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The Mindy Project - Season 1 Mindy Kaling
The Mindy Project - Season 1 The first season of The Mindy Project shows a lot of promise, but it’s also full of growing pains. Mindy Kaling (of The Office fame) is the eponymous Dr. Mindy Lahiri, a successful OB/GYN whose love of romantic comedies has distorted her own search for love. At her worst (and funniest) she’s a stereotypical late Gen-X/early Gen-Y woman. She’s self-obsessed and dramatic, a lover of pop culture and social media. Her intelligence and sincerity usually kick in after she’s made a fool of herself.

As a female lead in a comedy I immediately started comparing her to Tina Fey’s Liz Lemon in 30 Rock. I liked how Mindy is not portrayed as fearful of sex like Liz Lemon (or even Zooey Deschanel’s Jess in the weaker comedy New Girl). Early on I wasn’t sure if the character was enthusiastic about sex, but the ambiguousness was created because of Mindy’s need for epic romantic love. It’s the running theme of the show that a lifetime of watching romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle has warped the way she interacts with men. Midway through the season though it’s clear that she gets horny, likes sex, has hookups, and ogles men.

Unlike Liz Lemon, Mindy Lahiri has a positive body image even though Mindy Kaling (certainly an attractive woman) has a rounder figure than Tina Fey. Mindy plays up her figure as an asset while the supporting cast is ambivalent about it. It’s a running gag that shortly after Mindy extols her body type another character will shrug at it. That’s in contrast to 30 Rock where Liz Lemon was roundly condemned as unattractive by her peers even though Tina Fey is gorgeous. Both are seen as having a healthy appetite, though nothing can compare to Liz Lemon eating an entire steak while in the span of 30 seconds.

All in all, putting the quality of the comedy aside (the first two seasons of 30 Rock are some of the best comedy of all-time, but the first season of The Mindy Project is better than anything after that), I think The Mindy Project does a better job with its lead. While watching the first season and noting some of the similarities between Lemon and Lahiri I did worry that in order to have a woman lead a comedy she couldn’t be seen as attractive. On the other hand, for most characters to be funny they have to be flawed. This is especially true for the lead of a show. He or she has to be the one driving the comedy. I once read something similar about dramas. The theory went that the great dramas - e.g. Breaking Bad or The Sopranos - were great because the lead character was causing all the conflict, whereas the merely very good dramas - e.g. Boardwalk Empire or The Walking Dead - missed out on elite status because their leads were merely reacting to conflict. In the same way, a comedic lead can’t be the straight man pointing out what’s wrong with everyone else.

Mindy’s nemesis at the practice is Danny (Chris Messina, whom I remember from Six Feet Under way back in the day), another OB/GYN. Uptight, strict, and emotionally repressed he’s the opposite of Mindy. A major comedic device in the show is the abhorrence both Danny and Mindy exhibit for what the other enjoys. Mindy can’t understand Danny’s love of Bruce Springsteen, Danny can’t understand anything Mindy likes. As adversarial as they are each comes to the other’s emotional aid at times. There is also an obvious romantic chemistry that the two fail to acknowledge.

The supporting cast is solid too. Dr. Jeremy Reed (Ed Weeks), with his British accent, is the other OB/GYN. He starts off as Mindy’s hookup but comes into his own comedically later in the season as the one who jabs at the faults of Mindy and Danny. Betsy (Zoe Jarman) is the shy, good-hearted receptionist. Her naivete provides solid humor. Beverly (Beth Grant) is a vulgar, incompetent nurse who gets fired only to come back later as a receptionist.

The mid-season hiring of Morgan (Ike Barinholtz), an ex-con turned nurse, might have nudged The Mindy Project into the elite comedy bracket. Morgan is a maddening character because he’s childishly unaware yet flashes an almost idiot savant-like competence in completely random circumstances. For instance, he bombs his interview (wears a track suit, mentions he was in prison) but is saved when he quickly calms the office after Mindy gets assaulted (by a just fired Beverly). But even when he’s adeptly administering medical care to Mindy he manages to tell her what sexual positions she shouldn’t use with a broken nose. Morgan exists in the opposite mindset of the rest of the cast at all times. When the others aren’t taking something seriously (like a trip to a women’s prison to give out free care), Morgan is taking it seriously. When it’s a serious situation or it requires tact (he finds Mindy sleeping with a member of a rival practice), Morgan will blow it up.

