Posted tagged ‘television’

Dexter – Episode 1 “Those Kinds of Things” Recap & Review

October 3, 2011

Greetings true believers! With Popular Opinions turning two-years-old this week, I decided it’s time to try something different. We’ve never done a running recap/review of a current television show, so after the warm response of my “You’re Getting Old” critique, I thought it’s time for me to jump in the medium and do a running recap/review of a show. And what better choice than a program I’m regularly recapping, reviewing and reverencing on the internet anyway – Dexter

Guess who's back in the blood-splatterin' house?

As someone who has been following Dexter since its first season DVD release became a cult sensation in 2007, I’ve always found it the little show that can and sometimes does. While I’m sure I’ve gotten as frustrated as a lot of you in regard to rushed endings, unresolved plotholes and the hiccups along the way*, the show’s best moments keep me watching. To be honest, the premiere tonight caught me off guard. Since the second season, the show’s season premieres have covered NYC with a thick coat of promotion. I’ve only seen a handful of subways ads advertising “D-Day,” and I don’t know if this reduced fanfare is because Showtime has a certain level of faith with the show or if they think its fanbase has gone as far as it’s going to go. I also wasn’t thrilled to hear rapper-turned-actor Mos Def Yasiin Mr. Most Definitely Mos Def would be joining this season. But as I tuned in, once the now picture-of-health Michael C. Hall light up my screen, I was ready to ride the “Dexter is good again!” wave once more.

After a condensed recap of all the major events that’s taken place these past five seasons, we begin “Those Kinds of Things.” This week’s episode was written by Six Feet Under‘s Scott Buck (who Dexter fans remember best for writing the 3rd season episode “The Damage a Man Can Do” where Miguel finally joined Dexter at one of his murder scenes) and directed by Rounders‘ John Dahl (who directed the 4th season Thanksgiving episode “Hungry Man” where Dex joined the Trinity Killer’s family for Thanksgiving dinner – debatably the best episode in the entire series.) Seeing such a team credited right off the bat indicated an effort on the show’s part to come out swinging. It’s been a few years since the show started out particularly strong, and the Buck-Dahl union did do their best to appease fans and still build intrigue. Although before any of that happened, we had to have a mountain of exposition detailing what Miami Metro did on their summer vacations.

Image courtesy of TVFanatic.com (used without permission)

We ended last season at Harrison’s birthday party and as Dexter’s seed blew out the candles, got a slow-panning feel-good sequence, showing the lovefest between Batista-LaGuerta and Quinn-Deb in full effect. Within the first 15 minutes back from break we’re told that LaGuerta has been promoted/divorced Batista, Quinn is ready to propose to Deb**, Harrison’s entering preschool and Dex’s life is pretty much back to normal as it was before he got married. It’s a lot to digest at once and maybe just one degree better than a Star Wars-style scrolling text telling us everything that happened, but if it means wasting our time with less B-stories that go nowhere I’m all for it***. The writers seem to really want to win back the audience that the show may have lost in the last two seasons by giving us everything we’ve been clamoring for: TWO “killroom” scenes, much more humor, no mention of Rita’s kids, sprinkled Masuka innuendo and a scene of Dexter gettin’ some.

As great as all of that was, the problems with the show at its sixth season are now more confusing than ever. Dexter’s dead dad**** Harry used to be his (for lack of a better term) conscience, a built in guardian angel to make sure he seemed “normal.” In the first few seasons it seemed like Harry was just Dex’s stern memory reinforcing the code, but now it’s legitimately puzzling how this mental projection is coaching him in football. Also, in regard to the aforementioned “fan service,” I am concerned what the episode means for the tone of the show. As fun as Dexter at his high school reunion was, the humor was almost too much at times, and the quickness with how the killroom scene tied the episode together does make me weary they’re bringing back the “killer of the week” formula. I did enjoy the slowburn reveal of Edward James Almost Olmos and Orange County‘s Colin Hanks as the members of a fanatical cult, especially the snakes-in-the-belly moment, so it should be fun to see where that goes. Overall, with the creative team behind the show bragging for years now that everything in seasons four and five were meant to set-up this season, I’m somewhat underwhelmed. This is supposed to be the show’s last go-round, and while it’s a much stronger start than years’ past, it wasn’t quite the homerun the show really needed.

