What I Watched on my Summer Vacation – Part III – TV News I Missed

September 7, 2007

Although I took a hiatus from writing about TV news, I sure didn’t stop following it.  Here are some of the big TV news announcements of the summer and my thoughts on them.

  • Veronica Mars Cancelled by the CW – Not a huge surprise but still a disappointment.  As much as I wasn’t crazy about season 3, especially the last few non-arc episodes, Veronica Mars was a great show.  I watched a couple of season 1 episodes this week now that it’s in syndication and all I have to say is that the first season truly was a brilliant feat in episodic storytelling and I’m going to miss it.  Of course what this paved the way for was…..
  • Kristin Bell joins the cast of Heroes – Fanboys went crazy at this news, myself included.  Veronica the superhero.  How cool is that!
  • The Sopranos ends with a black screen –  I admit I rewound the PVR a few times and swore at the TV.  At first I was disappointed with the ending but as I thought more about it I did appreciate the lack of closure as consistent with the uniqueness of the show.  Now a few months later I’m back to disappointed but still looking at the series as a whole it’s hard to be upset for long.  It will truly be remembered as one of the best shows to ever air.
  • Jericho gets renewed for a second season – After being cancelled by CBS, a network that has demonstrated little to no patience for a show that isn’t a procedural, a viewer campaign sending nuts to the network convinces the powers that be to renew the show.  I’m super happy about this.  After a very slow first half of the season (ironically, the half where the ratings were good), the second half began to kick butt with twists, turns, deaths and a compelling story that drew me in every week.  Even though it’s only been renewed for a few episodes to give it a chance this may be enough to ignore my initial bitterness and get me to watch a CBS show this year.
  • Battlestar Galactica is going to end after season 4 – I think it’s great that the show is already crafting an ending allowing it go out at the top of its game but I’m not ecstatic about the recent news that SciFi may spread the final 20 episodes over 2 years.  At this point I just want it to start.  January still seems a far way off.
  • Isaiah Washington fired from Grey’s Anatomy – Handled badly by all parties at the end of the day I just don’t care.
  • Emmy Nominations Announced – There isn’t much I can add to the confusion and outrage expressed by any one – critic, fan, etc – over the silly nominations.  No Friday Night Lights.  No The Wire.   No Lost.  No Battlestar Galactica.  Lots of Boston Legal and Two and a Half Men.  Do the nominators actually like TV?  I’m happy about the 30 Rock, Sopranos and Office nominations as well as Brothers & Sisters acting nominations.  Also not too disappointed by the absence of 24.  But what about The Shield and the brilliant Walton Goggins.  I guess this isn’t the year the Emmys become relevant.

Just a few highlights from the summer.  It’s great to be back.  My Fall Preview entries are coming next week.  Let me know your TV news highlights from the summer.

The Sopranos – Season 6, Episode 18 – Kennedy and Heidi

May 15, 2007

Is there anyone who watched last night’s episode who’s jaw didn’t hit the ground about 7 minutes in when Tony ended his nephew’s life.  Sure we’ve seen the tension between them escalate but to see it happen this way was as shocking as intended.  Unlike my comments a few weeks ago that Tony’s gambling problem was completely inconsistent with the character, tonight was dead on.  Tony has always been a narcissist who sees himself as the hero of his story despite the despicable things he does – whether it was “saving” Pi-O-My, giving his daughter the car from a degenerate gambler to “teach” her, killing Tony B himself rather than letting Phil do it – killing Chris to “protect” his baby is just par for the course.  I loved how he kept trying to get anyone to agree with him that Chris deserved to die and no one bit.

So does Tony remind you of anyone specific that brings the show full circle?  I’m confident that Livia’s spectre will be making an appearance in the final therapy session of the series.

Another great moment was AJ realizing that he’s not cut out for his father’s business, something Tony has known for a long time.  I still don’t think it’s going to end well for him.

Down to the final 3!

