Early Shots: Archer

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[Before we start I believe that all props and credit should land squarely in the lap of Mr Rob Buckley for introducing me to this particular show as it's one I would never have discovered myself.]

You a fan of the spy genre? Enjoy your James Bond served with a twist rather than a shake? Maybe you love shows like Sea Lab, Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law or The Venture Brothers. Or you adored the tongue in cheek style of the "No One Lives Forever" series of games.

Well if you're one of those, or someone who enjoys quality adult orientated (NO! Not that kind of adult) cartoons then you'd be doing yourself as serious favour and get over to FX then give "Archer" a serious going over.

Archer is a semi-realistic art style cartoon about a secret agent codenamed "The Dutchess" but known to everyone in the organisation by his real name - Sterling Archer. Archer (voiced by H. Jon Benjamin ) is a colossal jerk of such a spectacular magnitude that it's hard not to love his attitude. He comes across as a mix between Gary Cole's Harvey Birdman and Stephen Colbert's Phill Ken Seben (Both from the afformentioned Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law), saddled with a massive ego that is only dwarfed by the insecurities inflicted on him by his boss slash mother Malory (Jessica Walter).

Archer's co-workers include not just fellow spy (and ex lover) Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler) but also ISIS's accountant Cyril (Chris Parnell) who is now dating Lana thanks in part to his *ahem* special qualification and Malory's secetary Carol Cheryl Cristal Carol (Judy Greer) a young woman who is equal parts desperate and disturbed plus others, including Archer's butler Woodhouse (George Coe) - who I suspect is named in tribute to the author of the Jeeves and Wooster books, one P.G. Wodehouse.

Archer is a spy comedy which plays heavily on not only the absurdities of the spy genre but also the fun of an office environment for such a high action field. A lot of ISIS staff (described adeptly as drones at one point) are involved in the mundane aspects of spying, the paperwork and so forth. And this is a source of at least some of the humor alongside Archer's own absurdities.

It's almost redundant to say that the voice acting is phenomenal in this show, Judy and Jessica are both alumni from Arrested Development and if anything they're funnier here as they've had more time and practice. Though it is fair to say that the characters they are voicing here do have some traits in common with Lucille Bluth and Kitty Sanchez that is not a slight at their talent or hilarity. Chris Parnell himself is also no stranger to sitcoms, you might know him best as Doctor Leo Spaceman (that's pronounced Spa-Che-Man) from 30 Rock and Jon Benjamin has honed his craft with numerous voice overs before now.

Needless to say "Archer" is a phantasmal show and one which will probably burn brightly before departing from our screens with just a few episodes, but you really, really should check it out if you're the least bit interested because it is quite figuratively side-splitting in every aspect and totally gorgeous to watch to boot.

Still not enough to wet your appetite? See what Rob thought about the show.

Archer's website is located here.

(If you enjoy The Venture Bros, Chuck, Burn Notice, Arrested Development or Harvey Birdman you may enjoy this.)
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Treme info over at Crimespree Cinema

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First up, (as the title suggests) there's a bit more info about Treme from the good people of Crimespree. There are a few shots from the show and the HBO Q&A.

It's all here.

"TREME is about the history of New Orleans since the storm in 2005. What has come back, what has not. What has changed, what is timeless."

I very much approve of The Wire as a television show, it holds my personal second place in the world of "best shows" behind The Shield. Only losing out to the latter due to accessibility issues and the fact that the fifth season of The Wire failed to succeed at my cardinal rule of a long running show - which is 'Each season should be better than the one which came before it'.

That said I've watched everything David Simon has been involved in and adored it - mostly due to the way he approaches the medium of television, in my opinion he's found the correct way to present a show and as such I'm confident Treme will deliver everything I want from it and more.

It doesn't hurt that
Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters are involved in the project as actors either.

There's more about Treme's pilot episode cast list here at the IMDB, HBO's Treme Homepage is up here and the wikipedia article (here) contains more information while remaining (currently) spoiler free.

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Update tomorrow!

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The title says it all, I'm too ill and tired to finish todays update today. So it shall arrive tomorrow, see you then!
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DVDs in Review: #99: Chuck: The Complete Second Season

Chuck's been something of an underdog success story since I wrote about the complete first season boxed set, it's skirted alongside cancellation and instead managed to ensure itself a third season thanks to some exceptionally clever fan activity. Purchasing Subways (a prominent product featured on the show) was a great way to show support.

