Monday, August 29, 2011

Awesome BREAKING BAD Quotes - "Problem Dog"

Context- and commentary-free moments from this week's episode.

Actually, there were probably more great parts of the episode that occurred in silence this week (Walt's demeanor in the parking lot, Skyler's face in the carwash office, Hank's DEA boss' raised eyebrows when he passed over that final file), but that's not what we do here.

Episode 7, Season 4
airdate: August 28, 2011

"Big doings today. The order of the day is 'eyes open, mouth shut.'"
- Hitman Mike

"You pick up the rock, you go right to the dark side. Anything can happen."
- Old dude in group therapy
 "I made you my bitch. You accept?"
- Jesse Pinkman


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Breaking Down the 2011 Television Season (Part 2)

As promised, here's Part 2. Missed Part 1? No problemo.
Breaking Down the 2011 Television Season (Part 1)

This edition covers shows having ended after January 1st, when my last recap took us up until, through early June 2011.

(Season 2, FX)
Damn. As much as I loved the first season, Justified took itself to another level in 2011. Raylan Givens is still an uber bad-ass, and continues to take unconventional approaches in administering the law. This year's big bad was played by longtime character actress Margo Martindale who was simply brilliant as the ruthless matriarch of the backwoods Bennett clan. (Normally I'm not an advocate for such things, but if she doesn't win the Supporting Actress Emmy she's been nominated for, I'd be impressed to see who outdid her onscreen.) And thankfully last year's lead villain didn't leave us either, as Boyd is still causing problems in Harlan County through his good intentions and old habits. In addition to all the great tough-guy moments that are never in short supply on the show, this year the emotional tones took a giant leap forward, as Raylan had a seemingly constant barrage of tough decisions and intense hardships presented before him throughout the season. In my mind, Justified is one of the elite shows on television today and has the potential to get even better in subsequent seasons.

The Killing
(Season 1, AMC)
The most disappointing series of the year? Pretty much; I can't think of another. Which is such a shame because although the first three episodes failed to explain much more of what happened to Rosie Larson than the rest of season ended up revealing, there was a delicious mystery teased in such a fascinating manner that I was completely drawn in then. And given AMC's track record, I was guilty of assuming that we'd get answers by the end like Rubicon gave us. Not so. Which is why it's so curious that The Killing will actually be back for season 2. As lame as the first season ended up being, there was enough groundwork laid that another 13 episodes could fix the those missteps. I plan on giving it a chance to right the ship. I don't know if many more of the original audience be joining me though.

Lights Out
(Season 1, FX)
A modern boxing drama that initially played into many of the genre's tropes we've seen in various movies over the years, but later revealed some well-plotted storylines that were expertly executed onscreen. At times, this was a freaking great show. Unfortunately, it never gathered up much of an audience and had some missteps as the season went along before FX finally KO'd it. (This just in: I'm hilarious.) The season has an amazing ending, one of the boldest of the year. Amazingly it was written and shot before they knew if they were renewed or not. How they would have gone forward after that would really have been something to see unfold. It worked wonderfully as a series finale, but probably would have been my favorite season finale had a second season been ordered. Lights Out joins both Terriers and Rubicon as the new shows I wish had made it this year; it belongs in third place on that list. Even though it was cancelled and had some consistency problems, I still feel it's worth watching down the road.

Modern Family
(Season 2, ABC)
A good first season was followed up by a good second season. I'm a little disappointed it wasn't better than the first season, but I guess not everything can be Community. The achievement this year was rounding out young Luke into an actual character instead of the dumb kid who ran into the sliding glass door. Now he's basically a mini version of his dad. Everyone else was pretty much the same as they were the year before with some slight tweaks. I think the level where the show is at now is where we can expect it to remain for awhile -- good laughs each week, but nothing that's gonna blow your mind.

Mr. Sunshine
(Season 1, ABC)
This mid-season replacement comedy was cancelled after its only season, which wasn't much of a surprise. Matthew Perry ran the Sunshine Center, an arena that housed sporting events, concerts and other special events that are brought in to arenas. He's the least quirky employee in the place. Allison Janney (The West Wing) was surprisingly funny as his crazy boss, but otherwise there wasn't much interesting going on.
Sigh. I can't even make this show sound interesting when I'm trying. Whatever. Next review...

