Damages - 204 - Hey! Mr. Pibb

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Sometimes watching Damages is like being on the worlds greatest roller coaster at the same moment the construction team have decided to add additional loops and drops to onto it. As such the experience -- which should be incredible and the highlight of your gravity defying lifetime -- turns into something which is just trying too hard and might even make you feel a little queasy. The core ride is just fantastic, but you're left feeling that they need to stop tinkering and stick with the original blueprints laid out. This week was one of those episodes.

Read about bluegrass, golf and burning livestock beyond the link...

Damages has this amazing cast and quite, quite gripping storyline, but it still feels the need to keep bolting on more plot twists and shocking moments. This is the same thing 24 ended up doing and we know where that went -- Season Six *shudder* -- when there the show leans so heavily on plot shocks as a device you just know something has gone horribly wrong.

The show just shouldn't need to be like this, it's got an insanely good cast all round, one of the best opening sequences ever (so good I suspect The Beast deliberately ripped it off) and Glenn Close. It doesn't need to try and deliver twist after twist each episode while trying to undermine what the viewer previously understood about the situation. It just feels, gimmicky and honestly takes the edge out of most twists, if you want a shocking moment to remain shocking it needs to be sudden and rare.

Now if this is beginning to sound like another round of ragging on Damages, you'd be half right. There's still plenty I liked about this episode, the moment where Ellen and Tom are talking about the difference between Old Country and Bluegrass music was a great piece of characterisation for them both. It's good to see the two together and interacting in a personal position, not just because Ellen was willing to sell Tom to the FBI and is now basically lying about her friendship with Tom but because Tate Donovan's performance as Tom is pitch perfect for his character. Likewise the golfing scene following was just breathtaking to see, funny and provided great exposition.

The episode's best moments are all like this, character driven 'little moments' that keep things grounded and it's these moments which I come to the show for. The 'big twist' moments like Purcell recanting his previous promises and disposing of the water on the other hand felt artificial and forced. I honestly wasn't shocked or even particularly moved by it because I've been pretty much conditioned to expect moments like that one.

The episode had great shots, great dialog, great cast, great performances but was let down by a pretty shoddy plot. Instead of being left excited and hooked, I felt like I'd just seen the umpteenth episode of 24 where several characters have switched sides and Jack's life is in "danger" again.

Left disinterested and tired...

Other Thoughts:
-- This episode marks one of the few times the show has entered a courtroom for a scene. I do appreciate the way this show is able to deploy all of the legal without leaning heavily on courtroom drama.

-- Why on Earth would Patty hinge everything on Daniel? Handing him both the water and positioning her entire case around him just really wasn't in character for her. This is a woman who has access to other experts and as such could get anyone else to analyse that water. Yes she's had a child with Daniel, but this is Patty we're talking about, she's supposed to be the best at her job. Unless a different bottle of water turns up later on which Patty held back I'm going to be permanently annoyed by that.

-- Just repeating myself here, Tom's explanation of the difference between Bluegrass and Old Country was a fantastic moment. Tom is fast becoming my favourite character in Damages.

-- No Ted, No Timothy. I wonder how and when they're going to make their returns to the show, neither feel particularly relevant right now.

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Rich Sommer of Mad Men interviewed over at GeekSpeak

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Interestingly enough I came across a lengthy interview with Richard Sommer (from Mad Men and The Devil Wears Prada) over on the site http://geekspeak.boardgamegeek.com/ it turns out that he's quite the board gamer, a pretty well grounded guy and just a very nice individual indeed.

The entire podcast can be listened to over here, be warned that the first part of the interview is less an interview and more friends just chatting about stuff. But there are some great moments later on about how he got his break in The Devil Wears Prada, assumptions about the sexuality of his character in that movie, Anne Hathaway, difficulties in getting cast and Rich's part as Harry Crane in Mad Men and appearing on The Office.

[Mild warning for profanities in this interview]
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British Celebrity Panel Quiz Shows - Part 2

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And here is the second part of my brief look at the British Panel Quiz Show, judging each one on the presence (or not) of the luscious, lovely, lively, little and likable Lucy Porter.

The first part of this is located here. The rest are located below.

A Question of Sport:

The most serious member of the list, A Question of Sport is hosted by Sue Barker and currently has Matt Dawson with Phil Tufnell as team captains (previously Ally McCoist captained). It's probably my least favourite of these, in part because I'm not a huge fan and in part because I haven't really found it funny since McCoist left. Still with 38 seasons there's no doubt it's a huge show and a good one. I just find it a little bland these days.

Here's a clip from the 'what happens next' round. As you see it's a lot drier than the rest in this list:

Porter-Factor: As the show uses sports celebrities for it's members Lucy is unlikely to ever come on this show. So, just like Never Mind The Buzzcocks it fails.

They Think It's All Over:

The other sports quiz on this list, the BBC's They Think It's All Over ran until 2005 and was hosted more than ablely by Nick Hancock, unlike A Question of Sport TTIAO mixed in Rory McGrath, Lee Hurst and Jonathan Ross alongside sports personalities which provided a far more entertaining mix.

Perhaps the highlight of each episode was the brilliant 'Feel the Sportsman' where two members of each team blindfolded would attempt to identify a sporting personality by touch alone. Here's one of the classics with 'Jake the Snake'.

Porter-Factor: Of course, the show has ended and Lucy never appeared on it. So sadly the show is lacking in the key omph factor. But it's still great entertainment. Especially when Jonathan Ross is on.


The youngest show on the block Argumental is the pioneer in Dave's attempt to create their own programming and it's not bad at all. Two teams 'debate' over various subjects provided to them, normally one team will take the 'for' argument and the other the 'against', but one round has each competitor debating with themselves, flip-flopping on the subject in time with the buzzer. Regulars Marcus Brigstocke and Rufus Hound compete for the audience's voting approval while John Sergeant oversees the entire thing. I'm get a lot of pleasure from long funny rants (Scrubs, Charlie Brooker) and I'm guilty of quite a few of them myself; as such this show entertains me a lot and I wish it a great deal of success.

The clip this time is a lengthy one with the entire first half of the episode, but the nature of the show is very long sustained rants. There should be some familiar faces here:

Porter-Factor: Argumental had Lucy on this week, making them the current winner in this category and as such the overall winner of this part of the list list (based on my criteria). She was magnetic on it.

Would I Lie to You?

One of the most fun members on this list Would I Lie to You is pretty much as the title suggests. Two teams of celebrities mix lies and truths in an attempt to deceive the other team successfully. It's presented by Angus Deayton and has Lee Mack and the rather brilliant David Mitchell as team captains. Angus is of course a huge part of the draw, he's an experienced host and the irony of his position works rather well here. Still it's Dave Mitchell who's the real talent here, the combination of angry posh schoolboy and educated, insecure cynic which is projects results in many comedic rants and rebuttals.

This clip has one of his best rants about Mike Reid rapping at the Tory party:

And because he's such a star when he's ranting. Here's a bonus clip:

Porter-Factor: No Lucy Porter yet, but she's a prime candidate for an appearance on the show as it's still a rather young show and she'd be ideal for the next series of it.

The Big Fat Quiz of the Year:

Once a year since 2004 we here in Blighty we get The Big Fat Quiz of the Year as hosted by Jimmy Carr. This is a lengthy look back on some of the more entertaining moments of the year in quiz panel format. Unusually for this type of show there are three teams and no true team captains. The show usually contains a mix of presenters, comedians and actors and is often driven by Carr's stylish presentation and Noel Fielding's antics. It only comes once a year but it delivers laughs by the buckets.

I was unable to find the 2008 version of the show except for a US version only (wtf? seriously?) so here's the first part of the 2007 edition:

Porter-Factor: No Lucy Porter yet and with the show running just once a year the odds are long she'll ever be on it. But there's still a possibility.

8 out of 10 cats:

Again hosted by Jimmy Carr 8 out of 10 cats looks at the world of statistics. It's far more entertaining than that dry introduction would suggest, Jimmy has a devilishly deadpan style which makes for a great host (Angus is the same) and a sharp wit. This time the team captains involved are Sean Lock and Jason Manford with the superb Dave Spikey (Phoenix Nights) in the earlier episodes. The teams attempt to identify the correct answers in various public opinion polls, with exceptionally funny results at times. The show also does well in giving it's guest stars a fair share of the screen pie.

Here's a clip from the show about a Dog Psychic, this one still entertains me:

Porter-Factor: Lucy still hasn't made an appearance here, but the show is still young and it's more than suitable for her talents. So maybe she'll turn up soon.