Chuck's first season was a solid affair which I felt delivered on both the funnies and the spy action but in some ways felt a little limited by it's location. Much like Burn Notice it's a spy show which is mostly set in and around the same places, this is quite understandable it's cheaper to run a show which isn't jetting all over the place and instead has a considerable amount of scenes set in the same location - the Buy More.

The Buy More is also the source of the main secondary plot in most episodes, providing a contrast between the life of the spy and the more mundane lives of Chuck's co-workers. Joining the Buy More cast this season is the most excellent Tony Hale, who's character Emmett Milbarge plays to Tony's strengths as an actor but also managed to surprise me somewhat. My previous experience with Tony is from Arrested Development where he plays the hapless Buster Bluth, Arrested Development - needless to say Emmett is nothing like Buster, and that's a good thing for the plot.

But the most important thing, as I've written many times before, is there must be an improvement in the show when compared to the previous season. What's the point of having another season if you're not going to try and raise the bar? Well, I can safely say with confidence that the second season of Chuck takes everything that was good about the first season and improves on it. Exciting guest stars (even though Chevy Chase and Arnold Vosloo are mishandled as their talents are woefully underused when they're on screen), more action, more fun, more Buy More, more Jeff, more Casey - just about everything you wanted turned up a notch from the first season is. And then the season finale's dial goes all the way to 11 and leaves you wanting more.

[Mild Spoiler alert hidden below about the season finale - highlight to read on the page, if you're reading this with a white background all I can say is tough!]
I will say one thing, I do hope that Mr Levi has had some decent kung fu training in between the second and third season (I've not watched any of the third season yet, so I don't need to know) because his martial arts were a little rough in the season finale. Don't get me wrong, the moment was brilliant fun - but no amount of clever camera work could disguise Zachary Levi's lack of speed and precision. I don't know what it was like for non-martial artists to watch, but as a practicioner of kung fu myself I wasn't convinced, especially as the scene itself clearly draws on a mild homage of The Matrix.

That said, it was a pretty f'ing awesome moment which leaves me somewhat miffed that it'll be about a year before the third season is out on DVD.
[End spoiler]

The pop culture references keep coming thick and fast, it's immense fun to see men in their late twenties obsess about childhood films and just to go one better the show even casts people like Bruce Boxleitner (TRON), Scott Bakula and many more besides in what seems to be a non-stop homage to all the things which made the previous couple of decades so great.

If I had a major complaint it would actually be the continued will they/won't they between Chuck and Sarah Walker. It doesn't help that I find Sarah to be the most boring character in the show, it's not Yvonne Strahovski's fault as such, she's there as eye candy, to get into fights and to look occasionally "emotionally tortured" about her situation with Chuck. But as I've written previously, I'm tired of the will they/won't they trope and the faster it's retired from our screens the better. At least in Chuck's case it isn't to offensive and annoying, but it does hamper Sarah's character to the point that I'm pretty bored with her role in the show right now.

Sarah Lancaster is likewise a little hamstrung as a character, she just exists to do the same thing each week. But the fact that her scenes normally contain Captain Awesome (Ryan McPartlin) make them a lot more palatable for me. Still I hope there's growth in her character's situation in the third season - there seems to be room for it.

Suffice to say I think it's easy to recommend picking up and watching Chuck, if you've seen the first season then you know what to expect from the second one - similar stuff but better. And if you haven't, you can do yourself a favour and pick up the first season, they've changed the packaging now - the original boxed set was really difficult to open.

Special Features:
Exploring the Mythology of Chuck
Dude in Distress
Chuck vs. the Webisodes
Chuck: A Real-Life Captain Awesome's Tips for Being Awesome
John Casey Presents: So You Want to Be a Deadly Spy
Declassified Scenes
Gag Reel

Aspect Ratio: 16:9
Languages: English, French
Rating: 15
Region: 2
Run Time: 15 Hours 14 Minutes
Subtitles: English, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Norwegian, Portuguese, Swedish
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DVDs in Review: #98: The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Second Season

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Last year I caught a couple of episodes of The Big Bang Theory and I was interested enough to pick up the first season in August and watch/review it. Suffice to say it was a show I felt started well and then improved massively after what turned out to be the hiatus from the writer's strike. The show moved away from insulting the characters in the show and became more about laughing with them. It also began to give Penny some serious growth as a character. Something I hoped that the second season would build upon.

