Tuesday, September 21, 2010

At a Glance: New fall TV shows that may prove remotely interesting

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 0
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Autumn is my favorite season for many reasons. Mostly because the weather offers a nice break from extremes and a lot of holiday vacation time is coming up, but I digress. It is also the season when new TV shows compete to capture our ADD-afflicted attention spans. Their objective? To hook us and keep themselves employed for the next seven years, of course.

In the spirit of giving them a shot, let's all attempt to pause from Tweeting/Facebooking about our weekend (you know no one reads that stuff anyway, right?) and see what's new on this year's viewing buffet. I haven't included them all, only those that appear most interesting to me because, well, this is my blog.

Pitt & Buscemi
Boardwalk Empire - HBO. Sundays, 9 pm ET.
Pay stations have an edge with me when it comes to a series. They usually have better actors, bigger budgets and more cursing, sex, and violence. This one also has Michael Pitt (The Village, Murder by Numbers) as a returning war hero and the 
pilot was produced/directed by Martin Scorsese. I'm so there!

Set in Atlantic City during Prohibition, the show centers around Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi), the not-so-by-the-book town treasurer. Already on the take from every business in town, Nucky realizes that the alcohol ban has positioned him to make a killing off of the mob, who will now be funneling their activities through his city.

The cast of characters includes many a mob legend, such as Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza), Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Al Capone (Stephen Graham). All of these bad boys naturally need the force of good to contend with, which appears in the person of federal agent Van Alden (Michael Shannon). Legendary mobsters, Buscemi, Pitt and Scorsese? What's not to love? Well, we'll see.

Watch clip.

The Event - NBC. Mondays, 9 pm ET.
This is one of those time-shifting shows that alternately flashes back,
then forward, then back again, all to explain what's going on in the present.
In the pilot we meet Sean Walker (Jason Ritter), an apparently well-adjusted, normal enough guy who somehow ends up waving a gun in an airport two weeks later. Where did his girlfriend go? What happened? An event of some sort, maybe? We just don't know!

We also have a new president (Blair Underwood) trying to dig up information on a prison in Alaska run by the CIA via the enigmatic Sophia (Laura Innes). The episode ends with (you guessed it) an event that could change the world forever. Or did that already happen and this is just a flashback? Is Jack Bauer here? Oh, the suspense!

Watch clip.

$#*! My Dad Says - CBS. Thursdays, 
8:30 pm ET.
It is no coincidence that I mentioned Twitter above. Of course, if you've been reading Persnickety for any length of time, you know I do little without an ulterior motive. The premise of this sitcom is the first ever based on a Tweet-Feed. Specifically, this one, in which Justin Halpern repeats all of the politically incorrect utterances of his father.

It stars William Shatner as the multi-person offending pops, Ed Goodson. To counteract the loneliness such behavior inevitably induces, Ed asks his unemployed son (Ryan Devlin in the pilot, although word is the role has been recast) to move in with him and hilarity, hopefully, ensues. The cast also includes Will Sasso as Henry's brother Vince, and Nicolle Sullivan as Vince's overbearing wife Kathleen. I guess if they can make an entire movie about Facebook, they can make a series based on Tweets. My only question is, will all of the dialogue be 140 characters or less?

Watch clip

Rappaport & Cast
Outsourced - NBC. Thursdays, 9:30 pm ET.
Perhaps NBC was so busy trying to figure out a way to keep fans of The Office around after Steve Carell leaves, they failed to notice that we are trying to claw our way out of a recession. If they had watched the news at some point, they might have realized that jobs being sent overseas is not making Americans all that happy-schmappy.

Poorly chosen premise aside, this show follows American executive Todd Dempsey (Ben Rappaport) to Mumbai where he is sent to manage his company's call center. Once there, Todd discovers he is going to have to "Americanize" his team (including Rizwan Manji, Sacha Dhawan and Parvesh Cheena) so they can capably sell the product. It was apparently assumed that the culture clash between Dempsey and his Indian employees amidst the always hilarious racial humor would induce riotous laughter. So far, the premise has only caused controversy. In all fairness, the show hasn't even aired yet, but I'll still be keeping my bag of rotten tomatoes at the ready.

Watch clip.

The Walking Dead - AMC. Premieres Oct. 31, 10 pm ET.
What do you get when you mix the Thriller video with 28 Days Later? A Zombiepocalypse! Okay, so there's no singing and dancing, which is a damn shame! After nearly all of the human population are turned into flesh-eating predators, a small group of survivors attempt to find a zombie-free safe haven. As they begin to lose hope, they discover that there is little they will not do to survive even painstakingly choreographed boogying. Okay, okay, I added that last part. 

