Halloween Special Edition - Rev/Views Top Halloween Episodes

As it's Halloween and I have spent my time enjoying several Halloween specials today I thought I'd take a respective and look at some of my favourite ones. Without any further build up, here they are.

Community - "Introduction to Statistics"

A complete newcomer to this list (relatively speaking). But, having just watched it for the first time before starting this list it's already become a firm favourite. In part because I adore the show and it's witty, intelligent form of comedy. But it's mostly because of one particular character in this episode. Abed's (Danny Pudi) fantastic performance as the Batman, which was close to pitch perfect vocally (Christian Bale Batman) and crackingly authentic in his movements as well. He pretty much lurked around for most of the episode on the sidelines, but the final three scenes were nothing short of hilarious.

The rest of the episode as is just superb both before the costume party and during it. Pierce arriving as 'The Beastmaster' and later freaking out on a trip had some fantastic moments and the main story surrounding Jeff was a great example of just how far his character has come in just a few episodes. He's still cynical, selfish and prone to discarding people when there's something he wants in his sights. But he's also now coming to care about the people who depend on him and is willing to bend for them, even to his own cost.

Still, it's "Batman's" closing monologue which propelled the episode from good into amazing.

How I Met Your Mother - "The Slutty Pumpkin"

This episode is the reason why I started watching How I Met Your Mother in the first place, I just caught it by happenstance when flicking through the channels a few years back and decided to start watching. It's from very early on in the shows run and it was one of the first times where the "is she the mother" angle was played up for great effect (outside of the pilot psych out).

Every year on Halloween there's a party on the apartment roof and Ted heads up there to try and meet the 'slutty pumpkin' again. A woman who was present one year wearing a pumpkin outfit with inappropriately placed holes. He got her number and then promptly lost it, so each year he heads back up there wearing the same (now completely out of context) costume in the hopes of finding her.

It's a great episode, showing a rather pathetic and romantic side to Ted. But it also plays well with Barney, his constant attempts to lift Ted away from this needy act and instead get him to head to a decent party become more and more entertaining. As do his costumes, especially the Top Gun one and of course the Penguin.

Bones - "Mummy in the maze"

Because of the Wonder Woman twirl. Oh yes. I really have nothing more to say here except that it was a really unexpected episode for the show to pull, and it worked.

The Simpsons - "Treehouse of Horror III"

Say what you like about the various Treehouse of Horror episodes, I enjoy them a lot. But my personal favourite is the triple bill from the third season with the cursed Krusty doll, King Kong homage and Dial Z for Zombies - which is just about my favourite Simpsons moment of all time. Homer running down the corridor with a shotgun shooting various famous zombies who have no reason for reanimating in Springfield at all is just delicious.

I still do prefer Futurama's Anthologies of Interest on the whole, but Treehouse III will always remain my favourite animated Halloween episode - sorry Charlie Brown!

Supernatural - "Monster Movie"

This episode wasn't exactly the Halloween episode for Supernatural, but it was released in October and is one of several episodes which shows just how special Supernatural really is. They often mix things up and homage the genre the show is built upon with great love and respect. Episodes like Ghostfacers, the Groundhog Episode "Mystery Spot" and the Evil Dead homage "Hollywood Babylon" simultaneously lampoon and affectionately pay tribute to the mediums of film and horror.

But it's Monster Movie which tops the shop, filmed entirely in black and white with a huge range of references to the old classic black and white horror b-movies it's an episode which is both Supernatural down to the core and something entirely different as well. The Winchester lads arrive in a small town which is being menaced by not just one, not two but three classic movie villains. It's ripping fun.

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer - "Halloween"

It's almost obligatory that this one makes it onto the list, but I'm not putting it on here because of that. It's a genuine and classic episode of a show which pretty much ran like a Halloween special every week. "Fear Itself" is another contender often mentioned in these kind of lists but I personally give Halloween the nod, in part because of the fantastic fun we have when each character takes on a new persona thanks to the outfits they're wearing. But it's mostly because this is the episode where we get to first see the steel and iron which hides behind the tweedish impertinence which makes up our initial perception of Giles. When his mask slips and we get to see the Ripper it's a great moment for his character and a great moment for the show.

The Office - "Halloween"

This episode came in just the second season of the show, but it proved that The Office's American counterpart was capable of some stunning and subtle comedic insights of it's own. From the shrewd nod at the laziness women display when they turn up dressed as a cat, through Jim's rather amusing costume and all the way to Michael's second head berating Dwight and the attempted mind tricks - it's nothing short of classic Halloween and classic "Office". It's just a shame that this year's episode doesn't follow in that tradition.

Oh and Dwight's costume is one of the best, only beaten by last year's Joker look.

That 70s Show - “Too Old to Trick or Treat, Too Young to Die”

Classic Jethro Tull quote in the title, the rest of the episode is a homage to a whole series of Hitchcock films, Fez and Hyde experience "Rear Window" when they come to think Bob has killed Midge, Kitty and Laurie "The Birds", Eric "Vertigo" and we also get "Psycho" and "North by Northwest".

Add in the Halloween revamp of the theme tune, plus Fez's amazing outfit as Doctor Franknfurter and you get a really great episode which is so fast paced and filled with stuff that it's hard to believe it's just twenty odd minutes long. It's just a shame that the show didn't make a tradition of this like other sitcoms.

So that's it, that's some of my favourites and the episodes I've been watching today. Anyone else disappointed Arrested Development never had a Halloween episode? I would have love to see other people dress up as GOB and perform magic tricks illusions.

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Twitter Television Interview: Snark and Fury

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For a while now I've been using Twitter and it's been a frankly wonderful experience, there's a whole host of people out there on the site who love television and love writing about it. Some of these people have websites, others just chat via the medium of 140 characters (the limit for a "tweet") but all of them I've encountered so far are passionate, likable individuals with superb taste in television.

This inspired me to branch out a little and move into a kind of interviewing - more of a questionnaire really if I'm honest. A few brave souls responded to my request by kindly spending some of their precious time answering my questions. As such I'll occasionally post one of their interviews here on my site. The first of them is Aaron Smithes of @Snarkandfury.

Aaron as Peewee Herman, round of applause please!

First up, thank you for agreeing to this interview, it’s much appreciated. If you don’t mind, could you tell us a little about yourself and what people will find if they follow your tweets?

Hello, I'm Aaron and I love TV, films, PC games, tabletop roleplaying and being mean to TV shows on my blog, Snark and Fury.

I try to use Twitter as a companion piece to my blog, if you follow my Twitter then you'll probably see me post interesting links that I've found, mostly related to my interests. I usually attempt to be funny and I generally try to avoid telling you about what I had for dinner. One thing that I'm keen to do again is something similar to the collaborative Twitter post about Torchwood, I think that produced some entertaining stuff (http://snarkandfury.blogspot.com/2009/06/torchwood-season-four-honest-truth.html). Finally, being my Twitter friend will also let you know when I've finally got off my lazy arse and posted something.

What genres of show do you tend to gravitate to? That is, what concepts does a show need to hook you in as a viewer?

I find that I tend to go where the quality is. I'm a big sci-fi fan but I don't watch a great deal of it these days as there doesn't seem to be much out there that grabs my attention.

I love shows that have a strong vision and follow it through to the end, for example, The Wire, The Shield, Battlestar Galactica, Band of Brothers - they're all stories that have a clear beginning and end and can be rewatched as a whole piece.

I certainly have to agree here and I'm (not so) secretly pleased you've mentioned The Wire and The Shield. I also loved BoB, BSG on the other hand I felt lost it a little in the final episode.