Avi’s Episode Rating: A

The Sopranos – Season 6, Episode 16 – Chasing It

May 7, 2007

If it was possible for me to enjoy this show in isolation, as a stand alone episode in the midst of its run, I would be raving.  The acting was as brilliant as we’ve come to expect from The Sopranos complete with Emmy award worthy moments by both Tony and Carmela.  The scene where he explodes at her ripping at every one of her insecurities while making her question the motivation for why she went back to him drew on the history of the characters and frankly many of the things that make them both complex and often cruel characters.  I could point to the character’s slow burn as Tony gets deeper and deeper into the hole as a combination of writing and acting that rarely has a peer in any medium.  I especially enjoyed the moments with Hesh (one of my favourite secondary characters) where Tony goes to escape from his pack of “murderers” only to find that even that place isn’t a haven for him.

So why am I disappointed.  It isn’t what you think.  I’m okay with this being one of the last episodes because I think this is all leading towards a resolution for the show despite the lack of killings that some critics seem to crave.  My problem is that this episode seems to be completely inconsistent with the past 6 seasons of the show.  From the first episode of the show Tony has always talked about the “f***in degenerate gamblers”.  They are his bread and butter as we found out from the Davey Scardino incident.  I just don’t see him falling prey to a gambling addiction given what we know about him and he knows about his business.  I completely by him as running out of money and living far beyond the means of someone in his profession ($3.1 M for the Stugats?) but becoming a gambling addict?  Despite his feelings of invincibility since being shot this storyline didn’t ring true for me.

Avi’s Episode Rating: A

Avi’s Consistency Rating: C

The Past Week in TV

April 27, 2007

This week has been a little crazy for me and I haven’t had much time to write so I’m going to instead give some quick hits on what I’ve watched and what I thought.

24 – That’s it.  Despite writing last week that I was likely going to stick it out for the last few episodes of the season after this week’s borefest I’m done.  There is nothing redeeming remaining about this show and there are enough good shows to watch that I don’t have to distract myself with this crap.  Avi’s Episode Rating: C-

Heroes – The reason I don’t feel a need to waste cycles on 24.  After way too long a hiatus (that felt even longer because of the amazing previews) Heroes finally returned with death, action, answers and another crazy cliffhanger.  As a comic geek I have to admit that I let out a “cool” when I heard Linderman give us his Watchman-esque plan to save the world.  I followed that with a “wow” as Linderman and Mrs. Petrelli alluded to their time as heroes likely in some form of Golden Age Justice League (or Justice Society for you fellow comic fans).  The death of Isaac, Claire meeting her father, Nathan as the future president – all great moments that set us up for the final scene of Hiro in the future and next week’s glimpse into the future.  Avi’s Episode Rating: A

The Sopranos – I liked the first 2 episodes of the season better but I enjoyed Tony and Paulie’s amazing adventure although it does sadden me to see Junior’s story really coming to an end.  I’m still going to stick with my prediction that Tony is going to retire before the season ends.   Avi’s Episode Rating: B+

American Idol – I didn’t watch the performances this week and only saw part of Wednesday’s telethon but I have to question the decision to bring back Kelly Clarkson.  Backed by the legendary Jeff Beck she pretty much puts all of the contestants on this season (and most of the previous ones) to shame.  The only one with any commercial potential to be the next Kelly Clarkson is Jordin.  End rant.  Another good moment was the Simpsons scene where they judge Simon which had me crying I was laughing so loud.  Annie Lennox was pretty good too.

I’ll get back to writing more regularly for the next couple of days.

The Sopranos – Season 6, Episode 14 – Stage Five

April 19, 2007

Watching this week’s great episode, I kept hearing Christopher from season 5(?) in the back of my head telling the now departed Adriana “My uncle Tony, the man I’m going to hell for.”  This episode brought the Tony-Christopher relationship front and centre with a surprisingly emotional Tony recognizing that his nephew hates him, even if it is subconsciously.  Even more in true Tony style, he sees it from his self-centred point of view, not recognizing why Chris would harbor any bad feelings.  This can’t end well.