Well recently I picked up the second season as I find twenty minute American sitcoms to be my ideal bedtime viewing, and I was not disappointed. Not at all. The show has grown and really found it's stride in the second season. A huge part of this is the acceptance of Sheldon's odd quirks and embracing the strengths of his character's weaknesses, but the largest part of the growth in the show has come with Penny. She's fleshed out from her starting state of 'the pretty girl from over the hallway' into a strong and funny character in her own right. Good news as she's the only female regular and she needs to be more than just a pretty board for the guys to bounce their strange behaviours off.

Also both Raj and Howard are given considerable development in this season, which is a most welcome occurrence - Howard in particular I found quite distasteful at times in the first season. Sure he's supposed to be a creep as he's more or less an unsuccessful nerdy Barney Stinson, but he lacked any other sort of character dimensions beyond being a nerdy engineer with a massive libido and the lack of social awareness to use it correctly. The second season has taken steps towards rounding him out a little more, both blunting the worst of his excesses and giving him more depth.

So yes, the second season of The Big Bang theory is enjoyable - more importantly it is an improvement on the first season. That's the most important thing in my book, why bother having another season if you're not going to improve on what came before?

However, the show doesn't have all sunshine, rainbows and butterflies flying out of it's figurative backside, there are still a few gripes I do have with it. Most of them I can live with, but the one which irritates me more than anything else is an artifact it shares with Two and a Half Men - that is the old, dated sitcom format of ignoring continuity and just abandoning the past whenever convenient. I'm sorry but that model, well I'm just not buying it in this day and age, especially not since I saw Arrested Development and was awakened to the simple fact that a sitcom is funnier if it builds on it's own mythos and keeps storylines rolling.

This quirk is most noticeable with regards to Leonard's relationships - one of which just disappears from the show so quickly that I can't help but wonder if I had a bout of narcolepsy and missed out on several episodes. It was quite literally - at one point they're dating, then things are a little rocky but seem to be working out then woosh - she's gone from the show and never mentioned again. Exiled perhaps to another dimension, one populated by characters like Carrie's sister from King of Queens - another victim to the black hole like Chuck Cunningham Syndrome.

And finally, I can't let the annoyance of the guys misplaying "Talisman" the board game a second time in this season (I noticed it in the first season and mentioned it in the DVD review a while back). I can't help but wonder if it's laziness from the writers or if it's some kind of joke on geeks, because this is a show which can use very sophisticated physics humour on par with some of the Easter eggs in Futurama but it completely fails to get even close to the proper rules for a single board game - not just once but twice! I mean - to paraphrase one magician - COME ON!

Stupid writers, take a couple of minutes to read the rules of a game if you plan to feature it in your show...

[I wonder if I'll be whinging about that when I watch the third season.]

Special features:
Physicist to the Stars
Testing the Infinite Hilarity Hypothesis in Relation to the Big Bang Theory
[Talk about a pretentious title]
Gag Reel

Aspect Ratio: 16:9 Full Frame
Languages: English, Castilian Spanish, French
Rating: 15
Region: 2
Run Time: 7 hours 41 mins
Subtitles: Castilian Spanish, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, Norwegian, Swedish
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Doctor Who: The Rusty Years

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[A Short Note before Starting: Initially I did indeed write about the two part special "The End of Time" just a few days after I saw both parts on television. What started out as a slightly harsh critique of the flaws in the special degenerated into a vicious rant filled with harsh language and when I boiled it down it came to two essential points. First of all I'm really going to miss David Tennant's Doctor and second that he was almost criminally wasted with Russell T. Davies at the helm. "The End of Time" was pretty much a classic example of Rusty's work - while he can write phenomenal emotional scenes which are touching and brilliant they are unfortunately buried between scenes which are filled with such terrible sci-fi hack work that they're almost impossible to find. Like twenty four carat diamonds hidden in rancid turds. So I decided to shelve that rant and take some distance from the mild disappointment which was Tennant's swan song and instead take a look at the Russell T. Davies run as a whole.]

