husband covered up the murder to protect their surviving son, and had him placed in an institution in England. He died in a fire at the institution, or so Vogel believed.

But Vogel’s son was not dead; he had set the fire in order to escape. Daniel then assumed a new identity—he became Oliver Saxon (played by the actor Darri Ingolfsson), the man who most likely is the murderer of Cassie, the young woman bludgeoned to death with evidence left at the crime scene to implicate Zach. Was Oliver motivated by sibling rivalry because Vogel was getting too close to Zach? Was Zach another younger brother that had to be dispatched?

Was Vogel protective of Dexter long ago, and more recently Zach, because of the death of her own sons? She tells Dexter that realizing that her son was a psychopath is what caused her to become interested in treating psychopaths.  (It appears that she wasn’t very good at treating them—her former patients continued to kill until Dexter stepped in with his killing-table and knife and removed them from the land of the living.)

Dexter discovers that Daniel/Oliver is Zach’s killer from some DNA he finds in Zach’s studio.  (No one except Dexter and Vogel—and the killer, of course—knows that Zach is dead.  Zach’s actual family has reported him missing.)  He also uses the DNA to confirm that Oliver is related to Vogel.

Dexter suspects that Daniel/Oliver has placed spyware on Vogel’s computer. (One small question: Remember the shoe fetish guy, AJ Yates, who had Vogel’s case files on his computer—was Daniel/Oliver involved with that?  Were they accomplices?  Did Daniel/Oliver ask Yates to kidnap his mother?

One very big question: How much did Vogel know about her older son? Did she know all along that he was still alive?  Were they in contact with each other?

Another very big question: Is Oliver ”The Brain Surgeon”?  Was he sending pieces of brain taken from the area of the brain responsible for empathy to Vogel in order to send her a message? Was it his way of saying,  “I’m sorry you had a son missing the empathy-area of the brain; here’s a little something to make up for that.” Or have the show runners tossed us another red-herring.

Daniel/Oliver has now disappeared because he felt the police were getting too close to discovering his role in Cassie’s murder. Both Dexter and Vogel are keen to find Daniel/ Oliver—each for their own reasons.

Vogel remembers that the song “Make Your Own Kind of Music” (sung by Mama Cass—another mother allusion), the song that was playing on the Zach’s Ipod when Dexter discovered Zach’s dead body, was a favorite that she and her son used to listen to when they went to the King’s Bay Café. Dexter tells her to make an entry into her computer journal saying that she plans to be there tomorrow. The plan is for Mom and Dexter to intercept him there.

Dexter wants to kill Daniel/Oliver, but he knows that Vogel will not allow this. So he drugs her tea with one of Hannah’s potions to knock her out. He then stakes out the café, sees Daniel/Oliver there, and is planning on following him when he leaves.  But Daniel/Oliver has outwitted Dexter. A tire on Dexter’s car has been slashed. Dexter isn’t following anyone.

Dexter is concerned for Vogel’s safety. He rushes to her home to warn her that Daniel is on to them.  Vogel says she is fine and that she has not seen Daniel.

But, in the “plot-keeps-getting-twistier-and-twistier” moment of the show as soon as Dexter leaves, Daniel emerges from the bedroom. Vogel has allowed him to eavesdrop on her conversation with Dexter to prove to him that Dexter acted alone. Vogel had told Dexter that she wanted her son to be re-institutionalized.

But now it seems that all she ever wanted was to have her son restored to the bosom of her family. They are together now—a family again.  Family matters.

P.S. The double meaning of the phrase “family matters” is definitely intentional.

 Click Here to Buy a CD with Cass Eliot singing the song from the show, "Make Your Own Kind of Music"

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Monday, August 26, 2013

HBO’s “The Newsroom” #17 “Red Team III”

The “A” Team
By Catherine Giordano
Jane Fonda as Leona Lansing on "The Newsroom"

HBO’s “The Newsroom” finally brought the “A” Team into the writer’s room.  It took 17 episodes, but with episode #207, “Red Team III” airing on Sunday August 25, we at long last got an episode for adults.
I swear the actors even looked like older. I usually think of Maggie, Jim and Neal as high school students and Don and Sloan as college students, but finally in this episode they looked like adults.

The look on MacKenzie’s face when she has to tell Will that she has proof that Jerry edited the tape was the best acting in the entire history of the show.  I think she should get an Emmy nomination for this episode.

Nonetheless, MacKennzee can’t stop with the hitting. She shoves Jerry in an elevator.  This time I will forgive her. She had just found out that Jerry had doctored the tape that the newsroom relied upon for their reporting. Her violence was totally justified.

Here’s how it all went down. The Newsroom aired the story about the sarin attack and they are standing by their story despite a lot of pushback. Then, as I predicted there was the discovery of the discontinuity in the footage of the retired general’s interview. MacKenzie has a casual conversation with Will about the clocks on the screen in a football again and later the idea comes to her to check the clock on the TV screen that appears in the corner of the video-taped interview.  She discovers the discontinuity.