The show does suffer from some continuity issues. Sometimes a date is introduced in one episode and then in the next they are sleeping together. I’m not saying sleeping together quickly is a bad thing, it’s just that the show seems to skip over some connecting plot. Maybe it’s not bad to skip the part where the next step is taken. It’s possible that’s just wasteful plot that all shows engage in. It was slightly confusing though.

Early on the show dumps the owner of the practice, Marc Shulman (Stephen Tobolowsky, most notably from Groundhog’s Day) and later on the receptionist Shauna (Amanda Setton) just disappears. As the show still has a half dozen solid members of the supporting cast, it was probably a good decision to drop them. It’s not that the characters were annoying or even bad, it’s that they just weren’t as funny as the others and probably would have crowded out better material. Shulman is like a father character but without any typical dad faults like being overbearing or oblivious. Shauna is the cool hot girl but wasn’t all that ditsy - Mindy occupies a lot of that space - nor does she call out a lot of uncool activity - Mindy, Danny, and Jeremy take turns doing that.

Xosha Roquemore as nurse Tamra doesn’t directly replace Shauna, but arrives soon after we stop seeing her. Her role is tenuous. Mindy’s friends Gwen (Anna Camp), Alex (Kelen Coleman), and Maggie (Mary Grill) make sporadic appearances, with the latter being the only one that adds much comedy. Gwen’s role as “Mindy’s best friend” is at odds with how much screen time she is given on the show.

The show is full of guest appearances. Well-known actors posing as (mostly failed) love interests for Mindy abound. The show starts with Mindy’s disastrous showing at an ex’s (Bill Hader of SNL) wedding. She blows it with Dennis (Ed Helms, The Office) and Matt (Seth Meyers, SNL). Sam (Seth Rogan of lots of movies), a childhood friend, has only one day with her before shipping out to Afghanistan. Adam (Josh Meyers) is actually a prostitute. Josh (Tommy Dewey) is a cheating bastard. Brendan (Mark Duplass, of The League fame) is a hookup from a rival holistic practice she gets attached to. Casey (Anders Holm), well Casey could be the one, as the season ends with Mindy agreeing to volunteer in Haiti with him.

Other love interests for other characters include Elllie Kemper (again from The Office) for Josh, Allison Williams for Danny, Maria Menounos for Brendan, and Chloë Sevigny as Christina, Danny's ex-wife. Dan Castellaneta and Common are other notable appearances. Utkarsh Ambudkar plays Rishi, Mindy's younger brother. Amar’e Stoudemire, Baron Davis, Danny Granger, Clay Matthews, and Moby make appearances as themselves.
 
30 minutes
This product was released around 2012 by Fox
I consumed this around 2013
More: The Mindy Project - Season 1
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 12/21/2013 4:17:24 PM
 
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Louie - Season 2 Louie C.K.
Louie - Season 2 Louie CK tops his odd but good first season with a more than solid comedic performance in season two. The show is even more hilarious this season. \Louie’s stand-up starts and ends the show, and is interspersed between scenes. Other big name comedians like Chris Rock, Godfrey, and Dane Cook make appearances as well. An individual episode is often comprised of scenes that are completely unrelated, but this season had more episodes that stayed on one topic. Louie’s romantic ineptitude is well-trod, with dates, casual sex, swinging, friendship turned romance, and even masturbation all going wrong at some point. He is still a parent trying to understand his two girls while doing what’s best for them. More so now he is a comic on the cusp of stardom. He might be miserable, but he’s good at turning that into laughter.

Several episodes set this season apart. Louie encounters death twice in humorous ways, but when it comes in the form of a friend ready to die it’s more than just a set up for a joke. There’s a lovely two-part episode fictionalizing Louie’s USO tour in which a duckling saves the day. The best episode of the season is when Dane Cook guest stars (I know, right). In an absolutely gutsy scene Louie goes to Cook for a totally undeserved favor from the man who took heat for allegedly stealing three of his jokes. Dane Cook lets him have it and Louie, who controls his show, takes it. He fights back, but ultimately Cook comes away the better man.
 
