by Billie Doux
Long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, Saturday Night Live did a classic commercial parody that's always been a favorite of mine:
Wife: "New Shimmer is a floor wax."
Husband: "New Shimmer is a dessert topping."
Wife: "It's a floor wax!"
Husband: "It's a dessert topping!"
Wife: "It's a floor wax!"
Husband: "It's a dessert topping, you cow!"
Announcer: "Wait! New Shimmer is a floor wax and a dessert topping! Here, I'll spray some on your mop, and some on your butterscotch pudding."
Husband: "It's delicious!"
Wife: "And look at that shine!"
That skit kept popping into my head when I was trying to think of the right words to describe The Island.
"The Island is a dystopian allegory!"
"The Island is a cliche action flick with futuristic costumes!"
Actually, it was sort of both, and they canceled each other out. But look at that shine.
The Island probably wasn't what it should have been, but it was still a big, exciting sci-fi movie that was fun to watch. Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson played prisoners in a strange, futuristic society. Oddly inexperienced and naive for adults, residents of this underground world were not permitted to go outdoors because of "contamination," their diets were restricted and regimented, they were not allowed to touch, much less make love, and they worked at boring jobs they didn't understand. (Sounds a little like my life.) All they had to keep them going was the hope that some day, they would win the Lottery and go to live on the Island, a paradise that was the only place on Earth where people could still live outdoors.
McGregor played a very familiar role to anyone who has read dystopian fiction: Lincoln, the hero who started asking the big questions and put together what was really happening. Johansson played Jordan, his sort-of girlfriend, who got swept up in what Lincoln was doing and basically trailed behind him hanging on to his hand for most of the movie, literally and figuratively.
Yes, it was far from perfect. There was a huge and totally unbelievable chase sequence in the middle, because you have to have a car chase. And the ending was soooo predictable. But finding out what was really going on with the society and the Island was fun, and I thought it was worth the price of admission. McGregor and Johansson are always good, and much of the photography was just gorgeous. I particularly enjoyed Lincoln and Jordan discovering sex for the first time ("That tongue thing is amazing"), as well as MacGregor's scenes in the middle and later part of the movie. This is the guy that carried the second Star Wars trilogy, after all.
Two and a half out of four stars,
Season Two, Episode Two – Everybody Loves a Clown
This episode was about killer clowns and I hate clowns! Dean and Sam are off to find the demon again by tracking down an old friend of their father. While they are visiting this friend, Ellen at her roadside joint they have exactly 51 hours to kill and just happen to find something to hunt. This particular Hindu spirit disguises itself as a creepy little clown who makes friends with children and then tears their parents to pieces when the little ones invite him in to play. As one dad says – “don’t be afraid, clowns are our friends”. Then just before the clown attacks the parents the young boy says, “you’re right dad he is my friend” – cue to blood flying as parents are torn to bits!
If clowns don’t creep you out I could see how this might not have been an edge of your seat episode but for those of us who find clowns one of the scariest things around this episode was terrifying to watch. The episode was a shout out to us clown phobics as Sam played out our fears during the whole episode.
I enjoy watching these two brothers interact. Their relationship is very realistic. As with many of the brothers I know, the touchy feely stuff often loses ground to the one upmanship, playing on and showing up your brother and his fears. Making your brother sit in a clown seat when he’s deathly afraid of clowns is just what brothers do.
In fact, that kind of banter is part of what I love about this show. My favourite line in the whole show happened when Dean was ribbing Sam about his fear of clowns, Sam shoots back that Dean is afraid of flying – Dean answers – “Planes crash!” Sam retorts – “Well apparently, clowns kill”. That put everything into perspective for me – of course I’m afraid of clowns, they’re killers!
The brothers and their relationship are what make the show and I, for one, am glad that it is just them again. It was obvious that dad was going to bite it and his death creates all kinds of complications, emotional issues and new problems that will take the entire season to work through. Will Sam be able to forgive himself? What did dad say to Dean before he left? My guess is that it was something about who/what Sam is and I also think that Dean knows that his dad gave his life for him. Exactly how do you live with that?
