7 great moments in television

By Rev/Views
I've been just thinking about some of the very best moments in television I've seen. Those moments which just hit you with the perfection of the story. Sometimes they are up, sometimes down. But always when you see one, you realise that the show has moved from just TV to something more personally important.

I'm going to list a few here:

As a major warning, there will be heavy spoilers to the following shows:
The Shield, The Wire,
Do not read on if you want to experience these moments without having the shock or joy of a fresh moment in them.

Big gap here as these are spoiler-riffic.

1. The Shield - Season 5, Final episode.

This is the single most heartbreaking moment I've ever seen on television. Even now, nearly 2 years after the events of this episode I feel saddened by them. Lem has been hounded all season and is at breaking point. But so far he hasn't turned on Vic and the Strike Team.
Shane meets him out alone, walks up to give him a sandwich and chats a little. Before dropping a grenade in the back of the car and walking off. It detonates and Lem lives just long enough to see Shane breakdown in the realisation of what he's done.

Vic's reaction on discovering Lem's death is iconic, but it's clear that nothing will be the same again and that this signifies the beginning of the end for Vic.

2. The Wire - Season 2 - Frank Sobotka's death at the hands of 'The Greeks'

Over the course of the season Sobotka grew on me greatly; he had a strong sense of personal honour and wasn't a criminal for his own ends, but to help his fellow Union members. He spent the entire season being fucked by the police all because he pipped a Captain over a stained glass window.
Eventually he begins to turn on the Greeks, but changes his mind and decides to go talk to them instead. Unbeknownst to him, the Greeks have a mole inside the police force. One who notices that Sobotka was talking to the police - despite the fact that Frank didn't actually tell them anything and had changed his mind.

Frank walks alone towards them, having told his nephew to stay back. His body washes up in the harbor later, without its head.

The Union honour his memory by declaring him head of the union for another year. "Sobotka for union president" posters crop up in later seasons.

3. Dead Zone - 205 - Precipitate

I talk about this episode here.

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2003

This show has several fantastic moments. The decapitation of Shredder, the tengu Shredder, Bishop's first appearance and many more.

But the one I'm going to pick is "The Big Brawl" series from the end of the second season. It's a wonderful four parter that has the Turtles and Splinter involved in an ultimate contest of champions. It's high action, immense fun and you'll be suprised at the winner.

5. Boston Legal - Guantanamo by the bay - Cold Opening

This is probably Boston Legal's finest moment. Pretty much shattering the 4th wall in an ironic fashion. Jerry Espenson explains to Shirley Schmidt that he'd love to return to firm and thinking about it makes him want to sing out this happy song. Shirley asks him to hum a few bars of it and he breaks out into the theme song. I love the Boston Legal theme song, the Denny Crane kazoo version was fantastic, but this one is beyond all that. It's funny, enjoyable and just plain cool.

6. Arrested Development - Who is Mr. F?

Arrested Development is so brilliant in it's forshadowing that other shows should take note, the Lucile/Buster/Hand pun of season two was brilliant. But it's season three's Bond-like Mr. F sting that cracks me up repeatedly. Mr. F turns out to have two meanings, but it is the second one that's funniest. A mysterious pimp named Mr. F starts threatening Michael Bluth over a woman who Michael thinks is his sister, but is really a prostitute. Mr F. Turns out to be Franklin, G.O.B.'s offensive hand puppet. Then the Mr F. Sting plays over the top of the moment and it just becomes hysterical.

7. Futurama - The Devil's Hands are Idle Playthings (Season 4 final episode) - The final notes.

This episode has it all, it's bittersweet. Has a fantastic musical number and is just sublime. For a long time I'd always feel choked up when watching this episode. The open and hopefull ending showed a real gift for open ended story telling. It could have been the perfect moment to end on, I'm glad it wasn't...
Direct Link

Torchwood - 201

By Rev/Views
The first season of Torchwood was a fun and entertaining idea that got mired down in exceedingly poor writing. The show alternated between being some juvenile swingers love-fest and a very poor episode of Scooby-Doo with swearing in it.

One or two episodes were quite good, but for the most part it was trite.

Still, I very much enjoyed watching it. Partly because it was so retardedly stupid at times that I was left speechless that the BBC tolerated such piss-poor programming and partially because I know Cardiff and enjoyed seeing places that I recognised on TV.

By the end of the series I was sick of the various references to "Jack being like Jesus" especially the finale. That made me really angry, and I vowed not to watch it again.

Then I heard that James Marsters would be making an appearance as a rogue Time Agent and I was intrieged. James was the one actor in Buffy and Angel that I quite enjoyed watching, he was consistently entertaining and a fantastic villain come anti-hero.

So I decided; against my better judgement, to give the first episode of season 2 a go. And blow me if it wasn't half bad. In fact it was quite good.

