Wednesday, October 27, 2010

“The Walking Dead” Preview S01E01 – Does it Live Up to the Hype?

There has been a lot of hype around the new AMC television series “The Walking Dead” for many reasons. One is that the show is based on a very poplar graphic novel of the same title (which is still banging away by-the-by). Another is as a result of a certain critically acclaimed show from AMC (cough) “Mad Men”. People have high expectations not only from the zombie fanboy who can recite Romero’s filmography back to front, but the general TV watching community. “The Walking Dead” premieres on… you guessed it October 31st, but some people have had a sneak peak at perhaps the first ever zombie television series.       

After watching the pilot episode for “The Walking Dead” entitled “Days Gone By”  you realize that graphic novels don’t just make for good movies (at least some good movies, did any one see “The Spirit”?). The episode starts off as the trailer released at this years Comi-Con suggested with a shoot out between the main character Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes and some gun wielding man, the resulting shoot out leaves Grimes shot and unaware of the apocalyptic situation developing around him. He awakes to a hospital abandoned by any living inhabitants and continues to stumble about in a hospital gown until he meets up with one of the town’s holdouts, who introduces himself by popping a ghoul in the head only feet away from Grimes. After being filled in on all of the details by the zombie shooting samaritan regarding the rising of the dead and a refuge camp most people headed towards located in Atlanta, Georgia. Grimes decides that Atlanta is the best place to find his missing family so he gears up using the resources from his former workplace and donned in a deputies uniform heads to his family’s would be haven. During the journey to Atlanta a lack of fuel leads him to abandon his police cruiser and commandeer a horse (as seen in the trailer).

You have to appreciate what the makers of this show have done, the aesthetic of a lone cowboy looking character carrying a  duffle full of guns down a devastated highway really hits that zombie apocalypse nail right on the head.  Atlanta is a wasteland with abandoned vehicles all headed in one direction,  towards a hope of survival.  Once Grimes makes it to Atlanta he is quickly surrounded by a murder of zombies (or is it a herd of zombies) his new horse friend is the first to go in the feeding frenzy and then the sack of guns. Grimes takes refuge under a derelict tank and right when all seems to be lost and the deputy is being pursued on all sides, he takes his high caliber six shooter points it at his temple and says: “Lori, Carl, I’m sorry.”.   You’ll have to watch it to know the rest.
This pilot episode has the same amount of content as most B-Zombie movies but instead of placing all of that story telling on trying to make people pop out of their seats the minds behind this show seem to know that if you let things build and create a group of characters that have real depth and let the viewer become attached to them, then you will get much more bang for your zombie buck. This series has a wealth of ideas to draw from, given it is based on a beloved comic book series. All the show’s creators have to do is bring all of the elements from the comic to life and so far they have managed to do that.           

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

This Fall The League Is The Funniest Show On Television

Most people know about a few FX network comedies like Archer or It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia but then there is The League.  It’s Always Sunny used to take the cake when it came to over the top comedy. A brand of comedy that is generally reserved for South Park type shows, where “the funny” comes from the depths the characters are willing to take a certain ideal or argument. This is no longer the case, It’s Always Sunny has had a poor start for its 6th season and it really feels as though the whole cast is just phoning it in, but if you watch The League your appetite for laughter to the point of pissed pants will be sated.

The second season of The League introduced a very funny character. He may not be everyone’s cup of tea but for some people his brand of vulgar outbursts and his misfit social behavior is incredibly entertaining. Enter Rafi or otherwise know as El Cuñado. Rafi is the brother-in-law to the different but equally despicable character of Ruxin the league member who brought El Cuñado into the fold. El Cuñado’s interacions with the other league members have been, by far, the funniest part of the new season. El Cuñado is either one of those guys who just tries to hard to be like and comes off as a freak or is just a freak. He will blur out comments like “Let’s all get the same girl pregnant tonight!” and then go on to talk about how you can just “shit out the booze” if you are DD a half hour before it is time to leave the party. It’s more than just stupid funny shit that El Cuñado does and says, some of what he says is down right shocking.

Another aspect of the show which makes it incredibly entertaining, are all the running jokes. In the last episode entitled “The Kluneberg” the running jokes were: about sex addiction and whether it is a real disease or just an excuse for guys to bang as many women as they want; the medicinal affects of a toilet seat made from cocaine and a painting of a “dick bird” raping “ass mountain”. As it turns out sex addiction is a real thing, as was demonstrated when the sex addict friend of one of the league members finds that one of his “triggers” is cocaine in the beards of men, more specifically Rafi’s beard. That’s right the episode ends with a shot of Rafi coked out of his mind taking it from behind in the back of a SUV, scream out “some things you can’t unsee!”.  It also appears that long term use of a cocaine toilet seat is a no no within the league even if you are crazy productive. As for the raping of “ass mountain” by “dick bird”, Rafi in a cocaine fueled burst of energy separates the “dick bird” from “ass mountain” in a permanent way, by fisting both.

Now this all may seem juvenile but the laughs are there in spades and continue to be. The second season of The League is measuring up to be one of the funniest of the fall TV season.          

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

“Paranormal State”: Repetitive Good Fun! Or Reality Show In Disguised

Paranormal State: The Complete Season FourThe fifth season of A&E’s “Paranormal State” is premiering on October 16th and it’s hard to get excited about. The reason being all shows that center on paranormal activity or investigations similar to “Paranormal State” suffer from a repetitive formula. As with most ghost hunting shows “Paranormal State” follows the same development, first the location is introduced, the interviews, the investigation and finally the wrap up (which is really just a highlight reel from the episode).  So this begs the question, if they are so repetitive why tune in?

Paranormal investigation shows would benefit from a different method of investigation, not because they will find proof that hauntings are real. It would be better if groups didn’t just spend just one week on a hunting that is, only if there is something interesting going on, whether it be the history of the location or haunting itself. On some of these investigations, you can tell there not much happening and the investigators have to focus more closely on the home owners of whomever is associated with the paranormal activity.  As a viewer it is hard to believe that much of an investigation can be accomplished within a week on location and whatever research is done beforehand about the site doesn’t come through on the screen. This isn’t just something that happens to some of these paranormal shows, it’s systemic for the genre.
What ends up being the entertaining part of any of these gene of show, are the people, history and the locations surrounding the investigations. Beyond that, any of the evidence of some otherworldly presents that is produced by the investigations can be dismissed as circumstantial. But if you are superstitious and are frightened easily then this sort of show will be right up your ally.   

Ghosts: True Encounters with the World BeyondWhat Would Be Nice To See On Any Paranormal Show

A full bodied apparition: if any of these shows could capture a something other than “shadow people” and wisps of light on camera that would be interesting.

Levitation anyone: whatever happened to the poltergeist myth that spirits can lift objects and make them fly about. If there were some coaches and chairs floating around a room for mysterious reason, you better believe that people will be interesting and watching.

No More EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomenon)! Just because you think you can hear your grandmother telling you to make your bed in the background crackles of an audio recording doesn’t mean that’s what you are hearing. EVP session for these TV shows are just a way to keep viewers from realizing that they are watching is a bunch of people who are easily frightened, walking around talking to themselves.    

A total crackpot for a host: picture a paranormal TV show host/investigator that is completely convicted of his mental superiority and that ghosts are real and can be proven to be so. Something else that would make this host more watchable would be if he were wildly superstitious. This host would be great to watch.
In the end though, little can help this quasi documentary’s style of television from the fact that ghost investigations shows are little more than a veiled reality horror series with little fright to speak of.