We give it a Three Out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*Except I should mention that our opinions probably differ when it comes to Julie Benz’s portrayal of Dexter’s wife “Rita.” In four seasons she got America to go from finding her yang to Dex’s yin endearing to begging for the death of a rape victim mother of three. It’s a thankless role and she killed it every time.

**This was supposed to be a reveal at the end of the episode, but if you’ve ever seen a program on television before, you know when a character tells their season-long girlfriend a variant of “can I talk to you tonight over dinner,” it’s ring time.

***Yes, I’m still salty the incredibly compelling angle of Dexter being the witness at Batista-LaGuerta’s wedding as his real life alibi for Rita’s murder, which would have put both of their jobs in jeopardy as they had sworn to Deputy Chief Matthews that they were not in any way romantically involved, was teased in the season opener and then NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN.

****How was THAT never the name of one of the books?

Great Moments in “Edited for Television”

April 16, 2010

STOP SWEARING AT ME!

You know what’s truly wonderful about Television? Everything. No seriously, from the good things, to the great things, to even the bad things – it’s all awesome. The past decade has seen the medium flourish with premium channels taking cutting edge comedy and the story-archs of episodic drama to new heights. As memorable and culturally enriching as such programming is, the ever increasing demand for content has made countless hours of television an oozing sore awaiting treatment. TV has often cast its dolphin mutilating tuna net into other mediums like a master-of-ceremonies needing to fill time fishes for semi-relevant anecdotes. More often than not, networks will air movies to fill the gap. Seeing as it’s an upstanding respectable arena, these works of art will often be made more palatable for all audiences’ benefit. By removing all the foul language and violence, the films are neutered made better. Here’s some of the worst them .

WARNING: The language in these clips range from explicit to fluffy.

The Big Lebowski (1998)
This was the first real absurd overdubbing I recall seeing. If you’ve ever walked up and down Hennipan Avenue or strolled through Greenwich Village, you’d recognize that every line of this film without question has been memorized by every human being ever born. Surely broadcast television doesn’t need to protect us from ourselves? Well, maybe a little:

Scarface (1980)
As a rap artist, I am legally required to not only like this movie, but reference it ad-nauseum. The way Al Pachino’s character goes from nothing to amassing a fortune* has struck a chord with most of Hip-Hop’s elite including No Limit Soldier Silkk the Shocker who, in an edition of MTV Cribs, showcased his “Scarface Room” which had no less than NINE televisions playing the movie on a loop at different times so if he ever wanted to see a certain part, it would always be coming up.** One could only imagine the horror that Mr. The Shocker would have if he ever sat down and saw his spiritual guide modified to…well…this:

Snakes on a Plane (2006)
Let’s be honest, this entire movie exists for this scene. A joke of a movie that wound up proving how powerful and unimportant the internet truly was, this exhibition of everything wonderfully wrong with Hollywood cared so much about delivering to its loyal fans who perpetuated its phenomenon by reshooting an entire scene to include something people jokingly knew would never be in any movie. Well, when television plays the internet’s movie, the cosmos align to bequeath a series of trump cards turning the simple concept of movie dialogue into complete and utter unintelligible gibberish. Avert your eyes, children:

OK, what was that? Look, we’ve all seen this film so we know SPOILER ALERT that at NO POINT is the concept of snakes, or anyone, fighting monkeys mentioned. The more I think about it, the more it confounds me. Do monkey fighters exist? I’m all too-familiar with monkey knife fighting***, but the participants in those are recognized by the Nevada State Athletic Commission as “fighting monkeys,” NOT “monkey fighters.” To add to that, what possible flight could last Monday-to-Friday? “But Chaz,” you say, and I say “What?” and you say “maybe he means flights that wouldn’t be on the weekends?” No, the term for those is “Weekday Flights.” How dare you.