More evidence falls away in the scene with Charlie and his Pentagon source. I’m sorry to say there is more hitting in this one. The source had strongly hinted to Charlie that the story was true and even gave him the manifest which suggested illicit chemicals were on board the plane. Now in a parking garage, the two meet again, deep-throat style.

It turns out that the source had a druggie son who was in the process of getting clean when he worked as an intern at ACN. But then kid was fired (for cause) and returned to drugs. He died within the year. The source blamed Charlie.  When Charlie tried to explain the firing, the source slapped him hard across the face. Charlie, realizing that this slap came from a place of grief, just stood there and took it.  (Also, this guy was huge—not a person anyone would want to get into a fight with.)  Charlie learns that the source set Charlie up for revenge.

We also see other parts of the story fall apart. The U.S. soldiers wore haz-mat suits because they were afraid that the enemy might use chemical weapons on them. The Afghani who was tweeting live stopped tweeting not because he was dead, but because his cell-phone plan was terminated for non-payment. They found out that the soldier who had been present at the scene had traumatic brain injury which he had not revealed. A symptom of traumatic brain injury is memory loss.  Worse, MacKenzie re-watched the interview with him, and realized that she had asked leading questions.

The newsroom is shell-shocked by the enormity of their mistake. To make matters even worse, Jerry, the one person who deliberately misconstrued the attack and was fired for it, has sued the company for wrongful termination He claimed that it was a systemic failure, but he was the only one fired. This is the "is-this-guy-the -new-poster-boy-for-chutzpah-or-what?" moment of the week.The lawyers have recommended a $5 million settlement.

In the last scene, Jane Fonda, who plays Leona Lansing, the socialite owner of the newspaper, delivers an Emmy winning performance. It’s another late night meeting in the executive dining room. Leona has arrived directly from a charity gala. She’s wearing a beautiful gown and rocking it. Will, McKenzie, and Charlie offer her their resignations. 

Leona gives a powerful speech refusing to accept their resignations.  Further, she refuses to pay the settlement to Jerry. She vows to fight. She tells the Newsroom team that they “don’t earn her a nickel,” but they “make her feel proud.”  It’s a magnificent speech that makes you want to jump to your feet and cheer.

This is what I have been saying for 17 episodes so far. Treat this show as a serious drama and the show makes the A-List.

There will not be a new episode next week due to the Labor Day week-end, but I think I speak for all viewers of the show when I say, “I can’t wait.”

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Showtime’s Dexter #808 “Are We There Yet”

Dexter and Zach have dinner at Grandma Vogel's
Bad Murder JuJu
By Catherine Giordano

There’s a lot of bad-murder-juju in every episode of Showtime’s “Dexter,” and it’s particularly prevalent in episode 808, “Are We There Yet” which aired on August 18, 2013. We go from scenes that make us think of one big happy family to scenes that make us think of one big murder-happy family.

Hannah and Dexter set off on a road trip to murder-ville just like any couple going away to the Keys for a nice weekend.  Dexter has discovered that Zach has a room in a motel there and believing that Zach murdered Cassie, Dexter plans to kill Zach because he is an out-of-control psychopath unlike Dexter who is the very-much-under-control psychopath. But Zach convinces Dexter that he did not kill Cassie; he was busy killing a rapist friend from high-school at the time.  It appears that Zach was framed for this murder with his blood placed under Cassie’s fingernails.  

Dexter and Hannah clean up after Zach’s latest murder, disposing of the body that was in the trunk of Zach’s car.  Then they all drive back to Miami together--Dexter driving, Hannah in the front passenger seat, and Zach in the back seat asking, “Are we there yet?” Is this a happy family or what?

But wait it gets better. They all head over to Dr. Vogel’s house for a nice family dinner.  Vogel is grandma in this scenario, and she just happens to have a secret-recipe casserole ready. She insists that everyone stay for dinner. Secret recipe? Are we supposed to read something into that, especially when she wants to make sure no one is a vegetarian.   

Debra heads down to the Keys also. She has persuaded Elway that the firm should try to capture Hannah because there is $250,000 in reward money on her head. She tells Elway she knows Hannah is Miami. Debra has hidden a GPS tracker on Dexter’s car and she follows him to Zach’s motel room. She confronts Hannah, but eventually has to back off because Dexter loves Hannah. So is Deb now accepting Hannah into the family? Will she be the sister Debra never had?

Talking about family, Dexter’s son, Harrison, is so cute, I think he is going to have a cameo appearance in every episode from now on.

And let’s not forget the new daddy-daughter relationship between Matsuka and Niki. Niki had been working as a topless waitress and Masuka was so grossed out by the site of “daughter-boobs” that he found a job for Niki in the crime lab. Niki is very new agey, so she is doing a sage cleansing of the lab to get rid of the bad murder juju. Girl, there is not enough sage in the world to dispel the murder juju that hangs over all the characters on this show.

