Nikita Season 2 Episode 1 – Recap and Review

BY ANTHONY MEDINA

**This episode originally aired in September 2011. If you are unfamiliar with the series, be aware this review contains spoilers.**

“Remember this, I did this because I care.”  Nikita

Season two of Nikita dives back into the game one month after last season’s explosive finale and all the players are back for more. But the lines have been blurred and the aptly titled “Game Change” sets off to pin our heroes against each other in a flurry of pretty people and kung-fu awesomeness.

We open on our new crime fighting duo Michael (Shane West) and Nikita (Maggie Q.) securing some funds for their continuing campaign of destruction against Division. And the key to taking them down, is the Blackbox, which contains all the naughty secrets of the rogue government agency.

However, hot on their trail is Nikita’s former partner Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca), who has switched sides and is now helping Division track her down. Alex has made a deal with Division’s new leader, the ice queen herself, Amanda (Melinda Clarke). They will offer all their resources to Alex as she pursues the men who ordered her father’s death and in exchange she will use her unique insight into Nikita to help them recover the Blackbox.

Adding an extra layer of prettyboy to the equation is Sean Pierce (Dillon Casey), an Oversight representative assigned to Division to keep them in line. After all they don’t want a repeat of Percy’s (Xander Berkeley) attempted coup d’etat.

When Alex finally tracks down Nikita, Pierce sends in the troops and our heroes are pinned down with no hope of escape…

After they escape, with the help off Birkhoff’s (Aaron Stanford) remote control next level fighter drones, they enlist the help of their old friend and continue their crusade of justice.

Magneto Percy makes an appearance and we learn that he is now being held in a plastic prison in the basement of Division. From the ever present smirk on his face as he speaks to both Amanda and Alex, it’s clear he has his own plans in motion and won’t be a prisoner for long.

As the episode concludes we get a final showdown between Alex and Nikita. The two sexy spies go at it in a bare-knuckle brawl and Nikita takes the young blood to school, leaving her with a broken arm and a bullet hole in her leg. Nikita ain’t nothing to f**k with.

A great start to season two. It’s going to be interesting watching these characters in their new roles. And from the looks of it so far, season two should be filled with much of the same creative storytelling and intense action that season one brought to the table.

Thinking Man Rating: 16 Thumbs Up

**Be aware the Thinking Man rating system is based on awesomeness and should be disregarded if you are not now, or have never been, awesome.**

You Don’t Have to Go to Film School to Produce a TV Pilot

by Corinna Mendis

As a new independent TV writer and producer, I’ve learned a lot about the process, without even taking a film class. The irony is that as an undergrad I went to NYU, which is known for its film school…but I went for psychology, not film.

Growing up, I always wanted to be an actress. I would get all the neighborhood kids together, write one-act plays (mostly about my dog), then get everyone together in my basement and put on a show for my stuffed animals. As I got older, my passion for acting grew, as I took acting classes at the community theatre, played the lead in the high school plays, sang my way through Guys and Dolls, and drove into Manhattan for head shots.

It was then that my parents told me that if I was going to be an actress, they would completely cut me off. Now, two bachelor’s degrees, and two Master’s degrees later, I am thankful that I did not become an actress. Why? Well, because now I can write about all of the experiences that I have had: the people I used to massage (no happy endings, although there were many unsuccessful attempts made by many clients), the experiences working in medicine (which is the basis for my next pilot), and the trials and tribulations of working with the homeless population at a homeless center out here in Long Island, New York.

When I first began working at the shelter, I immediately thought it would make a great television series, almost like a combination of M*A*S*H and SCRUBS. So, I bought some screenwriting books, and LB’s Television Writing from the Inside Out, then bought screenwriting software, and started writing. The result was a dozen + drafts of a half-hour television pilot called:

NOT IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD

PILOT: “A NEW BEGINNING”

Pilot Synopsis

When SADIE METZ, a cockeyed optimist who wants to save the world, begins her internship at HOPE HOSPITALITY CENTER, a men’s homeless shelter, she realizes that she is in for more than she ever expected. Sadie is a fish out of water who unwittingly makes every mistake possible as she struggles to help the homeless.

