The Middleman - Episode 2

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As I try not to judge a series soley on the merits of a single episode, especially not the pilot episode I've just finished watching the second episode and the conclusion is. It's growing on me.

In the second episode a mud landslide in a Chinese restaurant results in the wild pursit of a terracotta earth elemental before it manages to cause the end of the world. Along the way WW and The Middleman encounter some fashion designer succubus's and travel to the underworld. We also learn a little more about The Middleman and Wendy's history.

While the special effects are still shoestring budget, the rest of the show has hit a more confident stride. Matt Kesslar (The Middleman) has settled into his role and appears a lot more comfortable and natural than he was in the pilot episode and the other core cast members have continued to put in solid performances.

It helps to think of the show as a live action cartoon, much like Dick Tracy or The Mask. This goes a long way towards making it work for me. It's all very silly with humour similar to the kind in 'The Tick'.

It was rather enjoyable and the series shows promise if it continues to grow in this fashion.
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Doctor Who: Replacement Doctors

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David Mitchell mentioned to The Sun recently that he would like to be the next Doctor. Now, I do think that it's a little premature to be asking for the role. I really hope that David Tennant will give us 2 or 3 more years before he leaves, enough time to see where Steven Moffat wants to take the 10th Doctor before we get a new one. But David has played something of a trump card in claiming that he's not handsome enough for the role, this feels like a bit of a play for sympathy along with an attempt to try and force the casting directors to consider him seriously. Which they really shouldn't, because he's an excellent comedian and comic actor, but I really don't feel he has the range required to play the Doctor.

Instead I'd like to suggest one of the following 11 people for the role:
(11 because he'd be the 11th Doctor, aren't I clever?)

Richard is a pretty safe pick and I'm just putting him here first to avoid the normal (What about REG?) wondering. He's played The Doctor twice previously, once for Children in Need and in again in the BBC Animated Doctor Who Adventures. He's a wonderfully strong actor who has the right kind of look about him, a bit mysterious, smart, witty and sort of above reality. He's got a proven record in this area and the only thing against him is he's an obvious choice for the role.

Simon is one of Hollywood's golden boys right now, since Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz he's become a pretty hot commodity. He's also been cast as Scotty in the new Star Trek movie and it seems that there's little he can do wrong at the moment. He's already demonstrated the acting range needed for the show and has even portrayed a memorable villain in Doctor Who (The Editor). Fortunately, this doesn't exclude him from being able to play The Doctor as Colin Baker also went from being a villain to being The Doctor previously (sadly) and he was quite heavily made up in the episode he did appear in.

(You have no idea how hard it was to find a picture of him without Ben Miller)

While the previous two candidates have been rather obvious choices I hope that my inclusion of Alexander Armstrong (from Armstrong and Miller) is a little surprising. Armstrong has many of the qualities you'd want to see from The Doctor, he's a good looking chap with a sharp sense of humour and good comic timing. He has a quintessentially British look about him and he sounds just right - confident and calm but capable of other emotional ranges as well.

I'd also like to quickly mention the sheer brilliance of the Chav British WWII Fighter Pilot sketches he did with Ben Miller. Here's one of them.

I think he'd be cracking don't cha know blood?

Yeah, yeah I know. Another slightly obvious choice here, but he has previously played the Doctor (again in the Children in Need special) and as he's grown older he's developed a very interesting look to him that would work, I think this picture shows quite well how he'd work in the role (admittedly with different clothes). He's an exceptional actor, again versed in the both the comedic and 'serious' roles and he's already had experience of time travel (Blackadder Back & Forth). I will say he's probably a weaker choice than the others on this list; mostly because he's so recognisable as Mr. Bean and Black Adder, which could cause the show to take an unintentional tone to it. People might end up watching waiting for him to do something really stupid like sonic screwdriver his tie to a cyberman or reverse the TARDIS into a police station.

I know, I know I seem to be picking a lot of comedic actors. But in my defense Robert isn't strictly speaking a comedic actor, he's an actor who can do comedy. Putting aside his role as my father - I mean Ben Harper - for a moment he's had an incredible career in theatre and was stunning as Captain Sir Edward Pellew in the various Hornblower adaptations. He's got everything you'd want from an actor playing The Doctor and as long as he could avoid turning into Ben Harper while ranting he'd be brilliant.

Jack is another actor who's played both comedic and serious roles in his time. His performance in the Pirates of the Carribean movies spring to mind, where his performance as Norrington literally saved the second movie from being a complete turd. While his character was treated in a criminal fashion during the horribly over bloated third movie his star turn in the series was one of the bright spots in it. He's also an accomplished stage actor and has shown a great flair for everything he's turned his hand to, including The Libertine, This Life, Coupling (where he worked with Steven Moffat) and just about every documentary that hasn't been narrated by David Attenborough.

Oh yes, I'm putting forward James May from Top Gear. The controversy! How could I do such a thing? Well first of all, be thankful I'm not suggesting Jeremy Clarkson or Richard Hammond and secondly just listen to the thinking behind it for a moment. This selection is very much dependant on how good James is at acting instead of just presenting, now his role on Top Gear does in truth involve a small amount of acting. But, if he's turns out to be a rubbish actor who can't audition then there's no harm done. The thing is, he'd be ideal for a Doctor in the fashion of the older ones (pre-2005), he's got the right look, attitude and voice for the role. You can just see him fuddying about in the TARDIS and being interested in architecture or vintage steam engines. He'd need partnering with a strong female lead who isn't afraid of a little action, but I think this suggestion is one that could work.