Die Hard 2 (1990)
Sometimes the dubbing gets so bizarre it just adds numerous entire dimentions to the movie that shouldn’t exist. There are no words:

Pallies (1996)
Probably the cornerstone of unfortunate editing. Or masterpiece. Depending on context:

Alright, I have to go swear now.

Until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*Then losing everything, including his life, at the end of the movie proving a wholly hedonistic material lifestyle is unfulfilling and frivolous, but don’t ever tell a rapper that as most of us never made it to the end since it’s really long and once we see he has a huge gun OF COURSE he’s going to be OK so let’s just rewind it and quote along with it, K?

**NOT A JOKE!

***My Church group holds one in the basement of Immaculate Conception every third Sunday. It’s also tortilla night. You should come.

Who Flopped It Better? – “Go, Go Power Rangers!”

March 10, 2010

Rappers heard that guitar solo and said 'DADDY, BUY ME THAT!'

Oh man, do I love the internet. Among the many wonderful things the computer-telephone hybrid known as the information super-highway can give us are the exciting and always-engaging echo-chambers known as Blogs. One of my favorites for years has been Soul Sides, written and directed by Dr. Oliver Wang. In late 2007, he ran a ridiculously fascinating series called “Who Flipped It Better?” where he posted an original composition and two rap songs that sampled it, asking his readers “who flipped it better?”

Wang grew up on classic soul and has the same passion for it that I have for pop culture. Therefore, I thought I’d sample* his idea for my own entirely original series – ‘Who Flopped it Better?’ Today we’re looking at a song near and dear to my heart, the theme from the Emmy and Nobel Peace Prize winning television show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

The Mighty RAW (Ron Wasserman) – “Go Go Power Rangers” (1993)

Composed by Ron Wasserman and Shuki Levy (who handled the bulk of the music for Saban Entertainment’s programming), the catchy anthem was just infectious enough to spearhead Morphin-Mania to the moon and be heard ad-nauseum throughout the show and outside of it, so no matter where you went, the Power Rangers would be “Go-Going” with you. The song itself is the audio equivalent of what the next decade of children’s entertainment was going to become. The repetitive urgent bass subliminally gave the show’s start an importance. The wonderfully obnoxious guitar solo sounds almost like a caricature of dated early-90s rock, appealing to the young audience as an overabundant pseudo-gateway into their older peers’ world. Finally the call-and-response chorus of “GO GO POWER RANGERS!” giving kids all the fun of the sing-a-longs they’ve outgrown, allowing them to have a rallying cry and instant bonding point with the whole neighborhood. There’s a science to sampling, and with nostalgia being more powerful this decade than ever it was only a matter of time before this immortal piece of music was sampled.

Juvenile – “I Got That Fire” (2000, Produced by Mannie Fresh)

1993 AD, the year “Go Go Power Rangers” hit the airwaves, was also the same year New Orleans rapper Juvenile released his debut single “Powder Bag.” While it would still take another five years for him to break nationally with “Ha,” it was his 2000 single “I Got That Fire” that finally brought the two worlds together. Cash Money Records in-house producer Mannie Fresh interpolated several elements of the original orchestration throughout the beat, but Juvenile’s overabundant charisma made the channeling almost unnoticeable. The fact that Juvenile doesn’t acknowledge the beat’s source material at all aids how well the song has aged. It’s not kitschy or gimmicky, just a case of a producer using a melody to help create something new.

Young Dro – “House on Me” (2008, Produced by Young Sears)

Not unlike the child who doesn’t eat the crust of his pizza, Young Sears just took the part of “Go Go Power Rangers” we love the most (the opening guitars) and made an entire beat out of it. The oddly melodic Dro hook works and acts as a great balance for Grand Hustle’s best rapper** to kick meticulously complex and satisfyingly re-playable verses. Dro’s flow is fantastic, his writing is on point and by also not making a gimmick out of the beat allows the song to have an incredible shelf-life.

OK kids, WHO FLOPPED IT BETTA? Mannie Fresh or Young Sears? Juvenile or Young Dro? Kimberly or Trini? SO WAT’CHA WANT?!?!?!

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

*and by “sample” I mean steal.

**You heard me.

This post is dedicated in loving memory of ‘Ag3nt M.O.E.’ Moses Malloy. 1986-2009 RIP homie.

