Archive for the ‘ Television ’ Category

Arrested Development guest characters that need to show up in the movie

Arrested Development (one of the best television comedies of all time, ever heard of it?) has been on the verge of becoming a movie for several years now. The saga is known to most people aware of their pop culture surroundings – insanely funny show airs on FOX, gets a small but unwaveringly loyal legion of fans, darling of the critics, gets cancelled after three seasons. It was a bittersweet ending for most fans; while there was a sense of closure, everyone obviously wanted more, and executive producer and narrator shows up in the last frame of the finale and says “How about a movie?”

Well the movie has hit it’s share of roadblocks, but it seems like it might finally be on track with the cast signed on and a script being written. We might get our hearts broken again, but we can’t help but be hopeful. Which brings me to the point of this article – I was thinking today how much fun the various guest stars had been in their respective roles on the show, and how great it’d be if they brought them back. So I assembled a small list of some of the actors/characters that definitely need to show up in the movie.

Gene Parmesan (Martin Mull)
“Gene was from the best” – Narrator
As Mama Bluth’s favorite PI, Gene unravels family mysteries and wears ridiculous outfits. He only showed up in one episode, but his trademark scene pop-ins where he’s disguised as a doctor/custodian/day labourer were the best part of  “Amigos”. Lucille’s scream of recognition everytime was icing on the cake.

Carl Weathers (Carl Weathers)
“Baby, you got a stew going!”
Weathers plays a cheap, odd, stew-obsessed version of himself (or maybe that’s the real Carl Weathers, who knows) on Arrested Development. I think he’s a necessary part of any movie that gets made because when people think “Carl Weathers”, they don’t think Rocky or Predator or even Action Jackson, they think AD. Plus he’s hilarious.

J. Walter Weatherman (Steve Ryan)
“That’s why you always leave a note.”
The one-armed man who used to scare them as children (and one time as an adult), J. Walter Weatherman was used as a tool by George Bluth to teach his children lessons by scaring the shit out of them. I could just see a lesson going awry in the movie like it does every time he shows up in the show.


Judge Reinhold (Judge Reinhold)
“I’ll allow this, but I’m warning you Mr. Bluth… this better make for a good promo.”
Reinhold only appeared in one episode, as himself, as a judge. Wrap your head around that. But it was his nonsensical mutterings – “Why did I lose all that weight if they’re just going to put me in a pool cover?” –  and aloof reactions to the mock trial going on around him that made that episode. And who could forget the talking magazines, used to great effect by Gob and Franklin in this clip.

Uncle Jack (Martin Short)
“Shoot me!”

Martin Short played the diminutive, paraplegic uncle (but he’s not their real uncle) of the family, a Jack Lalanne type figure who is asked by Michael to bail out the family in exchange for a date with his sister (remember, he’s not their real uncle). This might seem like an odd choice, because if you asked some Arrested Development fans, they’d say that the episode in which he starred is probably the worst. I used to agree, but it’s grown to be one of my favorites, and not just because it’s almost 90% Tobias innuendo. Martin Short does a fantastic job at physical comedy in this episode, and I think there’d be room for ol’ Uncle Jack if the movie ever pans out.

Cancellation

The amount of TV I watch says a lot about my life (nothing positive, I imagine). But what can I do? I’m a sucker for a narrative that pulls me in and refuses to let go, for characters I can laugh, rage and share pain with. I fall for it every time. In a way (a very pathetic way), I’m a hopeless romantic for television. So it really pains when characters I’ve been following for years get brushed away by heartless network executives. In other words, cancellation.

I won’t be bullheaded and claim that the executives are idiots and that they cancelled the show just to spite me and the tiny audience that watched it. Everything in life is a business decision. Either a show performs or it doesn’t, and not every show can be Two And A Half Men (either be grateful or regretful about that, your choice). The network does share some blame; shows get shifted around, not promoted properly or they get stuck in a timeslot where they’re expected to perish. It’s happened to so many shows I’ve loved that it’s hard to even count them up anymore. The recent cancellation of Terriers – we’ll talk about that later – prompted me to write this article.

I’ll end this article by telling you that According to Jim lasted for 8 seasons, and Arrested Development barely made it past 2. Stew on that for a while.

So what if Spiderman is black?

Driving into work today, I was catching up on the Nerdist podcast and the episode I was listening to guest starred Donald Glover, he of Community fame (he was also a writer on my other favorite TV comedy, 30 Rock). Of course, Chris Hardwick brought up the internet campaign that had occurred earlier this year, where people on Twitter and the rest of the internet had pushed to have Glover cast as Peter Parker/Spiderman in the upcoming Spiderman reboot, directed by Marc Webb (500 Days of Summer). It was kind of a weird, random occurrence where Glover, during the wild casting speculation, joked that he might be a cool Spiderman.