Now feel free to call me an idiot for suggesting him.

Sean is such a fantastic actor that he's practically made for a role like this. He's one of the most accomplished character actors currently in the business. Roles like Sharpe have shown just how charismatic and brilliant he is on screen. But he often gets typecast into playing the villains, something that happens to so many talented character actors. I'd love to see him as The Doctor, standing there explaining the intricacies of time to some young slip of a girl while attempting to fend off the Darleks.

Hugh is a stunning character actor, one who's taken the role of Doctor House and made an art form out of playing a really unpleasant man in House M.D. He played the role so well that much of America was fooled into thinking he really was American. But this is also a major negative point against him, Hugh will be forever thought of as 'Doctor House' until the day he (sadly) leaves us. But I'm sure he could overcome such stereotyping while also peaking interest in Doctor Who over in the Americas. He'd be a cunning casting move and he could film Doctor Who once he'd finished a season of House.

Anthony is American, I know that. But if David Tennant can conceal his Scottish accent and use Received Pronunciation correctly I'm pretty confident that Anthony Michael Hall can hide his American one as well. Anthony is no stranger to playing characters in unusual circumstances with his roles in The Dead Zone and upcoming as Mike Engel in The Dark Knight. He's an actor who's demonstrated real on screen charisma and a wide range of emotional acting, he'd approach the role with a pretty fresh set of eyes as I'd think he hasn't had too much exposure to the previous Doctors stateside.

Why? Oh just look at him. Then go watch him in his stand up or on Q.I. He's wonderful! Plus am I not allowed at least one half joking choice on this list? Anyway he could be very good as the Doctor.

So there you go, 11 suggestions from various areas of television and film who might be suitable for the role.
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100th Post! - Here's my collection

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The little blogger counter is telling me I've written 99 posts so far and this one makes for the 100th. So in celebration of this tiny milestone I'll put up my collection of DVDs.

Now the damn things are about 7 foot tall, so I had to break it into three pictures. The bottom few rows aren't photographed as they're still empty in preperation for whatever turns up next. Click on the images for larger versions if you want.

Left to right:
Ontop of shelves: The DVD Dragons, Friends and Futurama

Top Row: American Dad, Arrested Development, The A-Team, Band of Brothers, Battlestar Galactica, Black Books, Black Adder, Bones, Boston Legal, Carnivale, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Darkplace, Dead Like Me, The Dead Zone. (Missing - Dexter, on loan to my mum)

2nd Row: Family Guy, Extras, Friday Night Lights, Firefly, Serenity, Flight of the Conchords, Fraiser, Futurama, Fawlty Towers, How I Met Your Mother, Jeeves and Wooster, Homicide (Series 4 missing from photo as it's being watched right now). Missing from here is The Green Wing as my father has it and refuses to return it.

Row 3: House, The Mighty Boosh, King of the Hill, Millenium, The Muppet Show, My Family, The Office, The Peter Kay Show, Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights, Max and Paddy, Red Dwarf, Ripping Yarns, The Scarlet Pimpernel

Row 4: Scrubs, Seinfeld, The Shield (Season 1 on loan to a friend), Spaced, Six Feet Under, Sledge Hammer, Sharpe, Skins

Row 5: Simpsons, Supernatural, Sugar Rush, Tintin, 30 Rock, The Blue Planet, The Wire (season 4 on loan to another friend), Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister.

Row 6: Films - Alien, Aliens, The Back to the Future Trilogy, The Big Lebowski, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, Blazing Saddles Bonnie and Clyde, Casshern, Clue, Dogma, Evil Dead Trilogy, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Ghostbusters 1 + 2, Godfather Trilogy, Gremlins 1 + 2, Heat, Kung Fu Hustle, Lost in Transition, Mad Max, The Mission, Napolean Dynamite, Office Space, Once Upon A Time in the West, Oldboy, Ong Bak, The Princess Bride, Pulp Fiction, Rambo 1, 2 &3, Robocop, Run Lola Run, Scarface, Scrooged,Shaolin Soccer, Slackers, Smokin' Aces, Spirited Away, The Spaghetti Western Trilogy, Superman 1 + 2, Taxi 1 + 2, Terminator 1 + 2

Row 7: Three Amigos, Three Kings, The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, The Usual Suspects, Van Wilder: Party Liaison, The 40 Year Old Virgin, a book on bonsai, some hand strengtheners, a guitar tuner, a small exercise ball and binoculars.

It's not the flashiest set of shelves, but I'm not planning to commission a proper set until I have my own house instead of a flat.
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The Dead Zone - Movie hopes?

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Well according to an interview over at The Sci-fi Wire there's some mulling over a Dead Zone movie which hopefully would complete the series. Anthony Michael Hall isn't optimistic about it but he's open to the possibility.

Realistically it doesn't have as much of a chance as many of the other movies used to complete TV series. But I would have said the same thing about Futurama or Dead Like Me a few years back. So I'm going to be quietly optimistic about this one.