Billie mentioned in her review of the premiere episode that “the car” is another character. I agree and I was happy to see Dean restore it and his attack on his beloved car at the end of the episode shows the depth of his pain and grief. (By the way Dean driving that van was hilarious – please bring back the car!).
Speaking of other characters there were some fun new additions. Ellen and her daughter with their little roadside bar are a nice addition with plenty of atmosphere and more unanswered questions. Ash, the “Lynyrd Skynrd roadie” genius who’s a dropout from MIT is perfect. His mullet, “all business in front, party in the back” is a great touch. A country boy who builds his own computer to track the demon just seems to fit right in. I hope we see more of him. I really enjoyed this episode. How many shows can make you laugh out loud when you are absolutely terrified?
by Billie Doux
However, I didn't get into a lot of my favorites this early. And the end of the second episode was certainly intriguing. (I love time travel.) I just can't tell if it's going to be great yet, or just derivative. And why so much grue?
So far, the stories I'm the most interested in are Clare the cheerleader and her evil father, Nicki the single mother/mirror person who has clearly gotten the most bizarre and as yet unexplained superpower, Hiro the Japanese time-traveling teleporting Star Trek fan, and Greg Grunberg the mind-reading cop, because Greg has always been a favorite of mine.
The flying brothers, eh. Not that interested. I'm sort of confused about the Indian guy and his father, who may have been behind all of this in a genetic experiments kind of way. Mildly intrigued by the artist painting the future.
I plan to keep watching, of course. Stay tuned.
TV doesn’t exactly have a great rep when it comes to health, does it? Lying on the couch slobbing out, with high-fat low-fibre empty-calorie junk food in one hand and high-sugar additive-filled beverage in the other. With every episode of Lost, your arteries are getting furrier, your blood pressure’s rising (and it’s not because of Sawyer with his shirt off) and you’re inching closer to Type II diabetes.
Don’t you believe a word of it. TV is good for you.
Like all the other geeks in the Western world, I get tons of SF from Netflix or reasonable facsimile. (In New Zealand, where I live, it’s called Fatso. I try not to take that personally.) And also like all the other geeks in the Western world (apart from the freaks), I hate to exercise. Yes, yes, I know it’s very healthy. But there’s never a day when there aren’t a thousand other things I’d rather do.
But here’s the thing. The nearest mailbox is a half an hour’s round trip by foot. If I get the car out, I have to do a complicated life-threatening u-turn reversy thing on the busy road where the mailbox is. So when it comes to returning those lovely SF DVDs so you can get more, feet are the only way to go.
Lots of people enjoy walking. I’m not one of them. The boredom, having to slap on sublock, the boredom... did I mention the boredom? But the great thing about TV is, none of that matters. Do I want to go for a blood-pressure-lowering, cancer-preventing, weight-controlling thirty-minute walk? Uh, no, I’ll pass. Do I, on the other hand, want to see the next four episodes of Battlestar Galactica season two? Hell, yeah! It hasn’t even shown on New Zealand TV yet!
And that’s why TV is so healthy. I still don’t enjoy exercise, but now I don’t care. When a mere thirty-minute walk is all that’s keeping me away from more Adama, Starbuck et al, it’s a no-brainer. And the more TV I see, the healthier I get. Couch potato? Sure. But a couch potato steamed with no added fat, thank you very much.
by Billie Doux
During the summer, I recruited some wonderful guest bloggers, and we recently discussed how we pick what we watch.
For me, the genre shows I pick tend to be based on the concept of the show. If it doesn't conflict with something else that I watch, I give it a try. This has led to some major one season wonders. On the other hand, it led me to Battlestar Galactica and Lost, so I can't complain.
[Ben is] right about Jericho. I don't see them doing that story with as much weight as is needed on network TV. I saw the second episode of Studio 60 and although no one really cares about the subject matter, the characters are simply too good to not watch. It isn't your average cop or doctor show, and that gives it a chance to stand out. As for Heroes... I want it to succeed, but having seen the pilot twice now I can say that unless it gets a lot better, it's gonna be canceled in a few months.