I know that Lucy appeared on "What the Dickens?" back in May of 2008 but as I didn't watch it I can't comment on the show.

So have I missed any of your favourites out? How about similar shows in other countries, I find these a great way to relax, unwind and have a good laugh so I'm always happy to hear about more of them.
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British Celebrity Panel Quiz Shows - Part 1

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Today I'm going to take a quick look at a very British show and my favourite form of light entertainment. The Celebrity Quiz Show. The UK has more of these than I have thumbs and it seems that over here we've got the style and format down to a fine art. These shows come in a variety of flavours but all have the same basic ingredients; take a celebrity host and team captains -- who are normally the same each week -- then add between two and four guest team members, add in a series of questions on topics, sprinkle comedy over the top and leave to set for around twenty minutes to half an hour.

It's a great little format and one which has proven entertaining in almost every iteration of it, here's a tribute to some of my favourites, I shall be judging these on one simple criteria -- Has the lovely Lucy Porter been on the show?

This list got a little away from me so I've decided to break it into two parts.

Who's Line is it Anyway?

Who's Line is it Anyway? is a Classic show which losely falls into this category and can be considered one of the veterans of the genre. Instead of questions the panel of comedians would improvise scenarios as suggested by Clive Anderson and the audience. A real showcase of comic talent this show rotated Richard Vranch, Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops and Colin Mochrie as their primary "team captains" and boasted a huge range of superb comic actors making many appearances.

Here's a classic scene featuring 'The Party Scene' where the contestants would act out coming to a party but each guest would have an unusual quirk. It was the job of the "host" to identify each guest by their particular quirk.

Porter- Factor: Unfortunately WLIIA finished before Lucy started seriously doing television work so she never appeared on it.

Have I Got News For You:

Have I Got News For You is an absolute classic from the BBC, HIGNFY is the peak of the topical quiz show, now at over three hundred episodes it remains every bit as funny and clever as always. Ian Hislop and Paul Merton are the show regulars and captains of the two man teams. Originally the show was hosted by Angus Deayton, but after he was discovered to be a man's man and the newspapers kicked up a fuss he was fired and replaced by a series of guest hosts. Some of which are up to the job of facing down Hislop and Merton (who are always sharp and blisteringly witty) others who aren't as good. Some of the best guest hosts included Jeremy Clarkson, Clive Anderson and the unintentionally hilarious Boris Johnson.

If there is one complaint that can be levelled about this show it is it's topical nature, if you're not up ontop of the news then some of the jokes can get past you and fall a little flat. Also this means it dates very quickly, but fortunately enough of the comedy is timeless.

Here's a collection of scenes involving Boris:

Porter-Factor: Lucy has indeed appeared in HIGNFY, unfortunately it's been just the one appearance so far but she was great in it. So HIGNFY passes, just.


QI is my personal favourite on this list, QI is the gentleman's panel show. Filled with quite interesting facts about a wide range of subjects, each season is based on a letter of the alphabet and each show is themed. The wonderful national treasure Stephen Fry presents the show with Alan Davies as the resident dunce cap wearer. QI is a show which rewards not just the right answers but also gives extra points for interesting facts and deducts points for wrong "common knowledge" answers.

Included here is a great clip featuring the Manikin Bird:

Porter-Factor: There is only one thing I can hold against QI and that's the complete lack of Lucy Porter, she still hasn't made an appearance, but I could never mark QI down for that because it has Stephen Fry and he's lovely.

Never Mind The Buzzcocks:

Never Mind the Buzzcocks was originally hosted by Mark Lamarr, with rotating team captains Bill Bailey, Phill Jupitus and Sean Hughes. Never Mind the Buzzcocks is a panel show about popular music, it's slightly unusual with it's choice of guests, eschewing the normal safe choice of sharp witted comic guest panelists and instead plumping for members of the music industry. This has resulted in a very mixed bag, at times the synergy is magical and at others it falls a little flat. But on the whole the format has resulted in more hits than misses.

Most recently Simon Amstell has taken over from Mark as the host and has proven more than up to the task, as demonstrated in the following clip also featuring the hilarious Amy Winehouse:

Porter-Factor: Lucy has never appeared in NMTB and unless she steps in as a guest captain/host for one episode she's unlikely to do so because the show tends to use musicians. So a big loser here.

Shooting Stars:

Vic Reeves, Bob Mortimer and Matt Lucas present Shooting Stars, an off-beat and sometimes surreal quiz show with a great deal of talent. Ulrika Jonsson and Mark Lamarr were the original regulars but Mark left so Will Self and Johnny Vegas were brought in to fill the void. Johnny in particular excelled at this. The show is best watched rather than described.

In this clip the incandescent Johnny Vegas joins Bob and a coconut.

Porter-Factor: This is another entry on the list which fails to have it's required dosage of Lucy, but it does have Ulrika instead and I feel that goes a little way towards making up for that.

Mock the Week:

Mock the Week is a pretty young show compared to the rest, it's another semi-topical comedy show hosted by comedian Dara O'Briain and it normally features comedians Hugh Dennis, Frankie Boyle, Andy Parsons and Russell Howard along with other guest comedians -- including Lucy Porter!

Less a news related show than HIGNFY and more a showcase of short stand up talent Mock the Week doesn't date as quickly as HIGNFY. But it's also a less balanced show in many aspects. Quite often the show becomes dominated by the regulars as it's somewhat a free-for-all when it comes to getting time to speak. Also the format doesn't suit everyone who goes on the show -- Russell Howard's brand of comedy doesn't really fit most of the time.

This clip is from the rotating stand up finale and includes Lucy! (Sadly she doesn't get much time to speak here):

Porter-Factor: Lucy has been on Mock the Week twice now, which makes Mock the Week the winner of the first part of this list and gives it a special place in my heart. Even if she is bullied away from the microphone at times.

This is continued in a second part here:
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Burn Notice - 210 - Do No Harm

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Michael Western, Sam Axe and Fi returned on Thursday for the second half of the second season of Burn Notice, second. In the previous part of the season Michael was investigating into the tasks 'the people who burned him' were having him perform and discovered that they were after a sniper rifle and other things that indicated an assassination attempt. But in the final episode the sniper was killed and Michael was partially engulfed in an explosion when the front door of his flat turned out to be booby trapped?

Did he survive? Well if he didn't the show wouldn't return, so lets find out shall we?

Read about scamming sick kids, a new job and 'who talks first' beyond the link...

The returning episode of Burn Notice pretty much picks up exactly where the previous cliffhanger left off, the show kicks up into gear so fast and everything feels so familiar you're left wondering why they even bothered splitting the season up into two parts.

Michael is rescued from the blast and resulting fall by Sam and after an exciting car chase Sam briefly grieves for the loss of his vehicle before Michael rescues a man who attempts to kill himself by walking out in front of a bus. The man is Kenny and he was trying to kill himself in order for his son to get enough insurance money to pay for his son Jack's treatment. He lost most of his money to a group of scammers.

Michael spends the entire episode pretty much at breaking point, he's clearly tired, injured and seeking something to keep him motivated. Helping Jack and Kenny becomes that thing, which isn't really surprising because by now we've learnt that Michael has come to depend on these charitable jobs as a method of validating his existence.

Jeffery Donovan is particularly good in this episode at demonstrating just how tired he is of his situation, through a combination of expressions, tones and even one very strong rant (which is unusual for Michael) we get a great picture of just how tired and worn out he's feeling at this point. Even when dealing with Carla and her men he shows a lot of this, he's obviously a man who's near breaking point. Hardly surprising considering he was nearly killed.

Likewise Bruce and Gabrielle also portray Sam and Fi exceptionally well in this episode, Bruce in particular has a lot to do and as always rises up to the role with gusto. Sam's not only acting as the voice of reason for Michael but he also engineers the initial contact (in concert with Fi), interrogates Philip and Todd (Rachel's underlings) and has a great punch up with Michael. Burn Notice always does well when it gives Bruce a lot to do, and this episode is no exception.

Gabrielle's accent is still a little wonky, I wish they'd drop the 'You're in Miami' moment from the opening credits, it's always painful to be reminded how bad her Irish accent was, and her American one isn't great either. But she's always fun when Fiona is flying off doing what she does best, fighting and shooting guns. Sadly for Fi Campbell brings home a point which the viewers realised a long time ago, as long as she's involved with Michael in any fashion there really isn't room for any other man as they'd always come second. Exit Campbell.