So the Tenth Doctor is no more, and with him departs the man who brought back Doctor Who - a man who (despite all his flaws and deficiencies in the science fiction field) has gifted the world with the return of a cult favourite and helmed it to a point where it can at times be one of the greatest things on television.

I still remember watching Doctor Who when it first returned and the initial reactions I had. Including such classic lines from myself as "Who's this idiot in the leather jacket? Didn't he go mad in Shallow Grave and drill holes in the ceiling?" and "I hate this Mickey chap, I prefer the plastic version of him!" But on the whole I was thrilled to see the show back on the air- I personally grew up with repeats of Peter Davison alongside Sylvester McCoy. McCoy remains my favourite Doctor (Sorry Rob!) mostly due to the utterly Machiavellian nature of him once Ace turned up and he settled into a mix of clown on the outside and "well devious" on the inside. I adored the seventh Doctor in "Remembrance of the Daleks" which still remains an amazing story to watch.

So the new Doctor had a lot to prove in a short time and while Eccleston's portrayal wasn't amazing he did participate in some spectacular episodes and more importantly blazed a trail for the Tenth Doctor. The best Doctor.

What follows is a representation of my personal enjoyment over the Rusty Years - starting with the first episode and including everything apart from the short ten minute specials which personally never felt like a proper part of the story, but the feature length specials are included. I'm afraid it's pretty long so you'll need to click on the image to see it properly.

Each episode is rated within the whole Doctor Who framework - that is I'm just comparing each episode within the context of the show, I'm not comparing it to other shows out there. Even given that you can see that on average I have indeed enjoyed watching Doctor Who with a solid average score of 5.8 and you can also see that I found the Ninth Doctor's run to be more consistent but never quite reaching the heights (or lows) of the Tenth.

The highest rated episode in this lot is (unsurprisingly) "Blink", the episode which manages to single handedly demonstrate why Moffat is the man for the job and why he'll most likely turn the Eleventh Doctor into something even better than the Tenth one.

The best solid run is in Martha's season and starts with Human Nature - sadly it's let down by the quite, quite terrible "Last of the Time Lords" but every single episode until that one is just golden.

Other highly enjoyed episodes include Army of Ghosts - which is the episode where I found myself cheering Mickey's return - no other character in the history of television has ever won me over as much as Noel Clarke's portrayal of Mickey, as I mentioned earlier I hated him when he was first on the screen. But I adored him when he departed in the Cybermen two parter "Rise of the Cybermen/Age of Steel", especially after his mini rant in the superb "Girl in the Fireplace".

While there are single episodes which stand out as utter rubbish - Voyage of the Damned plus Love and Monsters come to mind - for myself the worst part of Doctor Who is the sup-par run from "The Shakespeare Code" all the way to the failure that is "42". That's the lull where I was considering stopping watching the show because the episodes just stank. (Which was fortunately rectified.)

Still,for myself Doctor Who has been incredibly inconsistent - but also outstanding. When it's good it's very good, but when it's bad it's 'carrot juice, carrot juice, carrot juice'. I think it's fair to say that I will miss Tennant, but as his departure comes linked with the removal of Rusty from the franchise I can accept it.

To round up, here's a short list of my personal highs and lows.

Best Companion: Donna
(Honorable mentions: Mickey and Wilfred)
Worst Companion: Captain Jack Harkness
Scariest Episode: Blink
(Honorable Mention: The Empty Child)
Best Episode: Blink
Worst Episode: Love and Monsters
Best New Race: There wasn't one
Worst New Race: The Ood
Best Conversation: The Doctor and Donna miming through the glass at each other
(Honorable mention: The Dalek/Cyberman conversation)
Best Writer: Stephen Moffat
(Honorable mention: Paul Cornell)
Most moving moment: Wilfred and The Doctor talking in the diner
(Honorable mention: Father's Day)
Most awesome moment: The Master's regeneration into John Simms
Most embarrassing moment for John Simms: Almost the entire of "The End of Time" where his performance was crucified by terrible and pointless CGI.
Best Character: Sally Sparrow
(Honorable Mention: Donna, but she's already been mentioned)

Best Quotes:
"Stupid Apes!"

"Lots of planets have a north!"