Season One of this horrorfest will be comprised of six episodes written by Robert Kirkman, the author of the comic book on which the series is based. Details are being kept on the down low, but the cast features Andrew Lincoln as police officer Rick Grimes. We have plenty of shows about vampires, so it is time that zombies get their share of the gore, but can brain-eating monsters who don't dance hold our attention long enough to stick with a series? Even if it cannot, the first few episodes may prove an interesting diversion from the normal fare.

Watch clip

What do you think? If you catch any of the premieres, please post your opinions up in the comments.

Monday, September 13, 2010

New Band Alert: Mysteriana

Monday, September 13, 2010 3
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As a conscientious journalist, I cannot in good faith write a full review on this band's new release. I would be far too biased as one of the members is my brother. However, I will preface this by stating that I am very choosy as to what gems will grace my iPod, Stan (yes, I name my favorite electronics).

For the last three days Stan has been giving Mysteriana's self-titled release more play than New Order's back
catalog a sign from the Muse's indeed!

What is most impressive about Mysteriana (pronounced My-steriana) is that the two members, Lance Tyler and Daniel Lomelino, have done everything themselves, including playing all of the instruments. Yet, their sound is full, melodic, haunting and occasionally orchestral.

But, don't take my word for it! If you are a fan of Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure, Interpol, VAST or Massive Attack, you should definitely give them a listen! Previews of all of their songs are available on their
Web site, or you can download the album at cdbaby.

Post up your favorite track in the comments!

In the meantime, here is Not Here, c/o YouTube. Happy listening!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The return of MST3K: RiffTrax spins the lame into gold

Sunday, July 25, 2010 0
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In the '90s, one of the most rewarding ways to kick off your Saturday was to catch Mystery Science Theater 3,000 on the Sci-Fi channel. The show was set in space on the Satellite of Love, where a man and two robots were being held prisoner by an evil mastermind. The villain's favorite form of torture was forcing the captives to watch really, really bad movies.

The entertaining part was the commentary provided by Mike Nelson and his lovable robots, Tom-Servo (Kevin Murphy) and Crow T. Robot (Bill Corbett). Alas, the series ended in 1999. However, there are numerous episodes available on DVD, as well as the aptly titled 1996 film,
Mystery Science Theater 3000 The Movie or you could just download some RiffTrax.

That's right, the boys are back, and this time they are not limited to low-budget schlock (although, who doesn't love that stuff?). At the RiffTrax Web site, the guys are still doing what they do best. Visitors can download RiffTrax and synchronize the file with their own DVD, or they can purchase the video file with the commentary included.

The best part of this new incarnation is that, while they still feature some delectably horrible offerings (
Voodoo Man starring Bela Lugosi, for instance), and delightfully dated informative public shorts (my personal favorite is Carnivorous Plants) the guys are now riffing on Hollywood heavy weights.

As Corbett told Fearnet.com last year, they have merely added to their repertoire.

"We do the MP3 downloadable commentary for the newer releases," Corbett explained. "But we're also doing some older stuff and a lot of shorts like we used to do on Mystery Science Theater, which are some of my favorite things to do, probably because my attention span is about 15 minutes in general."

Included in the ever-growing list of more recent films are
The Dark Knight, Spiderman, Twilight, three of the Harry Potter films and all of the Star Wars franchise. It could be argued that Darth Vader's first appearance in Star Wars would have been improved had the line from Rifftrax been used:

"Alright, what am I doing? Cuttin' a ribbon on a mall? Nobody tells me anything!"

Additionally, the scene in
The Dark Knight, when Two-Face realizes the best way to blackmail Gordon is with his son, would only have been strengthened by the Riffers contribution of having the little boy triumphantly proclaim, "Daddy loves me best! Daddy loves me best!"

According to Corbett, though, riffing on the newer films has
proved to be a bit of a challenge.

"I find them a little harder, although I've kind of gotten into the swing of 'em now," Corbett told Fear.net. "There are a couple of things, for one they are longer, as a rule. Just maintaining the level of writing quality is a little more difficult. There are go-to areas for jokes in any movie but by hour three of any of these movies it's like, ‘Oh man, we've commented on this thing like a hundred times already.’"

It may seem to those who are unfamiliar with MST3K that these guys are just attempting to cynically tear down films which the public holds in high esteem. However, Corbett said that this is not the case at all.

"The fact that we can riff a movie doesn't mean it's bad," Corbett pointed out. "We often riff movies we really like. Like Jaws, we did that a few months ago, and we're all fans. There are some things in there that haven't aged as well, but still it's a great movie. But because it's pretty serious, we found a way in I think."

So, what titles can we expect to see on the Web site in the future?

"Hopefully we're going to work on an occasional 80's title [since] we all have a fondness for that era when we grew up" Corbett revealed.

Oh, please let one of them be

Do you have a favorite MST3K or Rifftrax quote? Post it up in the comments!

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