Among those she meets in this episode are:

  • BART, a suicidal alcoholic (well, he certainly keeps trying his best at the suicide thing) who finally asks for help
  • SIFU FRANK (“See Foo, not Sea Food!”), using his best kung fu to keep himself centered while running the place
  • BEN, the burned-out counselor, spiraling down his own inner staircase
  • MARK and BETH, Sadie’s fellow interns, who together can’t manage to get even half a clue

Series Synopsis

As a counseling intern at HOPE HOSPITALITY CENTER, an emergency men’s homeless shelter the wealthy New York City suburb of Jefferson’s Point, SADIE METZ finds herself caught between her ideals and her parents’ and community’s outrage about the shelter “ruining” their town. This dark, half-hour dark comedy emphasizes the clash of two cultures every week, while focusing on the trials and tribulations that the homeless, counselors, and interns face.

In NOT IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD’s neighborhood, the good life is as elusive as a phantom but its dream is still very much alive for Sadie and those she works with. What prevents the dream from coming true is a combination of factors – civic intolerance, substance abuse, economic chaos – and the very obvious fact that the world is, for all practical purposes, totally nutsy-cuckoo. As are most of the people, whether we’re talking about those who have everything, those who have nothing, or those who have found themselves with (or is it without?) both.

NOT IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD is often shocking, sometimes sad, and, like loving, well-intentioned Sadie, always funny.

About the Production

It was not my intention to produce my own pilot, but you could say that “nutsy-cuckoo” prevailed. Like Sadie, I started my career as a Mental Health Counselor by interning. I worked my way up to counselor at Pax Christi Hospitality Center in Port Jefferson, New York, and created a drop-in center for homeless men and women who would come in for food, clothing, and a much-needed shower.

Right now, I’m a Physician’s Assistant at a hospital in Long Island, but I’ve never been able to shake my showbiz bug. After finishing the script for NOT IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD (at last!) it just seemed natural to shepherd it to onscreen life. That meant rounding up the right group of experts and taking the plunge.

We shot at Pax Christi. At first it seemed like the perfect place, but after the first ten minutes, regrets hit, big time. Our first scene was in the parking lot, with irate picketers carrying some very “irate” signs protesting our fictional shelter, and Pax Christi’s “guests” thought the picketing was real. Anger and resentment spread, causing a ruckus, which was all too public: The shelter is located beside the Long Island Railroad, and you can imagine the looks from passengers waiting to board their commuter train.

We managed to survive that encounter, but the next day I found myself having to fall back on my counseling techniques to keep the the shelter’s real guests calm, while also dealing with the usual unyielding production chores. Everything came to a head when the our director’s sneakers disappeared, and when the counselors working at the shelter couldn’t help, we ended up having to call the police to keep things from getting out of hand.

As it turned out, one of the homeless guests had taken them, and, luckily, he came back an hour later with the sneakers still on his feet. We ended up watching an impromptu foot fashion show, and the tension eased. By the third day, tensions had eased so much that instead of doing all they could to make us leave, those living at the shelter were begging everyone to stay.

The shoot was an emotional experience for everyone, with the cast and crew starting to understand a side of life they hadn’t known existed, a side of life we all worked so hard to bring to our show. All of us have demons to conquer, and we experienced the power of comedy in the most direct manner possible because it was laughter that got us through everything, bonding everyone involved together and, I hope, making NOT IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD a truly wonderful and unique entertainment experience.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for the trailer coming very soon.

 

Particle Physics and Reality TV

by Robin Reed

Physicists say that you can’t observe an atom or subatomic particle without changing it. I have begun to wonder, in the cable reality TV shows that I watch, how TV changes its subjects. Is a fur trapper in Alaska in danger when his plane won’t start? What if he has a TV crew with him? Surely they have their own plane and can give him a ride.

The Ghost Hunters were plumbers when the show started, but they haven’t mentioned that for a while. How much does the show pay? Do the American Pickers really need the small profits from each item or is the TV show paying more than their original business ever could?

