Monday, April 30, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Z Rock

Well, A to Z Challenge. I hear your "Z" and give you the virtually  unknown now-cancelled cable series Z Rock. It aired in 2008-2009 on IFC, Independent Film Channel, which probably not all cable subscribers even have. I have not seen this show but I was determined to find a real Z show and not just something with a "Z" in it like.. I don't know, Oz.

The show is about two brothers in a hard rock band who pay the bills by playing kid parties by day. A ton of real world rockers guest as themselves: Dave Navarro, Dee Snider, Sebastian Bach.

It sounds pretty funny, and the actors are actually in a band. It's referred to as "semi-scripted" so it's a mix of improv, reality, scripted. I know most movie channels now are trying their hand at original scripted shows, so it's too bad this got lost in the shuffle on an obscure network.

Have any of you watched Z Rock?

That wraps up the A to Z Challenge. I'ts been fun and I've enjoyed finding so many new blogs during the blog tour. If you're a new follower, thank you! I tend to post a lot of book reviews, but since I picked up my TV writing gig at, I also dabble in pop culture and TV musings. I hope you stick around and thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Blogging A to Z: The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles

Throwback time! You may not remember this series which originally aired in the early 1990s for only a couple TV seasons. Like the Indiana Jones films, the TV series exploring a younger Indy was created and produced by George Lucas. It's a pretty cool idea given so much of Indiana Jones' life is wide open prior to the movies - what was his life like before he became a professor? The series debuted a couple years after the third film: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which even featured scenes of a young Indy played by River Phoenix. 

For the TV series, teenage Indy was played by Sean Patrick Flanery, a '90s hottie most known for films like Powder and later the cult fave The Boondock Saints. The show featured an elderly version of Jones who served as a sort of narrator, with the episode taking place as a flashback to a teen or a 10-year-old kid Indy. 

Ultimately the show was canceled because ratings weren't high enough to allow for the costly expense. Four made-for-TV movies aired between 1994 - 1996 to continue the story. 

Why You Should Watch: It's available on Netflix and DVD and is a deeper dive into the Indiana Jones universe. It's suited for kids and is more of family entertainment than anything edgy. A lot of historical characters pop up so it's even somewhat educational!

Factoid: Harrison Ford shows up in an episode called "Young Indiana Jones and the Mystery of the Blues."

Friday, April 27, 2012

Blogging A to Z: The X-Files

The Truth is Out There

Given that I've referenced The X-Files numerous times this month in my other reviews, I should forewarn you: I could write a LOT about this series. Ya'll might think I'm crazy. But I swear I NEVER wrote any Mulder/Scully fanfiction (or Mulder/Skinner, Mulder/alien?)

For the uninitiated: Loner agent Fox Mulder works on cases the FBI deem strange and unsolveable. Dana Scully, agent ad medical doctor, is assigned as his new partner with the intent to debunk Mulder's increasingly paranoid investigation findings (why they didn't just fire him, I don't know). The heart of the show is how the two challenge each other's ideals: Mulder, a believer in the paranormal, and Scully, who depends on logic and fact. Beyond investigating mysteries involving unseen forces, evil twins and shapeshifters, a shadowy section of the government called The Syndicate is shown to have a hand in covering up current cases, which throws Mulder even deeper into his paranoia over government conspiracy.

I caught up with the show halfway through its run, and watched a lot of the series out of order (we are so spoiled now with Netflix and packaged DVD seasons!). The first episode that caught my attention was "Humbug," featuring the Jim Rose side show -- extreme performers famously connected to Lollapalooza in the '90s. It definitely took the series in a more inventive direction by not taking itself seriously all the time (Scully eats a bug and Mulder cracks jokes!). Other standouts are the season 2 arc when Scully is abducted and Mulder rides a ski gondola up a mountain to find her. Even re-watching this years later there's a cinematic quality to the show that makes it feel special.

The X-Files serves as a turning point for genre television; not a lot of sci-fi makes it to the networks so it takes a really inventive show to do something different. While Twin Peaks was arguably more of a game-changer, it only lasted two seasons and was so quirky it didn't maintain the wider audience the The X-Files ended up with. The 1998 movie The X-Files: Fight the Future shows how Big Time this little sci-fi show grew. I really liked the movie, but it also was probably the peak of the series. The show painted itself into a corner by featuring the two leads so much, that by season 7 the actors were pretty tired. By then it felt too late to throw in new agents, but that's what happened. I admit, I still haven't seen the very last season all the way through. It got a bit convoluted with Mulder and Scully having an alien love child. I wish I was joking.

Why You Should Watch: Foundational TV viewing for any fan of J.J. Abrams' shows, or fan of sci-fi in general. I wonder where shows like CSI or Fringe would be without The X-Files.

