It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

hd TV

Or at least it used to be. As a proud TV nerd the premiere of fall TV is one of the most sacred of times for those of us that worship at the altar of the remote control. Every year I devour the various fall TV preview guides and set my DVR accordingly as I embrace my dorkiness and get to watching a blend of old favorites that left jaw dropping cliffhangers and new shows that seem to be full of promise and at least one or two surprises.

But this year feels weird. And not good weird. There is not much to get excited about in an era where two of TVs most obnoxious trends continue to fuck viewers in the not so fun way.

Let’s start with the continuation of this mind-numbing trend of rebooting and reviving everything that was good from the 80s and 90s.

Magnum PI‘s original eight season run was done at a time before the concept of “blue sky shows” had saturated all aspects of TV. Giving a fresh coat of paint to this relic is out-of-place in an overdone genre that has passed it by. Plus, doesn’t CBS already have Hawaii 5.0? How many excuses do they need to shoot in the Aloha State?

Murphy Brown was iconic during its original run. It was witty, engaging, and established that a show with a strong career-minded female lead could be successful and dominant. It blended comedy with the tough issues of the day. We have other shows that do that for us now. And as great as Candice Bergen is, I don’t think she can haul this show into a new century. Also, I saw the preview during the Chiefs game yesterday and fuck it was terrible.

The Charmed reboot is way too soon. And they were lucky enough to capture lightning in a bottle twice (both with Shannon Daugherty and her replacement Rose McGowan) in terms of casting chemistry. I don’t think they can replicate that a third time. The CW network doesn’t need this. Their lineup is pretty solid. At their core reboots are a publicity stunt, and the network doesn’t need the attention and I hate seeing their limited hours wasted on this.

The Connors will only prove that Roseanne, as awful as it is, cannot survive without Roseanne, as awful as she is. Not even John Goodman (or President Walken as he will always be to me) is strong enough to carry this shit-show. I am actively rooting against this one and it’s death rattle cannot come soon enough.

And it wouldn’t be TV season without the endless parade of police and medical procedurals. Because eighty-seven versions of NCIS, CSI and Law & Order aren’t enough. The assholes that voted for Trump are the same assholes that give these shows the ratings that keep them on television.

The Rookie looks like a bad mashup of competing clichés made worse by staring Nathan Fillion, who I love. I loved him on Buffy and Firefly and I would really like it if he would stop making absolute shit like Rookie and Castle, he has a bad habit of playing down to the drivel when he is on shows like this. and go back to the Whedon-verse where he shines.

FBI? Procedurals are so lazy they don’t even try with the names. This show promises to be every bit as unoriginal as its name and all the others that came before it. These shows just prove that this genre will not be dying until the baby boomer generation leaves this earth and takes CBS with it.

I’ll admit that when I saw the name New Amsterdam I got hopeful for a second as I thought they were bringing back a short-lived show starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldauing before he went off to be Jamie Lannister on a little known show called Game of Thrones. But nope, they lied. It is (another) show about (another) pubic hospital where they save lives while navigating ER politics and personal issues. Don’t talk to me about medical dramas unless you’ve found the next House.

Netflix is spending a fuck-ton of money on original programming and have definitely developed the mindset that quantity is more important than quality. The Good Cop is one of the mutilated fetuses produced by this misguided mentality. A show starting Tony Danza and Josh Groban as father and son odd couple roommates and cops. What could possibly be so bad about that. Everything. Everything will be bad about that. This show isn’t even gonna pretend not to be terrible.

There are a thousand other shows that look terrible for various reasons and I could spend thousands of words sniping at most of the shows that fall TV has to offer. For your sake and my sanity I won’t be doing do that.

But not everyone in Hollywood has lost their fucking minds. There are some shows that have some promise, and others that promise to break my heart.

The Purge has been the surprise of the season for me. I watched the first episode mainly out of curiosity about how the concept of the movie franchise would translate to the small screen, and whether or not they could make a show about one (murderous, violent) night engaging. The answer is yes. Yes they can. The show is surprisingly multi-layered with some slow burn appeal.

My jury is still out on Mayans. I loved Sons of Anarchy and Kurt Sutter’s unique style has been missing from TV for far too long. It’s intriguing enough to keep me going so far, but I’m gonna need to see something more dynamic soon in order to stay engaged.

A Million Little Things looks like it could be my generation’s Thirtysomething with the right blend of adult angst, secrets and interactions. TV Guide’s preview actually calls it Thirtysomething meets The Big Chill, and I couldn’t have put it better so I won’t even try. ABC needs to start promoting it though. I hadn’t even heard of it before last week, and I devour TV news.

