Sunday, July 31, 2011

Entourage "Out With a Bang" Review

Yeah, Entourage hasn't changed.

The series will end after the season. TV critics have written about the totality of the show already, and will do so again, because of its promised end date. I already wrote about how folk attempted to find something meaningful and timeless in the show and about the show. 60 Minutes, of all programs, interviewed the cast and Mark Wahlberg about the show and its legacy. The actors discussed the difference between themselves and their characters. Kevin Connolly made the ridiculous declaration that Entourage boasts the strongest female characters in television.

Maybe Doug Ellin aspired for something more in the final season, one wondered with the positive press emerging about the series. Of course, Entourage is Entourage. The press is merely a case HBO's reputation as a brand for quality television. If you want to read my thoughts about that, just peruse the archives for last week's Entourage review.

The season took shape in "Out with a Bang" and the structure's strikingly similar to seasons past on the show. Vince wrote an outline for his TV movie. Billy read the outline and likes the story enough to write the teleplay. So, the ball rolls in in that arc. The whiskey business chose Turtle's girlfriend as its model. She's ignored his phone calls, so Turtle ended the relationship. E and Sloane had sex then she revealed her plans to move to New York City. Drama and Andrew Dice Clay worried about the testing screening for Johnny Bananas. Naturally, the test screening went swimmingly for Drama and Dice Clay; however, Dice Clay wants revenge for the years he's been screwed by the industry. Ari learned that Mrs. Ari's dating Bobby Flay.

I have issues with every single arc for the season. Ari's arc's the only one with some originality while the others have been done in one way or another. For instance, Sloane and E's back-and-forth relationship is six or seven years old (and I mean old, friends and well-wishers). One scene, in particular, tries to create more meaningful context for the relationship than actually exists. The engagement ended badly because of the pre-up. E's been reluctant to move his stuff out of Sloane's. The tension's high between them; however, their respective anger stems from a vague place because Ellin's decided against telling the whole story. So, Sloane treats E terribly; E treats Sloane terribly. They wonder how all that they worked for, against all odds, in spite of the hardships they faced in their years together could be ruined, then they fornicate and all's forgiven. But wait, she's moving to New York.

Structurally, Aly Mushika and Doug Ellin have the beats of the story right, the motivations and the stakes (as poor as they are but it's sound structurally); however, what the hell kind of hardships existed for Sloane and E? Their relationship was given the depth of an ice cream cone. I suppose their big hardship was the threesome they had with a tertiary female character, who E briefly fell in love with until he realized Sloane loved him. Besides that, I remember conflicts that involved Terrence but not the specific conflicts. Again, my memory of Entourage episodes are terrible. I can name every episode of LOST, Buffy and ANGEL in seven minutes but not a single Entourage episode. Essentially, the Sloane-E arc's annoying because the new conflict is very old.

Vince and Billy's arc is sort of a redemption piece for the Medellin disaster. I only suggest that interpretation because Vince specifically mentioned how poorly he and Billy worked together on the last project. I wonder why Vince approached Billy before a TV studio because Billy's too cinematic for a TV project. The movie's destined for numerous polishes (but probably not in Entourage). The arc's nothing new for Vince (unless one argues that he's in the role of the writer instead of the actor). Medellin's memory's bound to create conflict; a TV executive might not like the first draft (major conflict in this damn show). I'd like Entourage to use Vince's role as a writer to show how difficult professional writing is, how the best scripts by the best scripts land on the Black List, how hard it is to have one's script produced. But they won't, and that's why this show sucks.

The only other arc worth writing about is Drama and Dice Clay's because of its reversal of the usual Drama arc. His projects bound to be a hit but Andrew Dice Clay wants to take revenge on Hollywood for how the system continually screwed him after the spotlight left him. I'll use the word annoying to describe the seeds of the arc because the word captures the essence of the arc--it's annoying. Why the hell would Drama indulge Dice Clay? The episode suggests that test screenings make or break actors (and, yes, a role will be re-cast if scores are poor for one actor) but I doubt a positive test screening makes Dice Clay untouchable. If one powerful producer learned that he wanted to submarine the project then they'd intervene. Of course, this is Entourage, so the arc will drag, Andrew Dice Clay will act like an idiot and Drama will be torn between the project and this actor.

I love television because of its ability to tell long-form narratives on a weekly basis and for its attention to memorable, fully developed characters (and for many more seasons). TV frustrates me, though, because of how lazy the storytelling can be. What's the point of Entourage? What is the purpose of any of the arcs in the final season? What do the writers want to say about Hollywood, their lifestyle, their relationships, professions and friendships through the stories? Nothing. The characters need something to do for 8 episodes so the writers throw shit against the wall and put it in the production draft.


Friday, July 29, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Monty Python's Flying Circus "The Ant, an Introduction" Review

"And now for something completely different." The line's among the most famous in Flying Circus and the Pythons used the title for their first movie. The troupe experimented with different devices throughout the first eight episodes to seamlessly transition between completely different sketches, bits of film or animated bits. John Cleese, sitting behind a desk in a suit, uttering that line didn't signal the end for other forms of inter-cuts designed to transition into an entirely new sketch but it became the most reliable (and memorable) device.

"The Ant, an Introduction" needed John Cleese behind the desk, stating "and now for something completely different" because the sketches are completely different from one another. The episode begins with a song about llamas and ends with a murder. In between, there's a number about one's dream of becoming a transvestite lumberjack and a mountaineer who deals with a man who only sees doubles. It's a madcap 28 minutes, both funny and weird (as the best Flying Circus episodes are). I'd have specific thoughts on the series thus far but I'm waiting until the end of the re-watch to write those. So, instead, I'm going to use bullet points to discuss the sketches of the episode.

--The episode's notable for its lack of ants. The fourth season of the show has an episode called "Michael Ellis" that spends some time on the purchase of an ant as a pet. Ants have a presence in other episodes as well; however, there's no introduction of the ant, which is well and good--not a criticism but a mere observation. The titles rarely reflect the content of each episode.

--"The Ant, an Introduction" actually features two musical numbers. The forgotten musical number is the Spanish sketch about the llamas. Eric Idle plays a Spanish guitarist, Terry Jones plays a Spanish dancer and John Cleese portrays a man. It's a lively number with all of the pizzazz of salsa music and the song celebrates the llama. The word celebration doesn't do the sketch justice. The song transforms the llama into a mythic creature--one worshipped for being bigger than a frog; a creature with two ears, a forehead, a heart and a beak for eating honey and it has fins for swimming. Of course, the song merely provides the facts of the biology of a llama but the flourish of the singers, dancers and their excitement and admiration for the animal gives the sketch its mythic character.

--The other musical number, of course, is the lumberjack sketch. The entirety of the sketch begins innocently enough at a barber's shop where Terry Jones' 'man' wants a haircut from the psychotic barber who battles every impulse to murder the man where he sits. The sketch is a classic. Every fan acknowledges that. Fans continue to sing the lumberjack song. The sketch, of course, returns to one of the Pythons favorite themes--the plight of the working class male in a job he hates (or a loveless marriage). The barber laments the five years he spent in the barber academy, cutting the same hair every day. The job's turned him into a homicidal barber whose first instinct is to murder than cut hair. There are decades and decades worth of stories from people who went to a job they despised for years. The Pythons studied at elite universities and worked in television but they never forgot the working class population in England nor were there jokes made at their expense.

--Award shows, apparently, always sucked. Award shows, seemingly, were populated with hosts who treated celebrities and artists like the second coming of Christ. Eric Idle's Kenny Lust lampoons the nonsense of it all when introduces "one of the great international artists of our time" and proceeds to describe the person as "a god, a great god, whose personality is so totally and utterly wonderful my feeble words of welcome sound wretchedly and pathetically inadequate." Lust would gladly lick this person's boots. He'd rather swim in a pit of filth than share the same stage with a Great Artist. The incomparably superior being is Harry Fink but he couldn't come.

Award show hosts haven't become any more self-aware than the hosts of 1960s because they'll gladly compare actors and actresses with Greek gods. If we could trace back to the moment actors and actresses became insufferable, it's no doubt the first awards show. The new tradition of the academy awards, when handing out best actor and actresses awards is another actor or actress giving a two minute speech about how great the nominated person is. Yes, nominated actors and actresses succeed in their profession but that success and talent doesn't transform them into superior beings. At the end of the day, they still recite dialogue they didn't write and take direction for how to act and where to stand.

--The last sketch, 'the visitors,' has a traditional comedic set-up. Graham Chapman and Carol Cleveland are on a date and near hand-holding until Arthur Name ("Name by name not by nature!") interrupts the courtship. Name and Victor met three years ago. Victor told Name to drop by whenever free. Name's free and he invited his friends as well. The party quickly becomes nonsensical as more and more people show up. Victor orders the whole lot out of his house. Cleese's character shoots him, and the remaining people sing a song. The episode ends. The Pythons like those dark comic places. 'The visitors' is only the beginning of those dark endings to sketches.