If you were stranded on the old clichéd desert island with nothing but a DVD player, a TV and a limitless generator (like say one powered by a waterwheel) what three shows would you want with you to pass the time spent alone?

Doctor Who (I bloody love that show), The Shield (police procedural with a nasty but compelling element), and Spaced (for some feelgood comedy).

What’s your favourite show of all time and why does it hold that place?

Doctor Who - a programme that has managed to survive through the ages and imprint its iconography on every impressionable youngster since 1963. It’s a show with limitless imagination, endless settings, comedy, drama, horror, science fiction, historical references, great performances, awful performances, creaky sets, breathtaking sets, terrible costumes, fantastic costumes, and boundless ambition. I love the fact that even when Doctor Who is terrible, it’s usually because it’s being too ambitious. Doctor Who is a show that really shouldn’t be produced on a small BBC TV budget but it always manages to pull through and produce some wonderful moments in each season.

Yes indeed, the emotion in the series is fantastic at times, especially in nu-Who. Now, what about your favourite episode?

That's an easy one, I blogged about that a few months ago - Doctor Who: The Caves of Androzani. Although I am a big cheat and chose a story rather than a single episode. (http://snarkandfury.blogspot.com/2009/07/my-favourite-tv-episodes-part-one.html)

Let’s talk about least favourites. What’s the worst television show or episode you’ve ever watched (and why was it so bad)?

Bonekickers has to be one of the worst shows I have ever seen. It stands apart as an ambitious show about archeology that was intended to be exciting, dynamic, and pulp-like - it clearly wanted to be The Da Vinci Code crossed with Indiana Jones.

What we got instead was Time Team crossed with Scooby Doo. It was a poorly researched, badly written show with awful characterisation and terrible performances from the cast (although they clearly didn't have much to work with).

The dialogue was awful; one quote, which I'm paraphrasing as I can't go back and check just now, was "We're going to Hull to do the archeology." Who says that? An IT consultant wouldn't say, "I'm going to Bradford to do the IT." Would an electrician go to Blackpool to do the electricity?

That said, the show became so bad that it was actually entertaining to see how low it would sink. I miss it in a way.

I must admit I enjoyed your recaps on Bonekickers far, far more than I did watching it. You made the show almost tolerable.

Who’s the most annoying character you’ve ever seen on television and what is it that irritates you so much about them?

Oh God, the main character in Bonekickers, Dr Gillian Magwilde. She acted like a dour homicide detective for most of the show and then became a wild eyed believer in myths and legends as the plot demanded.

She didn't endear herself to the audience and didn't seem to be particularly clever or worthy of leading a team of archeaologists. she was pretty insufferable really, Dolly would have made a more interesting leader if he wasn't an outrageously silly character.

Do you have a cult show you’d like to champion here? Why should we watch it? Go on; really sell us on this show.

I don't know if Rome counts as a cult show, it was an expensive show that had a lot of publicity when it was released. However, I find that it's not mentioned all that often in blogging circles or amongst friends so I guess I'll champion it.

The thing with Rome was that I had no interest in Roman culture, I was always more interested in medieval history than ancient. I was finally convinced by a friend to watch the show on DVD and I was hooked from the first episode.

Rome essentially tells the story of the rise of Julius Caesar and follows two soldiers, Titus Pullo (Ray Stevenson) and Lucius Verenus (Kevin McKidd) as they become involved in major events. The performances from Stevenson and McKidd are absolutely fantastic and the supporting cast is almost uniformly excellent. James Purefoy's Marc Anthony is a very entertaining performance and he clearly enjoys himself in the role.

The episodes usually contain a large amount of political and inter personal skull duggery and a heap of violence as Roman society is portrayed as a culture with the appearance of civility but a vicious, ambitious streak.

It's a show that I really didn't expect to enjoy but I found myself absorbed by each character's struggle to survive the cut throat world of Rome . It's a pity that there are only two seasons of Rome but it does tell a complete story and leaves you wanting more without feeling unsatisfied. I plan to make Rome the subject of a 'My Favourite Episodes' post in the future, where I'll try and explain further why I love it so much.

Rome is certainly something I'll have to put on my 'to watch' list, I apologise for not having seen it yet. So, is there a character in the world of television you identify with or admire the most?

I admire the Doctor the most, which probably makes me a massive nerd. The Doctor is a noble character, a father figure, a kindly uncle, or a big brother (depending on the incarnation). He has a firm sense of right and wrong and always sets out to do the right thing. He’s a genius without being annoying and self important as some geniuses can be. Ultimately he’s my favourite fictional character of all time.

I think I actually had a dream last night that Tom Baker visited my flat for a cup of tea and he told me off for watching torrented episodes of old Doctor Who, I pointed out that I buy all of his stories on DVD and that seemed to placate him. I can’t remember if he brought the TARDIS with him though…

Pitch a television show to us. What would be your ideal show?

Dinosaurs, Robots, and Explosions.

(Robot Commando: The TV series? I loved that Fighting Fantasy Book.)

And what would be your ideal television crossover event?

It's a bit obvious but The Shield and The Wire; Vic Mackey transfers to Baltimore and finds that Baltimore is a very different place to LA. Can Vic manipulate the system or will he be chewed up and spat out like so many detectives before him?

Interesting, I'm not sure if Vic could even function in The Wire's universe. He'd be a character operating in the same reality as Omar and Brother Mouzone. I also can't help but wonder what his reaction would be if he met Herc.

What’s your favourite TV related website for news and information?

Television Without Pity inspired me to do the whole snarky recap thing. It's genuinely useful for certain shows where you may not spot particular details whilst watching the show too. Dan’s Media Digest and The Medium Is Not Enough are pretty much daily visits for TV info and reviews.

Last of all, tell us all about your own blogsite, what will readers find when they head there?

Bright colours, the occasional comic panel, poor sentence structure, recaps of TV shows that you can't be bothered watching, infrequent games reviews, stupid movie recommendations, and the odd DVD review. Despite the title of the blog I'm not an angry fanboy howling into the void, I don't have the energy.

When Aaron is not adventuring about the universe inside a police box he can be located at Snark and Fury, his twitter is @SnarkandFury and is one which I recommend you follow!
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Tired Television Tropes: Will They, Won't They

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Recently there's been more than a few people out there across the Internet who've been pleased with the direction that The Office has taken with regards to two of their core characters. Specifically Jim and Pam, who had a long run with the dreaded "will they, won't they" trope which was predicted by many to end something like this:

"Pam is very attractive, no question. If I didn't have an award show to host, I could easily see having two or three seasons of will they won't they sexual tension that ultimately goes nowhere." -- Conan O'Brien

Many shows continue to use this trope as a major engine in their plots, and most don't risk resolving the question until near the end of their run. The debate about Pam and Jim was also confounded a little by the precedent set by the UK one (which didn't resolve Dawn and Tim until it's Christmas special and then it was all over) but more importantly by the ridiculous idea which is often known as 'The Moonlighting Curse' (Also known as The Cheers Rule) - which suggests that the moment you resolve a 'will they, won't they' that the series will crash to the ground and stop being interesting. This is a theory which seems to hold in the minds of the TV executives and writers in particular. It's constantly being rehashed and held up like some kind of sacred rule which must not be violated (despite evidence to the contrary).

You know what? A little bit of "will they, won't they" isn't a bad thing, it's like foreplay - it gets you all warmed up for the main event and sometimes it's even an acceptable substitute. Some shows do it very well indeed - The Office is one of those, it danced away for three years before resolving it by getting Jim and Pam together. This moment was incredibly sweet, fun and didn't kill the show, in fact it strengthened it by providing one of the most real and entertaining adult relationships in a sitcom ever.