I loved the Dirty John podcast, and if you haven’t given the six episode yarn a listen, you should find the time and do that. I am not at all surprised that they are making this into a show. Add Connie Britton and Eric Bana to the mix and you can count me in. As a side note, is adapting podcasts to TV shows going to be the next thing? If so, I have some suggestions.

The Romanoffs takes a classic historical tale and brings it to the present. The fall of the Russian monarchy is a dynamic piece of history and the theory that some of the Romanoff children actually escaped the palace is one of the most intriguing tales. It also doesn’t hurt that it has an all-star cast and is written by the creator of Mad Men. Although Amazon has had some misses, they have had their hits too, and I’m excited to watch this become one of them.

Escape at Dannemora looks like it could be Showtime’s next hit. And with Homeland winding down and Shameless issuing its death rattle, the network could certainly stand to add to its arsenal. Who doesn’t like a good prison break story that has tones of seduction, Ben Stiller behind the camera and Benicio Del Toro playing one of the leads. It will be interesting to see how far this show can get before it runs out of road.

Hopefully Netflix can make up for the its bad decision to make The Good Cop with the release of Maniac. Fronted by Emma Stone and Jonah Hill, the star power definitely gives this show about a chemical drug trial a boost. This show has some tones of Limitless, both the awesome movie and the too-short-lived show which has my curiosity piqued.

Into the Dark is the anthology I never knew I needed in my life but now can’t wait for. A dark horror anthology that comes out monthly and revolves around specific holidays, starting with Halloween? Yes please. That’s one Christmas special that I will definitely be tuning into.

The Haunting of Hill House definitely checks all the boxes for me. I mean, it’s based on a Shirley Jackson tale, so what isn’t to love. One thing I am looking forward to in seeing it as a series rather than movie is how they can take some of the creepier aspects of being trapped in that house and really do a good, terrifying slithering narrative that I won’t be able to take my eyes off of.

Mr. Inbetween looks compelling. I have always been a sucker for the double-life shows and having the main character being a hitman rather than a spy will be a nice spin on the genre for me. I also think that FX, which brings such great shows as American Horror Story and The Americans is the perfect network for the balancing act.

Of all the shows I am looking forward to, Manifest is the one that is going to break my heart. Disappearing plane, lost time, strained relationships, debates between science and faith with dashes of mystery and mysticism. This show is screaming, no begging, to be the next LOST. So of course I am going to watch it. But that is a tough needle to thread, and every show that has tried has failed. And the betting on how many episodes until I am screaming at the TV begins in three, two, one.

So, just like the real Christmas there isn’t as much to look forward to, the sense of wonder is gone. But unlike Christmas, there are dashes of hope sprinkled in.

Adjust Your Twig and Giggleberries

Adjustment Day

I need to disclose something before we begin. Chuck Palahniuk is my favorite author. As far as I’m concerned the man could make a grocery list compelling and engaging. And since this was his first novel in 4 fucking years (1460 days, 35,040 hours, 2,102,400 seconds) I could not wait to devour it. Which I did. In one sitting. And I’m still sucking the juices off my fingers.

But more importantly than reviewing the book, this post provides me a great opportunity to tell the story about the time that I shared a stage with who my friend Bryce and I now call “Our good friend Chuck.”

A few years back he came to Kansas City promoting his short story collection Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread and Fight Club 2, a 10 issue limited comic book series (I have signed copies of both). My friend and I not only jumped at the chance to see the awesomeness live, but were also first in line for our first come, first serve seats.

As we came bounding down to the front row, beers and signed first editions in hand, the man himself was checking out the theater before going back stage. I would love to tell you that we had a wonderful and engaging conversation about fiction and literature and the arts, and that I impressed him with my eloquence and knowledge and wit and we are now writing partners.

Fuck, I’d settle for being able to tell you I got through the words “It’s an honor to meet you” without stuttering and fighting the urge to pass out.

He chuckled and took my awkwardness in stride, and said that he was gonna count on us to help him out later. We thought it was a throwaway line, but in that moment it was our throwaway line.

The event was glorious in all the ways you would expect. He has a rabid following and we all drank in his readings from the story collection, the answers he gave to audience questions. Broken up by playing “balls,” a game of batting balls filled with glow sticks around the dark theater. We cultists like exercise with our culture.

Then, at the end, as Chuck’s new trusty friends we were summoned, no beckoned, to join him on stage to help distribute the parting gifts to the masses.