James Marsters was simply brilliant, I really enjoyed him smacking the heck out of John Barrowman and making the entire Torchwood team look like the bunch of idiots they are. While it wasn't the most intelligent of plots, it was a jolly cracking ride.

Sadly, John Barrowman proved to still be a one dimensional and exceptionally wooden actor. I used to enjoy his performance as Captain Jack until I realised it wasn't a performance. It was from the "Sean Connery school of acting" and not even a very good version at that.
Additionally Torchwood still seems to be almost full of almost pointless sexual plotlines, Captain Jack randomly swings more than a saloon door in a badly made western. Maybe I should watch the Children's edit as that will hopefully remove the parts of the show I find pointless. I don't care about Jack being bi and snogging men, that's not the issue. I'm just tired of him bouncing around from person to person like some kind of sexual pinball in a sleezy game. I guess if it was just Captain Jack who did it, I could tolerate it. But it seems the entire cast is totally unable to control their hormones. They are like a bunch of randy drunk teenagers at their school prom. Could at least one or two of them show some ability to get on with the job without lusting after the next quickie? Please?

But, griping about how terrible Barrowman is on screen and the sexual *ahem* "tension" aside. The episode was good enough that I'll watch next weeks. In particular the teaser section at the end indicated that Masters would be returning for at least one more episode. I hope he doesn't get killed off and is instead bumped up to a guest slot in Doctor Who. He was that damn good.

Better than last season for sure. But that wasn't hard.
Direct Link

The Wire - Season 5 "Unconfirmed Reports"

Category: , , By Rev/Views
Last weeks season opened was solid, but slower than usual (and The Wire is a slow show to start anyway). So I pushed back watching the second episode till today.

I'm only just past the cold opening and credits and I'm already feeling compelled to write about it. The cold opening is a simple piece about Bubbles at an Addicts Anonymous meeting, it opens with a young ish woman talking about her experiences as an addict. The degrading things she did to chase her next high are not explicitly mentioned. But they are hinted at, which makes it all the more disturbing. Bubbles himself doesn't directly talk about his experiences (many of which the viewer has also experienced) instead he attempts to make light of it with amusing metaphors and jokes. But it's clear that things are wearing on him as he keeps it short before sitting down crushed.

Such a powerfull opening scene is part of what makes The Wire so great. We have only two characters talking a lot, one of which is only a bit part. But the writing and acting is so strong that the desperation and decay that is creeping through Baltimore permiates everything.

Then we're onto the season 5 cover of Tom Waits's "Way Down in the Hole". It's really grown on me this past week, I might like it more than The Blind Boys of Alabama's rendition. It has such a wonderful downbeat drive to it.

It seems that lies are a major part of this episode and even season. Both the media and McNulty are creating stories where there are none. McNulty in particular has lost the plot, as his tampering of evidence in a death to make it appear like strangulation (to match earlier post mortem neck damage on another body) is a new low even for Jimmy. Right now I can't really figure out why he's acting out this way, before Jimmy's motives have been clear if a little twisted but now... I don't know, he's gone way beyond his usual levels of bad behaviour into something that could end up with him being tarred as a 'bad guy'. As I said in the previous review, I think he's in for a major fall.

In the other fronts Marlo is pushing out again after the Major Crimes Unit relax their vigilance (having been essentially disbanded last episode) and he strikes out against people who offended him. Omar is on that list, but hasn't appeared yet. It's going to be legendary when Marlo goes up against Omar. Hopefully Snoop catches a bullet in the process.
I'm also hoping that Marlo's conversations with Avon and the "Russian" (Really Ukrainian) result in a return of "The Greek" I loved that guy in season 2 and I'd like to see the return of that organisation as it would tie S2 in nicely before the end.

The media section of the story still remains the weakest, Clark Johnson is fantastic again this episode. But on the whole it doesn't seem to have as much punch as any of the other parts of this story.

But the action is back and the ball is already rolling. Things are looking bleak in Baltimore and that means good television.
Direct Link

The Wire - Season Five in Review - Episode 1.

Category: , , By Rev/Views
[Spoiler Heavy]
First Appearances:
Major returning characters from previous seasons: McNulty, Bunk, Carver, Marlo, Freamon, Carcetti, "Beadie" Russell, Kima, Daniels, Sydnor, Snoop, Prop Joe, Carver, Rhonda Pearlman, Jay Landsman.
New Characters of note: Editor: Gus Haynes (Clark Johnson)

The Wire is easily one of the best shows that America (and possibly humanity) has ever produced. It's a pinnacle of storytelling that is for the most part unrivaled in the media. Only Dexter, The Shield and Six Feet Under come close to touching it for sheer perfection.

Sadly, this year will be The Wire's final season. This landmark television show that is hardly watched by the public will one day be discovered and held up for what it is. Seminal. But until then I'm going to mark the passing of the first of "The Trio" (The Trio is the nickname for the three best shows in the media right now, Dexter and The Shield are the other two) by reviewing , rating and commenting on every single episode this season. I'll duplicate these over at tv.com because I aim to review every episode of The Wire there (eventually).