I just finished watching the end of the first season of TDZ a few moments ago, I forgot how stunning and shocking the end of the first season was. It's Genius.
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Why You Should Watch... Homicide: Life on the Street

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Well, that's the longest title I've written and probably will ever write. But I guess this show deserves a bit of pomp and trumpet as it is that darn good.

Homicide: Life on the Street

(Detectives Pembleton and Bayliss)

Richard Belzer as Detective John Munch
Yaphet Kotto as Lt. Al Giardello
Kyle Secor as Detective Tim Bayliss
Clark Johnson as Detective Meldrick Lewis
Andre Braugher as Detective Frank Pembleton
Melissa Leo as Sergeant Kay Howard
Reed Diamond as Detective Mike Kellerman
and many more

Homicide: Life on the Street is a 1990s police procedural drama based on the book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets by David Simon. Yes, David Simon that guy who created the greatest story driven show to ever grace our screens. The Wire. Now, I promise I'm not going to froth about The Wire any further in this review, but it has to be mentioned when talking about Homicide as The Wire is a clear descendent of Homicide and both shows have themes and elements in common.

Homicide ran from 1993 to 1999 and is set in the Homicide division of Baltimore, Maryland. It was inspired by David Simon's book and his influence can be felt throughout the series. The show features an exceptionally strong cast and also has many famous actors and actresses in guest roles. Off the top of my head I can mention Bruce Campbell, Jeffrey Donovan (who both now star in USA's Burn Notice) and Kate Walsh from Grey's Anatomy/Private Practice, but there are plenty of others.

The word best used to describe Homicide would most certainly be gritty, while it doesn't get into an exploration of urban decay as much as The Wire does, the theme is clearly evident throught the series both in the camera work, storylines and dialog. Homicide does not shy away from reality, it also doesn't want to paint it's characters as being flash, overly attractive, slick or anything else that many other shows in this genre like to do. The members of the Homicide division are very human in their nature, they're flawed and real.

recently rated Homicide as the most underrated show of the 1990s and they go as far as attributing the birth of realistic television shows to Homicide. Which is a fair statement to make, without Homicide paving the way who knows what todays police shows would be like. Would we have shows like The Shield, Life, CSI, Dexter and so on? Who can say what would be different? All I do know is even though I am watching Homicide nearly ten years after it finished (for the first time I might add) the show still holds up strong. The quality of film, clothing and phones might be outdated but the writing, acting and plots are as strong as the best of the current work in showbizland. It's a show that's genuinely worth taking the time to discover and it's a rewarding show to watch.

But, despite the show's brilliance it was not acknowledged publicly with massive ratings. During it's run TV Guide did give it that now famous moniker "The best show you're not watching" (A title that's been later held by Arrested Development and The Wire) and the show struggled with ratings throughout it's entire run. Which in some ways I can see, it's not the easiest of shows to watch as it makes no attempt to beautify the world in which it's set. The show also suffered with tampering by the network in an attempt to raise ratings. That seems to be a story that also never quite dies, excecutives vs writers.
Despite these problems Homicide remains one of the best shows out there, also as it has run so completely under the radar for most people most of the events in the show can remain suprising and it can feel like you're watching it for the first time.

Homicide features interesting crimes backed by a strong cast who have fantastic dialog to work with, the show is a complete diamond in the rough and show be watched by anyone and everyone who considers themselves a fan of police drama.

Last of all I can't finish without taking a little time to talk about the character John Munch, as he holds the record for the most appearances on different shows.

· "The Wire" (2008)
· "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit"
· "Sesame Street" (2006)
· "Arrested Development" (2006)
· "Law & Order: Trial by Jury"
· "The Beat" (2000)
"The X Files" (1997)
"Law & Order" (1996, 97, 2000)
· "Homicide: Life on the Street" (1993 - 1999)

Homicide, it's more than a way of life.
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Homicide & The Office - Packaging

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I'm gearing up to do a WYSW on Homicide, I just want to watch the last DVD from the first season of The Dead Zone as it's when Greg Stillson and the apocalpyse first turn up it's so brilliant. Why, oh why was it cancelled before it finished?

Anyway, I managed to get the region 2 versions of series 4 and 5 for £15 a piece in HMV, which is an absolute bargain as they were £40 each a week ago. But I'm not entirely thrilled with the direction the DVD manufacturers have gone in.

I'll show you why with a snapshot of the relevant part on my DVD shelf.

The first three seasons are in boxes that just ooze quality out of the wazoo. They're snug, tidy and have very stylish imagery on them with the white, black and coloured evidence bags/murder weapons. Now the 4th and 5th have managed to keep the colour scheme, which I must admit I love. But they've moved to the plastic transparent multi cases. Which are not only lower quality but are also shorter and smaller. So the whole set doesn't sit right when put together and also the images on the back of the 4th series are clearly stills from the first two series as they include characters who left. It's very dissappointing that the manufactuers felt the need to lower the quality of their product without dropping the price to match. Poor show.

Enjoy playing spot the show on the shelves there. Big bonus points if you can name them all. The final three in particular should be very difficult.

While I'm complaining about this kind of stuff I thought I'd share something else in the packaging front. This one is less of an oversight and more of a WTF?

It's from the cover of The Office (USA) season 2.

Unfortunately this small image doesn't quite show the true WTFery of the photoshopping on this. So I'll have to describe it a little as well. Trust me though, you want to pick up this when you're in a shop and look at it....