"Who looks at a screwdriver and thinks 'Oooh, this could be a little more sonic'?"
"What? you never been bored? Never had a long night? Never had a lot of cabinets to put up?"

"From the day they arrive on the planet, and blinking, step into the sun, there is more to see than can ever be seen, more to do than... no. Sorry, that's The Lion King."


"This is my timey-whimey detector. It goes ding when there's stuff."

"State your name, rank, and intention!"
"The Doctor... Doctor... FUN."

And I think that's enough about the first few years of Doctor Who's return, but I think it's fair to say I'm looking forward to Eleven's first season greatly.

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Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs: DVDs in Review [Film Edition]

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Yesterday I got home to find a copy of the Sony Computer Animated film 'Cloudy with a a Chance of Meatballs' sat on my doormat. A film I knew little more about other than the anecdotal comment from a friend - "It's rather great!" But I've always had a soft spot for computer animated films since, well, since Pixar started making them - and while there have been a few shaky ones out there (the Shrek sequels for example), on the whole I've always enjoyed watching them. Wall-E for example is the one movie where I spent the entire time trying not to whimper like a little girl as I watched it, I still to this day have no idea why it moved me so much - perhaps I identify with robots who pick up trash.

As such I was pretty open to watching this film and went into it with an almost completely blank slate - mostly because I refused to look it up on the IMDB or at Rotten Tomatoes, caused by a bout of lazy-cant-be-arsed-itis (a chronic and terrible disease which should be taken seriously by the medical community before it causes society to grind to a halt).

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (hereafter known as CwaCoM) is a rather whimsical film about a young lad called Flint Lockwood (Bill Hader) who grows up wanting to become a famous inventor just like his heroes. But unfortunately his inventions tend to be a tad... how can one put it... ranging from useless to possibly harmful to others. But driven on by the belief of his mother in his ability he keeps trying. The bulk of the movie takes place in his late teens/early adulthood (it's hard to place his age exactly); having invented various things like bird-rats, a translator which allows his monkey (Neil Patrick Harris) to talk and spray on shoes that never come off he comes up with a device which will turn water into food. Something he hopes will revitalise the economy of the little island he lives on and win the approval of his fishing obsessed father Tim (James Caan). Unfortunately the device goes a little... haywire and that's where the fun starts.

He's joined along the way by a cute weather girl called Sam Sparks (Anna Faris); ex-child star Brent (Andy Samberg) and hard nosed local cop Earl (Mr. T), while being encouraged with his endeavors by local Mayor Shellbourne (Bruce Campbell).

CwaCoM is a film which manages to be funny, entertaining, emotional and spectacular to watch. The stylised nature of the characters brings a lot to the film and combined with the frankly excellent dialog and the superb voice acting from the cast and you get something which is fantastic for children and adults alike to watch. It's a film which marries a fun story about inventions, food and the desire to be acknowledged for your achievements to an emotional story about love and the searching for approval between a father and son. Mix in a low key message about food (too much of what you want is not good for you) and you've got a film which I can't help but approve of as a kids movie.

I made some mention of the voice acting talent, but I can't finish without writing about it in some depth. The cast is simply phenomenal and filled with people who give such incredible vocal performances that they continually steal the scene from each other. Bill and Anna are great leads and very capable in their own regards, some of their scenes together are vocally delightful - likewise Jim Caan provides incredible depth as Tim Lockwood - but it's the supporting character performances from Mr T. Bruce Campbell and NPH (amongst others) which really bring the final level of polish onto the film. Each one of them effortlessly steals scenes with little more than the odd line here or there. Mr T. in particular is hilarious as Earl and NPH's performance had me in stitches before I even realised it was he who was cast as the talking monkey Steve.

All in all CwaCoM is a film I really have no hesitation in recommending; it's a relatively short film, but it's packed with everything you want from a good kids movie, a solid moral, fun moments, beautiful exciting action scenes and even something for the adults who've come along to watch as well. It's an accomplished piece and as such I only have one real complaint.

There weren't that many meatballs in the film.