The actor (David Barry Gray) playing Kenny was pretty good in the episode as well, the moment where he spazzes out and attacks Philip was well done (and pretty amusing). He's not one of the best guest actors ever on the show but he put together a solid performance. Stacy Haiduk was very good as Rachel, and boy is that woman ripped.

Also the balance between burn notice plot and case of the week was well maintained here, the previous episodes often felt overloaded with both cases competing for screen time. During this episode everything hung together and felt more natural. I'm hoping they manage to keep this balance up throughout the remaining episodes this season.

'Do No Harm' was a solid and fun return to the show, it did everything you expect Burn Notice to do and managed it in a very reliable and enjoyable manner. While I do sometimes wish that the show would go a little deeper into things that's not really what it's about, the show is about guns, fun, gadgets, witty lines, action and babes in bikinis. As such this episode delivered all of that in spades and more.

Other Thoughts:

• I really do appreciate the character captions in this show, it makes it very easy to quickly learn who a new character is and how they fit into the episode/show. I watch so many other shows desperately trying to learn the names of characters that it's great to have this information handed over to us. Also the captions can be quite funny at times, as demonstrated in the Campbell scene.

• Likewise I enjoy the depiction of interrogation used in Burn Notice, they put more emphasis on the psychological aspect of it and less on straight torture. 'Who Talks first' was a great example of this, in say 24 Todd would have been splattered all over the pavement, but in Burn Notice he's spared a squishy fate when shoved out of the window thanks to a cable tied to his chair.

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Watching The Wire: Season One

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Today I'm going to look at the first season of The Wire as a complete entity and also look at the main characters, their roles, their journeys and their destinations. If you've not watched the show, this entry will contain spoilers for various episodes and I'd suggest just checking the first of the following links. For the rest of you this post will also serve as a header/page of contents for the first season allowing for easy access to the individual episodes.

Before I move on, let's just acknowledge that current president "Obama’s favorite TV show is.. : HBO’s “The Wire,” which chronicles Baltimore’s violent drug culture and the police who quixotically try to stop it." (Las Vegas Sun 25th Jan, 2009). I don't talk about politics here, but the man has taste in TV shows.

Watching The Wire: An Introduction
Episode One: The Target
Episode Two: The Detail
Episode Three: The Buys
Episode Four: Old Cases
Episode Five: The Pager
Episode Six: The Wire
Episode Seven: One Arrest
Episode Eight: Lessons
Episode Nine: Game Day
Episode Ten: The Cost
Episode Eleven: The Hunt
Episode Twelve: Cleaning Up
Episode Thirteen: Sentencing

Everything else will be behind the following cut

Read about the first season of one of the greatest shows ever beyond this link...

The more I watch the first season of The Wire the more I appreciate it's brilliance. There is no doubt that the show is somewhat inaccessible for the average viewer and as such that is it's greatest failing, but for those viewers who are willing and able to spend the time getting to know the show, to understand the characters and appreciate the unique method of storytelling this is as rich an experience you can get on television.

This show is culture, it's a modern Shakespeare, Dickens or Tolstoy and I'm sure that years from now it will be looked back on by media studies students and possibly even English students who will come to appreciate the depth and subtly of this season.

The story is so well told, the characters are so deep and well made that at times it's hard to remember this is a show and not a documentary. Occasionally there are more recognisable "TV Moments" the famous f**k crime scene is one of them, the flashback of William Gant is another, but overall the show holds a real tone and feels like life. There are prices paid by this, the dialog spoken by D, Bodie, Poot, Wallace and Bubbles is hard to follow originally, at times I'm thankful I watch TV with subtitles on and this is one of them.

The greatest thing about this first season of The Wire is that it's not the show at it's best at all. Despite it's brilliance I can honestly say the show just improves from one season to the next. General opinion states this is the third or fourth best season when compared to the other five, so if you've watched it and enjoyed it, just imagine how good the later seasons get. Personally season three is my favourite, but four is also exceptional.

Season two introduces some of my favourite characters, but before we get to meet them let's look over the first season's characters and their journeys so far...

The Characters:

Jimmy McNulty:
It's best to start with McNulty when you talk about The Wire, because along with D'Angelo Barksdale he's the intial pebble which begins the avalance. McNulty's purpose from a narrative viewpoint is pretty simple, he's a catalyst. The entire case was initiated by McNulty, who by his own admission did it just to show how smart he is. But his presence at D'Angelo's trial is not the only place where he catalyses events into action. He also does it where Bubbles is concerned -- unintentionally sending the man back into drug usage after he'd attempted to get clean -- and he's so self centered that he even beats himself up over Kima being shot despite not being directly responsible at all.

McNulty is without a doubt a brilliant detective, but he's a lousy team player and even worse at office politics. Without his egotistical drive the Barksdales would not have been noticed and would probably have cleaned up when selling the various properties for development, they were a great organisation as shown by the Narcotics division not even recognising the names involved.

But McNulty just doesn't understand or want to play the game as it stands, he's old school police and as such he cares only about the law. Unfortunately for him this means he makes a lot of enemies and as a result he ends up being exactly where he didn't want to be, patrolling on a boat in Baltimore Harbor. Kicked out of Homicide despite his brilliance because of pressure from people above him, most likely the Deputy Ops Burrell.

D'Angelo Barksdale:
D is the other half of the initial push which causes the Barksdales to come under investigation and additionally he is the root cause of the entire fall for the Barksdales. If he hadn't shot
"Poo" Blanchard infront of all those witnesses, if he'd kept his cool then McNulty wouldn't have been watching his trial and seen the intimidation and recanting of witness statements. Essentially D's own actions ended up placing him in jail. He's clearly a smart, intelligent young man as shown by his ability to turn The Pit around and make it into a solid profit making area. If he'd landed somewhere else in his early life, with a different family, he could have become a great businessman or indeed anything he wanted, but the circumstances of his birth locked him into this.

While you can argue he could have become anything he wanted with an uncle like Avon funding him, it's clear his mother Brianna is the main drive behind his landing into the life of a dealer. As shown at the end of the season she talks him out of a new life and a fresh start in order to protect her own life of luxury. As such D ends up charged with twenty years in jail.

Poot, Bodie and Wallace:
It's best to deal with these three together as while they're all important, they're really more supporting characters for D in this. Obviously the one of them who ended up with the worst deal is poor Wallace, shot dead by the other two during the Barksdale clean up. Bodie and Poot on the other hand learnt a lot from D and the final scenes for them show how much they've grown in the time spent under D's supervision. They've followed Stringer's orders and been rewarded when the man above them (D) fell. While Wallace will never breathe again the other two have moved up and as long as they don't suffer the same fate as their fallen friends they'll do well in the future.

Kima is the member of the Detail who paid the highest price for the investigation. Now she's easily the best street cop assigned to the job, able to put into action any task required by circumstances and more than capable of keeping Herc and Carver in line when she's with them. She is natural po-lice and very likable, but sadly circumstances do not play well for her and she ends up getting shot.

She's also the member who brought the two most useful informants into the case, Bubbles and Shardene. Freamon should thank her properly for that one shouldn't he?

But it's a testament to Kima how she copes during the recovery scenes we see her in; she's strong, doesn't place blame on anyone and is keen to talk shop. While her girlfriend Cheryl is clearly angry and upset about the whole shooting Kima remains calm and doesn't blame anyone. Also the second thing which impressed me about Kima is her unwillingness to finger Wee-Bey, she knows that it's him, the evidence all points that way and it would be totally understandable for her to give the ID. But she refuses because she didn't see his face, to hold up that level of integrity and ethics over the man who shot you just tells so much about your character.

Herc and Carver:
There is no doubt that Herc and Carver are the clowns of the detail along with early Prez, the pair of them seem to be little more than prep school jocks with badges. Herc in particular seems to be monumentally idiotic at times, Carver a tad smarter and sharper. But sometimes where Herc is concerned I find myself wondering if it's just a case of 'stupid mouth'

Herc didn't manage to make much of his time at the Detail career wise, he ends up being passed over for promotion. But he does learn quite a bit, especially from Freamon, Daniels and Kima. This is evident at the end of the season where he's unable to conceal his pride over the job. Carver on the other hand was willing to go behind the backs of the entire Detail and leak everything to Burrell. It's because of him the case was cut short when the main stash house was forced to be raided. He's the one who undermined the whole thing, and his reward? Promotion to sergeant, while he's lost the respect of Daniels he's shown himself to be a "team" player as far as Burrell is concerned.

Cedric Daniels:
Early on in this season Daniels is a worrying entity, he's a driven career man with something from his past to hide. But as the case progresses he makes a decision (prompted by McNulty) to put the case first and serve justice over the department. The transformation is a great one to see, and it's also one which benefits several other people. Carver benefits because he takes over leaking the information and the officer who gets the Major slot which was originally minted from Daniels also naturally benefits.