What this picture doesn't show you is how badly digitised the box art is. The resolution used for the actors is so low you can see individual blocky pixels with the naked eye. This is made even more confusing because the resolution used for the blinds, the text and the back of the box is exceptionally high quality. It's like this was made with some kind of bizzare in joke in mind.

As if that wasn't bad enough the actual images chosen are crimes against the people they're of. Jenna Fischer looks like she has some kind of fatal illness - perhaps the black plague - and is about to die. Steve Carrell looks like he didn't have time to pose for the photo, so they raided Madame Tussauds and used a wax-work version of him with someone elses hands opening the blinds. I say someone elses hands because the angle the top arm goes at is close to anatomatically impossible, at the very least it would be incredibly uncomfortable for him.
John Krasinski is almost unrecognisable, he's been given a new chin that looks like it was borrowed from Johnny Bravo or Brock Sampson and the photoshopped backwards in age until he appears to be twelve. Perhaps it is a photo from his high school book. I don't know.
As for poor Rainn Wilson, he's been wedged in the gap between Steve's shoulder and his not-arm at a level that makes him look like he's either 5'0" tall or Zardo the floating head. But he's better off than B.J. Novak, who appears in the image here but on the box art has been moved and can't be even seen on the front the picture. Instead he's been wrapped round and placed on the spine of the dust jacket along with the remainder of Jenna's head.

It's simply awful to the highest degree and really not what I expected to see from a show that is so exceptionally well made and produced.

The horror... The horror...
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Why You Should Watch... The Dead Zone

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Originally I was just going to review the first season DVD of this show but while browsing it I decided I should watch a few episodes to remind myself of what the show was like in the early days. Also it would be the first time I've watched it on DVD despite the fact that I've had them sat on my shelf for nearly a year now. The show didn't make it into my top 50 shows because I was feeling exceptionally bitter about it's cancellation, but I now realise it probably should be. There is an 'Exceedingly Excellent Episode' review about one of the second season episodes though. My favourite episode of the show... One that still gives me chills.

Additionally as the show has just premiered on ION Television (16th of June) and will be shown three times a week this feels like a good time to try and explain why you should get into this show.

The Dead Zone is a TV series based on the Stephen King book of the same name. It stars Anthony Michael Hall as Johnny Smith, a man who has/had his own perfect life in 1996. He's engaged to a beautiful woman (Sarah played by Nicole de Boer), he loves working as a teacher and he's happy to live his entire life without changing a thing. Unfortunately for Johnny he is hit by a truck while travelling home and ends up in a coma with severe brain trauma, so bad that it's speculated he'll never wake up as his perception centers are shot. But six years later he does indeed suddenly wake up, he wakes up to a world that's the same but different. He discovers that his fiance has married the county Sherriff Walt Bannerman (played by Chris Bruno), that she has had Johnny's son and they're raising him as Walt's.

To make matters worse it seems that the damage to Johnny's brain has caused him to start using a normally dormant part of his brain for cognitive functions, a section that's normally considered a 'dead zone' in most human's brains. This has the unfortunate side effect of altering Johnny's perception, when he touches people and items he now gets visions, sometimes of the future, sometimes of the past. Visions that are always important to someone.

Gradually Johnny rehabilitates himself with the aid of his physio and friend Bruce (played by John L. Adams). Bruce is a character of exceptional note in this series because he did not exist in the book or the Christopher Walken movie and the Johnny Smith in those two versions ends up losing his mind in events that are worth watching/reading about. Bruce is not only the most likable character in the series but he's also the most important influence on Johnny's life. Bringing perspective to events and levelling out Johnny when things get too much.

Johnny struggles with returning to his old life, his visions are invasive and compelling. They are revealed pretty early on to the public as Johnny's nature is such that he feels the need to help others. This divides people up between those who fear him, sceptics and those who come to trust and believe in his visions. The reactions of his community are difficult for Johnny to deal with in the early days.

Johnny continues with his life and 'solves' his visions when they arise until he meets a young and charismatic man called Greg Stillson (Sean Patrick Flanery) who's running for election. While shaking his hand Johnny sees a vision of Washington D.C. just dissappearing, it is a vision of some kind of apocalypse that will be caused by Stillson's actions.

The upcoming apocalypse and Stillson's involvement in it forms the major thrust of The Dead Zone metaplot. This divides the episodes into two kinds, ones that deal with Greg Stillson (which normally happen at the start and end of each season) and ones that deal with everyday life for Johnny (mostly one offs).

The first thing that strikes you about this show it's it's just beautiful, the camera work, the music, the characters, the setting, the stories. Everything about it is just beautiful and light. Considering the show is based on a Stephen King horror novel the show is a remarkable piece of beauty and hope. One of the major underlying themes of the show is about just how much better Johnny makes people's lives. While he himself might not have the ideal life anymore he's able to touch and help so many people with his ability that it's clear the world is a better place for his existence.

It's hard not to fall in love with this show when you watch it, everything about it is just wonderful. If you enjoy the paranormal, detective shows, shows about the difficulty of dealing with loss, unrequited love or huge sweeping questions like "What if we could change things for the better?" "What if you knew someone was going to do something terrible, how could you stop them?" and the like you should check out The Dead Zone. It's one of those forgotten gems that really deserves a higher profile than it has. Do yourself a favour and give it a long hard look as it's a spectacular show.

