DVDs in Review: #35 - Skins: The Complete Second Series

Category: , , , By Rev/Views

Nicholas Hoult as Tony Stonem
Mike Bailey as Sid Jenkins
April Pearson as Michelle Richardson
Joseph Dempsie as Chris Miles
Mitch Hewer as Maxxie Oliver
Larissa Wilson as Jal Fazer
Dev Patel as Anwar Kharral
Hannah Murray as Cassie Ainsworth
and Kaya Scodelario as Effie Stonem

The Show:

I wrote about the first series collection a while back (located here and could have been better) and on the whole I was very impressed with it. My opinion on the show has in fact improved a little as I think it's probably the best new British show in a long time. (British TV needs it's own version of HBO, seriously).

Skins is an ensemble style show that bases each episode around one of the characters while some of the others provide supporting roles depending on the relationship between those characters. It's a nice method of delivery that highlights how a group of friends orbit around each other in different amounts. It also gives each of the characters a chance to shine on screen.

Speaking of the characters, some of them have changed a lot since last series. Tony in particular is seriously different, partially because of events from the previous series and partially (I suspect) to make him more sympathetic. While he was an amazingly entertaining ass last series it was also difficult to understand why on earth anyone else tolerated him being around them any more. My favourite characters remain the same this series - Sid and Effy - and they both get some fantastic stories. Effy remains the manipulative and brilliant dirty little stop out that she is and Sid gets the most touching storyline (for me) in the show.

The tone in the second series is a lot more downbeat than the first series, there are less of the truly comedic moments and far more sad moments. Sid's story in particular is very touching, but so are Jal's and Cassie's (not that I can really stand Cassie). Overall though the change in tone does make the show feel different, this is a show about growing up and the change reflects that without going too far away.

As always some of the best parts belong to the various guest actors who turn up, mostly playing the parents of the children. This series we have Bill Bailey (Black Books), Harry Enfield (Harry and Paul) Morwenna Banks (Various including Harry and Paul), Mark Heap (Spaced, Green Wing) amongst others along with a brilliant performance from Peter Capaldi as Sid's father. These roles are a brilliant decision that gives the show a great deal of extra draw, they provide familiar faces for the British viewer without stealing the limelight from the young stars.

Unfortunately almost the entire cast of the first two series will not be returning for the third, I dislike major overhauls like this. Essentially you are being given a new show with an attempt to pretend it is the previous show. So the second series is probably where I will call an end to my Skins watching. I don't want to get invested in a whole new set of characters just to lose them after two years. Maybe the new cast won't result in a shark jumping moment, but I shan't be about to find out. While this next series will give us a return of Effy, as far as I'm concerned my Skins journey ends with the poignant final episode of this series. I am open to changing this opinion but we'll have to see.

I think it could have been handled better if the next generation had been at least given cameos in this series. Perhaps they could have also been younger relatives of the current batch and their friends. But instead we have an almost disconnected group of new kids arriving next season and that's just too much of a jolt for me to accept in any show. Boston Legal struggled because of cast overhauls, it's foolish to break the rapport the viewer has with the cast in such a major fashion. As such I think it's a mistake.

The Other Stuff:

The second series comes boxed in a standard plastic DVD case. While there advantages to this, it's durable and cheap to produce, there is also a large issue for me - it doesn't match up with the first series's cardboard sleeve + box at all. I don't mind either style, but I just wish the packagers would pick one and stick with it. It's not hard to do, Red Dwarf managed it with 8 series, so did Seinfeld's nine seasons. Come On!

There is a reasonable amount of extras in the set. Including behind the scenes footage, interviews, bonus stories and a trailer amongst others. It's not a bad little collection, but I mostly thumbed through it rather than actually paying close attention to the stuff.


Running Time: 460 mins
Sound: Stereo
Subtitles: English HOH
Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Colour: PAL
Region: 2

And this weeks winner is play.com who have the set up for £14.99, this works out at only 3.1ppm. Nowhere near as impressive as the previous series. But still respectable for a British show (as they are always a lot shorter than the American ones).

The Final Word:

As far as I'm concerned right now Skins ends with this series, it's been a fantastic ride and this is a superb product that anyone will enjoy watching. While I'm not convinced the show will survive the switch in cast (viewing figures were down in the second series anyway) the first two series have been a superb ride and I've enjoyed watching both of them immensely.
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DVDs in Review - #34 - Red Dwarf: The Complete Fourth Series

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Having been distracted by the huge torrent of fantastic returning shows I haven't had quite as much time to review DVDs, but one must push on and at least finish reviewing each season of Red Dwarf.

For the previous series review see here:
Series I
Series II
Series III

Series IV

Chris Barrie as Arnold Rimmer/"Ace" Rimmer
Craig Charles as Dave Lister
Danny John-Jules as "The Cat"
Robert Llewellyn as Kryten
Hattie Hayridge as Holly

The Show:

The fourth series of the British cult comedy classic Red Dwarf continues the level of excellence set by the previous seasons and builds on the revamped style of the third season. This season contains some of the best episodes the show has put out, introduces one of the classic Red Dwarf villains - Simulants - and gives us one of the greatest recurring characters the show has ever produced.

In Camille after Lister teaches Kryten to lie in a classic scene...

...The mechanoid deliberately disobeys Rimmer's orders and rescues another female mechanoid called. The two of them hit it off instantly but when Camille meets the other members of the crew strange things begin to happen. DNA gives Robert Llewellyn a welcome chance to appear without his mask on when the crew discover a strange ship with a device that appears to be able to restructure genetic material. As to be expected things take a turn for the worse when Holly attempts to use the device on a vindaloo. Justice is a series classic; when the crew stop at an old prison facility to provide a safe location to defrost an escape pod that may contain either a deranged synthetic killer or a beautiful woman, Rimmer is put on trial for the crime of murdering the entire crew of Red Dwarf. In White Hole, the ship experiences strange distortions of time brought about by close proximity to the titular white hole. Unfortunately any chance to maneuver clear of the space phenomena is removed by a mistaken attempt to repair Holly's intelligence - which results in the ship's computer being forced to shut down after having a life span reduced to minutes. Dimension Jump introduces one of the fan favourite characters when the crew meet an alternative Rimmer from another dimension. "Ace" Rimmer is everything Arnold Rimmer is not; witty, charming, brilliant, successful etc etc. Needless to say Rimmer immediately hates him. Last of all Meltdown has the crew discovering a matter transporter that can take them to the nearest planet with a breathable atmosphere. A planet that turns out to be populated by giant birds, Hitler, Ghandi and Elvis (amongst others).

Series four is a great series, it shows a lot of development in both the scripting, performances and dialog. It's a clear improvement over series three and leads wonderfully towards the best two series of Red Dwarf (Series five and six). It features some truly memorable moments and gags that still remain fresh to this day.

The Other Stuff:

Just like every single other DVD in this set the packaging fits in perfectly with the rest. Matching up with the others in every aspect while also remaining unique in it's own way. There's not much else to say about it except "Bravo".

As always with this line the BBC give you more extras than you can shake a stick banana small, off-duty traffic warden at. While the two volumes of Red Dwarf "Just the shows" are a great alternative I really do feel that the full extended extras package is just worth the extra shelf space and price.