So, overall, it's a solid episode of the Flying Circus. The sketches are silly, funny and memorable. The writing's original and imaginative. I couldn't ask for more.

UP NEXT: "Untitled"


Thursday, July 28, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Everwood "Vegetative State" Review

Change is a constant in our every-day lives--small and cataclysmic both. Adaptation is essential when one experiences change whether it is the death of a loved one, the homecoming of a once comatose boy or the discovery of large cannabis growing in the conservative community of Everwood. The people of Everwood have trouble adapting to change. In fact, the townspeople are uncomfortable with change, choosing to bury their hands in the snow rather than embracing the change and adapting to it. Colin's homecoming is met with larger-than-life expectations. Amy and his classmates expect Colin to be no different from that fateful 4th of July afternoon. But he IS different, and it's hard for Amy to accept and adapt to.

The Colin Hart arc continues in "Vegetative State." His rehabilitation went better than any doctors expected; ditto his progress. The rehab doctor describes the surgery as a miracle to Andy but he's dubious; nonetheless, he clears Colin to return home. County High's a-buzz with the news. Amy plans a quasi-homecoming parade as well as a party for her resurrected boyfriend. Bright warns his sister to chill because of the situation but she ignores him. Boyfriend and girlfriend have their reunion on a park bench. Colin shifts uncomfortably throughout the conversation and refers to a list of facts that caters to Amy's expectations. She sees the list, though, and realizes that Colin doesn't remember anything or anyone, including her. Amy wasn't ready for that.

The sympathetic figure in the story is Colin, of course. Amy's the antagonist throughout the episode with regards to what's best for Colin. Colin's a large part of the heart of the first season (by heart, I just mean the core). The show's about Andy Brown, his relationship with his son and his attempt to become a family doctor but Colin pulled him back into a world that he tried to escape. Everwood's much smaller than Manhattan, as we've learned this season. I digress. Colin doesn't need the weight of the town's expectations for who he should be post-surgery nor the constant flow of memories of he and his classmates because he can't remember those times. He's frustrated, sad, lonely and as out-of-place as Ephram. Amy, meanwhile, wants to bolt and forgot about the boy she spent six months of her life praying for.

Ephram, of course, talks some sense into his friend after an enlightening conversation with his father about the duties of friendship. Ephram went to the party to offer support. He and Amy run into one another outside where she opens up about her emotions and thoughts. Ephram's surprised that she's willing to walk with him into town, away from Colin. Amy explains that he doesn't remember her, that she didn't know how hard it'd be. She feels like Colin she knew truly died in the accident that day, and she cries. Ephram refuses to pity her. Instead, he reminds her what devotion means ("You don't [give up]"), reminds her that she's been loyal to Colin since day one, "and when you're loyal to someone, you can't help it." Again, Ephram used what his father told him to help Amy. Ephram declares he isn't smart because he's telling his crush to return to her boyfriend; however, Ephram's empathetic because he sees something of himself in Colin--the lonely, frustrated, sad and out-of-place person that he's become after waking up.

Amy starts fresh with Colin the next day. The couple will start all over and learn about each other, and hopefully they'll love each other like six months ago. She adapts to the change after burying her head in snow for the majority of the story. The change she experienced was cataclysmic yet she adapted as Colin needed her to.

The same cannot be said for the town of Everwood as they vote on the fate of a large cannabis garden, following the death of the town gardener. We learn that she grew the marijuana for medicinal purposes (like her cancer-ridden husband and then for a company). Medical marijuana continues to be a controversial topic in 2011 and the controversies more intense in conservative small town Colorado in 2003. The liberal contrarian, Dr. Brown, argues that medical marijuana's less dangerous than the curative prescriptions parents give their young children (like Ritalin). Harold argues that any doctor could make a case for ANY drug but a fine line exists when it comes to drugs. Abbott wants it gone, and the town wants it gone. They vote to burn the marijuana even after a tertiary character gives a speech about how marijuana's made his last weeks on earth bearable. Harold's particularly affected because he failed this man as his doctor and never realized it. So, Harold apologizes to the man outside of his home for his failure and hands him a bottle full of joints so that his last days will be peaceful.

The medical cases of the week have, thus far, asked questions without giving any answers. This case, however, gives the audience a glimpse into how frustrating small-town thinking and politics can be. Andy's arguments are flawless. In one fell swoop, the writer's commented on two large medical issues without bias and with solid facts; however, that refusal to adapt to change damns those that need it in Everwood and the surrounding communities. The show's too smart to condemn the residents, though, because it’s a family-drama with dignity and intelligence.

"Vegetative State" is a tremendous episode of TV. The A, B, and C stories are flawless. Any episode that advances the Colin arc is terrific because it's such a damn fine arc. The beats hit the audience in the heart. The episode's thought-provoking and moving. John E. Pogue wrote the episode, and he wrote some other gems during his time on Everwood.

Some other thoughts:

--The C story with Sam's great. I love the scene when Andy talks with Sam about his father and concludes that the little boy just misses his dad.

--Ephram and Andy continue to get along in the episode. They play pinball together and have a heart-to-heart about Amy and friendships.

--Tom Amandes is terrific during the town hall meeting, especially when his patient gives the speech about marijuana and his pancreatic cancer. The change in his expression conveys everything Harold feels. How he never received a nomination for his work is insane.

--Bright reminds Colin that his being alive is huge. Colin responds, "That’s what everyone keeps saying." Mirri Maaz Duur might differ with Bright but she is crazy. Anyone who figures out the reference, please comment.

--Lev L. Spiro directed the episode--no doubt the best name of all the Everwood directors.

UP NEXT: "The Price of Fame"--Ephram becomes the coolest guy in school when Colin befriends him. Elsewhere, a production of The King and I is in turmoil because of Edna's direction and Andy's poor acting. Watch it here.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Dawson's Creek "Double Date" Review

Dawson paces around his room like an animated college professor delivering a lecture on Aristotle's Ethics. Joey watches her friend and soul mate with a blank face and offers no olive branch for Dawson to clutch and hold onto--she's an honest girl, that Joey Potter. Dawson hasn't gotten over his break-up with Jen. The boy doesn't understand why Jen's barely regarded him post-breakup (he's an idiot). Joey reminds Dawson of said break-up. Dawson muffles a half-sob and collapses on his bed. Joey explains why Dawson shouldn't desire contact with his ex because she'll date new men who will surpass him in both intellect and looks. Plus, Jen will try to become friends with Dawson, and Dawson's fragile self can't handle her platonic friendship.

Indeed, Dawson can't handle Jen's friendship. The teenager believes he can because he's a teenager. Once upon a time, I ignored common sense advice from friends with a high school crush because I was young and stupid. The girl burned me AGAIN. While the dialogue in Dawson's Creek is too sophisticated for teenagers to engage in, their behaviors feel very much like the behaviors of teenagers. Dawson's too stubborn to heed Joey's advice. He'll only learn the hard, painful way. So, when Jen asks for his friendship, Dawson responds that he'd love to give her his friendship. The friendly vibes last all of ten seconds before Dawson learns that Jen has a date with Cliff. Naturally, Dawson reveals that he too has a date and suggests they double date. The plan's atrocious and destined to fail but I like the story because it’s true to his age. Dawson the optimist believes that he'll win Jen's heart back.

Dawson's date is Mary-Beth, a nice girl who’s hesitant to say yes because of Dawson's recent romantic failure. She says yes, though, after Dawson swears that he's over Jen. Before his actual date, Joey tries to talk some sense into him. She acts as his Jiminy Cricket in the scene, reminding him that it's cruel to use a girl the way Dawson's using Mary-Beth. Dawson agrees with her but he'll use the girl nonetheless. Mary-Beth's shocked when she learns of the double-date with Cliff and Jen. Dawson lies through his teeth as he explains his intentions to look out for his ex. Mary-Beth sort of buys it; however, once the carnival becomes a pissing contest between Cliff and Dawson, Mary-Beth catches on, and calls him on it when Dawson tries to give a stuffed animal he won to Jen.

Dawson wanted to sabotage Jen's date with Cliff because he wants her back. Any time he's around her he's reminded of how much more he wants of her. He apologizes for his behavior and actions. It turns out that Mary-Beth feels zero sexual attraction towards The Forehead. Instead, she like LIKES Cliff. She went on the date because she felt sorry for him, Dawson seemed harmless and she had nothing else to do on a Saturday. The two then conspire to have some alone time with respective romantic interests--Mary-Beth rides the Ferris wheel with Cliff; Dawson rides with Jen.