Special Features:
Flint's Food Flight Game
Music Video for 'Raining Sunshine'
Interactive 'Raining Sunshine' Sing-A-Long
Behind the scenes/making of Miranda Cosgrove's "Raining Sunshine" Music Video
Director's Commentary
Featurette - Key Ingredients: The Voices of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.
Progression Reels for scenes in the film.
Extended Scenes
Early Development Scenes
Trailers for other movies
Featurette - A Recipe for Success: The Making of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Languages: English, Arabic, Hebrew
Rating: U
Region: 2
Run Time: 1hr 26mins
Subtitles: English, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs is out on DVD and Blu-Ray in the UK on the 25th of January.
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DVDs in Review - #97: Angel: The Complete First Season

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Spinning off from Buffy:TVS back in the year of 1999 (remember then?) Angel follows the non-sparkling (i.e. not stupid) vampire Angel after his decision to leave in the third season. He heads off into the sunset and makes for L.A. Seeking to atone for his hundred odd years of sinning while he was the big nasty Angelus.

Now it's no secret, I like my vampires on the vicious end of the spectrum. In particular I prefer the Vampires of the Necroscope series over any other incarnation, including the Count. These Vampires, or Whampyri to give them their correct title are ancient, amoral, crackpots who are as hard to kill as they are to ensure that they stay dead. But in a pinch I'll take the Vampires of Joss Whedon's world, who are also quite amoral and vicious - and include Spike amongst their ranks.

Angel himself, as the "Vampire with a soul" isn't as much fun as most other Vampires could be. But David Boreanaz is fantastic at selling moody and depressed as a character with his acting. Something he still does to a certain extent in Bones , though he's more moody and serious as Special Agent Seeley Booth rather than tortured and depressed.

So Angel arrives in L.A. and is sought out by one Allen Doyle (played by the sadly deceased Glenn Quinn) a half-man/half-demon who's inflicted with visions sent by 'The Powers That Be' and intended to guide Angel on his path. Doyle is an intense, wise cracking Irishman who can morph into his demon form - sadly it's a pretty ugly looking form, but fortunately it's not used too often.

Angel is then set on his path and rapidly meets up with Cordelia Chase (Played by the lovely Charisma Carpenter) who has also moved to LA, with the intent of becoming an actress. But things aren't going her way and she soon falls in with Angel and Doyle.

The first season of Angel is certainly the season of a show looking to find itself and get some distance from it's parent show. It's a season which goes through cast changes and has several guest slots filled by people from Buffy. Including Seth Green as Oz, Eliza Dushku as Faith and Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy herself. It also falters a lot in the early episodes while it tries to overcome the character similarties of Angel and Doyle - who are both dark and intense individuals. But eventually the show adds the excellent Alexis Denisof (Wesley Wyndam-Price) from Buffy and everything falls into place. Creating a show which is more adult in it's style, but remains as witty, clever and accessible as Buffy was.

There are three different ways you can get your hands on the Angel: Season One DVD; I'd recommend picking up the complete set of all five seasons over any of the individual versions as it's a solid collection with everything in it for an exceptionally low price. But if you want just the one season you should get the plastic single season boxed set as shown here. Avoid getting the set I have, which is the rather flashy looking "Angel Season One DVD Collection" edition. You can spot it as it's has a cardboard dust jacket and the DVDs are held in a "book" inside. This looks nice, and seems a great idea, but when you come to use it in practice you'll find that it's an inefficient product which not only is awkward to use, but it can also damage your DVDs as you have to slide them in and out of the "pages". This is the front cover image for the one you should avoid.

It's not as strong as the first season of Buffy was, but it grows into something quiet endearing and highly watchable.

Special Features:
Featurettes - "I'm Cordellia", "Introducing Angel", "The Demons" and "Season One"
Cast Biographies
Art Gallery
Episode Scripts for "Five by Five" and "Sanctuary"
Direct Link

TV Themes

By Rev/Views
Recently Memles of Cultural Learnings recently wrote about how Nurse Jackie's credit sequence really wasn't up to snuff. Which spiralled into a mix of opening credits people like and ones people don't. Now a while back I wrote about some of my favourite credit sequences and I have no desire to directly revisit that right now, a comment about the Sons of Anarchy theme and the resulting reply from Memles (indicating that the theme had been written specifically for and about the show, which explained why it's so on the nose) got me thinking a little about the themes for various shows I've watched.

