Category Archives: TV

Twin Peaks (2017) A (First Half Of The Season) Review

Had to do some flying (*gasp*) to take care of some family business so I haven’t been around as much as I wanted. Luckily, I’ve already had my two Pfizer shots and, while the entire two weeks’ time since the second injection hadn’t quite elapsed (they did the day after I returned home), I felt far more comfortable doing this trip than I have the previous one I was also forced to do earlier on.

Whew.

Anyway: Get vaccinated, people! If I could do it, you can as well and most states nowadays seem to be offering vaccines to almost everyone.

Ahem.

Anyway, Twin Peaks 2017.

I recall the show being released -to Showtime- and it was for a little while the talk of critics, but it didn’t seem to be the world-stopping event that some other writer/director David Lynch works, up to and including the original season of Twin Peaks released waaaaaay back in 1989. The show lasted two seasons before being cancelled, with many saying that once Lynch left the show in the second season it went downhill.

A year or so after the TV series was done, David Lynch would release Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, which was originally met with considerable critical hatred though, over the years, people re-assessed it far more positively.

Anyway, that movie came out in 1992 and a whopping twenty nine years later and via Showtime what is effectively the third season of Twin Peaks was released and, thanks to the free time both on my flight and afterwards, I was able to blow through eight of the 18 episodes made.

As I said above, this new “season” of Twin Peaks didn’t seem to have the lasting power some of Lynch’s works have. It’s been four years since its release and I have to admit it surprised me to remember I picked it up -digitally- a while back and had yet to see it.

I wondered why it was that it didn’t seem to peak like some other Lynch works and, further, if maybe this series might wind up being something of a disappointment.

Based on the 8 episodes I’ve seen, culminating in an episode which I recall some critics were particularly blown away (pun intended, I guess!) over, the show is a fascinating, though perhaps over stuffed, work that falls neatly in line with your typical Lynchian work.

But its also a lot of material being thrown at you and at times its bewildering, amusing, creepy, and drawn out… and I’m not sure if it might have benefitted from being a little more streamlined.

For example, what many consider David Lynch’s best work, the 2001 film Mulholland Dr., was originally intended to be a TV series not unlike Twin Peaks but ultimately wound up being compressed into a fantastic two and a half hour movie. There was weirdness, there was comedy, there was rot under the gleaming surface, but there was also a story that was told in toto without any real bloat.

I worry that with this Twin Peaks work, as fantastic as it is at times, we’re given more extraneous stuff than is necessary.

Worries aside, the eight episodes I’ve seen so far have been enjoyable. There are bits that are absolutely hilarious mixed with bits that are creepy and suspenseful as hell. Lynch and co-creator Mark Frost (who worked with him on the original Twin Peaks show) have given us a veritable avalanche of characters moving about doing their thing, natural or supernatural, and in the middle of it all are two Dale Coopers (Longtime Lynch collaborator/actor Kyle MacLachlan), one who is possessed by evil and the other -dazed for the episodes I’ve seen- is the “good” Agent Dale Cooper, recently released from the mystical Black Lodge where he’s been imprisoned for over twenty five years while his evil version runs rampant on the roads of the U.S.

It’s difficult to give a full on review of the series, not having seen it all yet, but at least for these eight episodes I’ve been entertained, certainly, and have to give considerable credit to Mr. Lynch and company for creating something as visually sumptuous and meaty as this series and not lose track and go off the rails into complete bizarreness.

Anyway, a thumbs up for me -at least for now!- and let’s see how the rest plays out…

Jessica Walter (1941-2021)

A couple of days ago came the very sad news of the passing of actor George Segal and yesterday came the equally sad news of the passing of another great actor, Jessica Walter.

Jessica Walter dead: Veteran actor starred on 'Arrested Development' -  Chicago Sun-Times

Jessica Walter’s been around for a very long time, her first roles on television appearing in the early 1960’s, and has an incredible number of roles over her career, the most recent of which were the acerbic Lucille Bluth, the matriarch of the Bluth household in the hilarious series Arrested Development, and as the voice of Mallory Archer in the equally hilarious cartoon series Archer. The later role, quite frankly, was an extension of the Lucille Bluth role and featured an equally acerbic and borderline alcoholic character whose self-interest is as pathological as it is laugh out loud funny.