Full List:
Cast Commentary
"Built to Last" Original Documentary
Deleted Scenes
Smeg Ups (Outtakes)
Ace Rimmer - A Life In Lame
"Lurve" Featurette
Can't Smeg, Won't Smeg Special
Raw FX Footage
Isolated Music Cues
Talking Book Chapters
Photo Gallery
Web Link
Easter Eggs
Collector's Booklet.

Play.com win this round with the low, low price of £7.99. That's a reasonable but not stunning 4.8 ppm. Again though I don't begrudge this price and if you do then you should consider investing in the "Just the Shows" version instead.

Run time: 165 mins
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 Full Frame
Audio: Stereo
Colour: PAL
Region: 2 + 4
Subtitles: English - SDH

The Final Word:
Series Four is one of the best series of the show, it's riotously funny from the first episode to the last and contains some iconic moments. It's a must have for any fans of the show and a great example of classic British comedy. It's just brilliance.
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Why You Should Watch... Mad Men

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Mad Men:
- a term used to describe the advertising executives of Maddison Avenue New York. They coined it themselves.

Jon Hamm as Donald Draper
Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson
Vincent Kartheiser as Peter Campbell
January Jones as Betty Draper
Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway
Bryan Batt as Salvatore Romano
Michael Gladis as Paul Kinsely
Aaron Staton as Ken Cosgrove
and Rich Sommer as Harry Crane

In 2000 Matthew Weiner wrote up a spec script pilot for a show called Mad Men. In 2002; after reading the script David Chase hired Matthew to write for The Sopranos and that could have been the end of it right there. The script was set aside and largely forgotten about until the final season of The Sopranos - the network AMC expressed an interest in it and so began a new chapter in televisual history.

There are several different layers of shows in media, they range from the lowest level (reality TV shows) upwards and branch out into different genres, but there are only a few shows that achieve something special. It's speculated that we stand on the cusp of "The New Renaissance" a time of culture that would rival and maybe even exceed the original renaissance, the height of Greek civilisation and the Roman Empire. It's clear that if this is going to happen the media and the Internet will be involved somehow - but for the most part the media industry is involved in prehistoric caveman battles against the changing tide of demand and churning out the next phone voting easy fix mass audience gormfest; while the Internet is busy trolling each other, posting pictures of cats with amusing text and answering multiple choice questions in quizzes that profess to tell them "What member of Desperate Housewives they are most like."

But every once in a while a show arrives that stands so tall above the rest that it's clear an evolution in the media is possible. These are landmark shows that change the rules previously accepted, shows that are often considered to be high risk or unconventional. Seinfeld changed the face of the sitcom, Six Feet Under brought us the beauty and spectacle of death contrasted with the joy of living, The Shield and The Sopranos revealed that shows did not have to be about good people, Homicide changed and challenged the convention of the police procedural, Arrested Development carved a brave new area of comedy that still hasn't been equalled, Firefly broke so many boundaries that it's still "before it's time" and The Wire revealed just how deep and real drama could become if the networks woke up.

Well, you can now add Mad Men to that list of landmark shows.

Starting in 1960; during a time where Nixon and Kennedy faced off for the presidency and when cigarette smoking was just beginning to be bad for you, Mad Men gives us the world before the swinging sixties hit. A time when men were still groomed, gentile and completely misogynistic; while women still struggled to find their new role in society, accepted in the work place yet not. The show is based around Maddison Avenue in New York, specifically the show is concerned with the goings on in the advertising company Sterling Cooper and in particular with the life of one Donald Draper, a creative director at the company.

Don is a man who's life is shrouded in a fog of his own devising. He's a brilliant creative director and capable of some truly magnificent ideas, but beyond what he does there is little to know about him. Even his wife Betty is largely in the dark with regards to both Don's past and his current actions. Don's brilliance is clear for all to see, but his failings are also many and largely held in darkness. In work he is a superb and talented executive, probably the finest at the company - but his home life is deeply flawed and dissatisfying for him.

The other core characters for the show include Don's beautiful wife Betty - who has everything she could want, or at least everything convention tells her she should want - but she still feels empty and lost inside. Don's new secretary Peggy Olson; who joins the company in the first episode and shows some talent as time progresses. Joan Holloway; the office manager and head of the secretarial pool, Joan takes Peggy under her wing and mentors her - sometimes well, sometimes badly. And Peter Campbell, a young and ambitious executive at Sterling Cooper with ideas above his station and ability - he provides a large amount of the antagonistic conflict for Don in work.

In appearance and authenticity Mad Men could be easily described as a period piece, the show is beautifully shot and is incredibly authentic in appearance, costume, dialog and characterisations. It manages to effortlessly bring back the spirit of the times - things that were a part of that time are not glorified or hidden away. Cigarette smoking, drinking, misogynist attitudes, adultery, racial bias and sexist actions are all present without any apologetic attempts to politically correct them or explain that they were wrong - there is no pandering/patronising the audience here. It's a blistering portrayal of how far people have come since those times, while also echoing how far we still have left to go... The show is also able to make use of known history to tie events solidly into reality, allowing characters to react to huge events in advertising and even be involved in some of them directly. It also references the gradual change in attitudes and lifestyles as it progresses.

Mad Men is one of the great shows of our time, it's a fantastic example of everything that's good about television. It'll captivate you from the very first episode and sweep you along in it's wake, the show's second season aired this year and the first season was recently released on DVD. This makes it an ideal time to get into this show, you won't regret the decision either. It's just sublime genius.

And if these words are not enough to convince you to try this wonderful show maybe the fantastic title credits will:

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The Weekly Round Up - 27/09/08

By Rev/Views
This week had several shows returning to the screens, mostly comedies:

How I Met Your Mother:
The fourth season opens with a reasonable episode, the main storyline - involving Stella and Star Wars - was OK and had some brilliant moments, mostly involving Marshall. But it was the side story centered around the amazing Neil Patrick Harris that carried most of the great material. No matter what he's doing Neil is always captivating on the screen and this was no exception. It was a well written story that added depth to Barney without compromising the things that make him so funny.

Heroes Episode 1 + 2:
The premiere of this sort of snuck up on me, I kind of lost track of when they would happen. We got two episodes and I think convoluted time travel mistakes would be the order of the day. Seriously, in any work of fiction if you're going to include time travel the first thing you need to do is establish what rules of time you're going to follow (Hint: Avoid re-writing time unless that is the principle focus of your work.) As time has passed I've become less and less excited with Heroes, now I'm certainly not going to stop watching as long as Zachary Quinto is a part of the cast. But seriously, can no-one die in this show? People keep coming back from the grave more often than zombies in a George Romero movie, it's kind of hard to feel attached to a show when the norm is always 1) The world is about to end (again) and 2) Core cast can't die.

But, that said. It is fun.

House M.D:
Hum, so House is looking like it's going to lose Wilson and replace him with Wilson P.I. The most notable part of the episode was an appearance from Felicia Day (Doctor Horrible, Buffy & The Guild) but really they didn't do that much with her in the episode. Not surprising because House is literally jammed to the medical gills with characters these days. Michael Weston's (not this Michael Western) P.I. is potentially a spin off character if fan response is good enough. Honestly, I don't care one way or the other at this point. All I do know is he's about for a few episodes and then he's going away. Maybe I'll grow an opinion on him, but right now I don't even recall his character's name.

I didn't watch it and after reading this, I'm glad. The show either needs an enema or canning. Fast. It will be departing from my round up after this as I don't want to waste time bashing the show. Hopefully the writers manage to fix things and turn it into something special, but I shall not hold my virtual breath.