This season has had multiple moments foreshadowing the end of the series despite the narrative moving seemingly slower.  The conversation between Tony and Carmine with Carmine refusing to step up and be boss choosing his happiness over the power.  The amazing Johnny Sack (may he Rest in Peace) wondering what legacy he will live behind in both his families.  Christopher pursuing a new career and staying away from his “family”.  Phil recognizing that despite his proclamations that it’s a younger man’s business he has ignored his obligations.  All of these threads are pushing the show to a conclusion that will never wrap the show up in a bow but will remain true to the complexity of the series.

Last week I made a prediction that Bobby will end up in jail before the season ends and that Janice would try and kill Tony. Like mother, like sister bringing the show full circle.   Other predictions seize on Tony’s statement last week (and in other episodes of the series) that the only ending for someone like him is “in the can or in the morgue”.

After this week’s show I am going to make an additional prediction about the ultimate end.  Tony is going to start to develop his succession plan.  I think between his conversations with Phil and Carmine, his realization that he can’t even maintain his relationship with his mentee and just the plain headache of it all, he’s going to start planning his exit.  Even getting his paper in the morning is ruined.  My guess is the next few episodes will have Tony preparing for his eventual retirement although I’m at a loss for who his successor will be.

How do you think the show will end?

Avi’s episode rating: A

The Sopranos – Season 6, Episode 13 – Soprano Home Movies

April 9, 2007

The beginning of the end.  So says all the promotional material for the last 9 episodes of what may be one of the most influential shows to ever air.  At the very least it made a network.

Well this episode sure isn’t going to satisfy everyone who complained that last year’s shows moved too slow.   Except for a couple of scenes it didn’t really advance any of the plots or give any indication that the show is headed for the end.  (Tony being arrested on a gun charge stemming from his running from Johnny Sack in the season 5 finale being the exception.)

But that is the beauty of The Sopranos.  It isn’t a plot driven mob drama but a detailed character study of a man and his two families.  Tonight’s episode had Tony and Carmela celebrating his 47th birthday with a trip up to Bobby and Janice’s lake house.  After some deep conversations about the paths that lie before someone in Tony’s business (dead or in prison), the foursome partake in a drunken game of Monopoly that leads to a knock-down fight between Tony and Bobby.

Chase uses the aftermath of the fight to remind us that Tony is still the flawed character he always was despite all the talk of his changing after being shot.  Carmela may say he isn’t vindictive but you can’t call what he did to Bobby anything but.

Maybe my expectations are just higher in these last remaining episodes but despite my enjoying the episode and the character moments I would have liked to see a little more plot momentum.

8 more to go.

Avi’s Episode Rating: B+

My Top 10 Sopranos Moments

April 8, 2007

To celebrate the final 9 episodes of The Sopranos here are my favourite moments from the past 6 seasons:

1. Tony gets carjacked (Season 1) – This was the defining Sopranos moment for me where the show crossed over into greatness.  As he sprialed into depression (including visions of an exchange student living at the Cusimonos) the only thing that is able to bring him back to reality is an attempt on his life.  Asked by Melfi how he feels “Pretty f****n good”.

2. Big Pussy gets killed (Season 2) – The minute we find out Big Pussy is an informant, we know there’s only one way for it to end.  Still, the scene where he has a last drink with Silvio, Paulie and Tony before he begs to not have it in the face is a great Soprano moment that has haunted Tony ever since.

3. Tony takes Meadow to University (Season 1) – “Are you in the mob?” Meadow asks as they drive to look at universities like any father/ daughter.  Until he sees a former mobster and brutally kills him in between Meadows interviews.  This is the moment that shatters for the viewerany misconception that Tony is a hero.

4. Adriana gets killed (Season 5) – Adriana was one of those characters who I found grating in the first couple of seasons but as she received more air time, we came to love Adriana (big hair and all).   I appreciated the fake out of her getting away but her death is one of those moments we knew was going to happen once she got caught by the feds.

5. Tony and Carmela break up (Season 4) – After a generally uneventful season Tony and Carmela’s marriage collapses with one of the best acted episodes of the series as Tony first begs for forgiveness, starts a sit-in (in the poolhouse), almost hits Carmela and eventually leaves each moment between the 2 of them felt real and made sense in the context of the series.