(Characters from left to right: Sarah Bannerman, Bruce, Johnny Smith, Reverand Purdy, Greg Stillson, Walt Bannerman and Dana Bright)

The IMDB rates TDZ as an 8/10 while has it as a 9.1 (warning the episode guide spoilers a big plot point about the 6th season right on it's front page, so avoid it if possible.)

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The Middleman - First Episode thoughts

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Ok before I roll into thoughts on the first episode and the series I'm just going to quickly express two rather random thoughts that don't really deserve posts of their own.

1. As awesome as it was to see Michael K. Williams in The Incredible Hulk movie. What on earth did that three second cameo achieve? Outside of fans of The Wire MKW isn't really a big star yet, so why do it?

2. What's happened to the camera lighting in many modern American TV shows? More and more women are being lit in a way that makes them look like they have soft 5 o'clock shadow. It's really unattractive.

The Middleman

The Middleman is based on the comic book series of the same name. It's about a superhero called The Middleman and his sidekick (and main star) Wendy Watson. As you can see from the picture they're a fairly attractive pair played by Natalie Morales and Matt Keeslar.

The show is pretty much offbeat humour, pop culture references and bad puns all the way. The first episode deals with Wendy joining the Middleman as his assistant and them discovering why a lot of mobsters are being killed.

The rest of this is going to be spoiler heavy.

The show is rather whimsical in the same way as Pushing Daisies, it has that similar otherworldy/fairy tale feel to it and a lot of the same lame duck acting that occurs in PD. Fortunately this time there's no irritating narrator to make the experience less enjoyable and Natalie, Mary Pat Gleason, Jake Smollett and Brit Morgan are all quite charismatic on screen. But Matt's 'The Middleman' character is a real plank of wood and as charismatic as scenery. I suspect this is intentional as there is one good moment where he steps outside of this persona in the gorilla enclosure (it involves the best joke in the episode imo), but for the most part his lines feel forced and irritating. Hopefully this will evolve or go away as time presses on but we'll have to wait and see.

Natalie is very good as WW, which is a good thing because much of the acting burden seems to be on her to perform and carry the weight of the show. It also helps that she's exceptionally easy on the eye and has good screen presence.

Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the guest stars for the episode, the mobsters in one of the initial scenes are so bad at delivering their lines (I hope it was not intentionally done as it didn't work) that it was a blessing when they were killed by a shadowy figure in a pinstriped suit with a tommy gun. But the gorilla was pretty poor and Mary Lynn Rajskub was also very weak as the evil scientist Dr. Gibbs.

The plot for the rest of the episode is all rather obvious, it deliberately follows stereotypes and uses predictable narrative plus twists to resolve everything. Honestly, the show needs to step up and improve beyond it's pilot episode if it wants to be a success. It has potential to be quirky, offbeat and enjoyable but it needs to feel more natural and not rely on spewing out bad puns while using quotes from movies in order to cover up a poor story.

I'm going to give it a chance, it might grow on me a little like Pushing Daisies did. Mostly I think it has potential because Natalie plus the supporting cast were consistently good in the episode. With a stronger performance from Matt, less men in gorilla suits (which never look good) and a decent story the show could go places.
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Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs

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Well, I have just literally finished watching the second of the Futurama DVD Movies (as it was leaked early) and... I'm not wowed by it. The first movie, Bender's Big Score was a wonderful celebration of Futurama. It was exciting, funny, touching and everything Futurama had been before. It went back to old places, stories and characters without feeling like it was just rehashing old material.

But, I'm sad to say that TBWABB doesn't live up to the standard set by the first movie and the previous series. While there are moments that are laugh out loud funny and some of the scenes are brilliant there's also an awful lot of reuse of jokes from previous story lines. Including Bender sh*ting bricks not just once, but twice, Charleston Chew fireworks and more. Even some of the more original jokes from the film get used multiple times and they fail to feel like running gags, instead they feel like lazy writing. Also the plots feel rather weak compared to the ones that have come before and there seem to be very few consequences or hooks. The wrapping up of the story in particular just doesn't sit right, Bender's Big Score ended with a revelation that was close to the touching nature of the Episodes "Luck of the Fryish" and "Jurassic Bark". But the climax and resolution of TBWABB just feels rushed and not satisfying.

Now don't get me wrong, I'll still be picking this up on DVD as soon as it's released here. But, I'm sure I won't watch the movie as often as I'll watch the rest of the series. There are some superb moments, David Cross and Dan Castellaneta provide most excellent voice acting and the visuals of the show are as top notch as ever. But overall it falls short of anything previously done, I'd compare it to "That's Lobstertainment". Which is the only episode of the original series that I'll skip past.

All in all... Not good.
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DVDs in Review #14 - The Wire: The Complete First Season

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I've spoken before about HBO's seminal police procedural show The Wire a couple of times, once in a "Why you should watch" feature and once during the Top 50 Shows, where it took my personal number two slot. Losing out to The Shield only because The Wire isn't as accessible at first.

But it's not over, I'm going to extend my love affair with this show as much as possible by occasionally reviewing the DVD releases of each season. I'll start - logically enough - with the first season of the show.