The Ferris Wheel ride becomes the loop of melodramatic Dawson angst. Dawson's unable to bite his tongue. Jen openly hopes that she leaves the ride without being insulted; however, this is Dawson Leery. Jen admits that their friendship won't work because of Dawson's feelings. Dawson angrily wonders why Jen concocted the excuse of needing alone time from men when she's on a date with Cliff. Jen tries to explain the definition of a date and how she and Cliff won't become an exclusive couple. Dawson yells some more about hurt feelings. He confesses that he pitched the double date idea because he wants her back. He doesn't want to let go of her. He suspects that Jen feels the same but she's silent and Dawson finally understands that she's over him.

Again, Dawson needed to experience attempted friendship with Jen to learn that it won't work. Yes, Dawson's an ass throughout the series but I related to those feelings he had when I first watched the episode in the summer of 2003, when I was around his age. I didn't yell at or belittle any of the girls, though. Kevin Williamson nailed the adolescent angst as well as the inability to cope with hurt feelings that come with a break-up as a teenager. Dawson's been dumped for the first time in his life. The experience is foreign to him. He's humiliated and embarrassed, so it's not surprising that he acts in stupid ways. The authenticity of a teenager's hurt feelings and emotions is why the A story succeeds.

Following the conclusion of the carnival nonsense, Dawson eyes open slowly with regards to Joey Potter. During the day, Pacey became attracted to Joey. The sworn enemies worked together on an extra credit project for marine biology. Pacey felt sexually attracted to her when he watched her undress in his rearview mirror, so he decided to act on his feelings but not before seeking Dawson's blessing. Dawson feels weird because he's unaware that he feels something for Joey so he tells Pacey yes then no before saying yes.

Joey rejected Pacey after he kissed her. Pacey understands that her feelings belong to someone else. Later, Dawson frantically tracks Pacey down to tell him no. Pacey reveals that he failed with Joey because she's in love with Dawson. Dawson needs to make a decision and soon--will it be the blonde or the brunette? Dawson doesn't answer. The episode ends.

"Double Date" is a great episode of Dawson's Creek because of its authentic depictions of teenage experiences. I like the innocence of Mary-Beth's crush on Cliff. I like the confusion and hope Pacey feels when Joey morphs into an attractive girl who he'd like to court. I remember such moments in my life when I realized "holy cow this girl's amazing." Joey and Jen don't know how to handle the opposite sex nor do Pacey and Dawson know how to handle the opposite sex. It works because that's how it is as dopey sophomores in high school. These characters have so much to say to the other but they don't know how regardless of how sophisticated their vocabulary is, and that works.

Some other thoughts:

--I don't have any additional thoughts on the episode--it's a cut-and-dry story that advances the two major arcs of the season. Only three episodes remain, so it's time for Dawson to see Joey as a potential girlfriend but we're not there yet.

--Mitch spends his time in the episode paranoid of the ringing phone. I'm thankful that Williamson and company barely spent time on the Leery marriage. Of course, season two (with its 22 episodes) delights in that marital drama.

--Jon Harmon Feldman wrote the episode; David Semel directed it. These two reunited for the No Ordinary Family pilot. What a terrible show (but a good pilot).

UP NEXT: "The Scare"--It's Friday the 13th and Dawson plays scary tricks on Joey and Pacey but ignores Jen, which hurts her. The group save a woman from her crazy boyfriend and she helps them with a séance. Emotions are heightened by the knowledge that a serial killer's headed for Capeside.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Man Vs. Wild "Iceland Fire and Ice" Review

I'd like to mention that the goody NFL picks will return to The Foot in September now that the lockout is over. Onto your regularly scheduled Man Vs. Wild post:

Bear Grylls returned to the land of fire and ice for another hour of survival in one of Earth's most hostile lands--the stark interior of Iceland where glaciers intersect with volcanic surfaces and where wind gusts rival hurricane force winds and water's below freezing. The season opened two weeks ago in Iceland, with Bear and Jake Gyllenhaal, and I wondered how a celebrity-less Icelandic adventure would be without him. Evidently, Bear and his producers shared my thoughts.

Bear's mission is simple--get to the coast of Iceland where chances for rescue are higher. The majority of Man Vs. Wild involves the sojourn to the coast of whatever country Bear's in. The show's very structured; so structured, in fact, that it's formulaic. Bear meets challenges, succeeds in the challenges, and finds shelter and enough food for a decent boost of energy. Sometimes, an episode's thirty seconds away from a conclusion before Bear finds rescue, which keeps a viewer on his or her toes. The structure works splendidly because of the variations in every episode. One week, Bear's in the jungles of Papua New Guinea; the next, he's in rugged terrain in the country of Georgia. Rescue's the capper to a great adventure but the marvel of Man Vs. Wild is in watching Bear conquer any country he's ever been in. The observation and opinion won't shatter the minds of other fans of the show because, duh, this is what Man Vs. Wild's about; however, it's worth noting that Bear endures grueling conditions for several days in every episode and emerges the victor each time--that simple truth is sometimes lost.

"Iceland Fire and Ice" is one of the more grueling episodes for Bear Grylls. His adventure on the South Island of New Zealand last week seems tamer now. Iceland's a brutal country with insane weather, consistent change in the land, glaciers and volcanoes. The country's wet. The wind's biting and unrelenting. The easiest way to the west coast of Iceland is by river and yes, they're cold. So, how did Bear do?

The highlights:

--Bear employs an interesting technique while walking along the surface of a glacier. The glacier has crevasses in dangerous areas so he and his camera man attach themselves to one another by rope (this isn't the interesting technique). Bear removed his socks and put them on his boots for more traction. As someone who often shoveled the driveway with just shoes on (on an icy surface), I might try out the sock technique when the snow and ice hit Philadelphia in a few months. Before he travels on the glacier, he endures hurricane-force winds that decreased the visibility to near zero. Before the first act break, Bear dug a snow bank to shield himself from the wind.

--Once he's off the glacier, he's in the center of geothermal activity. The water bubbles like water in a kettle on a hot stove. The steam reduced the visibility just like the wind and snow in the higher ground. Bear's careful. He stopped sometimes to warm his hands and body. 90% of Icelandic homes receive heat from the geothermal spots in Iceland. Iceland's among the most unstable countries in the world because it resides along a fault line that doesn't end until the South Atlantic Ocean.

--Bear faced hypothermia after he's away from the volcanic activity. The heat melted the snow away but the air and wind are cold. Bear provides a list of the effects of hypothermia, which means he's nervous. Luckily, he finds a pool of hot water amidst the glacial water of the small river. He built a small dam to keep the cool water out and bathed in the warm water. Bear asked, "what man doesn't crave a hot bath when cold?" For some time, he rests in the hot water and warms his body. The hot bath's, by far, the most fun he has in the entire episode.

--As I mentioned already, following rivers is the easiest way to the coast. Unfortunately, water falls come before rivers. Bear's relatively high still so he's faced with repelling down a water fall. He repels without an issue but he's battered by the intense water falling from above. I couldn't see Bear because of the water. His narration reveals that it took all of his strength to keep his grip on the drenched rope. From there, Bear entered a gorge and met a dead end, so he back-tracked and found his way through the gorge to open land.

--Bear's impressive, once again, with his quick-thinking. He repels twice in the episode and the skills instinctual for him. When he needs to cross a gap high above the water, he trusts fallen branches to support him as he crosses. Shelter's on the other side of the branches--a cave-like shelter. He quickly gathers materials for fire, grabs dinner (some worms) and dries off. He focuses on his feet first to avoid trench foot (trench foot will rot the skin away if left untreated). Steam rises from his feet as the fire purges the poisons. Bear offers a lesson about securing fire in cold, wet places. People need char-cloths, which can be created through burning cloth and containing the oxygen so the cloth doesn't explode with embers. Char-cloths need only one spark to create long-lasting embers.

--The Icelandic landscape's is a wonder to behold even on a television screen. Near the end of his journey, Bear treks through a seemingly endless land of moss that blankets ash land from an ancient eruption. The balls of moss are literal balls. The land resembles something from a Lewis Carroll novel. Bear uses the moss to insulate his jacket. He reminds the viewer that survival's about smarts above all else.

--Bear reached the west coast of Iceland. Again, the terrain's surreal with its black ash sand. The ocean pounds the ash and the wind pulverizes the land. Bear spots an abandoned plane and takes shelter inside, lights a fire and attempts to rest. One can't help but appreciate Bear for all that he does to entertain and educate the audience as he tries to keep warm in the cold wreckage of the plane. When darkness comes, Bear spots a light house (which means rescue) so he leaves his shelter for the promise of rescue. The end.

