Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fear Itself: The Complete First Season

The question must be posed: why do the networks even bother to green-light and produce anthology series these days? It seems that every time such a series gets the go-ahead, it quickly suffers from lack of promotion, bad timeslots, and swift cancellation. What is the point of putting these types of shows together if the network has no intention of bothering with them? Fear Itself originally began its 13-episode run in June of ’08 on Thursday nights. 8 episodes aired before it was shelved, and then the remaining 5 episodes eventually aired in January of ’09 on Saturday nights. Clearly this show was never even given a fighting chance.

After seeing it, I can sort of see why, because most of it isn’t terribly impressive. But then again, horror is subjective in much the same way that comedy is. What scares me isn’t always going to give you the cold shivers, and vice versa. For instance, many think The Exorcist is one of, if not the most frightening film of all time. I find it to be rather inane, and all too often bordering on hysterically funny. On the other hand, Rosemary’s Baby scares the bejeezus out of me, and that’s a movie that might just put some people to sleep. So there you have it: my opinion about whether or not the stories contained within this box set have a decent fright factor should be taken with a grain of salt.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Second Season

It’s theoretically improbable that The Big Bang Theory should be a good TV show at all. The premise of two nerdy physicists living across the hall from a cute blonde sounds as if it could barely sustain a comical Saturday Night Live sketch, let alone an entire series. The fact that it’s not only good, but actually great says more about TV writers than it does about the classic multi-camera, laugh track-laden sitcom, which is often thought of as a near-dead format. The laugh track itself is these days generally regarded as a sign of laziness. After all, if a series needs to tell its audience where to laugh, surely it can’t be terribly amusing?

As long as something is well written, it can take place almost entirely in a living room, for 22 episodes a season. As long as something is funny, a laugh track can blare all over the place, and it doesn’t seem remotely out of place, since you’re laughing right along with it. The show is both well written and funny, which is no doubt due in no small part to the combined talents of Bill Prady and Chuck Lorre, who probably each bring a different perspective to the table. The Big Bang Theory is smart without being smug or cynical, and sweet without being sappy. In an age where most comedies feel the need to be edgy, this one never really is and it’s all the better for it. How these guys have pulled this off is anyone’s guess, but the entire thing just simply works. I could happily watch it for another five seasons if they just keep doing what they’re doing.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Worst Week: The Complete Series

Probably the craziest thing to come of the TV-on-DVD “revolution” (which is placed into quotation marks so as not to belittle events that are actually worthy of being referred to as revolutions) is that shows that couldn’t find a life on TV manage to take their dying gasps on the silver platter. It used to be that, when a show was canceled before the end of its first season, it all but vanished from existence. Now these shows find a minor new life on DVD, usually subtitled “The Complete Series,” which makes the package sound like such an experience! But they rarely are, and I suppose we have Family Guy and Futurama to blame for all of these sets, because they’re the only canceled shows that have ever really benefitted from their posthumous DVD releases. I mean, really, if Worst Week hadn’t just been released on DVD, would anybody be driven to write about it today? Would anyone even remember that it was on the air in the first place? There’s a reason shows like this get canceled, and it’s not because people want to buy them on DVD.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Desperate Housewives: The Complete Fifth Season

It may have been a bad idea to kick off the fifth season of Desperate Housewives with a nasty car accident, because in a lot of ways that’s exactly what the season ended up being. Yet, like any such mishap, it becomes near impossible to look away from. In re-watching the season on DVD, it didn’t seem quite the catastrophe it did upon broadcast, yet I couldn’t get away from the feeling that the show has seen far better days, which is a shame, because the last two seasons were of very high quality. But gone is any real sense of pathos, and the biting humor which has long since been a trademark of the show also appears to have been lost in the shuffle. The fifth season just isn’t as engaging or funny as most everything that came before it, and the characters, which are the core of the show, have ceased to be likable people. In one episode, a character demands her child to fall to the ground while riding his bike so that his father won’t be offended that he learned to ride without his dad’s help. The kid ends up going to the hospital. Yeah, I didn’t find it funny, either. In another episode, a character invades her child’s privacy by posing as a girl on a MySpace-type website and clandestinely woos the kid with poetry. It lacks taste, class, and ends up being just plain creepy.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Doctor Who: The Deadly Assassin

Before moving on to more substantial matters, let’s address the elephant in the room: “The Deadly Assassin” may be the goofiest title ever given to a Doctor Who story, and it’s been pointed out by many before me (including, I believe, incoming showrunner Steven Moffat). After all, if an assassin isn’t deadly, he’s not much of an assassin, is he? The working title for the story was “The Dangerous Assassin,” which is even sillier. But the title is the worst thing about this story, so don’t let it dissuade you from imbibing in one of the most important Who stories ever created.

This is Who 101, and for anyone who cares to have a deeper understanding of how the mythology of the Time Lords was established, this is basic, must-see material. Noteworthy, possibly, is that it took the series 13 years to get to the point where someone (writer/script editor Robert Holmes) felt it was a good idea to delve this deeply into the society from where the Doctor originated. Prior to this, the workings of Gallifrey had only been glimpsed, shrouded in nebulous secrecy. But “The Deadly Assassin” came along and blew the whistle on the Doctor’s home planet, took away much of the mystery, and changed the underlying backbone of the series in ways that affect the core of Who to this day. Had it been a weak script, the mechanics of it may have ultimately been ignored, but instead it struck a chord and went on to become a benchmark tale in Who history. In an era when the show was routinely finding inspiration in classic horror and sci-fi films, it stood apart from the pack by unabashedly stealing elements from a political thriller: The Manchurian Candidate.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Doctor Who: Image of the Fendahl

Before moving on to work for the other seminal British sci-fi series of the seventies, Blake’s 7, Chris Boucher wrote three stories for Doctor Who: “The Robots of Death,” a story that’s such a classic it was one of the very first Who DVDs released here in the States; “The Face of Evil,” which is a hugely underrated entry, and has yet to make it onto DVD; and his final contribution, “Image of the Fendahl,” a tale that must qualify as one of the most adult the show ever produced. Here’s a story that’s quite simply a refreshing change of pace for Doctor Who, and it has such a different feel than most of what was produced back in the day – a feel which both works for and against the story.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.

Doctor Who: Delta and the Bannermen

The 24th season of Doctor Who is pretty much agreed upon by most fans as the worst in the show’s history. Even those who defend the remainder of Sylvester McCoy’s era will be hard-pressed to come up with an argument that rationalizes otherwise. This was his freshman season, and not only did the production team seem to lack a grasp of what they wanted to do with the central character, but they weren’t doing much better in the story department. Further, the series was producing only four stories a season at this point, so a weak entry stood out far more than ever before, and Season 24 had more than one such offering. (It is, in fact, debatable that any of its stories even fall under the banner of “good.”) “Delta and the Bannermen” might be one of the season’s better entries, but only in an “it’s not quite as dreadful as some of the others” sort of way. I tried, I really tried – having not seen it in probably 20 years – to find the beauty in it this time around, but alas, it largely escaped me once again.

Read the rest of this DVD review by clicking here and visiting Bullz-Eye.