Dexter has gotten Hannah a new passport (with a new identity) and the plan is for her to fly to the Bahamas early in the morning. From there she will disappear again. Where will she go? Dexter wryly suggests Argentina. This harks back to something Hannah told Dexter back in season 7.  Argentina has always represented a magical place to Hannah, a place where one could escape one’s problems. 

They are saying good-bye, but Dexter and Hannah cannot bear to part.  An extended scene of passionate lovemaking ensues. Dexter’s body protectively shields Hannah’s body while giving us a nice look at Dexter’s butt. (I liked that the show did not go the usual route and show Hannah in all her naked glory.)  The next morning Dexter takes Hannah to the waiting plane, but at the last moment, he asks her to stay.  It’s a wonderful loving moment, but I suspect by the end of the season, we will look back at this moment as the “this-is-the-moment-when–it-all-started-to-go-wrong” moment of the week.

There is a lot that can go wrong. Debra may have decided not to pursue Hannah anymore, (in fact, it appears that she has decided to leave the private detective agency), but Elway is taking it up where she left off. He’s now trying to find Hannah.

Things have already started to go wrong for our little happy family.  When Dexter returns to his apartment, he finds Zach sprawled in an arm-chair. Closer inspection shows that Zach is dead and his skull has been cut open “Brain-Surgeon” style. This is the I-told-you-you-so” moment of the week.  I told you the Brain Surgeon would strike again.

Zach is dead, and just when I was starting t like him.  His boyish charm, naivete, and desire to please were getting to me. His father seemed to be cold and rejecting—the give-him-everything-money-can-buy-but-never-your-time-or-love type. And Dexter was starting to be the “nice daddy” and Zach seemed so happy with his new daddy.   

As with the previous victims, Dr. Vogel has been gifted with a jar containing a piece of the victim’s brain. And it just so happens that after the family dinner, Hannah and Dexter left together and Vogel was tasked with driving Zach to Dexter’s apartment. I’ve been saying that Vogel is the brain surgeon, although I thought that was a far-out-there idea when I first suggested it in my review of episode 5. Is this further evidence or is it a red-herring?

One more far-out-there thought. If Zach didn’t kill Cassie than who did?  Was it her new boyfriend, Oliver Saxon? Is Oliver somehow connected to Vogel—perhaps her long-lost son. Is Oliver feeling some sibling rivalry towards Zach and Dexter? Did Oliver kill Zach?

There is plenty of murder juju to go around. 

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Monday, August 19, 2013

HBO “The Newsroom” #16 “One Step at a Time”

The Hit Parade
By Catherine Giordano

The most amazing thing about HBO’s “The Newsroom” episode 206,that aired on Sunday August 18 was what didn’t happen.  On the episode titled “One Step at a Time,” no one hit anyone. 

This season the violence started with slapping, escalated to drink throwing, and then to punching, and finally, in the previous episode, kneeing to the groin. I wanted to yell at the characters, if you see a baseball bat or bow and arrow, run for your lives.  But no one hit any one, unless you count “hiting on” someone as hitting.

Maggie is still doing her “slut thing”, Sloan is still mooning over Don, and Jim was supposed to have a big night in a hotel with Hayley, but it all goes wrong for poor hapless Jim.  Will had a brief romance with Nina, the gossip columnist, but she urged him to go on a daytime show to improve his likeability ratings. When that went really badly, he broke it off with her. The characters may be marching forward, but they are not getting anywhere.

The biggest push forward was the Genoa story. The ACN team tracked down a retired general who could be their confirming source. They get him to speak on camera from his home with his face in shadow and his voice altered.. However, the general will allow only Jerry, the person who received the tip that got this story rolling in the first place, to be in the room for the interview. This general is a bit eccentric. He insists that the television showing March Madness football games be on. He doesn’t want to miss any part of the game, and I guess he doesn’t have TIVO or a dvr,

The general says, “If we used sarin…”  This will not be enough to move the story forward, so Jerry decides to edit the tape to “We used sarin.”  Back in the newsroom, just to be sure, having learned a thing or two about the dangers of edited tape in the last episode with the Zimmerman 911 tape editing incident, Mackenzee and Charlie want to hear the original unedited tape. The word “If” is not there. It is a nice contrast with prior episode—an accidental editing blunder with a deliberate editing blunder.

Now I understand about the having the football game on in the background.  The corner of the TV screen is in the video frame. Sooner or later, some one is going to spot the continuity error in the tape. The football game will be missing a few beats.

The part of the show that was best I will call the “hit-parade” moment of the week. There was a montage of Will’s on-air reporting of the weeks leading up to the Republican convention--Quick jump cuts from one over-the-top comment to the next.  (He seems to have totally skipped over the Democratic convention, perhaps there were no buffoons saying ridiculous things among the Democrats.)