Other shows which managed it well include Frasier's Niles/Daphene dance - though that one did lose it's luster for a period before getting back on track. The period where Daphene was aware of Nile's feelings but they weren't together was weak.

Spaced is of particular note here with an unusual and subtle take on the whole trope, I'd go as far as to call it one of the best versions of it - putting Tim and Daisy together in a fake relationship and then gradually hinting at an unconscious and unrecognised desire between them worked exceptionally well - it was subtle enough to remain funny. The West Wing is another show which did this well - this time with Josh and Donna (though it does become a tad tiresome once Sorkin stops steering the ship because his subtle touch is gone).

In Buffy the Buffy/Angel tension worked well by resolving it early, putting an interesting spin on it by having Angel turn into the big bad from it created one of the most memorable Buffy villains in Angelus. Seinfeld parodied it quite a few times with Jerry and Elaine - there wasn't really any "will they, won't they" vibe there, but some felt there was and the characters (and plots) often mocked it superbly - all the way to the finale. Arrested Development also deserves mad props for their spin on the whole trope - the George Michael/Maeby tension had a great extra layer with the whole related angle that made for amazing comedy. Futurama's Leela/Fry thing also works well, but they have moved towards some form of resolution with that one and never made it the main focus of the show.

But then we have shows which are just terrible for doing it, Friends milked ten seasons out of Ross and Rachael, pushing it to the point where I was just watching the show for Chandler and Monica - blanking most of the nonsense between the two R's as it had grown tired. (Side note: I own all ten seasons of Friends for one reason, so I'll never watch the show again - owning it means I don't watch it when it's repeated on television and then I just never take the boxed set down from the top shelf). As if that wasn't enough, the spin-off Joey attempted to pull a similar stunt and it's probably one of the reasons why the show collapsed (not the main reason though of course). Speaking of Joey, I adore Andrea Anders - she's now in Better Off Ted - you should watch it.

That 70s Show pulled the stunt multiple times with differing degrees of success - Eric/Donna wasn't bad and resolved well at the end of the show. But Jackie's relationships were a terrible mess, the appropriate tension was with Hyde in the post-Kelso part of the show - and she ended up with Fez? What the heck?

I'm not sure about Scrubs' J.D. and Elliot by the way, they pretty much ran with it the entire time the show was on the air, even when one of the pair was in a relationship it always felt like it was designed to be doomed. They did end up together and had a solid relationship in the eight season, and frankly that was the best season for a long time as a result. It's half and half if it was done well or not, I think it's fair to put that one in the maybe column.

But now we get to my ultimate bug bears - and I know I'm not alone on this one - it's the second appearance for Mr David Boreanaz and this time it's in Bones. Seriously, I'm sick to death with the supposed sexual tension between Booth and Bones. It's gotten out of hand to the point where it's actually making the rest of the show intolerable. Seriously, it needs to be resolved because it's not helping at all. Gah! If I see one more moment where the two of them stand longingly close together only to do nothing because one or the other (or both) is a complete f***-t**d I'm not sure if I'll be able to stand it. I might do something rash like set myself on fire, it's irritating me that much. The same can apply what I've seen of the "The Big Bang Theory" and "Chuck" - I'm still only on the first season with each of these shows but I'm already annoyed with their abuse of the trope. It's a shame because they're both shows I like otherwise.

I've rambled on for a while now without to much of a point, so I guess I'd better get to one. While I have listed shows which have pulled it off to a reasonable degree, most of these didn't drag the entire thing out too long, or span it well enough to make it feel fresh. The thing is, just because some shows have done it well doesn't mean we need more new shows built around the premises. In fact, we don't, we really don't. It's time to put this particular cliched, hackneyed old trope out to pasture for good.

To paraphrase Hyde [I] "can't stand another week of this will-they-or-won’t-they crap.”

(Except when it's used in Community, because I'm nothing if not a hypocrite.)
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The Week That Was: October 25th Edition

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I'm getting towards watching Dexter honest! But I have sidelined watching it for another week, in fact I'm now considering watching the show as a marathon after Christmas, but we'll see.

As for the rest, I've been keeping up to date with everything pretty well.

"Football, feminism and you"

Just to continue to beat that drum, if you're not watching Community you should be. This week's episode was another close to pitch perfect piece with Jeff playing a bit more of a defensive role than normal after the Dean blackmails him in order to take advantage of Jeff's influence over Troy. Either Jeff convinces Troy to join the College football team (named The Human Beings) or pictures of him attending the college are mailed out to various professional firms (including law firms). Revealing that Jeff's been forced to attend what is a pretty crappy college and tanking his future.

On the other hand Annie doesn't want Troy to start playing football again, she crushed after him all through high school and is just now getting to know him. This kicks off a tug of war between Jeff and Annie over Troy, both of whom have selfish reasons for wanting to dictate what Troy does.

Mix in two entertaining side plots, one with Britta learning how to connect with other women in the bathroom and the other having Pierce and Dean Pelton trying to come up with a racially sensitive human being mascot - and things are just great. As for Abed? His "Aspergers" plays up to the point that he decides he's been too prolific in last week's episode (his words) and he will lay low for this episode. Enjoyable fourth wall shaking from what is a pretty entertaining character - and sure enough, he's hardly seen in the episode.

Seriously, why on Earth are you not watching this show?

Curb Your Enthusiasm:
"Denise Handicap"

I don't know about this week's Curb - Curb has two settings for me, immensely enjoyable or frustrating with occasional funny. While last week's episode was in the enjoyable category, humiliating without being overly filled with irritants (just enough to keep it fun), this week's was. Well. Eh.

It just felt rather predictable, while often you can see where Curb is going to take you, and I enjoy that because it makes Larry's inevitable fall more amusing, this one really felt like it was just rehashing old ground with new paint. It had a few good moments, Rosie O'Donnell and Larry fighting in public over which of them gets to pay the cheque (they both wanted to) was a lot of fun, as was the beach moment with the Blackberry. But the main plot with Anita Barone? It just lacked, well everything.

30 Rock:
"Into the Crevasse"

Last week's season opener was a little uneven and not exactly inspiring, this weeks was a lot better but still not up to the standard of the 30 Rock we know and love. The big part of the funny was brought by the fantastic Will Arnett who plays Devon Banks with such aplomb that it's impossible not to enjoy the moments where he and Jack rant at each other.

The other funny parts include Frank breaking down over his inability to evenly microwave a burrito and his ranting at Liz over her "deal breaker novel" ruining his chances with a woman once she saw his action figures. In fact most of the men in the office were taking out their frustrations on Liz after their significant others had read the book and become aware of their failings. Tracy's reaction was (as always) priceless.

On the other hand I'm already a little tired with the two 'stars' Tracy and Jenna both acting up over the decision to add another actor to the show, Josh has already walked out so I don't see why we need both Tracy and Jenna acting in bizarre fashions (well more so than usual). Jane Krakowski is fantastic, 30 Rock needs to make better use of her. Having said that, the Iceland filming/night/werewolf fiasco was a funny concept.

The Office:
"The Lover"

The Office continues to develop, building on that wonderful Niagara episode with a stronger offering than last week's episode of 'Mafia'. This one has Jim and Pam returning to the office to find out that Michael has a new woman in his life - Jim finds out first that it's Pam's mother.

Pam's reaction when she finds out is just priceless and it sparks off a host of fantastic moments, including Michael being kind to Toby in order to try and get Pam to stop haranguing him (Toby's talking head moment on this is priceless, poor guy)

There's also a fantastic callback to the previous episode - with Ryan spending the entire episode wearing a flash gangster-esk hat without comment all the way through it and then refusing to let Kevin know where the hat came from because 'he can't say'.

