Category: Television

Review: Fringe

TV-14, Fox, Season 1 and 2 available on DVD, Season 3 premiered September 23 2010.

Created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. Starring: Anna Torv, John Noble, Joshua Jackson, Lance Reddick.

FRINGE is a mind numbing, time bending and thrilling new television show from J.J. Abrams the creator of Lost and Alias. His involvement alone, made me want to check this show out.  However, I only got round to it recently and as soon as I did I was hooked in. I’ve caught up on Season 1 and 2 (all 45 episodes), to make it just in time for the Season 3 premiere on September 23 2010. There were Losties so now I guess there are Fringies!

The show follows the exploits of special agent Olivia Dunham (newcomer Anna Torv who is a real find here), Mad Scientist Walter Bishop, (John Noble who brings a fantastic blend of tongue in cheek humor to the show) and his son, Jack of all trades, Peter Bishop, (played solidly by Joshua Jackson).

This team is part of an FBI “Fringe” Division based in Boston Massachusetts under the supervision of Homeland Security. The team uses unorthodox “Fringe” science and FBI investigative techniques to investigate a series of unexplained, often ghastly occurrences that are happening all over the world.

This show is like a hybrid of The X Files and The Twilight Zone–which I say as a compliment since both shows are classics of the 80s and 90s respectively.

While Fringe has a very definite overall plot which unravels slowly as each episode plays out, what is convenient about this show, is that you do not necessarily have to follow every single episode in sequence in order to know what is going on and enjoy it. Each episode starts with a specific mystery and ends with them solving it. My recommendation of course would be to stick with it through to the end as there are plenty of twists and turns here thus far to keep you on the edge of your seat.

I have to mention, that what kept me watching this show the most is the beautiful Australian actress Anna Torv, who plays the lead role. This is her first major feature and not only does she illuminate the screen–she owns it. I’ll be keeping my eye on her for the duration of Fringe and beyond.

In the meantime, I’m just happy to get my weekly dosage of Fringe. A show that although is not a fully satisfying replacement for Lost just yet–is still thoroughly original and entertaining nevertheless. 4/5 stars.


Review: Modern Family

TV-PG, ABC studios, Season 1 available on DVD, season 2 premiere September 22 2010. 25 episodes, 22 minutes each.

Created by Christopher Lloyd and Steven Levitan. Starring: Ed O Neill, Julie Bowen, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Ty Burrell, Sofia Vergara, Eric Stonestreet.

Modern Family is a pleasant surprise. It took me a few episodes to get really hooked, but now I love it. This was another one of those shows that I picked up on a little late. It got unanimous critical acclaim and recently won the emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series of 2010.

From the little previews I had seen of it, it looked like another cheesy sit com to me. Then I finally sat down and decided to give it a try with an impartial mind. I am glad I did. What makes this show different than most others is its wit and how grounded in reality it really is. There’s also the fact that it’s just damn funny.

The show follows the family of Jay Pritchett (Ed O Neill from Married with Children at his grumpy best here), his daughter Claire Dunphy, (the perfectly uptight Julie Bowen who you may recognize from Lost), and his son Mitchell Pritchett (Jesse Tyler Ferguson) who live in LA.

Claire is a homemaker mom married to Phil Dunphy, (the hilarious Ty Burrell) a dad who thinks he is super cool when he really is not and they have three children together.

Jay is married to a much younger colombian woman Gloria, (the bootilicious Sofia Vergara) and is helping her raise her pre-teen son, Manny.

Mitchell is gay and his partner Cameron Tucker (fantastic newcomer Eric Stone Streetsreet) have adopted a vietnamese baby called Lily, who they are raising together.

The show is shot in a mockumentary style, with a character/characters being interviewed on a subject and then usually this is the topic of that particular episode. We mostly follow the day to day lives of these ordinary individuals — yet the show does it to hilarious results.  Ty Burrell and Eric Stonestreet definitely give the most stand out comedic performances in the show but everyone is in top form.

The writing and dialogue is also top notch so kudo’s go to the creator’s of this show which includes Christopher Lloyd (or “doc”) of the Back To The Future Trilogy. It’s great to see him around —  I had wondered what had become of him!

