Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Destroy Build Destroy: The Power of On Demand

A while back, I stumbled upon a rerun of a kids’ reality show called “Destroy Build Destroy” on Caroon Network.  What drew my attention wasn’t the point of the show — two teams of kids destroy items, then use the wreckage they created to make machines that then destroy other things — but the host, Andrew W.K.  I’m a big fan of his music, so to see him hosting a show for kids was a little surprising, and watching his animated antics was pretty entertaining.  Actually, he was the most entertaining thing about the show.
Don’t judge me.
I was thinking about that show recently, and I began to see a parallel trending in modern television viewing:
Destroy.  Build.  Destroy.
The DVR, TiVo, Netflix streaming, Hulu, and other services of the like have absolutely changed the face of home entertainment.  First of all, it’s not strictly home entertainment anymore — we can take it out on the town with us, using our laptops, iPhones, Android devices, Kindles, and Nooks to consume what we had to wait to get home to do.
Secondly, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips, and with just the touch of a button, the customizeable entertainment that seemed to be so far off back in 1994 has not only become reality, but it has revolutionized the way we consume.  Companies have seen this, and the ones on the forefront of progress have caught the wave, learning how to adapt to this new and ever-changing environment.
Thirdly, we have created communities online around the entertainment we love.  We connect with others, most often from a distance, and we share stories about where we were when we saw the final episode of “The Sopranos.”  We pontificate over the church of Where “Heroes” Went Wrong.  Fans wax philosophical about the finer points of plot lines, character arcs, and the level of badassery in the show “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.”  And we do it behind whatever level of anonymity we deem necessary.
We have destroyed traditional television.
We have built new roads of entertainment.
And we have destroyed the original community of television lovers in lieu of what the internet has offered us.
All around cities of this country, there are still what I would call grassroots movements.  Bars are still putting the Big Game on their 46 televisions.  Movie theaters and restaurants have begun viewing parties for popular shows like “Mad Men”, “Arrested Development”, and special events such as the Oscars telecast.  It seems as though from the wreckage of traditional television viewing, communities have sprung up championing the older ways of television consumerism, but only a  few TV devotees take advantage of these opportunities to meet.
It appears  the rise of on-demand entertainment has begun to create a society that seeks to consume first, congregate later.  There’s an inherent selfishness embedded in the very need for services like this — we want what we want, when we want it.  When we can’t have it, we feel slighted.
Just to give you some perspective, here’s a short list of what’s recorded on my DVR at home:
Top Shot
Mystery Diners
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (I really wish this wasn’t on it, but it is)
America’s Got Talent
The Amazing World of Gumball
The Annoying Orange
Love It or List It
Let’s Make a Deal
Chopped
Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Storage Wars
Who Do You Think You Are?
Adventure Time with Finn and Jake
Under the Dome
Live from the Artists Den
Naked and Afraid
Death in Paradise
Yo Gabba Gabba!
Breaking Bad
The Pioneer Woman
Sullivan & Son
Hollywood Game Night
The Soup
…and that’s just the programs that have recorded within the last WEEK.  There’s no possible way my wife, the kids she watches during the week, or I could possible watch all that in the amount of time that our DVR recorded it all.  I’m still not completely caught up on “Under the Dome”, and when I see three episodes backed up, I wonder if it’s even worth spending 3 hours to find out what’s happening.
On one hand, it is.  We consume television for the same reason we go to the movies or read a good book — we want to be entertained.  And on the other hand, it’s not.  The time I’m watching television is time I could be creating something — writing a blog entry, finishing up a song I’ve written, researching projects for work, heck, even spending some quality time with that awesome wife of mine.
Even the show “The Soup” is made up of stories and video clips from other television shows that are often shown out of context for their comedic value.  It’s a television show about watching television shows.  It’s essentially its own meme.

I honestly hate the word “fellowship” — you hardly hear it anymore unless within the context of a Biblical reference or inside of a church-related conversation, or when followed by the words “of the ring”, but that’s exactly what comes to mind when I think about the TV viewer community.  Sure, we can connect with people online, join whatever forum we’d like to frequent, whatever.  But gathering with others, actually breaking bread (or breaking bad, if you will), and investing time in the lives of other people MEANS more when it’s done face to face.  Even if you’re talking about your favorite program and nothing else, being there with that other person carries so much more weight than logging on, speaking your piece, and immediately getting offline when you’re done.  You share the space, the sights, the smells; the very context of the conversation has its own unique identity, and you build something during that time.
We’ve lost a lot of that in the TV watching community.  If you don’t believe me, try making your way into Hall H at the San Diego Comic Con on any given day.
Have we made watching television a chore?  Do we feel like we’re missing out when we delete that program from our DVR or Netflix queue just because we don’t think we have the time?  And what will our friends and family think when we tell them that no, we haven’t been up to speed on “The Walking Dead”?
Destroy.  Build.  Destroy.  At least Andrew W.K. looked like he was having fun.
Originally published on Geek Goes Rogue.  Find the original article here.