But her roles weren’t all comedic, and she made an especially chilling spurned one-night stand in Clint Eastwood’s directorial debut, the 1971 film Play Misty For Me. The film was essentially reworked/remade in the film Fatal Attraction

She left behind a very long list of roles and had a very healthy career.

She will very much be missed.

George Segal (1934-2021)

Sad news came out yesterday of the passing of actor George Segal.

He isn’t one of the biggest names in Hollywood, but he’s had quite the career in both film and TV, the latest work being in the TV comedy series The Goldbergs.

What intrigued me about Mr. Segal is that he seemed so comfortable in both comedies and dramas.

He was terrific in “serious” roles such as King Rat, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and The Terminal Man.

But he was also great in comedies such as The Hot Rock opposite Robert Redford…

…as well as the original Fun With Dick and Jane, opposite Jane Fonda…

As well as the wonderful comedy The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, opposite Goldie Hawn…

A very talented man who left behind a very long, and fascinating, career worth of enjoyable work.

He will be missed!

Love the art…?

There’s an old saying about “loving the art, not the artist” when it comes to works you really like but whose creator is someone you may have issues with.

It’s an intriguing thought experiment and it does point out your tolerance for the antics of people and also, perhaps, your limits.

Of late, various cast members of both Buffy The Vampire Slayer and its follow-up series Angel have spoken up about creator and main producer Joss Whedon.

What they say about him isn’t pretty.

There have been stirrings for a while regarding Joss Whedon. Back in 2017 his ex-wife Kai Cole wrote a scathing letter regarding her ex.

Among other things she pointed out his hypocrisy, that he claimed he was a “feminist” while having numerous affairs behind his wife’s back. Click the link in the above paragraph if you want to read the full details Ms. Cole presented.

Still, Mr. Whedon remained a high in demand director. He had a cult following for his various series, including Firefly, which while perhaps prematurely cancelled, was popular enough to have Serenity, a concluding feature film made out of it.

But there remained whispers out there about Mr. Whedon and the next big negative press he received occurred following his taking over for Zack Snyder to finish up (actually re-do, based on what I’ve read) the 2017 film Justice League.

Actor Ray Fisher, who played Cyborg in the film, originally praised Mr. Whedon. Perhaps it was part of the Hollywood game to offer praise to all those you work with. In time, though, he had a change of heart and announced he could no longer do it.

In 2020 Mr. Fisher formally accused Joss Whedon of “abusive, unprofessional” behavior. Jason Momoa, who played Aquaman in the film, lent support to Mr. Fisher, noting that “serious stuff went down” during the Justice League reshoots which Mr. Whedon made.

Though less vocal, Gal Gadot, who played Wonder Woman in the film, also stated her experience working with Mr. Whedon “wasn’t the best one”.

Now, within the past couple of days, Charisma Carpenter, who played Cordelia Chase in both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, took to twitter to not only say she believed Ray Fisher’s accounts of Joss Whedon’s abuses, but that she herself was a victim of them.

It’s truly a harrowing account and, from the link in the above paragraph:

Carpenter’s accounts of Whedon’s “harassment” and “serialized abuses of power” include him accusing her of “sabotaging” “Angel” by getting pregnant and “calling [her] ‘fat’ to colleagues.” For Whedon, perhaps, it all ended with him “unceremoniously” firing Carpenter from the series after she gave birth, but the actor couldn’t move on that easily.

After Ms. Carpenter spoke, the floodgates truly did open. Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played Buffy, stated she was proud of her work on the show but that “I don’t want to be forever associated with the name Joss Whedon. Amber Benson, who played Tara on the show, stated “Buffy was a toxic environment and it starts at the top”.

Perhaps the most chilling statement came from Michelle Trachtenberg, who played Buffy’s little sister and was a teenager when she worked on the series. She noted that after some incident between them Mr. Whedon and she, he was not allowed to be alone with her.

Incredibly, there are still more stories coming out, including one regarding how he abused female writers he worked with and took a sadistic pleasure in making them cry.

Yikes.

As I mentioned above, one can love the art but not the artist but there does come a point where the artist becomes so loathsome within your mind that the work produced by them may be tainted and, for you, impossible to love it again.

I’ve read posts from people who cannot watch any Mel Gibson films because of his drunken actions many years before. While he claims he was at the time drinking too much and nearing a nervous breakdown, its still tough to accept his racist and abusive words -all recorded- as simply coming out of that alone.