The episodes are short but sweet and thoroughly entertaining. Season 2 just premiered and if you want a good laugh after a hard days work, then I highly recommend you start tagging along with this witty new comedy. 4/5 stars.

Review: True Blood

TV-MA (strong sexual content, language and violence), HBO. Seasons 1 & 2 available on DVD. Season 3 currently airing.

Created and produced by Alan Ball. Cast: Anna Paquin, Stephen Moyer, Alexander Skarsgard, Sam Trammell, Ryan Kwanten, Rutina Wesley, Kevin Alejandro, Marshall Allman, Chris Bour, etc.

True Blood is an american television series created and produced by Alan Ball, (creator of Six Feet Under). The show is based on the Southern Vampire Mysteries series of novels by Charlaine Harris, and details the co-existence of vampires and humans in Bon Temps, a fictional small Louisiana town. The show centers on Sookie Stackhouse, (played perfectly by Anna Paquin) a telepathic waitress at a bar, who falls in love with vampire Bill Compton, (Stephen Moyer).

Following the vampire craze of Twilight, this is a seriously sexed up and adult themed drama series that is really a guilty pleasure to watch. True Blood is into it’s 3rd season now and has been airing on HBO since September 7 2008, however I only recently got into the show because of all of the accolades it kept receiving, (including winning a Golden Globe and Emmy last year).

The show has such a broad ensemble cast of regular central characters and a rotation of supporting characters, that it gets hard to keep up with them all.

The other most notable characters in True Blood are: Eric Northman, (Alexander Skarsgard) a charismatic vampire who is also the Sheriff of “area 5” and is fascinated with Sookie’s strange abilities. Sam Merlotte, (Sam Trammell) owner of “Merlottes” bar and admirer of Sookie, who also has a secret of his own. Jason, (Ryan Kwanten) Sookie’s horny brother who gets addicted to V juice (vampire blood which acts like a narcotic to humans), Tara Thornton (Rutina Wesley), the obnoxious best friend of Sookie and Lafayette Reynolds (Nelson Ellis), a flamboyant gay cook and cousin of Tara, (who also sells V juice on the side).

As I said above, there are all kinds of story lines aside from the central love story between Sookie and Bill, including a mystery surrounding a series of murders that start happening in Bon Temps, a look into vampire culture and even sorcery.

The show offers plenty of raunchy sex scenes for those who like that kind of thing–and since most of the woman are beautiful, i’m not complaining much.

I think I already summed up this show with two words: Guilty Pleasure. 3/5 stars

Review: Glee

TV-PG. Fox. Season 1, 22 episodes. Season 2 release date: September 21 2010.

Created by and written by Ryan Murphey. Cast: Dianna Agron, Chris Colfer, Jessalyn Gilsig, Jane Lynch, Jamya Mays, Kevin Mchale, Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Matthew Morrison, Amber Riley, Mark Salling, Jenna Ushkowitz.

Glee is a musical comedy-drama that focuses on a high school show choir , (a modern day glee club) called “New Directions”, at the fictional Mckinley High School in Lima, Ohio.  The show just completed it’s first season, with season 2 starting off again on September 21st 2010.

Now this is one of those shows that honestly I would never have had much interest in watching. I like music, but a bunch of guys singing and prancing about is not necessarily how I entertain myself. That said, I kept reading rave reviews about this show and then saw it piling up on award nominations and finally going on to win the Golden Globe for Best New Television Series.

So this got me really curious, but I still held out. In the meantime, Glee’s popularity continued to escalate with its ratings  and viewership almost doubling.

Finally, I just had to see what all the hype was and honestly I am glad I did. I will not say that this show is the greatest thing on TV by any stretch of the imagination, but what I will say is it is pure feel good entertainment.