I've loved the locations for the three episodes this season. Iceland's a country that fascinates me; of course, I'm easily fascinated with other countries. If I could, I'd visit nearly every country in the world. Iceland, especially, is a land that captures the imagination. I doubt I'd survive the insanity that Bear did but it's an awesome country to look at.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Entourage "Home Sweet Home" Review

I've wondered if Entourage aired on any other network other than HBO, would anyone care about the show’s final season. Bill Simmons' Grantland featured a back-and-forth article on Friday between Chuck Klosterman and Molly Lambert in which the two writers debated Entourage. Again, if the series aired on FX, would anyone give a damn about a show where nothing happens, where the writers don't believe in stakes, where episodes becomes half-hour advertisements for LA celebrity or a chance for some so-and-so like Johnny Galecki to transform his image? No. NO. No. Well, maybe, because Simmons is in love with LA culture and style. I digress.

Of course, whenever people write or converse about Entourage, the same points are hit every time. Folks make jokes about Kevin Connolly and Adrian Grenier, the lack of stakes, the absence of compelling plots or a plot at all. Yet, each July, the conversation in the pop-culture universe turns toward Entourage. I doubt this happens if not for HBO because HBO's built the reputation for quality television, so Entourage becomes a show that must be discussed because of its network. The only reason the Emmys nominated Entourage for Outstanding Comedy or various acting awards is because of the premium channel that broadcasts it. Sadly, positive name recognition matters more than good storytelling and good acting. In certain circles, people argue that they'd know Fincher directed The Social Network because of his trademark style. Are you kidding me? No one would guess David Fincher as the director of that film without the credits directly telling the audience that he directed it. I'd like someone to show a group of people some episodes from Entourage without any sort of back story, and I doubt any one would compare it to Sex and the City or argue that it's a show worth remembering.

"Home Sweet Home" marked the beginning of the end of the series by jumping ahead five months so audience could avoid the fall-out from last season's finale, in which Vince was busted for possession of cocaine. Vince is sober, excited for the future and the hope to reclaim his spot on the A-list in Hollywood. His head's a-buzz with ideas for movies, and his buddies reluctantly tell him that his idea has potential lest they risk sending Vince into an all-night bender that'll undo three months of rehab.

Drama runs around the entire episode, hiding any kinds of substances that his brother could abuse. E sulks around because Vince never called him and Sloane doesn't want to marry him. Turtle wanders around, smoking pot and turning down threesomes because his girlfriend's promoting the whiskey business. Scott Caan follows the entourage around because he's one of them now. Ari, meanwhile, remains separated from his wife. Jonah, Ari's son, refuses to attend school until Ari returns home. Ari's a fixer. The man wants to save his marriage but the wind's taken out of him when Mrs. Ari confesses that she's been seeing someone else. Later, he silently cries as he watches half of Vince's house burn because of that hurt his wife caused him.

Doug Ellin crafted not one or two but three arcs for three of his characters in the premiere. Vince wants his career and stardom back. Ari wants his wife and family back. E wants Sloane back (but he always does). The stakes remain practically non-existent, of course. "Home Sweet Home" provides the illusion of stakes. Ellin wants the audience to believe that Vince could relapse; however, eight seasons in one must be daft to believe that Vince would relapse, especially after a season that was terrible because of its focus on Vince's addiction. Ellin's not a fool. He knows what people want in the final season.

For the most part, the characters remain successful. Drama and Billy's animated show's doing well, ditto Turtle's whiskey business. E and Scott are successful agents, working as a team rather than against one another. Ari's Ari in the agency world. The conflicts come from the characters lives like E and Sloane or E and Vince. Vince and E have trouble mixing friendship and business because E and Vince always disagree about projects; their conflict, though, is the same as it's been the last few seasons. E and Sloane have the same boring issues, except this time it's an issue of a pre-nup. All is not well but everything will be eventually because it's Entourage.

As a whole, I actually enjoyed the episode. I enjoyed the sober party Drama threw for Vince. Scott Caan brings another dose of charisma into the scenes (Kevin Dillon was the only source of charisma before). I'm long past asking much from the show. If I laugh a few times and I avoid nodding off then the episode succeeded. Remember, I don't care about any of the characters nor how the show ends. I have no investment whatsoever in the on-going narrative. I have no expectations for the show to wrap anything up because there's nothing to wrap up. I've just watched the previous seven seasons, so I feel obligated to watch the final one (and why not write about it, you know?).

Some other thoughts:

--Emmanuelle Chiqri is one reason to always watch the show. Her scenes might last 15 seconds but she is amazing looking. Actually, no word conveys how awesome looking she is. If the opportunity presented itself, I'd date her.

--Kevin Connolly's framed Jon Tavares jersey has actual signatures on the #91 this season. He's the only famous Islanders fan. In Scott Caan's office hangs a framed Dan Carcillo jersey (unsigned). Of course, Carcillo's no longer a Philadelphia Flyer. And why the hell does Scott Caan's character have a framed Carcillo jersey? Caan and Connolly's characters were rivals but in no way are the Flyers and Islanders rivals. The Islanders exist to add easy points to the Flyers' point totals.

--The final season's only eight episodes. HBO cancelled the show. Ellin wants to make an Entourage movie. I hope each studio passes. Ellin wrote and directed "Home Sweet Home."


Friday, July 22, 2011

LOST at Comic Con 2011 w/Damon Lindelof, Carlton Cuse and Marble Rye

Whoa! LOST at Comic Con 2011! All-new video featuring Jacob and the MIB/the Man In Black/The Smokeness/The Smoke Monster/Smoky going back and forth about the various plot points that not only angered fans but made them want the heads of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse on spikes. If Lindelof and Cuse produce one new LOST video at each comic con, then I will be happy because I've missed LOST.

I had no idea that I missed LOST so much. Of course, I always think about how to write about LOST in The Foot. I've considered a re-watch of a season, fully aware that I wrote about many of the episodes over the summer and fall of 2009 as I prepared for the end of the series. Still, though, I miss the amount of fun I had watching and writing about the series. Truly, no TV series brought me as much joy as six seasons of LOST did.

Imagine my surprise and joy when my mother told me about's brand new LOST video. Intrigued, I watched the video. I expected something from Lindelof and Cuse, at Comic Con 2011, because of their faux-fight on twitter about "proof" regarding their claims that they had everything planned from season one. Carlton felt Damon reacted too passionatey to George R.R. Martin's opinion of the finale and how he'd like to avoid 'pulling a LOST' with A Song of Ice and Fire. Damon sees no reason to keep the proof from the masses when it'd solve all of their problems.

At the panel, hosted by Jeff Jensen and Dan Snierson, the hosts were going to show a bootleg version of marble rye until Carlton Cuse burst into the room, dressed a storm trooper and vowed to stop the premiere of marlbe rye. Lindelof burst in. dressed in a Dharma jumpsuit, to ensure that marble rye would play. Of course the video played but not before Carlton did a striptease out of the storm trooper costume.

The video begins innocently enough with the iconic scene from "Exodus," when Jack and Locke have a conversation about what brought them to the Island. John Locke believes that the Island brought them together while Jack doubts. The camera pans to the bushes, where the wacky brothers Jacob and Barry (yep...he has a name) bicker. The scene from "Exodus" continues with Locke's unwavering belief that opening the hatch will change everything. Little does he know that a slightly insane and drunk Scottish man awaits in The Swan.

For the next two minutes, Jacob and MIB fight like 12 year old boys, which is great. Mark Pellegrino and Titus Welliver were fantastic together in parodies shot by Kimmel's crew or the Totally LOST guys at EW. Once again, the actors deliver the comedy. I especially enjoy Pellegrino's increasing whininess as MIB points out each and every flaw of his rule over The Island.

Before I highlight the parts I loved, I'll write a few words about the executive producers Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse. It's no secret that I enjoyed the banter between the co-show runners almost as much as I enjoyed the episodes. Each week, I waited patiently for the newest LOST podcast to drop into the iTunes store (I even wrote a post about the end of the podcast last May). During season six, Lindelof and Cuse starred in webisodes that streamed on ABC's official website. The webisodes were absurd and awesome. I loved them so much that I essentially ripped the webisodes off for my own podcast, and I tried to have the same tone and banter on my own podcast. My podcast, unfortunately, never came close to how great the Official LOST Podcast was. Anyway, Jacob and MIB have their creators voices. It's not Jacob and MIB talking, it's Darlton (just with the wonderful and hilarious duo of Pellegrino and Welliver).

And that's one more reason the video brought a smile to my face. I don't miss the episodes. The series told a beautiful and moving story in their six seasons. I wouldn't want a season or two more that would taint the quality of that story.