The Office is living evidence that the will they/won't they trope can always be resolved and still keep the show entertaining. So Bones, you've got no excuse now - resolve the Booth/Bones thing this season, we're tired of it, K?

How I Met Your Mother:
"Duel Citizenship"

I'm not really sure what to say about the latest HIMYM, it was pretty much a solid affair but nothing special. There were a few good moments, mostly involving the caffeine laced soft drink 'Tantrum' but it was the first episode this season which felt like filler. Nothing overly funny, nothing particularly bad - it was just there and then done.

In other television related things I'm continuing to work on the third season of Watching The Wire, which starts this Sunday - this does mean that I'll be down to three posts during most weeks, but there will also be the Wire update on Sundays to make up for that. I'm also still (slowly) watching Sons of Anarchy and Breaking Bad - but due to a friend forcing me, I'm now also watching Ally McBeal (and I wouldn't admit it to her, but it's a fun show because I like David E. Kelley's dialog). And I have been keeping up with Family Guy/American Dad, but the episodes aren't worth commenting on, they just occupy time and space with mild entertainment.
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The Wire: Truth be Told

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In a slight break from the norm here I'm going to look at the book which caused me to miss yesterdays promised update because I was reading instead of writing. It's the companion piece to HBO's narrative television giant The Wire. Subtitled Truth be Told and penned by Wire staff writer Rafael Alvarez (with an introduction from David Simon) it's an overview of the show from it's conception all the way to it's finale and serves not only as a look into the production of the series but also as an episode guide, reference and even a glossary of terms. The publishers have even thought to include an attached ribbon bookmark, something I always appreciate having as I constantly loose my bookmarks around the house (even though I've owned the same two for about fifteen to twenty years now, they keep turning up again).

The book itself is a hefty and stylish tome. Behind the iconic silver and black dust cover (which mirrors the colour scheme of the first season boxed set) there's a classy looking tome weighing in with 580 odd pages spread over seven chapters. In addition to writings from Rafael there are also interviews and quotes from other Wire related individuals inter spaced with black and white pictures from the show. There are even a few pages of colour panels, each of which showcase the artistic skill involved in the direction of the show, the shots are all beautiful in of themselves (even if the subject matter involved in many of the shots is anything but...)

The first section of the book contains David Simon's introduction, the letter he sent to HBO pitching The Wire and a contemporary piece on Barack Obama - who is a confessed Wire fan and loves (but does not condone of course) the character of the stick up artist Omar Little. Then the next five chapters break down into a rough collection of pieces about either the relative season the chapter focuses on - including two to three page episode synopsises (don't expect everything to be covered in them, but many pertinent details are) but also sections looking at the various Wire characters, some of the actors behind them, unsung members of the production team and much, much more.

There's a section on The Bunk, which covers both Bunk Mooreland and his real life inspiration Detective Oscar Requer. A detailed look at two of my favourite characters; Frank Sobotka and Jimmy McNulty. Detailed looks into politics (both as depicted on The Wire and the ones which dipped into/interfered with the creation of the shows episodes), Nick Horby's interview with David Simon and much, much more. All capped with a script called 'A Scene That Will Never Make the Bonus Disc' it's a ripping read and also has an incredible set of appendixes including a glossary of the language used in The Wire. No excuse now for not knowing what someone means when they say they're 'carrying water'.

It's an absolute pleasure to read, gripping but light enough that you don't feel bogged down by the size of it, and as such I think it's no exaggeration to say that this book is a must read for anyone who's watched The Wire and wants to know a little more about the scope, aim and style of the show. Rafael (and the others who contribute) brings a shrewd insight into the show that only someone closely involved in it could be - unless the big man himself (Simon) wishes to pick up a proverbial pen and write a book on The Wire this one is pretty "it".
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DVDs in Review #95: Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights: The Complete First & Second Series

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Spinning off from That Peter Kay Thing, Phoenix Nights is a show I first experienced back in early 2001 when it first aired on Channel 4. Now I must confess that at the time I watched it for a few minutes then switched over to watch something else; the gloomy look of the show combined with the relatively mundane characters just didn't grip me. This continued for a few weeks until I just avoided being in when the show was on TV.

Fast forward a few years and I'm sharing a house with several people, one of whom was a huge fan of British Sitcoms (plus Monk) and collected the DVDs. This blog is an indirect result of living with him, he's the one who got me hooked on collecting and watching DVDs. Anyway, he told me that I just HAD to watch this show, and he handed me the first series of Peter Kay's Phoenix Nights. I was somewhat reticent about watching it, I had not enjoyed what I'd seen previously, but we had a policy of trying out each other's recommendations (he cried when he watched Futurama's "Jurassic Bark" - so I think I won that one) so I agreed to try it out.

Maybe it was the change in perspective that the intervening years had gave me, maybe it was the wacky and fun DVD menu, but I decided to give the show a shot - and to cut a long story to a short conclusion - I really enjoyed it!

This set brings both the first and second series together to give you the 'almost complete' experience of Phoenix Nights - while the story of the Phoenix club actually begins in 'That Peter Kay Thing' this set stands alone as the stories were designed to work without seeing the previous show (but the experience is improved if you have done).

Peter himself stars as club owner Brian Potter, Bouncer Max, fire safety officer Keith Lard and Paul Le Roy (the last two both also from TPKT) in the great British tradition of playing lots of characters in the same show. He mostly performs as the rather pathetic club owner Brian - a man desperate to make the Phoenix Night club into a blazing home of excitement and money - and Max , a rather everyman individual who bounces for the club with his mate Paddy (Patrick McGuinness - who doesn't even really act in this show, he just plays himself as a bouncer).

The show is classic British comedy, filled with uncomfortable or humiliating moments for it's characters and plenty of unforseen problems for the club. Ranging from a phallic bouncy castle, past a drunk horse and all the way to arson - the issues and obstacles seem to just keep on coming for Potter and his cronies. For myself it's not Peter Kay who's the absolute star of the show, it's Dave Spikey's performance as the clubs rather hapless compere who takes that crown. Dave's performance runs the whole gambit of emotions and is just superb (he's also one of the creators of the show).

But it's not just the dialog and characters which make the show so special, it's also the clever plotting and attention to detail. One of my favourite gags in the show occurs in episode eight where Young Kenny (Justin Moorhouse) has his face painted like a tiger in a fair on the grounds and then discovers it was done with car paint. He spends the rest of the series trying to conceal the paint on his face. It's a joke which many more traditional sitcoms would have ignored because they were following the tired old adage 'everything must return to normal in time for the start of the next episode'. There are precious few sitcoms out there who've performed such a subtle trick (Arrested Development is the main one I think, it's full of such cleverness).

From it's wonky theme tune, through it's rather unattractive and morose cast and all the way to it's dingy sets Phoenix Nights manages to simultaneously capture everything that's quaint and wonderful about small UK social clubs while also highlighting just what horrible and soul sucking pits of misery they can be. All in good fun of course.

Forget going down the local, I'm going to stay in at the Phoenix club instead.

Deleted and Extended Scenes
Out Takes
One Man & His Horse: Behind the scenes featurette
Special Treats
Cast Commentaries (pretty good ones too)
and an exclusive bonus CD featuring music from the series

Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Languages: English
Rating: 15
Region: 2
Run time: 290 mins approx
Subtitles: English HOH
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The Week That Was: October 20th Edition

I'm afraid I'm still being lax where Dexter is concerned. I'm now three episodes behind with my viewing, I can't put my finger exactly on why I'm behind with watching it - I think it's a combination of my disappointment over the third season and the sheer amount of television I'm behind on already.

