Friday, July 23, 2010

Futurama | S06E06 “Lethal Inspection”… That’s More Like It!

Futurama Bender Bendable Key ChainLast week we the viewers of Futurama had to suffer through one of the series worst Episodes, The Duh-Vinci Code. Luckily, this week’s installment was Benter-centric and followers of the show know exactly what that means… “Party” (says morbidly obese Bender in “Anthology of Interest II”).  The episode starts off with the Planet Express crew participating in what seems like an American Civil War reenactment but is actually turns out to be a Sithal War reenactment. In which the crew takes on some poorly named individuals dressed up as Star Wars Sith. The battle of Sithal War serves as a reminder to Bender (and everyone in his general proximity) of his superiority to humans, in that, even if his body is destroyed he has a back up of his consciousness floating around somewhere that can be downloaded into a new body, BSG Cylon Style. That is until Benter has an unexpected oil leak and it is revealed that he does not have a back up system, making him imperfect. This happens, after Bender had been proudly touting his inspection card given to him at creation, indication to all that he is a perfect being (or at least a perfect robot, the distinction seems to be lost of the lovable booze swilling robot). The idea of not being the height of perfection does not sit well with Bender and starts him on a search fueled by booze and bloodlust for the one who falsely certified him as perfect, namely the bureaucrat that went by the title Inspector #5. To assist him on his quest, the only other bureaucrat that Bender knows, Hermes Conrad.   For those who pay close attention to Futurama this marks the first time Hermes and Bender have gone on a solo adventure together, which turned out pretty well for all parties.  The two head to the Central Bureaucracy to discover the identity of Inspector #5, instead they find that the files are missing which forces them to head for Bender’s home land, Mexico.
Futurama: The Complete Collection During their trip south the two find themselves being hunted by Mom’s robot death squad, set in motion after a tirade of Bender’s, where he angrily expression his disgusted that MomCorp would allow a defective robot to leave one of her assembly lines; which serves as a prime example of Bender’s hilarious short sightedness.   The only issue with these mini-gun touting robots is that they have a bit of an itchy trigger finger (or button…switch?), and begin to fire wildly whenever they hear the words shoot, fire or howitzer; a running gage throughout the episode. After the surly robot and Jamaican make it to Tijuana, Mexico for their last failed attempt to find Inspector #5, Hermes manages to console Bender about his mortality. And during a final bombardment from the MomCorp’s robot death squad Hermes uses Inspector # 5’s bureaucrat computer terminal to deem Bender dead thereby ending the MomCorp’s search for him. Though it was fairly obvious from the start, it’s finally revealed at the end of the episode that Inspector #5 was a young Hermes and that Hermes had been covering his tracks during Bender and his search for… him. But, in classic Futurama style the creators of this episode managed to merge a science fiction story like a robot death squad hunting down a defective robot (Blade Runner), with endearing ideas like a young Hermes not being about to toss a baby Bender in the defective robot bin.  That is what won over most people who watch this show when it started, the comedy, the sci-fi references and its heart. Lethal Inspection was a huge improvement from last week’s episode, let’s hope to see more like it in the episodes to come.       

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

V & FlashForward | Televisions Greatest Disappointments of 2009

Back in the premiere season of 2009, a wide range of new shows premiered with some promise, but there were a select few that thought destined for TV greatness and there was some massive hype. In the end, 2009 ended up being one of the more disappointing seasons for network television. Even with all the hype and potential to be the next TV juggernauts, they turned out to be spectacular failures and didn’t even come close to ratings gold. Some are now gone and the rest teeter on oblivion. However, the biggest names were V and FlashForward. So here is a look back at those shows, why the hype, and why they disappointed.


FlashForward

The single most anticipated television series of the year was placed at number one in everyone’s best new show of the year list. There was not one person online or anywhere that did not think Flashforward was the new Lost. It received huge press and even had references to Lost in its premiere. Too bad it was cancelled after one season because it turned out to be less than interesting.

Why The Hype: a fantastic premise that intrigued everyone.
The premise that the world would blackout for a minute (137 seconds to be exact) and catch a glimpse of their future, gave the potential for a great series and a great mystery to draw viewers in.

Why it disappointed: slow moving, inability to capitalise on the premise, and the inability to stop saying “flashforward”.

The downfall of Flash forward is actually very simple, although it could be said that its hiatus contributed to its struggle. Apparently the problem with a “flashforward” is people just want to talk about it, which is a problem when each episode is spent talking about it instead of taking action and the word is consequently said every second.

