TV Shows »5 Second Review: The Secret Circle

Thumbs Say Not Bad For What It Is

Mr. Dawson’s Creek spent a long, empty headed weekend with the repeat viewings of the Twilight movies and The Craft and came to the logical conclusion…

Teenage witches! But they will live in the Pacific Northwest and drive trucks!

There will be one crazy bitch that’s mad with witchy power and magical glittery stuff will happen in the woods!

(OK, to be fair, the storyline comes from a series of books, so the derivative elements might not be his fault)


Maybe it’s because I find Britt Robertson charming or that I have a soft spot for young adult entertainment, but I have to say The Secret Circle bests both the inspirations. Which is kind of faint praise (especially in the case of Twilight) but still.

If the shows finds its sense of humor and goes wild it could be fun though it’s doubtful I’ll personally watch and wait (such hopefulness didn’t totally pay off with Supernatural.)

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Posted on September 20, 2011

TV Shows »5 Second Review: The New Girl

Thumbs Way Down


I might just owe Gargamel an apology because Free Agents is almost looking pretty good right now.

Was expecting something decent from The New Girl but this is very and weirdly terrible.

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Posted on September 19, 2011

TV Shows »5 Second Review: Free Agents

Thumbs Think and Hope This Won’t Last


I feel bad for Giles.

But Gargamel deserves this.

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Posted on September 17, 2011

TV Shows »5 Second Review: Up All Night

My Thumbs Might Be Naively Optimistic

Will Arnett as sweetheart stay at home = wasted talents as a foolish asshole but still a charmer and I like him, so I hope this goes better than that one with Felicity.

Maya Rudolph and Christina Applegate good = could mean more good talent in guest and added roles?


Was it in a fit of depression or glee that the writer slipped in lines about diarrhea and burning rectums just as we thought we were spared such obvious and unfunny poop business with the baby?

Plus, Mike and Shaun thought the baby was a boring one.

Up All Night is thankfully not completely dumb though and has potential – or am I being too optimistic?

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Posted on September 16, 2011

TV Shows »5 Second Review: Ringer

Thumbs Down

Dull. Predictable.

Horatio Hornblower looks like The Fantastic Four sapped his life force.

A grimacing Buffy is uninspired without witty banter and apparently refuses to do boat shoots…

Leading to the most hilarious and shockingly bad effects I’ve seen on TV since Gatoroid. Watch here.

But Richard’s there, so there’s that.

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Posted on September 15, 2011

TV Shows »House Hunters International


House Hunters International has quickly become an obsession and I wouldn’t be totally shocked if it were to lead us to living abroad for a year or two.

Of the episodes we have seen, Normandy (the Witch’s House!!!) and Denmark have been the most breathtaking.

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Posted on August 25, 2011

TV Shows »The Inbetweeners

British Teen Comedy Guest Written by Dana:

The Inbetweeners give us the funny situations of foursuburban boys in high school.

Unfortunately just had the last season finish, but looking forward to a movie at the end of this year.

See a clip here and here.

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Posted on June 13, 2011

TV Shows »Game of Thrones

on HBO

For years I have been wishing for HBO to do a sci-fi or fantasy saga. I whined in vain about how it would never happen what, with their penchant for therapist couch dramas and comedies about how men will be men, but now I have to be shut it because if not exactly making my dreams come true (that would have been a series based on the Jack Vance Demon Princes) they’ve come pretty close with the epic Game of Thrones.

Based on the monumental, unfinished book series by George R.R. Martin (read an interesting article about his intense, often abusive fans here), GoT is part World of Warcraft, part Arthurian legend, part historical drama and thoroughly excellent – though quite an ambitious undertaking for adaptation.

Complex and intense, the series opens with the most intriguing sub plot – a paranormal threat called the “white walkers”, supposedly extinct evil zombie like creatures that hunt North of the kingdoms. If the eerie, breathtaking bloodbath in the snow doesn’t draw you into the series, perhaps the details on the woven black woolen capes will (Ann Demeulemeester would be drooling).

It’s to the creators credit that they pay as much attention to the detail of costume and set as they do to the bigger picture and the main reason I am so furious that HBO is not offered on demand in HD (get it together Time Warner!!).

The cast is spectacular with Peter Dinklage, an actor I’ve always admired but was stuck in an indie film rut, standing out as a sarcastic wit and surprising sex symbol. Sean Bean is excellent doing what he does best – brooding warrior gravitas with a heart of gold.