I just miss the podcasts, the interviews and the great fun it was listening to Damon and Carlton joke with one another about the show, about ridiculous plot twists they'd never execute (my favorite: Jacob as a fifty being made of fire who can only be stopped by buckets of water). I miss their inside jokes about pants, banjos and Ezra James Sharkington. I miss the whole LOST experience. It really was great, great fun.

Here are the highlights of the video:

--MIB comments that Locke and Jack will be super pissed to find a Scottish guy in the hatch, pushing a button. Jacob reminds his brother that the button's kept each and every person ALIVE. Without someone pushing the button, they'd all be in trouble. MIB turns it around on his bro and wonders if it'd be more trouble than turning into a billow of black smoke that can transform into dead people.

--MIB feels insulted when every one refers to him as a monster because he had no control over the matter. Jacob pushed him into the river of shiny magic light. Jacob reminds Smoky that the shiny, magic light is THE SOURCE. The Man in Black interrupts his brother and pleads he stop explaining the Island through the "Island-is-a-cork" metaphor. Jacob argues that his metaphor is good. MIB wants to see how everyone reacts when they learn their reason for being on the Island (or watching the show) is explained through a metaphor. "People wants answers, Jacob, not metaphors." Oh, Damon and Carlton.

--Jacob's convinced time-travel will make people forgive him. MIB sarcastically responds, "because time-travel makes sense of everything." The brothers fight some more until MIB goes INSANE when Jacob uses his real name. How I miss LOST.

--Jack Bender shot the video on Disney's back lot a few weeks ago.

--So, please watch the video at the top of the post. Read Alan Sepinwall's blog post about the panel. He includes actual quotes from the Q&A.

Ah, it was good writing about LOST again.

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Monty Python's Flying Circus "Full Frontal Nudity" Review

Every Friday, I write about Monty Python's Flying Circus, and every Friday I note how one or two or three sketches rank among my favorites in the series. I'm beginning to resemble a broken record because "Full Frontal Nudity" features three of my all-time favorite sketches--'the dead parrot, 'buying a bed,' and 'army protection racket.' The three sketches are completely different from one another yet equally silly, so much so that Graham Chapman's no-nonsense Colonel stops them for becoming too silly. The Colonel's the one character who makes the episode feel like a cohesive whole.

Of course, with the title being "Full Frontal Nudity," one wonders, "well, how about THAT full-frontal nudity?" Well, there's no full frontal nudity in the episode. Random characters offer their opinions about full front nudity. Gilliam's animation sequences include a perverted character who desires to see women full frontal but each woman's covered up before the camera pans to the other naughty bits. I interpret the full frontal nudity material as a commentary on the BBC standards and practices, and on the idea of censorship. Furthermore, the Pythons perpetuate the image of men-as-slobbering-and-perverted fools when presented with the opportunity to see a woman completely naked. They certainly covered their bases.

What's memorable about the episode, though, is the sketches (naturally). Specifically, the brothers Dino and Luigi are introduced, as well as Chapman's Colonel--all in one sketch. Dino and Luigi are two characters straight out of a B Italian mobster movie from the mid-1960s. The brothers walk with swagger, make veiled threats and break random objects to perpetuate a sense of fear in the colonel's office at the army base. Dino and Luigi compliment the base, suggest that the colonel wouldn't let anything BAD happen to it. Of course, things break and things burn. The brothers break objects to legitimize their threats; however, the colonel's fed up with the sketch and ends it because he hasn't gotten one funny line. Before the Vercotti's enter the office, the colonel deals with a soldier who requests to leave the army. Watkins, the solider, had no idea the army meant killing and fighting, that he assumed he'd water ski and travel. The colonel wonders, "Are you a pacifist, Watkins?" Watkins responds, "No, sir, I'm a coward." The colonel mutters that it's a silly line and orders Watkins sit down. So, when the colonel ends the Vercotti sketch, Watkins begins his bit again only to have Chapman yell "Look, I stopped your sketch five minutes ago so get out shot!"

Luigi Vercotti actually returns in the Piranha Brothers sketch later in the series. The colonel's a mainstay, showing up throughout the series to end sketches that are poorly written or very silly. For this episode, the colonel interrupts sketches whenever a character utters a punch line to the sketch or whenever the sketch meanders. The Pythons publicly expressed their disdain for punch lines, and the colonel's great to use with sketches that have no natural conclusion.

'The Dead Parrot' sketch created generation after generation of parrots, who recite each and every line of the famous sketch. I based my linguistics final on this sketch because of its use of euphemisms. The sketch is about wordplay and linguistics. Cleese offers every euphemism for death in the book as he tries to make the foolish clerk understand that he sold him an ex-parrot. The absurdity of the premise lends itself to humor but the many, many euphemisms Cleese utters makes the sketch what it is. And, well, I'd be remiss if I ignored the insane excuses Palin's clerk offers Cleese ("He's pining for the fjords" and "he was tired after a long squawk"). The colonel interrupts the sketch when it becomes too silly.

I just love the language in the sketch, the word play, its attention to euphemisms and palindromes. Palin's the best when he portrays characters attempting to get away with something. Palin and Cleese will have another scene, in a shop, in which on tries to get one past the other. Cleese is so good as the dis-enchanted and frustrated customer--a representation of working-class frustration in 1960s England.

As for the 'buying a bed sketch,' it's just silly. The word mattress causes Chapman to put a bag over his head. Other workers must stand in a box and sing a song. The sketch ends with every Python hopping on the set.

"Full Frontal Nudity" is funny and well-made episode. The episode boasts some of my favorite characters and sketches. I don't have much more to write about, though.

UP NEXT: "The Ant, an Introduction."


Thursday, July 21, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Everwood "Is There a Doctor in the House?" & "A Thanksgiving Tale" Reviews

When we left Everwood, Ephram and Jacob conspired in the quiet of the morning to return to Manhattan together. Actually, Ephram told his grandfather what he wanted most, and Jacob told his grandson that he'd try to bring him home to Manhattan. Ephram's miserable in Everwood, and hasn't felt happiness since his mother passed his way. His sojourn into the wilderness of Colorado to bring the doe home brought temporary catharsis but, alas, temporary's the key word. The possible move for Ephram's built around the conflict with his father, but the distant-and-miserable teen makes his decision to leave after the unpleasant run-in with Amy at the party AND the grocery store. So, Andy's just a scapegoat; however, the story isn't about father-and-son as much as it is about son-in-law and father--Andy and Jacob

The Manhattan situation is bound to explode, especially in the confines of the Brown house. The town gathered in the house for an impromptu birthday party for Edna, planned by Delia and Ruth. Unfortunately, the first snow storm hit the town, dropping a few feet of snow, trapping everyone in the Brown household. Tensions have risen and blood's been boiling, all in silence. Before the party, Ruth tells Ephram the story of when Andy wanted to ask for Jacob's blessing. Both drank shot after shot, waiting for the other to succumb to the alcohol but neither did. Both men fell asleep. Andy never asked. Jacob never said yes. Ruth interpreted silence as approval. Of course, the kind woman's wrong; her stories rarely include any lessons or truths. If she knew either man then she'd understand that silence does not equal approval.

Andy and Jacob rarely interact until Andy receives a swift kick in the rear from Nina, who implores him to fight for what he wants and to speak from the heart about what he wants. I should add that Andy and Ephram had a public fight, in which Andy acknowledged the truth that Ephram would be happier in New York. The public spat didn't help Andy's cause.

Regardless, Andy's motivated from Nina's pep-talk, so he and Jacob converse outside. Both men are direct, honest, and unrelenting. Andy accuses Jacob of pushing Ephram into the decision; Jacob tells Andy that his son's "so depressed" he asked to leave. Jacob continues, accusing Andy of being half-a-person, comparing his character to a glass ("no substance. no soul"), insulting his parenting in the process. Jacob goes on, arguing that Ephram sees through Andy's facade because Julia's no longer around to cover for her husband. Andy stands up for himself, explains that his children are all he has left, that Jacob has NO idea how hard it's been since Julia died, and that no one will take Delia and Ephram from him. Jacob spits back, "you took my daughter, neglected her, and now she's gone and I won't be left with nothing." Delia interrupts the fight to tell her dad that Bright fell down (oh yeah Bright's dealing with an inflamed appendix throughout this).

The fight reveals a truth or two about the actual issue. Jacob's pissed off because Andy took his daughter, treated her badly for fifteen years, and moved his family from New York to Colorado. Jacob feels he deserves to take Ephram because he perceives Andy as a lousy person. So, yes, there's a measure of vengeance in the move. Andy sniffed it out because he knows Jacob while Ruth looked the other way because she's ignorant or passive. The issues between two men are, seemingly, too vast and complicated to resolve with only one act to spare in the episode. Somehow, resolution happens.