Similarly, following the death of David Bowie, there were those who noted he is alleged to have had sexual relations with underage girls back in the early to mid-70’s. Yeah, it was a different time and there were teenage groupies who made it a point of sleeping with rock stars and, yeah, there so many drugs being used and, yeah, there are similar allegations/stories related to other very big musical artists who were popular at the time…

…but you know what? All that’s an excuse if these people, who should have known better, were allegedly having sex with underage girls.

Unlike David Bowie, I’m not the biggest Joss Whedon fan out there. While I enjoyed Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, if I never see an episode of these shows I truthfully won’t miss them. Similarly, I doubt I’ll revisit either of his Avenger films or his version of Justice League.

Further, based on the press he’s getting now, I wonder if he’ll become a pariah in Hollywood and we’ve seen the last new material from him.

Perhaps.

But I love the music of David Bowie and I’ve mentioned it plenty of times around these parts. As much as I like his music, I’ve taken great pains to avoid any detailed biographies about him. I’ve done the same regarding biographies about Led Zeppelin. The Doors. The Rolling Stones. Even The Beatles.

Why?

I suppose its a form of cowardice on my part. I so like the music created by these people and I’m afraid I won’t know how to feel about this music I love so much when I’m confronted by all the alleged nasty details related to those who created them.

Recently, Courtney Enlow presented this article for io9.com:

It’s Well Past Time to Rethink ‘Auteur Theory’ and the Way Actresses Are Treated

In the article, which touches upon the recent Joss Whedon revelations, Ms. Enlow points out the oft told story of how director Stanley Kubrick treated actress Shelley Duvall on the set of The Shining as well as actor Tippi Hendrin’s revelations about how Alfred Hitchcock treated her -sadistically- on the set of The Birds.

I love both films and consider them classics of the horror genre.

But each time I hear/read the stories about how Ms. Duvall and Ms. Hendrin were treated on the sets of these films… I can’t help but realize that what we’re seeing on the screen is genuine suffering by the actors who were treated terribly by those two directors.

And I have to admit… I don’t know if I can watch those films again.

Two films I love by directors whose work I generally love. Songs created by people who may have been engaged in some very questionable activities.

It’s a tough line to draw.

When can one no longer love the art because of the artist?

Too much information…

A while back, when Facebook was first becoming a thing, I recall there was an article imploring people to be careful with what they posted on the then rising platform.

Specifically, they noted that some people posted information about how excited they were about going on an upcoming vacation which took them away from their home. When the vacation was over and they got back, these people were shocked to find that their home/apartment had been broken into while they were gone.

What happened? Well, it seemed the thieves were scanning postings on Facebook and realized they had an unoccupied home available for them for X number of days and simply broke into it knowing the owners were away.

Sadly, I saw some friends of mind doing this same stupidity, posting on Facebook that they were eager to head out to, say, a Disney trip over the weekend, essentially telling anyone reading their post that their home would likely be left vacant while they were gone.

Which brings us to Gina Carano.

Don’t know who she is? Maybe this will help:

Image result for gina carano mandelorian

Gina Carano is an ex-MMA fighter turned actress who played Cara Dune on the first two seasons of The Mandalorian, the very popular set in the Star Wars universe TV series.

She played the character (past tense) because Disney has decided to part ways with her (the below link is to an article by Ed Mazza and was posted on huffingtonpost.com)…

The Mandelorian star Gina Carano axed after “abhorrent” social media posts

Like the Facebook postings I mentioned above, there remains to this day a big problem with people feeling the need to post their thoughts and, in the case of Ms. Carano, posting thoughts which expose her as… well… a person who maybe has fallen under the sway of alarming elements within society.

Look, I know not everyone out there is going to share my mostly liberal leanings. I know there are those out there who are very logical, well balanced, yet may have diametrically opposite political views to my own.

The world comes in all flavors!

But… if one begins to write outlandish ideas, far right screeds, and shows themselves to be in league with -or at least sympathetic with- some of the more out there ideals, and especially if you’re an actor who works for a company that doesn’t like the idea of hiring anyone with any dirt or controversy in their “character”, then maybe its best you keep some of your opinions to yourself.

In the case of Ms. Carano, she is clearly a person who espouses right wing ideals, but its one thing to have such ideals and another to go too far. In this case, going too far for Disney was comparing the current political climate in the United States -and against those who espouse right wing ideology- as being like living in “Nazi Germany”.