The story centers around Will Shuester (Matthew Morrison), a spanish teacher who takes over as the glee club coach with hopes to restore it back to it’s former glory. There are 12 main characters in the show, all of which have their own story lines. The stand outs are Rachel Berry (Lea Michele),  the snooty but talented star of the glee club, Finn Hudson (Cory Monteith), the star quarterback who risks alienation from his school mates to join the glee club and Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer), who plays a gay male soprano with flare.  All the other characters do a fine job, but these are the ones who I felt the most invested in and who really got underneath their characters skin.

And then of course there is Sue Sylvester, (played by the hilarious Jane Lynch), who won a well deserved Golden Globe for her supporting role as the coach of the “Cheerio’s” cheerleading squad and arch-nemesis to the glee club. She plays her role with so much relish, it’s just fun to watch.

While the show has it’s comical moments, I will admit that this is a truly heart warming show, where you find yourself really rooting for the underdogs to succeed. The show is also good at surprising you; one moment there is a corny and predictable scene and you think you know where it is heading, but then it goes a completely different direction.

The other thing that makes this show a real hit is of course its musical numbers. It is no surprise that the creators spent months of research looking for the best performers at broadway to cast this show.  There is some incredible talent from all involved but again the stand outs for me were Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele.

So many covers are done such as Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What you Want”, Queens “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Van Halens “Jump” and even a whole episode dedicated to Madonna and Lady Gaga. The numbers are performed with flare and are very entertaining to watch.

Yes sometimes the acting is cheesy, but there are times when it is also very good and even intense. Besides, the show succeeds in the best way possible: it warms your heart and makes you want to sing and dance. Anyone who has a problem with that, is just a party pooper. 4/5 stars.

Review: Community

TV-PG. NBC. Season 1, 25 Episodes. Created by Dan Harmon. Cast: Chevy Chase, Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Donald Glover, Ken Jeong.

Now, I had heard there was a new show on TV called “Community” but honestly the only thing that sparked any interest at first was that Chevy Chase was in it,  (the rest of the cast are mostly new-comers). When I finally got round to watching it, I was completely hooked by the first episode. Yes, Chevy Chase is great in it, but I have found this show to be one of the smartest and funniest comedies on television that I have ever seen. And it’s just gotten started.

Community is centered around the lives of 7 students who attend Greendale Community College in Colorado. The main character is Jeff Winger (a dry and witty Joel McHale) who is a suspended lawyer forced back into school after his college degree is deemed invalid by the State Bar.

The show focuses on his experiences at the College and the people that he meets there. Jeff has an obvious crush on Britta Perry (the lovely Gillian Jacobs) a female student trying to get her life back on track and in an attempt to impress her he forms a Spanish Study group. His plan backfires and a number of other oddball characters end up joining the Group in addition to Britta and he becomes their reluctant leader.

Other members of the study group are: Pierce Hawthorne (Chevy Chase) an aged moist-towel tycoon who is constantly trying to give Jeff perplexing life lessons, Abed Nadir (Danny Pudi who is a comic revelation), a pop culture junkie who is attending college to study film, Shirley Bennet (Yvette Nicole Brown), a recently divorced mother who is attending college for the 1st time, Troy Barnes (Donald Glover), a former high school quarterback and Annie Edison (an adorable Alison Brie) a straight-laced nerd.

Other recurring characters in the show are Senor Ben Chang (a hilarious Ken Jeong), who plays their Spanish Teacher,  Psychology Professor Ian Duncan (John Oliver), who is an old friend of Jeff’s and Dean Pelton (Jim Rash), the oddball and bi-curious Dean of the College.

what makes this show such a winner is the richness of the characters and the sheer brilliance of its comedy. This is not slapstick humor. Religious and political topics are brought up throughout the show. The comedy is very real, but that just makes it even more funny. In fact, the creator Dan Harmon wrote the script based on his own experiences in Community college, involving a girl he liked and the group of misfits he was in a study group with. The reality is what really does shine through in the show.

There are continuous parodies on pop culture classics throughout the show, which would make a fanatic like me swoon. An entire episode themed off the gangster movie “Good Fellas”, which even uses the same music score! Breakfast Club, Batman, good cop/bad cop films and Good Will Hunting are all parodied to hilarious results.

