Monthly Archives: September 2008

Look! Up in the Sky. It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s…Peter??

I’m re-watching the season premiere of Heroes, and something occurred to me.  Something I didn’t really notice last season (mainly because I was probably too busy noticing how much last season sucked).  That something is this: Peter Petrelli is Superman.

Now, before you all get your capes in an uproar, I’m not saying that Mama Petrelli’s baby boy has the same iconic status as Superman.  That would be stupid.  Supes has been around for seventy years.  He’s a mass media darling.  He’s been through World War II, the Cold War, and the near-collapse of the comic industry in the ’90s.  Peter Petrelli is a nurse with bitchin’ bangs.  So, what exactly am I driving at?  Simple.  Both Superman and Peter Petrelli provide similar obstacles and stumbling blocks to storytellers.

There’s a reason why the world has Kryptonite.  First invented for the Superman radio series in 1943, the deadly element was carried over into the comic series six years later, as a way of making the Superman stories a bit more dramatic.  Think about it: a story with an unstoppable protagonist who is impervious to everything and can do anything is boring.  Enter the little green rocks.  A weakened Superman is an interesting Superman.  I’m sure this is also why the Big Blue Boy Scout is vulnerable to magic and magic-based attacks.

This brings me back (finally) to Peter Petrelli.  Peter’s pretty much been set up as “the most powerful” character in the Heroes-verse.  In a world where people can walk through walls, stop time, or shoot lightning bolts from their fingertips, the dude who can do all of it is pretty high up the ladder.  Sure, there’s Sylar, but he has an inherent handicap–he needs to be more…umm…hands-on than Peter.  Sylar needs to identify, isolate, and lobotomize folks to get their powers.  Peter just needs to be standing in line at Starbucks with someone to get theirs.  So, as the writers and producers of Heroes, how do you deal with a character like Peter?  What do you do to keep the “drama” in this one-hour drama?  The answer is obvious: you need some kind of Kryptonite–in this case, it’s narrative Kryptonite.

Everything started off okay.  In season one of Heroes, Peter was still trying to figure his powers out.  He didn’t even know what he could do at first.  Then, when he finally realized that he could mimic the powers of others, he couldn’t do it unless his “donors” were nearby.  By the end of the season, Peter more or less figured out how to draw upon the powers of anyone he’s come into contact with.  Then he blew up–luckily, thanks to his niece Claire, Peter has the ability to regenerate.  See what’s happening here?  No one was worried for a second that ol’ Petey was going to die in the season one finale.  To paraphrase the musical episode of Buffy, he’d already “died twice” that season.  No threat.  No drama.

That brings us to season two.  What were the producers going to do about a character who could almost single-handedly deal with any threat they came up with?  They needed to find a way to tie Peter’s hands, metaphorically speaking.  Their solution: drop him in Ireland and give him a nasty bit of amnesia.  I might not have been a fan of the idea, but I can appreciate where it came from.  They’d pretty much painted themselves into a corner with Peter’s abilities, and needed to figure out how to keep the drama and tension cranked to 11.  It’s the exact same reason that Kryptonite was invented.

Now, season three is upon us, and the producers had to come up with yet another way to rein in Peter’s powers.  This time, they decided to have “Future Peter”–who has a scar, so we know he’s really bad-ass–come back to the present and take our Peter’s place.  While FP is masquerading as OP, OP finds himself trapped in the body of one of the villains from Level 5 (played by Veronica Mars‘ Weevil, you just gotta love that casting!).  It’s too early to know how long this current status quo will last, or what–if any–effect being in another body will have on OP’s abilities…I just think it’s funny that the producers find themselves jumping through hoops of their own making.

Hot Dog! We Have A Wiener

And, the winner of the First Annual LET’S CAST… Contest is–

Mando, who submitted the Star Wars: Legacy of the Force series.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and congrats to Mando!  You’ll see my picks for Jaina, Jacen, Mara, Ben, and “all the rest” posted here as soon as possible.