There Is No Box.
Zach

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fanbase Turns Rabid, Needs Vaccinations

"Okay . . . See, my name is John Carter.  Virginia is where I'm from."

For those of you interested, no, I still haven't deleted "Sharknado" from my DVR.

This isn't exactly new news, but sites like Kickstarter and IndieGogo have become a new standard for entertainment projects to be made.  Studios and publishers have a say, certainly, but in this day and age of technology and infinite choices at the touch of a button, not to mention the INSANE connectivity that artists now have with their fans, those who create have more power than ever.
For instance, take into consideration the upcoming "Veronica Mars" movie project.
The show had a pretty dedicated fan base, not unlike shows like "Firefly" and "Six Feet Under", but while "Firefly" was actually made in a major studio motion picture -- mostly due to fan rally -- "Veronica Mars" has taken a different tack.  A film project was created on Kickstarter, and by the time the campaign ended, over $5.7 MILLION dollars (of a $2 million goal) had been pledged.

And of course, if you missed the Kickstarter campaign, you can still pre-order the DVD or Blu-Ray to help support the project.

I have to admit, I never once watched the show, but upon doing some research, I've found more than a couple dozen people who guest starred on the show at one point or another who are now involved in successful movie and/or television projects.  The program seemed to be a gateway for many young actors to have a place to stir it up before finding a niche they fit into nicely, including Max Greenfield from "New Girl", Adam Scott from "Parks and Recreation", and Oscar nominated actress Jessica Chastain.
What was the draw of this program?  How do characters grab hold of us in such a way as to compel us to give away our money?

I put it to you: What television program has made you a die-hard fan, or renewed your faith in the power of television to entertain and connect?

Article originally published on the entertainment blog Geek Goes Rogue.  See the article here.

There Is No Box.
Zach

Racism In the Screen - How Television Can Spark Conversation

I've been trying to avoid all the talk about racism that has come over our airwaves in the last month, but stuff keeps happening.  I can't escape it.

Now to be fair, the place where the most of the flames are really being fanned is the internet, with all its various, gloriously self-appointed morality judges who often speak according to their own convictions, rather than to what their higher sense of belief guides them in.  Sounding off has become the norm in the Internet age, and whether you're a Christian, Atheist, Agnostic, Muslim, Hindu, or any other derivation thereof, you probably have a moral opinion shaped by something.

But since most of these items wouldn't have been given the light of day if television hadn't catapulted their subjects into national spotlights, I wanted to talk about racism and how it's handled by those handling our TV viewing experiences.

By the way, I'm not an expert.  Keep that in mind while you're reading.

The Paula Deen issue isn't really an issue, in my estimation, and the corporations that have distanced themselves from her have done so as knee-jerk reactions -- unjustly so.  When she spoke about the times she used the "forbidden word" in the past, she was under oath for a legal deposition, and it became a matter of public record.  Was she going to lie?  Of course not.  But to think that it was completely inappropriate for anyone to use that term in the South in the mid-80s?  Has everyone lost their memories?

I have family that used to live in Oklahoma, and I heard that term thrown around when I was growing up.  It went away as I got older, but now, I hear more black people -- men and women -- using that term than anyone else.  If corporate and media America is going to throw a fit anytime someone utters that particular slur, then they need to throw a fit EVERY time someone does it.  Start with the entertainment world -- musicians, filmmakers, and the like.

So in Paula Deen's case, you have to consider the context.  At the time, and in that place, the context was much more acceptable, almost exponentially so, than it is now.  And I know there's more to this story than what exploded recently, so we'll move on.

George Zimmerman.  How is this really about race?  It's not.  We have a young black man who lost his life, and the man accused of killing him (and ultimately acquitted) is a mix of Caucasian and Hispanic heritage.  That's it.  Really, that's it.  Let's not forget that it took around 45 days for charges to be filed against Zimmerman.