I have queued up to watch the following:
The Sopranos Season 3, 4, 5 and 6
Sons of Anarchy (Halfway through season one)
Breaking Bad - Season 2

And I'm back watching the third season of The Wire ready to start writing about it.

Mix this in with the ridiculous amount of time I spend commuting each day and I dunno, Dexter's just sort of languished and been left unwatched. I guess I'm saying "convince me to watch Dexter guys!"

Onto the television I have been watching:

How I Met Your Mother:
"The Sexless Innkeeper"
Another frankly fantastic episode from the HIMYM crowd, for once it wasn't the Robin/Barney or Lily/Marshall storyline which got the biggest laughs from me. It was actually Ted's 'Sexless Innkeeper' story. Especially the "It's a poem" justification as to why the tales of the sexless innkeeper were being told as if it was Dickens.

I'm absolutely miffed that this show hasn't released more Region 2 seasons on DVD. Get your butts out to the shops and pick up the first season guys. Convince them to hurry up and release the next three seasons. If not for the enjoyment and hours of excellent comedy you'll get from it, then for me!

"Advanced Criminal Law"
The little comedy engine that could continues to pick up speed and pile on the steam, this weeks episode was nothing short of superb. I just love the way the show took the core concept from the pilot episode and expanded on that - creating this growing, living universe filled with bitter, cynical comedy that also feels uplifting and upbeat.

When Senor Chang threatens to give everyone a zero unless whomever it was who cheated on the test with a crib sheet, Britta stands up and takes the fall. Then Jeff offers to give her legal counsel on the entire thing - which results in this wonderful flip-flopping of events that bring the brilliant Jim Rash (who played Fenton in That 70s Show - one of my favourite recurring characters) back as Dean "I go both ways" Pelton, Senor Chang and Professor Duncan together as the tribunal on Britta's case.

You've also got Abed learning about how 'friends mess with each other' and then taking it to a new level in an attempt to get back at Troy, while Annie and Pierce (Chevy Chase who's on amazing form) sort of bond together over the creation of a song for the college.

The episode ends with a classic and somewhat beautiful Pierce moment, which was quite moving and beautiful. But still laced with that cynicism which I'm beginning to love about Community.

Curb Your Enthusiasm:
"The Hot Towel"
This episode was a step back from the breakneck joy of the Seinfeld reunion storyline, giving us classic Curb - but with a subtle and brilliant Seinfeld reference built into it. After Larry hurts his hand with a hot towel he's unable to undo a bra because his 'undoing left hand' is out of action. The resulting scene homages a conversation from Seinfeld (George of course being based on Larry David.)

JERRY: Don't be so sure. Look at George - he's on his ninth date with Betsy, he still hasn't gotten anywhere with her.
ELAINE: What's his problem?
JERRY: Well, every time he tries to make a move, something screws up. Like on their last date, they were on the couch, but she was sitting on his wrong side.
ELAINE: Wrong side?
JERRY: Yeah, she was on his right side. He can't make a move with his left hand. Can't go left.
ELAINE: He can't go left.
JERRY: No! I'm lefty, can't go right. What about women? Do they go left or right?
ELAINE: Nah, we just play defense.

Needless to say, I enjoyed the return to classic Curb as it mixed things up. I also loved Christian Slater's part in the show.

The Office:
"Niagara" & "Mafia"
Seriously, how good was Niagara? It was pretty much the best episode of The Office I've seen in a long time and well deserving of the hour long episode. It also could have served as a fantastic season ender - or even a wonderful note to end the show on. So in some ways I'm a little surprised they've 'spent' it so early on, but I assume they've got some great comedy direction for Jim and Pam now they're married.

Who'd have thought it all those years ago eh? Unlike their British counterparts J&P have actually ended up together. It was a wonderful and sweet episode that is amongst the best I've seen in a long time, not so sold on the morning sickness joke, it was clever - but also exceptionally lowbrow, a little too lowbrow for The Office I think.

Mafia was back to a more standard form, I did enjoy Oscar explaining that the balance of reason in the office was out of kilter with Jim and Pam away on holiday. I also enjoyed watching Kevin single handedly ruin their honeymoon without even meaning too. But the main plot, Michael worrying about an Italian American selling him insurance turning out to be a member of the mob, was a little too late. A few years earlier, with The Sopranos still on the air, and it would have worked.

30 Rock
"Season 4"
I'm not sure about the season opener for 30 Rock. It had it's share of funny moments, many of them revolving around Tracy Jordan, but it was also a little uneven at times. The dynamic between Kenneth and Jack was fun, with Kenneth proving to be an almost unassailable wall of incorruptible virtue - until he got his own way and then realised that he'd have to lie to cover up what actually happened. I also appreciated seeing more of Scott Adsit who often feels woefully underused, he's a funny guy, exceptionally funny, and he needs more screen time and more story lines.

Solid, but it didn't blow me away.
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DVDs in Review #94: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Seasons 1 & 2

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The blurb on back of the box brazenly boasts that It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia features "the most vain, dishonest, self-obsessed gang of friends since Seinfeld." I don't know about you, but I'd always be cautious about comparing my show to one as accomplished, funny and fantastic as Seinfeld. You're setting yourself up for the inevitable comparisons and if you don't deliver the goods you'll be left with, well, egg on your face.

That said, what is It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia (IASiP) about? Well, it's set in and around a Philadelhia Irish bar named Paddy's which is owned and run by a group of twenty something friends. It's not a very successful bar on the whole, being located in a neighbourhood which could be generously described as 'a tad undesirable'. But it's at least well managed and run... Wait, no it isn't.

IASiP stars Charlie Day as Charlie Kelly, Rob McElhenney as Mac, Glenn Howerton (That 80s Show, Crank 2) as Dennis Reynolds, Kaitlin Olson (Curb Your Enthusiasm) as Dee Renolds and in the second season (and onwards) Danny DeVito as Frank Renolds. On the whole (DeVito excluded) the cast is a collection of people who've generally had little more than reccuring guest star roles on other shows, which isn't exactly a promising thought.

But, this is the point where I need to say that there is nothing to worry about at all and that IASiP is blisteringly funny. The show and cast deliver, giving us a show which is actually be as good as the blurb claims. It's a wonderfully cynical show filled with misguided people doing very selfish and unpleasant things to each other and also unsuspecting members of the public. This is a show which doesn't seem to worry about how people are going to react if the gang actively encourage underage drinking, develop gun fever and suffer from racism while unintentionally turning Paddy's into the hottest gay bar in town (with a frankly hilarious conclusion). It's a show which isn't afraid to take the taboo and turn it into a subject for comedy - add to this the low production values of the show making it feel all the more realistic and it could be quite shocking for some to watch.

The big concern I had about starting to watch the second season (when compared to the first) was the arrival of Danny DeVito in a major role. The rest of the cast - while being brilliant, funny and entertaining - are not as accomplished a group of actors, or even comic actors as Danny. His epic run in Taxi as Louie De Palma would be intimidating enough even if you did ignore all of the films he's acted in over the years (L.A. Confidential, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest etc etc). Fortunately, while DeVito is a comedy force to be reckoned with, he's not completely overpowering - in fact he's exactly the right fit for the show and as such freaking hilarious.