R.I.P. Paul Newman

What can you say about a guy who’s been in some of your favorite movies of all time?  We’re gonna miss ya, Paul.  Hollywood won’t be the same without you.

Ya Gotta Be In It To Win It, Kids.

Clock’s ticking, cats and kittens.  You have four more days to enter the First Annual LET’S CAST… Contest.  Just go here and leave a comment telling me what movie you’d like me to cast.

I serve at the pleasure of the President.

No…wait, that’s Rob Lowe, Richard Schiff, and Allison Janney…

Yes.  I just made a West Wing reference.

Time to Fire Up the DVR–Part 2

In which we learn that, even in the 21st Century, network executives are still capable of totally jerking us around.  Three seemingly worthwhile shows slated for Wednesdays at 8pm, one slated for 9pm, and nothing at 10?  Really??  You still got it, network-weasels.  You still got it.

WEDNESDAYS

Bones: Part gruesome procedural drama.  Part goofy workplace sitcom.  All fun.  It’s nice to see David Boreanaz getting to play a character with an actual personality for a change.  But, I’m still waiting to see how this new season deals with the fallout from last season’s storyline.

Knight Rider: Y’know what…I kinda liked the two-hour backdoor pilot NBC aired earlier this year.  It wasn’t perfect, but they were trying to give us something that was (shudder) entertaining.  Sure, Will Arnett would have been a HY-larious KITT, but Kilmer isn’t half bad.

Pushing Daisies: I wasn’t sure about this show when it premiered last season.  But, it won me over with an awesome cast (including guest stars) and an aesthetic that is just this side of a Tim Burton movie.  It doesn’t hurt that female lead Anna Friel is downright Deschanel-esque.

Criminal Minds: I wasn’t sure this was going to survive the sudden departure of singing maniac Mandy Patinkin’s Jason Gideon, but the producers done good by (a) casting Joe Mantegna and (2) making his character more than a place-holding Gideon clone.  Now, let’s just see which characters didn’t survive last season’s (ahem) explosive finale.

THURSDAYS

CSI: Unlike Criminal Minds, I seriously doubt this is going to survive Grissom’s departure.  Why?  Well, there’s been way too much house-cleaning in the last season or two.  Sara: gone.  Warrick: dead.  And, now Grissom is jumping ship.  Sure, the rest of the cast is capable, and Lawrence Fishburne (as Grissom’s replacement) is always awesome, but I’m not holding out a lot of hope.

The Office: I was a huge fan of the BBC version of The Office, but it’s taken me a while to get into the swing of things with the American version.  I will admit that it has grown on me significantly.

30 Rock: When I was growing up, NBC was the king of the sitcom.  Then came a long string of Seinfeld and Friends clones, and the crown not only slipped, it rolled across the floor, out the door, down the street, and came to a stop at the feet of Neil Patrick Harris.  But, with 30 Rock, NBC has started to reclaim its former sitcom glory.  Anyone who doesn’t think Alec Baldwin’s Jack Donaghy is one of the funniest sons-of-bitches on TV just isn’t paying attention.

Life on Mars: Another transplant from the UK.  I’ve heard amazing things about the original BBC version of this show about a modern-day cop who somehow ends up in the 70s, so I’m willing to check out the American version.  Although, after what happened with Journeyman last season, I wonder how well this is going to do.

Eleventh Hour: The guys behind CSI tackle X-Files-esque stories about cryogenics, cloning, and experimental brain surgery.  It’ll either be really good or complete crap.

FRIDAYS

Let’s be honest, until Doctor Who, Monk, and Psych come back, there really isn’t much going on TV-wise on Friday nights.  But, I guess I’ll give the second season of Life a shot, if for no other reason than Damian Lewis is awesome.

SATURDAYS

Ah-hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!