But now it's reported that Zimmerman is suing NBC for editing the audio of the 911 call on one of its news programs.  The suit claims that the call was edited to the point of portraying Zimmerman as a racist, causing him undue pain and defamation.  So yeah, that kind of information can skew someone's view of someone else.  As far as I'm concerned, if the jurors of the case acquitted Zimmerman of criminal charges based on testimony and evidence presented during the trial, then they had all the information that the rest of us didn't have.

Big Brother 15.  True proof that racism in America still exists, a few of this year's contestants on the CBS program has prompted the network to air a disclaimer at the beginning of the show saying that the show is made up of real people who have no privacy for 24 hours a day, and that anything those contestants say or do is not a reflection of the corporation at large.  In today's litigious society, I'm certain the network feels that they must protect themselves from lawsuits brought by anyone trying to make a buck.

The contestants' comments have actually gone so far as to enrage the show's host Julie Chen, according to the Huffington Post.  But how, exactly, and why?  This is a network that, during a season of "Survivor", separated the contestants into tribes based on their race in one of its past seasons.  Can anyone with the network be surprised that racial comments might be made based on the fact that these people are real?  They're not actors, and while producers may give them instruction or guidance, ultimately, the cameras capture everything.  That means that their baggage, training, exposure, and experience can come to light at any given time.  So, given that, is ANYONE at CBS surprised that something like this could eventually happen?

However, as reported by the website Reality Tea, two of the contestant have been fired from their jobs because of their behaviour on the show.  But we're not done...













Cheerios.  Most of the negative publicity from the commercial featuring a bi-racial family came from its presence on YouTube rather than its airing on television.  But again, TV is how most commercials come into our consciousness.  But because the opportunity for feedback is like crack to racists, Cheerios had to disable comments for the video on their YouTube channel.  People got all up in arms over the fact that a bi-racial child was featured in a family that had a black husband and a white wife.  That's it.  Literally, that's all they had to get up in arms over, and they chose to.

Over a commercial for cereal.  I'm going to let the poignancy of that sink in a moment.

Because recently, we've had two instances of United States citizens of Hispanic descent singing patriotic songs at high-profile sporting events over the last month.  In mid-June, Sebastien de la Cruz, an 11-year old mariachi singer that has been featured on "America's Got Talent", sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" before the game -- and the kid SOLD it.  Sure, he wasn't 100% on musically, but the little guy's got some great stage presence, and he brought it.  Of course, Twitter blew up like a racist Old Faithful, spouting hateful comments about somebody who wasn't ... well, let's say it, white or black ... singing our national anthem.

And earlier this week, pop singer Marc Anthony sang "God Bless America" at the MLB All-Star game, and the Twittersphere went off the deep end again.  And once more, they were wrong -- Marc Anthony is a natural born citizen, even though he is of Puerto Rican heritage, but he doesn't look white or black.


I'm not going to pretend that racism is over.  Many people claim the fact that we have a black President as a reason for all this racist talk to stop, but it's not enough for some people.  As far as I can tell, racism works three ways:
1. We hate other races for simply being another race.
2. We hate our own race for what people in our race have done to other races.
3. We impose our beliefs about race and racism on others.

It's Method #3 that bothers me the most, and television and situations borne out of television events are bigger perpetrators of these ideas than pretty much anything else I've seen in the media.  And why?  We trust what the news programs tell us.  We listen to TMZ, Entertainment Tonight, Dateline, 60 Minutes, the local news stations, and we don't ask any questions.  We believe that when someone does or says something that might be construed as inappropriate, based on what our media tells us, we jump at the chance to vilify them.

Why can't we accept that some people want us to believe certain things, think a certain way, or buy into a certain ideology, whether it's right or wrong?  Are we that blind?  Do we really think that the people in charge of the media are willing to let us believe whatever we want?

"Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness." -- I John 2:9

"...and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.  Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free, but Christ is all, and in all." -- Colossians 3:10-11

I prefer to stand for what Jesus stood for, and nothing will change my mind about that.  No program, no pundit, no politician, no Twitter twit, no broadcast will ever shake me from that foundation.  I refuse to get caught up in Method #3.  I'll keep watching television.  But like a hawk.

Article originally published on the entertainment blog Geek Goes Rogue.  Find the article here.

There Is No Box.
Zach

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Geek Goes Rogue reviews SHARKNADO!

Last Thursday, July 11th, I celebrated my 10th anniversary with my beautiful wife, Julie.  As that was happening, the rest of the interwebs celebrated the "Sharknado" phenomenon.  I may be late to the punch on this one, but only because there was no way I was going to watch "Sharknado" on my anniversary.

I DVR'ed it, though.  Oh yeah.