You have not lived until you’ve been on stage with your favorite author, throwing boxes and boxes of severed hands into a hungry, ravenous audience.

To this day I go out of my way to find excuses to tell this story.

“Oh, you got a new car (or kid, or wife, or dog, basically insert object here)? That’s great! Have I ever told you about the time I was on stage with Chuck Palahniuk?”

“I heard you’re dog (or dad, or wife, or kid, or car, basically insert object here) died. I’m so sorry. You know what might cheer you up? Have I ever told you the story about throwing severed hands off a stage with my friend Chuck?”

Yes, I’m an asshole. I absolutely own that shit.

But enough about that, let’s talk about Adjustment Day. The key to good satire, especially dark satire, is to give people a safe place to laugh at the darkest corners of their nature. The key to great satire is to force them to address those dark corners without them knowing they’re doing it.

Jumping into issues of racism, misogyny and bigotry both headlong and feet first takes quite a bit of contortionist maneuvering. And balls. Big, brass, hairy, sweaty balls.

And this book has all of that. And fuck if it isn’t timely in the era of MAGA Trumptards sending their kids to Hitler Youth summer camp.

As with all of Palahniuk’s books, it takes the reader a while to piece together what is actually going on. His non-linear story telling and a fast paced diction propel the reader through the pages at a dizzying pace. If you want to understand what’s going on and keep up, you have to earn it. But rest assured you’ll be glad you did as you follow a variety of POV characters through the challenges of the Brave New World left by what became known as Adjustment Day.

There is a passage early in the book that sets the tone for the novel:

For generations pop culture has been promoting the idea that all men will eventually attain high-status positions in society. Globally, today’s young males have been raised to feel entitled to power an admiration as a birthright. Men in general need to accept their diminished status in the world.

And a little further in we get another nugget of wisdom:

A hard dick was never scared. Porn did to him what spinach did to Popeye or rage to the Incredible Hulk. Putting him in a state where he could Where’s Waldo the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel and never find God because the butts of all the angels are so infinitely fuckable.

Porn made Walter a ruthless wolf pack of one.

Speaking as a male, we will never stop mistaking virility with vitality. And it will always keep us in a state of fear masquerading as strength.

For me, this is a direct call back to several lines from Fight Club:

You are not special. You’re not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You’re the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We’re all part of the same compost heap. We’re all singing, all dancing crap of the world.

I see in the fight club the strongest and smartest men who’ve ever lived. I see all this potential and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars, advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of the history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives, we’ve been all raised by television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won’t and we’re slowly learning that fact. and we’re very very pissed off.

In fact, the whole tone of the book seems to be a throw back to Fight Club. When Palahniuk collapsed the protagonist, antagonist and narrator into one character, he drew stark, searing attention to man’s individual battle for his own soul. The book is the ultimate man vs. himself story, with a message that still slithers through my spirit today.

Adjustment Day draws that same searing attention to mankind’s soul, at least in our nation. The novel essentially says: “Okay bunglecunts, you think races and orientations shouldn’t intermingle? Go suck on this for a while.”

The creation of a website that contains a list of people to be executed Purge style on adjustment day speaks to a level of violent angst that many are feeling about the direction of the country right now. Complete with an all but realized threat to re-institute the draft so that world leaders can blow their load watching the porn of a World War III is terrifying. It causes us to realize how close we are to living that as a reality.

Dark satire hurts the most when it’s closest to the light of truth.

And the whole idea of cutting off the ears of those on “The List” is steeped in some pretty delicious symbolism. From a callback to Native Americans scalping their prey to the idea of taking the ears of politicians and educators because they never listened, with Palahniuk there is always beauty and purpose in violence.

Splitting the United States into three new nations of Caucasia, Blacktopia and Gaysia was also a stroke of genius, showing how each nation-state would choke on its own xenophobic bullshit and hypocrisy no matter how much it tried to play up its strengths and kill its weaknesses. The POV of the chieftains in Caucasia and Blacktopia and of a straight woman trying to make in Gaysia drew both striking contrasts and parallels.

But back to the twig and giggleberries for a minute. From Walter’s obsession with an erection being a source of power to Charlie’s manliness being reduced to goo by some well-placed spider bites and a sprinkle of patience shows how dangerous and misguided my gender’s obsession with our junk really is.

A truly great metaphor for how becoming obsessed with power can cost us control.

Most fiction provides a brief escape from reality in addition to insights and lessons into self and soul. I’m afraid that this one also provided a glimpse into what America’s could become.