SUNDAYS

The Simpsons: The fact that The Simpsons have been on for 20 years means that there is an entire generation of people who have never lived in a non-Simpsons world.  It also means that the show’s been able to cycle through a bit of a slump a few seasons back and come out pretty close to the height of its former glory.

Family Guy: Either you like Family Guy or you think anyone who watches it should be forced to watch their own genitals being removed with rusty pliers.  Guess which group I’m in.

Cold Case: Not only is this a show about people doing their jobs, but it’s a show about people whose job is to investigate crimes that are sometimes decades old.  That means really cool music and goofy flashback effects.

The First Annual LET’S CAST… Contest

Drown the kids and shoot the neighbors, it’s time for the FIRST ANNUAL LET’S CAST… CONTEST!

That’s right, folks.  It’s time for you, my loyal readers, to submit ideas for my next LET’S CAST… post.  What does that mean, exactly?  Well, for starters, it means that I’ve run out of my own ideas and, like every other hack writer before me, I’ve decided to strip mine the brains of others.  The plump, sweet, juicy, life-sustaining brains of others.  But, it also means that you will get to make me your own private dancing monkey for however long it takes me to crank out a brilliantly witty dream cast for whatever project wins the coveted first place slot.

So, what are you waiting for?  Have a favorite book, comic, play, or old TV show that you’d love to see on the big screen?  Was there a movie that had a really cool premise, but whose cast was so horrible that it made you wanna go out and drop kick the first three-legged blind puppy you saw?

If you answered “Yes” to either of the above queries, simply leave a comment and tell me which movie you’d like me to cast.  Whichever suggestion is the most interesting (or, depending on my mood, the easiest) will win and you’ll get to see your entry after it’s been smacked around by the enchanted LET’S CAST… Shillelagh (trust me, like laws and sausage, you do not want to see how a LET’S CAST… list is actually made, it ain’t pretty).

What are you waiting for, Sally?  Make with the comments…

Four on the Floor #18: Wry, Sarcastic Butlers

The Situation: You’re a rich dude.  No, I mean like insanely rich.  So, odds are you’ve probably got at least one pretty big domicile of some kind that needs tending to.  Plus, let’s be honest, most really wealthy people tend to be a bit dim (it might be all of that blue-blooded inbreeding), so you might need someone around who can, say, keep your busy schedules straight or remind you when you’re about to leave the house without pants.

The Criteria: The trope of the servant who is smarter than his master has been around forever.  But, there is smart and there’s smart-ass.  I’m a sucker for that kind of droll, acid-tongued servant who knows that he’s really in charge of the situation.  Also, I know that, while all butlers are servants, not all servants are butlers.  For that reason, I’m sticking solely to ones who buttle–and, apparently, to those who valet, as well (sorry, I was never fully educated in the whole Upstairs/Downstairs hierarchy).  Therefore, that also means that the four names on this list also happen to be men–sassy housekeepers are a completely different list (Alice, Florence: I’m looking at you!).

1. Alfred Pennyworth

Unlike the other names on this list, Alfred does not work for a moron.  Actually, Alfred’s employer is probably one of the smartest men in the world.  But, that doesn’t mean that Bruce Wayne doesn’t need to be put in his place from time to time.  And, Alfred is one of the few people on the planet who can do that and live.  The reason: loyalty.  Whether he’s consoling a newly-orphaned 8 year old or stitching up the Dark Knight, Alfred’s been Wayne’s surrogate father and confidant since Day (or Year) One.

2. Reginald Jeeves

I wonder if P. G. Wodehouse new what he was doing when he created Jeeves?  Now, while technically a valet and not a butler, Jeeves embodies the very qualities that inspired this list.  He is not only the consummate gentleman’s gentleman, but there isn’t a soul on the planet who can get the dim-witted Bertie Wooster out of the ridiculous predicaments he manages to get himself into.