Danny Pudi is the stand out actor here and his character is by the far the most original. He plays Abed with such wry humor and wit, it truly is pure comic genius. The out-takes that Abed and Troy do together at the end of each episode of the show is another highlight.

There is one entire episode that parodies Modern Warfare with a paint ball game that goes horribly wrong. I have watched this single episode 5 times over and it is an instant classic.

The sexual tension between Jeff and Britta does get a little redundant throughout the show, but you care enough about the characters that you still want to know if they will end up together.

Community is a show that DOES take itself seriously; but does it with such panache that you cannot but love it.  I would recommend to anyone who has not seen it yet, to catch up on Season 1 right now before Season 2 begins. 5/5 stars.

TV-MA. FX. Premiered July 21 2004–present, 75 episodes. Season 1-5 available on DVD. Season 6 premiered June 29 2010.

Created by Denis Leary and Peter Tolan. Cast: Denis Leary, Adam Ferrara, Mike Lombardi, James McCaffrey, Jack Mcgee, Tatum O Neal, Steven Pasquale, Andrea Roth, John Scurti, Daniel Sunjata, Larenz Tate, Callie Thorne.

Rescue Me is quite simply put, one of the best shows on television. It is riveting entertainment; both powerfully moving drama and a hysterically funny comedy.

The series focuses on the professional and personal lives of a group of New York Firefighters in the fictional Ladder 62/Engine 99 Firehouse. The show mainly follows veteran firefighter Tommy Gavin (Denis Leary in his most solid performance to date) and his ever troublesome family as they deal with real life issues, either with post September 11 2001 trauma or domestic problems. Tommy has to struggle with the loss of his cousin and best friend Jimmy Keefe who died September 11, 2001 and frequently visits Tommy in visions. In the pilot episode, Tommy has already separated from his wife Janet (a fantastic Andrea Roth) and he is an ill-tempered, self-destructive, hypocritical and relapsed alcoholic.

Denis Leary is backed up by a terrific supporting cast, which include: Sheila Keefe (a feisty Callie Thorne) the widow of Jimmy Keefe, who Tommy has an affair with,  Lt Ken Shea (John Scurti) Tommy’s best friend and fellow firefighter, Franco Rivera (Daniel Sunjata) fellow firefighter and all around ladies man. Mike Selletii (Mike Lombardi) and Sean Garrity (Steven Pasquale) are the probies, a “Laurel and Hardy” like duo that provide most of the shows more comical moments.

Rescue Me is also blessed to have frequent guest stars on the show such as Susan Sarandon, Marisa Tomei, Gina Gershon, Jennifer Esposito, Amy Sedaris and Michael J Fox, all playing pivotal roles.

It is an ode to the skill of Denis Leary and Peter Tolan as writers, that they have created a show that confronts 9/11 with a no holds barred approach, delves into day to day situations that we are faced with in real life and also takes us inside the world of firefighters, showing their true bravado and courage.  The fire fighting sequences themselves are very realistic and nothing short of exhilarating.

In fact, I got to talking to a group of Firefighters from Boston and asked them what they thought of the show. They told me that the things that are depicted on the show actually happen to them every day. Inside and outside of the firehouse. They said it was the most accurate representation of the life of a firehouse that they had ever seen. I believe them. 5/5 stars

Best in Television: LOST!

Season 1-6, 121 episodes, September 22 2004–May 23 2010

ABC Studios, Bad Robot Productions

Created by J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse.  Directed by John Bender and many others.

Cast:  Matthew Fox, Evangeline Lilly, Josh Holloway, Naveen Andrews, Henry Ian Cusack, Emile De Ravin, Michael Emerson, Jorge Garcia, Daniel Dae Kim, Yunjin Kim, Dominic Monaghan, Terry O Quinn, Elizabeth Mitchell, Jeremy Davis.

Music: Michael Ciacchino

Yes, I am a huge fan of Lost, or a “Lostie” as people like to call it. To try and describe a show like this is actually a tough job. It really is. For other “Losties” out there, I know they understand. This is a show that transports you into a whole different world and gets you so involved with the characters and what is going on, you literally feel like you are there with them.