The simple truth of the TV show theme is it boils down to one of three things; a short sting (think Heroes/Lost), a specifically crafted and normally instrumental theme (Arrested Development, Homicide, Dexter, Six Feet Under and The Shield for example) or the adoption/adaptation of an already existing song. This is a look at the third kind for the most part, the ones which come with lyrics and are adopted from what's already out there.

Chuck - "Short Skirt Long Jacket" by Cake

In truth this is the song which inspired this list, my first experience of the song came from Chuck itself and I was left with the impression that the music had been written specifically for the show (credits here) it seems almost written for a show about spies doesn't it? That guitar riff in particular is both catchy and reverberates with a "James Bond" feel.

But what's more incredible is when you look at the song as a whole (here) and it's appropriateness when dealing with one of the major themes of Chuck. The song initially talks in general terms about wanting a woman who's one type but gradually morphs into talking specifics about her and she turns out to be another type all together. It's a song about longing after that specific woman - and as such it's close to one of Chuck's "clicks", but it's not so close that it feels too staged.

(Of course, a girl with a short skirt and a long jacket is a professional business woman, not a spy. But any girl in a short skirt is fine by me. Actually thinking about it a girl in a short skirt and a long jacket could also be a "professional" of another kind... Hmm.)

Damages - "When I Am Through With You" By The VLA

Damages has a theme which is most certainly positioned right on the nose of the show, the edit of the song used for the opening credits (here) brings a huge amount of excitement to the credits - it's cut down, but the full song (here) keeps the punch and has additional meaning when related to the context of the show, especially when you read through the lyrics.

The main thing I'm most impressed about is the editing in the theme version, while it's not quite up to the standard of Chuck's it is in the same family and league. A short, sharp bite of music which is lead by a snappy riff - but this time it's driven by a pounding drum beat. It's also got that 'spy/espionage' feel which isn't completely inappropriate for the show.

In short it's a song which is almost too appropriate for the show, but it can be forgiven because it's incredible.

In case you're curious, the opening words rolled out are "Little lamb..."

The Office (UK) - "Handbags and Gladrags" by Mike a'Abo

I'll confess it here right at the start, I'm not the biggest fan in the world of the UK original - personally preferring the US version which (after a faltering start) found it's legs and headed off in it's own direction, resulting in an amazing show which still continues to be strong.

But I have no doubt that I prefer the UK's theme tune over the American one. Handbags and Gladrags is a classic song and it's been great since Chris Farlowe first released his version (here). The Office version is arranged by Big George, but it loses none of the power of the original song. Creating a sort of melancholic and almost empty feeling to the show, which echoes the hollow nature of modern office life - pushing paper around for eight or nine hours a day is no living for humanity, but that's what it's come to. At least until the singularity hits or the world ends up like Mad Max 2.

Here's Big George's version in full - personally I prefer the Stereophonic's cover.

Rescue Me - "C'MON C'MON" by The Von Blondies

I'm honestly not entirely sure what C'MON C'MON is about, it's possible that the lines "With my teeth locked down I can see the blood. Of a thousand men who have come and gone" have at least some relevance when related to the collapse of the Twin Towers - a central theme for the early parts of the show. But the song also seems to be an energetic tribute to the lost times of the past.

In truth I have absolutely no idea how C'MON C'MON fits into Rescue Me, but it does provide a striking and adrenaline filled opener which gets you ready for the slightly surreal nature of the show.

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Credits Version

The Wire - "Way Down in the Hole" by Tom Waits

I think it's fair to call The Wire's song the absolute daddy of TV Themes, taking a superb song from an absolute genius of an artist which completely evokes the feel and message of the show (at least one of the messages) and then goes as far as to provide the viewers with not one, not two but five different renditions of the song. From Tom's own bleak original all the way to Steve Earle's cover there's a version for almost everyone.

In the lyrics the song talks about keeping the devil 'way down in the hole' which is an analogy that fits many parts of the show's themes. Not just the obvious devils - Sin and Drugs - but many more subtle ones. McNulty's own struggle with his personal demons is one more obvious example of this but there are many more.

Here's the Steve Earle rendition and Tom Wait's original.

So that's a brief look at a few of my favourite adapted songs which are used as TV Themes, I know there are many more examples out there and I'd love for you to share your favourites with me. So go ahead.
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DVDs in Review: #96 - Buffy: The Vampire Slayer - Season Two

Category: , , , , By Rev/Views
A while back I looked at the complete first season for Buffy and on the whole I still remained impressed with it, yes there was an ample spreading of cheese in the plots and the acting was a little ropey at times but the show's freshman season has held up well over the passage of time.