There were many things to love about this book. But the thing I love the most is that my “Good Friend Chuck” is back.

Optimus Prime

That's Just Prime

Today I want to talk about a first world problem that has been plaguing my life lately. Forget world hunger, or the fact that the only thing keeping us from WWIII is Trump’s angst filled bromance with Kim Jong-un. My first world problem is as serious as it gets. I am woefully behind on movies, and I don’t like any of my options for catching up. I am a victim of streaming services and their arbitrary licensing deals.

This is serious shit, and the streaming universe needs to fix this so they can get more money from me.

Like millions of Americans, I came to my senses and dropped my Netflix disc plan several months back. I was getting emotionally manipulated in the relationship. I would get a disc in, and then not be in the mood to watch it. So it would sit on top of my Blu-ray player. First for days. Then for weeks. Then for a fucking month. Essentially I was paying to have this disc sent to my house, eat all of my food and stare at me with its judgy little disc eyes while I watched other shows.

And I didn’t want to send it back for something else because that would be a waste of money. That would be admitting defeat. The defeat that comes from being in a different mood when the disc gets in than I was when I delicately placed it at the top of the queue. Or when Netflix flexes its bi-polar power and took a movie from Very Long Wait to It’s in the Fucking Mail. It just isn’t fair to toy with my emotions like that. So I ended the relationship.

And don’t talk to me about Redbox, if I wanted to drive to rent a movie I would just go to Blockbuster. Oh, wait……

I have Hulu Live, Amazon Prime and Netflix. What more could a man possibly want? Movies. A man could want movies. New releases if he so desires. Or old favorites. Or the bin of “holy fuck how did I miss that” movies. A man could want access to this at the touch of a button.

But  I would prefer to have these things without being treated like the streaming world’s prison bitch.

Six fucking dollars to watch a movie? That’s more than half of a monthly Netflix or Amazon Prime subscription. For one God damn movie. And nearly as much as going to the movie theater. At that point I should just buy the fucking movie at $15. But that’s like committing to watch it three times to get value, and commitment like that really isn’t my thing.

At those prices, Amazon, who I love and use daily, is never, ever gonna get my money. As much as I want to catch up on movies. There are endless possibilities on the services I have now. And since I have the HBO add-on with my Hulu Live, most movies will eventually find me.

But I have a better solution. One that would benefit not only myself, but allow a streaming service (most likely Amazon) to make some coin from me and other like-minded people who have no intention of paying $6 per movie but would be willing to fork something over.

I think Amazon should start a bonus streaming service concept to fill the void being left by people walking away from discs. And I really think they should call it Optimus Prime, because I am a dork and apologize for nothing.

Netflix offers a tiered system, you’re allowed to have one, two or three discs at a time based on your subscription. Amazon could now do the same thing, only by streaming movies rather than waiting for discs in the mail. A subscriber would be given a certain number of credits per month that they could spend however, and whenever, they chose, but after the credits are used up they would have to wait for the next billing cycle in order for them to reset, or start forking over $6 per movie. They could even make the offer exclusive to Prime members, much like they do their Amazon Pantry service. As a Prime member, I’m good with that.

Need God in your life and want to rent Dogma? One credit.

Ashamed of yourself for not seeing Shape of Water yet? One credit.

Want to stare at Jennifer Connelly for two hours? Career Opportunities. One credit.

I was on the single disc plan when I cancelled, which means if I really hustled and watched the movies the same day I got them I could watch maybe ten movies in a month. This almost never happened. That plan cost me $11. I think eight movies at that price, that I could stream whenever it was convenient for me, would be a fair. And Amazon could offer higher options for people who wanted to consume more.

As a corporate citizen this is the right thing for Amazon to do for America.

Crisis averted. First world problem solved.

Fahrenheit 451 Blows Smoke

Fahrenheit 451 Movie

“It was a pleasure to burn,” is one of the greatest opening lines in all of fiction.

I felt like an idiot for not keeping my expectations managed. HBO seduced me into a false sense of security, banking on its reputation of creating engaging and gritty content. And to be honest, all the promotions  led me to believe this was going to be a series, not a movie. A show set in a dystopic future world that was originally created by literary great Ray Bradbury equaled Fuck Yes in my book. And the source material has as much relevance today as it did when it was written, as most of the greats do.