Daniels made the choice between the job and the career, choosing the job and taking steps towards McNulty's form of policing. There's no doubt he put together a heck of a case, but it's cost him so much. He's not been dragged as low as McNulty though and that is because he's a less inflamatory personality, his actions are judged in a different context to McNultys by his superiors.

Lester Freamon:
"Cool Cat" Lester Freamon, he's easily one of my favourite characters in the show with his miniature furniture, natural detective skills and smooth moves. Alongside Carver he's one of the two Detail members who actually benefited personally from the experience and while Carver was given a leg up through informing to Burrell. Freamon actually managed it through good old police work and making sure he was recognised for his skills. He's pulled himself out from the pawn shop unit and into homicide off the back of his own efforts -- Also teaching Sydnor, Prez, Herc and Carver a few things in the process.

As if that wasn't enough, Freamon also maneuvered himself into a lock with Shardene despite the efforts of and competition from the younger detectives. His combination of authority over them and the sweet way he helped Shardene served him well where she's concerned. Out of all the characters in the first season it's certainly Freamon alongside Carver and Stringer who do the best.

Prez is worth talking about here due to the transformation he undergoes during this season, most of it thanks to Daniels and Freamon. Initially we're introduced to, well frankly an idiot with a gun, a man who shot up his own car, then proceeds to shot the wall in the basement and pistol whips a young lad in hostile territory (something even Herc and Carver thought was uncalled for and at the time they loved putting on the brutality). Most people like that would be weeded out of the force, but Prez has a powerful father-in-law in Valchek and as such he's only detained to desk duty.

But this is where his talents come to shine. Freamon and Daniels set him onto the paper trail and he shows a keen talent for it. By the end of the season he's become a great investigator and improved no end.

Bubbles is a strange entity as far as the first season of the show is concerned. His story stands apart from the other two sides; he exists on the streets, part of it, but not a true criminal. Willing to break the law for personal gain he is also unwilling to commit major crimes and is more than happy to cooperate with the police. He even takes steps towards personal redemption, but just when it looks like he's turned a corner Kima's shooting and McNulty's poor handling of Bubs afterwards sent him back down into the gutter.

When I first watched The Wire, Bubs was the one character I couldn't quite get a handle on, I wasn't entirely sure where he sat in the show and why we were following so much of him. But I think it's not a spoiler to say his story is told over several season, not just one. So to properly appreciate Bubs you have to look at him once you've seen the entire show. It's hard to say much more without spoiling things further down the line, but Bubs is certainly an essential character for the first season, it's just not obvious how he fits on the first watch.

Omar is without a doubt the breakout character of the season, his freshness and almost unearthly nature of character leaves him feeling like a very different character to the rest. Where the circumstances of the show are dark and grim Omar brings an almost Hollywood role to the show. He's straight as an arrow where his objectives are concerned and follows a code. He's also pretty smart, ducking out of Baltimore when it was clear to him that Stringer's intended "truce" was nothing more than a front.

But the streets of Baltimore are in him and by the end of the season he returns, despite the price he's paid -- losing his friend and his boyfriend -- Omar abides.

Avon Barksdale:
Avon is a brilliant criminal, combined with Stringer the pair of them had a stranglehold over so much of Baltimore's drug trade and even managed to pull this off without alerting the police at all. He was cautious, careful and clever. In truth he would probably have managed to keep running for years without being caught, earning millions in legitimate money from the property purchases in the process.

Sadly for Avon he was brought down by a few mistakes, D brought the attention of McNulty and Stringer also provoked McNulty somewhat during the trial. As such the one cop who would care enough about this and care so little about his career was enraged. But, thanks to clever maneuvering Avon ends up paying a light price for his crimes.

Stringer Bell:
Of all the members of the Barksdale's organisation it's Stringer who ends up sitting pretty at the top of the pile. Despite his known involvement in the murder of Brandon there was no evidence to connect him and as such he's remained free and in charge. For all the successes of the Detail and BPD they couldn't get Stringer, even though they knew he was involved and they knew about his position in the organisation they couldn't even get close enough to try for an arrest. He's the living example of how hard it is to stop organised crime, you cut off one head and another rises up.

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The Week That Was - 24/01/09

Category: By Rev/Views
Battlestar Galactica:
I'm deliberately lagging a week behind when it comes to writing about BSG because of the UK release schedule. The first episode of the final run was one which didn't pull any punches at all and as such it's become almost impossible to avoid any spoilers about it. The teaser way to describe the episode is; someone dies, someone else is found dead and we learn who the final Cylon is.

I really like the darker twist the show has taken over this episode and the previous half-season finale. The show has always had an edge of desperation with dwindling resources and the gradual erosion of human life. But it seems to have moved even further down into the bleak scale and I just love that. Also the show has began to hint at the back story for everything and while it's still offering questions right now, it's hinting at some great answers.

The Guild:
Another great gag filled episode from Felicia and the guys at The Guild. Vork attempts to install order during the scheduled server outage while Zaboo tries to win Codex's affections by giving her the not-very-cold-and-some-what-desperate-shoulder. The Zaboo/Codex moments still remain my least favourite, but this episode was buoyed up by some great lines from Tinkerballa, Vork (of course) and Bladez. The final moment in the episode involving the hunky stunt man and Sid was a great cliff hanger as well.

How I Met Your Mother:
This week's HIMYM opened with an awesome extreme pan out, the CGI used for it was pretty fantastic and it was one of the better pan out to show the Earth shots I've seen in any show. The episode itself had some great stories; one of them revolving around Ted, Barney, Bingo and a Bar, the second involving Marshall and Robin - those two don't get enough conversations together so it was great to see how well they play off each other - and the third had Lily plus random people. Then it brought everything together and ended with some pretty great moments. HIMYM remains on form.

A pretty average episode for House overall this week, but a genuine improvement over the previous Thirteen-centric batch of episodes. While the patient himself wasn't that interesting, he still had some character and more importantly he had moments where he related with Taub and House. The episode also showed some interesting developments for Cameron and Cuddy. Hopefully the writers are beginning to figure out how to bring everyone into this show and keep it still working.

A better episode than last week, there were no Ellen present day scenes and actually the episode benefited from that. Most of 'I Knew Your Pig' concentrated on Daniel Purcell, his connection to Patty and began to look at the secrets Daniel was hiding about the company he works for.

Full review is here.

The Office:
I've noticed that almost every time Michael heads out of the office to go somewhere the rest of the staff waste their entire day on something completely irrelevant while Jim just shakes his head and lets it happen. This week we had a great opening Jim/Dwight gag - I do love those - followed by a huge debate about Hillary Swank. Hot or Not.

Meanwhile Michael went out to investigate a small family owned rival company and did exceptionally well, getting their client list. But they were such a nice bunch of people guilt overcame him and he attempted to dispose of the list. Dwight stopped him. It's great to see how ruthless Michael likes to think he is, until it comes time to pull the trigger on nice people, then he bottles out.

30 Rock:
Probably the best 30 Rock we've had in ages, this episode ran with three story lines, the funniest of which involved Frank and Jenna sleeping together after Frank edited the wikipedia article on Janis Joplin (who Jenna was method acting using the information from wikipedia). This collided with a reasonable Kenneth and Tracy storyline about the Hill Witch and diabetes in an exceptionally funny moment. Meanwhile Liz and Jack went to a Sigmar Six retreat, Liz travelling there at Jack's behest only to be abandoned by him once things went well. After an embarrassing moment for Jack, Liz saved his reputation by humiliating herself as 'The Bra Lady'.

The Beast:
Another confusing episode; The Beast has some awesome plus points to it, but it also doesn't seem to have settled into any recognisable form yet. The writing honestly feels like half set jelly, there are moments where it's all cohesive and makes sense, but then you get lost again and have trouble keeping up. Swayze and Gillard are excellent and even Travis has improved his portrayal of Dove when compared to the first episode, but the whole thing needs a kick up the rump in order to get it into shape. It should be a lot better than it is right now.

Full review here.

Other News:
I haven't watched this week's episode of Supernatural at this point, that's going to happen on Sunday, but it probably means I won't write about it. If I remember I'll edit an entry about the show onto this TWTW.

Burn Notice returned this week, I shall be writing about it on Mondays.