Donald in his Spiderman pyjamas on Community, 3 x 01

A huge amount of people rallied behind him, but eventually it was for naught when the talented Andrew Garfield (The Social Network) was cast as Peter Parker. Of course, people were angry and people were happy at the decision. You had people one side shouting “RACISM” and on the other side, comic book purists (and maybe actual racists, who knows) were shouting “HELL YEAH”. As for my side, it’s hard for me to say. While I generally prefer an adaptation or remake or whatever stay true to the source material, if they ignore the source material and make a good movie out of it, then why the hell does it matter?

Glover was pretty humble on the Nerdist podcast but at the same time brought up some good points that I feel like I have to echo: for one, Spiderman isn’t Shaft or Black Lightning – a superhero who is defined by his race. He’s just a geeky, awkward kid who’s experienced a lot of loss and has to deal with that loss while still trying to do some good in the world. Glover also wanted to stress that the fact that he didn’t get chosen or even get an audition wasn’t racism on the part of the director or the studio. On the podcast, he quipped that if Sony Pictures could make money off a movie about Hitler starring Will Smith, they’d probably greenlight it in a heartbeat. In the end, everything in Hollywood ends up being a financial decision, so maybe a black Spiderman just wasn’t bankable at this point in time.

How it all started

As it stands, we have another really talented actor cast as Spiderman, and Glover still has his entire career ahead of him. Maybe when they reboot the series in another 10 years (it’s inevitable folks), the world will be ready for a black Spiderman. It’s all about baby steps – hell, people are still bitching about James Bond being a blonde.

"Yeah, we're cool... for now."

Wherein I sum up TV shows with one sentence

Lost: What could have been a solid scifi series ended up being a serious character drama, but that was the intention all along, y’all!

The Wire: Good shit happens to bad people, bad shit happens to good people, get over it bitch.

The Sopranos: Oh sheesh y’all, twas a dream, or at least most of it was.

24: Torture porn for the PG-13 audience, mixed in with some solid drama, tension and ridiculous plot twists.

Deadwood: Get me my whiskey and my knife, c***sucker.

Mad Men: Yes, we get it, they’re alcoholics!

Rome: People in ancient Rome loved cursing as much as the people on Deadwood, and sex as much as those four women on TV who talk like stereotypically gay men.

Jericho: If all else fails, Skeet Ulrich will save the day.

The O.C: Welcome to the OC, bitch (don’t call it that).

30 Rock: It’s like a live action Family Guy, but, you know, actually funny.

Community: Chevy Chase does mad physical comedy and this show owns.

Top Gear: A trio of overgrown children do things we only dream about and almost look cool doing it.

The rise and fall of Heroes: What went wrong

On May 14th, NBC announced that one of their primetime dramas, Heroes, would no longer be airing on the network. To explain it in one word – axed. No one was really surprised that this had happened, as the show had been slowly dying since finale on the first season faded to black. If you had said back in 2007 that the series would be cancelled, people would have thought you were crazy.

So powerful, so multicultural

It started off well enough – a serial drama about ordinary people who one day find they’ve been bestowed with superpowers. There’s the single mom who has super-strength, her son who can communicate with electronics, a telepathic cop, a male nurse who absorbs other people’s powers, his brother, a Congressional candidate who can fly, a Japanese worker drone who can freeze, rewind and jump through time, and a cheerleader, the crux of the story, with regenerative powers. Kind of watching over them like Professor X is a powerless Indian geneticist.

The story was simple enough – “Save the cheerleader, save the world.” This was drilled into our skulls as the first season progressed, so much so that the phrase became a part of pop culture. The first season was brilliant storytelling – it teased details, and every 5 or 6 episodes, we’d have an explosion of information, an excellent episode that would give us some answers and have us begging for more. The characters were so identifiable to the point of them being simple archetypes, but they’d find ways to surprise us.
The timing for Heroes was also fortuitous – it was essentially NBC’s answer to Lost, a serial drama with an ensemble cast of characters and lots of mystery to keep people hooked in. However, when Heroes began its run, Lost had started to seriously lag. The first half of the third season is often referred to as the lowest point of the series, and that is where Heroes began picking up viewers that Lost had, well, lost. It was pretty common to hear someone that’s way into television saying something like “I like Heroes better than Lost because at least they answer stuff on Heroes” – this was even the basis of a joke on Robot Chicken.
The season progressed and got better and better. Characters grew, and we were introduced to the massive conspiracy that was the driving force behind the whole thing, and ambiguous characters like Noah Bennet who may or may not have been a good guy. They did a fantastic episode called “Company Man”, almost entirely in black and white, that I thought was one of the best television episodes I had ever seen. I thought the main villain, Sylar, was excellent and Zachary Quinto did a great job playing him. I was even a fan of what everyone thought was a dumb finale to the first season – I understood that the show had run out of money and so couldn’t do the big finale like they wanted so they went for something a bit more understated.