Factoids: The Lone Gunmen, Mulder's go-to geeks, had a brief spin-off series by the same name. One episode involved a terrorist hijack of an airplane to crash into the World Trade Center ... which aired in March 2001, six months prior to the actual attacks. Now THAT'S eerie.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Blogging A to Z: The Walking Dead



Braaaaainsssss ...

I passively watched season 1 -- zombies kind of gross me out -- so this was more of my husband's show to watch than mine. But season two of this AMC cable drama sucked me right in. The humanity of this series should not be overlooked. As time moves on, survivors of a world infested with zombies are sure to create their own trouble; battles between leaders, how to care for survivor children and whether to protect them or teach them to protect themselves, trust, and of course hook-ups. Not that this show dwells much on dating relationships, but it's there.

Why You Should Watch: Horror, dystopian, and survivalist worlds come together in this unique show.  It's frequently scary, but the characters and their relationships to each other are explored enough to give it depth. If you're already a fan, or want to know more, here's a cool fansite: talkingwalkingdead with commentary on the show, the comic series and the greater world of zombies.

Factoid: The season two finale, which finished earlier this year, snagged 9 million viewers. That is HUGE for a cable show, and is the highest viewing of a cable show to date.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Blogging A to Z: The Vampire Diaries

Ah, The Vampire Diaries. What a guilty pleasure treasure trove you are.

+1 for a YA-book-turned-TV-series! The essential premise is: newly orphaned Elena meets sexy dangerous Stefan who happens to be a vampire. The town of Mystic Falls holds lots of supernatural secrets, including founding fathers who are steeped in a vampire legacy. Stefan's a vampire trying to do good - enrolling in high school, drinking animal blood - until his estranged vampire brother Damon comes to town and tests his limits.

+1 for strong female characters: Elena isn't a damsel in distress, she fights back and has proven resourceful with a plethora of enchanted amulets, rings and works with her witch friend Bonnie who to cast spells (vampires can usually be foiled by a good spell).

+1 for immortal feuding brothers: The Salvatores are the heart of the show; vampire brothers at odds who still remain fiercely loyal despite their differences.
Old Timey Stefan and Damon!
+1 Eye Candy: Pretty people invade this show. Pretty girls, hot guys, sexy undead. Yep. Sometimes that's what does it.

+1 WTF Plot: The pacing on this show is much like taking an episode of 24 and setting it to fast forward. Or  a chipmunk on speed. Just as the plot hints toward something -- boom! A character dies/falls into a crypt/is cursed/ is staked. Romances turn up every which way, new baddies come to town and curse things and then get killed. It's quite a bit to take in at times, but if it proves to be too much, think! Eye Candy and relax.

Why You Should Watch: TV that's fun and isn't afraid to poke fun at itself. See also: Eye Candy/Pretty People.

Factoid: The wife of the actor who plays Stefan Salvatore showed up this season as a doctor. No surprise: she's also very pretty.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Undeclared

Undeclared is a gem of a show from 2001-2002 that was treated with the same sort of network respect as shows like Firefly: airing episodes out of order, switching nights, etc. (both shows aired on FOX). So most likely if you've seen Undeclared, it's been through its second life on DVD or on cable on IFC.

This is Judd Apatow's second show, following the similarly ill-fated Freaks and Geeks, and features a cast of actors you now see on TV and in movies.

That bottom row in particular: you can see Carla Gallo as Dr. Sweets' girlfriend on Bones (Dr. Sweets having come from Freaks and Geeks), Charlie Hunnam is on Sons of Anarchy, and Seth Rogen has been in Superbad, Knocked-Up, 50/50 and a bunch of other movies (he also had a role in Freaks and Geeks). The red-shirted guy, Jay Baruchel has shown up on a lot of shows, like Syfy's Being Human, the film The Sorcerer's Apprentice with Nicholas Cage, and he voiced a kid in How to Train Your Dragon.

Also, Jason Segal (How I Met Your Mother) plays a rejected boyfriend in half the episodes, whose cringeworthy behavior turns stalker-like.

So what IS Undeclared? It's about a kid named Steve's college experience and his adventures living in the dorm. To his detriment, this experience also includes his recently divorced father (pictured above) who lives in town and tags along. This show really nails the experience of dorm life and the strange new freedoms of living away from home for the first time. Or trying to get away and not quite being able to.

One of my favorite episodes is when Marshall (in the striped shirt) gets sick, and Rachel (yellow sleeves) wants to help him with homeopathic methods. She has good intentions but essentially does not know what she's doing, and meanwhile Marshall slips further from consciousness, while still trying to maintain his job in the cafeteria.

Why You Should Watch: If you've ever lived on a college campus, this will bring back memories.

Factoid: Lots of guest stars flow through this single season series: Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Ted Nugent, Ben Stiller. Plus then-unknowns Amy Poehler, Jenna Fischer, Busy Phillips (who also appeared on Freaks and Geeks) show up in episodes.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Blogging A to Z: True Blood

The letter "T" is for True Blood, the HBO series based on Charlaine Harris' Sookie/Southern Vampire book series.