Sunday will also include the final season wrap up of the first part of the epic nonsense I decided to inflict on myself called 'Watching the Wire'. I've lost track of the number of words used in writing about the first season, it's thousands at least. But I will be reviewing the entire season as a whole and looking at the journeys each major character has taken through it, what it cost them and where they've ended up. The second season will be reviewed later this year, I need to put it on a slight hiatus because I'm drained from the first season write up and I'm moving home next month, which will of course disrupt my ability to post online for a while, so I decided to take a break until I'm settled in my new home.

I've also finally recieved the second season of Rescue Me on DVD (little rhyming there for you) and I must confess I'm now throughly impressed with the show and I've been enjoying the second season so far a lot.
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The Beast - 102 - Two Choices

Category: , , , By Rev/Views

Rev/Views continues to follow The Beast with the second episode review today, I'm still unsure about the entire thing but I think I'm going to lock myself in for the entire first season before I judge it. I think the reasons I'm willing to give this show a chance are because the opening sequence is styled like Damages, Swayze and Gillard are excellent in it, it reminds me of The Shield and most of all, there seems to be the potential for a really special show lurking underneath the surface.

Read about blade drives, a blown cover and a father's love beyond the link...

Tonight's episode was a stand alone procedural with a somewhat weak plot, I get the feeling that the writers are gradually teasing things out while also keeping things 'one off' in order to try and keep the casual viewer in. But the problem is we still don't know just how far off the tracks Barker actually is. It's difficult to tell what stunts he pulls are going too far and what are acceptable. I don't really know much about the FBI operating procedures and I'm not sure if Dove really knows either.

The best move the episode pulled is it's switched Gillard into a permanent role as the agent who's trying to turn Dove around. Gillard is an excellent actor, he has a proven pedigree over on The Wire and he continues to be great here. Likewise Swayze is also excellent, but annoyingly Dove continues to be rather weak. I think he's intentionally a bit weak, it makes sense Barker would pick someone who's naive and easily manipulated. But it doesn't help that he's a very charismatic screen presence when he's on his own.

The story itself involved Barker and Dove going after some drug suppliers, in order to do so they had to locate the man who would be brokering the deal. Once again, just like last week I had some difficulty following the plot, everything is a little too compressed in the time frame, it honestly feels like The Beast is crying out for season long story arcs instead of these one-offs. But it did have some great moments, and they included the strip club scene where Dove blows his cover (once again showing his lack of experience) by mentioning the target by her name when she hadn't introduced herself as Lucy. Likewise the scene where Dove was waiting for 'the girl' (still no idea of her name) and Raymond (Gillard's character) rolled in and revealed just how closely he was keeping an eye on Dove. Also the final scenes between Lucy's distraught father and the target were good. It was pretty clearly signalled that he was going to shoot, but that moment wasn't hackneyed because it was the set up for the following scene. A scene where Barker shoots himself and then bluffs both of the dealers into making the exchange.

As I said last week, the show has a few failings but it also has some superb moments and excellent performances. I'm going to continue following it because I really hope this show will turn a corner and get good when the writers become willing to let us know exactly what the game is and how it's going to play out. Right now they're still pussyfooting around the FBI file on Barker and Dove remains only slightly suspicious of Barker.

I'll keep you informed and let you know if the show opens up into something really exciting.

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Damages - 203 - I Knew Your Pig

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There's nary a snifter of future teaser scenes in this week's Damages, but the plot continues to develop and twist throughout "I Knew Your Pig", some revelations have the potential to be surprising, others are to be expected. On the whole the episode is a slow paced one, but remains interesting enough to keep up with the superb performances provided by the cast. I'm going to keep things brief because I'm still suffering from the effects of paint fumes (the flat below mine was painted and not properly aired, additionally I was not warned about this so I was caught off guard and I'm still feeling pretty sick).

Read about a dead sow, bottled water and impatience beyond the link...

"I Knew Your Pig" was a very slow paced episode overall, it's clear the episode was designed to lay foundations for later episodes. The main new elements introduced is the reporter and his experiences 'lost in the woods' as he wanders around farming/mining country checking out dying animals and contamination from a mine of some sort. Those scenes felt rather strange, almost as if they didn't fit into the rest of Damages at all, I'm not sure what it was which made them so jarring but they had the style of some disaster movie before a deadly contaminant begins to wipe out all living life (and maybe the dead rise up for good measure). It's possible I felt this way not just because of the scenes themselves but because of the forced introduction of the reporter character. We had him inserted into the episode long before there was any indication of his relevance, yes the episode eventually revealed that he was involved with Daniel in some way, but I do wish they'd linked the involvement first and then allowed us to follow him around afterwards.

The big moments this week are all centered around Patty and Daniel and I think it's fair to say these two characters are almost as ambiguous as each other. Daniel seems to get sketchier and sketchier every moment he's around and it's hard to tell if he's either a bad person or just a complete idiot. I'm sure the story is attempting to shed doubt on him to keep us interested and William Hurt is managing a great job at doing this. But I found quite a bit of the later sections in the episode a tad frustrating. This is in part a problem on my end caused by the aforementioned paint fumes and I think in part because of the rather circular nature of the episode, by the end of it we've not actually learnt that much -- despite the episode's slow pacing and appearance.

One of the other big development is the appearance of The Wire's Major Rawls -- John Doman as Walter the CEO of Ultima National Resources. It's great to once again see another Wire alumni arrive in another quality show. I'm sure he'll play a larger role as things progress. Likewise Marcia Gay Harden is great as Claire Maddox, her involvement with Daniel is just going to make things more interesting as the plot develops.

And the last big moment is the revelation that Mike is Daniel's son, as I suspected last week Patty and Daniel indeed had a history between them. I didn't realise it was this large a history, but that's because I sort of thought Patty's husband was Mike's father. Still Daniel has known about this for around ten years and not done anything, it's curious why that's the case, but I'm sure we'll find out soon enough.

Ellen felt rather sidelined this episode, but I was actually very happy we didn't have any more present scenes involving her this week. The ones from the previous episodes have left me feeling a bit ambivalent about her, there's no doubt her character is a hundred percent more interesting than last season. But the present scenes involving her this season have just not been as good or as teasing as the ones used last season. I'm just not sold on Ellen with a gun.

The main points of the episode and the plot boil down to just a few facts:
UNR are certainly up to something involving contamination and have been for a long time

Patty was the only person to manage a successful lawsuit against UNR (I think I'm extrapolating here from events as they were portrayed, was it explicitly mentioned that she managed this?)

Daniels has a conscience -- he threw his case against Patty not for money but because he felt it was the right thing to do

Patty & Daniel have a son together -- Mike, who is unaware of the connection between him and Daniel

The reporter (no idea what his name is yet) still has the bottle of water despite losing his camera and phone

Daniels was cheating on his wife and she did know, they either argued before or after the dinner on the night she was murdered

It appears Daniel did not kill his wife, and I'd be surprised if he did. Because even if he does have an unstable temper strangulation is not the kind of method of killing I'd expect to see from someone in a domestic situation.

Ellen seems unwilling to take her time over getting Patty, she's a lot more vengeful than I thought she would be

Claire convinced Daniel to flee, but it was Patty who shopped him to the police. Is this because Patty had him watched (like Ellen is watched) or is there some deeper link?

Overall I think 'I Knew Your Pig' was a decent episode, it certainly provided plenty of food for thought and a couple of moments which were quite interesting. Hurt's interview scene with the detective near the beginning of the show was probably the stand out moment, but I was on the whole a lot more satisfied with this episode when compared to the previous one. It's shaping up to show some promise.

Short Thoughts:
I do like Tom's role as exposition man and Patty's number without much character beyond. It's good that the show has a character like this, not everyone has to be complicated and mysterious.

Very happy to see Katie again even if it was for just a moment, a show shouldn't abandon it's past characters just because it has no immediate use for them.

Speaking of Katie, it's likely her boyfriend will turn out to be important because we were denied a clear look at him. We only got to see him distorted in the mirror.

I think I actually preferred watching the first season in one big batch, I'm finding it difficult to keep all the facts and character names in my head when watching this on a weekly basis. As I watched the previous season over an entire week I was better able to follow everything. As such I suspect Damages is a show best watched on DVD (like The Wire).
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DVDs in Review #54: How I Met Your Mother: Season One

Category: , , By Rev/Views

Josh Radnor as Ted Mosby
Jason Segel as Marshall Eriksen
Cobie Smulders as Robin Scherbatsky
Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson
Alyson Hannigan as Lily Aldrin
and Bob Saget as The Narrator/Old Ted

The Show:

If I was to sum up "How I Met Your Mother" in a single sentence it would be "It's Friends for the new millennium, but funnier --". HIMYM is a light hearted sit-com build around a simple principle, it's a story told in retrospect by Father Ted Ted -- father -- to his son and daughter about how he met their mother. Unlike most people who've told a similar story about how they met their partner Ted likes to start from the beginning, or at least a beginning. As a consequence his children have been sat in their chairs listening to him drone on for about three and a half years now, needless to say they often look bored and unimpressed. But you certainly won't be either while watching this comedy offering.

