Sunday, October 28, 2007

Best Show on TV

I'm a little late in coming to the party on this show, but now I've seen the entire first season and agree with all critics that it's the best show on TV, and one of the best shows ever. Friday Night Lights is based on the movie that is dreadful and overly dramatic with a stupid premise and pretty horrible actors. However, the TV show, which won and deserved its Emmy for casting, is terrific. While it tells the story of a football team in the heart of Texas - which really wouldn't appeal to many people - it's really much more about growing up, and dealing with all kinds of pressure: continuing success, disappointing the people you love, living up to your potential, realizing there is more to life than football, and how to be a good person. Since Everwood was prematurely cancelled, Friday Night Lights has picked up on a lot of their themes, particularly living the life you are born into (trailer trash, spoiled rich girl, child of alcoholics) while understanding that you can rise above it (or not). It's a great story about a pretty amazing set of characters, with each episode focusing on different aspects of the town and the football team from the perspective of different people - the coach, the new quarterback, the old paralyzed QB, the daughter of the coach, the wife of the coach, the head cheerleader, etc. It's a really great ensemble cast that are at the same time believable, passionate, flawed, and hotter than any one town could conceivably be. My favorite pair is the coach and his wife (Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton) - they seem to be able to talk about anything, and fight really hard to be good people while not drowning in other people's problems. The star quarterback is paralyzed in the first game of the season, and the town has to deal with moving on, while he tries to understand what living without football can mean. Even if you hate football, there is a lot about this show that is uplifting and will reach you if you have ever played on a team that worked toward a out-of-reach goal. And I can't decide who is hotter - the shy new QB Matt Saracen, or the bad-boy full back Tim Riggins...the eternal dilemma.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Samantha Who?

I watched the pilot of the new vehicle for Christina Applegate, and so far it's really funny. It's got lots of cute moments, and her friends are so different it works. Basically she's awakened after 8 days in a coma with no memory of who she is or who anyone in her life is. Somehow she woke up with a whole new moral code because she discovers that she didn't like a lot of the things she used to do or say (like her affair with a married man, her alcoholism, and being really mean to her boyfriend). She seems to want to fix most of these, and hopefully that'll be the future of the show, and not her turning back into the evil person she seemed to be. I'm going to go watch the second one. It shows on Mondays at 930 on ABC.

Addendum: I watched the second episode and it was still a good show - she realizes she's not the kind of person she wants to be (or is really worth being) and wants to quit her job, but in a send-up of Carrie Bradshaw, realizes she has purchased too many shoes and must work to pay for her shoes. Looking forward to next week.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

More TV

Nothing in the new season is jumping out at me as really necessary to watch. But a few shows have really maintained their strength. Ugly Betty has really picked up the story lines from last year and developed them even further - Henry and Betty still seem to be ill-fated lovers that might have a less tragic future than Romeo and Juliet (or whatever the telenovela names would be). Also the whole Amanda-is-Fay's-daughter story is still funny, with Amanda being convinced by Mark that this can be exploited. The stories are still funny and interesting enough to keep watching. House is another one that has become compelling every week, especially with the contest between new interns. They really tossed this show on its ear, taking a VERY good formula and redefining it with new characters and stories, without removing the previous story lines that were working so well. But, they managed to cast and write really good characters as the new interns, and it only develops House's reputation to have all these other doctors bowing at his feet. It was getting hard to remember what a brilliant doctor he is purported to be.

However, while there are two shows hanging on and making strides, there are a few that just haven't stepped up and are in danger of falling off the radar. Heroes had such a brilliant first season - a totally new concept, well thought-out with a long arc with small achievements, so it was hard to lose interest. However, we're three episodes into this season, and I can't figure out what's going on, and why none of the characters seem to know or recognize each other. There was this huge coming together at the end of last year, and yet most of the characters still seems to think the best way to survive is to go off on their own. Most of last year was about discovering others with their talents, and there was drama in that, who would have powers, what would they be, and how can they all defeat Sylar. This season, the best I can figure is the funny symbol seems to be dangerous. That's a big step down from last year. Another show that took a long time to get going this season is Weeds. I'm hoping Heroes will pick up later, and Weeds really seems to be getting back on its initial zaniness. The first few episodes took forever to get rid of the storyline left over from last season, so those were pretty boring. However, it's starting to look up.

Anything anyone would like to recommend that doesn't seem to be making my radar? I'm still interested in new shows. Or rediscovering old ones.