Bradbury published Fahrenheit 451 in 1953 during the height of the McCarthy Era, when the ideas of burning books and limiting free thinking were very real threats. Bradbury also stated that the book was a commentary on how mass media had reduced interest in reading literature. In the novel, books have been banned and fireman now burn any they find, turning their typical role of putting out fires on its head. The main character, Guy Montag, finds himself questioning his work, and its impact on society.

The book is one of the most well-known novels in literature and gets bonus points for writing about burning books, which provides a degree of delightful angst for readers and aspiring writers alike. Taking on a classic is risky, trendy and ambitious. And with few exceptions the results are mixed at best.

Although disappointing overall, it wasn’t all bad. I only feel like half my time was wasted.

Let’s start with the intro. HBO is known for creating visually striking cinema for the small screen and they designed an intro that drew the viewer right in. The close shots of famous titles being burned interlaced with footage of the Nazi book burnings created a narrative without using words. It drove home how relevant the themes from this book are in this fucked up Fox News era we live in.

Also, having television projected onto skyscrapers with the fireman looming larger than life, looming over society, while the social media emojis and likes streamed upward was essentially an indictment of our infatuation with the 24 hour news cycle and our obsession with social media. This is actually given voice in the film when Clarisse says “We did this to ourselves, we asked for this.” New forms of the same thing Bradbury was railing against in 1953, advancing my theory that writers of dystopic fiction are just prophets in disguise.

The old woman who burns herself alive with her books after being caught was incredibly striking and served as a terrific turning point in the narrative. That being shown on those larger than life screens reminded me, in many ways of the news footage of huge protests for Black Lives Matter and March For Our Lives, the counter-culture to talking heads and status quo.

And the Alexa-esque AI essentially serving as big brother (and stand in for Montag’s wife) coupled with the shot of an old videotape with the Blockbuster logo and “Be Kind Rewind” written on it highlight the dangers of moving completely away from an analog world and into something completely digital (as I type this on my laptop, with my TV on in the background, a show streaming from my Amazon Fire Stick, my smart phone and Kindle closer to me than my bookshelf).

Lastly, Michael Shannon does creepy very, very well. Whatever he channeled into his role as conflicted and creepy prohibition officer Nelson Van Alden in Boardwalk Empire he brought with him as conflicted and creepy Captain Beatty. Playing creepy takes talent. Playing creepy and conflicted takes superior talent. This talent made the line “I’ve been burned so many times I don’t know where the scars end and my body begins,” one of the most memorable of the movie. His stoic expression only slightly betrayed by his tone. That takes nuance, something that stands out in a movie with such spectacularly brazen themes and actions.

After getting all of these elements to stoke the flame, they went ahead and poured water on the whole fucking thing and pissed on the ashes.

The most polite way to describe Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of Guy Montag would be to call it wooden. The only time he seemed alive is when he was playing for a crowd and burning. He never sold me on his internal conflict, and his character’s chemistry with Clarisse McClellen was as disjointed and awkward as two preteens during their first slow dance. And when he meets the members of the resistance, he doesn’t steal scenes as much as he chokes the life out of them. I guess that second part would be the less polite way to describe him.

I also never bought the plot point of the group memorizing books so that the knowledge doesn’t die in the ashes. I know it’s in line with what happens in the novel, but it has a shitty transition to screen. I’m a big proponent of preserving the integrity of the source material, and often rail against shows and movies that take too many liberties. But some liberties are okay, even necessary. The director had already replaced Montag’s wife with Alexa and turned Clarisse into an informant rather than a neighbor to help fit the medium, there was probably a way to change this plot point to something that worked better visually while preserving the integrity of the work. A scanner with an air gapped computer. A microfilm machine. Something. Anything would have been more engaging.

And the ending, with Montag and Beatty and all the burning was phoned in on a rotary phone rendered obsolete in a digital age. Not even Michael Shannon’s skill could save such a poorly designed scene. Even with the filming going on and Jordan’s opportunity to play to a crowd, it was less electric and more power outage.

HBO wrote half a movie and Bradbury’s warning to us all deserved better.

The Grimmys

66th Los Angeles Area Emmys - Backstage

As the 2017-2018 television season comes to a close, I thought it would be fun to hand out some awards (named after my favorite dog Pilgrim) on what has been an interesting season to say the least. In this current golden age of television, viewing has certainly become a year-round affair. However there is something special about the traditional season with a May finish line and networks competing for ratings that will set ad rates for next year. Also network television is not nearly as dead as I previously thought, but with some of the cancellations (and ill-advised renewals) it certainly isn’t for lack of trying.