The Genoa story is moving forward, but the characters love lives take one step forward and two steps backward, with a little sideways shuffle thrown in for good measure. 

P.S. The caption on the picture above is probably the apology that will ultimately be delivered about the Genoa story.  However, as a reviewer, I want to say "except for the one thing you got right, you got everything wrong" because each week there is only one thing to like about the whole hour.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

No News is Bad News, Unless...

By Catherine Giordano

The tug-of-war between Time Warner Cable (Brighhouse) and CBS Showtime continues unabated. I can’t even find any updates on the internet.

I am a Brighthouse customer so this dispute and the lack of productive negotiations directly affects me.  But there is a silver lining.  I decided to switch providers and I discovered that I could get more services for less money from another provider. I will save $35 a month.  

If it wasn’t for the blackout I never would have looked into the costs from another provider.

So no news is bad news, unless like me, you have arranged to switch providers and discovered you can save a big chunk of money.  Rates vary and not all providers are available in all areas, but it is worth checking into.

Update: The dispute is over and Showtime and CBS are back on Time Warner Cable as of Monday September 2nd at 3 pm.

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

HBO Newsroom #15 “News Night with Will McAvoy”

Real Time with Will McAvoy
By Catherine Giordano

Olivia Munn as Sloan on "The Newsroom"
HBO’s “The Newsroom” does some things so well and other things so badly that the bad stuff makes us doubt the good stuff. And that is too bad.

Episode  #16, airing on 08/05/13, “News Night with Will McAvoy” was done in “real time” (more or less) giving us a look at the newsroom during  the 8pm to 9pm airing of the fictional ACN show, “News Night with Will McAvoy.” To a large extent, it was a ripped from the headlines show laced with the usual melodrama of the newsroom staff.

The hour began with Will McAvoy getting a cell phone call from “Dad” just seconds before the start of the show.  Of course, he cannot pick up the call.  (One small question: Would a news anchor have his personal cell phone, even if set to vibrate, with him as he does his show. Wouldn’t the phone be turned off and back in his office?)

During each commercial break, MacKenzee nags at Will to return the call. Over and over, she harangues him. (One small question: Wouldn’t this be none of her business? She talks to him like she was his mother and he was about 15 years old.) Will calls and discovers that his father had a heart attack and a bystander used Will’s father’s phone to call him. The drama plays out during each commercial break and will makes a call to the hospital. Will never gets to talk to his father; just before the final segment he learns that his father has died. Overcome with emotion, he freezes on air. Touching story, and maybe it really could happen that way in the real world.

What wouldn’t happen is Neal barging in during every break to tell Will that someone on Twitter is complaining that Will was rude to her in a restaurant. Why is this so important that Neal would even mention it at all, much less in the middle of a show? It serves the plot though because Neal looks for other #NewsHour tweets and discovers that the guest in the green room who was booked to talk about (the real-life story) of a young male college student, Tyler Clementi, committing suicide after his homosexual encounter was put on YouTube. It seems the guest plans to come out on the show.  MacKenzee refuses to allow him on the air because “This is not Maury Povitch.”

Another real-life news story is breaking news about the 911 tape of George Zimmerman being released. Maggie has only minutes to edit the tape down to 45 seconds and because she was rushed, she makes a mistake just like the one made in real-life by NBC. When the recording is aired it sounds like “he looks black” was volunteered by Zimmerman instead of being a response to a question asked by the 911 operator. This gives McKenzee an excuse to bump the guy who wants to come out on national TV because (unlike in real life) they use the final segment to give an on-air apology and play the tape in full.   

Jim is back from covering the Romney campaign in New Hampshire so he has time to engage with Maggie’s soliloquy on sluts. In real-life Rush Limbaugh called Sandra Fluke, a college student advocating for including free birth control in Obama care, a slut.  Maggie wants to know what’s wrong with being a slut? Her thesis: A girl has right to be a slut if she wants to and no one should judge her for it. It seems she has been getting drunk al lot and letting her inner slut engage in random sex. It’s how she is dealing with the trauma of her experience in Africa; she can’t bear to sleep alone.

There’s another sub-plot dealing with a real-life event. A newspaperman made a joke about Chuck Hegel speaking before a group called Friends of Hamas and the story was picked up at reported as fact by the right-wing breightbart.com.  On the show it was Don who made the joke and it was about “The Daughters of Jihadi Excellence.”  (One Small question: “Daughters?”  What jihadi group would have “daughters” in their name? Wouldn’t it have been ‘sons”?  Is everyone in the writers’ room even more drunk than Maggie?