Last weeks events were huge, the events this week were not quite as earth shattering but they were still significant. Bobby is as fantastic as always and it's good to see him doing his stuff. Sam and Dean need someone with his reserves of knowledge. It was also great to see characters returning from previous episode. This episode also revealed who the 'Big Bad' is and it's not Lillith, she's just a smaller part of the picture. So the stakes this season are high, so high that I'm not sure how many more seasons of the show we'll get after this one.

My Name is Earl:
While I do enjoy Earl, I think it's officially slid into third (or fourth) place in my personal sitcom rankings right now. Honestly it's not that the show has weakened at all, it's just when stood next to 30 Rock, The Office and HIMYM it struggles a little. But let's forget about comparisons and just look at the two episodes by themselves. The season premiere was a blinder, featuring Seth Green firing on all awesome cylinders at once and some superb film impressions from Randy (Ethan Suplee), it managed to hit the right notes - being both funny and touching at the same time. The second episode includes some superb moments, mostly involving Mr Clark Clark, but it wasn't as strong as the first one.

The Office:
Amy Ryan! I'm so thrilled to see cast members from The Wire moving into other shows, especially high profile ones like The Office. Also, I'm very happy to see Jim & Pam get engaged, I can't tolerate more "will they won't they" stuff on that front. It's not the kind of comedy I appreciate, in fact it's exactly the kind that winds me up. Oddly enough the other engagement is a lot more entertaining. Cracking stuff as always though.

Next week brings us Life, Family Guy, American Dad & 30 Rock.
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Happy Birthday to Rev-Views

By Rev/Views
Well, one year ago on this date I started writing on this blog. While it's changed names and layout in the time it's remained about television the entire time I wrote here. I'm not really sure what else to say except it's been interesting spending about half a year with almost no-one reading; to this point, where I'm sure there are some people reading (hello you!), but I'd be a monkeys uncle if I knew who and how many. A few I guess? Some maybe? Who knows, not me!

If there's anyone out there who'd like to give the blog a birthday present then the only thing I could honestly request is I'd love to see someone stand up in the comments section and say they'll give "The Wire" a try by watching the entire first season.

If you're unfamiliar with "The Wire" Here's what Charlie Brooker has to say about the show pre-season four: (Warning it contains harsh, NSFW language and very mild spoilers.)

Also I've written about it a fair bit around here, but if you want a mostly spoiler free/spoiler light rendition then start here. At the very least you should watch the scene in the youtube video linked to in my WYSW, but be warned - it's totally NSFW or children due to language. And I'm not kidding, the language in that scene is legen...dary in it's NSFW nature.

162 posts in a year... Not bad.
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The Shield: Review Round Up - Genocide

Category: By Rev/Views
The usual suspects are in evidence, with one or two missing at this point:

We'll start with the imdb synopsis, it's always a good place to check up on facts before you talk about them.

Tom R at TheTwoCents takes an amusing dig at another show's ending this week. It's not the first time someone has mentioned that particular ending in reference to The Shield's end.

TVSquad's review this week finally reminded me of the councilman's name. I couldn't be bothered to look it up while writing my review. I know, laaaaaa-zeeee.

Reading Alan's review is one of the first things I do after I've finished my own one.

Eric Goldman's review sub titles continue to crack me up, I'm not sure if that's the intended effect or not. But it's still entertaining.

A short review with screen caps from geeky talk.

Author Jason Pinter continues to recap the show at his blog, I do find myself wishing he'd provide a few more personal insights and thoughts when he does so, but the information there is solid.

See you tomorrow for the round up of the other shows I watched this week!
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The Shield - 704 - Genocide

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In The Shield this week the crisis continues as Vic's life continues to spiral out of control in every aspect and the man seems oblivious to it all. Elsewhere in the Barn Dutch and Billings deal with an intruder shooting that might be more than it seems to be...

Read about blackmail boxes, Dutch's serial killer senses and airline pilots beyond the link...

Wow, just when you think it's safe to go back into the water The Shield strikes again, overall the episode was pretty much par for course. It had good moments, excellent moments and a few average ones - but if there's something I've come to learn about this show, you can never sit back and take things for granted because the carpet will get pulled right out from under you revealing a gigantic hole that everyone is going to fall down - taking you with it. More on that later.

Honestly I'm a little tired of this engineered gang war thing that's going on, it's taking a little too much time away from the stuff I like to see happening. The Strike Team smashing down doors, kicking arse, taking names and weaseling their way out of close scrapes with IAD. It's ok, and it's brilliant to watch how masterful Vic is in comparison to Shane - but it's clear that it's going to all blow up in Vic's face and more importantly (this is my real gripe) it's taking time away from seeing Ronnie and Julien working. I sort of wish the storyline was more about Julien investigating them and finding out the truth, of course - I had to eat my words by the end of this episode, but things are still not where I'd like them to be.

Vic and Shane are still playing the Armenians and Mexicans off against each other, but it seems that things have spiralled even further out of control. Both sides want to bring things to a head, the Armenians want to settle things without further bloodshed while Pezula and the Mexicans won't stop until the box is theirs. This means cracks are beginning to show in Vic's story and it's clear it won't hold up if both sides talk too much. So after arranging a meet (Mackey Wish #2) and then watching it derail because Rezian is willing to openly show submission to the Mexicans in order to end this thing; Vic does the only sane thing he can do. He escalates the conflict by using the box and Acevada to make it look like the Armenian's have control (through the blackmail material) over some members of the council. Which results in a councilman being shot dead by Pezula's men. Needless to say Acevada is less than impressed with this, he set up the whole thing and as such he looks very dirty if the truth ever got out. Ah, David. When will you learn that being involved with Vic in anything always results in all the s**t landing directly on you?

Elsewhere in the Barn Dutch and Billings are assigned to a home shooting, a young lad shot the local school bully when he broke into the lad's house. It looks like a clear cut case of self defense, but the Dutch Man's detective sense starts tingling and he digs deeper. After two cases where Billings nailed the case with his own talents it's good to see that Dutch's skills haven't been forgotten, also amazingly Billings seemed more willing to go along with Dutch's instincts and less disruptive. Are they starting to gel as a team? I certainly hope so.

But the big punch this episode has is waiting until the very last scene, I was left wondering what Olivia's part in this season was. At first I felt she was going to be eye candy who would fall for Vic, sleep with him and then eventually discover the monster underneath. But it turns out that the show has a far larger role in mind for the ICE agent. She's in the blackmail box, which means Pezula has his claws sunk deep into her, so deep that it means Acevada and Vic are in serious mortal danger. I must admit I was not expecting the stakes to be raised up in that direction this early, it's good that Acevada has been brought back into the fold now by common circumstances - he's at his best when fighting uphill on a slippy slope and it also means he's heavily in bed with Vic now. That's something which always turns into great television...

Genocide was a solid episode that avalanched into something great towards the end, events are spiralling out of control now and Vic's web of lies begins to look very tenuous indeed. I would have probably turned away and considered it and average episode if it wasn't for that final scene about Olivia. I am pleased when a show manages to blindside me with something like that.

Other Observations:
Claudette's lupus is talked about but it doesn't have much bearing on things beyond having Dutch bring it up every episode. Perhaps we're being reminded of how much Dutch cares about her (but his lack of tact means he approaches it this way), perhaps we're just being reminded about it because she's going to collapse again at some point later in the season or perhaps it's just to keep the Danny/Claudette pairing Dutch set up simmering ready for something else.

