THE VAMPIRE DIARIES Are Licking Their Lips…

The Vampire Diaries – Season 3 Episode 1
by The Hudsonian

**This episode originally aired in September 2011. If you are unfamiliar with the series, turn away to avoid spoilers, or bleeding corneas.**

“Aren’t you going to invite me in?” – Klaus

Oh, he’s a crafty one. And it’s so hard to decline any sort of request from anyone with a British accent. Especially when they’re compelling you to do what they want.

Season two of The Vampire Diaries ended with Klaus becoming the first “hybrid,” which means he is both a werewolf and a vampire. Where they come up with this stuff is beyond me.

This episode starts with Klaus stumbling upon a house in Tennessee, looking for a man named Ray Sutton. When the lovely ladies won’t tell him where he is, Klaus is prepared to coerce them with his new partner in crime:

Stefan.

Stefan does Klaus’s bidding now, following him around the country in his never ending tour to make an army of hybrids, as debt for saving his brother, Damon, who was bitten by Tyler, a werewolf. Being bitten is like contracting HIV, only it’ll kill him sooner.

And that was just the first three minutes of the episode.

This is truly the most remarkable thing about this series. Like most YA shows, they stuff every 40+ minute episode with more story lines than are probably necessary, but few shows make them seem so easy to follow. In other words, it works.

Damon tries to find Stefan but keeps the info from Elena, who later finds out, at which point Damon proclaims Stefan is “gone” – meaning emotionally, not physically.

Jeremy, Elena’s brother, has been brought back from the dead by his girlfriend, Bonnie, who’s also a witch, and is now seeing ghosts of his dead ex-girlfriends.

Alaric, the school history teacher who was dating Elena’s Aunt Jenna, who died in the Season 2 finale, is living with Elena and Jeremy out of guilt because now they don’t have a guardian.

Caroline, a vampire, swoons over Tyler, the werewolf, and shows off her insane jealousy when he brings a date to Elena’s birthday party. In typical Caroline fashion, she compels his date to leave, which, of course, leads to some hot vampire/werewolf sex.

I guess opposites do attract.

Yes, these are basic genre story lines, but the way the dialogue flows, it all seems so natural, and not just generic. Damon’s quips and Caroline’s increased neuroses (vampire’s senses are all heightened, so if she’s naturally neurotic, or horny…yep, you get the idea) play up the comedic undertones of the show enough to give even hipsters the irony they crave. And just when you’re ready to quit because maybe the comedy isn’t enough to hold you, something pops out at the end that makes you go, “Holy Shit! Where’d that come from?!”

Like when Caroline leaves Tyler after their tryst and bumps into Tyler’s mom, the mayor of Mystic Falls, who promptly pumps Caroline full of vervain (which is toxic to vampires).

It’s the little things that get you psyched about next week.

!Gasp!

LB: Second Thoughts About THE CLOSER

by Larry Brody

Yesterday I complained about one of my no-longer-favorite shows, THE CLOSER. I was pretty steamed, and said the following:

…[A] week ago the series came back after a hiatus with a much altered Brenda. A cruel, abusive bitch who was perfectly willing to sacrifice a rape victim’s sanity to get her man.  The Southern charm which sheathed the character’s iron will for so long is gone.  And the iron will is a barbed, pointy razor. It looks like the show is headed for an ending (it’s going off the air at the end of the season) in which Brenda is fired/humiliated/possibly even jailed. As well she should be.

Last night, in spite of my good (or were they bad?) intentions, I watched the next episode, and…erm…um…it wasn’t so bad.

That is, it was bad, but in a classic TV cop show/procedural kind of way: A comedy episode featuring Flynn and Provenza, TNT’s answer to Laurel and Hardy, that went way over the top, bending real reality,  TV reality, and even THE CLOSER’s specific reality in more ways than Hugh Laurie used to violate the Hippocratic Oath on HOUSE.

Which means…sigh…I loved it.

