The Guild: Season 4

The Guild 4

The Guild: Season 4 DVD

I finished watching The Guild season 4 and cannot wait for season 5. I really like this show and I hope that it is able to continue for quite some time. I know nothing lasts forever, but I really get a kick out of these episodes. Fun stuff!

All the characters are back this time and it’s even more fun than last season. There were several laugh-out-loud moments. The filming and sound has also improved since season one.

Most of the extra-unpleasant language is gone in this season, thankfully, and the wit is still quite good. For the first half of the season, though, I feel like there was a rushed manner in which everyone said their lines. I am no acting expert, certainly, but I feel like they needed to slow down the delivery of lines in some of the scenes. It’s not terrible or anything – just nitpicking, really – but I do think it would be better if they had. Who’s fault would that be anyway; director?  Alternatively, perhaps I have lived too long in the South where it takes a good ten minutes to say a full sentence.

Anyway, this was a fun season that leaves off with a hint at the next season:  a gamer convention. One of the surprise elements in this season is seeing the group in-game in a guild hall! W00t!  Also, the last episode has a guest star from another famous tv show about geeks! His entrance was also priceless!

Overall, if you’re a fan, you’re gonna love this season. If you’re not a fan, you will have no idea why anyone watches this.  If you want to be a fan:  yes, start at season one.  High recommendation.

4 stars

Rizzoli & Isles: Season 1

Rizzoli & Isles

Rizzoli & Isles, season 1, DVD

I finished watching season one of Rizzoli & Isles.  Only ten episodes, it was a quick watch, and I think the season ended too soon. This season was shown in the summer of 2010 on TNT.  The show revolves around a Boston Homicide Detective (Rizzoli) and her friend the medical examiner (Isles).  Rizzoli also has a younger brother on the police force (Frankie).

First, let me mention the bad.  I hate the intro music – Irish bagpipes or something? I am not sure, but it’s really grating and I can’t start the episode soon enough.  Not sure what is up with that – Boston is known for it’s Irish families (and crime families), but Rizzoli is Italian. Anyway, zoom past the intros if you want to be happier.

Second, Rizzoli is pretty hard core and witty. But sometimes, she’s also dumb as a box of rocks. I mean, she is a detective in Boston.  However, there are times (even mundane story elements) wherein Rizzoli is devoid of basic logic, reasoning, or thought. I know there is a tendency for the viewer – as the outside judge – to look in upon the stage as the omniscient viewer and get frustrated with the players for not knowing all that the viewer knows.  That is not what I am doing here – really, based on simple things and not needing the omniscient stance of the viewer, Rizzoli sometimes is a real daft bird.

Third, I know the TV series is based (loosely or otherwise) on the series of novels written by Tess Gerritsen.  But I hope that the entire show does not forever constantly base itself on the relationship between “The Surgeon” and Rizzoli.  “The Surgeon” is Rizzoli’s nemesis, Charles Hoyt. Hoyt is played by Michael Massee.  Massee discharged the weapon that fired via malfunction and killed Brandon Lee in 1993 during filming of The Crow. The shooting was ruled an accident. Massee has also starred as a death row inmate on Criminal Minds.  Anyway, I think it’s good that such a show has a nemesis and a heroine. However, I hope this storyline does not obliterate any other creativity for the show.

Another guest star that appears in a couple of episodes is Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block “fame.”

One of the best things about the show is Maura Isles. She like Temperence “Bones” Brennan or Sheldon Cooper, but much more aristocratic and far more socialized.  She’s portrayed as a walking Google/Wikipedia, but she also displays sympathy, empathy, and intuitiveness. She’s played by actress Sasha Alexander – whom I had never heard of before. But apparently she has had roles in NCIS and Dawson’s Creek.  She is also Serbian and her “foreign” attitude/look/character is occasionally visible in her scenes.  It’s perfectly fine because it adds to the concept of the role of Maura Isles as the scientific oddball doctor. Hands down, Isles steals the show from Rizzoli.

Overall, I like that the gore-level is far below the Criminal Minds level. I also like that there is a simple police procedural paradigm followed here that makes the show very watchable. The comedic elements are nice and all of the characters/actors seem to interact well with each other. I would definitely see season two – especially after the “surprise” ending of season one!