While it appears this was the post that precipitated Ms. Carano’s firing, she’s been posting uncomfortable material for a while now (the below linked article is by Joanna Robinson and Anthony Breznican and found on vanityfair.com)…

As Gina Carano and Star Wars fans clash, hero worship turns to scorn

From the above article:

Two months ago, Carano made dismissive remarks about trans pronouns. She’s also shared unproven theories about both the presidential election results and COVID-19 mask mandates. The hashtag #FireGinaCarano began trending Saturday, after Carano announced that she was setting up an account on Parler, a social media platform that has recently become a hit with Donald Trump faithful

I find myself, again as a liberal individual who values free speech, rather uncomfortable with the idea of punishing people for certain free speech.

Again: If you are a conservative and into right wing ideology and can present well reasoned arguments for your philosophies, there’s nothing, IMHO, wrong with that even if I may totally disagree with your points.

However, there comes a point where one takes it too far.

I don’t know Ms. Carano, only the items linked above which got her into hot water and eventually fired, but I do know this:

I’m uncomfortable with people who espouse the idea that COVID-19 is a hoax and/or actively -and proudly!- endanger others by not wearing a freaking mask when in public. I’m very uncomfortable with people who allow themselves to be whipped into a frenzy under the lie that an election was stolen despite no evidence at all to prove this and 62 lawsuits, all but one of which were dismissed because Trump’s team couldn’t prove their heated rhetoric.

And I’m uncomfortable as hell with people who feel entitled to “protest” and create an insurrection by forcing their way into government buildings, the worst example of which was what occurred on January 6th.

I’m certain most -perhaps even all!- of these people do not view themselves as bad guys, but they are.

And they are because they allowed themselves to be convinced of multiple lies by an -admittedly!- charismatic man who played them all for his own benefit.

But…

Free speech can have consequences and Ms. Carano is experiencing them.

You can have your opinions and you can hold them very dear to yourself.

Realize though that by stating them out loud, whether in an interview or posted on Facebook or Twitter, there can be consequences.

If I hire someone at my business and it turns out they were involved in the events at the Capitol on January 6th, I’d think really hard -and ask plenty of questions before hiring them.

If I’m a multi-million dollar conglomorate like Disney and spend millions on a TV show, the last thing I want is to have one of the actors courting controversy and making fans unhappy by their mere presence.

Personally, I haven’t seen a single episode of The Mandelorian and have no idea how good Ms. Carano was in her role. I did see her in the movie Haywire, where she essentially played a female James Bond-like character, and I enjoyed her in that role.

I hope she takes this moment and instead of lashing out, dedicates herself to read and watch more legitimate news articles and gain a truer understanding of the world around her and not the conspiracy-twinged world of these right wing platforms.

Tanya Roberts (1955-2021)

Wrote the below and then word came that… well, read on…

The shocking news that actor Tanya Roberts passed away at the very young age of 65 made the news yesterday (you can read about that here). She apparently walked her dogs and when she returned to her home collapsed and was rushed to the hospital, where she would pass away.

Most of the obituaries I’ve read concerning Ms. Roberts note she was Stacey Sutton, the “Bond girl” in Roger Moore’s final James Bond film, 1985’s A View To A Kill (Tanya Roberts first appears at the 1:33 mark of the below trailer)…

She was certainly an 80’s figure, with her other two big roles, in the 1982 film Beastmaster

…and in 1984 she would star as Sheena:

Later on she would make her mark in That 70’s Show as Midge Pinciotti…

I think its fair to say that her earlier works, now cult classics to some, nostalgia trips to others, weren’t all that good. It’s fair to say that A View To A Kill is the worst of the Roger Moore Bond films and among the worst of the Bond films, period. Few, too, would say Sheena is some lost classic while there are those who feel Beastmaster is a deserving Cult classic.

I say this not to put down Ms. Roberts, but quite the contrary. There’s something about the presence alone of Ms. Roberts in those films that make them memorable. One could point out the obvious: She is one beautiful woman, and the roles in both Sheena and Beastmaster in particular allowed her ample opportunity to show off that beauty.

In fact, when the news of her passing came, I instantly thought back to her roles in these films as well as The 70’s Show and my memories of her, frankly, were positive.