I'm more a fan of the books than the show, but I have to admit the casting is excellent. When I first saw promo pictures, I knew they nailed Eric in particular, and Bill and Sam are pretty good too. Anna Paquin as Sookie isn't who I pictured, but given her work in the X-Men movies I knew she'd be a good choice. In the books, Tara is not depicted as African-American, but she's also not central to the series. It works to change characters sometimes to bring a different spin to the TV version. Although, Tara is pretty annoying.

Sookie Stackhouse (don'tcha love that name?) is a blue collar working gal serving drinks at bar in fictional Bon Temps, Lousiana. She can read people's thoughts, an ability she views as a flaw, which hinders her from living a normal life. One night at the bar she's drawn to a man's peaceful presence, and she finds she doesn't need to block his thoughts -- she can't read them at all. Turns out, Bill Campbell is a vampire, and all his thoughts are blocked to her. Vampires just staged a coming out throughout the nation in attempts to mainstream into society. Soon, Sookie's relationship with Bill integrates her further into the vampire world, including their intricate political ruling system. The ruling vampires want to use Sookie's ability to their own advantage, but good 'ole Vampire Bill tries to protect her.

The name True Blood refers to the synthetic blood drink manufactured for vampires. The show's first season makes a lot of allusions to vampire hostility in comparison to racial and sexual discrimination in our world. A sign in the intro reads "God Hates Fangs," so you can see right away, not everyone is glad vampires are alive/undead and here to stay.

Why You Should Watch: While the show takes a lot of liberties from the books, it's fun to see familiar characters spring to life. Because it's HBO, expect a lot (A LOT) of bare skin, risque plots, and pretty graphic violence. Season 2 veers away from the books quite a bit and I kind of lost interest.  If you aren't squeamish this series is a fun ride.

Factoid: Author Charlaine Harris said as she brainstormed writing the series, she contemplated giving Sookie a fake leg! Instead, her "disability" ended up as mind reading.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Supernatural

The letter "S" OF COURSE means Supernatural

Supernatural is currently on season 7 on The CW Network, but if you haven't watched it, I highly recommend starting at the beginning on DVD, Netflix or reruns on cable (TNT airs it twice a day on weekdays - set your DVR! Or VCR if you're still hanging on that way).
Dean and Sam Winchester are brothers who hunt supernatural beings, demons and other crazies that go bump in the night. The series began with a lot of monster-of-the-week and urban legend story lines, with a main quest to find the demon who killed their mother when Sam was just a baby. Said demon also killed Sam's girlfriend in the pilot ep. (Suffice to say, women on Supernatural do not fare well. At all.). Their father, who taught them everything during a transient childhood of hunting monsters, is missing and the brothers use his notebook to follow clues leading to him. Dean desires to live up to his father's expectations while Sam adjusts to returning to the hunting life after a few years removed to pursue normalcy.

Later seasons play more with mythology of demons and eventually, angels. One of my favorite moments from the whole series is when the angel Castiel first appears. His wings are shown as massive shadows against a barn interior. I love that the angels on this show are extremely powerful, but they aren't friendly. Castiel quickly became a fan favorite for his very logical but amusing commentary, and in particular his friendship with Dean.

To say this show has a cult following is an understatement. When I mentioned looking for a cheesy image, believe me, there are sickeningly cheesy photo montages and wallpaper images of the Winchesters. And fan fiction, if you're into that.

Why You Should Watch: Let me count the ways!

  • Sam and Dean's loyalty to each other is probably the key piece -  they're a great team fueled by revenge and family legacy. 
  • Dean owns a 1967 Impala, which is super badass, but probably a real gas guzzler. 
  • Bobby Singer, their resource on cases is like a second father, and his relationship to the brothers intensifies in importance as the series progresses. He has a multiple wall phones labeled FBI, Fed Marshal, etc. for when the Winchesters need verification for one of their fake identities.
  • The special effects are good for a TV show, and occasionally awesome.
  • Fans of the show are extremely devoted, and one episode takes place at a Supernatural fan convention - but the Supernatural referenced there is a series of books, which tie into the story line.
Factoids: One of the original producers of Supernatural is Kim Manners, who is most famous for collaboration on The X-Files, but he's also filmed a number of successful TV pilots. Manners directed the season opener and finale for 4 and half seasons until his untimely death from cancer in 2009. Another X-Files tie-in, Mitch Pileggi who played Skinner, shows up mid-way through the series as the Winchester's grandfather. Lastly, Supernatural is also an anime series!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Ringer

This show became such a guilty pleasure for me. The tagline says it all:

Two Sisters: One Face

I had initial interest since it stars Sarah Michelle Gellar and I'm a big fan of Buffy. However, Ringer is nothing like Buffy. It's more of a revamped classic nighttime soap like the '80s Dynasty or Melrose Place from the '90s. My interest waned a bit mid-season, but I think eventually the writers embraced the wacky and just went for the most dramatic plot turns possible. This is an extremely basic recap: Bridget adopts her estranged twin sister Siobhan's identity after Siobhan mysteriously disappears. Bridget's a former stripper involved in a case with the FBI where she was scheduled to testify to ID some thugs, until she escaped her life to assume the life of Siobhan, who's a rich bitch with secrets and married to a Welsh dude. Unbeknownst to Bridget, but known to the viewer, Siobhan is alive and well in Paris as she faked her death.