A couple of notes. These awards are not going to be your typical Hollywood bullshit. I’m not a professional entertainment reporter, nor am I going to try to be one. I don’t have a rules committee, and don’t give a fuck about uniformity. Also, these are based on shows I watch. Not shows I should watch, or shows everyone is watching. But I have pretty good taste, so you should pay attention. I apologize for nothing.

The Flirty Freshman That Caught My Eye

The Gifted (FOX): I’m a sucker for comic book shows, and I have a particular love for the X-men universe. But I was nervous about whether or not this show could deliver. It’s premise is based on some convoluted and obscure mythos that could be difficult to translate to the screen. It’s fronted by Amy Acker (who I’ve been in love with since Angel and Alias), and Stephen Moyer (Vampire Bill was True Blood) so I knew FOX was making a serious run. It did a great job of combining elements of the X-men mythos, Easter eggs for geeks like me and some deep character development that created a compelling and engaging story. And in a year where FOX used its chainsaw in a way that would make Leatherface smile, I was happy to see it make the cut and get a second season.

The I Wouldn’t Watch This Revival With a Fucking Gun to My Balls

Roseanne (ABC): Whoever greenlit this piece of shit idea needs to be shot. Roseanne is one of the most annoying characters on television and a bigot in real life. None of this is helped by the fact that her voice sounds like nails on a chalkboard being serenaded to by a feral cat in heat. Oh, and lets not forget the fact that at the end of the first go around with the show Dan is fucking dead! They teach you in creative writing 101 that you don’t do dream sequences….Do people not remember how pissed off the world was at the end of the ninth season of Dallas? How ABC renewed this trash and cancelled a show hitting its stride like Designated Survivor is truly beyond me.

*Author’s Note: Since the time this was originally published (by less than 24 hours), ABC pulled the plug on Roseanne calling her recent bigoted rants on Twitter “repugnant.” I am letting my award stand unedited, but I applaud ABC for making the right decision.

The Cancelling This Show Makes Me Want to Firebomb Hollywood

Lucifer (FOX): I’m not alone in my intense hatred of FOX for cancelling this show. Although it deviated substantially from the comics (based on my admittedly limited exposure) the series was fun and engaging with enough teeth for some deep story and character arcs. The chemistry among the entire cast has been palpable and organic over all three seasons, a feat not easily accomplished. And although FOX truly limits itself by only providing two hours of prime time content before starting the local news an hour early each night (a cheap ploy to save money), the CW has the same format, and they managed to not sacrifice any quality content because of the constraint. It was obvious by the massive cliffhanger fans were left with that the writers were also blindsided. This move makes FOX look inept, and left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.

The I Want the Time I Spent Watching This Back

The X-Files (FOX): This show needs to seriously just stop. It is fucking with the end of my childhood and one of my favorite shows. To be fair, the original run of this show should have ended with season 7, the last two seasons were painful to watch. But nostalgia won the day again, and despite last year’s “limited television event” getting picked up for an undeserved second (or eleventh, depending on how you keep score) season and against my better judgement I tuned in. And holy fuck was it bad. I’m not even sure I know what the show was trying to do. I’m not sure what I actually watched it was such convoluted garbage. The chemistry between David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson was non-existent. It was seriously worse than the second X-Files movie, and I didn’t think that was possible. It only took FOX six hours to ruin my childhood. The only person capable of doing that faster is Michael Bay.

The How In All that is Holy Did This Get Renewed

SHIELD (ABC): I’ve seen some dumb shit get renewed, but this show’s death rattle was a season long complete with gurgling and gagging and gasping for a final breath. It was almost as convoluted as the X-Files. It had time jumps and aliens, which would be fine for a comic book show, but there was no real rhyme or reason to the order. And the plot this year was in no way a progression of the story, it had no foundation. None. And they killed off a ton of characters in the show, and essentially left it with nowhere to go. I was fine with that. I was fine with watching it die. Watching it try to revive itself into a twitchy animated corpse next season is gonna be painful. My only guess is that ABC has next to nothing to fill all its time slots, there is no other reason this show should stay on the air.

The That Series Finale Made Me Want a Cigarette After

Once Upon A Time (ABC): Let me be clear, this season of ONCE was terrible and should not have been made. The idea to do an entire reset of the show and bringing back nearly none of the original cast members was ill-advised. It should have ended a season ago in , and just taken a handful of episodes to wrap everything up. Actually, there was so much fluff and filler last year they could have just cut that and ended it proper. But they didn’t, and as with a number of shows I watched solely to finish. That being said, the final two episodes of the season were intensely gratifying to those of us who watched from the beginning. And given that the show creators, Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, came out of the LOST writers’ room it was no surprise that they went for the emotionally satisfying ending where everyone got their happy ending, especially the fans.