In addition to chatting with Maggie about sluts, Jim is handling a phone call that has come into the newsroom about another breaking news story. Some bombs have gone off in Damascus, and a woman calls in saying her husband is trapped in the rubble and has called her to tell her no one is coming to help. The wife is in the U.S., but Jim gets patched into the call as the man pleas for help. I don’t know if this story happened in real-life, but it could have. It turns out the cracker-jack Newsroom team investigates and discovers the call is a scam, and the story never gets on to the air. Imagine, “The Newsroom” crew doing something right.  

While Jim is getting something right, Charlie, an ACN exec, is busy getting something wrong. He gets a visit from a friend from naval intelligence who poses a hypothetical question to Charlie that so closely resembles the Genoa scenario that Charlie is now convinced that the Genoa story is true. (I’m convinced too—could Charlie’s source be alluding to some other incident?).

But the biggest melodrama of the hour is Sloan who mopes around in a funk for most of the show. It seems an ex-boyfriend had some nude pictures of her, and when she broke it off with him, those pictures ended up all over the internet. Sloan could lose her job at ACN over this, and besides it is really humiliating, so sitting on the floor in dark corners of someone else’s (Don’s) office is understandable.

So far we have gotten through the whole show without anyone hitting anyone.  That is about to end. This time it is not McKenzee, it is Sloan. She goes to her ex-lover’s Wall Street office and barges into a conference room where he is evidently in a late night meeting. (The show is in real-time, remember, so it is about 8:45 pm.) Sloan calls him into the hall way, gives him a hard knee to the groin and strong uppercut to the face, knocking him down. The guy gets up and begins to come after her, but he is stopped by Don, the Heroic Defender.  (One small question: Don is the producer of the 10pm news show, but he has time accompany Sloan on her foray? Another small question:  Doesn’t it take at least a half hour to get from midtown to Wall Street in a taxi at that hour?

Oh never mind, trying to sort out what is real, what is not real, and what is unreal is giving me a headache. 

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Mexican Standoff: Time Warner/Brighthouse and CBS/Showtime

It's a Mexican standoff between TWC and CBS
It's a Mexican Standoff between Time Warner Cable (Brighthouse) and CBS which owns Showtime.  And the third party in this standoff is the viewers.

The latest update to the news on the negotiations is that Time Warner and CBS are talking again.  The remaining issue to be settled is digital rights. It is possible that the Federal Communications Commission could get involved.  However, the FCC can only enter the fray if one side files a complaint that the other side is not negotiating in good faith.  It has been 12 days since the blackout began on August 2 and neither party has filed a complaint.

The predictions that I am reading is that this won't be settled until the start of football season.  Football season starts September 5th.

I'm not standing for it any longer.  I'm a Time Warner customer (TV, internet, and phone) and yesterday I made the call and switched. It's inconvenient to switch, but I will save about $35 a month, probably  because new subscribers get offered a promotional rates. I also got whole house DVR for no extra cost.  (Brighthouse wanted an extra $25 or $35 for this service.)  My price quote is locked in for two years.

Now, I just have to hope that my new cable provider doesn't get involved in a dispute next year.

If you decide to switch, you have plenty of choices, Century Link Prism, Xfinity, AT&T, Comcast, DirecTV, and probably others. Look into it.  You might see a big reduction in your monthly costs like I did.

 Once upon a time cable TV and telephone service was a monopoly. How nice that we now have a choice and can switch if we are not getting good service. 

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Update: The dispute is over and Showtime and CBS are back on Time Warner Cable as of Monday September 2nd at 3 pm.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Showtime’s Dexter 807 “Dress Code”

The Vortex
By Catherine Giordano

A roiling vortex of action, intrigue, and death: Showtime’s Dexter, #807, “Dress Code" aired on Sunday August 11, 2013 and sucked us in. If season 8 will have 12 episodes like previous seasons, we have reached the point of no return—we are more than halfway through the season.
Dexter meets Miles Castner, Hannah's new husband,shortly before he meets his end.

Debra describes Hannah as “everything that’s wrong with our lives, a vortex.”  Girl, there is so much wrong with your lives that calling Hannah the vortex might be something of an exaggeration. Debra claims that everything started to go bad in her life when she first asked Dexter to kill Hannah. However, the turning point may have come a little earlier when she discovered that Dexter was a serial killer and she began to aid and abet.

Show a little gratitude, girl. Hannah could have killed you and Dexter in the last episode when she drugged your dinner (perhaps that is why the steak tasted so bad). I take that back. Forget the gratitude—perhaps you didn’t die because the steak tasted so bad that you only ate a couple of bites. No on third thought, gratitude may be in order after all because she could have killed you after you were passed out. 

Regardless of Hannah’s intentions Debra and Dexter are alive at the beginning of the show although Dexter finds himself in an isolated field near a lake. One small question: How did Hannah drag Dexter into her car and then dump him in a field. He was dead weight, excuse the pun, and Hannah does not look to be physically strong. Also, why?  What was the point of dumping him in a field?