Yeah, maybe the 80’s material wasn’t always very strong and the film’s makers wanted a beautiful female in nearly no clothing running around, but there have been plenty of films like that made whose star isn’t quite as well remembered as Ms. Roberts, which suggests there was indeed more to her than just the proverbial pretty face.

As one gets older, the people in the arts one grows up with also grow older and, eventually, pass away.

Tanya Roberts’ passing at 65 is shocking as when I think about her my memories of her transport me back to that beautiful, athletic woman she was back in the 1980’s.

I hope she had a terrific life.

I may have to give A View To A Kill another whirl, for old time’s sake.

POSTSCRIPT:

Now there’s news that… Tanya Roberts in not dead?!

This is according to TMZ:

Tanya Roberts still alive… Despite her Rep saying she’s dead

Very weird, but concerning for Ms. Roberts nonetheless. She’s been hospitalized for over a week. I hope she recovers… assuming this second story is accurate!

POSTSCRIPT 2:

Now more news sources are confirming that Tanya Roberts is indeed alive, something which might explain my confused (and not totally sure!) original Postscript.

What a weird, weird story, though I have to admit I’m glad to hear that she’s not passed away. Still, what I said in that Postscript applies: Clearly she’s in some kind of major distress as she’s been hospitalized for over a week now.

Still, best wishes to her!

POSTSCRIPT 3:

Sadly, now comes news (12/5/21) that Tanya Roberts has indeed passed away. This is coming from TMZ:

Tanya Roberts dead at 65 following premature passing announcement

Frankly, I feared this would be the case. If memory serves, something similar happened with musician Tom Petty who was rushed to the hospital and was declared dead only for the news agencies to retract the story as he was still alive but basically vegetative.

I recall my daughter wondering if he’d recover and I told her based on the initial reports, that sounded doubtful. Mr. Petty would pass away a day or two after the initial hospitalization.

As I said, I feared Ms. Roberts was not in great shape. To be hospitalized so suddenly and remain there for over a week sounded grim. I suspect the publicist who released the initial report of her death knew she was about to pass and knew there was little chance of her recovery.

That’s guessing on my part, I admit.

Regardless, what I wrote initially stands. Ms. Roberts may not have been in the very best films during her biggest period of time in Hollywood, but she had a screen presence and to this day is remembered when many similar actresses in similar roles today are not.

She was a part of my youth, a face that was familiar to me and a beauty in the classic Hollywood tradition.

Rest In Peace.

The Haunting Of Hill House (2018) A (Mildly) Belated Review

Released through Netflix a couple of years ago, The Haunting of Hill House is a 10 part mini-series based on the famous haunted house novel by Shirley Jackson which was made twice before into movies, the most famous of which was the Robert Wise directed version, called The Haunting, and released in 1963.

Here’s the thing, though: While the mini-series bears the same name as the novel and has a few of the artifacts which are present in it, including the look of Hill House (which is almost the very same) and several characters who have the same names, this mini-series is very much a reimagining of the story, to the point where it is hard to call it more than “inspired by” the original novel and -to a degree visually- the original movie.

Which is not to say this is a bad thing!

The fact of the matter is that The Haunting of Hill House is an incredibly ambitious and at times spectacular mini-series which sadly, IMHO, falls in its concluding moments.

But we’ll get to that in a moment.

The series expertly moves in time, from the past when a young Hugh Crain (in the past played by Henry Thomas and in the present by Timothy Hutton) and his wife Olivia (Carla Gugino) and their large family consisting of Steven, Shirley, Theodora, and young twins Luke and Nell arrive at Hill House to “flip” it. Through flashbacks and scenes set in the present, we learn that a great tragedy occurred at Hill House and, soon enough, realize Olivia died there and that all kinds of eerie, ghostly events occurred as well.

The events of the night of Olivia’s death are slowly hinted, and their repercussions in the present are shown in a shattered family, now consisting of grown ups, with all kinds of hang ups. The very youngest of the Crains, Nell (who we find was born only 90 some seconds after her twin brother Luke), tries to call her siblings but is unable to for various reasons.

Worse, her father -who the now grown kids all view as flaky, to say the least- are put off when he calls to say he spoke with Nell and is worried she’s about to do something bad.

As it turns out, she returns to Hill House and once there, appears to commit suicide.