Really if you're not watching IASiP already you need to seriously consider giving this region one DVD set a whirl - it's exactly the kind of show for people who enjoy their sitcoms on the bleaker, nastier and more cynical side of life. It is certainly a show which Seinfeld fans could get their teeth into, but it's also one for people who enjoy the Brit-com model (which often features nasty people doing horrible things and getting their come-uppance). But in truth, at the price this set is, it's something that anyone who enjoys a good "non-PC" laugh should try out.

It really is that good.

Sunny Side Up: Making-Of Featurette
Katilin Audition Featurette
The Gang F*#!s Up Outtakes
Fox Movie Channel Presents Making a Scene: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Commentary on selected episodes
Scenes from the Original Pilot

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Rating: N/A (But I'd suspect it's at least a 15)
Region: 1 NTSC
Run time: 380 mins
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
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DVDs in Review #93: How I Met Your Mother: Season One

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"A love story in reverse"

How I Met Your Mother (hereafter known as HIMYM) is the story of Ted Mosby, as told by the future Ted Mosby in retrospect to his children - providing the very first joke of the show (and one of my favourites) the looks on his son and daughter's faces as Ted bores them to death with his overly long winded tale of how he met their mother.

Fortunately for us, the viewers, the stories Ted tells are shown in full colour episodes and are far more entertaining than older Ted seems to be. HIMYM could be described as 'the new Friends' and while it seems to have more than a couple of parallels with the older show - most of these are actually superficial ones like the style (sitcom), the setting (New York) and the cast (mixed genders with strong, funny characters in both).

The show is narrated by none other than Bob Saget (as Older Ted) and stars Josh Radnor as Young Ted along with Jason Segel as his best friend Marshall Eriksen, Alyson Hannigan as Marshall's significant girlfriend Lily Aldrin, Cobie Smulders as Robin Scherbatsky and the amazing, incredible, hilarious and awesome Neil Patrick Harris as Barney Stinson Ted's best friend. The cast are uniformly fantastic but it is Neil who genuinely steals most of the episodes and scenes with his portrayal of the womanising Barney.

The first season starts with Ted recounting the story of how he met Robin and going from there, following Ted's continuing search for his very own Miss Right - with his sights set firmly on Robin. It's a light-hearted and funny show which doesn't overstay it's welcome and also manages to provide an ongoing sense of continuity as well, many sitcoms fail to provide this - instead giving us episodes which could be watched in almost any order. But HIMYM not only has a tangible passage of time, it also plays with the retrospective narrative by giving us hints of future events.

HIMYM is one of my favourite currently running sitcoms and while unfortunately only the first season is available in the UK right now it's still something that I consider a must watch for those of you who enjoy light comedy entertainment.

Audio commentary on selected episodes
Video Yearbook featurette
Happy Hour Blooper Reel

Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Language: English
Rating: 12
Region: 2
Run time: 462 mins
Subtitles: Swedish, English HOH
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I've been rather tied up this week. My apologies for the lack of content, as pennance I will provide an update tomorrow and one every single weekday next week (Monday to Friday).

I'm afraid that is all. We now return you to your scheduled programming.
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The Week That Was - October 13th Edition

Television watching has been a little spartan this week, I was busy working on the Saturday and visited some friends who'd just moved into their new place on the Sunday. So the weekend, which I normally use to catch up on television, wasn't available. As such I'm behind with quite a few shows and there's not that much to report today.

How I Met Your Mother:
Episodes Two and Three

Forgive me if I gush a little, but I'm always constantly pleased with the way HIMYM manages to keep itself feeling fresh by spinning old situations into something new, and we had two episodes over the past two weeks which managed that. Episodes which had me laughing out loud while watching them, which is unusual because I'm a social laugher - I don't laugh when I'm watching shows alone normally, even laugh tracks or audience laughter aren't enough. But, both episodes of HIMYM managed to do this on more than one occasion.

While the first of the two episodes was pretty clever and had some good moments to boot (especially Stripper Lily and the obscenely funny Mustachio Marshall) it was the third episode 'Robin 101' which just shined, being simultaneously funny, entertaining, cynical and filled with character development for the cast. It was also a good opportunity for Cobie to show a range of amusing facial expressions.

Curb Your Enthusiasm:
Episode Three

Seriously, I sat there with this stupid grin on my face all episode. I'm absolutely loving this story arc, it's one hundred percent, self assured quality level gold genius in a platinum bucket of awesomeness. Seeing all the Seinfeld gang together, Larry's constant faux pas, his transparent attempts to win back Cheryl and his almost petty railing at the head of NBC over a small slight were capped with the wonderful moment where Larry imagines two possibilities - winning his wife back with a Seinfeld reunion vs. going to the funeral of the head of NBC and then tosses a coin on it to decide. Just brilliant!

Episode Four - Social Psychology

There is no doubt about it, Community is my favourite new show of the fall season. I don't think it's possible to count all the ways I'm beginning to adore this show. While it could have easily fallen into a sitcom slump and just given us the same old story over and over it's instead opted to expand on every character in it's show, giving each of them a distinct voice and place in the show. Pierce still remains the most consistently entertaining - wandering around with a radar stuck to his ear was inspired, but Jeff's lack of honesty and inability to learn remains good and most of all Abed's oddities are beginning to really steal the show. It's just great stuff.

And the end of show credit jokes are just getting better and better.

I am at this point behind in watching Dexter, I'll catch up this weekend. Promise! Same with the one hour Office special Niagara (which I'm positive will be amazing). I'm also still chugging my way through season one of Sons of Anarchy - the quick report is this, fans of morally ambiguous action drama. Saddle up and get watching! Likewise you need to get up to scratch with Breaking Bad if you haven't already.

In other news Watching the Wire: Part 3 is full steam ahead, the posts are beginning to take shape and will start in November, I'm keen to get the third and fourth seasons done because I'm so fond of the stories they seek to tell.
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DVDs in Review #92: Family Guy: Season Four

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Well we're at the key point in my personal quest to decide if the old adage "The first three seasons of Family Guy were the best" is true or not (well as true as a personal and highly subjective opinion can be), with the fourth season. I've looked at seasons one, two and three previously, so I now have a point of reference to compare with. Of course I'm judging via the UK "Fourth Season" boxed set, which does not contain the originally broadcast fourth season for some reason. I suspect it's because the people who make the Region 2 Boxed sets felt they needed to milk a few more precious euros out of those people living on the right hand side of the Atlantic Ocean.

The fourth season of Family Guy exploded back onto our screens (after the shows second cancellation) in the year 2005, returning on a tide of exceptional DVD sales like a fat man in a clam. Now the truth is at this point that people were so excited that the show had returned from the grave that there was a lot riding on this season. Die hard fans would love it regardless (die hard fans will eat freeze dried dog doo if it's branded by their favourite show), but the more casual audience would have to be recaptured and sucked back in.

The honest truth is the show succeeded at this, but only just in my case. The thirteen episodes which make up the [UK] fourth season are a mixed bag, while the comedy is as raw and witty as it's always been, the stories told vary from one episode to the next. Episodes like North by North Quahog, The Cleveland-Loretta Quagmire, Petarded, Breaking Out is Hard to Do and Peter's Got Woods are excellent. But the others remain a somewhat mixed bag, at times fantastic but at times quite weak.

No episode exemplifies this more than The Perfect Castaway, which opens with an incredible series of jokes and cutaway sketches before dipping off into lame and recycled (Peter eating Joe's legs - which is a tired variant on a dull joke) humour and even going back to a tired old Family Guy trope (Brian's "thing" for Lois, which is the second most boring joke in the show after the continued mistreatment of Meg).

Now this might sound like I don't like the fourth season, and if I'm honest I don't feel it compares well to the second or third season, but it does hold up when placed alongside the first season. And that's not a bad place to be, because in essence this was a relaunch of the show and when judged to that standard it's a solid season.