Julien's zeal to be a good policeman has started to cause problems for the rest of the strike team, I'm actually glad - Julien is good police and Michael Jace is also a great actor. Perhaps it's just a matter of time before he realises the other three members of the team (especially Shane and Vic) are consistently "out chasing up leads" and decides to investigate/follow them himself. If he did so it wouldn't take long to find out how deep the rabbit hole actually is and there's no chance he'd do anything other than confront them about it or report them to Claudette.

Very happy to see Dutch back in his element, while it's been awesome watching Billings just solve cases without really trying - R-E-S-P-E-C-T - it's good to know that Dutch can still spot those potential serial killers a mile off. I imagine he's going to be proven right with regards to that kid later this season, failed arrests often come back to haunt Dutch.

Vic's family life continues to become more and more disruptive, I don't blame Danny for wanting legal documentation that keeps Vic away from Lee. It's clear that Cassidy's concerns have expounded her own about Vic. Is she another potential crack in the Mackey facade?

There are now only three characters who've been in every episode of The Shield - Vic, Shane and Dutch. Does this mean the final crunch will involve these men?

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Unashamed Promotions!

By Rev/Views
I could write about the first episode of How I Met Your Mother's latest season, but that will have to wait until the end of the week round up. I also could write about Mad Men and how it's captivated my attention, but I need to finish watching the first season before I even start commenting and I'm only on the sixth episode of the first season right now.

So instead I'm going to sit down and promote the various blogs I like to read without any shame at all. It'll also give me a chance to return the favours of linkage from a few people. I'll go alphabetically as that seems a fair way to do it:

Charlie Brooker
Brooker's work is one of my pleasures, the man has almost zero tolerance for poor television and is very graphic about expressing it. Whether he is on TV or writing he always raises a chuckle out of me, I find his style very frank and honest. I also enjoy some of the reactions he provokes from readers/viewers. Positive or negative, if you're getting responses out of people you're engaging them.

Crimespree Cinema
I'm sure a lot of you are already aware of Crimespree Cinema. It was one of the first TV/Media Blogs I followed before starting my own and now I even get to write on it occasionally, yeah the preambles that link to my own reviews of Burn Notice & The Shield are mine. I have to thank Jeremy Lynch for giving me that opportunity, I should also thank him for keeping me up to date with a lot of media news that would otherwise pass me by. It's probably obvious by now, but I mostly live in a world of DVDs and as such my finger is far from the pulse when it comes to media events/new releases etc. I have to rely on others for that.

Dan's Media Digest
Typically Dan would go on holiday just as I decide to plug him *shakes fist*, but no matter. I shall do so in his absence. I find Dan's insights invaluable because there is an intersection between our taste in shows but he also enjoys a broader spread of genres than I write about. He also keeps up with films as well as TV, which means I can look a little informed when I make the decision about what film to watch when we go out. Before I finish I'll also plug his work over at newslite.tv.

I really, really like and enjoy Life a lot and a while back my Why You Should Watch feature on Life was linked to by the guys at Damian-Lewis.com. A part of my text was even quoted, in context no less! So I'd like to take the opportunity to repay the favour, if you've enjoyed Life in the past and you're exciting about the upcoming season then their site is the place to be. If you're not familiar with the show have a read through my article and see what the fuss is about. If you have no idea who Damian Lewis is, hang your head in shame and go buy/rent Band of Brothers.

The Medium is Not Enough
Rob has great taste, his blog is actively pro-Welsh for one; this is something I must admit mine fails at, mostly because I'm embarrassed by a lot of the TV that comes from BBC Wales. It's also one of the two places I get my Doctor Who fix and one of the three places I tend to get my information about British TV, mostly because I'm barely connected with the UK TV schedules. Heck I couldn't even remember to watch Top Gear when it was on this season, and I love that show! But thanks to Rob's tireless efforts I'm actually aware of shows like No Heroics and I've never thanked him for his writing convinving me to give Gavin and Stacey a go.

Mystery Book Spot
I noticed this one from the handy little links to post feature that sits at the bottom of my posts and I've since gone back quite a few times. I'd like to thank Brian for the linking and also for providing other links to stuff that I've enjoyed reading, posts like this which was worth a good chuckle. (Speaking of which, I think I've mostly avoided using any of those words - only two mentions of Mainstream, but I'm bang to rights over the word gritty. I like the sound of it.)

Snark and Fury
I promoted Snark and Fury a little while back, it's written by Aaron - a friend - and is a mix of reviews, snarky recaps and clips from comics. I really do recommend following the links on his page to his old LiveJournal reviews on Torchwood, Robin Hood and Bonekickers. But then again I do get a lot of pleasure out of reading about someone scathingly calling out a show for being stupid, poorly plotted or just plain bad.

Striking Shots
Striking Shots is a blog that's written by a Paul, a friend of mine who's currently located in Sydney. He's got pretty good taste in television (most of the time) but his blog is generally concerned with photography. I do love looking at the pictures he takes. This is the man who is responsible for my watching "The Wire", yeah he's the one who ruined me for all other television.

TV Spy
I must confess I'm not as dedicated when it comes to reading TV Spy as the other blogs. I think it's because my feed doesn't update their material correctly. But every time I do head over there I'm always entertained and impressed. Their "Six Things We Learned Today" feature is always good and of course they post about "The Wire" so they obviously have impeccable taste.

What's Alan Watching?
Alan is the TV Critic who writes for the Star-Ledger and the TV part of entertainment column on nj.com. His taste in shows almost exactly matches my own so I find his reviews to be 'must read'. The man just doesn't stop writing!

As always, I do love to read other people's opinions so if you have/know a blog you think I might like and you want to promote it. Comment away!
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Burn Notice - 209 - Good Soldier

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So this is it. The last episode of Burn Notice for the year and will everything come to a head? In "Good Solider" Michael has to balance investigating Carla's actions while also helping out a friend of Campbell's who needs to prevent a kidnapping.

Read about yogurt, swimming and a ferry cross the Mersey beyond the link...

With Burn Notice about to go on hiatus for about half a year or so it's very important for this episode to pack a real punch, it needs to be something that will keep you itching to find out what's next - like say the end of any Supernatural season or season six of The Shield - so the question is. Does Good Soldier leave you hanging on the hook and eager for the next episode? The short answer is "sort of", as for the long answer it's time to delve into the episode and see why...

Good Soldier in many ways is classic Burn Notice, as the show has evolved it's become about the balancing act Michael has to pull between helping others and investigating his burn notice. The first season had a little too much of the first and not enough of the latter, but the second season has looked to address this - giving the viewer a tension packed mix that involves Michael desperately juggling the two threads each episode. Sometimes with fantastic results, sometimes it just feels a little average and overloaded... This week's halfinalefeels overloaded but that's a deliberate story decision and it's one that works well.

Michael is hot in the pursuit of Carla after last week's events and it's not how good she looks in a swimsuit that's preying on his mind. He's determined to find out exactly what she's up to and he doesn't care what the expense is, which is just as well because it seems Sam Axe is enjoying his food and drink a lot since Ronnee broke up with him, especially when someone else is footing the bill. Also, as Michael confirms in the narrative - spies comfort eat while carrying out surveillance. Cue lots of shots of Carla swimming in this episode and I'm sure Tricia Helfer fans will enjoy those scenes.