3. Hobson

While I’m no big fan of Arthur, you can’t ignore the brilliance of Sir John Gielgud’s Hobson (also, technically a valet).  Dudley Moore might have been the “star”, but Hobson walked away with the movie (and Gielgud walked away with an Oscar).  It should come as no surprise that Hobson is the perfect “Jeeves”, since the movie was pretty much an updated version of a Jeeves and Wooster plot.

4. Benson DuBois

Soap might be known for tackling subject matter that would have made Archie Bunker run and hide under the bed, but for me, it’s the show that gave me Benson.  In addition to having to deal with the usual assortment of wealthy dimwits, Benson frequently found himself surrounded by every kind of freak, maniac, and whack-job under the sun.  And, how did he deal with it?  He’d roll his eyes, shake his head, and mutter something caustic.

Time to Fire Up the DVR–Part 1

The new Fall TV season is more or less upon us, and a lot of folks are putting together lists of shows that they’re excited to (a) see returning or (2) check out for the first time.  Most of these people are “professional” TV watchers and critics.  But, some (like my pal Erin and myself) are simply talented civilians who retain their amateur status so they can watch TV in the Olympics.

I’ll be the first one to admit that I can be a bit indiscriminate with my viewing habits.  What can I say?  I like TV.  Actually, let me be a little more specific: I like FAKE TV.  Reality TV?  I don’t get it.  I live in reality.  I face reality for about 14 hours every day.  Why would I want to watch more reality on television.  In fact, I’m pretty sure TV was invented to provide an escape from reality.  So, asking TV to air “reality shows” goes against the very nature of the beast.  It would be like asking a cow to lay an egg, which we can all agree is just plain silly.  In addition to being fake, I also prefer my TV to involve people who obsessively do their jobs (I don’t really even care what those jobs are, just have one and contribute to society, ya long-haired hippie freak!)–which is why I tend to love me some procedural drama, while I take a break from the sitcoms whenever the pendulum swings away from workplace comedies.

There aren’t too many new shows that I’m all that excited about, but through the magic of DVR, I can record a bunch of episodes and find out if I like them later.

MONDAYS

The Big Bang Theory: I found this show by accident last season because it was on between How I Met Your Mother and Heroes.  Wasn’t sure about the whole “Awkward geek falls in love with hot chick across the hall” premise, but it seems to work.

How I Met Your Mother: Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Segel, Alyson Hannigan, and those other two…what’s not to love?  There’s a reason this is one of the few sitcoms I watch (along with TBBT and 30 Rock).

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Take two of the best sci-fi movies ever made, add Summer Glau (wheeee!) and Garret Dillahunt, and throw in the last few minutes of the season premiere (which had the first “Oh shit” moment of the 2008/09 season).  Now, if this doesn’t terminate that god-awful Chuck show, nothing will.

Heroes: Yes, last season was not that good.  But, the creators admitted it and tried to fix things.  That, coupled with just how awesome the first season was, gets Heroes a second chance.

My Own Worse Enemy: Christian Slater is a nice guy and his dangerous spy look-a-like?  Or are they supposed to be same guy?  Okay, I don’t know anything about this show, but I’ll give Slater a shot.

TUESDAYS

House: My ultimate goal is to be so irreplaceable that I can do and say whatever I want and know I’ll never get fired.  Until then, I’ll just watch House and live vicariously through Hugh Laurie.

NCIS: Both my dad and my sister watched this show for years.  I didn’t start until last season, but dang if it ain’t awesome.  Luckily, I’ve been catching the older episodes on USA (which seems to run a marathon every other week!).

Fringe: I really couldn’t have cared less about this show, until I watched the premiere.  It wasn’t bad.  It had Pacey, Lance Reddick, and a cow.  If J.J. Abrams can keep this show a light, freak-o-the-week romp and not suckify it with an unnecessarily complicated and labyrinthine mythology–like he did with Alias and LOST–we may be onto something here, kids.  Did I mention the cow?

The Mentalist: A fake psychic uses his “people reading” skills to help the authorities solve crimes.  Um…guys…haaaaave ya met Psych?  But, to be fair, I thought Angel was going to be like Forever Knight.