More importantly, in Blind Ambition Ernie the Giant Chicken returns - he's my favourite running gag and I appreciate the rare appearances he puts in. It could have been so easy to over use him, but instead he just appears occasionally. A light touch, combined with the unexpected suddenness of his appearance keeps the gag fresh and exciting.

There is no doubt at all that the shows animation is of a far superior quality when compared to the previous seasons, it's smoother - slicker and the 3D CGI sections are close to seamless in appearance. The hints of brilliance suggested back in the third season episode 'Emission Impossible' come to fruition in this season. Some of the sections in episodes are an absolute joy to watch. Now the 3D sections don't quite compare to the staggering Futurama ones, but they do blend in very well without jarring, which is a big thumbs up point.

Ultimately the fourth season of Family Guy is a solid affair, many of the cut away jokes are superb - "dueling farts", "the fire truck nature documentary" and the entire season opening gag of "we'll be back on only if these shows are cancelled" are amongst some of the best ones the show has ever used. And the episode 'Peter's Got Woods' is nothing short of fantastic. But this season doesn't rank amongst the finest Family Guy moments, it's just a solid one.

Commentaries on selected episodes
"World Domination: The Family Guy Phenomenon" Featurette
Deleted Scene Animatics
"Score!" - Music of Family Guy Featurertte
Multi-Angle Table Reads
Storyboard/Animatic Comparisons

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Languages: English
Rating: 15
Region: 2
Run time: 270 mins
Subtitles: English HOH
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DVDs in Review #91: The Sopranos: The Complete Second Season

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"Family Redefined"

Last month I started watching The Sopranos, a show which has been on my "to watch" list since The Wire and The Shield both finished their respective (and amazing) runs on television. But the prohibitive cost and large size of the complete DVD boxed sets meant I wasn't willing to start watching them. The release of the complete set in a small box at a very reasonable price was enough to sway me over and as my first season review will attest - I'm rather glad I did.

I'm afraid this review is rather more spoiler-tastic than I had intended at first, but it's a difficult season to write about without being more explicit in the details. Hopefully I haven't given away anything major, but in case you haven't already seen the season, you might want to stop reading.

The second season feels somewhat different to the first season, it's hard to pinpoint exactly what it is which causes this different feel, but there's a definite shift in focus over this season. There's also a widening of the Soprano's world as well, which results in some great storylines and episodes.

But while some parts of the show widen out, others become smaller or disappear. In particular after having such a prominent and excellent role in the first season, Livia (Nancy Marchand) is greatly reduced in her appearances and potential influence - this isn't surprising at all considering what happened last season, but it did leave a bit of a gap. While Tony's sister Janice (Aida Turturro) and released wiseguy Richie (David Proval) step up to provide a fair amount of antagonism, they're not on the same level as Livia's brilliance. Janice in particular I found to be nothing more than an irritating waste of screen space - while this is intentional, it doesn't stop it being annoying.

Some of my favourite moments in this season include Christopher's film script arc, which initially started out as a "where the heck are they going with this?" and ended up with some fantastic scenes involving a few familiar faces. And the entire episode Commendatori which switched things up and was very interesting to watch.

I must admit while watching that Paulie's story arc (a great one by the way) initially slipped by me, it took a while for me to realise why he was so stressed out and acting up. But it built up wonderfully and resulted in some fantastic scenes, especially near the end of the season.

My favourite part of the show remains the scenes between Tony and Dr Melfi, these therapy scenes aren't as prevalent in the second season, but the ones that are there - brilliant. There's a great relationship between these two characters and I also like the widening of Dr Melfi's life, we get to see the knock-on effects of her treating Tony. Which means we also get to see more of the world outside the circle of the Sopranos.

In all the second season is a different beast to the first one, it has a wider scope and a different texture when compared to the first one. I wouldn't call it an evolution or even a direct improvement, it was certainly more enjoyable to watch and had some stupendous moments, but it was also very, very different. Almost to the point of heading in a different direction, I guess kind of like the way The Wire does it - same characters, different story.

Great stuff.
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Watching The Wire: Returns End of October

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First up a short post to update the situation with regards to those of you who read my rather verboose Watching the Wire series.

I'm gearing up to writing the third season now, which is probably my favourite season. I've got some parts ready (notes mostly) and over the next two to three weeks I'm going to be writing up a bank of episodes so I can get back to running my 'crib note & recap' series starting the last weekend of October. This is because I rather want to have the series wrapped up before the end of 2010 and in order to do that I need to hit two series a year.

Fortunately the third (and fourth) seasons of The Wire are an absolute pleasure to watch, so this isn't going to be a chore. I just need to build up a buffer of three to six episodes worth before I start rolling them out, this means in unusual case that I can't write one week, service won't be interrupted.

Another post up later today regarding The Sopranos' second season!
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10 Items or Less: Season Three

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So I've written about the first two seasons of the semi-improvised-grocery-based-situation-comedy 10 Items or Less previously (here and here), and the short verdict was that it's a show more people should be watching. A show I'm genuinely surprised that people don't rave about that often. While I'm not one for raving (I can't get the froth to come out of my mouth like the experts do) I have been trying to address this criminal situation by writing about each of the seasons of 10 Items currently available to watch.

The third season has one major change from the previous two seasons, Amy Anderson (Jennifer Elise Cox) has left both Super Value Market and the Greens & Grains after being indited for tax evasion during the second season. She's gone from the title sequence and remains little more than a memory of bad hair, ranting, crying and the occasional funny moment. Her role as chief antagonist and threat to the livelyhood of the Greens & Grains crew has been taken over by one Mercy (Kim Coles) a replacement who's not afraid to ham it up to the levels of sheer cartoon villainly. She's quite incredible to watch on screen, vibrating between relatively normal and bond villain levels rapidly.

I do miss the slight attraction/tension that the Amy/Leslie relationship had, it was a lot of fun to watch Leslie lusting after the very woman who was seeking to take him down, and Mercy isn't really at the same level. She's a little bit too over the top at times, to almost cringeworthy levels.

That aside the third season is the best one yet, just about every single episode is comedy gold. But my personal favourites are Turkey Bowling (yes, seriously), The Whistler, The Milk Man and the unbelievebly awesome episode Star Trok which manages to give us the feel of an episode of Star "Trok" while still being inside the setting of the store. Jolene Blalock (Enterprise) also guest stars as herself in the episode.

In addition the whole stable of recurring characters make an appearance; including my favourite Don 'The Bag' Bagley (Tim Bagley), but also the lovely Evie Peck and Daniel Parker as Chet the Cop.

As for the main cast, performances are raised right across the board, John Lehr and Bob Clendenin remain the most consistently funny - their experience and comic timing showing through in just about every scene. But I've also come to enjoy watching just about every single member of the Greens & Grains, all of them get their own story to shine in.

Also, quite frankly, I've developed a bit of a crush on the sweet Ingrid (Kirsten Gronfield) who's just so lovely, mixing a kind of naive innocence with a bit of a saucy bent and an (occasionally) level head. She's like a bright and bubbly breath of lemon scented air and I can quite easily put her up on the hallowed 'my favourite women on television' table alongside such lovely and talented women as Lucy Porter, Tara Summers, Jenna Fisher and Katey Sagal. (Just to name a few).

In all honesty there's so much to like about 10 Items or Less and I can't recommend it enough. The show has moments where it reminds me of classic American sitcoms such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development while also retaining a charm all of it's own. It's a meager twenty one episodes long, with a total running time of approximately seven hours - but it's a shopping trolley filled with laughs, awkward moments and exciting action. It's certainly more fun than semi-professional masturbation, so go ahead! Give it a shot! You don't want to be called a w****er do you?