And since there was such a huge web presence talking about it last week, SyFy is showing an encore presentation of the movie this Thursday night.  Well, in case you haven't been indoctrinated yet, or if you haven't watched but are just as curious as the next person, I present to you my real-time review of the made-for-TV movie, "Sharknado".

Hold tight.  Spoilers, bad dialogue, and other stuff.  But really, you knew what was coming.


0:01:05 - Opening.  Countless fins in the ocean, a funnel cloud swirling over the surface of the water, and the Sharknado title just disintegrated from the force of the CGI winds.  Could this give us a glimpse of what's to come?

0:02:20 - Why is an anonymous Asian man in a suit drinking from a small bowl?

0:03:10 - Exactly how does this guy know there are 20,000 sharks heading their way?  Oh, look, he's got a gun.  Asian guy looks nervous.

0:04:07 - The captain's lip dubbing is horrible.

0:05:16 - Oops.  Looks like a shark found a crewman.  And he's eating him like a snake would eat its prey, shoving him down its gullet.  I don't think this movie is going to be very accurate.

0:06:24 - Remember in Jaws how Robert Shaw's character talked about the sea turning red?  Well, the Sharknado has claimed its first official 'nado victim, and the mist in the air turned red.  Strap in.

0:07:05 - Note to screenwriters: T&A is not "scenery".

0:08:36 - The 'nado has a name -- it's David.  So there are 20,000 Davids?  .....aaaand John Heard gets grabby with the eye candy bartender.

0:10:46 - Two surfers, sitting on their boards, waiting for a wave.  Ironically, this shot contains the calmest waters I think we're going to see in the whole film.

0:12:40 - Okay, a guy just got bit by a shark while standing knee-deep.

0:12:49 - Oh, there's the fin.  He's in the 4-foot section.

0:14:25 - "These sharks of yours have got no etiquette."

0:14:55 - When he said, "We need a tourniquet," and Eye Candy bartender in the bikini said, "Here, use this," and reached behind her to untie something, I would not have been surprised if she had taken off her top.  That's where this movie seems to be heading.  It was just her serving apron, though.

0:15:12 - "Sharks don't like vegemite."

0:16:55 - Okay, she's WAY too eager to jump Ian Ziering's bones.  He's your boss, girl.  I guess she thought about taking her top off after all.

0:17:48 - No, News people, global warming is NOT the reason.  Knock it off.

0:23:25 - Apparently, the ocean is flooding.  The OCEAN.

0:25:13 - Shark through the window?  Meet pool cue.

0:25:49 - All four of the characters we've been following grab weapons as they abandon the bar.  Ian Ziering's character, Fin, grabs a handgun, Eye Candy grabs a shotgun, and the Australian guy (why is there always an Australian in bad sea monster movies?) grabs a baseball bat.  John Heard?  He grabs his precious barstool.  So far, he's doing the best acting out of everyone.

0:25:59 - That man running away from the carnage in the middle of the crowd looks bored.

0:26:57 - Line that should have been used: "Smile, you son of a ....!"

0:27:32 - For future reference -- if a ferris wheel is chasing you, and it can obviously go in only one direction, RUN IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION.

0:30:47 - Do you really think your energy is best spent identifying which kind of shark it is?  THERE ARE SHARKS IN THE STREETS.  THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

0:38:00 - Okay, John Heard.  Everyone knows that the 405 freeway in southern California is one of the worst highways in the country for gridlock.  Even people who don't live in L.A. and have NEVER been on that highway know this.  And yet you suggested the 405 is the best way to Beverly Hills?

NOTE: Oh yeah, I'm blaming the actors for these bad lines, not the screenwriters.  They should all know better, but at least the screenwriters aren't having to say these lines themselves.

0:39:29 - Blood splatter on the windshield is tastefully wiped away by the windshield wipers.  Probably the most artistic part of the movie.

0:40:31 - Okay, John Heard just used his barstool to break a car window and rescue a golden retriever.  All he has to do is get his arm bitten off by one of the sharks, then he can strap the stool to his arm and make it his new hand, Evil Dead II style.

0:40:38 - Wait!  John Heard!  You left your stool on the ground!  Well, there go my lofty hopes for implausible action.

0:40:52 - Yeah, a wall of water just crashed over the freeway wall, dumping sharks onto John Heard, whose response was "Oh, crap!"  Yeah, you know what should have followed that?  "I left my stool on the ground!"

0:43:34 - Okay, that piece of towel or whatever it is that's stuck to their windshield wiper is really starting to drive me nuts.