Recently I picked up the second season, a season I have vague memories of catching the occasional episode, but as I was nowhere near the TV for a lot of the time it aired over here I didn't recall much beyond the odd good bit I'd seen. So I was heading into somewhat uncharted territory with only the vague notions of 'Spike turns up in this season' and 'Angel turns bad.'

I think the first thing which shocked me about this season is it's length, where as the first season is just "twelve" episodes in length the second season is a might twenty two episodes. That's a whole lot of slayer-iness, vampires and snappy dialog; at least that's what I hoped it would contain.

Thankfully I was not disappointed, while the first season of Buffy took the horror/drama/comedy thing off into the wilderness it's the second season which turns around, pours petrol on the trees and figuratively blazes a path right across television. The season is chock-a-block full of iconic and memorable episodes alongside a superb metaplot involving the completely awesome Spike, the fun but irritating accented Dru and quite simply the greatest face/heel turn in the history of television. I knew Angel's flip was coming, but it didn't make it any less surprising when the moment came, I almost feel sad that I missed out on the shock of experiencing that without any foreknowledge.

The great episodes in the season include; "When She was Bad", "School Hard", one of the best Halloween episodes ever in "Halloween", "What's My Line", the amazing duo of "Surprise" & "Innocence", "Phases", "Betwitched, Bothered and Bewildered" and of course the two parter "Belonging". Other great things in this season include the birth of Xander/Cordelia relationship, one which I adore even to this day and the introduction of Mr Pointy - Best. Stake. Eva!

Of course it's not all brilliance, a couple of episodes are pretty stinky - "Go Fish" (Which guest stars a young Wentworth Miller, already sporting a Michael Schofield haircut) is pretty bad. Likewise "Some Assembly Required" and "Ted". All of which feel like filler episodes without much worth to them, especially Go Fish. I really disliked that episode a lot, despite there being a Xander in speedos moment.

All of that said there's no doubt that the second season of Buffy is where the show turned a corner and went from being a great show into something really special. It laid down the groundwork for many future seasons, matured the 'big bad' format of the show and gave us the single best character created by Joss - I of course mean Spike (James Marsters) - a character so fantastic that he still deserves his own show to this day.

It's because of Spike that I enjoyed the second season so much, even moping about in a wheelchair he couldn't help but be brilliant - and he just improves in the seasons ahead...

Of course, I need to get Season 3 before I can watch it.

Special Features:
Commentaries on selected episodes
Three featurettes
Cast Biographies
A Stills Gallery
Gallery of Set Designs and Monsters
Scripts for selected episodes.

The Details:
Aspect Ratio: 4:3 (presented in 1.33:1)
Rating: 15
Region: 2
Run Time: 15h 30min
Soundtrack: French, English
Subtitles: Dutch, French, English (Though I had some trouble making these work when watch via my 360)
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The plans going forward this year

Category: By Rev/Views
Well, it's another decade - and more importantly I need to settle down into some form of structure on here. I have three major competing forces in my life right now that are eating up my time (well four if you include the need to relax and exercise) and juggling them is the trick I need to pull off.

In essence I've got to find a schedule for writing here which I can stick to and still leave time for other things, as sadly I can't forge a living writing about television, which makes work my number one priority. Number two is a short novel I've been writing on and off for the past few months, it's the only one (of many I've started) which I have any inclination to actually finish writing. I don't know - or care - if it's any good, but it is the first one which I've committed myself to seeing the end of. For better or worse I actually want get to the end of it.

This leaves my poor little blog sat here in third place on the priority list. The issue is I can't write short and punchy posts - I tend to be rather verbose at times, which I'm fine with. But it does mean that I need to figure out a reasonable number of days to update on. Especially if I want to pick up finishing the third season of Watching the Wire - I'm committed to doing so, but it'll be a while yet before it happens.

So for the moment I'm going to be updating three times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. There might be the odd unexpected extra post here and there, but only if I have something I need to write.

So I guess that's it. A rather long winded way of saying Rev/Views will update three times a week and I haven't forgotten about WtW:S3.

Catch you next Monday!
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