Well, maybe...
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Cougar Town: Two Episode Impressions

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As I mentioned yesterday, I decided to bend a little and give Cougar Town a try. I was mostly swayed by the presence of Courteney Cox and Christa Miller in the cast, combined with the enjoyable nature Bill Lawrence's previous show Scrubs.

Cougar Town stars Courteney as Jules, a recent divorcee who became a mother in her early twenties. As such she feels she's missed out on all the excitement and fun her friends had before settling down and she's now determined to enjoy herself. Sort of a mid life crisis and sort of a sexual reawakening. It's an interesting idea, but not quite original - you could condense it down and call it "Desperate Housewife: The Sitcom".

But, the important things here are not the premise of the show; it's the cast and dialog. They're both fantastic. On the cast front we have an exceptionally likable and fun performances from Courtney (Jules) and Christa (Ellie). In addition Dan Byrd (Jules's son Travis), Ian Gomez (Elli's husband - Andy) and Brian Van Holt (Ellie's Ex-Husband Bobby) are all great on screen as well. Even if the relationship between Jules and Bobby post-divorce is a little unusual.

I'm not so keen on the handsome divorcee next door Grayson (Josh Hopkins), he's not exactly unlikable. But he does feel like a very lazy character for this show to use. He stands as the example of "double-standards" between the genders, whoring away with young women all the time without being judged. Something for Ellie to rail against because she's afraid of being thought of as a whore. He's also a clear candidate for "will they/won't they" nonsense, but I'm hoping the show doesn't go in that direction. His dialog with Ellie over the morning papers is good fun though.

Likewise I'm not that bothered with Busy Philipps's character Laurie; in essence she's nothing more than a catalyst for Ellie's more excessive actions. Constantly trying to convince Ellie to come out and live a little. Beyond that she's about as deep as a puddle evaporating in the summer sun. There's also another character; one Barbara (Carolyn Hennesy) who works with Ellie

Humour-wise there were a few moments which were good, and sadly quite a lot which just fell into stereotypical 'older woman' or 'getting old' jokes. One of the best moments was an exceptionally funny photo montage of a night out; plenty of amusing moments captured together and left for the viewer to join the dots up. This photo montage also catalysed another well earned funny moment where Travis and Bobby go 'take revenge' on a bouncer for being mean to Ellie then attempt to escape in a golf cart. Which, as I'm sure you're aware, isn't the ideal choice of vehicle for get away from someone who can run.

A good example of a joke which fell flat was the teenage boy who kept stealing all the sexy pictures of Ellie from around the town. While there was a great moment involving those signs, it wasn't anything to do with this sub-plot. It didn't really feel like it made much sense in this day and age, and when I saw the inside of his room I was astounded that his mother was so calm about the whole thing. The lad came across as a creepy obsessed little stalker rather than a naive over-sexed young lad. A story arc which could have been dropped down to a single joke really.

We're just two episodes in at the time of my writing this, so the show is still a little unformed. For myself the make or break point is going to occur further down the line, once the show has settled a little and we understand the characters and the direction the show is going to take. It's not quite funny enough for me yet, it feels more like a light Desperate Housewives, and that's fine - but only time will tell if it's going to keep me watching.
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The Week That Was - 3rd of October Edition

This week's television remains mostly Situation Comedies, but Dexter's season premiere has now joined the list, likewise Family Guy and American Dad. Now, due to the difficulties I have in watching television during the week I'll probably remain a week behind everyone else as far as Dexter is concerned.

American Dad:
Episode One: In the Country... Club

One of my favourite genres in the world of film is the war movie, or more specifically the America sub-genre of 'Vietnam Movies' "In the Country... Club" grabbed these and gave us a wholesale feast of them. With Platoon, Apocalypse Now and Rambo all being homaged and parodied on the field of 'Vietnam re-enactment paintballing' this episode was nothing short of amazing.

As an aside, where's the British "Falklands War" movie genre? Gap in the market there! Quick, get writing about trench foot!

Episode Three - Introduction to Film

Community continues to be my favourite new show this season, after spending the first two episodes going "**** me, it's Chevy Chase" I spent the third one going "**** me, it's John Michael Higgins". John is one of those people who's been in so many shows I adore, including (but not limited to) Arrested Development,
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law, Seinfeld and Boston Legal.

He was fantastic as the offbeat 'seize the day' Professor Whitman, a role which looks like it was a one off - but I'm hoping might have the potential to become recurring. Either way it was great to watch him shimmy up lamp posts, tear up menus and just have immense fun on screen.

The rest of the cast continue to grow, at this moment things are still very centered around Jeff, but we are getting to know the others. The episode wasn't as strong as last weeks, but it was still clever, funny and warming to watch.

Cougar Town: Episodes One and Two
Kevin Biegel and Bill Lawrence's new "older promiscuous woman" related show has made it onto my viewing list thanks to the interesting cast (especially Christa Miller who's one of my all time favourite women on TV) and Bill's own involvement. More on this show later this week, but if you want a short version - it's something I feel guilty about liking.

Curb Your Enthusiasm:
Episode Two: Vehicular Fellatio

I wondered how long Curb was going to take to resolve the majority of it's "Meet the Blacks" plot and clear space for the Seinfeld reunion arc to move in. It looks like that plate is now clear, and while I am going to miss Vivica A. Fox a lot at least J.B. Smoove is around for a while longer.

The opening (and closing) joke in particular was something very special, I've never understood those products which are so heavily vacuum sealed that it's impossible to open them without application of force, a knife or often both - and it's also a situation I've been in more than once myself. So Larry's cries of frustration and anger were hilarious.

Episode One:

I've held off from watching Dexter's first episode despite it being leaked online, this has of course frustrated a few of my friends who've already seen it and know better than spoilering it for me. If I'm honest I've approached this season with a real sense of trepidation, mostly because the third season was a huge let down.

After watching it I'm still undecided. As I've said many times before, Michael C. Hall is great, but Dexter's last season started well before degenerating into a mess. We'll see how things turn out.

Family Guy:
Episode One: Road to the Multiverse

I don't know how long I'm going to be writing about Family Guy on here, probably just when there's the odd exceptional episode. This was one of them, but then I've always enjoyed the Brian/Stewie heavy "Road to ____" episodes as they often shake things up. This one was no exception, giving us a 'Sliders' (now there's a show which should have ended when the cast started to leave) style trip through alternate realities. Some of which were very funny, the Disney reality in particular was amazing.

Seriously how awesome are those? Just look how amazing Peter looks.

But unfortunately the other dimensions on the whole were kind of "eh" and a lot of the other really cool alternate realities only made an appearance in the title sequence. I especially liked these two:

"Wakka, wakka, wakka. Beyoo-ooo-ooo...."

I am tired of the constant 'Meg is ugly', let's treat Meg like crap jokes though - that's one ship which has gotten old.

The Office:
Episode Three: The Promotion

I don't have that much to say about this week's Office, apart from a few moments it seemed to be lacking in funny. I'm not sure how this Jim/Scott co-Manager thing is going to work out, it feels like it's going to be milked for a while (and it's not that funny) before everything returns to normal. I'd be a lot happier if the writers could come up with a solution which results in some growth and change in the office without losing any of the characters. But we'll see, as next weeks episode "Niagra" looks to be a great one.

On DVD I've just finished the second season of The Sopranos, more on that tomorrow. I'm also gearing up to watch Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy, I just can't find the time right now.
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