Know What’s Awesome About Christmas? Christmas TV Specials.

December 24, 2009

I remember, many years ago, I was a youngster. And when I was a younger youngster, I was very young. At this point in a young man’s life, he’s told by every old man around him that time goes by faster and faster with each passing year. When you’re seven, you hear that and reply “Faster? I hardly know her!” Oh wait, you didn’t grow up on a 1920s Vaudeville stage? Then you’re like me and knew no matter how many times you heard that, Christmas was going to take forever to get here.

But the promise of the Holiday season was always on the horizon. Not unlike the Halloween aisle of Target going up the weekend before Labor Day, Christmas promotions would begin running the night before Thanksgiving. It would start with those iconic Coca-Cola “Holidays/Santa Packs are Coming” commercials, which do this day makes a diehard Diet Pepsi drinker like myself consider a Kringle Cola exception for the holidays.

Once we hit December 1st, the Christmas Season was in full effect. Sunday mass, which at that age had been somewhat of a chore, morphed into a weekly Christmas Countdown with Father Michael Joncas (composer of “On Eagles’ Wings” and Presiding Priest over my first communion) lighting me one Advent candle closer to present time! Christmas time at Immaculate Conception School kept the countdown going through the week, with Usher and all around great guy Abe Verbugi dressing up like the actual St. Nicolas and bringing all the students Candy Canes every December 6th. Not to mention the building gingerbread houses with my cub scout troop, the inhabitants we were assured were all heterosexual gingerbread man as this home we were about to eat had to be stable.

But the REALLY incentive on the Road to Christmas, was the promise of all my favorite, not so favorite, and tolerated television shows having CHRISTMAS EPISODES! All my favorite characters were of the same holiday persuasion, and they were going to give me an adventure that made the holiday all the more special! Don’t believe me? Check the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) breaking down the entire Fox holiday lineup:

Fox Kids Christmas Promo – 1994
Uploaded by GarfieldFan2000. – Classic TV and last night’s shows, online.

H*ll yes! Now, in retrospect, the Christmas episode was really just the rite-of-passage for any television show that said “you’ve stretched this long enough to warrant a filler episode, make it an easy week in the writers room and crank this one out overnight over a can of Surge and a bag of Cooler Ranch Dorito’s.” Ofter the half-way point to the 65-episodes required for a syndication run, these episodes would fall into one of three categories: 1) The main character needs to get the right gift for a beloved supporting character, 2) The main character has to make sure everyone’s holiday plans run smoothly, or offer a reasonable facsimile, and 3) a remake of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Deck the halls with some moderately altered catchphrases (“It’s Clobberin’ Tinsel!”) and there you have 22 minutes of programming you won’t have to think about while you’re tracking down that Power Ranger toy your kid wanted. (The Dinozords NOT the Thunderzords! He already has those!)

There are a handful of Christmas episodes that stand head-and-shoulders above their contemporaries. The third season of “The Office” did just that. With one of the greatest television writing teams ever assembled having one of the decade’s top hot streaks, legend has it writer Jennifer Celotta and director Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters) decided to flex nuts and make the one hour special about Michael Scott getting over his recent breakup at Benihana (which he refers to as “Asian Hooters”) and bringing waitresses to the Holiday party among the best in the series. It became iTunes’ highest selling television episode that month and rightfully so.

Other shows observed the Holiday without mentioning the Holiday itself. Jim Henson’s “Dinosaurs” had the immortal “Happy Refrigerator Day” episode, where (in lieu of Christ’s birth) they celebrate the glowing box that saved their food. On the other end of the spectrum, the unwatchable “Star Wars Holiday Special” observes Chewbacca’s wretched family on “Wookie Life Day.” The less said about that one, the better.

All in all, it was pretty magical being seven years old and having no less than five straight hours of Christmas programming the Saturday before Christmas. As far as Christmas stimulus goes, it was a great appetizer for presents. But what connected point A to point B? CHRISTMAS COMMERCIALS! And on that note, I’ll leave you with one that I’m thankful to say still runs to this day and represents what this season is all about:


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