Ringer plays up the lavish lifestyle of NYC socialites with uber trendy fashion and glamour. The plot progresses quickly with each character in Siobhan/Bridget's life accused of lying, committing murder or lying about committing murder. Suspend your belief, check your brain at the door. This is not deep television, but the mystery aspect continually evolves, and there are a lot of nasty characters to hate, so it's kind of devilish fun.

Why You Should Watch: Ringer's chances of a second season are highly unlikely. Everything I've read points to a fairly inevitable cancellation given the low ratings. But for when it makes it to DVD, consider this: Ringer  is appropriately wrangled trainwreck TV. I personally have no tolerance for any show with the word Housewives in it, but Ringer satisfies that dishy soapy void I didn't realize I had. Lots of pretty faces with vapid rich people problems. Also, Richard "guyliner" from Lost plays a detective working hard to give this show credibility. To be fair, SMG is stellar at playing both sisters in the present and in flashbacks.

Factoid: The original announcement about Ringer stated the show would air on CBS, but it was instead picked up by the CBS-owned CW network. Probably a good move; I don't know if Ringer would've lasted on CBS.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Quantum Leap

Throwback time! The letter "Q" proves a tricky one for TV show titles. Nothing with a Q is currently on, so I'm going with a classic sci-fi show from the early 1990s: Quantum Leap.

My memories of Quantum Leap involve rainy days inside with my friend who didn't have cable. It was probably in reruns by the time I watched them. Since not much sci-fi existed on TV in this era, looking back I see it developed quite a cult following. When it exited in 1993, a new breed of sci-fi was about to take over with the start of The X Files that fall. To understand one show's success, sometimes you have to shift back to what came before it to truly appreciate the medium's progression.

Scott Bakula's Sam, a physicist, is burdened with spontaneous jumps through time after one of his time travel experiments goes haywire. But he's not himself when he lands in another era, he embodies someone else, usually to help prevent some kind of potential catastrophe. You can already imagine the possibilities -- Sam jumps into the body of a pregnant woman! (He does jump into the body of Dr. Ruth the sex therapist). He's aided by his friend Al who appears as a hologram. Think of it as Highway to Heaven meets Dr. Who. 

Apparently, the show ended abruptly and the season 5 cliffhanger was re-edited as a series finale. If only twitter had existed; the mantra six seasons and a movie (originated by Community fans when the show was left off NBC's 2012 spring schedule) is completely appropriate. Coincidence? Quantum Leap also aired on NBC.

Why You Should Watch: While it's campy (especially by today's standards), it's still an entertaining show that mixes sci-fi, drama and comedy. Sure the special effects are bad, but who cares? So was/is Dr. Who and people love it (don't hate me Who fans but the effects still leave much to be desired). The strength of Quantum Leap is in the storytelling, and some of the stories are surprisingly issue oriented.

Factoid: Dean Stockwell, who played Al, showed up on another geektastic show, the Battlestar Galactica reboot (totally worth watching). Check out his IMdB profile: he's been acting steadily for over 65 years!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Psych

Psych: brilliant buddy comedy, or highly self-aware precursor to The MentalistFor several years, I dismissed psych as lame basic cable buddy-cop fare, but it's actually clever and very funny. I caught up on previous seasons via Netflix and now currently watch new episodes as they air on USA Network. 

Shawn Spencer is a not-actually-psychic liaison for the Santa Barbara police department (he's just highly observant rather than psychic). He's a bit of a jerk with an inflated ego, but his buddy Gus, a pharmaceutical salesman and business partner of their psych offices, plays straight man to Shawn's man-child shenanigans.  Gus is actually my favorite. He's straight-laced, but just as prone to engaging Shawn's weirdness; spontaneous bursts of dance, elaborate fist bumps and general spastic reactions. This season the show brought back the recurring joke that Gus is Bud from The Cosby Show (he isn't, but his TV mom is played Claire Huxtable! Or rather, Phylicia Rashad.)

Shawn and Gus are usually at odds with Detective Lassiter, who looks like a cross between Matthew Perry and Mr. Bean.



Shawn and Juliet, another detective, have romantic tension throughout the series, although Shawn is a bit of player in the early seasons (as well as Gus, and they usually compete for the attention of women who ignore them). Shawn's dad is a retired cop, played by Corbin Bernsen, who's responsible for passing on his observant investigative skills to Shawn. He knows Shawn's psychic ability is a crock, but keeps the secret. Most episodes open with a flashback to Shawn and Gus as kids learning a lesson (the hard way) from Shawn's dad which relates to that week's episode.