Dexter tracks Hannah down and discovers that she is living on a mega yacht with a multimillionaire. He follows them to the Red Coral Club, but he can’t get in because it is a members only club, and besides, they have a dress code.(Get it, “a code”). Dexter calls his new protégé, Zach, to see if Zach’s dad is a member. He is and Zach promptly arrives (evidently with a change of clothes for Dexter) and the two are admitted to the club.

Hannah is with the man who we learn is Miles Castner and Hannah’s new husband.  Hannah has a new identity as Maggie Castner. When Miles leaves Hannah alone for a few minutes, Dexter approaches Hannah.  When Miles returns we learn that this is a very possessive and controlling man who knows all about Hannah’s past. He wants Dexter to stay away from his wife.

Dexter can’t leave well enough alone and goes to Hannah’s old flower nursery which is now in ruins to meet Hannah there. Together they tell each other that they are still in love with each other, but Hannah says they must stay away from each other.  Miles has evidently been following Hannah and/or Dexter so he knows about this meeting.  Goons are sent to beat Dexter up. The beating causes Dexter to miss a meeting with Zach, and Zach’s hurt feelings about being stood-up set off a very bad chain of events.

In the meantime, Miles has confronted Hannah/Maggie and tells her that she will never again be allowed to leave the boat and they will set sail at once. Right after he forcibly helps himself to his conjugal rights. The next thing we know, the crew has shore leave, Dexter is on the boat, Miles is dead on the floor, and Hannah is covered in blood. (This is one strong lady.) Dexter to the rescue, the mess is cleaned up, and Hannah and Dexter are out for a moonlight cruise on Dexter’s boat dumping the body. This is the “how-romantic” moment of the week. Dexter and Hannah are together again. Is all forgiven?  Stay tuned.

Back to Zach. There seems to be a problem with Vogel and Dexter's plan to teach Zach ‘the code.’ Dexter was a child when Harry taught him—he was more malleable. It is dawning on Vogel that a grown man who has already killed once, cannot be controlled so easily. Sure enough, Zach kills again. (We don’t know that for sure, but it looks like Zach has killed again.)

Zach was so excited about becoming a protégé; he couldn’t wait to kill again. The part about not taking the lives of innocents wasn’t getting through the blood lust.  A furious Zach arrives at Dexter’s apartment (despite being warned never to go there because they can never be seen together) and becomes even angrier when he discovers that Dexter is not home. Cassie, his next door neighbor, hears the pounding on the door and comes out to tell Zach that Dexter is not home. The next thing we know, Dexter gets a call and must interrupt his romantic evening on the water with Hannah to go to a crime scene. Cassie is the victim. 

Cassie was romantically interested in Dexter despite the fact that she was dating a very nice man. (The girls always love the bad boys.) Well, now that is not going to happen. 

However, some other romances are moving forward. Quinn and Jamie are moving in together. Is it true love or are they both doing it to spite Angel. Jamie is mad at her brother for not promoting Quinn to sergeant and Quinn is mad at Angel about this also.

Elway and Debra may be getting closer. Debra doesn’t spare Elway’s feelings when she blows off his attempts to date her. But Elway has the guts to stand up to her and tell her off for her rudeness and nasty attitude. He tells her that he is due a little gratitude.This leads Debra to realize that Elway has done a lot for her by giving her a job. She apologizes and it appears her attitude might be changing.  (Girls always go for the bad guys.) Now I am worried for Elway. Everyone who Debra dates ends up dead.

There are so many vortexes roiling. Everyone is being swept closer and closer, faster and faster, into the devastating center of the vortex. And we the viewers are being swept right along also.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

No Deal is a Big Deal

by Catherine Giordano

CBS/Showtime and Time Warner/Brighthouse are no closer to resolving their dispute than they were a week ago. So let's email the execs.

When I try to watch Showtime, all I see is a blank screen

While searching the internet for news about this dispute, all I could learn is that it might go on for weeks. Showtime has not responded to my emails for info. Brighthouse did respond and you can see that response on my August 3 post on this blog.  

Here are the email addresses  and phone numbers for Showtime execs. Let them know that you don't like watching a blank screen.

David Nevins, President, Entertainment
Phone 310-234-5200 ex 5365
Email   david.nevins@showtime.net

Matthew C. Blank, Chairman/CEO
Phone: 212-708-1600 ex 5324
Email   matthew.blank@showtime.net

Gary Levine, Exec. VP, Original Programming
Phone 310-234-5200 ex 5266
Email   gary.levine@showtime.net

Jackie Ioachim
VP, Consumer Public Relations
Email   jackie.ioachim@showtime.net

Mr. Leslie Moonves, President & CEO
CBS Entertainment
51 West 52nd Street
New York, New York 10019
E-mail: audsvcs@cbs.com

(I tried one of the Showtime email addresses and it has not bounced back. Now I'll look for contact info for Time Warner.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Showtime’s Web Therapy #303 “Believe It or Not”

The Universe Has its Way
By Catherine Giordano

Fiona always wants to have her way, but it is clear that sometimes the universe has its way. And apparently the universe doesn’t like Fiona very much.  Why do I say that?  I think it is obvious after viewing Showtime’s Web Therapy, season 3 episode 3, airing on Tuesday August 6, 2013.