This proves to the be the singular action that brings the remaining members of the Crain family together, and in the course of the show’s episodes, we come to learn what happened to each individual member of the family when they were young kids… and come to learn what they’ve become as adults and how they eventually deal with the horror they faced in Hill House.

At times, the mini-series is flat out brilliant. There is one episode in particular that features a very long “one take” (I’m sure they cheated a little here and there, but still!) at the funeral home where Nell’s body is on display. As a fan of movies, that sequence took my breath away.

Further, the movie gives you some genuinely creepy moments and well earned scares. We feel for these people, each and every one of them, and by the end I even let out a couple of tears…

…but…

It really pains me to say it but the movie’s final episode, actually the final half hour or so of the series, while very emotional and caused me to wipe a few tears away also subverts what came before it to such a degree that, when all was said and done, I felt more and more bothered by it.

It’s a tough thing to say, after some 8 and 1/2 hours of pretty damn brilliant work to feel let down by the last 1/2 hour or so, but I have to be honest: It bugged me.

I don’t want to get into SPOILERS so I’ll do so after presenting the mini-series’ trailer. Even then, I’m going to try to tread lightly because, frankly, even with the disappointment I felt after the fact, I still loved so much about this mini-series that I recommend it strongly regardless.

Perhaps others won’t be quite as bothered by the ending and I sincerely wish I could say the same.

Still, strongly recommended!

Just for the heck of it -and before we get into SPOILERS- here’s the trailer for the original version of the book, 1963’s The Haunting

SPOILERS FOLLOW…!

YOU’VE BEEN WARNED!!!

Still there?

If you have any interest in seeing this mini-series, I strongly urge you NOT to proceed. As I said above, I will try not to spoil everything but nonetheless I’m going to be talking about what bothered me about the series’ ending and, by doing so, I will inevitably spoil quite a bit.

So, please, if you intend to see the series, do so before proceeding.

You’ll be happier.

Otherwise…

OK, so here goes:

The Haunting of Hill House essentially has the various members of the Crain family come together -reluctantly in many of their cases- because of the death of the youngest member of the family, Nell, who returned to the dreaded Hill House, where their mother died, and apparently committed suicide there.

By being brought together, however, we revisit what they experienced in Hill House originally, and through the course of the mini-series we come to find that they saw many ghostly creatures and, understandably, came out of this not all that well.

Again, I don’t want to spoil everything, but the series’ climax has them returning to the house to try to save one of them, who has returned to the house to destroy it, not realizing that by doing so they may well be feeding its evil.

They arrive, mostly separately, and there they are placed in the “heart” of the house, the place where it wants them, to feed of them, to have their souls.

Here’s the thing, though: after spending some 8 and 1/2 hours or so being told how evil the house is, how it killed both their mother and youngest sister/daughter, the finale of the series shows them confronting the house and their fear and, despite the fact that the house still wants them dead, makes this very, very sharp turn where the spirit of their dead sister/daughter makes them realize they need each other and, I don’t know, where their love for each other makes them come together. All but one of them leave this place all happy and with their terrors resolved. Also, we’re given one more plot addition, another last minute victim of Hill House whose parents -preposterously- allow their child’s death to pass and agree to hide it. Years later these parents return to the house to, I don’t know, join the spirt of their daughter more fully as they pass away.

So this house that for 8 and 1/2 hours is presented as this black, evil thing, is suddenly this place where all these traumas are resolved for everyone and even come back to the house to seek peace!!!!

This makes no sense given all the horrors we see earlier on and the very clear indications that Hill House is evil.

Yeah.

Again, I really, really hate to go after such a magnificent series but the change in tone at the very end of the series proved simply too great for me. It was the equivalent of story telling whiplash.

I’ll say no more because, again, I don’t want to spoil everything. Suffice it to say, perhaps it won’t be as bothersome to others as it was to me.

Still, even with that ending, I still loved the mini-series. Next up is The Haunting of Bly Manor, released this year and featuring many of the same actors in a story of a different haunted house.

When I see it, I’ll give you my impressions!

30 Rock Reunion (2020) a (Almost On Time!) Review

I’m a fan of the 30 Rock TV show.

I feel the show, which ran from 2006 to 2013, was for the most part ingenious.  The humor was at times both razor sharp and extremely silly, off the wall and charming.