0:44:32 - Aren't sharks in a Sharknado supposed to come from the sky?  What are they doing coming up out of the sewer?

0:51:32 - It just now struck me ... does anyone else think the writers were lazy by naming the main character Fin?

0:52:48 - "Looks like it's that time of the month."  Really, Australian Guy?  REALLY??

0:55:14 - A house just disintegrated from all the sharks swimming through it, even though IT WAS UP A HILL.

0:57:14 - "The storm is dying down."  "How can you tell?"  "Not as many sharks flying around."  Okay, I have to say, that was brilliant.

1:06:53 - A shark jumped out of the water and is chasing Fin UP THE ROPE.  This doesn't happen in the water.

1:09:16 - "My mom always told me Hollywood would kill me."

1:15:45 - [Loud bang on car]  "What was that?"  I'll give you a hint.  What's long, has a few of the the main character's first name attached to its body, and has been found EVERYWHERE you've been today?

1:16:42 - "Why did we stop?"  "It must be flooded."  Stop, you're killing me, stop.

1:16:57 - I'm sorry, how exactly is a car supposed to explode, even with a fuel leak, when there's no fire to be found?

1:20:19 - "Now we're never gonna get to Van Nuys."  Trust me, lady, there's nothing in Van Nuys worth your time.

1:30:44 - In a small airplane hanger, one young woman gets sucked out of a hole in the roof, even though nothing else in the room moved.  Talk about an isolated storm system. *rimshot*

1:32:14 - "We can't just wait here and wait for sharks to rain down on us again."  Well, heck, why not?  You've made it this far on pretty much nothing.

1:32:50 - "Stand back.  I have the key."  Eye Candy blasts a shot into the door of a supply closet that we later find has many tanks of propane inside.  Turns out it's a magic key.

1:36:31 - "Nobody thinks this is cool."  Wow.  The layers of subtext...

1:38:18 - "They TOOK my grandfather.  That's why I really hate sharks."  "Now I really hate sharks, too."  It almost writes itself, folks.

1:38:28 - I like how the bomb Australian Guy rigged has a winking smiley face on it.

1:43:30 - Is it me, or does Tara Reid look only about 10 years older than the guy playing her obviously 18-year old son?

1:45:28 - "We're gonna need a bigger chopper."  Nope, sorry.  Doesn't work.  Not even as an homage.  This movie isn't smart enough.

1:47:10 - Fin just held up a running chainsaw, and the shark flying towards him was bisected by it.  Now, come on, that's fun for everyone.

1:47:52 - According to the closed captioning (which is horribly wrought with grammatical errors, BTW), as a shark is gnawing on the Australian guy's leg, the only thing he says is, "Why?"  I'll give you three guesses, Australian Guy, but I have a feeling you're only gonna need one.

1:48:55 - "It's about to tear through the city of LoaaAAAAHHH!"

1:49:50 - Shark falls out of the sky, rips off a young guy's arm, who immediately screams.  Then the same shark goes to work on his leg until, spitting blood, he passes out from the pain.  Then a hammerhead shark lands on his head.  Best death in the movie so far.

1:51:05 - We just torched your pool, old people.  You're welcome.

1:53:02 - So, while stabbing a shark that has grabbed onto the helicopter she was riding in (you know, as sharks will do), Eye Candy slips and falls out of the chopper, only to be immediately eaten by another flying shark in what has to be one of the best alley-oops I've ever seen.

1:56:25 - It's rainin' sharks.  Hallelujah, it's rainin' sharks.

1:57:10 - Fin revs up the chainsaw and leaps INTO THE MOUTH of a flying great white.  Not since Reign Of Fire have we seen something that wicked.

1:58:07 - Fin's bloody exodus from the shark is like some sort of terrifying birth, especially since it's the EXACT SAME SHARK that ate Eye Candy.  And it's been flying around for 5 minutes.  But no matter, Fin's got her in tow.

1:59:18 - "I really hate sharks."  PETA is going to crap its pants when it sees this movie.

1:59:30 - For some reason, this gaggle of old people coming out of the home reminds me of the gathering of gangs in The Warriors.  Beware the night.

2:00:05 - Tara Reid kisses Fin, but not before painstakingly wiping the shark blood away from his mouth.  Now that's one of the few things in this movie that made sense.

Article originally published on the Geek Goes Rogue blog on Patheos.  Find the original article here.

There Is No Box.
Zach

Friday, July 12, 2013

"Breaking Bad" Celebrated with Calendar, Exhibit, Hollywood Screening

"I'm sorry, Dave.  I can't do that."