Who cares about overcooked dialog and overwrought acting from an incredibly hammy guest star? What matters is that the basic feeling, the camaraderie that has been an integral part of the series since Episode 1 was back with a vengeance. And I appreciate vengeance. In fact, some of the most enjoyable moments of my life have occurred while exacting it–

 Oops. TMI. So sorry.

To cut to the chase – which the episode I just watched didn’t have – I’ve decided to forgive and forget. To cut Kyra and her support troops (she’s the Executive Producer, you know, which makes her the best-looking showrunner in town) more than the usual slack and watch the remaining three or four episodes. If I’m lucky, Evil Brenda will fulfill her arc with me understanding/empathizing instead of hating her…and there will be more hilariously out of place moments between Flynn and Provenza, and maybe even Provenza’s wonderfully  real (especially considering the script circumstances) First Ex-Wife.

Another Thought to Tack On: Like any True Fan, I’ve been trying to figure out who the mole in Brenda’s Major Crimes Division is. Until now, I was absolutely certain that we would learn it was none other than Chief Pope, who’s been sabotaging Brenda ever since she entered the race for L.A.P.D. Chief.

I’m no longer so sure, though, because Sgt.Gabriel, usually the primo of her detectives and the one who gets the most lines/face time, has had absolutely nothing to do and almost nothing to say in both recent episodes. Why play him down unless it’s to make it easier – structurally -to do a big and heartbreaking end-of-series reveal? He is, after all, the most idealistic of all the cops here, which makes him the one most likely to react to Brenda’s fascist pig (just a generational reference, kids; you can ignore it) the way I would – which is to say to do everything in his power, no matter how much he likes her, to get her to stop.

We’ll see in a few weeks.

Unless the show drives me nuts again and I go away.

Nikita Season 1 Finale – Recap and Review

BY ANTHONY MEDINA

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

“You ask me what I want? I want what every other American wants right about now, job security.” – Percy Rose

It was a fitting end to the first season of this shockingly well done CW show. “Pandora” manages to successfully conclude each characters story arc, while raising new questions for the future and even throwing a few more twists our way just to keep us on our toes.

As the episode opens our heroes find themselves in some unfortunate situations.

Alex (Lyndsy Fonseca) has a kill chip in her brain and must obey Division’s orders (or must she?)

Nikita (Maggie Q.) was shot and killed by Alex (or was she?)

And Michael (Shane West) is locked in a Division prison and can’t escape (or can he?)

No, no, and yes.

Meanwhile, Fletcher (Noah Bean) is in the heart of the CIA helping to decrypt a blackbox he believes will expose Division’s plan to attack the government. Unfortunately, Percy (Xander Berkeley) is smarter than the average bear and rigged the device to release a toxic gas designed to kill the director of the CIA. In doing so, he can blackmail Oversight to put a puppet in the vacated seat and thus gain control of the 37 billion dollar CIA budget. A nifty plan to be sure. And I must say, there’s nothing quite like watching Percy gloat when he has the most powerful people in the country at his mercy. He may be a psychopath, but he’s a badass psychopath.

Not to worry though, the Nikita crew is on their way to save the day, hurray I say!

We learn that Alex faked Nikita’s death and Nikita recovers just in time to storm the CIA and pull everyone out of the room as the gas is released. When Percy learns of Alex’s betrayal he orders Amanda (Melinda Clarke) to activate her kill chip. Amanda complies but immediately revives her with a shot of adrenaline. It turns out Amanda is planning a coup against Percy and she lets Alex go as her first act of open defiance. Michael manages to escape Division with the help of his old friend Birkhoff (Aaron Stanford) allowing him to neutralize Percy and reunite with Nikita. Good guys win!

This was a great ending to a great season. The few criticism I would have would be that some of the twists were fairly predictable and the survival of our heroes depended largely on other characters acting uncharacteristically. But all that is overshadowed by the copious amounts of awesome that burst out of every scene. This is by far the best show the CW has produced in a long time, Bravo I say.