The first season begins with Ted's initial decision to go out and discover Mrs Right-for-him, a decision which was brought about by two of his best friends Marshall and Lily got engaged. Despite his other best friend Barney's attempts to dissuade him from this path Ted meets the beautiful Robin and he decides to take a risk with her. But fate has a different path in mind for him.

HIMYM describes itself as "A love story in reverse" and while that is certainly the core concept behind the show it's not taken too far. The flashback nature of the show is used well, often teasing information about the potential identity of the mother to the viewers or hinting at events due to arrive later in the show. As a consequence this show has a solid chronology and a genuine sense of passing time, this is unusual as many sit-coms feel 'timeless' and frozen in their era.

Neil Patrick Harris is the stand out performance of the cast, he's consistently funny as the permanent bachelor and rampant womanizer Barney Stillson, he also provides the vast majority of the catchphrases and amusing side stories/stunts and performs them with Neil is an accomplished actor but he's not the only stellar member of the cast. Both Jason Segal and Alyson Hannigan are superb as the newly betrothed Marshall and Lily, Marshall is essentially a large boy in a man's situation -- clinging to his childhood while trying to confront the pressures and demands of modern life -- while Lily is normally the voice of sanity and observation in the group, normally.

Cobie Smulders is fantastic as the Canadian love interest/friend Robin, showing a genuine talent for comic timing and a willingness to make a fool of herself. As such it's only Josh Radnor as Ted who suffers in the show, he's often stuck with the straight man/sensible/boring role around which the more serious situations rotate. He's not bad in it, but he's just stuck with a semi boring role (much like Ross in Friends).

HIMYM is a great modern comedy with a lot to like, it's light-hearted fast paced and highly enjoyable. The first season is filled with great episodes and hilarious moments which will have you shouting "Suit Up!" at any suitable moment. The only annoying thing for those of us in region 2 is the lack of any later seasons being released on DVD so far.

The Other Stuff:

The Packaging:
The first season set is a wide plastic DVD case which holds all three discs, this case is contained in a cardboard dust cover which has an exact duplication of the case cover on it. This is a little redundant, but as I'm a fan of cardboard I shouldn't complain too loudly.

The front and back covers themselves are rather simple in design. They do the job and I'm rather fond of the clever lips sofa used on the front and the beer mat on the back. Nice reminders of two major facets of the show -- drinking and "relations".

The Extras:
There are just a few smatterings of extras provided in this set, there is audio commentary on a few of the episodes -- I can confirm that this commentary is excellent and entertaining. A Video Yearbook featurette, a Happy Hour Blooper Reel and two selected montages of scenes. Nothing amazing, but they're still worth a look, especially the commentaries and bloopers.

The Details:
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 (cropped from original Widescreen format)
Rating: 12
Region: 2 PAL
Runtime: 462 mins
Sound: English 5.1
Subtitles: English, Swedish

The Price:
As always I am surprised and pleased to be able to say that it's actually HMV who has the lowest price out of the normal sites I check. They have it at £13.99 which is a respectable 3 ppm.

The Final Word:

Neil Patrick Harris... I mean, Neil Patrick Harris... COME ON! It's Legendary! Seriously, suit up, go out and get yourself a copy.

And in case you're not convinced, here's a "Best of season one video", naturally spoilers abound!

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News Bites

Category: By Rev/Views
I don't have much time today so instead of a proper post here's a selection of interesting news from various places.

Times Online has revealed the identity of Top Gear's The Stig, maybe I'm in a minority but I've never been that interested to find out who he really is. Still, if you do care, you can now find out!

Following on from Dead Like Me and Arrested Development, Veronica Mars starring the lovely Kristen Bell becomes the latest cancelled TV show to get a movie. If you've not seen Veronica Mars it's well worth a watch.

I shan't be reviewing it myself (as I gave up watching in season 3), but you can read all about the latest season of 24 over at Dan's Media Digest and Geeky Talk. I don't even watch the show and I consider these must reads.

If you fancy seeing how the British like to butcher good ideas Snark and Fury is writing about 'Demons' so you don't have to watch it.

Or you can head over to The Medium is Not Enough and join in the always fun 'Sitting Tennant' caption contest. I even managed wittiest caption once upon a time.

Reviews of Damages and The Beast's latest episodes arrive on Friday, I might also update something else today if I have the time and an idea strikes me. Until then, does anyone else think the UK should run a reality voting talent show to determine the next Prime Minister? I just need a catchy name and then I could go sell the idea to the BBC.
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DVDs in Review #53: Wire in the Blood: The Complete First and Second Series

Category: , , , , By Rev/Views

The Show:

Based on the series of crime novels by the award wining author Val McDermid, Wire in the Blood (2002) is a set of stand alone case episodes starring Robson Green as clinical psychologist Dr Tony Hill and Hermione Norris as DI Carol Jordan. Dr Hill is a psychologist with exceptional insight into the minds of the socialy dysfunctional, especially serial killers. He is first brought in by Carol Jordan to assist with a case where single adult males are being abducted, tortured to death and then cleaned before being dumped whole to be discovered.

Wire in the Blood is an exceptionally bleak and grim affair, over the seven "cases" which make up the first two series the show remains dark, unrepentant and merciless. Understanding that often the viewer's imagination is far worse than showing the deed Wire in the Blood will often only hint at the true nastiness being performed by the killers in this show. Set in the fictional northern city of Bradfield the show provides a realistic depiction of ordinary people dealing with extra-ordinary crimes.

It's fair to say that Wire in the Blood has managed to capture the spirit of 1970s BBC programming, which is an age of programming where the BBC wasn't afraid to tell stories which were genuinely unnerving or could be considered depressing -- bleak programming. Wire in the Blood is indeed a fine example of this genre, while also being an intelligent 'whodunnit' with interesting and compelling characters. Both Robson and Hermione are fantastic in their title roles, especially Hermione who gives a superb portrayal of DI Jordan.

If you're a fan of murder mysteries or police dramas and don't mind something a bit less glamorous than most, Wire in the Blood is worth a long hard look.

This set unfortunately comes without subtitles, which is an annoyance for me and something you should be aware of if you also have hearing difficulties.

The Other Stuff:

The Packaging:
Wire in the Blood has just recently been repackaged, having gone through at least two previous incarnations. The latest version is probably the best one yet, it's an exercise in simplicity with nothing more than a bold solid red backdrop combined with text on the front and the back has just a few pictures along with the blurb and details of the set. There weren't any pictures of this set online anywhere so I took the shots myself.

The case itself is a multi-page plastic affair, I can't help feeling cardboard would have been better for the feel of the show, but it's at least robust and will last a long time.

I also feel the box should have the words "Warning: Contains brief glimpses of Robson Green's penis." as well, I still can't scrub that brief scene entirely from my mind.

The Extras:
There are a few extras on the set, not masses but some. These are interviews with Robson Green, Hermione Norris and author Val McDermid, Uncut episodes with additional footage and some more.

The Details:
Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Wide screen
Language: English
Number of discs: 5
Rating: 15
Region: 2 PAL
Runtime: 10 hours 30 mins
Subtitles: None

The Price:
It's available from sendit at the low, low price of £9.89, this is a price which is so low someone must be malfunctioning! This works out at 1.6 ppm, which if you look at previous British offerings is an amazing rate. It's one of the best I've looked at so far regardless of origin country.