The Office
(Season 7, NBC)
So. No more Steve Carell. He was great as Michael Scott, but his departure is probably a good thing for the show's chances at continued longevity, as the recent seasons have been treading water at best. To its credit, the show bounced back a little this season, especially with Michael's own action movie, Threat Level Midnight; it reminded me how good this show was at one time. Hopefully James Spader can give the show a much-needed shot in the arm. But I don't think anyone can blame him if The Office finally closes next spring.

(Season 2, NBC)
Hmm. I'm having trouble remembering what actually happened during this season. I think the show coasts on the likeability of the actors from their previous projects as opposed to the audience being drawn in by the current quality of the show. It's starting to tip ever-so-slightly to the heavy drama plots with each additional episode, as I feared it would. Still highly watchable, but it has proven that it's not essential viewing at this stage, and isn't particularly memorable either.

Parks & Recreation
(Season 3, NBC)
Hard to believe a show that stumbled so greatly when it first premiered would be able to pull off the its own complex meme of Lil' Sebastian to perfection. Out of all the fake-documentary shows airing now, this is the best one. (Btw, how much footage do these assholes need? Or is it just Mr. Brainwash behind the lens?) I think it's the relationships that really glues this show together. Leslie & Ben. Andy & April. Tom & Jean-Ralphio. Ron Swanson & red meat. It took its time getting there, but Parks & Rec has become worthy of inclusion in the best-comedies-on-television discussion.

(Season 1, Showtime)
This is the American version of an apparently very successful British show (there have been 8 seasons and counting) about the Gallaghers, a low-income family in west side of Chicago. Well, maybe "low-income" is too generous; these six kids and their deadbeat dad (the great William H. Macy) are basically a no-income family, doing every oddjob and pulling as many scams as they can to get by. That probably sounds too depressing to start watching. But know that Shameless doesn't take the route of over-examining the socioeconomic struggles of these hopelessly downtrodden people. If anything, there are more moments of pure joy on display than the woe-is-me attitude they easily could've gone with (even when they are engaging in morally bankrupt acts, like stealing food out from the back of delivery truck). And that happens because these kids are smart (literally brilliant in one case) and ultimately they just want to be kids and have some fun. Meanwhile, Macy plays Frank Gallagher as more than just the drunken, deadbeat father he is -- he repeatedly has clownish moments and sometimes even Shakespearean-esque soliloquies. There's really nothing else like this on American TV right now.

(Season 10, CW)
After 10 years, there's no more weekly adventures featuring Clark Kent. Sad. I'll miss it and there doesn't seem to be a cheesy replacement of good constantly triumphing over evil these days. Too bad. (Edit: Mike tells me SyFy's Alphas is a contender.) Curiously, Smallville became a better show the more they allowed themselves to play in the sandbox of DC Comics, which is funny considering how much they avoided it in the early years. By now, if you're not a fan, you're probably not going to watch it. I don't know that the early seasons would still hold up now anyhow. But it worked wonderfully at the end. To see Clark Kent finally become It was awesome. I didn't expect it, but I actually shed a few tears during the final sequence. I guess when a show pulls off pretty much the perfect ending, it'll do that to you.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
(Season 3, Cartoon Network)
To give you a sense of how much better this show has gotten since that, well, unfortunate theatrical release in 2008, I actually look forward to watching The Clone Wars when it airs each week. Even the Padme and (amazingly) the Jar-Jar episodes are tolerable. A few years ago, I was a big fan of a couple of the expanded universe comics written by John Ostrander that Dark Horse was putting out. While the show hasn't quite gotten to the quality achieved there, it's clear the creators of this show are paying more attention to the good stuff from those expanded universe tales than they are to the drab prequel films. Quinlan Vos even showed up for an episode, albeit with a surfer-dude voice. But after my initial disappointment in that decision wore off, I realized at the end of the day this is a kids show. Basically the lesson here is Star Wars continues to be great the further away from the hands of George Lucas it gets, which is good news for the long-rumored live-action show I've been reading about for so many years.

(Season 6, CW)
For some reason I was under the impression that this would be the last year for Winchester boys to kill all sorts of evil monsters, and it actually held up as swan song season for the most part. But after getting solid ratings yet again (by CW standards), we're going to get another one. The past three seasons have built on the show's Christian mythology, which is a lot more interesting to me than chasing after vampires, ghosts and yellow-eyed deamons every week. Now their challenge is to make Sam wholly likeable again, but that shouldn't be too difficult as long as they don't suddenly abandon the show's formula.