Why You Should Watch: psych features an impressive array of guest stars, mostly from noteworthy film and TV of the '80s or earlier, including legends like George Takai, William Shatner, Molly Ringwald and Ralph Macchio. psych is also excellent at working in theme episodes, with the best probably being the homage to Twin Peaks that utilized original series cast members who inhabited a quirky town called Dual Spires. Even if you've never seen the David Lynch classic series, the episode still contains the signature Shawn and Gus sillyness. (I did an article for my writing gig at on the guest stars of psych, please check out the site if you're enjoying my A to Z TV theme!)

Factoid: Each episode features a pineapple somewhere within it. Sometimes they're real fruit, other times it's a pineapple object of some sort. I hardly remember to check for it, but the fruit must be pretty cleverly added in because I never see it. More on that here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Once Upon a Time

I admit, I've had some trouble getting into Once Upon a Time, but the premise is unique and I want to like it, so I've stuck with it.

Storybrooke, Maine is stuck in a curse where are all the townspeople are former fairy tale characters. A bail bonds woman comes to town by request of Henry, the son she gave up for adoption, who happens to be Snow White's son passed through a portal from the fairy tale realm before the curse set in. Got all that?

The show does a nice job weaving tales from the other realm with the current day. In the fairy tale world, Snow White is kind of a rogue, looking more like the princess from the new Snow White and the Huntsman movie coming out this year than the lily white Disney version. The evil queen - who is Storybrooke's mayor in the real world (and Henry's adoptive mother) - makes sure you know with every dramatic stare she is The Bad One.

Lots of great characters inhabit Storybrooke: 
Rumplestiltskin: resident skeeze

Clean cut prince

Am I wicked enough for you?
Why You Should Watch: It's something different; light enough to not drag you down, but edgy enough to set it apart from Disney fare. Don't think to hard or it's kind of hard to buy, but if you're into fairy tales, chances are you're already watching and enjoy the show. Also promising: the show was developed by producers from Lost and and includes a former Buffy writer.

Factoid: Speaking of Lost, there are lots of crossover nuggets including Storybrooke's clock set to 8:15, a reference to Lost's Oceanic flight 815, and the fictional Apollo candy bars exist on both shows.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Blogging A to Z: New Girl

New Girl is in its first season on Fox (hooray for a good show not on cable!). It's a lighthearted comedy about a group of late 20-somethings living together. Zooey's Jess moves into a loft with three guy roommates after her long term relationship ends.
The show smartly takes the focus from Jess to equally feature the guys and their quirky escapades (along with Jess' model bestie Cece). Nick is a self-depreciating law school dropout miserable in his job as a bartender. He and Jess have a lot of romantic tension that is explored at times but thankfully not too much. Schmidt could've been a one-note metrosexual (do people even use that term anymore? seems most appropriate), but he's morphed into a delightfully strange control freak who seems like a walking issue of GQ complete with grooming advice. Winston still feels a bit underdeveloped as former basketball player returning from an overseas traveling team only to find he has no idea what to do with his life. I particularly liked the episode where he tried to cram in all the pop culture he'd missed for several years prior to a job intereview.

Why You Should Watch: As more adults delay marriage, living situations like this are increasingly common. While the show mostly remains light, a few more serious themes are explored, and each character struggles with at least one aspect of where they feel stuck in life. This says a lot about our culture actually, that we have milestones to acheive, and when those aren't met, we aren't quite sure what to do. Also, Schmidt is hilarious.

Here are some memorable Schmidt quotes to get you started:

  • "Where in the room do I look sexiest?"
  • "I'm gonna have to run all the way home and I have my slippiest loafters on!" 
  • "This is a horrible neighborhood. There are youths everywhere!" 
  • As sexy Santa: "I have a really bad case of Santa Lap. The entire marketing department is wearing wool. It's not good down there." 

Factoid: You probably all know this, but Zooey sings with indie artist M. Ward on the project She & Him.

UPDATE: New Girl has been renewed for season two -- yay!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Mad Men

Another alliteration day: Mad Men

Mad Men is worth watching for the beautiful styling and acute attention to period detail, but it's also a darn good show. I love that while the characters embody a glamorous lifestyle, the show does not flinch from realties that are far from glamorous. Women are clearly belittled, while at the same time fetishized through affairs. Great clothes or not, being a woman corporate America in the '60s must have sucked.

The man behind the suit, Don Draper, really runs the show. He's a dapper marketing genius, and also a bit of an a-hole. He does what he wants because he can, and it's a testament to the writers and actors that we still sympathize with Don at all. He's not really Don - he's Dick Whitman, man transformed who runs from his own dark secrets.