So what went wrong?

There were a few factors that contributed to the early death of the series. The first I could call “character decay”, and this would probably the best example of it. In the first season, almost all the characters were identifiable and relatable, but none so much as Hiro, the Japanese man who could control time and space. His utter frustration with his boring worker drone life and his childlike fascination with his newfound powers made him such an empathetic character. He personified exactly what the audience would think if they got some superpower – this is fucking awesome – with none of the angst that was associated with the other characters. Maybe this is why the writers gave him the most powerful ability of all – the ability to control space and time – that would essentially break the show. And this is where the decay comes in. The writers kept coming up with excuses to take away his power, or have him not use his power, or just have him forget to use his power at all. Why they did this is understandable, after all – they thought it’d be cool to have a little Japanese fellow squint really hard and be able to control time, but then the audience started asking why they just didn’t use Hiro as a 5 foot 5 inch undo button, so the writers needed some exits. Over the seasons, he went from a kind nerd to a petulant manchild who was barely on the functioning side of retarded. For a few episodes, he was reverted to his 10 year old self, and somehow him with the mind of a child was more tolerable than the idiot that he replaced.

In time you will grow to hate both of them

Sylar is another good example of this – he started off a ruthless killer with mother issues and delusions of grandeur, but ended up switching the side between good and evil so often that I stopped caring about who he was and what his motivations were. He goes from someone who brutally (but efficiently) kills people with abilities so that he can steal them to someone who simply slaughters scores of innocent people because they happened to be there, despite him saying once that he doesn’t kill regular humans because it serves no purpose. Sylar himself started out as kinda relatable as well – we learn in a flashback episode in the first season that he merely wanted to be special, and he took his first power away from someone who didn’t want it in the first place. Sometimes he seems completely disgusted with what he does, and then other times he’s fine with it.

You'll hate them too

Honestly, I could write a whole other article just on how each character in the series progressively got worse, but I’ll move on.

While we’re on the topic of Sylar, I think this is another factor to the downfall of the series – poor/weak villains, and an inability to move on from Sylar. The first season had Sylar as the main villain, and “The Company”, a nefarious, shadowy organization as the secondary villain. The Company wanted to blow up New York in order to bring about world peace (think of it as a dumbed down version of Watchmen), and Sylar was simply going around executing people with abilities one by one. His main target becomes Claire, because he needs her regenerating power so he can never die. Sylar eventually takes the power of a man with nuclear abilities, and it seems like he’s going to be the one who blows up New York. Well that doesn’t happen, because all the heroes band together and they have a kind of underwhelming fight that ends with Peter, the guy who absorbs powers, blowing up somewhere above New York. Fine. I’m ok with that.
Then came the second season, and we were introduced to a whole host of villains. A white samurai who is actually immortal and kind of insane and wants to eradicate the world? Sure, why not. The telepathic cop’s dad who has the exact same ability but can also project images and control people’s minds? OK. Kristen Bell as a crazy woman who has electric powers and acts like a child? What?
Volume (season) 3, dubbed “Villains” was actually worse. One by one, we’re introduced to these ineffectual bad guys who are supposed to be scary but get offed in a manner that would offend a monster-of-the-week in The X-Files. Put them in contrived situations with the regular cast – the villains have a hostage situation in a bank, and Peter is one of the robbers – and you can see the direction that the show is going. Eventually, we’re introduced to the main bad guy, who is the father of Peter and Nathan, and the writers expected everyone to go “Hmm… yes that makes sense.” Instead, most of the audience WTF’d and just went back to watching Lost, which by the end of it’s disastrous third season had picked up steam again and was back on top for serial dramas. I think my main reason for hating the villains is just because they could not kill Sylar off. The guy came back from the dead like 4 times! I get it, your entire show hinges on that character and Zachary Quinto is a good character, but face it, Sylar should have died at the end of season 1, full stop. Without an imposing villain at top, every new villain would have felt fresh and would have had a legitimate chance at being an interesting character. But because Sylar can’t leave, every new villain was just essentially cannon fodder for the heroes or for Sylar himself. Why would anyone even bother doing anything in this universe? YOU CAN’T KILL SYLAR!