Underbelly Files
(Made-For-TV Movies, Nine Network)
These three, mainly self-contained stories have only passing connections to the first three seasons of Underbelly. But that's all they need to have because, overall, they're still interesting little crime stories in Australia's extensive criminal past. Tell Them Lucifer Was Here details the long search for the killers of two police officers who were gunned down while in the line of duty. It's the weakest of the bunch, but has the strongest connection to the main series, featuring one of the great villains of season 1. Next was Infiltration, where one detective spent many months on a deep undercover mission trying to expose the dirty deeds of a branch of the Calabrian mafia. Next there was The Man Who Got Away, about a brilliant criminal who has a penchant for escaping prisons and eluding the police at nearly every turn. Probably because I enjoy when the bad guys win more than I should, The Man Who Got Away was my favorite of the three. The better news, however, is that season 4, this time called Underbelly: Razor just started up this past week. Look for a report on that in the end of 2011 recap.
Tell Them Lucifer Was Here:  C
Infiltration:  B
The Man Who Got Away:  B+
Since I took such a long time to write these last two entries, you'll only have to wait another few weeks until I'll be posting my reviews of the shows from Summer, which will include Falling Skies, The Hour, Louie and Game of Thrones.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Awesome BREAKING BAD Quotes - "Cornered"

A new feature for your pleasure debuts at LowBrowMedia today. Awesome Breaking Bad Quotes -- context- and commentary-free moments from this week's episode. As I contemplated which of these lines a TV Tweets entry was going to center around, I realized that was dumb. F that; they're all worthy of getting some play. Thus, a new feature was born. Feel free to discuss them or offer up another quote from this episode in the comments.

 Episode 6, Season 4 
airdate: August 21, 2011
"Bogdan. As is."
- Walter White
"I like to think I see things in people."
- Gustavo Fring
"Someone needs to protect this family from the man who protects this family."
- Skyler White

Friday, August 19, 2011

Breaking Down the 2011 Television Season (Part 1)

In about a month, it'll be fall. So I'm finally getting off my tuchas and writing about some shows that began nearly a year ago. As a result, some reviews will be intentionally vague as my memory hasn't retained all the details for something that I last saw seven months ago.

This edition covers shows having ended after January 1st, when my last published recap took us up until, through early June 2011.
30 Rock
(Season 5, NBC)
After a bit of a down year in season 4, Tiny Fey's baby rebounded this past year. They're still using sharp humor to cut through pop culture and they're obviously not afraid to bite the hand that feeds them with the constant prodding of Comcast stand-in, Kabletown. Alec Baldwin continues to be absolute perfection as Jack Donaghy, while I think they struck a better balance of utilizing their strengths as a show more often (Fey, Baldwin and Tracy Morgan) and toning down the presence of the quickly tiring roles of Kenneth and Jenna. It may not be quite as good as some of the other Thursday comedies on NBC these days, but it still has some quality laughs left in it.

(Season 2, FX)
Wow, what a gem this animated wonder is. On the surface, it's a spoof of the espionage genre, taking to task the Bourne and James Bond franchises as well as Get Smart, among others. But more exacting examination displays the same reoccurring humor that Arrested Development rewarded its devoted fans with by carrying over jokes from previous episodes to new ones. As a result, the show continuously improves. Or at least has thus far.

The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
(Season 1, Disney XD)
This is a really fine adaptation of the Marvel Universe. Good for kids, but also developed with older audience members in mind as well. If the recent Marvel movies (Iron Man, Thor & Captain America) have whet your appetite for these characters and diving into the continuity of the funnybooks is too daunting, this is for you. And I think well-established fans of the comics will enjoy them too. I certainly did.

Big Love
(Season 5, HBO)
Sigh. This show lost me the previous season, and I grudgenly forced myself to watch this final string of episodes. Well, if you consider achieving three stars on every level of Angry Birds while listening to the last four or five installments as "watching," that is. Kinda amazing how nearly every character became unlikeable by the end. Frankly, it's not worth carving out the hours in your life to get through the remainder of the series if you haven't yet. I'm sure there's a good episode of "Real Housewives of Whatever City They're Doing That In Now" you could watch instead. Probably near the same sense of accomplishment would be had in doing so.

The Chicago Code
(Season 1, FOX)
Shawn Ryan had a rough year in television. This and the wonderful FX show Terriers both got cancelled while he was at the helm. For a network police drama, The Chicago Code was pretty damn good. But it still seemed to utilize the usual tropes for police dramas on the big four. However, Jason Clarke, who I enjoyed on Showtime's Brotherhood a few years ago, stepped up his game to a new level here; he was unquestionably magnetic onscreen. It was also nice to see that Matt Lauria, who was so earnest on latter seasons of Friday Night Lights as farmboy Luke Cafferty, has some acting chops as well as a rookie officer. But beyond those two, there wasn't much to get excited about. I would've watched another season had it returned, but ultimately there was nothing much to lament with its departure.