Monday, October 8, 2007

The Kingdom

I'm a big fan of Jennifer Garner and Jamie Foxx, so seeing The Kingdom was a treat. And, despite reviews to the contrary is a pretty terrific story. One of the reviews I read described it as a bad episode of CSI but it's more like the smarts of CSI with the energy of Mission: Impossible set in Saudi Arabia. I really liked it. It starts out with a fairly crazy chase/killing spree scene through an American compound in SA. The FBI agents who are killed in the horrific attack are enough to spur the FBI to attempt to get their agents into SA to investigate. They partner with a really terrific actor (Ashraf Barhom) playing the Saudi Prince's military presence who is responsible for protecting the FBI agents. The agents, played by Foxx, Garner, Chris Cooper and a hysterically smart-ass Jason Bateman, are stifled by the rules of conduct by Americans in SA, look but don't touch, etc. However, Foxx, plays the tough as nails agent who will threaten, cajole, and charm anyone who gets in their way. The first two-thirds of the movie are quick clues to uncover the criminals behind the attack, and the last third is a wild-ride chase and shoot-em-up sequence that is really nail-bitingly-well done. Oh, and Jeremy Piven has a small role as the American attache in SA and is all slime and charm and attempting inoffense while offending all.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Second week

This is just a mish-mash of what I still like after the second week of shows. Ugly Betty and Grey's were both good in their second week, though Grey's is still less than wonderful, but it's good. I still love The Big Band Theory after How I met your mother - funny as hell. Chuck was the only show that was actually more fun its second week as the two sides try to kill him. Journeyman was good, but I'm still not sure any characters are as interesting as the main guy - maybe Quantum Leap had it right when it was just the time-traveller and no one else. We'll see how it plays out. Bionic Woman wasn't terrific in its second week, but the introduction of Isaiah Washington was kind of creepy because of all his off-screen issues. Private Practice was perfectly saccharine and weepy, which is the way it should stay, but that might get old. The performances of the two mothers losing their babies were awesome though. Oh, and I still love Numb3ers on Fridays - such great nerdy action. So far though, Pushing Daisies is the most fun and creative thing on TV.

Friday, October 5, 2007

This Ones for The Girls

This one's for a friend going through a break-up who realizes the healing powers of country music and cartoons.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Wow - Pushing Daisies is amazing...

Wednesdays at 8, Pushing Daisies is something totally new on TV - let's hope it survives. It felt to me like Roald Dahl rewriting the movie Big Fish. It's the story of a kid who has the gift of life and death - he can bring back the dead with a touch, but only for a minute, or death will take someone else in their place. AND after bringing someone back, our hero, Ned, can never touch them again or they'll die. Jim Dale (the voice of the Harry Potter audiobooks) narrates and makes the story so much more familiar and exciting than the story would be on its own (not a common touch for narration which is usually distracting). Our hero Ned has grown up to be a pie-maker (he can make even rotten fruit perfectly ripe - how cool would that be?) and his childhood crush Charlotte "Chuck", has been mysteriously killed. She totally reminds me of all the characters Zooey Deschanel has ever played, but not quite crazy. Anyway, Ned brings her back to ask who killed her, but can't bring himself to kill her again (so no one else would die), and they embark on the journey, with Ned's PI partner, to find out who killed "chuck". We meet her recluse, synchronized swimming aunts (played brilliantly by Swoosie Kurtz and Ellen "Suddenly Seymour" Greene) because they've been sent Chuck's luggage after her death. The show is just cheerfully colored with pure heart at its heart, but with the dark edge of having power over life and death. It's really funny with Kristin Chenowith playing Ned's neighbor and waitress who is in love with Ned, and can't understand why he never touches her. I think this might have made a better 2-hour movie, but I'm intereseted to see how they keep it going!

Monday, October 1, 2007

3:10 To Yuma

As far as westerns go this is FANTASTIC! In the world of film, this is really good, with some stellar writing and good performances. Russell Crowe is very well coifed, and slick throughout, while maintaining this sneaky grin that makes him seem more friendly than smarmy. And his relationship with a very tortured Christian Bale is terrific. He continues to ask Bale if they're friends now, after Crowe goes on to kill most of the people who get in the way. Their dialogue is always well timed and reveals bits and bits about their childhood. Crowe is contiuously on edge, ready to take out anyone who looks at him funny if necessary. However, Bale acts in almost opposition to his evil, while always trying to maintain a civil and moral position on whatever is going on, he is still always conscious of his position as a father and husband and what his actions will do to his family. Crowe has none of that obligation, including to the gang that shows him lethal loyalty throughout. Ben Foster, as mentioned below in the guest appearance on My Name is Earl, is TERRIFIC as the second in the gang of thieves and incredibly cruel and with a strong evil streak. Definitely rent this if you haven't seen it in theaters.