I love the supporting cast of Mad Men; while January Jones disappointed pretty heavily in last summer's X- Men: First Class as a character completely devoid of any personality, she shines as Don's wife Betty. She's fairly miserable, kind of a brat, but again, we sympathise because she's stuck in the suburbs all day while her husband stays out late with other women. This goes unspoken for a long time but the subtle revealings of Betty's knowledge about Don's life are heartbreaking.

Much of the heart of Mad Men comes from Peggy's storyline. She's a plain girl trying to angle her way to success, and she's one of the most relateable characters. She's not beautiful or sexy, and she's naive, but not for long. As she grows thicker skin, so do we, and we see her less as a victim and more as someone who can take control, in small bites, of her fate. This mirrors what women were actually going through at that time, and it's a reminder to us that it wasn't so long ago that the workplace was that sexually discriminatory.

Why You Should Watch: It wins Emmy awards for a reason. Every actor pulls their weight, and it's a fascinating look at culture, specifically the marketing/media empire that shaped where we are today.

Factoid: Producer Matthew Weiner removed a song because it would not have been released until a few months later than timeline in the episode. His attention to detail is that aware.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Lost

Today's letter is "L." How could I not feature Lost?

Believe it or not, I was a casual viewer of Lost for awhile. Let me tell you, it's not possible to enjoy the show catching episodes here and there because I could never figure out what was happening (Imagine how confused I was when half the island time traveled). It's serialized drama at its best, but that's also it's one setback: so much mythology and lore fill Lost it can make your brain fog.

The show is best viewed in a DVD/Netflix style binge, which I finally did for seasons 1-5 just prior to the final season airing on TV. Beginning with the epic plane crash, through the countless iterations of mythology and treks across the island, Lost is a masterpiece television ensemble full of memorable characters. Some of them even die. I will not spoiler (a show that is off the air, mind you) but I was a bit peeved when one of my favorites bit the dust early on. And another a season later. While I have to say I knew Jack and Kate would make it to the end, the constant threat of death felt pretty real for a lot of the characters. Toying with that concept by sucking some of the castaways to a different timeline was an interesting twist I hadn't anticipated.

Why You Should Watch: It's already a television classic with it's unique spin on sci-fi, drama and adventure. While the ending didn't satisfy as much as I'd hoped, the journey to get there was certainly worth it. Also, Sawyer is pretty awesome.

Factoid: Lost is all about factoids. The show brilliantly fed clues to the mystery of the island throughout the series, and used this in their marketing.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Blogging A to Z: The Killing

OK, so I can't manage to watch EVERYTHING, so The Killing is a show still on my To Watch list. But since it fits the type of shows I'm featuring for this month's series, I wanted to include it.

The Killing takes a real-time approach to the investigation of a murdered teenager in Seattle, with three intertwining storylines. The show has been compared to as varied shows as 24 and Twin Peaks - even if you never watched it, the tagline mimics Twin Peaks' "Who Killed Laura Palmer?" That's inriguing enough for me. After enraging fans with a cliffhanger season ender that refused to tie up loose ends (Lost anyone?), the series returned April 1 with even more twists. So maybe catching up after the fact will provide a more satisfying experience. Season 1 is available now on Netflix streaming.

Why You Should Watch: Well, I want to watch because it's been critically acclaimed, and given that AMC's other dramas - Mad Men and Breaking Bad - are two of my favorite shows, I know the quality is there.

Factoid: The Danish did it first: this series is based on a series that first aired in Denmark.

Since I don't have a lot to share about this show, I'll leave you with a letter "K" throwback from the early '90s sketch comedy show The Kids in the Hall:

Lastly, if you've enjoyed my A to Z TV theme so far, please check out some of my TV feature articles at

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Blogging A to Z: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

To post on Tuesday 4/10/12

I initially confused It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia with Sonny With a Chance which is a Disney kids show and not at all like the very not-kids It's Always Sunny. OK, I can't believe I just admitted that. It's pretty embarrassing. The only similarity is the word sunny and even that's spelled different. I mean, look:

Moving on, It's Sunny is a little difficult to explain since the premise is so basic. A group of friends in Philadelphia run an Irish bar, hilarity ensues. You could say it's Cheers for the slacker generation, since none of these guys have their lives together and are overall a hot mess of immaturity and ineptitude. Often hilarious, sometimes irritatingly so, this show is pretty wacky, but later episodes solidify into a groove. You can catch this as new episodes air on FX, or reruns on Comedy Central and I hear WGN is running them now, too.

Why You Should Watch: I got my first glimpse of the show from a clip that went viral online with a cat in wearing "kitten mittens" to keep it from being so loud (cats + internet = success!) If your humor trends that way, you will like this show.

Factoid: The pilot episode is rumored to have cost only a few hundred bucks - or less - because it was filmed by handheld camera with all the actors working for free. Danny Devito was added to the cast in season 2 - and there's your Cheers connection!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Hart of Dixie

Not every show can provide gripping drama and intricately weaved plot lines. But sometimes we need a break from shows that make us think to watch something lighthearted and full of pretty people.