More surprising is the lovely Emilia Clarke who initially seems like a boring but sexified damsel in distress but is increasingly becoming the character I root for the most. Also great on the female side of things is Lena Headley who is excellent as a total bitch. She has perfected a smug half smile that is only found on murderous, incestuous queens and the worst face of the fashion industry. Her young brat son is equally and delightfully deplorable.

In smaller roles Joseph Mawle is interesting as a Guardian of the Northern Wall, it’s great seeing the former Mayor on The Wire (Aidan Gillen) as a slimy king’s consultant and Iain Glen is outstandingly handsome as an exiled nobleman. I also am loving the new fat kid.

With every episode I am drawn further into this vast world of intrigue and action. It helps me think that our decision to go premium with our cable was not an excessive but brilliant. It’s put HBO back on the map for unique programming.

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Posted on May 14, 2011

TV Shows »The Borgias

on Showtime

While in Colorado I caught up with my premium channels and discovered that I liked some things I expected to like (Game of Thrones – more on that soon), hated other things I expected to like (Mildred Pierce – why are you so painfully, obnoxiously boring and ham-fisted?) but I was most surprised by how much I enjoyed the bloody soap opera that is The Borgias. Although, ever since a short stay in Rome in my college years, I have had an interest for Italian history so I shouldn’t have been so surprised. It’s so juicy and tawdry and fascinating and The Borgias gets all that drama just right.

The cast is perfection. Even though Jeremy Irons bears no physical resemblance to Pope Alexander the Third, his portrayal of the corrupt Patriarch who manages to think himself virtuos and wise by making others do his dirty work is a joy to watch. Without him lending his gravitas and subtle humor, the tone of the show wouldn’t settle right. But he is not even the best character!

I have to admit I have a huge crush on the Cardinal son, Cesare (who my mom pointed out has a passing resemblance to Jim if he were dark) and his right hand assassin, my favorite character is portrayed by Sean Harris – who some of you might recognize as a very, very bad police man in the Red Riding Trilogy. Looking every bit like a nightmare and quite a lot like Vincent Van Gogh, Harris has found the role of a lifetime, custom suited to his creepy gaze.

Lucrezia is played with charm and a mischievous streak by the adorably named Holliday Grainger. It’s nice to see former Mrs Val Kilmer Joanne Whalley who I think I last saw in The Singing Detective as the mother and new comer Lotte Verbeek is appropriately lovely to look at as Giulia “the Beautiful” Farnese. Even less central characters are a thrill to see like Derek Jacobi (I, Claudius), Nicholas Rowe (The Young Sherlock Holmes – which I loooved as a kid), Gina McKee (from Mike Leigh movies and Soames’ suffering wife in Forsyte Saga) and Stephen Berkoff (the bad guy from Beverly Hills Cop and a former Brix Pick hunk). The other son? Eh – I just can’t get over his bad hair I guess.

While the show may not be completely historically accurate, much of the intrigue, scandal, plots, murders, affairs, assassinations, and conspiracies did happen; making the poster’s claim “The Original Crime Family” not only a desperate attempt to grab former viewers of The Sopranos but true as well. And really, there is no need for The Borgias to be desperate, even if it gets a slightly slow start, anyone with a penchant for this kind of thing will become an instant fan. I can’t wait to see what wickedness comes next – and even went ahead and ordered Showtime to find out.

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Posted on April 27, 2011

TV Shows »Upstairs Downstairs

on PBS

Great grandmothers and I rejoice! A new Upstairs Downstairs! I’ve only seen a portion of the epic first series (I mean, there are only several thousand DVDs to go through) but enough to be excited that it’s come back.

Taking place a few years after the last season ends, it reunites house keeper Rose (played by Jean Marsh, who along with co-star Dame Eileen Atkins, created the series) and 165 Eaton Place. Joining her downstairs are a mischievous maid, a brawl happy footman, a cocky handsome chauffeur, and a tee totalling butler.

Upstairs are Sir and Lady Holland who look good but so far seem drab and the eccentric, well dressed world traveling Lady Maud who brings along a monkey and an Indian secretary.

All the costumes (though Maud’s in particular) are amazing and the decor is grand and lush. There was more than one color scheme already that have me re thinking my apartment.

I am so glad you can still find stuff like this on TV. Somewhere along the way Arts and Entertainment changed from Horatio Hornblower to Pregnant Moms on Drugs. Let’s hope PBS, if it manages to survive the Republicans, never goes down the same road.

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Posted on April 13, 2011

TV Shows »Sherlock

on DVD

While no one, in my mind, can top Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes, I am happy to report that the man with the most British name, Benedict Cumberbatch (who you may remember from The Last Enemy) makes a splendid modern sleuth in the new Sherlock series.