"Mr. Little, how does a man rob drug dealers for eight or nine years and live to tell about it?" - State's Atty. Ilene Nathan

"Day at a time I suppose?" - Omar Little

The first season of The Wire is the largest hurdle for any new viewer as the show has a different style to it when compared to most shows. The usual "Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action & Resolution" story telling format is not present in each episode, instead it's located across the season as a whole. This means two things, first of all you cannot realistically judge the show until you've watched the entire first season and secondly it means that first half of the season is all exposition. This is why the show can be so difficult to get into, people aren't used to the 'One case per season' format as it's not a common form of televisual storytelling. These days the viewer wants everything to happen within the space of an hour so waiting 13 hours for the story to pan out is a little too much.

But, for those viewers who are willing to get through the first 6 or so episodes there is a wonderful moment of realisation and clarity awaiting them. I know I didn't click with the show until the third episode and real enjoyment didn't come until the second season. Others have expressed a similar experience, but we do all agree that the show is spectacular and wonderful once you're in sync with it.

As for the season itself, it is set in Baltimore, Maryland (much like Homicide: Life on the Street) and tells the stories of not just the police involved in breaking open a drug dealing ring but also the street dealers and kingpins themselves. This is another departure from the norm, providing both sides of the story at the same time allows the viewer to (eventually) understand all issues involved. The scenes with the street pushers in particular can be hard to get through, but this is because they use authentic Baltimore street lingo. They sound that way because they really should sound that way.
The show tracks a special detail which is initiated by an insubordinate cop called Jimmy McNulty who goes behind his department's back to set this up with a judge. (Jimmy's lack of respect for authority is a continued problem in his career development.) The detail is headed up by one Cedric Daniels and includes a collection of misfits and troublemakers that the department is just looking to offload and use to make the detail fail. This bureaucratic infighting, paralysis and politicing is one of the major issues that The Wire looks at in most of it's seasons.
The detail is charged with bringing down one Avon Barksdale and his number two 'Stringer' Bell and it's not until episode six where the titular wire/wiretap is actually used. This is where the season picks up and gets legs.

In short, this first season can be tough to get through but it's completely worth the effort as this show is the single greatest piece of storytelling in modern television.



"For you I would suggest some pantsuits, perhaps muted in color, something to offset Detective Moreland's pinstripe lawyerly affectations and the brash tweedy impertinence of Detective Freamon. Rawls is watching on this one, let's at least pretend like we got a fucking clue." - Sgt. Jay Landsman

"Tweedy impertinence? I like that." - Det. Lester Freamon

As can be seen from the picture the box art is a stylised semi noir affair. It comes inside the old carboard dust jacket and has a booklet which lists each episode's writing and directing credits. Now I have the older version, which had the DVDs placed within one of the plastic paged book cases. But the newer versions now have the slimline double DVD holding cases, which means that the newer version takes up half the space the old one did. This of course frustrates me because I now want to repurchase the first three seasons in order to get the slimer versions.

The packaging is attractive, striking and tells you everthing you need to know and the new version takes up very little space on the shelf. But it is worth noting that Clark Johnson's name is mispelt on the back of the box.



"What the f**k? You're supposed to be good cop!" - Det. Thomas Hauk

The first season of The Wire is very thin on extras, there is audio commentaries on three episodes. "The Target" (David Simon), "The Detail" (Clark Johnson - who has a wonderful voice) and "Cleaning up" (David Simon & George P. Pelecanos). These commentaries are pretty good, but I've often found that commentaries from a single person feel very dry and inorganic. This does bleed across a little here and I feel that the commentaries could have been improved with the addition of one or two more people, writers, directors, producers and/or actors.



"A life, Jimmy, you know what that is? It's the shit that happens while you're waiting for moments that never come." - Det. Lester Freamon

The normal price on the internet is pretty much universal for this show. £18. Don't pay a penny more if you've never seen the show before because it is possible you may not have the patience and strength to get far enough into the show. You might give up before experiencing the epithany where you suddenly come into sync with the show.

£18 gives you 775 mins of A grade entertainment. Which is 2.3p per minute. All things considered that's one of the top deals in the world of DVDs.


Show: 9
Packaging: 8
Extras: 4
Price: 9

Final Score: 75%

The overall score has been let down by the poor amount of extras, but don't let that turn you off because The Wire is amazing.
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DVDs in Review #13: Garth Marenghi's Darkplace

Category: , , , By Rev/Views
I figured for the 13th review something a little more sinister would be in order.

The Show:

"Greetings traveller. I'm Garth Marenghi, horror writer. Most of you will probably know me already from my extensive canon of chillers, including Afterbirth, in which a mutated placenta attacks Bristol. Back in the 1980s, I wrote, directed and starred in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, a television program so radical, so risky, so dangerous, so goddamn crazy, that the so-called powers that be became too scared to show it, and gypped me."
- Garth Marenghi

Garth Marenghi's Darkplace is a show that was released in 2004 about a show based on the fictional works of a fictional horror writer called Garth Marenghi. Essentially it's part horror, part comedy and part mockumentry. The show is six episodes long and consists of the only surviving recordings of a show that was "made" in the 1980s. A show about the staff and goings on in the creepy hospital of Romford, split up with talking head interviews with the Garth, Dean and Todd.