The episode is a great showcase example of Jeffery Donovan's acting talents, not only do we get multiple examples of how little Michael likes the Fi & Campbell relationship (Campbell seems fine with the whole thing, maybe someone explained what Michael does with an episode of the A Team) but we also get some cracking drunk acting followed by a seriously amusing religious conversion. Ladies and Gentlemen, the man has serious acting powers.

As for the episode, just as I noted earlier this one is a heavy balancing act between the Burn Notice story and the kidnapping episode story and this time they get it just right. The kidnapping feels urgent, the reason for Michael getting involved is solid and we get a nice, juggling act feel to the entire thing. It does feel like Michael is rushed between both jobs, but he's committed to helping Campbell's friend to avoid having Fi do it solo. Now I'm not entirely sure why Fi can't be left to do such a job alone, it can't be a case of competency - Fi is most definitely competent - so it might be concern on Michael's part about Fi's methods. She's rather... brutally inclined, whereas Michael prefers to deal with troublemakers in a non-lethal fashion and get them killed later (off screen). Speaking of which, hasn't the off screen body count been massive this season? I'm not sure I like the way so many of the criminals in each episode are shuffled off to "Fort Lauderdale" (Burn Notice speak for killed - I'm sure they don't get to go punting around the canals in a dumpster).

What else is there to like in this episode? Well Nate Western makes yet another reappearance in this episode and he's pretty good. Nate's attempting to go straight, start up a business driving limos and even helps out Michael before Carla stitches him up because of Michael's interference. It's Michael's actions at the start of this episode that drive most events later on, because he uses that key card and sniffs about in the sniper perch it seems everything else is brought down around him at the end. I'm honestly a little confused at this point as to why he feels the need to find out about the job he's been setting up - does anyone remember Michael's reasoning behind why he needs to investigate the job Carla is setting up? I'm not sure any more how it relates to him finding out why he was burned, but it does lead to some exciting television.

Michael, Fi and Sam scope out Carla down at the docks, waiting to see who the target on the ferry will be and we get some pretty good nervous/worried/concerned acting from Tricia. The woman doesn't have many lines in this episode but her physical performance in the docks scene and the following motorcycle chase are great. Michael realises that Carla knows he's watching (hardly surprising as he's wearing the same suit he always wears and has made no real attempt to hide) and he takes off with Fi running interference while Sam checks out Bill Thompson (the Sniper's house). We get a pretty exciting final chase scene with cars smashing into each other and motorbikes skidding under semis before Michael loses the tail and heads back home. While opening the door Sam calls and warns him that Bill's house has been blown up with explosives, Michael twigs just as he starts opening the door and leaps over the balcony just as the explosion hits...

"To be continued..."

As mentioned at the start, this cliffhanger ending isn't bad. While there is no worry about Michael's survival there are a lot of questions to be asked. It's clear that Michael's interference has resulted in a kill notice being dropped on the whole operation and all operatives being directly used were to be killed. But there are still serious questions, mostly revolving around Bill's involvement in the whole thing, the unknown operative from Carla's file and of course Carla's reactions down the docks. It's hard to tell if she was trying to stop Michael or attempting to drive him back home, she most likely knew about the explosives - but which side of the equation is she on? What will happen to Nate? Will Sam ever find love again?

At least some of these questions will be answered next halfseason but I'm not left sitting on the edge of my seat waiting to find out right now and that's why it's just a maybe. It was a good halfinale but the final cliffhanger wasn't so gripping that I just absolutely can't wait - I'm looking forward to the return of Burn Notice, but I'm not going to find waiting agonising either.

Overall the second season of Burn Notice (so far) is a nice little package, the show has evolved from the first season and has even moved to expand it's scope of characters. Providing recurring ones and even a slightly enlarged cast (with Campbell, Nate and Carla making multiple reappearances). There has also been some great guest spots, in particular Method Man (Valentine), Chris Ellis (Virgil), Michael Shanks (Victor - who grew on me and I'd like to see again) and of course Tim Matheson as Larry.

I've enjoyed watching this almost as much as I've enjoyed writing about it, but that's it from Burn Notice until next year. How did everyone else find the ride?

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Looking Back on the Week - 20/09/08

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To keep my load as light as possible most of the shows I watch are going to be looked at once a week on a Saturday (as I never watch TV on a Saturday so it makes for a good break point).

Only a few shows dripped their way onto TV this week. Most shows I watch are starting later, many of them next week.


Ok, I tried. I really did try to like this show, I enjoyed Alias when it was on the TV and I enjoyed some of Lost before I just stopped caring about all the "mystery" but both of those shows grabbed me with their first episode and didn't let go for a long time. On the other hand we have Fringe, which feels more like Cloverfield - masses of hype, total let down - it's really like a poor man's ReGenesis or X-Files. The cast doesn't click, the plot is *ahem* weak and Lance Reddick must be insane if he thinks the dialog he has here is any good compared to his previous material (The Wire) and Reddick is the best thing in it. So Dan, I gave the show a chance, I really did; but with next week containing so many awesome shows returning I'm just not interested in carrying on. I'm going to stop watching this and just keep an eye on the reviews, if suddenly a lot of people start saying "Slow start but it's become must watch" then I'll get back into it. But for now, bye bye JJ - I'm just going to go rewatch Millennium and wait until Dollhouse is released.


Eh, a little - well not good this week. Last season started very strongly and ended with a crushingly brilliant two parter but the first episode of this season really didn't grab me - in fact I spent a lot of time pausing the show and doing chores - that's not a good sign. It seems that maybe Wilson has left the show, which is a bit of a shame because the interactions between House and Wilson were second only to the ones between House and Cuddy. The medical case involved in the episode was rather "I don't care" and even a layman like myself felt it was pretty weak, I do get a kick out of reading the Polite Dissent reviews of House mind you. Overall it was OK but the show still feels stuffed to the catheters with characters and now I hear there's some talk of a spin off character? Oh well, I guess I shouldn't complain about a formulaic show trying to shake up it's formula a bit. It's just - they did it better last season.


Ok so at the end of the last season Dean went to a very bad place indeed. And now he's back. Fine, I did wonder if they were going to use at least a portion of this season devoted to trying to bring him back and introduce a few new characters. But heck Jensen Ackles is the most interesting member of the cast so I guess I can live with a huge Deus Ex Machina followed by a mystery. Oh and when I use the term Deus Ex Machina I think it's the most appropriate use of that term ever.

It seems this season Ruby is busy corrupting/teaching Sam how to use his powers (about time we found out a little more about them) while Dean is dragged back from hell by Castial (Castiel?) who claims to be an angel on a mission from God. I guess it was just a matter of time before someone turned up claiming to be a part of the 'other side', but given the tone of Supernatural I wonder. It's clear Castiel is pretty ridiculously powerful but is he really what he claims to be? And why does he need Dean?

No Heroics:

Rather than talk about this myself I'm just going to plug Rob's review as I think he nailed my thoughts on it as well.

The other TV I watched this week was on DVD, I finally saw the last season of Fraiser and all of Police Squad. Which means I need to get more DVDs, I think Weeds Season 2 + 3 are up next on the list of stuff I want. Which reminds me, I should write up that list so I know what to keep an eye out for...

Next week several shows start up again; The Office, My Name is Earl, Boston Legal and How I Met Your Mother amongst them.
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The Shield: Collected Reviews - Money Shot

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While I wait for my neighbours to stop locking their little girl out in the hallway as punishment here are this week's collected reviews for the latest episode of The Shield.