Bright Abbott's never been more of a plot device than in "Is There a Doctor in the House?" Bright feels ill on the day of the party then his appendix explodes several hours later. Harold acknowledges that appendix problems run in the family. The only plow driver is Irv, and he's at the party, so the doctors can't move Bright to a hospital. Instead, they move him to Andy's office. Jacob's a renowned liver surgeon whose removed plenty of appendixes in his career but his hands are shot. The tremors we saw earlier in the episode weren't from playing Gershwin on an empty stomach--he probably has Parkinson's disease. Andy operates and removes the appendix without any complications.

The emergency operation bonds Jacob and Andy (what would've happened without that convenient plot device?). Jacob admired Andy's ability to calm the situation and make everyone feel safe. The curmudgeon finally admits that Andy's a good man, that Everwood's changed him, and that he believes his son-in-law's doing good things in the town. Jacob offers that Andy would've turned into him if he remained in New York (Andy, for some unknown reason, responds, 'that wouldn't be such a bad thing'). The train station reminds Jacob of the time he, Ruth and Julia were caught overnight in a town he forgets. He remembers how his little Julia couldn't look away from the beautiful snow fall. Of course, Andy knows the story all too well--Julia's experiences in the town, and its affect on her, is why Andy moved to Everwood. She told him she'd be here, and he came to be with her spirit. The episode closes on the tableau of Jacob and Andy looking through the window as the snow falls.

Now, I don't buy the swift and peaceful resolution between the two men because their issues were too deep for one emergency surgery to resolve, but I understand the reason the writers needed to resolve the issues. Everwood is a family drama, after all. As for Ephram, he decided to stay in Everwood following reconciliation with Andy AND Amy. Andy, particularly, affected Ephram by admitting that Andy's first decent sleep following his wife's death happened after Ephram told him everything would be okay. For now, everything somehow is okay by the end of "Is There a Doctor in the House?"

Great episode, overall.

Some other thoughts:

--There's a small subplot about how Edna and Bright never get along. The development seems as thrown-in as the appendix stuff.

--Bright and Delia become friends in this episode. The two characters are great together whenever they share scenes. Delia brings him birthday cake in the hospital.

--Harold calms Bright during the operation by telling him the story of when he broke his arm. His sister, Linda, dared him to jump off a tree. Andy's curious to hear more about this Aunt Linda. Foreshadowing.

--Stephanie Niznik hasn't gotten much work thus far but episodes 10 and 11 are good Nina episodes. She has a great scene with Andy in her house in this one, and she comes through big time for Delia in "A Thanksgiving Tale," which you can read about below.

--Michael Green wrote the episode. Robert Duncan McNiell directed it. Ephram reads an issue of Green Lantern in the episode. I doubt Michael Green and Greg Berlanti knew they'd write the big screen adaptation of the Green Lantern, and I doubt they knew fans and critics would hate it.

--Now onto "A Thanksgiving Tale":

"A Thanksgiving Tale"

Everwood's first Thanksgiving episode, titled "A Thanksgiving Tale," focuses on the Browns and the Abbotts. I wrote about this episode during November of 2010. What follows is essentially what I wrote in November with some changes. It's the 11th episode of the season and was the last Everwood episode of 2002. It's mostly stand-alone with barely any mention of Colin. The writers used the episode to survey where the Browns and Abbotts are now, how far the families have come since we met them in the "Pilot."

Delia loves Thanksgiving and she's worried that Thanksgiving will be different because her mother died. The little girl doesn't want anything about the holiday to change. Andy only worsens Delia's fear when he calls the local diner to order Thanksgiving dinner because he figures neither of his children yearns for a Thanksgiving dinner cooked by Andy; however, Ephram realizes the importance of the Thanksgiving tradition to Delia and decides to keep the tradition alive by himself.

The Delia story is the most heartfelt of the episode because it's about it the first holiday without a parent and the way to cope with that. She masks the pain and sadness she continues to experience through her insistence that nothing change because it's all she has--the hope that she can will it to be as it always was but it won't be. Ephram morphs into Martha Stewart as he basically nails the entire meal by himself but Delia loses her temper and lashes out because Thanksgiving isn't the same. Andy gets angry but Nina wants to talk to Delia. Nina helps Delia cope with the sadness about her mother. Nina tells Delia that she can be sad but she can be happy too. After all, her mother would want her daughter to be happy. Delia hugs Nina and cries, letting it all out. The next day, Ephram and Delia create a new tradition which is, "what was the best thing that happened to you this year?" Delia says it is when she discovered that God actually exists while Andy tells Ephram that getting to know his son was the best thing that happened to him.

Dr. Abbott, meanwhile, transforms into George Bailey after learning he might have a possible malignant growth. Harold frets over how the town would remember him should he die, so he invites the entire town to Thanksgiving dinner and behaves in charitable fashion. You see, he had a nightmare that no one came to his funeral but his family and Andy. Dr. Abbott soon becomes annoyed with his own behavior and with the crowd of people inside of his house. He retreats into the backyard where his mother sits. Edna tells Harold that she loved how he always knew the exact person he was. Dr. Abbott thinks he is an unloved man and won't be missed when he dies, and then Edna steals a sentiment from a Lawrence Durrell novel (unintentional most likely considering English professors don't even know who Durrell is; Durrell was mentored by T.S. Eliot and published the fantastic Alexandria Quartet) by explaining that each person only gets a certain amount of love to give to others and Harold loves his family more than any person she's ever known. Dr. Abbott then receives a call from the doctor telling him that he's fine. Abbott quickly kicks each person out of his house following the good news.

Ephram and Amy grew closer throughout the episode. She helped him with Thanksgiving preparation. They even kissed. The teenagers would've continued kissing if Delia didn't interrupt. Of course, Amy freaks out and ignores Ephram afterwards. When Ephram drops off a thank-you gift, Harold lies for his daughter and tells the boy that she went to Denver. After he's gone, Harold reminds Amy that she cannot be true to two men, even if she feels love for both of them--Ephram has feelings too. Amy listens to the mix cd Ephram made her and thinks.

Everwood wore its themes on its sleeves. The case-of-the-week, with the recluse who went crazy after losing his wife to his brother, parallels Andy after he lost his wife. Andy relates to the recluse, explaining that people thought he went insane by moving his kids to Everwood. Andy thinks he went crazy for a short time because he had no idea how to continue living without his wife. The recluse asks Andy what changed him into the sane man. Andy responds that he needed to feed his children. The recluse decides to part ways with his kidney that will save his brother's life because his brother needs it, and the recluse needs to move on and forgive his brother for the sake of his own sanity.

"A Thanksgiving Tale" is a simple, heartfelt episode about the importance of love, family, togetherness and community. Irv ruminates on this idea of an old, forgotten kingdom with charmed creatures, two kings who learned to co-exist, wizards who could tame wild spirits, a handsome prince and beautiful princess who could not know their paths were fated to cross. Irv calls this kingdom home. The narration summarizes the series thus far, to comment on how different people came together to form relationships, friendships, and a community, and a collective home in this small town in Colorado. It's a beautiful sentiment that caps off a heartwarming and heartfelt 42+ minutes of TV.

Some other thoughts:

--This episode is a battle between awesome beards. Treat Williams probably loses the beard fight to the actor who portrayed the recluse.

--Dr. Abbott's my favorite character in the show. I've used his lines in daily conversation. He utters one of my all-time favorites during the dream sequence, after Andy explains no one came to the funeral because of the cold--"Cold? It's positively balmy!"

--Vanessa Taylor wrote the episode. David Petrarca directed.

UP NEXT: "Vegetative State"--Amy prepares for Colin Hart's homecoming. Unfortunately, Ephram's the odd man out; however, Colin's not the same person he used to be. The two doctors join in the town debate over medical marijuana after a large quantity's discovered in a deceased woman's home. Also, Andy helps Nina when Sam's school wants him on Ritalin.


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Man Vs. Wild "New Zealand South Island" Review

Man Vs. Wild is a chaotic hour of television, full of adrenaline and excitement. The series consistent energy is its strength and staple. Bear moves through challenges at warp speed, barely stopping to take in the landscape that surrounds him. He thinks on his feet and hatches plans and executes them in milliseconds. Bear, however, cannot sustain his energy and pace throughout the journey because he's human too. In middle of every episode, Bear makes camp. The camp site refreshes him physically and mentally, as long as he has shelter and food. Once he's settled, Bear reflects on life, his journey and takes in the surrounding beauty of planet Earth.

In those moments, Man Vs. Wild's the contemporary Walden, Henry David Thoreau's masterpiece about nature. The book mediates on themes of spiritual discovery, self-reliance and independence. Thoreu concerned himself with simple living and self-sufficiency. Bear's quiet, reflective moments are refreshing as a viewer in this era of overwhelming technology and reliance on luxury.