3 stars

Criminal Minds: Season 3

Criminal Minds season 3

Criminal Minds season 3 DVD

I finished Criminal Minds season three the other day.  For most of the season, I would watch an episode and comment: “That wasn’t a very good episode….”   Basically, by the third disc, I had decided that I would give this season merely 2 stars.  After having watched the last disc, however, I was tempted to give the season 3 stars. But no! I shall not change my mind! Even if the last disc was markedly better than the previous ones, it still took great stamina and patience to get through the previous episodes.

The season begins where the previous season left off – in terms of the BAU characters’ situations. Gideon missing, Hotch and Prentiss off of the team.  Does anyone really care? I did not. I watched anyway. Finally in episode 6 “About Face,” we get our “Gideon replacement” in the character of David Rossi.  Rossi is played by Joe Mantegna, who has been in a whole pile of movies and TV shows.  Also, he is the parent of an autistic child.  Anyway, immediately I took a dislike to the character Rossi. He is grating and has a chip on his shoulder.

Penelope is still the most interesting character. In the episodes “Lucky” and “Penelope” she is shot by a new boyfriend. (The boyfriend is also one of the stars from the TV show Saving Grace.)  Then she meets and dates another FBI analyst, Kevin Lynch.  Penelope’s character is developed further (in case you had not already noticed that she is a geek) when she recognizes comic book artists, references California alternate lifestyles, and talks jargon with Lynch.

Emily Prentiss still over-plays all her lines. Derek Morgan still exists solely to kick down doors and tackle bad guys. It has actually become really amusing to call out when Morgan is about to kick a door in.

One of the particularly poor episodes was “Birthright,” which I think was completely unbelievable and really too bizarre.  The last three episodes of the season: “The Crossing,” “Tabula Rasa,” and “Lo Fi” are actually decent episodes and worth watching. Unfortunately, you have to suffer through the previous episodes to get to these. And I cannot ignore all the bad writing that came before just because the last three episodes were up to par.

Unfortunately, the last episode leaves off on a cliffhanger – an explosion, nonetheless. So, of course, now I want to see season 4. It’s not because of any great merit of the series, in general, but rather a curiosity that I have based on a couple of episodes. Again, I am still surprised that this show has so many seasons…. this season really seemed to be downright ridiculous in certain episodes. How long can I care about this team and their weirdo cases? I guess, I wish we got to learn more about the BAU and less about the grisly and extremely wacko killings.

2 stars

The Big Bang Theory: Season 4

The Big Bang Season 4 dvd
The Big Bang season 4 DVD

This was one of my most anticipated releases on DVD. (I do not watch “live” television, all the series I watch are on DVD.) So when it was released, I bought it as soon as possible. I watched it as soon as possible. And was disappointed. . . .

I absolutely love seasons 1 – 3, I have watched each over 5 times apiece.  I can practically quote each episode.  But a lot of the elements that make The Big Bang Theory a great show were absent in season four.  Okay, and I am guessing that this is the end of the series. All good things come to an end, I suppose. I am just sad that this show deteriorated much sooner than other series. The difference in goodness between season three and season four is downright remarkable. I don’t know the reasons – did the writers lose their head? did the actors screw it up?

A lot of critics and TV watchers relegated The Big Bang Theory to some substandard of TV.  It was dubbed “geeky” and therefore did not interest those fans of shows like Mad Men, Dexter, and Supernatural.  It was a light-hearted comedy full of science fiction references and puns that are lost on much of society. Comics? Gaming? What?! However, to the segments of society that are in tune with that pulse, this show was tremendous. It was a fun, silly comedy that worked because it did not take itself too seriously and also appealed to those people who were bored with typical domestic-setting comedies.

Season 4 has problems, some of which I have managed to isolate. In previous seasons, the bantering and bickering between characters was generally good-natured and charming.  During much of this season, the sniping seems almost vindictive or cruel.  It’s difficult to watch characters that I know and love be treated so miserably.  The characters have moved from being a gang of friends to disparate, snarky, self-absorbed jerks.

Another problem is the amount of sex.  Each and every episode seems to truly revolve around sex, sexual innuendos, sex-humor, sexual issues, etc.  What made The Big Bang Theory a great series is that it did not dip into the sex-laden humor that most comedies seem to consist in.  Sex humor can be funny, used properly – in other words: well-timed, witty, and between particular characters.  Sex as a driving force for a whole series becomes tedious, foolish, and slutty.