Finale

Thinking Man Rating: 12 Thumbs Up

Season 1

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.**

LB: Three Shows I No Longer Watch

by Larry Brody

NETWORK’s Howard Beale, the spokesman character for writer Paddy Chayefsky,  famously said, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it anymore.” I’m not mad, or even angry, but I am frustrated by some recent viewing experiences, so I’m not taking it anymore either.

In particular, three TV series that I thought would serve me well have committed the cardinal sin of irking me to  the point of no return:

  1. THE NEWSROOM
    Yep, this bouncing new baby, which just a few weeks ago I saw as so full of promise, is history to me now. Why? Because I just plain can’t believe in the reality of the characters any longer.Specifically, the three main leads, whose character names I have erased from my mind.An idealistic anchorman willing to go to the wall to prove to his former girlfriend (his producer) that she should’ve stayed his adoring babe? An idealistic “modern woman” news producer whose eyes bug out with jealousy every time said anchorman shows her his latest date? A major cable station News Director who cares more about informing the public than ratings and is clueless about how to manipulate his bosses so he gets what he wants?Every one of those characters is impossible in today’s TV news culture. I appreciate the show’s intentions, but I’m out.
  2. THE CLOSER
    For years this show has featured a protagonist, whose name, Brenda Leigh, I do remember because, hey, shoot me, but I like country music, who fascinated me. She was an idealistic assistant police chief  so dedicated to putting bad guys away that she wheedled and lied not only to her  boss but also to her husband and herself. I could  identify with that kind of self-delusion.  Simple as that. But about a week ago the series came back after a hiatus with a much altered Brenda. A cruel, abusive bitch who was perfectly willing to sacrifice a rape victim’s sanity to get her man.  The Southern charm which sheathed the character’s iron will for so long is gone.  And the iron will is a barbed, pointy razor. It looks like the show is headed for an ending (it’s going off the air at the end of the season) in which Brenda is fired/humiliated/possibly even jailed. As well she should be.If the show intends to show that its lead has crossed the line and become a baddy herself, that’ll be pretty damn cool. But the attitude in the writing suggests that those running it think she’s justified and is getting a raw deal.  So I’m out for now. (But willing to return if they cook her goose to my taste by the finale.)
  3. EUREKA
    This show was a lighthearted science fiction romp every year of its existence – except this one. I watched it for the  “family,” the banter and generally warm relationships between the leads. This season, however, the ties between everyone I cared about have constantly been in  jeopardy, and the unconvincing suspense has  pushed me away from  the series just as the gimmicky dangers have pushed the characters apart.To be sure, the finale tied up everything and brought everyone back together. But it wasn’t merely the end of a season, it was the end of the series, which means the audience isn’t going to get a chance to enjoy the result. As a writer and producer, I’m all for the idea of making things as tough as possible on my heroes – but as a viewer I hated experiencing it. In other words, I’m a wuss.  Shoot me again.

Sheesh, am I am old crank, or what? What about you? Have any of your favorite shows disappointed you lately? How much? Are you still watching them?  I look forward to your comments.

EDITED TO ADD: Speaking of comments, io9 has a very interesting review of the  EUREKA finale. And even though it’s directly the opposite of mine, I found myself nodding in agreement as I read. WTF?

My TV Review Part One

by Robin Reed

I was asked recently if I want to review TV shows for this site. I thought about it for a while and got a crazy idea. I want to review TV. Not shows, but all of television. At least my experience of it. At this point, many of you have already gone on to read other posts, thinking I am nuts. If you are still with me, I promise not to take up too much of your time.

My first TV memory is of my brothers and I trying to get my parents to let us watch “The Flintstones.” It was a prime time show, not a Saturday morning cartoon. It was hot. Celebrities did guest voices. It was “The Simpsons” of its day. But it was shown on a school night, and the absolute rule in my house was that there was no TV on school nights.