These shows are low budget and probably start out paying little or nothing, but when one is a hit, they must start paying pretty well. The Cake Boss is building a factory and is going to sell cakes in grocery stores. Did he get the money for that from his show? Or was he able to get a loan because the show made his cakes famous? Either way his business was changed by TV.

I have thought of trying to buy storage units and selling what I find, but is that business really viable or does it just look good on TV?

I have a friend who recently visited the Pawn Stars shop. She said it’s smaller than it looks on TV, and the now-famous cast are only there when the show is being shot. Does the production company pick the customers for the show because they have the most interesting items or look interesting? Does it have to get signed releases from everyone in the store?

Are some of these reality stars now really actors, who pretend to be in their original business, then get in expensive cars and drive home to mansions? I can’t imagine that a reality show doesn’t pay at all, no one would put up with having the cameras there unless they expected to benefit. Sharon Osbourne pushed her way into celebritydom via the reality show about her family.

Do any of these people have agents? Managers? Do they refuse to do the next season unless they get more money? Does someone who wrestles snapping turtles and has several teeth missing have a contract that says he can’t get his teeth fixed while the show is running?

I do wonder about these things. But I keep watching the shows.

Supernatural Season Two Episode One – Recap and Review

 BY ANTHONY MEDINA

**This episode originally aired in September 2006. If you are unfamiliar with the series, be aware this review contains spoilers.**

“Oh, I don’t wanna trap you. I wanna make a deal.”  John Winchester

It might have been easy to simply coast on the momentum built from the season one finale, but “In my time of dying” raises the bar yet again for this increasingly strong CW show.

We open with our heroes unconscious on the side of the road as a demon approaches to finish the job. Sam (Jared Padalecki) regains consciousness just in time and uses the Colt to chase the demon away. They end up in the hospital where Dean (Jensen Ackles) remains unconscious and in critical condition. Sam and his father John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) discuss their options and argue about whether or not to immediately go after the Yellow Eyed Demon.

Meanwhile, we discover that Dean has become separated from his body and wanders the halls as a ghost. And that’s when he runs into the Reaper who has come to help his spirit move on.

She gives him the choice of passing into the afterlife (whatever that may be) or remaining on Earth as a wandering spirit, exactly the type of supernatural creature he dedicated his life to fighting. This was one of the most powerful scenes in the episode and Jensen Ackles does a great job as he portrays Dean’s realization that every spirit he’s ever fought must have struggled with this same choice.

Yet, before Dean can make his decision, we cut to John who has decided to take matters into his own hands. He summons the Yellow Eyed Demon and proposes a trade for his son’s life. And after some negotiating, the Demon accepts.

Dean wakes up moments later with no recollection of what occurred. Sam and John have a suspiciously pleasant exchange before Sam is sent to get a coffee. John whispers a secret into Dean’s ear and leaves with a teary goodbye. Finally, we follow Sam returning the room only to find John collapsed on the floor, dead.

A father sacrificing himself for his children, I’d compare it to the first season of Game of Thrones, but comparing a CW show (no matter how much I like it) to the HBO mega series might make the universe implode. So I’ll just say that even though they handled his death well and sent him out like a hero. It’s going to be tough getting through the rest of the series without him. Jeffrey Dean Morgan did a great job with the character of John Winchester and he will be greatly missed. Although, if any show were to lend itself to the re-emergence of a dead character, it would be Supernatural.

Thinking Man Rating: 15 Thumbs Up

**Be aware the Thinking Man rating system is based on awesomeness and should be disregarded if you are not now, or have never been, awesome.**

 

My TV Review Part Two

by Robin Reed

Last week, I talked about my history as a television viewer. Now let’s talk about something more recent.

First, one final nostalgic show reference: I always watch “The Wild Wild West” when I come across it. I don’t know why.