Without a Trace: C’mon, you know you love hearing Anthony LaPaglia tell someone he’s a cop as much as I do.  Plus, this is new cast member Steven Weber’s 297th attempt at having a show since Wings went off the air, so consider watching it an act of charity.*  Also, it co-stars a woman named Poppy.  Go on, treat yourself.

* DISCLAIMER: I actually really dig ol’ Steven Weber, so no disrespect was intended.  But, dude, Studio 60?  You had to know that was a bad idea.

Let’s Cast…THE DRESDEN FILES

I’ve sung the praises of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series numerous times in this blog.  How can you not love a series that stars a private detective who just so happens to be a wizard?  There was an attempt by the Sci-Fi Channel to make a series based on Harry Dresden’s adventures.  It was okay…but it wasn’t really Butcher’s world.  (I will say this: if not for the Sci-Fi Channel, I might never have picked up Storm Front and would currently be living a Dresden-free lifestyle.  Which would be, y’know, just wrong.)  One of the main problems is that the world in Butcher’s novels is a fairly complex one.  There are wizards and vampires and faeries.  White Councils and Wardens and Red Courts.  Another problem is that folks probably have very different ideas of what these characters look like.  But, never one to shy away from hypothetical controversy (actual controversy is a different story…that can stay over there), I’ve decided to cast a Dresden Files movie.

The Plot: Like I said, there’s a whole lot going on in Butcher’s books.  There are more secondary and tertiary characters than in Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter combined.  There’s a history–not just Harry’s personal history, but the history of magic and wizards, in general.  There’s politics and war and diplomatic wrangling.  Plus there’s whatever case that Harry is working on in a given book.  See, a lot.  So, I have no idea what the plot of a Harry Dresden movie would be.  Would it just be the plot of the first book (Storm Front), or something that deals with one of the longer arcs in the series?

The Cast (In addition to the characters who have been there since page one, there are numerous characters who first appeared in later novels, but have since gone on to become more or less permanent fixtures in Harry’s life.  I’ve picked some of the more prominent, while knowingly ignoring others for reasons of time and space.  Also, some of these may be SPOILER-y, so if you haven’t been keeping up with the Dresden books, you may want to turn back.  Thank you, that is all.):

Clive Owen as Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden

It’s not easy finding someone to fill Harry’s leather duster.  He’s an irreverent wise-ass in the best hardboiled tradition.  He also happens to be a little above average height and somewhat lanky.  Now, I would never call Clive Owen “above average height and somewhat lanky”; however, I think he’s proven that he can handle hardboiled wise-assery in both Sin City and Shoot ‘Em Up.

Naomi Watts as Sgt. Karrin Murphy

The “small, but fierce” Sgt. Murphy is not only Dresden’s friend on the Chicago Police Force, but also one of his few friends, period.  Despite being a petite blonde with a cute button nose, Murphy can kick ass with the best of them, including winning numerous martial arts competitions.  If nothing else, Watts is a petite blonde; but, I also think she could probably pull off Murphy’s tough-as-nails exterior.

Michael Bowen as Warden Donald Morgan

As a Warden for the White Council, Morgan acts as both Special Forces and Internal Affairs for the wizard community.  He’s been around since book one, keeping an eye on Dresden because the Council feared that Harry was (or would soon be) dabbling in the dark magics.  I was this close to casting Keith Carradine when I decided to go for a non-Carradine Carradine: Keith’s half-brother Michael Bowen.

Rashida Jones as Susan Rodriguez

Susan was a tabloid reporter for The Midwestern Arcane (think Carl Kolchak, but hotter).  She was also Harry’s girlfriend, at least before she was infected by a vampire of the Red Court.