I can never tell if something is going to appeal to me. I wish I had a crystal ball so I could tell which shows to keep watching even though they don't excite me yet, and which ones aren't worth the effort. There are probably mainstream shows that I would love if I had the time to watch them, but which ones do I try? I can't try all of them, so I usually don't even bother. I make myself try everything that's even partially in the sci-fi/fantasy genre, but that can be tough, too. I ran myself ragged last season trying to catch all the new sci-fi shows, all of which tanked. (Except Supernatural.) And I didn't even try Prison Break, a show that has just knocked my socks off. Who knew?
Series DVDs are slowly changing this situation, at least for me. I no longer feel so much pressure to try to catch every new genre show, because the DVDs will eventually arrive and I can discover it later. Hit rates on my site have proven to me that my reviews for older shows are nearly as popular as my big hitter, Lost. So I'm beginning to think that the future of television is DVDs and subscription television, not networks with seasons and tons of commercials that break the flow.
I absolutely agree [with Ben] that network TV isn't up to the "day after" challenge. Can you imagine Battlestar Galactica on network TV? A lot of the darkness would undoubtedly be muzzled. And we haven't even seen the Season three stuff yet. From what I hear, it reaches new levels of darkness.
Back in the day, I would get hooked on particular sci-fi shows based on what my mom was watching. I started with Star Trek (of all varieties), Babylon 5, and The X-Files because those are what Mom was watching.
Nowadays, I have two general approaches for picking shows (whether they be of the sci fi/cult variety or other more standard fare). I either (1) decide to watch it from the beginning based on the general appeal of the premise, early buzz, and the promos. This is how I got into Lost, Wonderfalls, and Invasion. Or (2) I get hooked on the show after it has been on a little while based on buzz or a friend recommendation. That's how I came to Farscape, Alias, Veronica Mars, and to a certain extent Buffy. And I even tried Threshold because my one friend really liked it. But then that was cancelled. Erg.
For Battlestar Galactica, it was kind of a combo of those. We skipped the miniseries, even though my husband was a fan of the original BSG. But when they made a series out of it, we decided to give it a whirl. So we caught the miniseries and the first two eps of the series and were hooked from the get go.
For new shows this season, I plan to try out Ugly Betty and The Nine. Both have good critical buzz and I'm really intrigued by the promos for The Nine. I enjoyed Ugly Betty last night. It isn't high comedy or intense drama, but it made me smile. America Ferrara is great in the lead role. I think I'll stick with it. Sometimes I just need some lighter, heartwarming TV fare!
I've also sampled The Class on CBS twice, but mostly because I'm a fan of How I Met Your Mother and I figured I'd give the whole hour a try. The Class isn't all that. I did actually laugh at one moment this week, but other than that the characters and the stories are blah. I'll give it one more week to hook me, then I'm out.
I wasn't planning on taking on any new "cult" fare this season. I was initially interested in Heroes, but then it had mixed buzz and afterseeing some promos, I decided I didn't want to see it enough to add it to my busy TV schedule (even though Greg Grunberg is in it). But then I ended up watching the rerun of the pilot on Sci Fi tonight. (Method 3 for picking shows: let's see what's on right now ... this looks interesting ...) Heroes held my attention for the whole hour and I'm curious to see where it goes. I definitely enjoyed "Super Hiro," the Japanese guy who could bend space and time with his mind. He brought a bit of lightness to an otherwise kind of grim and gross hour. His deep affection/respect for all things Star Trek was very amusing.
I am totally with [Jess]. The best thing that could have happened artistically for Battlestar Galactica is for it to suffer initial obscurity. It would have been a rehash of the 1979 show otherwise. Those webisodes have also gotten me all into an excited lather as well.
I am adding Veronica Mars this year to my viewing, I wanted to last year but it never seemed to work out. I can probably squeeze in one more show for regular viewing but that's pretty much it. Right now my list is: Gilmore Girls, Lost, BSG and V. Mars. So I am shopping around and hope I don't hook onto a one-season wonder like I did last year with Surface.