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TV

Flash Forward

by on Sep.24, 2009, under TV

Off and on I’ve had conversations about this new show coming this fall and about how it could be the new Lost (which I’m somewhat ashamed that I never found the time to watch).  Well the premiere has arrived and I’m here to report on my thoughts.  In short, it has promise and I will be keeping my eye on it at least in the short term.

The basic premise of Flash Forward seems to be this:  one day, out of the blue, everyone on Earth blacks out at the same exact moment and all for a period of 137 seconds.  During this blackout period, everyone gets a glimpse at that slice of time some 6 months in the future (though some see nothing at all).  The immediate result is calamity – countless deaths and injuries due to various types of vehicular accidents or inopportune locales (e.g., surfing), followed by chaos of people looting and taking advantage of the confusion.  But as the dust settles, there is a sense of unification – everyone has a definitive fate to consider and certainly something in common with every fellow man that they can talk about.

The epicenter of the story is around an FBI team that seems to quickly coalesce as the goto team in figuring out what happened to the world and what the visions tell us about our fate.  While the show is a fast-paced drama and I was able to connect with many of the characters very quickly, I have to say that I was surprised by some of the casting – specifically the large number of comedic talent used in such a serious show.  Among the FBI investigative team, they have cast John Cho (popularly renown as Harold), Joseph Fiennes (ok, serious – but I can’t help but picture him in Shakespearian garb), and Seth MacFarlane.  I have no doubt that everyone will play their roles well, but I can’t help but feel that some of their better talents will remain untapped in such a series.

The real drama and intrigue is in finding out who saw what and the mosaic (to use their word) that slowly comes together from the individual fragments.  It will also be interesting to whether knowing the future will have any impact on it – whether any of the outcomes can be avoided because they have been revealed, or whether they are preordained.  I have a feeling that they picked 6 months as the flash date so that they can put a nice bow on the season if it doesn’t get renewed, but it is way to early to call anything right now.  Another angle that is arising is the idea that this may not have been an accident and that at least one individual has been identified as having not been effected.  So there are definitely some fascinating mysteries to be unraveled.

So to sum up, I’ll likely keep watching the show and see how deep the rabbit hole goes.  It has all of the right ingredients and a cast I can get into.  But the moment MacFarlane starts doing funny voices, I think I may have to change the channel.

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Leaps and Bounds

by on Sep.21, 2009, under books, family, parenthood, TV

An exchange between myself and Cricket in the car this weekend while she was looking at a dinosaur book (keep in mind that she just started Kindergarten 2 weeks ago):

Cricket: What’s a quadriped, Daddy?
Me: A quadriped is any animal that walks on four legs.
Cricket: What about ones that walk on two legs?
Me: They would be called bipeds.
Cricket: Oh, okay.
[pause]
Cricket: I have a hypothesis that most dinosaurs were quadripeds.
Me: Okay.  What does the word hypothesis mean? [just testing her]
Cricket: Its an idea that I can test.
Me: And how do you plan to test this idea?
Cricket: By looking at pictures in my book, Daddy.

I cannot take full responsibility for this – I think she learned a number of these words from a new show she has been watching called Dinosaur Train.  But the extent to which her thirst for knowledge has been amped up recently is phenomenal.  Hopefully this will lead her toward learning to read more readily than her interest in it has betrayed recently.  Once that door is open to her, there is no telling where she’ll go next.  But it is an exciting journey to watch.

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Journey to the Center of My Lack of Suspended Disbelief

by on Aug.11, 2009, under movies, TV

It is sad what you will resort to watching when you are bored.  For instance, this weekend I found myself watching the recent production of Journey to the Center of the Earth.  In theory, all the necessary elements are there:  science-fiction – check; action/adventure – check; semi-respectable actor who could be believable in such a role – check; reasonably hot actress to co-star – check; script loosely based on a popular novel – check.  So what exactly didn’t I like about this movie?  Oh yeah – it sucked.

Granted, the only reason I started watching it was because I was up, bored, and recently enjoying HBO & Cinemax for free for 3 months (thank you FiOS!).  But in hindsight, unlocking a few more levels and extras in Lego Batman would have been a more enjoyable use of my time.   And yet as much as my summary review is that this movie was not even worth what I paid for it (time counts), I still found myself watching it to completion – which suggests there was something redeeming about it … somewhere.

I missed the intro due to timing of my channel surfing and came into it with Brendan Fraser and his nephew already introducing themselves to their near-future travel companion.  Luckily it was not hard to get up to speed.  The action was compelling, some of the humor was mildly witty, and the underground world was certainly a spectacle.  But I think what made this movie more pyrite than gold was that it was merely beyond belief.  Sure, I expect a certain level of hard-to-swallow in a sci-fi flick – it goes without saying.  But there are levels and costs and I think there should be a point system setup to pre-determine whether such a film will succeed.