The Final Word:

I am a little disappointed in the lack of subtitles in this offering from www.revfilms.com but apart from that error this is an excellent product and something which is ideal for someone seeking an exceptionally British look at the murder procedural mystery style show. While it is formulaic in it's nature it also has a pair of compelling leads and a rather unique style which hasn't yet been emulated in American television. It's dark, it's deep and it's bloody.
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Watching The Wire: Episode Thirteen: Sentencing

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"All in the game..." - Traditional West Baltimore
Written by David Simon & Ed Burns
Directed by Tim Van Patten

Wendell Pierce (Det. William "Bunk" Moreland), Deirdre Lovejoy (Asst. States Attorney Rhonda Pearlman), Wood Harris (Avon Barksdale), John Doman (Maj. William A. Rawls), Lance Reddick (Lt. Cedric Daniels), Andre Royo (Bubbles), Idris Elba (Russell "Stringer" Bell), Frankie Faison (Deputy Comm. Ervin H. Burrell), Larry Gilliard Jr. (D'Angelo Barksdale), Dominic West (Det. James "Jimmy" McNulty) and Sonja Sohn (Det. Shakima "Kima" Greggs)

Michael Hyatt (Brianna Barksdale), Tray Chaney (Malik "Poot" Carr), Michael Kostroff (Maurice "Maury" Levy), Domenick Lombardozzi (Det. Thomas R. "Herc" Hauk), Peter Gerety (Judge Daniel Phelan), Seth Gilliam (Det. Ellis Carver), Jim True-Frost (Off. Roland "Prez" Pryzbylewski), Wendy Grantham (Shardene Innes), Clarke Peters (Det. Lester Freamon), Benay Berger (FBI Supervisor Amanda Reese), Eric Ryan (Michael McNulty), De'Rodd Hearns (Herbert De'Rodd "Puddin'" Johnson), Robert F. Colesberry (Det. Ray Cole), Susan Rome (Asst. State's Attorney Ilene Nathan), Doug Olear (FBI Special Agent Terrence "Fitz" Fitzhugh), Michael B. Jordan (Wallace), Delaney Williams (Sgt. Jay Landsman), Maria Broom (Marla Daniels), Edward T. Norris (Det. Edward Norris), Melanie Nicholls-King (Cheryl), Leo Fitzpatrick (Johnny), J.D. Williams (Preston "Bodie" Broadus), Hassan Johnson (Roland "Wee-Bey" Brice), Michael Kenneth Williams (Omar Little), Michael Salconi (Det. Michael Santangelo), William Shipman (Philadelphia Detective), Stephen F. Schmidt (Wee-Bey's Attorney), Curtis Montez (Sterling), Terrence Currier (Roy Brown), Pete Burris (Federal Judge), Kirk Penberthy (FBI Special Agent Arnold D. Paulette), Toni Lewis (F.B.I. Agent) and Jarvis George (Ronnie Mo)

The Summary:

Greggs finds the strength to finger "Little Man" as one of the men who shot her. Daniels and McNulty go to the feds with crushing evidence about some Baltimore politicians tied to Barksdale, thinking they finally have him. However, the Feds only want the politiicans and not Barksdale. D'Angelo can't swing a deal, and agrees to a possession charge and 20 years hard time after a talk with his mother. As the show concludes, business resumes in the pit with Bodie and Poot leading the way and using some of D'Angelo's wisdom and tactics.

Read about taking it federal, car alarms and unexpected returns beyond the link...

The Recap:

Kima awakens in the hospital to find Bunk and watching over her. Bunk talks with her a little before she looks at the spreads and ID’s Little Man. But when asked if she can ID Wee-Bey she hesitates before admitting she’s unable to do so. Bunk tells her just how close the case if where Wee-Bey is concerned, how good it would be if she’d ID Wee-Bey as well and the risks that will occur if she doesn’t provide a positive ID. Without Kima’s positive ID on both of them the case will be at risk, but Kima refuses to provide the ID, saying “Sometimes things just have to play hard.”

Hit the credits…

Herc and the uniforms are picking up many members of the Barksdales including Ronnie Mo, Carver saunters up to Herc and confirms that they’ve managed to round up everyone. Herc feels the need to assert his soon to be assigned authority, reminding Carver that Herc passed the exam. Carver’s expression is pretty comical.

In the basement, Prez is updating the list of arrests. They have twelve of the nineteen they’re after and it looks like there’s little chance of sweeping up anyone they don’t have already. Avon and Stringer look like they’re going to be walking and they need a new wire. But there’s little hope of managing anything as Burrell wants everything shut down. The phone rings for McNulty, it’s Ronnie telling him D’Angelo wants to talk.

Avon leaves the lock up and rolls with stringer and Levy to talk in a car park. Levy correctly suspects a wire and bugs because the information is too comprehensive and wide sweeping. Avon confirms that he never talked over the phones and instead talked in the back of the club, which is when they all suspect that the bug may have been placed there. In truth – as we know – there is a bug there, but it isn’t the thing which did the damage. None of them can figure out why Stringer wasn’t arrested and they then talk about Dee, Avon is convinced Dee won’t flip on them and he’ll come around. Levy starts talking about damage limitation.

Bunk talks to McNulty about Kima, asking if he’s been to see her yet and McNulty confirms he hasn’t talked to her yet but plans to. Bunk then tells her about Kima’s reluctance to finger Bey. Ronnie arrives dropping off some stuff; she gives McNulty a cold stare before smiling warmly at Bunk. Once again McNulty is in her bad books, which isn’t a surprise.

Avon and Stringer arrive in a funeral parlour to judge it’s suitability for a new headquarters. Avon is content with the place before Brianna arrives to talk with them. Avon wants to keep rolling and get everything back up fast, Brianna and Stringer disagree, they want him to take some time away from the business until things blow over. He agrees but wants good strong product put out. Brianna then tells Avon she’ll sort out Dee.

Dee is meeting with Ronnie and McNulty to provide information on the Barksdales. Ronnie makes it clear that he’s been helpful but they need more, they need information on the murders. Dee denies knowing anything about the death of Gant and is then shown photos of the security guard, Orlando and poor Wallace. McNulty can’t understand why Wallace was shot, Dee then hears the taped phone conversation about Wallace’s problems with Brandon’s murder and they slide across a photo of Brandon after he was dumped. Dee admits that Wallace fingered Brandon but didn’t know what would happen, Dee then goes on to admit his involvement and what happened and how it affected Wallace. How he attempted to protect Wallace and how he feels about this.

Bunk goes on to push, wondering why the young kids who lived with Wallace were missing (Poot moved them out) and then he’s shown pictures of Little Man and Wee-Bey. He tells them Wee-Bey is in Philly and asks if they’re finished. Ronnie reminds Dee and his attorney that this is entirely based on full cooperation before McNulty produces a photo of Dierdre and punctuated it with three taps on the table (the same “Tap, tap, tap” Dee vocalised when talking about her shooting), Dee correctly identifies her and then Bunk and Dee repeat the tapping. He then goes to talk about what happened, how he was used to set up Diedre for the fall. Gradually he describes what happened and the pieces began to fall into place, how the story he told to the lads back in the Pit was actually Wee-Bey’s story. Finally they have something they can hold over Avon.

Dee talks about his life, his family and his situation, explaining that this life is all he knows, all he lives with and how he’s tired of it all. He wants Wallace’s deal; he wants a fresh start where he can become a regular man. If he gets that he offers to give them everything.

Daniels receives a phone call about this interview; he’s thrilled because the case has broken open. But rather than use it to get back into Burrell’s good books he plans to instead reach out to the Feds and see if he can get them to pursue the case further. He then admits that Burrell knows about Daniels’s money but also that Burrell seems unwilling to push it further.

Ronnie is sitting in the car with McNulty and she’s completely thrilled with what’s happened. The case is massive and she’s willing to go federal with the entire thing as it’s a career case. McNulty attempts to talk to her about what happened at Levy’s before she pounces on him and they both celebrate in a very personal fashion.

Bunk and Freamon arrives to talk about a trap and trace in order to get after Bey. They’re told that it’ll take time and as they turn away they’re asked to explain why this case is so important. They do.

McNulty is meeting with Agent Fitz about turning the case federal, but Fitz tells him the FBI aren’t chasing after drug cases anymore. Fitz asks him why they don’t go through the DEA and McNulty admits he’s trying to do this without his bosses finding out and shutting it down. Fitz agrees to set up a meeting after McNulty vouches for Daniels.

Stringer is in the photocopy shop and a bag is passed over to him, in the back office he talks to one of his men about how to cut the drugs until they get a new stash up.

McNulty, Freamon and Daniels are meeting with the FBI who confirm that it’s a great case. There are a few missing pieces, the lack of evidence leading towards the supplier is a problem and then Fitz tells them they can’t go any further unless the case links to priority post-9/11 targets. Unfortunately for the Detail they don’t have anyone like that in Baltimore they know of, certainly not involved in the case so far. The word corruption is mentioned during the conversation and Daniels moves on it, asking what kind of corruption is needed.

In the Pit Bodie asks Poot if the re-up has arrived, they’re having problems with some other dealers who’ve arrived on their patch selling yellow tops. Bodie is tossed a baseball bat and they approach the new dealers. He hits one of them and tells them to get lost; the other dealers are unwilling to leave as the Barksdales have no product to sell. A fight breaks out while Herc and Carver watch from a nearby car. Carver comments that this is why the police can’t win; the pushers face far worse consequences for failure than the police force do (and also have greater rewards for success).