The Office’s Martin Freeman adds his usual charm and is a nice balance to Sherlock’s acerbic intensity. The first episode is the strongest, maybe because it’s the least silly. Circus performers and mastermind games dominate the other episodes which is in keeping with the original material, and fun in its way, but the real success of the show are the characters more than the plots.

That’s all the good news. Now for the bad:

I am used to BBC airing only six episodes a season but this one has only three… and they still felt the need to divide the season between two discs?! My second qualm is with the arch enemy Moriarty. Where the rest of the cast is pitch perfect (including co-creator and League of Gentlemen alum Mark Gatiss as brother Mycroft) this one is just plain odd and actually cringe inducing. Once you see his final reveal and big evil speech you’ll agree – this is not so much a man to be feared but one you would do anything to avoid at a party.

Still, I welcome this new adaptation and am excited for more.

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Posted on March 28, 2011

TV Shows »Breakout Kings

on A&E

I’m always open to finding the next dumb TV guilty pleasure, and I am kind of hoping Breakout Kings works out to fill that Bones-like spot. The highly unbelievable concept – of quirky, likable convicts getting temporarily released to catch evil, not so likable convicts who have escaped could be a winning idiotic one.

With a show like this, however, so much of the success has to do with the cast dynamics and Breakout only got some of it right.

To the show’s credit – Herc from The Wire, Brooke Nevin and Malcolm Goodwin are good and their characters could grow to be more compelling, but the show really belongs to the creepy and charming Jimmi Simpson playing the only really interesting character as well as offering much appreciated comic relief.

On the other hand, Laz Alonzo has all the depth of a hunky background guy from a Toni Braxton video (which Alonzo was earlier in his career) and is just boring to watch on screen. If he’s meant to be the straight man to Herc’s loose cannon, he should at least learn a second facial expression besides “stoic scowl”.

Ugh, and then there’s the new lady with the made for Skinemax name, Serinda Swan, who replaced the more charming Philly character who was awkwardly dropped after the pilot episode. She’d do best to let her eyebrows take center stage, as they are the most interesting thing about her, though clearly from the posters of her strutting around in a tight tank, A&E was hoping we’d find her boobs as fascinating. Alas.

It’s only a matter of time before we see if this is a show that flourishes by finding it’s own voice, eccentricities, and character chemistry or if the flounders under generic blandness. I think the odds are stacked against them but at the very least, once it’s cancelled, Simpson will probably have a better time finding a good show to star in. But for whatever reason, I am optimistic that they might pull this one off.

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Posted on March 20, 2011

TV Shows »Downton Abbey

Masterpiece Classic

It’s been a while since PBS had a hit on their hands. Not because of the programs, but the programming. Will they air a new series without any advertisements? Sure! How about playing programs out of order or incomplete? Absolutely! And if you missed a new show (like I did the recent Sherlock Holmes) will they refuse to re-air them, but opt for decades old reruns of Keeping Up Appearances instead? Of course!

Sorry, just had to air my grievences.

While I am sure nothing scares Masterpiece Theater (now called Masterpiece Classics) more than being called old fashioned -they would do better with younger audiences by making their shows easy to find and watch instead of dangling Alan Cumming at us.

Shocked I was, then to find Downton Abbey (which I had failed to DVR the first two) was available on Netflix instant. Bravo Masterpiece! It was a brilliant move for an absolutely brilliant show.

While the Upstairs Downstairs genre is well worn, any fan of Gosford Park ( and I can’t imagine anyone who’s seen it not being a fan) will be utterly enchanted with Downton. It’s no surprise that the charming Julian Fellowes, who wrote Gosford, is behind this one. Sets and costumes are great but there’s much more to this one than that. The characters are interesting, the plot sometimes scandalous and the cast is perfection: From a prim, wealthy Maggie Smith to a spiteful, devilish lady’s maid played by Siobhan Finneran.

Set just before the war when families were still constrained by the rigid rules of society, Downton tells the story of the Crawley family, who when losing an heir on the Titanic, are threatened to lose their whole way of living unless Mary, the eldest daughter finds a suitable husband.

If it sounds boring and familiar, fear not. This is vibrant, funny, smart and truly one of the best of the genre. I was so unhappy to reach the end of the series and thrilled to find that its popularity has prompted shooting for a second series.


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Posted on March 4, 2011

TV Shows »An Idiot Abroad

On The Science Channel


I could have recommended An Idiot Abroad without seeing a single frame because as any of you that have listened to the Ricky Gervais Show podcast know, the idea of Karl Pilkington (aka K. Dilkington) traveling under the often harshest conditions across the globe is absolutely ingenious.