For example, the latest Indiana Jones movie was not nearly the best in the series – quite possibly the worst.  But I personally was able to overlook a lot of its flaws due to the franchise to which it is associated (as were many other fans).  But I couldn’t  do the same for a film with no street cred.  The Matrix had no street cred, but was so compelling it almost pulled off a hat trick (then managed to trip and fall on its face).  Journey has a minute amount of cred due to the book association, but not enough to forgive the lack of a believeable plot.  An unknown world filled with unusual and long extinct creatures miles below the surface of the Earth – expected and acceptable.  Falling into/flying out of said realm at break-neck speeds and landing in a pool of water/hillside vineyard without, um, dying – not so likely.

Anyway, bottom line is that I need some new hobbies and to learn not to rubberneck when it comes to movies.  Besides, I’m sure there was something equally badly written with way more redeeming qualities at that hour on one of the Cinemax channels.  But sometimes curiosity can get the best of me – and you know what they say about that.

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Go USA!

by on Jul.07, 2009, under TV

While I’m happy that I’ve been taking more of my veg time lately in the evenings to read and I’m enjoying playing on the Wii, I still need to occasionally have some form of entertainment that requires no input or effort from me.  Luckily it seems that I’ve found some things worth watching (besides the hundred or so movies in my queue) – USA Network original programming.  Here are my thoughts on a few of their shows:

  • Burn Notice – I know this is not a new show, but I never took the time in the past to give it a try.  This season (their third) I have and I’ve been really enjoying it.  The format is different and colorful and the writing is clever and has a good rhythm to it.  I may soon find myself picking up seasons 1 & 2 on DVD to catch up.
  • Royal Pains – I like this new show.  I like the talent in it, I like the drama of it (okay, at times it can be a little soapy, but it is early yet).  Apparently though, I cannot watch this show around my medically inclined family members – they tend to rip apart the feasibility of such shows (much as I’m sure I do with techie shows, but I tend to watch them anyway).
  • In Plain Sight – This seemed like it had potential when it premiered last year, but I never made an effort to catch it.  Now I’ve started catching it simply due to proximity to the other shows I’m watching and it too has drawn me in.
  • Psych – This show has long been a guilty pleasure of mine.  Sure the drama of it is far-fetched and the format tends to be a little formulaic at times, but I love Shawn Spencer in action and I can’t wait until this season premieres.

I’m also looking forward to Eureka returning to SciFi soon (or should I be referring to it as SyFy).  All in all this summer is turning out to be less stagnant that I’d anticipated.  And I guess it couldn’t hurt to go outside every once and a while too.

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The Blues

by on Jun.08, 2009, under family, parenthood, TV

I shouldn’t find this all that new and surprising – these phases are normal.  But I don’t remember it being so over-powerfing when it happened a few years ago when I daughter was about 2.  With young kids running circles around you, it is hard to fight these things and there is little point in trying to hide it – I have the blues.  By this I mean the Blue’s Clues blues.

My daughter went through a phase where it was her favorite show.  It is a pretty clever show, and unlike some others geared towards that age bracket, it is easy to watch with the kids.  So I often would watch it with her.  Now that my son is 2 1/2 and developing his own preferences, he has discovered a love for Blue and her pals.  And in the process my wife, my daughter and I are getting reacquainted.

My son delights in the show.  He sings along with every song.  He imitates everything that Steve or Joe do.  And even when he isn’t watching it, he references it in most things he does from skidoo-ing out of the car to the sidewalk to pretending an old greeting card is ‘a letter from our friends’.  And I think that to some extent it has been encouraging him to be more polite in the things he does.

My daughter and I have used it as a point of conversation.  We’ve discussed the relationship and pseudo-drama of the Steve-Joe switch (she has decided that she likes Joe better – I had felt that way before, but I’ve been gaining new-found respect for Steve).  We’ve reveled in noticing the artistic minutia that is peppered in there for the non-target audience (such as the ever-changing artwork in the living room).  And I’ve also used it as a platform to help her understand animation and entertainment in general (separating the characters from the reality).

My wife and I try not to over-expose the kids to these things – we know that they should have limits to the amount of TV they watch.  But when they wake at 7AM every morning and can’t keep from being under-toe at every meal preparation, it is a crutch that is easy to lean on to give us the space or rest that we need to be sane enough to keep up with them the rest of the time.

What is funny about the show is how well it works and how well it will likely continue to work for years to come.  The show is now over ten years old and has not aired a new episode in several years.  And yet it still remains in Noggin’s heavy program rotation.  I also recently saw a 10-year behind the clues special that revealed some interesting factoids about the show and its origins (e.g., the show’s original design was to be a game-show for toddlers, Blue was initially a cat, Mr. Salt was supposed to have a Brooklyn accent but it somehow got shifted to French).

So at 33, I’m still learning a few new tricks from a not-so-young puppy – and bonding with my kids at the same time (you can bond over a show – it counts, I looked it up).  Without a doubt, I once again have the Blue’s Clues blues … and it makes me smile.

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