V

V was plugged as the new big sci-fi series to take over geekdom with a wealth of episodes filled with sci-fi discussion material. For some reason though, it had a 12 episode season that seemed to have no story progression at all. Although it has survived (by winning a star trek-like battle to the death with FlashForward), it has not produced the success or quality it promised and still teeters on cancelation.

Why The Hype: reptilian aliens wearing human skin who want to take your planet and eat you (awesome!), a terrorist group fighting them, and those trailers looked damn good.

V seemed like the perfect idea now that BSG was over. It used the same idea of revamping an old sci-fi series for the better. The pre-premiere trailers were the best of the season and promised a large scale, special effect driven, expensive series. The pilot itself was very promising and even snagged very high ratings. What it promised to the viewer was good Samaritans turned terrorists fighting alien infiltrators, and they can distinguished man from lizard by cutting down to the skull bone behind the ear. The main draw though was the money backing to bring up the production value to be at least on par with BSG, and which that shot of V leader Anna’s image towering over a city seemed to suggest.

Why it disappointed: story issues, premature hiatus, money issues, poor use of characters, cheap graphics, general lack of suspense.

V had plot issues from the beginning and took a six week hiatus 4 episodes in to fix them unsuccessfully, a decision that cost them viewers. What it did deliver was a story that seemed badly conceived, with characters that seemed useless to the story and a season that was promised to involve a group of people fighting aliens which became about (and let me try to articulate this) keeping the aliens from knowing they want to fight them... at some point. Nailed it! Although it’s not mentioned very often, there was an issue with the alien sets being replaced by green screen effects, which looked kind of terrible. V was supposed to be the next generation, the expensive generation, the enhanced graphics generation, but in some ways it was actually less impressive than the original. Maybe they thought it was a good idea to make the interior of the V ship look bigger using CGI, but it probably would benefited the show to just build a set that looked real and didn’t remind the viewer it was fake.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Haven Pilot Review

Sci Fi Channel: Syfy UniversalThe SyFy channel’s new series Haven opens on a bad note. The pilot episode showed an old formula being used badly: normal criminal investigators turned paranormal investigators (The X-Files, Warehouse 13) in a strange town (Eureka, Twin Peaks). This has been used mostly by the syfy channel for quite some time and it doesn’t make sense why they would want another show like this when they have so many already, which are better. It’s time to move on, SYFY channel. Stop working the X-Files angle; it’s over used. The plot in Haven and everything else is, for lack of a better word, cheap. The town of Haven is filled with those with powers who cause trouble. A Plot like this is not sustainable in a series. The lead characters are trying to unravel the mystery of the town of Haven to reveal their own histories and one’s an orphan with ties to the town, while the paranormal phenomena are always caused by people with supernatural abilities. Since these investigations comprise most of the show, there is little room for variety and more room for predictability because it’s a small town and the issue will always be resolved by either killing or calming the person with powers. There is little value in a show that has the same outcome every episode. Resolving the emotional issues of a person with superpowers gets old fast.

As for the characters, FBI agent Audrey Parker is one of the better aspects of the show, while her partner is dull and poorly acted. His character seems almost like a gimmick, a cop who feels no pain, literally. If they had made his “superpower” unmentioned, they could have played with it a bit more and revealed it progressively rather than make him Mr. Gets-Shot-A-Lot. Between the two there’s very little chemistry, which makes the long process of watching them interact for of the episode agenizing. In the end, Haven is one of the worst of its type, and the comparisons between itself and the shows it attempts to copy will always leave it lacking.

Futurama | S06E05 "The Duh-Vinci Code"… What Crap!

Futurama, Vol. 4
Bad News Everyone!
The fifth episode of the recently resurrected cartoon series has marked a low point in the shows return. The episode was, to put it bluntly, not funny. It revolved around a search of Rome Italy for clues to Da Vinci’s last great creation. The Professor called Fry stupid a number of times within the first few minutes of the episode and for good, Fry’s idiocy reached a new height while sinking the show to a new low. The Episode begins with a parody of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and Fry was the contestant. Now it has been established within the series that Fry is a special kind of guy, he is not clever nor is he in any way articulate but even he would know the answer to the first multiple choice question: “What tool is used to hammer a nail?” And the same bad joke kept coming back throughout the episode about this nail on nail action, it was dull and unamusing. Just like the rest of the episode. As essentially a spoof of The Da Vinci Code which was published in 2003 and made into a movie three years later, the idea seemed somewhat dated and out of place, something the writers’ kind of thought would be a good thing to have an episode about back in 2006. Well, it didn’t work out. Aside from a few flashy digital animations in The Duh-Vinci-Code, with Da Vinci’s greatest inventions being put through an oversized Mouse Trap like device. Other than that, it was the worst episode the show has had since its triumphant return to the silver screen. I’m betting the next installment of the show will win me back. Here’s to hoping. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Shows To Watch Over The Summer Break (Part II)