I actually read about this project a while back, but assumed when it aired in the US, it would have some HBO backed fan fair. Instead, it’s buried in the Science Channel, but oh so worth DVR-ing (also limited episodes available on demand).

For those of you unaware of the moronic and uniquely strange mind of Karl, you can expect such insightful gems as comparing Israel to Pac Man in that every time you go down an alley expecting it to be quiet something comes at you.

It’s basically just plain amazing and for me to explain why would take away from your experience. Watch this!!

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Posted on February 26, 2011

TV Shows »Iron Chef Japan

Re-Airing on Cooking Channel

I vividly remember when my family and I first watched Iron Chef. It was so flamboyantly dramatic, with a concept so unusual we – along with many Americans – were floored. There had just never been anything quite like it. I’ve been having a grand old time revisiting this epic show thanks to nightly reruns on Cooking Channel.

Chairman Kaga, with his glittering bejeweled capes, relish for biting into bell peppers and grand gestures sets the cinematic tone. It’s as emotional sometimes as it is campy. I was truly moved to amazement during the historic foie gras battle. I was swept up in the spectacle when, driven away from a French castle by dark horse drawn carraige (!), Sakai ventured off to gather his own ingredients in 24 hours throughout France.

It’s interesting how the world has changed since the show first aired. It seems people are so much more adventurous and knowledgeable about world cuisines. Once confounding dishes which we couldn’t even imagine what they tasted like, are now more approachable.

Sure I can’t exactly imagine crisp eel on chocolate ice cream – but with bacon topping ice cream these days, I have a better idea. As for fried fish bone chips – a dish that the younger me would question – now I’ve actually had and loved these at a neighborhood restaurant.

The U.S. attempted two remakes – if anyone else can remember the woefully off putting William Shatner number and the currently airing Iron Chef America – that I find too obnoxious to watch – something delicate and special got lost in the translation.

And for the record I have small crushes on all of the Iron Chefs, particularly the wise and mysterious Michiba.

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Posted on January 21, 2011

Movies,TV Shows »Hysterical Blindness

directed by Mira Nair

Hysterical Blindness, a 1980’s set HBO version of a Lifetime movie could have been nothing but hairspray and bad accents, but to every one’s credit involved, it’s a surprisingly nuanced, and touching portrayal of two party girls past their prime, standing guard at a local dive bar, waiting desperately for romance to change their Bayonne, New Jersey lives.

Uma Thurman is transforming as Debby, a character interestingly enough portrayed by the great Amy Ryan in the original 1997 Laura Cahill theatrical production. She contorts her exceptional beauty into a woman so needy and spastic that you wince as she awkwardly rockets around the screen between cigarettes, tears, freak outs and blow jobs. Juliette Lewis, Gena Rowlands, and Ben Gazzara all of whom are always, without exception, excellent round out the dream cast.

While it all ends a little too much on the cute side, it’s nice to see these women, icons of ironic tackiness and stereotype get a little happiness, whether in the form of new living room furniture or front yard parties all summer. And speaking of ironic tackiness, there is much here for thrift store shopping hipsters to get excited about: Shredded heavy metal tees, acid washed paint on jeans, spandex mini skirts, and lots of cheap rings.

I saw this when it first aired several years ago but recently felt the urge to revisit. I’m glad I did.

Click here for the rest of Hysterical Blindness

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Posted on January 10, 2011

TV Shows »The Larry Sanders Show

Now on Netflix Instant

Sure, birds are falling from the sky, but there are some positives about the New Year. Netflix has started streaming all seasons of the too often forgotten Larry Sanders Show, for example.

A forerunner to cynical comedies like Arrested Development, 30 Rock, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, this HBO classic still makes me laugh even if the references (Ghost, Jodie Whatley, the first Bush Administration) are dated.

Garry Shandling, a pioneer in comedy, plays egocentric incredibly well as a third tier talk show host in this behind the scenes satire. No one says “horse shit” and gets drunk quite like Rip Torn as Artie, the show’s producer and while Jeffery Tambor’s work as George Bluth (on Arrested) is great, his portrayal of side kick Hank Kingsley is a revelation in pathetic, weak, and very funny assholery. Familiar faces like Janeane Garofalo and Jeremy Piven round out the cast in their pre-famous days.

I am enjoying revisited the show immensely and think those fans of the aforementioned shows who haven’t watched it the first time around will be delighted. Makes me wish Shandling was still working on HBO.

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Posted on January 9, 2011