"Breaking Bad" has become one of those television shows that influences the culture it was introduced to.  I've seen food products, clothing, stickers, room decor, and even bath salts that have been based on the characters in the program.

And it's no surprise.  Breaking Bad made waves when it was first picked up by AMC in 2007 as part of the network's push into scripted programming.  It, along with "Mad Men" and other similar programs, catapulted AMC into the high ranks of networks to watch out for.  Bryan Cranston promptly won 3 Emmy Awards in a row for his portrayal of Walter White, and he was joined by actor Aaron Paul with 2 Emmys for his portrayal of Jesse Pinkman, Walter's partner in crime.  The show has won a few dozen other awards from various sources, including 4 AFI Awards for TV Program of the Year (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013).

AMC is counting down the days until the final episodes begin airing in just over a month's time, and in grand style, so is Vulture magazine, with their "Breaking Badvent."  30 days of counting down to the start of the series' final 8 episodes can be found at Vulture's website.

Also, the show has been given quite an honor, AMC reports, by being given its own exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York.  "From Mr. Chips to Scarface: Walter White's Transformation in Breaking Bad" will be on display from July 26th through October 27th, and will feature several costumes, such as Heisenberg's pork pie hat and the briefs Cranston wore during the first meth cooking sequence, as well as props from the show, including PET scans, the pink teddy bear from season 2, and a copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.

And Variety reports that in grand fashion, the finale of the series will be screened at Los Angeles' Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  The cemetery has hosted many film and TV show screenings, and this year's events include screenings of Caddyshack and Taxi Driver, as well a concerts from KT Tunstall, The National, and James Blake.  Aaron Paul even tweeted in June that September 29th would bring a screening of the pilot episode as well as the very last episode of the series.  "I will be there," his tweet concluded.  "Will you?"

No.  No, I won't.  I'll be watching it at home, probably several hours after it has aired so that my wife doesn't also have to sit through it.  I have a feeling it will be immersive and intense, and she doesn't watch TV so that she can do intense.  But I may just ask her for this T-shirt for Christmas:




















So there you have it.  The final season begins Sunday, August 11 on AMC.  Watch full episodes from Season 5 on AMC's website for the next 3 days.

This article was originally published in the blog Geek Goes Rogue.  Find the article here.

There Is No Box.
Zach

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

2 Beautiful Beheadings in 15 Minutes: The Allure of "Game of Thrones"

"All right, you primitive screwheads, listen up."

There are certain television shows that I stumble upon as they premier, and I enjoy way more than anyone else -- "FlashForward" was a prime example.  Then there are those series that I just can't get into.  I saw a few episodes of "Lost", but it didn't take.  I saw the first episode of "Glee", said "I get it," yet immediately knew I would never have to watch another episode.  Then there are other series that I discover after everyone else.  For instance, I never saw the reboot of "Battlestar Galactica" until earlier this year (for the record, it was one of the best series ever broadcast in the history of television, science fiction or not).  And I actually saw Serenity before I ever watched a single episode of "Firefly".

I didn't have cable until a few years ago.  I don't subscribe to HBO or Showtime.  I don't have a subscription to Hulu Plus, Netflix, or Redbox.  And there aren't many series that I'll buy or rent on DVD unless I know how compelling they are.

So... "Game of Thrones".

 I've always loved the King Arthur legend and stories that take place during medieval times.  There's a draw to the stories of nobility, courage, bravery and savagery, especially for men.  They're compelling to the point of wistfulness. But television could never capture the feel of the time nearly as realistically as film did.  For me and my friends, the wonderful nerds who listened to music filled with references of the time, many of whom played tabletop RPGs and read countless fantasy novels, the only place we could find that kind of quality was in the movies.

Until today, everything I've heard about "Game of Thrones" was incidental -- the violence, the nudity, Peter Dinklage.  I haven't heard much about its starkness, its beauty, its pacing, or its production values.

A few days ago, I watched the first episode of the series online, and wow, what a beautiful show.  Seriously, that's the one word that kept coming up with every new scene: "Beautiful."

Isn't this what television is supposed to do -- fill us with awe through spectacle?  Dazzle our eyes and our senses?  It's a fact that we are drawn to that which is pleasing to the eye, and beauty holds our attention more than almost anything else.  Consider the visuals in otherwise lacking television and movies:


The world of Pandora in Avatar...











The world of The Grid in Tron: Legacy...











...and its superior counterpart, "Tron: Uprising".











And every once in a while, SyFy fails to disappoint.

