OK it’s summer and it is hot. What you should be doing is getting out there and enjoying the weather, doing those things that you have been putting off because it has just been too cold outside… or not. If you are an “or not” person, there are options to all of those summer reruns and loads of reality shows being crammed down your throat.
 Such as:
   
The Inbetweeners - Series 1 & 2 [REGION 2 IMPORT-NON USA FORMAT]The Inbetweeners (Series 1-2)
As a show set about a group of teen boys trying to survive their high school years you may find yourself immediately uninterested, but The Inbetweeners is a classic story with a nice British twist. You know how all American shows about teens are bullshit, and are obviously written by 50 year olds who don’t want parents yelling at them over the shows content? The Inbetweeners, though over the top, depicts teeniness as it really can be. What do these boys want? Beer, Sex and good times, unlike American shows their attempts to get these things are done in a manner that is incredibly funny and true to life (and vulgar). There is definitely no pandering to the more reserved members of the TV watching community, who believe children will act out anything they see on TV.  A great half hour show loaded with original funny material.

The League: Season One [Blu-ray]The League (Season 1)
Comedies are great for summer viewing especially when they are based around an obscure and nerdy pastime. The League follows a group of friends and their annual quest of creating a NFL fantasy football league. The premise of this show doesn’t sound very funny but the league and the men (and secretly some of their wives) who constitute it make it funny. None of the actors are exactly well known but that is all part of the charm to this basically unknown show.


JustifiedJustified (Season 1)
Justified is one of those great FX shows that combines a simple premise with great actors and a solid story arch. The show focuses on the life of a US Marshal who has to return to his home town after leaving many years earlier deep in the heart of Kentucky. Sounds hallmark right? Elements within this show really make it interesting such as the use of Jim Beam bourbon.  It can be anything from a solution to a hostage situation to a coffee sweetener… who knew. The playful manner of addressing aspects of the show would make casual onlookers scoff, like the cowboy hat that the main character proudly sports for most of the season. The writers of the show make no bones about pointing that fact out and using it as point of contention, admiration and a few cheap laughs thrown in for good measure. Justified was one of the new best shows to come out this year and if you missed it when it first aired you should check it out during the summer.    

The Wire: The Complete First SeasonThe Wire (Season 1-3)
Everyone references this show for a reason, as a cop drama that traces the steps of both the lives of drug dealers and the police who try and catch them. But unlike most similar shows this one follows the strategies and inner working of both organizations’ to an unprecedented level.  Bottom line is that The Wire took what you thought could be accomplished with a conventional television show and turned that on its head. Not to be accused of praising The Wire too much, that is to say, you have to understand that after the third season the show The Wire was only a shadow of its former self. That being said, seasons 1 – 3 are some of the most intricate and rewarding seasons of television ever made. The creators of this show do not pander to the audience as though those watching are incapable o following a complex multifaceted story.  A great show you have to pay attention to in order to keep the story straight.  

Futurama, Vol. 1Futurama (Vol.1)
As one of the best adult cartoons ever made Futurama is great for the Saturday morning cereal munching sci-fi geek in all of us. Season 1 of the series is by far the most creative and contains many great episodes. But you could also continue with Futurama in its 6th season on the Cartoon Network which is airing over the summer months. And despite what the naysayers have been saying, season six is shaping up to be one of the series best. Fry, Leela, The Professor, Amy, Bender, Zapp all of the characters are in top form, (“You forgot to mention ZOIDBERG!” [weeping]).   

Party Down: Season 1Party Down (Season 1-2)
After being canceled only recently Party Down can be grouped together with some of those other great comedies that were prematurely ended such as Arrested Development and Futurama. The show is about a catering service crew who work in Hollywood, most of the people who work for the service are failed or aspiring actors. The interactions of the servicers and the party attends were hilarious. There is also a subtle romance between two characters and in Season 1 the word Supercrackers gets thrown around a lot to great affect. The seasons are very short but that makes them all the better, the best episode from season 1 has to be Celebrate Ricky Sargulesh. Steven Weber of Wings fame, guest stars in this episode as a psychopathic with trust issues concerning his girlfriend and strange eye wound. The Second Season’s best episode was Steve Guttenberg's Birthday, where the cast ends up parting with the Goot on his birthday and acting out a science fiction screenplay written by one of the service team. It was funny and this episode served as a reminder that Steve Guttenberg (Cocoon, Three Men and a Baby) is still alive. 

What do you think of this list?