Episode One - More With Less

The episode opens on one of my favourite characters; "Bunk" Moreland, interviewing a suspect. A section of the interviewing technique employed is one that first made it's TV debut in Homicide: Life on the Street (and additionally appeared in the book of the same title). While the scene is still funny even here, for myself some of the impact was lost because honestly - Homicide did it better. I feel a little dirty for even writing that; don't get me wrong Homicide is an amazing show, but The Wire is normally perfection. I guess that having seen the Homicide version last year, the humour just wasn't fresh. If you haven't seen it before elsewhere I'm sure it was more entertaining. For the record, I believe it originated from an actual incident at a police station - but don't quote me on that, I could be wrong.

Still as Bunk himself says "The bigger the lie, the more they believe."

I love that each season of The Wire has a new rendition of Tom Waits's "Way Down in the Hole". While it is still the First Season rendition by "Way Down in the Hole" The Blind Boys of Alabama that I love the most, this season's cover by Steve Earle is fantastic. It's got a real laid back feel to it that is simultaneously downbeat and lifting. It sets the tone for the show wonderfully and the title credits make it clear that the media is an important subject for this season (as previously indicated in various interviews).

The episode opens after the credits with McNulty and the rest in surveillance of Marlo's crew. Marlo is bright enough not to do anything in public and is even aware that the detail are keeping close tabs on him. Snoop continues to be one of the most unpleasant and detestable female villain characters in television history. I'm hoping she catches a nasty end this season, it would make putting up with her horrible voice and crimes all worthwhile. She's fantastic in this role as she's brought such a viseral response from me, I'd like to beat her (character's) head flat against the curb.

Meanwhile, Carver's promotion has proven to be a double edged sword. It is clear that his men have a lack of respect for him as their Sergant, but also they are in an exceedingly foul mood over the lack of overtime. Conversation hinted at in the previous scene becomes a hard reality as it becomes clear that the police department's moral is at an all time low. Considering some of the previous seasons, this is an achievement. The odds of being able to cover all of the police departments back pay AND future pay seem slim. Also, is Carver really wearing an official Baltimore Sergant's uniform? Cause I laughed every time I saw his hat badge. Regardless, it is clear the city and the police force are in serious trouble.

At Mayor Carcetti's office financial issues are clearly a massive problem for the city of Baltimore. Carcetti's response is to continue to cut and gouge the Police budget without providing any compensation for the force. It becomes clear that the major crimes unit is going to be disbanded in an attempt to save a few dollars. The FBI are also unwilling to get involved and help out unless Carcetti will release Clay Davies for federal prosecution.

The Baltimore Sun is a new arena for The Wire to tackle, it is where the issues concerning media will most likely be played out and it also gives us our first experience of Clark Johnson's character Gus. The same financial theme continues even here, with the staff concerned about layoffs. Clark's perfomance is immediately magnetic, if very similar to his perfomance in Homicide (but that is not a problem imo).

While the police force is struggling, life is continuing as usual on the street. Prop Joe and his co-op continue to go from strength to strength. But Marlo is clearly a disruptive element in this unit. He attempts to drive a wedge between Prop Joe and his Lieutenants. Something that may flare up later this season.
Also on the street, Bubbles is trying to get his life back on track. But previous mistakes and misdeeds mean it's hard for him to escape and move on. He is physically trapped in the desperation that many of the other characters feel. He makes ends meet by shifting papers on the street.

McNulty has discovered that Marlo's man Chris Partlow is interested in Sergei Malatov (a Ukrainian enforcer for the Greek from season 2). Does this show have a deep tapestry that reaches back into it's own history or what? I'm consistently impressed with touches like that (The Frank Sobotka posters are another such touch. I'd love to own one of those.)
In his private life he is still living with the lovely Beadie Russell, but various problems (including guilt over Bodies death) have caused him to return to previous form. He's drinking heavily and cheating on her. The shift back to homicide (where he started in this show) causes him to lash out. More than any other character McNulty has fallen since the previous season and if he continues then he's got a lot further to fall.

Herc has gotten out of the police force and is now working for Maury Levy as an investigator for the defense attorney. He's now sort of on the side of the criminals (helping defending them in court at least) and this could bring him (or his cop buddies) into serious trouble or conflict.

We end with McNulty back where he started, at his desk in homicide. Looking as fed up and depressed as many of the other characters must feel.

This season opener is less of a shocker - many shows like to open with a shock first episode - and instead it is in the traditional slow burn style of The Wire. Many potential conflicts and issues are groomed, it's hard to tell which ones will flare up and which will fizzle. That's part of the magic in The Wire, it's happy to tell a realistic story with human characters. People make mistakes, get frustrated, move on.

8.5/10 - Room for improvement in the pacing front. But that's to be expected in this show. A solid (if slow) start to what looks like an incredible season.

Direct Link