Steve Carell as Jackson Pickett "soul searching"

The episode begins with Fiona chatting with Franny, the composer lyricists for “Fiona, The Musical” or should I say former composer/lyricist. Fiona has succeeded in manipulating Franny (played by Megan Mullally)  into getting herself fired from the show.  Now the show has no music and the whole project is shut down.

But not for long. The universe apparently wants this show to go on. There are new investors. One of then is Fiona’s rejected lover, Jackson Pickett (played by Steve Carell) and the other is her wealthy boyfriend Austen Clarke (played by Alan Cummings). 

Fiona has been telling Jackson that she is too good for him—she thinks he is a loser, but on this episode she learns that Jackson could buy and sell her many times over.  He has become rich running a group called Quorum (Scientology, anyone?).This is where all his previously observed psychobabble is coming from.

Fiona also learns that the universe wants her two lovers to meet. Jackson has not met Austen yet, but I don’t think it will be good for Fiona when Austen finds out she had a one-night stand with Pickett. (Of course, Austen had several nights’ stand with Hayley to whom he is now sham-married so his heir will be legitimate when it is born, so perhaps he will be understanding.)  

Back to Franny –it appears that the universe loves Franny. After a chance meeting with Lady Gaga, Franny is now the darling of the pop world.  Lady Gaga, and every other big pop star, wants Franny to write songs for them. In fact, Lady Gaga has paid handsomely for all the songs written for “Fiona, the Musical.”

“Including my songs,” Fiona asks.  “What do you mean,” Franny shoots back. “I wrote every one of these songs. You said so yourself.” Fiona is shut out of any riches that may accrue due to the songs she wrote because she persuaded Franny that Franny wrote them while she was drunk. (See last week’s review.)  Fiona is shut out. This is “the-universe-delights –in-ironic-comeuppances” moment of the week.

Can things get worse?  Yes, they can. It turns out that Hayley is living in Fiona’s New York penthouse—the one gifted to her by Austen. Further, Jerome is there also and he is the one who has gotten Jackson to invest in the musical.

There is one bright spot for Fiona. Robin Griner, the videographer/documentarian for Kip's campaign and Fiona’s one time rival for the affections of Kip may have footage that could help exonerate Fiona who is under investigation for fraud concerning misuse of campaign funds. But Robin extracts a high price form Fiona. She wants an invitation to a gala event that Austen is planning and has numerous other demands. Fiona agrees to give her everything she wants, and Robin agrees to turn over all the footage.

When Robin stands up, Fiona can see that she is pregnant. Robin has married Richard and she is carrying his baby.  This is the same Richard who apparently had a crush on Fiona and whom Fiona manipulated mercilessly, first encouraging and then discouraging, the same Richard who was the accountant for Kip’s campaign. I think the universe is just setting Fiona up to slap her down again. Oh, how the universe loves to play games.

The last chat of the episode is with Jackson again. He has sent Fiona a little contraption—a combination handcuffs and lie detector test. He calls it “soul search.”  Fiona puts the hand cuffs on and Jackson asks her questions.  The device chimes if she tells the truth and buzzes if she is less than honest.  But Jackson, all enthusiastic with his new toy, has put the device on himself, a more advanced model that delivers an electric shock if the wearer lies. Fiona starts asking if his treatments are phony; if Quroum is just a scam.  Jackson tries to deny it, but his yelps of pain as the device delivers electric shocks expose his denials as lies.

Fiona may appear to have gotten the better of Jackson, but if the universe has its way, It won’t last long. The universe takes delight is delivering “comeuppance” to Fiona.

Web Therapy is wonderfully absurd, and Lisa Kudrow makes a magnificent Fiona.  A lot of the show is improvisation, so the plot takes wild twists and turns as the actors try to surprise and challenge each other with bizarre responses. At the end of each episode, we see some outtakes, and we realize how difficult it is for the actors to keep a straight face. 

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Showtime’s Dexter #806 “A Little Reflection”

By Catherine Giordano

Anyone who thinks that Showtime’s Dexter is losing its mojo, winding down in its last season, needs to see episode 6 of Season 8, “A Little Reflection”, aired on August 4, 2013. he title “A Little Reflection” will carry a lot of meaning by the end of the episode.

Last week I suggested that Vogel might be “The Brain Surgeon.”  I’m not that confident about that prediction, but Vogel sure does like to mess with people’s brains. She has a new patient, now that the threat to her life has passed (Or so she thinks, because if she is not “The Brain Surgeon,” then this killer is still out there.)