My second TV memory (which may have taken place before the first, the timeline is a little fuzzy in my mind) was a weekend in November, 1963. I was really mad because there were no cartoons on. Instead of cartoons every channel was showing what I called “some dumb funeral.” The funeral was for President Kennedy. Hey, I was six.

Third, I was watching the Mickey Mouse Show some afternoon, and it was showing kids visiting a submarine. I can’t verify that that ever happened but that is my memory. The TV went dark and never worked again. This is an important memory because my father, who always thought TV was a bad influence on children, refused to get a new one. We didn’t own another TV after that day in the early sixties until we lived in another city and I was a freshman in high school, which was 1974.

My father was born in 1911. His entire childhood went by before commercial radio existed. I never heard any stories about sitting around the Philco and listening to The Shadow or Fred Allen. His stories were about working on his father’s apple orchard and going to college during the depression with no money to live on. I suspect he was as doubtful about radio as he later would be about TV.

In the gap, we sometimes rented a TV on special occasions. Thanksgiving was one such occasion, and we usually watched “The Wizard of Oz.” We rented black and white TVs so I never saw the transition to color when Dorothy arrives in Munchkinland until I saw the film in a movie theater when I was in college.

On another occasion I enjoyed an evening of TV while my parents were out. When they got home they asked what I thought of the educational show about Queen Elizabeth I on public TV. They got mad when I said I didn’t watch it. I swear to this day that no one told me I was supposed to watch the Queen Liz show.

Because we didn’t have a TV in those years, I missed a lot of shows that other people of my generation consider treasured memories. I still haven’t seen all the Rankin/Bass Christmas specials. I know they show them again every year but it seems silly to watch them now. 

I was a voracious book reader in those years. I suspect I would have read fewer books if there was a TV in the house. If my father thought I would expand my education with books, as he did in the apple orchard, allowing him to get a degree and become a professor of anthropology, he was disappointed. I read a lot, but almost all science fiction and fantasy.

Our first TV after the gap was banished to the basement. My father wouldn’t have it in the living room. It is cold in the basement in winter in Chicago, but that didn’t stop us kids from watching. That’s when I started seriously catching up. Reruns of “Bewitched” and “I Dream of Jeannie” after school. Whatever Quinn Martin was producing at the time. “Happy Days,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Rhoda,” and on and on.

Cartoons. I have always been able to watch cartoons, even ones that are aimed at little kids. (Though the Japanese shows that are on now, based on card games, where the characters endlessly explain the rules of the game, are instant remote-clicks.)

So much TV has passed in front of my eyes that I should get an Emmy for Best Audience Member. I remember watching “The Match Game” almost every day for a while. Gotta love Gene Rayburn.

One day I read that the Public TV station in Chicago, WTTW, was going to play an odd English comedy show called “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.” I had to stay up late to see it. I didn’t think much of the first episode, but after a few shows I was hooked. WTTW also had “Doctor Who” with Tom Baker, and then they went back to the beginning, grumpy old Doctor and all the others. That started at 11:00 p.m. on Sunday nights, and they played an entire adventure edited together, not the original half-hour episodes. So I was up until 1:00 a.m. or later.

I went to a college in Boston, and saw the first “Saturday Night” episode in the hallway outside my room, my little TV sitting on a stool, because my roommate didn’t want the noise in the room. (No, it was not called “Saturday Night Live.” No one remembers that Howard Cosell, of all people, was host of a variety show that debuted the very same night and was named Saturday Night Live. I assume it was on CBS because it was shot at the same theater as the Ed Sullivan Show, now home of David Letterman.) The late night show didn’t reclaim the word “Live” until years later.)

Okay, so what’s the point of all this? Anyone can recite his or her history of TV watching. Well, I haven’t gotten to the review part. I have some things to say about TV, but I will give you a chance to tell me “Dear God, STOP!!” If you don’t, I will post Part Two in a few days.