Yet another issue that I had with season four was the lack of science. Part of what made The Big Bang Theory so flabbergastingly fantastic was that it contained science. Goofy, intelligent, witty science. I am not saying that it was a boring physics class – but the characters had zany projects, they were depicted using their science-skills in every day life in a variety of interesting and madcap ways.  This season is almost devoid of any of that.  It was replaced by sour-sounding language and the appearance of people who are not geeky, but just droll.

Again, the addition of so many new characters at once (I say “new” to mean new regular characters), may have had something to do with the misery that is season four.  The series moved away from just the two apartments and the university, and started to focus on other characters.  Frankly, the goodness of The Big Bang Theory was in the original cast and the newer cast members aren’t the reason fans loved the show.  The new characters are novel to a certain point, but they quickly become irritating and I would count the minutes until one of my favorite characters would come on screen.

All in all, I am disappointed. Season four just isn’t very good. There are some episodes, dare I say it, that are actually bad. Some that I did not laugh at, some I actually disliked. I maintain my hope for season five, but I fear (deep in my heart) that the greatness has left the science room.

3 stars

House M.D.: Season 2

House season 2

House MD season 2 DVD

 This past week I rewatched season 2 of House MD because I bought season 7 of House MD.  That probably does not seem to make a whole lot of sense, I admit.  I am rewatching all of the House MD seasons, but I just did not want to watch season 1 again.  I love season 1, but I have seen it at least four times and so I started the rewatch with season 2.  It was the second time I saw the second season. (Wow, so far I feel like this paragraph is an effort in writing a tongue-twister.)

Season 2 consists of 24 episodes that began airing in 2005.  I feel that I need to explain some of my feelings toward television drama.  I am a strong believer in dramas being dramatic, fictional, and multi-faceted.  Following the history all the way back to the Dionysia events of ancient Greece, we cannot deny that tragedy and comedy upon the stage are almost necessary conditions of Western human culture. So, if we enumerate “theatre-men” like Euripides, Aristophanes, Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Alfred Hitchcock, and Martin Scorsese, we can see that throughout history, theatre was never dull, disengaging, or forgettable.  While in the contemporary era television seems to be a distraction or a hobby, there is a definite core of cultural necessity tied within it.  Sure, a lot of television programming is frivolous and pointless – I would never write an apology for its intellectual vitality.  Nevertheless, there is something very natural and deeply-rooted about television shows that are dramatic, amusing, and entertaining.  House MD is usually all three.

I know that when I watch House MD, I am watching fiction. I know that I am watching theatre. I know that I may have to willingly suspend some disbelief. These are all normal elements of theatre. I feel like House MD would do very well if judged by ancient Greeks.  So, sacrifice the bull and ready the goat….

I could not remember when House’s ex-wife shows up. Apparently, its at the end of season 1.  The first episode of season 2 is called “Acceptance” and the title has a lot to do with House and his ex-wife, who (as a lawyer) has taken a position at the Hospital.  It also has to do with the patient House and his team are treating:  a death row inmate.  The inmate is played by none other than LL Cool J.  There are interesting dynamics between House, Cuddy, Stacy, and Wilson that run through the first part of the season.  While the individual characters are being developed and their relationships explored, there are a variety of unique, interesting, and complex medical cases hanging in the balance.

Starting a season off with a death row inmate can seem hack, but of course it raises the predictable issues. Is the death penalty just? Should doctors give equal treatment to a death row inmate and any other patient? These ethical “situations” continue throughout the season. In the sixth episode of the season, “Spin,” ethical issues surrounding performance-enhancing drugs in sports are raised.  In “The Mistake,” we learn of Chase’s father’s death and about a mistake made by Chase that led to the death of a patient.  A disciplinary committee investigates the actions and decisions made by Chase and House.  In “House vs. God,” the territory of faith healing and science is explored when a religious teenager is admitted.

In other episodes we meet House’s parents, meet an ex-bandmate of House, battle a case of life-threatening insomnia, and treat a patient who cannot communicate using spoken words.  All of these are interesting (albeit, probably not very plausible) cases. It’s good television – good theatre.  But the best episodes of the season are the two-part “Euphoria” episodes in which Foreman is on the verge of death and the last episode, “No Reason,” wherein House is shot in his office. We also get some zingers such as learning that Cuddy is considering in vitro fertilization.

House is as obnoxious, witty, and caustic as ever.  The script writers give us several great quotes per episode, however, I think the episode “Forever” has the best ones. A couple of these become “classic” in the show, and Hugh Laurie delivers them perfectly:

  • Ideas are not soda cans. Recycling sucks. Give me something new and shiny.
  • I ask you, is almost dying any excuse for not being fun?
  • Idiots are fun – no wonder every village wants one.