If you haven’t seen the show, and you’re into half-hour comedy shows, I can’t recommend you check it out highly enough.

But whatever you do, skip the one hour “return” of 30 Rock that aired last week Thursday, July 16th, and which is available to be streamed.

While ostensibly a “reunion” show, it was really an extended commercial for NBC’s Peacock service, another of the voluminous online services in which you can find old shows paired with some new ones (I imagine those you can see if you pay).

Thus the 30 Rock reunion featured plenty -too many!- commercials for the Peacock service, though at least we were treated by appearances by people who will be in some of those new shows (yeah, they were mostly shilling for their series).

While seeing some of the faces proved a surprise (If you’re going to waste your time seeing this turkey, I might as well not SPOIL some of the faces that show up), the reality is that they were all there, it became depressingly clear, to shill and make a buck.

So commercial/promotional heavy was the show that several NBC networks decided they wouldn’t air it. While we did get to see it here, my daughter, who lives in Texas and is a fan of the original show, found it wasn’t airing on her local NBC affiliate.

Curiously enough, we watched it with her via FaceTime (why the hell not?), which, because of Covid-19, is the way this episode, like the Parks and Recreation reunion episode which aired a few weeks back, were also made.

When all was said and done, my daughter, like us, was quite disappointed.

That’s not to say the whole thing was an unmitigated fiasco.

There were a few very funny bits sprinkled about here and there throughout the one hour runtime.  But, as the cast were filming from their homes and I suppose they didn’t want to bum out everyone because of the whole Coronavirus situation (let ’em be bummed out by the extreme commercials, amiright?!), the reunion episode’s conceit was that the various characters had moved away after finishing their show-within-a-show so Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon had to reach out to everyone as there was interest in reviving their old show. So Liz gets to talk to them all via some kind of Zoom-like service.

Thing is, you’d literally have one or two minutes of the cast you came to see talking to each other before they would transition into the damn Peacock commercials.  While sometimes it worked, when you’re talking about going on and on and on for one hour doing this you can’t help but feel like you’re being slammed over the head with the pitch versus enjoying a “reunion” episode of a beloved series.

Yes, the commercials became that freaking irritating.

Even Tina Fey seemed to know things were dangerously close to being too much and tried to make a -quite literal- “wink wink” joke in the end out of the too many commercials we’d sat through (plus, there was one mildly amusing joke where Kenny literally loses his soul when also pitching some Peacock nonsense).

Sadly, it was a little too little, a little too late.

Perhaps one day next year, when hopefully we return to a more normal world and Covid-19 is in the past, the cast of 30 Rock will come back once more to make a more appropriate reunion episode instead of a one hour commercial with a few jokes sprinkled within it.

Please guys: Don’t leave us with this sour taste in our mouths as the very last 30 Rock episode ever.

And Then There Were None (2015) A (Mildly) Belated Review

The late writer Agatha Christie is rightfully considered one of the premiere dames of the murder mystery. In her very long writing career, she created two classic detective characters, the Belgian sleuth Hercule Poirot and the fussy Miss Marple as well as a slew of fascinating novels, short stories, and plays.

But if you were to stand back and rank entire œuvrer, there are two novels in particular which it seems almost everyone knows: The Hercule Poirot mystery Murder on the Orient Express and the standalone 1939 novel And Then There Were None.

There are many, myself included, who would point to And Then There Were None as Agatha Christie’s best overall novel. The plot is simple yet incredibly intriguing: A group of 8 individuals are invited to Indian Island under different -and they soon realize false- pretenses. There they find two servants, a butler and cook, bringing the total number of people on this distant, wind-swept island to 10.

And that night, they are each accused of different murders.

And that night, the first of them dies.

Followed by another.

Then another.

The original novel when released had the absolutely terrible name Ten Little Niggers, after the minstrel song. This was very soon changed, both in the title and in the book proper, to Ten Little Indians (not all that much better an alternative!) and settling on And Then There Were None, but the novel retained the Indian motif, with the island the group was on was called Indian Island.

There have been many adaptations of this book, the first being made in 1945…

That movie, IMHO, was delightful but they did change the novel’s rather grim tone and ending to make a much more pleasant “Hollywood” ending.

There have been other adaptations of the novel over the years and in 2015 the BBC made a mini-series adaptation, which is the focus of this review. Here’s the mini-series’ trailer:

I picked this up a while back and, like so many things, had it filed away and ready to be seen when I had the time. Over the course of two nights, the family and I watched it, and it was a most curious experience.