This is a show that is part drama, part mystery, part adventure, part fantasy and part Science Fiction. It involves so many different characters and so many different plot threads, you truly do get LOST. That is the fun of it. You’re always wondering what the heck is going on. But you care enough to stick with it through to the end.

That’s what  I did. For all Six Seasons of this remarkable television show. When it started in Sept 2004 it was an immediate success both with viewers and critics. Almost 16 million viewers tuned in to watch the first season and although viewership did decrease over the years, there were still 11 million viewers by Season 6’s finale.  LOST! was consistently hailed by US Critics to be one of the top 5 TV shows of the year over the duration that it was on the air. The show has won numerous awards including an Emmy Award for Best Outstanding Drama Series in 2005 and a Golden Globe for the same title in 2006.

Lost was filmed in its entirety in the beautiful backdrop of Oahu, Hawaii.

So, to describe the show itself?

Oceanic Flight 815 from Sydney to Los Angeles crashes on an unknown island. The survivors all gather together and wait for rescue, but it soon becomes apparent that nobody is coming. There are so many central characters with their own story lines that it would take too much to write it here, but I will cover the most important ones. Jack Shephard is a doctor with a penchant for “fixing things” and  is the hero of the show. The first episode begins with Jack opening his eyes on the island where they crashed. Kate (Evangeline Lilly) is a fugitive who was being transported to prison when the plane crashed. Sawyer (Josh Holloway) is a con-artist with a secret of his own, who throughout the show becomes a very popular character. There is a love triangle involving these central characters that goes back and forth for the duration of the show.

Then there is John Locke (Terry O Quinn) a man who was in a wheelchair before he arrived on the island, but now can walk. Due to this he believes fate brought them to the island and that they are there for a reason. Hurley (Jorge Garcia) is the overweight lovable dude who brings most of the comic relief to the show. He also won 21 million dollars using numbers that appear on a hatch that they find in season 1 and which appear throughout the rest of the show as a central mystery. There’s Claire (Emile De Raven) the pregnant teenager who falls in love with Charlie (Dominic Monaghan) the former rockstar and heroin junkie. Sayid, (Naveen Andrews) the bad-ass who used to be in the Iraqi Military and Sun (Daniel Day Kim) and Jin (Yunjin Kim) an estranged couple who find love again on the island.

With the very first episode you are hooked in with the characters and the mystery surrounding the island. The plane was ripped apart but somehow they survived. There appears to be some sort of “monster” on the island. A polar bear attacks them — on a tropical island. They discover a recording by a french lady which has been playing on a loop for 16 years. As Charlie says, you wonder: “Where are they”?

The story of the show is told in several different ways. There is the continuing story line on the island itself and all the mysteries that unfold while they are there. Then there are flashbacks which tell you the story of each character before they got to the island. By the end of Season 3, that all changes and an entirely different direction is taken in the shows storyline. I’m not going to spoil that one for you. Watch it and find out for yourself.

While the survivors are on the island they become threatened by the mysterious “Others”, a group of apparent natives who already inhabit the island.  Notable characters from the Others are Benjamin Linus (Michael Emerson) who is pitch perfect as the deliciously sly leader and Juliet (Elizabeth Mitchell), a fertility doctor who is on the island reluctantly and gets involved with both Jack and Sawyer.  There is also a man called Desmond (Henry Ian Cusack), who has been living in the hatch for 4 years, typing in numbers so as to “save the world”.

As the show propelled toward its finale I will proudly admit that I was completely obsessed. I had watched all previous seasons 3 times through to try and dissect and decipher all the various mythology and mysteries that the show had to offer.  Now there may have been some disappointment from fans that not all of the mysteries were solved. Yes, this may be true. However, all of the relevant ones were tied up and more importantly is that the show went back to the characters themselves. What resulted was the single most powerful and moving finale for a television series that I have ever watched.  I Don’t think the creators could have done a better job of wrapping everything up.

A true phenomenon was created with LOST! in 2004. Watch this series from beginning to end and you will know why.

LOST! The full collection will be released on DVD August 24 2010. 5/5 stars.