In "New Zealand South Island," he makes camp after a hard day(s) journey through the harsh terrain of New Zealand's South Island. He's battered, broken, tired and wet. Bear built a roof to protect him from the rains of New Zealand, caught a possum for dinner and built a fire from the dead leaves of the forest. He sits over the fire, cooking the possum and admits that he's happy because he's warm, sheltered, and lucky enough to have a decent dinner.

The moment should make the viewer reflect on his or her own life and appreciate the blessings we all have--readily available food, homes or apartments, and clothes to keep us warm. Bear's in a particular beautiful spot in the forest. Trees hang over him, its damp and raining (some might not like such conditions but I'm a fan of rain). The smell of fresh rain in the forest is invigorating. I used to walk my dog through the woods on rainy days, years ago, and felt a closeness to nature that's rare in daily life. In those moments of quiet on Bear's chaotic journey, I wonder why I don't take more time to view the night sky or walk in the woods.

Man Vs. Wild's consistent insanity and energy keeps the fans, but it's time someone took the time to write about the quiet moments of the episode, when Bear reminds the audience what's most important in life.

The highlights of "New Zealand South Island":

--The terrain of the South Island's completely different in three areas. Tectonic activity's responsible for the diverse landscapes. In one part, the island's glacial mountains; in the second part, its forests; in the third, its swamps. Bear skydives into the first part of the terrain, where he's surrounded by mountains windswept and weary by too-many-years of weather. Bear needs to travel to the West Coast of the island, where people will be.

--The mountains aren't as harsh as the system of waterfalls Bear encounters. Bear opts against the direct path because of the brittle rocks along mountain faces, so he finds himself in a ravine with a never-ending system of waterfalls and slippery rocks. Whenever Bear conquers one waterfall, another follows until Bear realizes that he needs another way out of the ravine. Bear turns to the trees and concocts a system with the tree that'll move him out of the ravine, and it works, because Bear's brilliant on-his-feet. No matter how many times I watch the show, I'll probably fail in a survival situation because I won't remember to build things.

--Bear uses his parachute to make a rope to repel with down a mountain-face, as he moves into the forests of the South Island. The parachute-rope isn't the most secure because the sharp rocks threaten to shred the parachute mid-repel. Bear's also on-guard for falling rocks. As always, though, Bear repels to the bottom without incident.

--Bear has terrible luck with water throughout the episode. When he's not dealing with a water fall, it's raining, and when it's not raining, he's in a river with deceptively fast currents (and a 55 degree water temperature. Bear's first river cannot be crossed by foot because of the currents. Luckily, a rope-bridge is near by with rings to assist someone cross. The crossing of the river's more difficult than Bear imagined because the rope digs into his hands. He uses the rings and part of his parachute but a basket blocks his path. The basket holds him but the rings block any movement of the basket along the rope, so Bear manually pulls him along on the rope (not very easy).

--The second river eventually takes him to the west coast of the island. Bear uses a floatation device to prevent himself from drowning. The currents alternate between calm and rapid. The water's cold. Bear becomes weaker throughout the swim. The end is nowhere in sight. Hypothermia sets in. Bear sees the shore and slowly swims towards the coast. The coast looks absolutely awesome, by the way (pounding waves, grey mist and clouds, and raining--my ideal day at the beach--it's what Dragonstone looks like in my head). Bear finds chimneys, and thus rescue, after he fights off hypothermia.

--As a whole, the episode's very good. Bear's tested in a way he hasn't been in other episodes. The constant water demoralizes and beats him down. He seems genuinely tired and beaten when he reaches the coast because he IS tired and beaten. I loved the landscape of the South Island (I'll visit New Zealand after Australia). Also, Bear ate a grub for the first time in a few years.


Monday, July 18, 2011

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Dawson's Creek "Road Trip" Review

"Road Trip" is the first filler episodes of the series--one of those episodes where one realizes nothing actually happened during the 44 minutes. Dawson, Pacey and Billy road trip to Providence for the day while Joey deals with a jock spreading lies. Someone could miss the episode and not miss a beat, which isn't a criticism--it's just the nature of filler episodes.

For a post-Dawson breakup episode, it's calm, without any sort of melodrama (which is refreshing). Dawson whines about Jen in the teaser, questions his entire belief system whilst evaluating his character because Jen rejected everything he is and represents--romance, honesty and respect. Joey, the reasonable one, reminds her best friend, and soul mate, that no one died so he should try to get over the break-up. Dawson, surprisingly, listens to Joey because he uses her advice when Billy offers a one-day getaway from Capeside and all things Jen Lindley.

I'm unsure of the reason Dawson agrees to travel out of state with the man who openly admitted his plan to end Dawson's relationship but he does. Billy wants to help Dawson, as the two wear the same shoes currently, because he understands what it's like to lose Jen. Billy wonders how Dawson will handle the short distance between he and Jen's house, how he'll handle seeing Jen bring a new boy home. Billy's offering the chance to meet women that'll help him forget about Jen, that'll show her that she's not the lone girl in his life. Dawson bites because he wants to experience something different, to become someone new however brief it may be.

The teaser established Dawson's insecurities post-breakup so, naturally, Dawson becomes the anti-Dawson. Pacey teases him about cutting classes after turning in math homework. Pacey describes Dawson as the good angel that shows up on one's shoulder in cartoons. Dawson's safe and boring, in other words. As we know, Jen's rejection of him is about much more than the reasons gave (even though it's not) so Dawson wants to live the wild, rebellious life. Two stereotypical rednecks harass an elderly woman on the ferry boat as they cross the water into Providence. Billy wants to slash their tires, Pacey wants to harm the car but Dawson's more inventive. Dawson devises a plan, borrowed from American Graffiti, to destroy the back of the stereotypes truck. He attaches a chain to the back tires. The chain rips the back tires from the truck when they accelerate to follow Billy's car (after Pacey moons them), and Dawson woos. The new Dawson is born.

Fortunately, the behavior doesn't last. At the bar, Dawson learns to accept himself in spite of the break-up. His values and belief system are worthwhile to him, and he recognizes that he's not the type of person to sleep with a girl and forget about her just so he'll forget about another girl. Every girl, not just Jen, deserves honesty, romance and respect (he'll forget those three staples of his life early in season 2). Dawson meets a nice woman, Nina, and they talk for an hour. She offers intercourse but Dawson politely rejects her because of what I wrote in the second to last sentence. The scenes with Dawson and Nina are strong. The actors have chemistry and the characters help with another--Dawson accepts himself, and Nina's faith in men is renewed (Saint Dawson, everyone!).

Dawson also figured out Billy's plan. Billy wanted Dawson to sleep with a random woman, so that he could tell Jen in hopes she'd return to his arms. Dawson continues to rant about how pathetic Billy's style is, and how he'd rather sound like Jen's dad than "her lose ex-boyfriend." Billy promptly leaves the bar and suggests Pacey and Dawson find their own way home because they surely don't want a loser driving them.

The A story is successful because the hero, Dawson, completes an arc, overcomes self-doubt and emerges victorious over the enemy, Billy. It wouldn't be satisfying to the viewer if Billy skipped town after ruining Dawson's relationship--it's also a no-no in the majority of TV storytelling.

Some other thoughts:

--In the B story, Eric Balfour's Warren spreads rumors that he and Joey had sex. Joey turns the rumor on its head by spreading the lie that she's pregnant. The conclusion of the story's karmic--Warren's impotent and Joey threatens to release that knowledge to the school if he doesn't stop the rumor. Not only does he lie about sex, he'll never have sex in his life.

--Abby returns. I barely wrote about her during "Detention" but she doesn't become an active character until season two. In "Road Trip," she feels sympathy for Joey then insults her for lying about Warren.

--Jen and Joey have a tense conversation about Dawson. Jen thinks Joey's scared because she no longer can hide behind Jen's relationship with Dawson. And, well, Joey is but she isn't. Joey's patient. She'll wait until Dawson's gotten over Jen.

--Rob Thomas, creator of Veronica Mars and co-creator of Party Down, wrote the episode. Steve Robman directed it.

UP NEXT: "Double Date"--Dawson, for some reason, double dates with Cliff and Jen--his date is Mary-Beth. Meanwhile, Joey and Pacey work together on a school project when something unexpected happens--he might have feelings for her. And Dawson won't be happy to hear that.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday Night Lights "Always" Review

(Originally posted on May 7, 2011)

The last time I wrote about a series finale, it was 10,000 words. I doubt I write 10,000 words for the series finale of Friday Night Lights. 

Something struck me during "Always." Every story and character arc ended before "Always" began. What remained were loose ends that needed tying up. These loose ends made "Always" a more pleasurable viewing experience because Jason Katims' could devote much of the script to saying goodbye to Dillon and its character. After so much melodrama in the season, that was refreshing. The loose ends were about the Taylors' future, the Riggins' brothers' relationship, the State championship as well as Julie and Matt.