Her new patient is Zach Hamilton. Dexter is interested in him also. He thinks that this young man (still in his teens or barely out of them) is responsible for the murder of the Hamilton family maid. Turns out Dexter is right, and now the kid is stalking a second victim, Sophia, also a dark haired Latina woman. Dark haired Latina women seem to be his type. But in the “twisteroo” moment of the week, we discover that these women are not Zach’s type, but his father’s type.

Dexter has gotten close to Zach, the better to find the proof he needs to put the kid “on his table.” Zach is a photography buff with his own studio. He likes to take pictures of bloody crime scenes.  Dexter is at alone at a murder scene doing is lab-geek thing when the kid shows up. He has a police scanner on his phone. Dexter invites the kid inside the yellow tape to take close up pictures. Later he visits the kid at his photography studio and discovers the proof he needs in the photographs that Zach took.

Vogel asks Dexter not to kill Zach, but Dexter says, “He has to die.”  He finds Zach at the Cypress Harbor Yacht Club, a property owned by Zach’s father. The father embraces Sophia as she gets off work and leaves the club. Zach starts to follow not Sophia, but his father when Dexter and his needle intercepts him. I’m feeling bad—the kid is a killer, but he’s still only a kid. 

 When Zach comes to on Dexter’s table he confesses to the murder. He says the maid was his first kill; he’s had these urges to kill, but he had never killed before. He indulged his urge to protect his mother. His father’s affairs were making his mother so unhappy that she was drinking herself to death. Dexter asks, “So you love your mother?” “Of course, I do,” Zach answers. Dexter questions Zach about his urges to kill and realizes that he and the kid are very much alike. Dexter decides not to kill him. He has found a little protégé, a little reflection of himself.

Dr. Vogel had urged Dexter to consider teaching Zach “the code”; she called it her “little experiment.” Would it work a second time?  Dexter was opposed, but in the killing room he changes his mind.  “You never had a Harry,” he tells Zach who has no idea what he is talking about. The boy has his good qualities, he loves his mother, and he has a conscience as evidenced when Zach tells Dexter to go ahead and kill him because if he lives he will kill again. He seems to be such a nice young man, just like Dexter.

A few other things happen during this episode on the way to the second “twistaroo” moment of the week,   Matsuka offers his daughter, Niki, a check for $5,000 after Debra’s investigation shows that the young woman is broke and in debt up to her eyeballs. The girl gets insulted, refuses the check, and storms off saying she doesn’t want money from him. Poor Matsuka, for once he does something nice and he gets slapped down for it. Is Niki sincere, or is she playing the long con for a bigger payoff?

Dexter gets his come-uppance during a heart-to-heart about how lying is a non-no with his little son, Harrison.  Harrison says, “But you lie too, Daddy.” He pulls a stuffed animal from a drawer, a stuffed animal that got covered in blood when Dexter stabbed Briggs in episode one of season eight.  Daddy Dexter had thrown the toy in the trash, and told Harrison it was lost, but the boy found it. Dexter lets him keep it, suggesting that the toy should “live under the bed” for now.

Angel passes Quinn over for the promotion to detective. He gives the job to Miller, the candidate that Deputy Chief Matthews has been urging on him. Quinn is angry and is determined to prove himself the better choice. He’s been following Zach trying to get the evidence that Zach killed the maid. Will Quinn’s determination to solve the murder interfere with Dexter’s plans for Zach?

Elway, the owner of the detective agency where Debra now works, is sweet on Debra.  She is discouraging him because as she tells Dexter, “He doesn’t know me. He doesn’t know I’m a murderer. He doesn’t know I tried to kill my brother and myself.”  She feels that no man can ever know who she truly is, and thus no man can ever love her. She and Dexter are best buds again, as Dexter says, “You. Me. Steak. Beer. Just like old times.” But it is not like old times. Debra has changed.

Dexter has had a little mini-date with Cassie, his neighbor.  Jamie has been trying to set them up. They meet for a food truck delicacy--fries with Nutella and peanut butter.  (I’ve never heard of that; I sorta want to try it, and I sorta find the idea revolting.)  Cassie asks Dexter about himself like people tend to do on first dates. “What are you passionate about?” she asks. No way can Dexter answer that question.  “Sometimes I go bowling.” They both laugh.  She is learning that Dexter is a “hollow man,” a person with no interests. She’s attractive and vivacious—I think she has written Dexter off as someone she would like to date.

But never mind. Dexter has Debra to hang out with again.  Over a too-tough steak and some beer, Debra starts to feel dizzy and passes out on the couch. Dexter starts to feel the room swim also. At that moment, the shocker of the season—the second “twisteroo.” Hannah is back.

Hooray.  Let the games begin. I’ve been waiting for Hannah to return. I think there are still a few more twistaroos in store for us before Dexter goes to syndication heaven.

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