Cillian Murphy as Thomas Raith

Thomas Raith is a vampire of the White Court.  White Court vampires feed off of emotional energy; in the case of the Raith family, the emotions they prefer are lust, passion and/or desire.  Thomas, like all White vampires, radiates sexual energy, making him pretty damned irresistible even if he’s not trying to be.  As half-brothers, Thomas and Harry share several physical attributes, although Thomas takes it to a more idealized “Greek god” degree.  Cillian Murphy could almost be a prettier version of Clive Owen…if you squint just right and look away from the screen.

Nathan Fillion as Michael Carpenter

Michael Carpenter is a Knight of the Cross.  He is charged with using one of three swords–which happen to have one of the nails from Christ’s Crucifixion forged into the blade–to combat the forces of Hell.  Michael is a devout man, whose faith sometimes confuses (and angers) Harry.  But, Harry never doubts Michael’s friendship, love for his family, or ability to be where he’s needed when he’s needed.  Fillion (in addition to being the obligatory Whedonite on these lists) has that quiet strength that you need for Michael.

Jason Lee as Bob the Skull

Wizard’s don’t do so well around technology invented after 1950, so Bob acts as Harry’s laptop and magical database.  Bob is a spirit of the air who inhabits a human skull in Harry’s basement lab.  Since he takes on the personality traits of his owners, since coming into Harry’s possession, Bob has become a bit of an obstinate smart-ass.  He’s also a bit of a letch, so you need someone who can leer with their voices, and I think Jason Lee has one of the more inherently leer-y and smart-ass-y voices around.

Adrian Pasdar as “Gentleman” Johnnie Marcone

“Gentleman” Johnnie is the top dog in Chicago’s human underworld, although he frequently finds himself embroiled in many of Dresden’s supernatural cases.  Marcone may be a mobster, but he also possesses an almost Old World code of honor, which is probably how he managed to get himself appointed as a freelord under the Unseelie Accords (a set of loose rules that govern the members of the magical world).  Pasdar has made a career playing cold, calculating individuals who aren’t above bending the rules if it serves their personal ends.

Donald Sutherland as Ebenezar McCoy

The cranky and crotchety McCoy (maybe it’s the name?) is a senior member of the White Council, as well as Harry’s old mentor–well, the one that survived.  He’s also the Council’s Blackstaff, a wizard who is allowed to operate outside of the Seven Laws of Magic to do the Council’s “wetwork.”  Honestly, the only reason I picked Sutherland (other than the fact that he’s awesome) is that I think he looks positively deranged when he’s all scruffy and dishevelled–doesn’t he look like a centuries-old wizard from the backwoods of Missouri?

Monica Bellucci as The Leanansidhe (or Lea)

Lea is (quite literally) Harry’s faerie godmother.  She’s a powerful member of the Winter Court of Faerie and, as such, is not to be trusted.  She’s not above deceit or manipulation (or pain, to be honest) to get what she wants.  Bellucci has an almost otherworldly quality about her that would fit Lea perfectly.  Plus, it’ll be fun to see her get to play opposite Clive Owen again.

“Hammer, meet nail.”

Earlier this week, the soundtrack to Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog was made available on iTunes.

For less than ten bucks, you can relive the unadulterated awesome of Joss Whedon’s epic, web-musical.  If you’d like, you can even mosey over to the Dr. Horrible website and take a gander at the liner notes and lyrics.

Personally, I can not get enough of “Bad Horse Chorus”; in fact, I think I’m going to find three guys and hire them to dress up as cowboys and deliver all of my missives in verse.  But, let’s be honest, each song pretty much hits the ball out of the park, from Neil Patrick Harris’ lovelorn stalker anthem “My Freeze Ray” to Nathan Fillion’s narcissistic “A Man’s Gotta Do” or “Everyone’s a Hero” (you can almost hear him swagger, I swear).  And, although Felicia Day breaks your heart with “Caring Hands” and “Penny’s Song”, I think “My Eyes” (her duet with NPH) is her real shining moment.

This should keep me happy until the DVD–with singing commentary!–is released.