And from what I can gather after having seen only one episode, I completely understand the draw.  One gets the sense there is more beyond the initial story, and things can only get more and more complicated as the series progresses.  But aside from the spectacle, one thing stands out as the high point of quality that all television must aspire to -- human interaction.

Like "Battlestar Galactica", this is a human drama.  The interplay among characters is filled with all things that make us human -- rage, fear, lust, hope, loyalty, betrayal.  For this reason above all others, "Game of Thrones" succeeds in ways that lesser series do not.  We feel the struggles of the characters, their desires, insecurities, and needs, and even through we live in different times, even different worlds, we can see how the events might play out in our own lives.

Is this what makes television so magnetic?  Does great escapism reflect our realism, or does realism give our escapism the power it needs to draw us in?

One thing's for sure -- I'll be watching more of "Game of Thrones".  No spoilers, please.

I would love to hear from you readers out there -- what television shows have drawn you in?  What about them hooked you?  Leave a comment, let me know.

Article originally published on Geek Goes Rogue.  Find the article here.

There Is No Box.
Zach

Monday, July 8, 2013

2 of TV's Sherlock Holmes Actors star in "Frankenstein"

"Lock the door."
"And hope they don't have blasters."

Now that the rest of the world knows who Benedict Cumberbatch is, we can get back to the real reason the man exists -- to play great characters.  The star of BBC's outstandingly powerful "Sherlock", Great Britain's take on the Sherlock Holmes character, Cumberbatch has co-starred with Johnny Lee Miller, star of the CBS drama "Elementary", USA's desperate attempt to create a Shelock Holmes series that doesn't look like a CSI knockoff, in a stage production of "Frankenstein".

The play, adapted by Nick Dear and directed by Oscar winner Danny Boyle, premiered in 2011 at the National Theater in London, and a live broadcast is showing in encore performances in theaters throughout the UK and in select U.S. cities on October 31st, 2013.

The production is unique in that both leads played Victor Frankenstein and The Creature.  Which lead played which role depended on the production date.  Had I known about this production when it happened, I would have dragged my wife to The Tivoli in St. Louis to see the initial live broadcast.

The cinema broadcasts are relatively new for the National Theater, and their list of productions for this year include "Macbeth" starring Kenneth Branaugh, "Othello" starring Adrian Lester and Rory Kinnear ("Skyfall"), and "Coriolanus" starring Tom Hiddleston ("Thor", "The Avengers").  Check their website at http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk to see if the cinema broadcasts will be coming to a theater in your area.


Regarding the television shows these two actor are involved in, "Elementary" has cast Rhys Ifans in the role of Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's older brother, and Sean Pertwee (Event Horizon, Equilibrium) in the role of Inspector Lestrade.  Looks like CBS is confident in the strides "Elementary" has made over the previous season and has invested in the canon.

Season 3 of "Sherlock" will premier on BBC in October 2013, with broadcasts on PBS' "Masterpiece" program in 2014.  Also, director Guillermo del Toro has revealed that he is considering Cumberbatch to star in his upcoming adaptation of...  ...care to take a guess?  Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.  The two are already planning on working together for del Toro's next horror project Crimson Peak, and with Pacific Rim set to premier this weekend, we'll see how much clout del Toro will have once the figures come in.  Will the crowds come out for it, or flock again to Despicable Me 2?  My hope is the former, as I would love to see more of Cumberbatch in pretty much anything.

Article originally published on the blog Geek Goes Rogue.  Find the article here.

There Is No Box.
Zach

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

"Under The Dome" Premiers to Good Ratings, Reviews

Article published on Geek Goes Rogue on Wednesday, July 3rd.  Find the original entry here.

I'll admit that several weeks ago, when I first saw the ads for CBS' new series "Under The Dome," I laughed a little bit.  The idea immediately brought a few questions to mind.  Apparently, according to users on IMDB.com, they were thinking the same thing...


Particularly, I immediately thought of The Simpsons Movie ("Trappucino").  And now, it appeared, we had a real life example.

I didn't know at the time that it was based on a Stephen King story.  So when I was researching new shows premiering, I came across the details for "Under The Dome" and thought, Okay, I have to watch the pilot.

I wasn't disappointed.  To a degree.

Apparently, plenty of others are thinking the same thing.  IndieWire has reported that the show has the feel of an episode of "The Twilight Zone."  The New York Times stated that the writers' lack of stereotype use helped bring this show into a more believable light (to which I somewhat disagree... my personal review will come later).  HitFix rated the premier episode a B while readers gave it a C+ rating, and said that the future of the series is "quite promising".