6. Christopher’s intervention (Season 4) – One of the funniest moments of the series as they all beat the crap out of Christopher in a Sopranos style intervention that ends up with him in rehab.

7. Melfi gets raped (Season 3) – As hard as the rape scene was to watch the great Soprano moment was the closing scene when Tony asks her if something is wrong and instead of sending Tony after her rapist (as she know she could), she responds with “no”.

8. Carmela goes to therapy (Season 6) – The scene where Carmela goes to Melfi and confronts the compromises she’s made in her life should have won her the Emmy.  It was the culmination of 5 years (or a lifetime for the character) of character development.

9. Davey Scatino loses at poker (Season 2) – I’m going to cheat a little with this one because I have 2 favourites wrapped in one.  This is when we find out that Tony’s “bread and butter” comes from “f****n degenerate gamblers” even if it’s Meadow’s friend’s father.  A few episodes later when he forces Davey’s store into bankruptcy it was hard not to laugh as everyone walks around with red coolers.

10. Janice shoots Richie (Season 2) – I still remember how my jaw dropped at that moment when Janice pulled the trigger.

Enjoy tonight.  Feel free to contribute your favourite Soprano moments.

The Shield – Season 6, Episode 1 – On the Jones

April 8, 2007

After a long 12 months the best cop show on TV returns.  Watching this first episode it amazes me just how dense this show is.   So much of what is going on relies on prior knowledge of Shield lore that I wouldn’t recommend a newbie start watching at the 6th season.

If you are a Shield newbie I’m not saying don’t watch.  What I’m saying to you is get off your butt, go to the video store or your favourite retailer and go rent or buy the first 5 seasons.  Then come back and read this review.  You won’t be sorry.

The 5th season of The Shield placed 2nd on my Best of 2006 list and the first episode of this new season picks up a day or so after the jaw dropping ending where Shane murders Lem out of fear he’s going to turn in the Strike Team.   Kavanaugh’s hatred of Vic hasn’t dulled and he tries to pin Lem’s death on Vic.  It’s amazing how close his theories are to the truth but just slightly off.  When he sees Dutch going in a different direction and finds himself unable to find any proof to the contrary, he plants evidence and a fake witness.  Kavanaugh’s descent from principled “follow the evidence” IAB investigator to rage filled, evidence planting Vic-like character has been one of the great character arcs in recent memory.

At the same time, the truly underrated Walton Goggins, Shane, is descending into his own new depths of despair dealing with his guilt over Lem’s death, which only intensifies after he learns that they were set up by Acevada and Kavanaugh.  I can’t wait to see what happens first – whether Vic finds out the truth or he self-destructs.

Lots of other great moments in this episode that only serve to showcase the amazing cast – Dutch knowing that Kavanaugh is lying, Wyms pushing for Mackey to retire while at the same time knowing that she needs him (particularly with cops like Billings on the job), Acevada’s consummate politician, Vic’s pain watching Acevada’s press conference and even a scene with Corinne and Danny that leaves no ambiguity as to her baby’s father.

There’s been a lot of  discussion online comparing The Shield to The Sopranos given the timing of their new seasons.  Lots of people arguing which is better.  Personally I don’t see the need to choose.  I’m just excited to enjoy what’s sure to be a great couple of months of TV.

Avi’s Episode Rating: A

Catching Up With The Sopranos in 7 Minutes

April 1, 2007

Ain’t YouTube grand.

An amazing 7 minute recap of the past 6 seasons of The Sopranos.  I’m not sure if it’s a replacement for actually watching the six seasons but it’s sure a great overview to get you ready before season 6.5 starts next week.

If you’re an Arrested Development fan don’t miss the appearance by GOB complete with his theme song intact.

Check out the Sopranos Preview

March 30, 2007

If you’re as excited as I am about the new season of The Sopranos then check out this exclusive preview that MSN has released.  It will make you count the hours.