Again we start with 2GuysTalking. I've said it before but I do appreciate the style used here, also I can appreciate their concern with the closed caption. Some days I'm forced to use them myself.

The imdb rendition isn't as well laid out at last week's but it's still a good read.

Of course I wouldn't forget Tom R's Recap & Review over at TheTwoCents.

And here's Jonathan Toomey's one as well, I'm a little surprised anyone voted thinking that Vic did actually mean what he said to Shane at the end of the episode. His expression after Shane left said everything, and that's even if you don't consider the fact that Ronnie wouldn't let it stand if Vic decided not to take Shane out for what he did. Mind you, considering Vic's MO it's possible Vic will just set Shane up to be killed rather than do it himself.

Alan Sepinwall's shortish review is as always expanded by the comments action.

TV.Com has just the two reviews at the point of posting. One of them dares use the phrase 'Jump the shark', and it's not the first time I've heard it uttered with regards to this season. *Waves at Paul B.*

Here's a review from Eric Goldman at IGN. Once again the title kind of makes me laugh.

Jason Pinter decided to skip last week and do a condensed review of both "Snitch" and "Money Shot" this week.

Coming later, my own collected short reviews on the TV I watched this week and maybe the half season finale of Burn Notice depending on how worded out I feel.
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Finally registered on tv.com

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I finally registered over on tv.com. I don't know how often I'll update things over there but my profile is located here. At the very least I did what I could to correct the criminal rating "The Wire" has on the site. 8.7 indeed!
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The Shield - 703 - Money Shot

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We once again ride the slippery slope to damnation with the strike team in the latest episode of The Shield. Vic and Shane continue to play the Armenians and Mexicans against each other while everything around them threatens to collapse...

Read about attack dogs, the Billings minimum and "alternative" sexual therapy after the link...

Ok, I'm sorry. But Blogger seriously hates this post and it's once again reverted it to my note form version so I've had to re-write it again. I've written this thing four times now and it keeps on getting screwed up... Sigh, if it goes again I'm just going to give up and ignore this thing.

Vic shows that he has some serious stones this week by revealling himself to Rezian in order to control both the Armenians and Shane directly. Not only does he show a total lack of fear by walking into the lion's den but when asked about the two million all he responds with is an offhand "We burned through the money" - Nice little callback to Lem's actions in Season 3. Vic has some balls of steel on him for sure and has certainly forgiven Lem for his actions, he's not even willing to slander the man post humously. Still, I'm thinking this is a serious mistake on Vic's part as now the kingpins of both sides know him by sight. This could blow up in his face.

It's good to see Julien and Ronnie working a case together, it's a shame this didn't happen last week as well. But at least I got what I asked for in this episode, sadly it's clear that the Strike Team struggles to operate with only two men (and Tina) and the lack of control Ronnie has over both Vic and Shane is clearly grating on him hard. This is evidenced more than anywhere else in the final scene of the episode where a resigned and angry Ronnie finally tells Vic where he stands with him. Vic's actions are starting to bite Ronnie, seriously.

The case Ronnie and Julien worked was an interesting callback to a previous season. Specifically the Granny "lover" Axl. He's not really someone I wanted to be remined about if I'm honest, but at least the story gave Julien and Tina something to do. Also after the porno dealer "Natural, but small" Tina shows her vicious streak again here.

Billings is again putting in the absolute minimum but shows he cares when it matters as he moves quickly to assist when it's discovered that Wan was abducted and sexually assaulted. It's clear that Billings is good police when he's motivated, it's just a shame that the department has beaten him down repeatedly and this has removed almost all desire to work at his job properly. If Dutch could reach him we'd have one heck of a good detective on the job. In fact it's a little surprising that Dutch hasn't attempted to get Danny paired with Billings, I'm sure she'd appreciate the chance to work as a detective (she's certainly shown the skills) and she'd probably bring out the good Billings.

Once again Vic makes use of ICE to do his dirty work for him. Olivia is suspicious of his actions, assuming that Vic is angling for something - perhaps a round in her panties. Vic of course plays the "I'm just a good cop who cares" angle, one that's worked so many times in the past (at least until the mask slips) so I'm predicting it's just a matter of time before she caves and they end up sleeping together.

It was a great little episode and I had a lot more to say about it, but all of those words I wrote are lost like tears in the rain...

(Unless someone happens to have a cached copy of the earlier version on their machine... If you do, please please help me!)

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The 15 Greatest Opening Credit Sequences - Part 1

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There was a post last week over at Alan's site which got me thinking about my favourite opening sequences, I sat down. Spewed out my favoutires and ended up with 15 that really stood out on my memory. So I thought I'd post about them here and thanks to the wonder of YouTube I can even provide videos so you too can marvel at the good old days where opening credits could be in excess of ten seconds long.

I'm going to break this one into three parts as other wise this would be one heck of a list. Please, feel free to agree or disagree with any of the opening credits listed here and tell me any of your favourites. I'd love to watch other opening credit videos as well if you want to put them in the comments sections.

If they don't appear to work properly on the main page (which they do not in my browser) click on the title link and they should work in the seperate page.

The A-Team

Actually finding this video was a heck of a task in itself, it seems everyone and their grandma wants to remake their own version of this theme. Not really surprising, it is an absolute classic. Saturday evenings back in my childhood were spent around my Grandparents house and this was the climax of the visit. Sitting down and forcing everyone else to watch The A-Team was just great, I'm still not sure if my sister actually enjoyed watching it as well or just watched because she had too.

Captain Scarlet

Sure Thunderbirds and Sting Ray also had excellent opening credits, but Captain Scarlet is where it's at. Combining just the right amount of creepy mystery with awesomeness it sums up everything you need to know about the show right there.


A complete spoof of the low budget horror genre Darkplace manages to lampoon multiple shows in it's opening credits and sticks with it's style perfectly. It's great fun working out what shows are referenced in the various scenes.

Dead Like Me

A great show with a cracking set of opening credits that really set the tone for the rest of the show. I'm very fond of the off-beat piano that keeps everything light and enjoyable, but I also like the entire "Reapers amongst the living unseen" click this intro has.


Highlighting the violence of everyday actions with a series of disturbing camera angles Dexter's opening sequence is always a delight to watch. All scored to a fantastic theme composed by Rolfe Kent (While I'm at it Daniel Licht composes a lot of the other tunes and is worth a listen), the dark humour present in the show is here in spades.

Part 2 is here and Part 3 is here
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The 15 Greatest Opening Credit Sequences - Part 2

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Continued from part 1.


I love this one so much I learnt to play it on guitar, it's a bit of a party piece of mine - well when there are spades of total TV/Sci-Fi/Joss Whedon dorks around it is anyway. It's a great song and that's the thing which turns this opening from average into something special.

Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

This is the extended version of this classic opening, it also has the lyrics - just in case you didn't already know most of them.

Homicide:Life on the street

This one is just a classic, it sets the tone for the show beautifully with stark black and white images and a dark tune mixed with radio chatter. It just evokes the feel of noir and the show.

Police Squad

While the Naked Gun openers are more commonly known I'm very fond of the Police Squad version. I especially enjoy the Abrham Lincon and Special Guest Star death each week. Now in colour!

The Prisoner

Is it surprising this one has made it onto the list? It's brilliant. I wonder if the remake will have something as good...