I still dislike the unnecessary drama the writers created for Tami and Eric during the 11th hour of the show and that it took nearly 45 minutes for the inevitable to happen--for Coach to reject the contract and allow his wife to take the job she wants for the first time in her life. In between, the show wanted us to believe the couple would separate or exist in a compromise that might ruin their marriage. During dinner with Saracen and Julie to converse with them about the realities of marriage, Eric explains what marriage is about--compromise and communication. Tami cannot stomach what her husband's saying because he's a hypocrite. 

The problem is, I never seriously bought into their marriage crisis, so the scenes of marital strife felt contrived and manipulative. The story, though, wasn't as shallow as the surface. The Taylors marriage has been hailed as the best fictional relationship in TV history. It's fitting that their final story showcased their resilient relationship. Tami wouldn't take the job with her husband in tow, and Coach couldn't live with himself if he prevented his wife from the opportunity of a lifetime. They're a team, they compromise, and their love's enduring.

In the end, life took the Taylors to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Tami became the Dean of Admissions. She now has the power to transform students' lives like Epyck with prestigious universities. Meanwhile, Coach Taylor became the head coach of Frankford High or, rather, a fictional high school in Philly (but it's the Frankford football team). The final image in the series featured Eric and Tami walking off of the football field as the lights went out. Coach Taylor will continue to coach high school football, to mold young kids into young men and Tami will continue to change the lives of students off of the field. It's a great ending for both characters. 

The bright, blue and big Texas sky gives Tim a purpose, and so does his nephew, Stevie. Tim's been more or less a ghost since he was released from prison. Tyra's return restored him though. The woman had an effect on him that he didn't anticipate, something far different and surprising than his feelings for Lyla Garrity. On a sun-drenched day, in Riggins' field, he told Tyra how much he loved her and she did the same. Tyra told him about her plans to become a politician, that she wouldn't let her feelings for Tim ruin her future. Tim told her how he'll never do anything illegal again, how he'll find a job and then build a house on his big patch of land. Tim's final scenes with his brother as they build. Afterwards, they share a beer as they vow "Texas Forever." The scene called back to the scene in the Pilot with he, Lyla, Street and Tyra as Tim told his best friend how they'll live on a big ranch. Tim has his big ranch, and his true best friend in his brother. It was a fantastic ending for Tim Riggins, acted beautifully by Taylor Kitsch and Derek Phillips. 

Vince Howard and his teammates won their State championship. Vince became a Panther and probably found success at the college level and, maybe, at the professional level. For a series about football, though, the sport had little to do with any of the characters' individual endings. Vince wanted his father at the title game as much as he wanted to win State. Ornette, indeed, showed up, suggesting the possibility that Vince will have his father in his life for the rest of his life. His mother watched him in the stands. Jess returned his love before she moved onto Dallas, and he experienced something priceless with his teammates--the State championship win. Vince is possibly the greatest teenage character the show created because of his journey from the police car to the State title win. Michael B. Jordan, more than any other actor, carried the show during its final two seasons. 

Every character found a happy ending. Becky moved back home with her mother, made up with Luke and promised Mindy that she'd always be around even if she no longer live in her house. Billy earned a position on the Dillon Panthers. Luke joined the military after high school, and gave his girlfriend his championship ring to keep until he returns.

As important as football was in the show, football became secondary during the show's final montage. Vince's hail mary pass transitioned into football practice at Frankford high. We missed the most important moment for the Lions because FNL's always been a show about more than football. I thought it was the perfect choice to cut from the title game and jump ahead because that's the essence and spirit of Friday Night Lights.

"Always" had its fair share of series finale cliches though. Characters moved to new cities. A marriage proposal happened. FNL executed everything so well though. It's hard to criticize Matt and Julie's engagement because the two were wonderful with another, plus the engagement gave us one last scene that featured Matt stuttering in front of coach like a buffoon. I'm also glad that I don't have to watch that particular story develop. 

Overall, though, "Always" was a great conclusion to a great series. Jason Katims wrote an excellent script. Michael Waxman beautifully directed it. The actors were as good as always, especially Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton. 

One last thing: the Philadelphia Daily News somehow spoiled the Philadelphia movie without literally spoiling it. The article was about how the crew filmed in Philadelphia. I wondered why a high school football team from Texas would play at Frankford High of all places. Now, it all makes sense. 

The 2011 Summer Re-Watch: Monty Python's Flying Circus "You're No Fun Anymore" Review

"You're No Fun Anymore" is the first episode of Flying Circus that I loved, adored and admired. I discovered Monty Python in my senior year of high school when my history teacher showed a scene from Holy Grail blew my mind (the "Who are the Britons?" sketch). I loved the humor, the smart writing and, above all else, Terry Jones' ridiculous pepperpot and Palin's Dennis. Two weeks before my graduation, BBC America aired marathons of Flying Circus episodes. "You're No Fun Anymore" aired during one of the marathons and the episode made me a fan of the troupe for life.

'Science Fiction Sketch' pre-dates any of the four films the troupe made. The sketch is basically a short film. For twenty plus minutes, the troupe tells a complete story about an alien invasion and the aliens attempt to win Wimbledon. The story is complete with a central protagonist, antagonist, secondary characters and the token scientist who can figure out the reason for the alien invasion, and their motivations for invading England.

The story begins simply, over narration of the many galaxies and planets in the solar system. The scene shifts to a middle-aged couple who live ordinary lives where nothing extraordinary ever happens, so the narrator pans over them and focuses on a man who soon turns into a Scotsman. Soon, men and women all over England turn into Scotsmen until England's nearly empty. When the aliens finished transforming English men and women into Scotsman, they ordered 48 million kilts from Angus Podgorney, which is how our central protagonist becomes involved in the story.

Angus and his wife are perplexed by the order but Angus vows to knit 48,000,000 kilts because they sold 9.5 kilts in the last 12 months. He and his wife are looking at $900 million pounds of profit from the sale. Angus figures that if blancmanges traveled 2,200,000 light years they must be keen on kilts. Things change, though, when the blancmange eats his wife. Angus is saddled with guilt, filled with the knowledge that he could've saved his wife if he simply went to the police with information that he'd been approached by unearthly beings from the Galaxy of Andromeda (from the planet Skyron) then they would've sent a police man investigate and all would be well.

Angus Podgorney's filled with sadness and guilt. He's the only one who knows what viciousness the blancmanges are capable of. Angus stands as the lone man who can hope to defeat the unearthly beings from the planet Skyron of the Galaxy Andromeda. Now, I'm merely projecting the traits of a leading man in an alien invasion film. Truthfully, Podgorney's not mad. He wanders into the tennis court to save the day, truth be told. The heroism is good-timing rather than intentional heroism, which is tremendous.

The one man who can solve the mystery of the blancmanges is Charles, the Chief Scientist at the Anthropological Research Institute, at Butley Down - an expert in what makes people change from one nationality to another. We meet him as he's kissing a beautiful blonde woman (Donna Reading). Her parent's have been turned into Scotsman; however, she doesn't seem concerned. She's pre-occupied by flirting with the camera. She purses her lips and plays with her hair. She takes every comment literally. Charles eventually hits her on the head with a rag and she doesn't have another line. Charles solves the mystery of the blancmanges--the aliens have been practicing tennis all over England, turned every one into Scotsman (the Scots are terrible at tennis), so they mean to win Wimbledon.

The sketch is insane. There are random asides throughout the story such as the police man advising people to inform the police of mysterious activity or another officer questioning a player about playing doubles with five people. I interpreted the exchange as a parody of the audiences for actual sci-fi films in which they'll suspend their disbelief for everything except for someone playing doubles with five people.

Podgorney wins Wimbledon in the end but the uninteresting, ordinary couple from the beginning of the sketch defeat the blancmange by eating it. You see, they're from the planet Skyron in the galaxy Andromeda--they were about to tell the production but they were panned over.

'Science Fiction' sketch works so well because it parodies movie tropes while telling a very funny, ridiculous story about aliens. Throughout the sketch, characters react to the incidental music of the scene or camera choices. The sketch is my favorite in the entire series. I also love the opening sketches with Eric Idle as a camel (train) spotter because of the build to the 'you're no fun anymore' punchline (I used the phrase constantly over the summer of 2005).

The episode's a masterpiece. The Pythons proved they could write brilliant isolated sketches but science fiction sketch showcases their ability to write a long-form narrative and never once lose momentum or laughs.

UP NEXT: "Full Frontal Nudity"


About The Foot

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Originally, I titled the blog Jacob's Foot after the giant foot that Jacob inhabited in LOST. That ended. It became TV With The Foot in 2010. I wrote about a lot of TV.