Darkplace is an amusing parody of the cheesy horror/B movie genre and it attempts to both recreate and lampoon the genre. The show deliberately attempts to take itself too seriously, setting up ridiculous situations and then having the characters treat them as very realistic or touching and heartwarming despite the bizzare nature of circumstances. Also the show has been wonderfully treated to make it look authentic, the costumes, sets, camera work and dialog all fit in with the look of 1980s television. Additionally the show takes it one step further with some truely terrible (but hilarious) editing of the footage.

It's difficult to truely describe how clever this show is, it's an intentionally awful show that provides lame footage, poor acting, terrible plots, laughable monsters and so on but with a huge amount of tongue in cheek knowledge that it's all just a giant hoax. The show is bad and that's the point.

Oddly when it came out in 2004 there was not that much of a response to it from the public. I for one didn't even know it had come out until I saw it on DVD a couple of years ago. But since the DVD release it's enjoyed a bit of a revival and people have come to appreciate it for the comedy gem it is. You really have to understand and experience the genre of television and movies that this show is lampooning to get the full level enjoyment from the show, but as long as you realise it's all a big hoax the show is entertaining even for those who haven't watched 1980 B-Movie style shows.

Dean Learner's talking head interview about the eyeball/penis impregnation scene in episode 3 is worth watching the show for by itself.



"He couldn't actually interact with, you know, with another actor. I've never seen that before, and I've never seen that since. But I've just seen the tape, and it looks okay, though." - Todd Rivers on Dean Learner

Darkplace's packaging is simple, functional and almost exactly what it needs to be. I still personally maintain that DVDs should be packaged in cases that are the same height as CD cases, but that minor grip aside (as it applies to all DVDs) the only problem with the packaging is they could have used a slimline DVD case as the show is a single DVD. The box art maintains the hoax and provides a great level of detail about the show along with stills. Of course if you don't know the show is a hoax reading the back of it can make you wonder why it is sat in the comedy section. So it's not doing itself any favours when on the shelf, but once you're in on the joke the packaging makes more sense.



"She was like a candle in the wind... unreliable." - Dean Learner

The Extras in Darkplace are something a little bit special, they continue to support the idea that the show is a real entity and not a parody. Adding a selection of footage from a lost episode - one of the 43 episodes that were "filmed" before Dean Learner decided his haircut was bad and demanded they were all reshot, a single cut scene from "The Scotch Mist" episode titled "The one scene I cut", music from the show, test footage, an extra hour of talking head interviews and radio ads featuring the cast.

But the jewel in the crown is the commentary, which is provided by Garth Marenghi, Dean Learner and Todd Rivers - who are not the actual actors (they are really Matthew Holness, Richard Ayoade and Matt Berry) but they are the "actors" who played the characters in the show. Madeleine Wool, the fourth cast member has allegedly disappeared or died (depending on who's telling the story) so she doesn't provide any commentary as such.
This commentary is provided entirely in character at location in Garth Marenghi's basement and is just as great a lampoon of DVD commentaries as the show is of the 1980s style. Garth continues to take the entire show exceptionally seriously and gets irrate when the other two dare talk over scenes he feels are 'moving' while Todd has absolutely no memory of anything that happened because he was blind drunk the entire time while filming. Watching the show with the commentary on is a whole new experience, I love the idea of having the characters watch their own show. While it's not possible to do it in most commentaries Darkplace has characters who play characters so it can manage it. In short, the commentary is a whole extra layer to the joke and the show should be watched with it on at least once.



"As a horror writer I don't ask for much. I just hope I've changed the way you think about life." - Garth Marenghi

Darkplace is available from play for the ridiculously low price of £5.99. While the show is short, the talking heads extra adds a great deal to the experience and this is one of the few shows where the extras are genuinely part of the experience. The show itself runs for 2 hours and 24 mins but the extras more than double the experience if you want to get the full enjoyment from them. At a basic level this works out at around 4p per minute, but after you've watched all the extras it's under 2p and this is one of those shows where you really should watch all of the extras.


Show: 8/10
Packaging: 8/10
Extras: 10/10
Price: 9/10

Final Score: 87.5%

For those interested in more here's Garth's official page on the show:
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Category: By Rev/Views
Well I'm stuck waiting until the 25th of August for the 3rd Season of Supernatural to be released on Dove-Eh-Durr over here in Blighty, and if I'm honest that's a little too long to wait. But I'm going to.

I went into watching Supernatural with a bit of a negative view of it, not so much that I wasn't going to give it a chance to win me over but I wasn't totally thrilled with the concept and cast. I've since watched the first two seasons and I must confess it's grown on me quite a bit now.

I talked a bit about the show before here, and I'm going to try and avoid repeating myself. But I'm still drawing parallels in the feel of the show between it and Millenium. Which is nothing but a good sign. The first season finished with a spectacular finale and the second season carried on. Providing consequences, continuity and just generally has a show that contains a reality that you can immerse yourself in because it feels real and alive. Even if you are left wondering why on Earth the authorities don't have a branch to deal with all the ghouls and ghosts... Where's my Delta Green?

Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles have both grown on me as the leads. I was initially concerned that the show had such a small cast it would be hard to threaten them properly and create a level of tension. Especially as the Winchester family is so small, there's little for them to lose beyond that which they've already lost. And this problem remains a concern, but if you can put aside the fact that it's almost impossible for one of the starring characters to get dropped without ending the show; you have a fantastic duo of actors that really play off each other exceptionally well. Jensen as Dean is the more entertaining of the pair, he's also oddly the more authoritive and knowledgable. Which is unusual for a character who's such a 'rebel' character type.