All righty then. I come not praise or condemn TV in general, but I do want to discuss its business model. I actually have to go back to radio again. In the early days of radio, no one could figure out how to make money on it when anyone could pick up the signals for free (or rather, for the cost of a radio.) Big companies were poised to sell the home receivers, but no one would buy them if there was nothing to listen to. Vaudevillians, musicians, and other performers thought it would be a new way to find an audience if they could get paid to do it.

I don’t know what genius thought to start charging advertisers, but the idea became the basis for radio, then TV, now a lot of the internet, NASCAR, signs in sports stadiums, and on and on. We live in an advertising-saturated culture. And I don’t like it.

It was while attending my first college (which went bankrupt after my first year) that I first learned that TV doesn’t sell shows to the audience. It sells the audience to advertisers. Every time I sit down to watch TV, it sells ME.

The old Nielsen ratings system, which used a laughably small sample of audience members, was the basis of the huge amounts of money TV charged for commercials. I guess cable can more accurately tell how many TV sets are tuned to what channels. The result is the same; TV shows are created to attract eyeballs to the shows so the number of eyeballs can be the basis of ad rates.

Attracting eyeballs to the TV is not the same as creating entertaining, interesting or enlightening television. One major way to attract viewers is to make the shows numbingly stupid. This explains Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, judge shows, TMZ, The Bachelor, Survivor, Big Brother and many others. Of course, if shows appeal to stupid people, then there must be a lot of stupid people out there. But the business model of TV wants people to be stupid and even get more stupid over the years. The stupider they are, the more money there is to be made.

I always hated soap operas, but they are beacons of sanity and intelligence compared to most daytime TV now.

When advertising is the basis of a culture, then no one objects to it taking over everything. Everything is for sale, and selling is everything. We now sell the very names of our public spaces to large corporations.

Then cable came along, what used to be called pay TV. We pay a healthy chunk of cash to get TV, and we still get commercials. We pay in precious time in our lives AND we fork out the monthly fee.

The recent revolution in “Reality TV” is based on such shows being very cheap to produce, and yet popular. All moneys not put into the production go into the producers’ pockets.

Advertising based TV came to fruition with the infomercial, which cuts out any kind of programming entirely. People still watch. Hell, many people have their TVs on all the time, as background, or when they’re not in the room. I will admit to watching an occasional infomercial, but at least I turn the thing off when I’m not watching at all.

I have some experience being in the audience of infomercials. I was paid. No one in an infomercial is there just because the product is wonderful. They clap when they are told to. They laugh when they are told to. If they ask a question they have been given the question on a piece of paper and ask it exactly as written.

It is clear to me that the advertising culture has a lot to do with the corruption of our political system. For one thing, campaigns only put forth information that can be conveyed in thirty or sixty seconds. Also, by charging political campaigns the same rates they charge McDonald’s and Procter and Gamble, they make congressman and senators spend most of their time calling donors, rather than actually legislating.

Not that the TV industry could solve that problem, laws need to be passed banning political ads and requiring free air time for campaigns. That won’t happen, the system is too far gone.

When I watch TV now, I never sit down at a specific time. There are too many other ways to see what I want, when I want, many of them without commercials. Mostly I flick on the TV just to see what there is to see. I tend to watch cable reality shows like “Pawn Stars,” “Mythbusters,” “American Pickers,” “Storage Wars,” etc. When I do this I don’t want to see a particular show, I just want some moving images and sound to suck into the black hole between my ears. Besides, the Internet has replaced TV as my primary time-waster.

I personally have completely lost interest in police or investigation shows. Especially if someone finds a body at the beginning of every episode. Is police work really the only interesting thing that humans do?

There are good TV shows. Shows done by people who care, and work hard to make their shows good. I watch those shows online, or on Netflix, or on DVD. The rest of TV is there to keep me from having to deal with the real world. And I don’t mean “The Real World.”

I watch a lot of crappy TV, but I try to avoid the ones that make me feel guilty for contributing to the lessening of the IQ of the human race. Yes, “Psych,” I’m talking to you.

To the people who make the good shows, I say keep doing it. I’m sure you know that your audience appreciates it. I’m sure you also know that your industry doesn’t really care how hard you work or what you do, as long as there are eyeballs that can be sold.