In a premier event that drew 13 million viewers, CBS seems to have made a great investment in making sure "Under The Dome" succeeds on as many levels as possible.  With a team of producer Agatha Warren ("A Gifted Man", "Prison Break") and creator Brian K. Vaughan ("Lost"), there exists the potential for a stunning, gripping human drama that will focus on the darkness of human nature.  13 episodes have been ordered, and as long as the series remains consistent, I have no doubt that CBS will renew the series for future development.

There Is No Box.
Zach

Warner Bros. Bringing 17 TV shows to Comic-Con

Article published on Geek Goes Rogue on Wednesday, July 3rd.  Find the entry here.

One thing I've always wanted to check out was the International Comic-Con in San Diego.  Many consider the SDCC the Mecca of geek pop culture, mostly due to its close proximity to movie and television studios, so it's not surprising to hear that Warner Bros. is charging into Comic-Con this July with 17 of its television shows.

Many of the studio's successful shows are returning, including "The Big Bang Theory," "The Following," "Revolution," and "The Vampire Diaries."

WB is also showcasing several of its new shows slated for fall premiers, airing the pilot episodes of some, including the new J.J. Abrams- produced, futuristic cop show "Almost Human" with Karl Urban, post-apocalyptic young person fodder "The 100," and young-hot-people-with-special-powers drama "The Tomorrow People".  Frankly, they sound worth checking out, but only time will tell what kind of staying power they have.

Many of the studio's stars and producers will be attending panels and signing autographs, including Kevin Bacon, Rob Corddry, Maggie Q, Karl Urban, Michael Ealy, Eric Kripke, and Kevin Williamson.  Check out the San Diego Comic-Con's unofficial blog for details on dates at www.sdccblog.com.


There Is No Box.
Zach

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Chemistry of Breaking Bad

Article published on Geek Goes Rogue on Monday, July 1st, 2013.  Find the entry here.

I'm sitting in front of my television, where I have taken many a late-night mini-vacation while my wife sleeps.  Our tastes in entertainment are somewhat different.  For instance, she's not a Star Trek fan, so she thought Star Trek Into Darkness was "really, really good".  And we geeks understand why that's frustrating.

Because I want to talk about "Breaking Bad."  When was the last time the science of a show hooked you, even though it was merely a cursory part of the plot?  Chemistry, as Bryan Cranston's Walter White explains in the series pilot, is the study of matter, but he prefers to see it as the study of change.

Foreshadowing much?

As I sit watching the show's pilot for the 5th time, I can't help but consider how similar this episode is to a superhero origin story.  There's a vulnerability and ruthlessness about Walter that is just as compelling as the typical comic book character.  He's a man who's in so far over his head due to desperate circumstances that he can't see past the immediacy of his decisions.  His transformation begins the moment he is diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, and he immediately looks for a way to provide for his wife, crippled son and yet-to-be-born daughter, after his departure from earth.  After seeing one of his former students (Aaron Paul) flee a meth house during a DEA raid, he blackmails the student into teaching him the business of selling and distributing crystal meth.  He pulls money out of savings to purchase an RV on a whim to create a mobile meth lab.  He assaults a kid who makes fun of his son in a clothing store.

The chemistry of Walter White never stalls throughout the series.  Every decision leads to an unintended or unexpected reaction.  After a few steps in, though, he seems to have control of everything... until he doesn't.  There is no point in the series where you ever feel safe for him, his partner Jesse, his family, or anyone he comes in contact with.

Another scene in the pilot puts it succinctly: Water is in the mobile lab after completing his first batch of glass-grade meth, and Jesse is lauding him with praise, calling his product "art".  "Actually," Walt responds, "it's just basic chemistry..."

I am already lamenting the day the final "Breaking Bad" episode airs.  The last episodes begin in just a few short weeks, and I've never anticipated a series' return to the screen more, nor have I prematurely lamented its departure, hoping it will remain in limbo so as to give me a little glimmer of hope.  Maybe then, there would at least be a question as to what happens to Walter and his alter ego, Heisenberg, instead of forever closing the door on one of the most creatively insane series to be thrust into our homes.  I would almost prefer the ambiguity.

"Breaking Bad" is an exploration of the descent into the dark side of human nature -- the things we do out of desperation, the secrets we carry to protect those we love, the unspeakable acts we're willing to commit out of self-preservation, and the depths we can sink to when given the chance.  "Breaking Bad" isn't just great television.  It's great chemistry.

The final episodes of "Breaking Bad" air on AMC beginning Sunday, August 11th.

There Is No Box.
Zach