First off, the mini-series wisely decided to get rid of the “Indian” motif. Indian Island becomes Soldier Island, and the “Ten Little Indians” poem/song which is the basis for the mystery is changed to “Ten Little Soldiers”, to further remove the original source material from its unfortunate racial overtones.

Watching the series, I was struck by how… dull… the opening was. In fact, it was so laid back that I wondered if it would be any good at all.

However, once the characters were on (ahem) Soldier Island and the murders started, things hummed along. I was totally entranced with the rest of the first part of the series (originally the series was released in 3 one hour parts, but the version I was two parts, each 1 and 1/2 hour long).

After finishing that first part, I was more than eager to watch the second/concluding chapter. I thought it was so damn good, perhaps the very best adaptation of the book I’d seen.

Alas…

Yeah, the second part, IMHO, was something of a let down.

To be fair, it wasn’t a total disaster, but clearly the screenwriter decided to ventured into new and different areas. There was sex. There was a weird drug sequence. Neither was found in the original novel and, frankly, it didn’t fit in with the movie proper IMHO.

Worse, the ending, which I always felt was the strongest element of the novel (I’ll get to that soon, I’m re-reading the book right now and will offer a review of it presently), was botched in the mini-series.

So my ultimate review of this mini-series goes like this: Starts slow, turns really great, but then ends in a murky, not quite satisfying fashion, IMHO.

It is not the worst adaptation I’ve seen of a novel (in general), but considering how good the story was presented for a while, it hurts to see the screenplay side-roads taken which hurt the overall product.

Still, I’d offer a mild recommendation. The acting is good, the cinematography/scenario is excellent -I absolutely loved Soldier Island’s presentation- and the production in general is first rate.

If only they had stuck with the novel a little more closely and hadn’t gone off on more modernistic -and sadly silly- tangents.

Ah well, it is what it is.

Coronavirus Diaries 12… Storage Wars Canada…?

Sometimes you stumble upon something and it just… I don’t know. It makes you laugh.

Like so many others under quarantine, when dinner comes around the wife and kids and I search for stuff to watch.

Over on Netflix, we found this show called Storage Wars: Northern Treasure (alternate title is Storage Wars: Canada).

I enjoyed -but didn’t love– the U.S. version of Storage Wars. The concept goes like this: When people don’t pay for their storage unit lockers the storage company takes possession of them and, eventually, they run auctions to get rid of their content.

What’s inside these lockers could be pure gold or complete crap and the auctioneers get a chance to look (but not touch) the material from just outside the locker door before making their bids. The highest bid, of course, gets said lockers.

Storage Wars, the show(s), follow a regular group of auctioneers and its usually highly scripted as they check out each locker then bid against each other. The shows conclude with the revelations of what was found inside said lockers and if the buyers profited or lost.

Storage Wars: Northern Treasures (aka Storage Wars: Canada) appears to have lasted two seasons, 2013/2014 and 2015/2016.

We watched the second season via Netflix. It consisted of some 36 or so 30 minute long episodes and they were, IMHO, pretty freaking hilarious.

This season was clearly far more staged/scripted than the American version of Storage Wars but the cast (and I do feel these people should be labeled actors rather than legitimate auctioneers) are hilariously spiteful, petty, dumb, crafty, stuck up, insulting, and -did I mention this already?- hilarious.

Here’s a sampling:

Again: THIS STUFF IS CLEARLY SCRIPTED! It’s about as “real” as watching wrestling, but I have to say, at least in the second season they maintained a great sense of humor about what they were doing and the episodes were very funny… if (and its a BIG if) you’re willing to play along with the premise.

We’re now working our way through the first season on the show, which is available on Amazon Prime. I don’t know why Season 2 is available on Netflix and Season 1 on Amazon Prime but that’s the way it goes.

So far, the early episodes of Season 1 aren’t as funny as what came in Season 2 and those early episodes seem to more emulate the American version of Storage Wars, with the cast mostly being mean to each other.

I suspect things will pick up. A lot of the stuff in the above video was unfamiliar to me, so it may be from Season 1.

So there you have it, my recommendation for some pleasant, and funny, short dinner viewing.

Come at it with the right frame of mind and you should have some good fun.