This series climaxes in part three!
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The 15 Greatest Opening Credit Sequences - Part 3

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Continued from Part 2

Six Feet Under

Along with Dexter I think this is one of the finest on this list. It's stark, beautiful and disturbing, just like the show

Sledge Hammer

This one's on here for the sheer 80s cheese brilliance of it. Sledge Hammer never pretended to be a clever show, but the opening sequence is fantastic. A series of close angle shots of Sledge's gun followed by a delivery of his catch phrase and some poor gun acting. It's just great.

Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister

Not only does this one have exactly the right tune playing, it's also a piece of art as those caricatures of the cast are sketched up while you watch. Great stuff, again one I remember from my childhood as my parents watched it religiously.

The Wire

Season One

Season Five

I've included two of them here, my two favourite renditions of the opening sequence, which are Season 1 and Season 5. Honestly I don't know which version of the intro theme I love more, the Blind Boys of Alabama's one (Season One) is the first one I heard and I own the album it came from but Steve Earl's rendition just manages to feel even bleaker but remains catchy.

The 4400

Was this song made for the show specifically? It just fits so well, it's beautiful, sorrowfull and every single scene in it screams of abduction. It's a real shame this show didn't get the exposure it deserved.

So how about it? Agree? Disagree? Have I missed anything?
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Bun Notice - 208 - Double Booked

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Written by Craig O'Neilll & Jason Tracey

In this week's Burn Notice Michael is approached by a dead man about killing a nurse. It's the penultimate episode of the current "half-season" and boy is it a doozy.

Read about screwdrivers, home improvement and the undead beyond the link...

This week has Michael and company looking into the details of the sniper (Bill Johnson) they discovered in the previous episode while Michael is also approached by Larry (played brilliantly by Tim Matheson) and asked to perform a hit on a woman. It's worth noting that apparently Larry is considered deceased and this results in one of the best captions this show has ever had with "Larry, Undead Spy" and his term for the target provides another excellent character caption with "Jeanie, Dead-ee".

It turns out Larry isn't dead, but most of the cast wish he was. After just a small amount of time on the screen it's clear why Michael and Sam have such an issue with him. Larry is dangerous in a whole new league, it's clear he's wandered over the line Michael edges near and he's spinning along a wonderful curve of destruction. In short if Michael botches the job by informing the police there will be blood. Buckets of blood. Tim's performance as Larry is just stupendous, he provides such an air of barely concealed menace to all his actions. The scene with the screw driver was just fantastic (though the editors did over expose Michael's reaction when he palmed one of his own 'just in case' - cutting back to his hand more than once is a little OTT).

We get to meet Campbell this week, Fiona's new man friend and it turns out he seems to be nothing more than an ordinary paramedic. But I'll be surprised if he lasts because Michael, Sam and Fi are anything but subtle. The scene with Sam and Campbell in the ambulance was particularly telling, and funny. Sam claiming to be a soil scientist while cocking a gun. My favourite line of the episode also comes from Sam in this scene, when Fi mentions that Larry is good looking Sam quips back "He's alright I guess. He's no Campbell though." A fantastic piece of self aware comedy that skates along the fourth wall without actually breaking it.

I enjoy the little scenes like this were the unreality of Michael's life jars with normal people's. Normally it's just the scenes with Sharon Gless (Madeline) that highlight how unusual Michael's life is. Speaking of which, I was thrilled with the counselling scenes between Madeline and Michael. It was great of the writers to get her a little more involved in the story by having her provide Michael with an idea for a cover identity, something he promptly uses as an item in his required list of "Things he's grateful to his mother for". Needless to say, she's none too impressed with his selection.

We also have another guest star of note in Drew (Larry's client) who is played by Zachary Bryan - one very familiar face as he's from Home Improvement. He gives a solid performance in this, but I'm used to seeing him as a kid/teenager so it was a little odd here. Mostly it's the moment where Larry breaks his neck at the end which I found unsettling.

Ultimately by the end of this episode Michael manages to save Jeanie but (as mentioned) because Drew screws up at the drop off and spooks Larry, Michael is unable to take out Larry. Which gets Drew killed. Larry taunts Michael a little - claiming that he knew Drew was already dead but couldn't take the shot because he cares about his old friend Larry. I suspect it's at least in part because Michael doesn't like to shoot people anymore and in part because the network want to keep Burn Notice lighter and more family friendly.

The episode ends with Michael realising everything he's pulled for Carla and Victor has been support for Bill. A revelation which makes him realise he might be able to find out what the job is. Setting up the final episode nicely, which should be an exciting finish.

Despite the comparatively brief nature of my review this week I enjoyed this episode a lot, Tim Matheson was fantastic as Larry and the show balanced all of it's elements superbly. It holds up alongside the exceptionally Sam Axe-centric episode "Comrades" and as such is one of my favourites so far this season. I look forward to a return appearance from Larry as he's my favourite of all the Burn Notice villains we've seen so far.

Top stuff!

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The Shield Collected Reviews - Snitch

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Here's this week's collected Shield reviews.

First up is the one from 2GuysTalking. It seems they don't share my shining opinion of how awesome Billings is.

A short one from Tom R at TheTwoCents.

This weeks imdb one is laid out in a different fashion when compared to last week. That's what happens when you have multiple people providing the input. I do appreciate the bold headings for each section, it makes for easy scan reading to the part(s) you're interested in.

Jonathan Toomey has his review of the second episode up at TVSquad. This week's poll is looking into which of the two gang kingpins will cotton onto Vic's antics first.

Alan Sepinwall is of course continuing with his reviews here. As always there's plenty of interesting action in the comments section.

There is just the one review on TV.com. I guess the buzz about the show has gone or something. They're a fickle bunch who don't even have The Wire in the top 100 shows by rating, so what do they know? (imdb on the other hand have taste)

I have to include this one from over at IGN as the subtitle just cracks me up. "Wants to be more wanted." Ha!

Actual content ahead! Burn Notice Review will be up either tomorrow or later today depending on my schedule plus I have a little list I want to put together maybe I'll get to it on Sunday.
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The Shield - 702 - Snitch

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This week's episode sees Vic and the Strike Team handling the escalating situation between the Mexicans and the Armenians while Dutch and Billings deal with a case of 'death from above'.

Read about falling concrete, Billings and awesome guest stars beyond the link...

After a solid season opener with a bit of a shock moment in it, Snitch is something of an anti-climax in comparison. While it's still excellent television, it's doesn't compare to The Shield at it's best. While the two side stories, one involving some spook street youths gunning down innocent white civilians in order to move up into the "Top Ten" in a new set of gang most wanted ratings and the second one involving Dutch and Billings investigating the murder of a young female singer outside her own tenement block are both superb. The main thrust of the Strike Team story is a little off.

I'm rather confused as to why Vic let Aramboles live, it seems completely out of character for him to do this. Aramboles is the one man outside of the Strike Team who could reveal the truth about Vic's actions in stirring up this gang war, but Vic just ships him off out of the country with a few threatening words? He's done much better in the past and considering the situation his actions seem an about turn when compared to his personality and past behaviour. It has a high chance of biting him in the arse later on this season. I half expected at least Shane to go behind his back and have the guy offed instead of sent to safety where he can eventually screw things up for the guys.

On the other hand, it's always been clear that Vic has morals, twisted morals for sure but they are there. Maybe murder has begun to become too much for him, maybe he's just tired, who knows?