I do still find myself wishing that the cast was a tad larger, but the fact that Sam and Dean are pretty much indestructable is pretty entertaining. They have plenty of time to laugh and quip in the face of the wierd and downright nasty and it's this level of die hard humour that turns the show from being something normal into something a bit special. I mentioned before that the show really has a genuine sense of humour about itself, it's willing to point out the absurdities and has the characters highlight them in a wonderfully ironic fashion. The Hollywood episode in season 2 is a great example of this, both paying subtle homage to the Evil Dead series while also parodying the entire LA Horror Business at the same time. The scenes where the movie directors discuss how ridiculous salt and shotguns are as weapons against spirits are particually great.

All in all, I think Supernatural is actually an excellent show. Season 1 is available from Zavvi and Play for £18 and Season 2 can be had from Play for £18 as well. It's 22 Episodes per season and each episode is about 40 mins long. So that's some great bang for the buck.

I'd say if you enjoyed Angel, Buffy, Millenium, The X-Files or you're a fan of the Horror Genre and have a sense of humour about it you should check out this show.

Oh and I noticed Ben Edlund has written some of the episodes as well (2nd and 3rd Season), so I guess if you like The Tick or Venture Bros you should watch it too. :P

Speaking of which, Venture Brothers is on tonight. WOOT!
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The Science of Battlestar Galactica

Category: , By Rev/Views
BSG isn't my favourite series. In fact I still haven't watched past the third or fourth episode of the current season. I'm not sure why, I just cba. Same problem with the last season of Nip/Tuck. I was enjoying both of them, I have them saved ready to watch, I just can't bring myself to do it.

But this guy's blog is almost enough to make me want to carry on watching it.

There's some great stuff there.
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Boston Legal

By Rev/Views
For those of you who don't already know. Boston Legal has been renewed for a 5th and final season. It will number only 13 episodes, but it's at least something because the show has been struggling for viewers. David E. Kelley has given up his rights over the American remake of Life on Mars to bring us this.

It's a little bittersweet, I'm not suprised that the show is getting axed. It's been struggling to get decent viewership and really only seems to appeal to a small and wealthy portion of the American public. But, David E. Kelley has stood up and paid a hefty price in order to have a chance to wrap things up and provide closure for the loyal viewers of the show.

I for one look forward to watching it and I admire David's decision to fight for his show and the viewers. Giving us an ending rather than allowing the network to axe it and leave things hanging.

I hope it ends well for Alan, Denny, Jerry and co.

Coming Soon
Crime Spree Cinema
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Summer Shows: Part 2

By Rev/Views
And here are the Summer Shows that I'm considering worth checking out.

The Middleman

ABC Family - Monday 16th June

A young woman finds a cure for her career troubles when she lands a job as an assistant to superhero The Middleman.

Showtime - Monday 16th June

Returns for it's 4th Season, I've have decided it's worth getting back into and watching this. It was rather good.


Sci Fi, season three premieres July 29

Join your fellow sci-fi fans for a third season in Eureka, the top-secret Pacific Northwest town that harbors America's most brilliant minds.

Maybe it's time I caught up with this show, I read about it a while ago and thought it sounded interesting.

Men in Trees
ABC, new episodes resume May 28

Men in Trees
returns from hiatus to complete its third and final season. Don't miss every precious moment of Alaskan drama, romance, and laughs!

This is one I'm thinking about watching because it's only three seasons long.

Burn Notice
USA, second season premieres July 10

Follow the continuing adventures of Michael Westen, a former spy who, after being mysteriously dumped by his agency, moves to Miami and begins to use his skills to help folks in need.

Of course this should be watched. But I'm probably repeating myself here...

Charlie Jade
Sci Fi, premieres June 6

South African sci-fi series Charlie Jade is coming to America! Watch as detective Jeffrey Pierce finds adventure and intrigue while trapped in a parallel universe.

Sounds interesting, it's only 20 episodes long so it's not going to drag out forever.

USA, third season premieres July 18

When a phony psychic teams up with real detectives, the results are both highly hilarious and surprisingly successful.

Mentioned this before, it's one of the few good shows left on USA.

And that's it so far. Not really much of an improvement on the previous incarnation of this list. There's a couple of new additions but, eh... The Summer looks bleak without Johnny Smith or The 4400 to liven things up.
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Summer Shows

By Rev/Views
For me, traditionally the Summer used to be a warm up for the Fall season. I used to watch The Dead Zone, Psych, The 4400 and Burn Notice in preparation for the upcoming Fall crunch.

But this summer is looking pretty sparse right now. TDZ and 4400 have been cancelled and nothing really interesting has stepped in to fill the void.

In Plain Sight might be interesting, but I'm really not that up for another 'crime of the week' type procedural show. So I'm probably going to pass on it.

Maybe I'll get back into Weeds as I did enjoy what I watched of it previously. I just had too many shows on the go at the time and something had to give.

Of course The Venture Brothers returns today, so that's some good news.

Moonlight? Hmm, maybe.

But really there's feck all on TV right now that's worth watching. It's good that USA managed to fill the open slots that came from cancelling TDZ & 4400 with quality new shows. (Sarcasm)
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