McNulty arrives in Kima’s room to talk with her, he briefly mentions her inability to ID Bey and then she asks about the case. He admits that the wire is dead and then provides good news about Dee’s flipping. Kima’s girlfriend Cheryl becomes angry at this and storms out of the room, Kima then confesses that Cheryl is indeed exceptionally angry and wants Kima to quit working as police. McNulty agrees that she’s probably right, because the case wasn’t worth Kima being shot. Kima then has a go at him for failing to turn up earlier, McNulty starts to admit that he feels guilty about the whole thing and if he could redo it he’d change things. Kima tells him that if she could do it over she’d tape her gun better. She then asks for a favour.

McNulty meets with Bubbles (Kima’s favour) to hand him over some money, Bubs takes some of it and then hands the rest back. McNulty asks if he’s sure and then Bubs keeps the whole lot before passing on his wishes, asking McNulty to not tell Kima that he’s using again.

In the basement Herc is disappointed because he isn’t getting his promotion where as Carver has managed to get it. The phone rings and Prez answers while Freamon walks in with Shardene, it is clear his moves have worked on Shardene. Prez walks over to him with the number for Bey’s house and Freamon closes the door while Carver stares with an incredulous look on his face.

The Detail (Freamon, Daniels, McNulty and Ronnie) are meeting to see if they can further the case on the lines of corruption, they talk about what they’ve found out about the various properties and the FBI agent admits that while it’s a lot to work with, it is enough. But the key question is if Dee can finger the senator or provide stuff on the money. It becomes clear that the FBI want to turn Barksdale, Stringer and the others into cooperators with the intent of going after Clay Davies. To say that the Detail is less than happy about this is an understatement and they quickly decide to go elsewhere to push their case.

Brianna meets with her son Dee, she tells him that Avon will take the fall if Dee is ready to step up. Dee tells her he’s no longer willing to do that and instead he’s been offered a chance to start afresh. Brianna attempts to guilt him into doing the right thing by Avon and her.

Carver and Herc are preparing in the basement for Wee-Bey’s arrest when Daniels comes in and asks to talk with Carver privately. Daniels asks Carver if there’s anything he wants to admit, he then goes on to tell Carver that he knows there is a leak in the Detail heading directly to Burrell and additionally last week’s bug caught Burrell on the hop. This means whoever was reporting to Burrell wasn’t present that week, Carver was away at this time. Carver is the leak in the Detail and he confesses. Daniels talks to him, telling him that he’s going to be in command soon and that Carver will be showing these men the way they should work, he’ll be the example they follow. He tells Carver that eventually he’ll have to decide which is more important, the Law or the promotions. Daniels then heads out to talk with Prez about Bey’s arrest and to hand him back his gun.

In Philadelphia the Detail and uniforms set up to catch Bey, they do it by having Carver break the window of Bey’s car to draw him outside. After a struggle Bey is caught, he’s not happy they busted up his car to arrest him.

Ronnie is having breakfast when she receives a call about Dee, apparently there’s a problem with the Lawyer regarding Dee. Unfortunately Brianna’s talk with Dee has turned him back and it’s Levy on the phone now.

McNulty arrives in Rawls’s office, Rawls tells him he heard about Bey’s arrest and he’s pleased with the clearances. But also he’s heard that there are people are less than pleased with McNulty and his decision to try and take the case federal. Rawls tells him he’s a good detective and tells him he wants to see McNulty land ok. He asks McNulty where he doesn’t want to go.

Levy is meeting with Ronnie, Daniels and others about the case, Levy is confident that they can’t touch Barksdale. He goes on to explain how things will most likely go down, including various sentences on lower level dealers and of course Mr Brice (Wee-Bey as Daniels explains to Ronnie) on murder charges and Kima’s shooting. Wee-Bey will offer sole responsibility for many murders and also a lot of assests are offered up, but most of the money and real estate will remain on the streets in the hands of Stringer Bell (and of course Levy). It seems Avon is just getting a few years.

Avon is eventually charged with possession of a kilo of heroin and a seven year sentence. As Ronnie reads out the charges Stringer, Brianna, Dee and McNulty all watch. McNulty leaves, disgusted.

Bunk is talking with Bey about the shootings, he’s looking at life with no parole and in order to get parole he has to offer Avon or Stringer up, which he’s unwilling to do at all. He’s then told by his lawyer that anything he doesn’t confess to here won’t be part of the deal. So Bey confesses to additional murders in exchange for some more food. These include Little Man, the security guard and William Gant.

Ronnie Mo is now being sentenced for conspiracy while everyone watches in court.

Cedric is met by Cantrell, who has been promoted into the Major’s position which was originally offered to Daniels. His decision to follow the case has cost him the promotion. He then walks into his offices and hears Herc talking to a bunch of newish recruits about the job, Herc is clearly proud about his involvement in the Barksdale case.

Outside the court room McNulty is sitting when Stringer walks out, Stringer leans over and tells him “Nicely done” before leaving.

Bodie is out in the Pit talking on the phone about the situation, he’s waiting for a re-up, clearly working as a lieutenant for the Barksdales now.

Rawls is talking to Freamon, it turns out that Freamon’s hard work and intelligence in the case has been noticed. He’s getting the position that McNulty is vacating.

In the Pit Poot is sat on the couch watching. He notices one of the lads who works for him taking the money and serving him at the same time. He passes on the same advice and orders Dee did near the start of the season; one man takes the money, the other serves. Poot’s learnt from working under Dee.

Outside the courtroom Judge Phelan walks past McNulty and congratulates him on the case before leaving. Inside the room Dee is being charged as McNulty sits back down. Dee is being punished for going back on a lot of his willingness to help and he’s now facing the maximum twenty years. Bunk arrives to tell McNulty that Wee-Bey has taken the fall for a huge amount of murders including William Gant. It’s clear Bey’s just taking the fall for the murders because there’s nothing worse he can face. This way Bird might be released on Gant’s murder charge.

As Avon walks out of the courtroom he nods acknowledgement to McNulty. Bunk and McNulty exchange catchphrases and we reach the end of season montage.

• Johnny and Bubs are still grafting for copper pipes.
• Santangelo is now working the beat in uniform.
• Carver is promoted to sergeant thanks to his leaking information about the detail.
• Prez packs up the board putting the money train trail to rest before switching off the lights
• Kima stands at a window in the hospital, watching the lights of a patrol car head past outside before walking off aided by a frame.
• Bunk and Freamon head over to see McNulty who’s been sent out on a boat, exactly where he didn’t want to be.
• In the funeral parlor Stringer now heads the Barksdales.
• On the streets nothing has changed, money still changes hands and drugs are sold.

Finally a familiar refrain is whistled in the streets, Catcher in the Rye, and the man whistling it speaks in a distinctive voice. Throwing down his hood suspicions are confirmed. Omar has returned…

Happy now bitch? x 4
What the fuck did I do? x 6
The Review:

So that’s it, that’s the finale episode of the first season finished and as such the first chapter in the show brought to a close. Next week I’ll review the season as a complete entity and also look at the journeys some of the characters have taken during these thirteen episodes but for now we’ll just focus on this final one.

Sentencing is best looked upon as an epilogue to the season, many of the major events occurred during ‘Cleaning Up’ and as such Sentencing serves more to show us the repercussions of various events which were brought to a head in the previous episode. As you can see, in The Wire not everything runs smoothly for the "good guys". Stringer and Levy are still out and pretty much untouchable, Avon is only doing seven years with potential parole in three or four and Bird may even end up back on the streets.

You really do have to echo McNulty's sentiments here, was all of this worth the cost? Daniels has lost any chance of a promotion, McNulty is stuck on harbor patrol, Wallace is dead, Bubs is back using, Kima will be in physio for a long time and might not even return to duty and Santangelo, who really hasn't done much wrong was caught in the crossfire and is now a beat cop, which is a huge fall from Homicide. Just about the only members of the Detail who have made progress are Freamon (for his brilliance) and Carver (for his betrayal).

Everything could have been left wrapped up after this first season, it's a very complete structure in itself, yes there are threads hanging loose, but that's life. Nothing wraps up neatly in life and The Wire reflects this. But fortunately for those of us who've enjoyed this first season and come insync with it we have another four seasons to watch after this one and they're brilliant.

Next Sunday will be a season reflection involving a semi-review and a look at each major character in the series, what happened to them, why and what this means.

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