(Season 2, NBC)
Simply put, this is the best comedy on television. POP-POP! There were some missteps, most notably the largely unfunny claymation Christmas episode that had so much potential. But overall, Community is just so angry. But it's intelligent with that furor, something far too uncommon among network comedies these days. One of my favorite example of this was when they showed how easy the Modern Familys and The Offices of today's television landscape are able to manufacture cheap laughs through the injection of interview scenes within the main narrative during the editing process. Of course, in this case I'm analyzing the show from a craft perspective as I watch, which you probably aren't. Not to worry, as you can watch the genre-spoof episodes with as much pleasure as I take in watching the often genius comedic scenarios unfold. The two-part season finale was especially amazing this year, simultaneously lambasting and giving a great big bearhug to the Western and Space Opera. Can't wait to see what they do with paintball next year.

Doctor Who [2005]
(Series 6.0, BBC)
The first half of this year's Doctor Who was, as far as I'm concerned, absolutely brilliant. Matt Smith continues to impress as the 11th incarnation of the Doctor. I think it's safe to say he's now surpassed Christopher Eccleston as my favorite Doctor. Yeah, really. And considering he's already partnered with Karen Gillan's Amy Pond -- without question my favorite companion -- there's little for me not to love about what direction the show has gone these past two years. Even Rory has been allowed to grow into a character I care about with constant displays of bravado in the name of Amy, unlike the hopelessly dull Mickey of previous seasons, who was essentially a flesh K-9 placed in the storyline for little more than comic relief. Continued kudos goes to Steven Moffat, who between the past two seasons of Doctor Who and the recent Sherlock miniseries, is quickly becoming the British equivalent of Joss Whedon. Only he might even be better. The second half of the season returns later this month.

The Event
(Season 1, NBC)
Granted, I stopped the pain and gave up on The Event at the season's midpoint, but based on what I sat through, this was one of the worst pieces of episodic crap I've ever seen. The showrunners appeared entirely clueless as to where the story was going. Now, I've been told by a couple of people with far more patience than I who watch the series until it concluded that it improved after I jumped ship. But even their explainations of what happened afterward sounded like what was once a 10-pound bag of catshit was now 8 pounds of catshit. As far as I'm concerned, that's still a hella-lot of catshit.

Friday Night Lights
(Season 5, Direct TV/NBC)
Without question one of greatest dramas ever to be aired on television. And it ended perfectly. Not much more I can say. Watch it. Treasure it. Then re-watch it.

Texas forever.

(Season 3, FOX)
Fringe is another show that continues to improve. If there was anyone left calling it an X-Files clone at the start of the season, they can't do so in good conscience any longer. The show has now fully embraced its own mythology, rarely offering an episode that doesn't largely contribute to the grander storyline. That decision hasn't been good from a ratings perspective as it's hindered the addition of new viewers, but creatively it was the way to go, and I applaud them for it. Definitely the best sci-fi show being produced in America right now. I was surprised it got a fourth season, but happily so. Hopefully it thrives in the Friday Night Death Slot it was placed into at the end of last season, and then maybe those X-Files comparisons will be apt again, albeit for different reasons as the adventures of Mulder and Scully was the last show with success in that time slot.

Human Target
(Season 2, FOX)
The first season showed promise, but it clearly needed some tweaks. On the plus side, the producers recognized this, too. Unfortunately their answer to that was Mrs. Pucci, who has to be one of the worst additions to a cast since Oliver on The Brady Bunch. Obviously she was brought in to make the show more female-friendly, but I found her presence insufferable and ultimately ruined the show despite its fairly impressive television stuntwork. Good riddance.
And thus concludes part one of this installment. Part 2, featuring reviews of Modern Family, Justified and Star Wars: The Clone Wars among others, will arrive within the next week or so AS SOON AS YOU CLICK THIS LINK!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Summertide - A Genres & Judgments Mixture

Summer's been good to me. I'm finally rested up after what the first half of 2011 threw my way. I sense I'm about to get back into a posting groove in the coming days, especially delivering that embarrassingly overdue recap of the shows that have ended since my last write-up back in January (it might end up being 30 strong).

But first I needed a new slew of jams to help me focus. Thus, I give you Summertide.

Description and track list available after the jump.