The Networks with Execs Who Should Be Taken Out Behind the Woodshed

FOX puts out some pretty good content. They brought us The Gifted and The Orville this year and had Lucifer, Gotham, Exorcist and Bob’s Burgers on the slate as well. And then they toy with my emotions. Ratings for The Exorcist were terrible, so I wasn’t shocked when the cancelled it. I had hoped that the lower expectations of a Friday night slot could keep it. But as you can see from above I was shocked and pissed about Lucifer. I cannot stand it when network brass doesn’t give writers an opportunity to create a satisfying ending for fans. That’s just shitting all over your customers. If that wasn’t enough, the are postponing the next seasons of Gotham and Orville until 2019, and God only knows what they are going to put in those time slots between now and then.

SyFy continues to kick me in the junk and I foolishly keep coming back for more. First, the cancelled Expanse which was the best show on their network, and the only reason it didn’t tie with Lucifer for the Firebombing Hollywood Award is that Amazon, in its brilliance, decided to pick up the rights and give it a fourth season. The network has a bad habit of doing this, axing good shows (Expanse, Dark Matter, Defiance, Dominion) and keeping absolute shit (Krypton, Channel Zero) on the air. And in the case of Krypton, they allowed a show with potential to approach a tired and overdone Superman concept from a unique angle. And then they massively fucked it up, and renewed it. The sad thing is that I will keep given them a chance, painting my junk like a bullseye and waiting for them to strap on the steel towed boots again.

The Last Movie Review

The Last Movie

So I recently listened to The Last Movie, and would highly recommend anyone who enjoys docudrama podcasts and a journey into the macabre go download all six episodes right now. Seriously, it was raw, intense and dynamic in a number of ways. Given the stock it comes from, I had high expectations going in. And they were not only met, but exceeded.

Before I get more into The Last Movie let me give a little bit of history. It was developed by Public Radio Alliance, the same production company that puts out Black Tapes, Tanis and Rabbits all podcasts that I thoroughly enjoy. It is billed as a spin-off of Tanis (currently airing its fourth season) primarily because the two shows have the same hosts, Nic Silver and MK. The shows all share the same dark tone while journeying into the supernatural, mysterious and clandestine.

But The Last Movie is the first from this studio to drop the entire first season (six episodes) all at once. In short, it was the first one to offer a binge option right off the bat.

In their own words:

Tanis podcast host Nic Silver and regular contributor MK, explore the possible existence of “The Last Movie,” an infamous underground feature film, reputed to drive you insane. Legend has it that every screening of this film was surrounded by bloodshed and controversy: one reviewer actually described slipping on blood in the aisle, as he ran through dozens of people trying to tear him apart. 

The podcast starts with MK going down a rabbit hole in an attempt to find  something called The Last Movie, an attempt met with innuendo and rumors of demonic behavior and a scene involving movie goers that reminds me of the second season of True Blood, when Marryann Forrester takes over the town of Bon Tempes.

The narrative takes the listener through the shroud of mystery surrounding a director thought to be dead, an obscure cult with a deadly history, and the over eager daughter of an actress who is not what she seems.

The series, narrated primarily by Nic Silver in a subtle tone of voice accentuated with MK’s more abrupt style starts with the gas pedal on the floorboard and never hits the brakes once. It’s a balls to the wall journey that leaves the listener pacing back and forth waiting for season two.

And whether they admit it or not, wanting to watch the elusive Last Movie.

Cutting the Cord

Cutting the Cord

Anyone who knows me knows of my love for television. But lets face it, cable bills have gotten positively obnoxious. I assume that part of the justification for the rising cost is the endless number of channels they offer. The only problem is that most of those channels suck. And no one needs ten HBOs, seven Showtimes and eight ESPNs. No one. Most of us only watch a handful of channels. Even me.

Before looking into other options, my bill was $190 a month, and I am not alone in this insanity. Now, $70 of it is for high speed internet, which is more or less a necessity in modern times. This leaves $120 just on content. Granted $40 of that was for the premium channels (HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and Starz), but in my defense, a lot of quality shows come from them. But still, it seemed high to me so I started looking around at YouTube Red, Amazon Channels, Sling and Hulu Live.