I think I’m going to wrap this up soon, but I’m going to mention one more point that I think completely and utterly ruined Heroes. Quite simply, it’s time travel. Generally, I have no problem with time travel stories, and they can be done quite well on television (see: Lost, Quantum Leap) but Heroes was pretty fuckin’ awful at it. Because the time travel was handled so poorly, there would often be story threads that would just be left hanging, characters that would disappear completely, and alternate characters and timelines that would just keep confusing people. It seems like every character had a more badass version of themselves in the future, even the completely useless Claire – they all wear leather, they all have scars and they’re all amazing with their powers. They also seem to have completely different motivations than their present selves. Future Peter shoots his own brother, future Claire tries to kill Peter in the past – it seriously makes no fucking sense. This is all the more confusing when we see Sylar in the future, since he’s turned into some housefrau and is taking care of his son (what?). Essentially presented with a hundred different timelines to contend with and so many motivations and characters to keep track of, most of the audience said “screw this” and tuned out.

We get it, you're supposed to be badass

And so did I. I stopped watching the show when the 3rd season ended. I’ve considered watching the fourth season a few times but haven’t really bothered. Lost and Fringe have both fulfilled my serial drama quota. I’m relieved the show is over so I can stop hearing from people about how much it sucks, but at the same time I’m kind of disappointed and even sad. The show had so much potential in it’s first season that it being axed almost sucks. Almost.

Thanks to the magnificent TV Tropes and all their resources for their help in writing this article.

Man, I am so impressed with Fringe

WARNING: SPOILERS

Fringe alternate title sequence

Last night, Fringe returned after a near 2-month hiatus from the airwaves, and it was a very welcome return. When we left off, FBI Agent Olivia Dunham had discovered her latent ability to recognize objects from the other side. At the end of the episode back in February (“Jacksonville”) Olivia realizes something we’ve known since the finale of the first season – Peter is from the other universe. It is a pensive Olivia we find at the start of last night’s episode (“Peter”) when she is called upon by Walter Bishop. Walter tells her the story of what happened to the Peter from this universe, and how he took the other Peter from the other side. We are then treated to a flashback to 1985.

A younger Walter Bishop.

A younger Walter Bishop.

Walter is doing a demonstration for the US military, regarding obtaining and copying technology from the other universe, which is at least 30 years ahead of their own (for some reason, Walter decides to use a Motorola RAZR as a demonstration of advanced technology; funny joke I suppose). The military officials are then treated to a view of the alternate universe, using a window device that becomes an important plot point.

Alternate universe New York

They love zeppelins in the other universe.

They also decided to change the title sequence just for this episode, just to make it seem very 80’s, and I have to say, mission accomplished. From the synthesizer beats to the names of technologies that we in 2010 take for granted, it really set the mood of the episode ahead. The visual style seemed very Tron-like as well.

Fringe title sequence

Personal computing? DNA profiling?! Keep dreamin', 80's!

Of course, we know all about Peter being sick, and Walter’s obsession with finding a cure. He begins observing the alternate Walter (dubbed “Walternate” by him) in hopes that the technologically advanced Walter could find a cure for him. It’s in vain, however, as Peter dies before Walter can find a cure.

Walter and Peter

Father and son

Walter becomes obsessive with observing Walternate, and seeing if he’ll find a cure. He does indeed, but is interrupted by none other than an Observer. Walter sees the cure develop, but Walternate does not. Walter is determined to travel to the other side, despite protestations by his assistant and Nina Sharpe, and administer the cure himself. When he gets there, the vial carrying the cure is destroyed, so he has no choice but to bring Peter back to his universe and cure him at his lab.

Walter and Peter

Walter arrives in his own universe with the alternate Peter

There he cures him, and fully intends to take him back to his own universe, but can’t bring himself to lose his son again. We zip back to 2010, and Walter explains to Olivia that taking Peter started to fracture the boundaries between our universe and theirs.

Overall, it was an excellent episode and a great return to the mythology of Fringe. This season has been really heavy on monster/virus-of-the-week episodes and I find the mythology behind Fringe so fun and deep, it’s always a good episode when they delve into it.

One thing that was mentioned again in this episode and made me excited for future possibilities was Peter’s “importance”. After the Observer interrupts Walternate, he meets with other Observers and admits his mistake, reiterating that Peter must be saved. Peter’s importance has been mentioned in other episodes but nothing really came of it, so I’m glad they brought up that plot point again.

The Observers

The Observers discuss Peter's "importance"

This scene also led to one of the best jokes in the episode, which I’ll just post as a picture.

Back to the Future

Just imagine.

Anyway, that was my write-up/recap of last night’s episode “Peter”. Colour me very excited for next week, and the next 7 uninterrupted weeks of Fringe, until the two-part season finale. Also a congratulations to the cast and crew of Fringe for being renewed for a third season. FOX has ordered another 22 episodes of this great show.