I bring you: Hart of Dixie.

I've blogged about the show before and its confounding appeal: Rachel Bilson as a doctor isn't entirely believable, but I like her. She's a little neurotic but has heart (hart?) when it counts. She relocates to po-dunk Bluebell, Alabama after her real father, unknown to her at the time, leaves her his medical practice in his will. Given she lost out on the surgical position in NYC she'd been working toward, she took the opportunity and moved to Bluebell, a town similar in concept to Gilmore Girls' Stars Hollow with its chatty neighbors and no secrets approach to small town life.

A supporting cast with former Friday Night Lights actors doesn't hurt. Plenty of love triangles and town secrets weave through each episode, but it's mostly kept light, and at times is legitimately funny. I  kind of heart Wade (in the leather jacket above), but I could take Zoe Hart with any of the guys pictured above.

Delightfully goofy Lemon is just the right combination of southern belle and hardened debutante all whilst looking like a walking Easter egg. The show at least tries to be complex with some added story lines about Zoe's estranged father (her perceived father who remains in NYC, not the deceased one) and Lemon's mother who abandoned her, which provide common ground to the two who are usually at odds.

Why You Should Watch: Pretty people, pretty setting, lighthearted fun that's manages to entertain despite its predictability.

Factoid: Scott Porter (second from right in the cast photo) played the other half of the fake 80s duo in the film Music and Lyrics with Hugh Grant - the band called Pop! That movie wasn't so great, but all the stuff about Pop! was hilarious.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Blogging A to Z: The Guild

I wanted to write up Game of Thrones, which I had at the top of my Netflix queue for weeks, but suddenly it's "a very long wait," and I was sent the Puss in Boots disc instead. I admit, I love the Antoino Banderes-voiced Shrek character, but it doesn't fit for "G."

Codex and Zaboo
So, instead of the HBO epic fantasy, we have the more easily accessible web series The Guild! You can watch this online here or instantly on Netflix.

The Guild is about a group of online gamers who play a World of Warcraft-like game and their various adventures meeting in person. I don't play WoW, but the series' humor is accessible if you're a fan of video games in general, or if you've ever maintained relationships online with people you've never met in real life. This guild, called the Knights of Good, is comprised of misfit characters that range in age from high schooler up to mid-life adult, from sarcastic slacker to a horrifyingly negligent mother.

Codex (Felicia Day) is the Every Girl Gamer who holds the group together. She's debilitatingly shy, which is part of the overall story arc of the series. Each episode begins with her narration into her webcam (see pic above). The guild has banded together at a Gamestop for an expansion pack release (where they are accosted by line-jumper guild The Axis of Anarchy, which includes Star Trek actor Wil Wheaton), and has supported each other through failed social interactions at parties and an ill-fated wedding between the balding Vork and Zaboo's mother.
The guild members as their game avatars

Why You Should Watch:. Each episode is only minutes long, and you can watch the whole first season in about an hour - how's that for time efficiency!

Factoid:  Felicia Day stars, writes and produces The Guild, which is pretty impressive. The first season was financed by fans and her own fundraising supports until a sponsor was picked up for the series. Very DIY!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Fringe

Fringe is one of the coolest shows on right now. I was hooked from the start, but the first glimpse of the parallel universe with airships and a still-copper Statue of Liberty gave me chills.

Agent Olivia Dunham works for the Fringe Division of the FBI, researching strange cases with genius scientist Dr. Bishop, his brilliant but street-smart son Peter, and Dr. Bishop's plucky assistant Astrid.

I was a huge X-Files fan, and Fringe feels like a second generation spin on similar monsters, anomalies and phenomena. But I tend to think Fringe delves deeper into weird, and its Big Bad isn't shady government conspiracy, but a corporate technology dynasty who take great liberties with human experimentation. Also, there's a parallel universe with an alter-ego of every person in the Fringe universe. Cool.

Why You Should Watch: If I didn't hook you with X-Files and airships, you can make a drinking game out of how many times Olivia is sent to the tank in season 1, or you can just enjoy the romantic tension of two leads whose relationship actually progresses. Sort of. Keep in mind that whole parallel universe part. Also, Walter Bishop is one of television's great characters. His mad scientist role is the perfect dynamic of arrogant brilliance with a dash of sensitivity.

Factoid: John Noble (Walter Bishop) has serious geek cred: he played Denethor in Lord of the Rings.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Eureka

Eureka is a lighthearted sci-fi show on the Syfy channel. I confess: I had not seen it prior to the blogging challenge but I needed an "E" show that fit with my taste and qualifications (sorry, no Everybody Loves Raymond!) . The first three seasons are conveniently available on Netflix streaming.