Ronnie was sidelined for most of this episode again, after such a strong episode for Ronnie last week it's a bit of a shame that he's been shoved back behind Vic again. While it's clear he can't control Vic at all; which makes his position as the new Strike Team leader a little watery, it's also annoying that he was so cut out of this episode. Same with Julien who's reduced to "extra with the odd line". Fine Vic is deliberately shutting these two out of the picture right now, but would it hurt to have a few scenes with Julien and Ronnie working the street a little?

On the other hand, the other two stories were excellent. I'll look at each one individually, first of all we have the gang rating killings. This was a pretty predictable story that could have just plodded along without any punch. But the performances from the guest actors, especially the old lady who provided the witness statement; her bold talking to the police where everyone could see was top hole. She came across as someone tired with the moral slide her neighbourhood had taken, someone who's family had disappointed completely, someone who had nothing to lose at this point and just wanted to stand up against it all. She was fantastic. As was the young spook street lad who executed the killings, his performance in every scene was just superb. Right from the moment where Vic backs him up into a corner and he puts on the "don't care, hard man baller" persona he's just brilliant. He sells the right mix of a kid out of his depth and not really understanding it and brings out this ignorant youth who just really doesn't get it at all. Funny, vulnerable and just engaging. Both of these two 'one off' characters just nailed their parts to the wall.

The scene immediately following the one between the lad and Claudette (which was awesome) did have its impact weakened by immediately landing the consequences of Claudette losing it with the lad. I felt this scene would have been better placed later in the episode instead of immediately after the break,

In the other side story we have a desperate Dutch working with a completely apathetic Billings while trying to work out who dropped a concrete cinder block on a woman's head. While Dutch is running about getting stonewalled by all of the tenants Billings is putting in the absolute minimum effort. Chatting up a pretty witness and giving people change so they can purchase stuff from his own vending machines (after a Dutch rounds them all into the Barn in an attempt to break their silence). But the crowning piece of this story is where an irate Dutch vents at Billings over his lack of effort, just to have Billings first of all respond by saying he cannot be bothered to put anything in over the minimum needed and then immediately solve the case in an almost completely off-hand fashion. Billings (as I think I said last week) is one heck of a detective when he wants to be, he's showing a level of brilliance on par with season one Dutch.

All in all it was a bit of an unusual episode, the strongest stuff didn't come from the Vic storyline, it was a bit of a reversal compared to normal and I think it worked. But this still remains one of the weakest episodes the show has ever had, but from what I've heard it's the weakest one this season, so things will get better.

Other Thoughts:
It seems that Danny thinks the same as I did; she's convinced it's Tina's fault the room (in last weeks episode) wasn't cleared. There also seems to be some subtle love triangle thing going on involving Dutch. Are both women interested in him?

While I'm still talking about Danny, the scene where she pulled out the gun was pretty intense. She really should not be partnered with Tina in any situation as she doesn't feel safe with her.

Last week's reference to the place where Guardo was killed was rather subtle, this week it was balls out funny and in your face.

That lad quickly c-walking/shuffling in his slippers was brilliant. But the whole situation felt really dangerous for the police involved. It felt more tense than it should have. On a side note this and this are two of my favourite c-walk videos.

Claudette's lupus is still making its way back into the storyline.

I do like the way that The Shield doesn't overplay the gore factor, they normally cut quickly to it and then pan away, or provide only some of the details. It really makes the scenes more disturbing.

Autumn Chiklis doesn't really seem up to the part any more, the more lines they give her the more obvious it is she can't act. The scene with her telling Billings to arrest her father had a lot less impact than it could.

But the scene following it where Billings is all buddy-buddy with Vic and 'sensitive' about Vic's situation with the lass is just ace. Billings has always wanted to be close to the Strike Team, but he's at best a pencil pusher. Vic's face after Billings hands him some advice as 'equals in fatherhood' is just brilliant. Once again David Marciano just nails his part and provides the laughs.

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Dexter - 301 - Our Father

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Well the first episode of Dexter's new season was leaked so I thought I'd check it out and save myself a little time later on when things get... crowded.

There are heavy spoilers for the first two seasons of this ahead and light ones for the episode itself. So I'll go and put up a spoiler cut right here.

A little light bloodshed and pancakes after the link...

The previous two seasons of Dexter have been seminal affairs that managed to pack so many ground breaking events into them that even now; on the rewatch, they are staggeringly brilliant. But there have been issues with the show, not in quality but in peaking early. I am still surprised and a little saddened with the decision to kill Rudy at the end of the first season, this deviated from the book's decision - which I feel was a better choice. Having Rudy/Brian out there still alive and potentially interacting with Dexter from time to time would have provided a potential returning hook. It also would have helped later on because the scenes between Michael C. Hall and Christian Carmargo were fantastical intense and reigniting those would have been interesting. It could also have kept viewers hooked because you could have a copy-cat Ice Truck Killer fake out leading into the return of Brian.

There is a similar problem with the loss of Doakes at the end of season two. It was phenomenal and gut-punching, but I still maintain that the second season would have been better served if it was the third season. I would have liked more time to see an escalation of the conflict between the pair and more screen time for Erik King who is brilliant. The second season is still brilliant, but I just wish they had pushed that storyline back a year. Or at least jailed Doakes for the crime to allow some interaction between Dexter and him, oh well. Killing Doakes was genius, but I can't help but feel the show has lost something now.

As such; at the start of the third season, Dexter is in the safest place he's been since the series started. There are no hooks in him right now at all and that's a problem, unlike the start of the previous season Dexter has a pretty good life right now. He has Rita, he has no problems killing, Doakes is down for the Bay Harbour Butcher murders and Dexter has refined his dumping methods to avoid suspicion. Life is pretty good for him.

And the hook for this season doesn't seem to have enough of an impact, in a struggle Dexter kills the wrong man and violates Harry's code. A man who turns out to be the brother of Assistant District Attorney Prado (Jimmy Smitts), Prado is billed as 'changing Dexter's life' over the course of this season and to be fair, Smitts is very good. It's just that his younger brother has already turned out to be more than a little shady and as such I'm expecting Dexter to discover that he didn't break Harry's code.

It's still Dexter, it's still brilliant. But as far as opening episodes go this one was the weakest of the three we've had so far. But I can forgive a weaker first episode if it turns out to be the calm before the storm and I'm sure it will be.

Random thoughts:
One name in the opening sequence always stood out in the previous season, it's the place that was held by Erik King. His name was the only one that blinked out of existence instead of just vanishing. I wondered about that choice for a while and came to the conclusion that his time was numbered. C.S. Lee is in that spot now and his name likewise blinks out - does this mean that Vince will bite it this season? Or is it just a decision to keep consistency?

Dexter losing his tooth/crown was close to pointless if he was going to just pick it up and pocket it in the crime scene immediately afterwards. It does serve to highlight how he can be so effective at evading capture, but we already know that so I'm not sure it was needed at all.

Jennifer Carpenter (Debra) looked better with longer hair, she has quite a long face anyway and now her hair is shorter it's even more obvious. But it's not terrible and I'm always (childishly) pleased with the quantity and quality of her swearing.

The new policeman, the one who's under investigation (I can't even recall his name that's how little an impression he made on me). Man he was awkwardly inserted into this episode. But his inclusion has nothing on his haircut, I have no idea what they were thinking with that one but his scalp looks terrible.

Batista gets his promotion, yay! He's one of the more endearing characters in the show; hard working, inept with women, but a good mate and he's already proven to be an effective choice as Sergeant as he dealt with Debra in exactly the right manner.

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