Overall, each episode provides solid theatrical performances that entertain the audience. The show is consistent, relatively intellectually engaging, and fun. Season 2 of House MD wins the goat at the Dionysia.

5 stars

The Guild: Season 3

The Guild Season 3

The Guild Season 3 DVD

I finished watching The Guild season 3.  There’s good and bad to be said about it. I’m giving this season the same number of stars for a rating – but for different reasons.

I love the spoofy / geeky content. Its fantastic. Also, I think the actors are having fun as well as doing  a good job. I feel like they are having a good time making this series. This counts for a lot because I have, on occasion, watched shows and felt that one or two actors really were strained in their role or on the series. I feel like they were not having fun and not enjoying their work. Everything is better if you like what you are doing. It comes across to the audience.

The video-ing and the sound is much better for this season. Not that it was necessarily bad in the previous two seasons, but this season is a big improvement. And one can feel that the budget increased, too. Not to say that it takes a huge budget to make anything worthy, but its tough to do without a decent budget. I am glad that this show is able to do all that it does. And the improvements made for the scenes, sounds, and video are noticeable and welcome.

The storyline is pretty good – at base. However, the stuff with Zaboo and Riley is a bit too much, I think. Also, this episode involved a lot more F-bombing and trash talking. Its okay at this level, I suppose, but it lost some of the innocent-geek of the first two seasons. Basically, this should be the limit. If it goes beyond this level, it will no longer be as comfortable and pleasant to watch.

The addition of Will Wheaton to the cast (as a villain) was an okay move. I think his comfort in front of the camera and delivering lines showed through. I think he blends easily with the cast so he doesn’t seem odd. I am not a Will Wheaton adoring fanboy, though I know there are some out there. He does a good job here, but I don’t want to say that because he’s there the show is any better.  In other words, the other actors were doing a fine job without him and don’t need him. He’s just a small plus to an already competent cast.

Speaking of the characters, I think each actor was quite a bit more adept in their roles this time. The character Clara was fantastic. Riley, although scary, was played very well. Overall this was another success for The Guild and I am, of course, looking forward to watching the next season(s).

3 stars

In Plain Sight: Season 1

In Plain Sight

In Plain Sight

I finished watching the first season of In Plain Sight; it originally aired in 2008.  I picked up the season for $5. It stars Mary McCormack as the main character with Fred Weller as her co-star. McCormack has played in a number of TV shows, particularly Murder One and The West Wing. I haven’t watched any of the other shows she’s been in.

McCormack plays a U.S. Marshall, Mary Shannon, stationed in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As such, she participates in the Witness Protection Program (WitSec). The number of characters is relatively small (compared to most shows I’ve watched recently). Shannon’s partner in the Marshals is Marshall Mann, a fifth-generation U.S. Marshall. These two work under the supervision of their boss, Stan McQueen. Overall, the characters are not that appealing. Viewers are constantly being told that Shannon is a hard-core, rogue-ish Marshal. However, I find her to usually be just cranky and weak.

The actor who plays Marshall Mann is rather annoying. He’s really thin and tall and he speaks without moving his mouth much – talking through his teeth. Also, his voice is very nasal. (I don’t know how realistic any of this is for New Mexico). His character is a bit of a dork, though we are to believe he is stoic and patient.  Their boss is a short, balding fellow who generally lets the two marshals run rampant and do whatever they want. There sometimes appear to be more marshals in the city, but they are never in the office with the WitSec team. Overall, none of the characters seem like they are tough enough to be US Marshals, but maybe this is because I have some sort of Chuck Norris Texas Ranger thing in mind when I see this show.

I also have no interest in New Mexico. I pretty much hate the setting. I am not a fan of anything past the Mississippi River, for that matter. This show is somewhat similar to Saving Grace in that it involves a female lead character in a type of law enforcement. However, this show is nowhere near as gritty and transcendent as that one. (Saving Grace takes place in Oklahoma).

Most of this season was actually somewhat flat and boring. However, things get a lot better with the last disc. Finally, we have some storyline movement, action, and real drama. The characters do not necessarily become more interesting or likeable, but the storyline gets more interesting. For example, McQueen seems to become more dynamic in dealing with some of the WitSec situations and team.  I suspect this show gets better in season two, but I am not going to pay full price for it.

2 stars