Eureka takes place in the quirky fictional town of Eureka, Oregon, the headquarters of research facility Global Dynamics (think Fringe's Massive Dynamic but more wacky than creepy). A U.S. Marshal happens upon the town with his teen daughter (appropriately angsty wearing a choker and a nose ring). They end up sticking around to solve various oddities, mostly fallout from Global Dynamic's experiments, with the help of the Eureka's scientist and inventor townsfolk.

Why You Should Watch: It's a mystery-of-the-week format with subtle humor that doesn't stray too dark if you need a break from CSI-like true crime.  Lots of familiar actors you've seen on other shows end up in Eureka. The final season airs on Syfy this month (April 16), so you still have time to catch a few early episodes on Netflix. Also, Buffy alumn and The Guild creator Felicia Day has a story arc in season 4!

Factoid: After a little poking around, I found seasons two and three were composed by Bear McCreary of Battlestar Galactica fame. Yes, I watch enough TV to recognize composer names. Who can forget a guy named Bear?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Dexter

Like Breaking Bad, Dexter is a show not for the faint of heart. But the payoff is worth it if you invest in this series, which remains rather unpredictable, and a bit troubling considering the main character is a serial killer you want to root for.

Not all TV can be The Brady Bunch. (Thank goodness).

Dexter is a serial killer with a specific set of criteria for his kills: they need to be criminals. In one of the story arcs, his kills gain attention and the community applauds the unknown vigilante taking crime into his own hands. Again like Breaking Bad, it isn't enough that he's a killer eschewing the law, he works for the Miami Police Department. So does his sister Deb. In fact, she investigates cases Dexter is intimately involved with. What's truly screwy is when someone on the force in season 1 catches on to Dexter. I'll leave out spoilers, but see who it is you want to get away with it: Dexter or the one person who sees through Dexter's facade.

What I appreciate about the show is the backstory which details why Dexter is the way he is. It's quite a charge to make a serial killer a sympathetic character. Dexter agonizes at times over his need to kill, it's a topic exhausted throughout the series, reminding viewers that murder is never an easy or "right" option. Dexter even has a girlfriend who embodies the sunny, mothering, angelic side of life that Dexter fears/wants most. His sister Deb is a fantastic character: she's foul mouthed, emotional and she will do anything to protect her brother. The stakes are high - Dexter can't let anyone know he's a killer or he'll end up with nothing. 
Not all of these characters will make it alive to season 5
Why You Should Watch: A great supporting cast rounds out the show. If you're tired of predictable telelvision, Dexter puts a spin on the typical police procedural and at times even manages to be funny. 

Factoid: During the writer's strike of 2008, CBS aired an edited version of Dexter's first season, which originally plays on premium cable network Showtime. Seriously, CBS! Yes, the Parent's TV Council was all over it. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Castle

The premise is implausible. But we love it anyway:

Best-selling true crime fiction author Richard Castle shadows the NYPD and becomes one of the team, to the point he questions witnesses and plays an active part in the investigation. Sounds like a work of fiction in itself, but Castle is a fun guilty pleasure that spins the usual procedural with a little humor and a lot of romantic tension. I chalk most of its success to:

But it's not fair to leave out the cast as a whole, including Castle's smarty pants daughter (who I love), his theatre actress mother, and of course Detective Beckett. Oh, Beckett, how your stylist from season 2 must have been blind to current trends; thankfully your hair looks less like a feathered 1990s monstrosity. You are too pretty for a head half full of bangs!
Mariska Hargitay 10 years ago?!
Why You Should Watch: It's a classic butting-heads romance in the workplace set-up with a few unique twists. Also, Nathan Fillion is awesome.

Factoid: In the Halloween episode of season two, Castle dresses as his character Mal Reynolds from the cult-fave Firefly.  

Monday, April 2, 2012

Blogging A to Z: Breaking Bad

Double B: alliteration!

Breaking Bad is not a show for everyone. Having said that, you should absolutely watch it.

Bryan Cranston plays Walter White, a high school chemistry teacher stricken with cancer who joins up with Jessie, a flunkie former student, to make crystal meth in order leave his family with financial security. If you thought meth was bad before, after watching this you'll want to avoid all drugs including Advil. The series progresses from small time meth cooking in a camper to affiliations with a big time drug lords. To throw a wrench in it all, Walter's brother-in-law works for the Drug Enforcement Agency of the government, who are quite aware a new meth maker's in town.

Why You Should Watch: The relationship between Walter and Jessie deepens, and strains and complicates throughout the series. Jessie refers to Walter as Mr. White, a strange sort of politeness he affords no one else in his life. The overall casting, acting and writing are superb. In one episode of season 4, a scene plays out entirely in Spanish (subtitled) with no musical score, no cut-away shots, no action. It's just solid dialogue that unfolds deliberately for a good five or ten minutes. You barely notice you're holding your breath.

Beyond all that, if you're feeling down about your life, watch this and I guarantee you'll feel better.

Factoid: Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul have both won Emmy awards for the series. You might remember Bryan Cranston as the dad who can't win from Malcolm in the Middle.