I’m not going to go point by point on all of them. I ended up going with Hulu Live. Basically there was nothing wrong with the other options and pricing is similar, but Hulu had more to offer in terms of original content that I wanted to watch anyway (so I would have subscribed to their basic service regardless), plus the HBO and Showtime add ons I was looking for. The basic commercial-free service is $43.99 and the add ons come to $25, leaving my new cable bill at $68 per month, which saves me over $50 a month while not sacrificing anything that I was getting before, and in fact adds the Hulu original content as well. Technically, I don’t get AMC with this deal, but Walking Dead isn’t worth $50 a month, no show is worth that much.

I’ll admit I was nervous about making the switch. I thought surely at the difference between those prices I was missing something. That there was something I couldn’t live without that would send me screaming back to cable.

Nope. Nope. There really isn’t.

My guess is that cable as an institution will be dead inside of five years. When I went to return my cable boxes to Google, the woman who checked my gear in said that a lot of people were making that switch. And I have heard that Google Fiber is getting away from cable (which is why they never expanded out of KC and Austin) and wants to focus exclusively on internet, specifically WiFi.

Streaming apps are the future. My concern is that at some point there will be so many options, that costs will soon get back to what cable is currently. But for now, I am enjoying the breather.

Dark Tower Tragedy

Dark Tower

For the most part, I have been keeping the posts on this blog positive, and my intention with reviews was to do the same. But then I watched the Dark Tower movie, and witnessed what it did to my favorite book series. It left me with the need to stand up and say something.

The Dark Tower movie was easily the worst thing I saw in 2017. It was painful to try to get through that disjointed abomination.

It was obvious from the beginning that the writer/director did not bother to read the source material. Quite frankly, I’m not even sure he read the titles of the books. It was more than just trying to condense the content of an epic series into a 90 minute movie, he eliminated all but three of the characters, and changed almost the entire setting to earth, when only a small portion of the books are set there. Two of the greatest attributes of the series are character development and world building, and in a series of misguided key strokes the director eliminated both.

The number of inconsistencies with the series aside, the plot was so incoherent that if I hadn’t read the series I wouldn’t have been able to follow along. Seriously, this script may have been developed entirely by filling out a Mad Libs tablet with words he heard people who have read Dark Tower use. I’ve seen better stories written in crayon.

I feel bad for Idris Elba an Matthew McConaughey, who are both richly talented actors who did the best they could with the material they had. My guess is they signed the contract without reading the script, and once they read it they had no choice but to close their eyes and think of England.

I didn’t go into this movie with high expectations, the reviews (from professionals, not my drivel) were horrible and the internet was not kind. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a score of 16%, which is one of the lowest scores I have ever seen. Having now watched the film, I’d say the 16% of people who liked it need to be pistol-whipped using one of Roland’s guns.

I know that, with a few notable exceptions, Stephen King’s work has a history of not translating well to the screen.  But this sets the bar at a brand new low.

The director of this film forgot the face of his father, and we all suffered the consequences.

Lore Review

Lore Pic

Since I love content so much (in case you couldn’t tell), one of the things I will be doing with this blog is reviewing some of what I spend my time reading, watching, listening to and experiencing. For the inaugural review I have chosen the six episode series Lore, which was recently released on Amazon Prime and is based on the podcast of the same name. Since it is impossible to talk about the show without talking about the podcast, let’s start there. In its own words:

Lore is an award-winning, critically-acclaimed podcast about true life scary stories. Our fears have roots. Lore exposes the darker side of history, exploring the creatures, people, and places of our wildest nightmares. Because sometimes the truth is more frightening than fiction. Each episode examines a new dark historical tale in a modern campfire experience.

The podcast’s creator Aaron Mahnke has a narrative style that is soft spoken while being engaging and showing his passion for the subject matter. The episodes are roughly half an hour, focused and well researched. Lore can be found on all podcast directories (yours truly is a droid guy and uses Stitcher). If podcasts are your thing, or you are thinking about making them your thing, I recommend giving this a shot.

Amazon released all six episodes of the on Friday, October 13th (nice gimmick) and the episodes are around 45 minutes, making it completely bingeable. I was curious to see how Lore translated to a new medium. And the answer is, it translates very well. Mahnke narrates each episode while actors bring the story to life, and the show blends these elements together seamlessly, allowing each to be forefront at the right time. The subject matter, acting and narration combine to create a complete and engaging experience for the viewer.

The episodes are done in the documentary style seen on the History Channel in recent years that infuses dynamic storytelling into the narrative. My only complaint is that there are only 6 episodes. As the podcast has proven (it’s in its third year), this is a concept that is sustainable, and I hope there are more to come.