30 minutes
This product was released around June 2011 by FX
I consumed this around June 2011
More: Louie - Season 2
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 9/2/2012 9:52:40 AM
 
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Boardwalk Empire Terence Winter
Boardwalk Empire Boardwalk Empire is a solid, not great, show you will keeping coming back to watch. Steve Buscemi is great as the exacting kingmaker of Atlantic City (and sometimes New Jersey). Buscemi is a such a peculiar actor in manner and look that I often felt it was he that ran the boardwalk in the 1920s, not the real 'Nucky' Thompson. Yes, Boardwalk Empire is historical fiction. Characters like Nucky’s brother sheriff 'Eli' Thompson (Shea Whigham) and black gangters "Chalky" White (Michael Kenneth Williams, whom every will probably still see as Omar from The Wire). There are a lot of infamous criminals that are directly referenced as well, like Arnold Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), Al Capone (Stephen Graham), Lucky Luciano (Vincent Piazza), Meyer Lansky (Anatol Yusef). After looking it up I found a dozen more that were real people. Then there are other infamous criminals that we call politicians like New Jersey Senator Walter Edge (Geoff Pierson) and Presidential candidate Warren Harding (Malachy Cleary), and many other local officials in the Atlantic City sphere of influence. The first season has prohibition - those who enforced it and those who violated it - and women’s suffrage, race relations and politics, change and corruption. For someone who likes American history it is a fun show.

It’s also a gangster show, which I feel I’ve seen many times. Nucky Thompson takes his bribes, controls the blacks, gets his women (Kelly Macdonald as Margaret Schroeder and Paz de la Huerta as Lucy Danziger), and runs the politics of Atlantic City. But is he ready for a real challenge? He controls the police and the politicians, but can he be a real gangster? Early on his protege "Jimmy" Darmody (Michael Pitt, who looks a bit like Leonardo Dicaprio), just back from the war, doesn’t think so. When Jimmy acts the part of a gangster, Nucky casts him out. Jimmy lands in Chicago with Johnny Torrio (Greg Antonacci) where he plies his trade with violent low-level gangster Al Capone. Every time you hear a name like that casually dropped you get a little excited. When Elit gets shot by an Italian gang testing Nucky’s medal, Nucky calls Jimmy back. He uses Jimmy to muscle them back to New York City. Nucky is not as weak as his thin frame lets on. At the same time he loses road funds in a political battle with northern New Jersey interests. As punishment to Senator Wedge for siding against him, he scuttles Wedge’s Vice Presidential aspirations at the Republican convention in Chicago and throws the weight of the New Jersey delegation behind Warren Harding. Nucky may look outgunned, but he is a politician who has fought to get and keep his power with a politician’s best tool, cunning.

It is fitting then that this cunning may do him in. Jimmy, Eli, and the Commodore (Dabney Coleman as Jimmy biological father who impregnated his mother Gillian (Gretchen Mol) when she was 13) see how Nucky’s deals only seem beneficial, but always benefit Nucky more, leaving the other party less than satisfied. He is using them for his gain and they want what the power and money they think they deserved all along. As the season concludes it is clear that those closest to Nucky are going to challenge him in season two.
 
60 minutes
This product was released around September 2010 by HBO
I consumed this around July 2012
More: Boardwalk Empire
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 8/6/2012 7:47:42 PM
 
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The League - Season 3 Jeff Schaffer, Jackie Marcus Schaffer
The League - Season 3 Paranoia engulfs the league as chicanery is taken to the next level. Unable to stomach giving reigning champion Rodney Ruxin (Nick Kroll) the top pick, Andre (Paul Scheer), Jenny (Katie Aselton), Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi), Pete (Mark Duplass), and Taco (Jonathan Lajoie) fix the draft. The season is played under a cloud of suspicion. Taco, Kevin, Jenny, and Andre make the playoffs while Pete throws a game so as to beat Ruxin in the Sacko Bowl. Taco, maybe saved by his own cluelessness, has had enough with the backstabbing and declares the season null and void.

Another funny season for The League. Recurring characters Sofia (Nadine Velazquez), Shiva (Janina Gavankar), Ellie (Alina Foley), and Rafi (Jason Mantzoukas) make appearances. While the show continues to have a recurring plot line, there’s not much distinction from episode to episode or season to season.
 
30 minutes
This product was released around October 2011 by FX
I consumed this around October 2011
More: The League - Season 3
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 6/4/2012 10:22:04 PM
 
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The Walking Dead - Season 2 Frank Darabont
The Walking Dead - Season 2 One thing I find annoying is when shows or movies waste good characters. Season two of The Walking Dead is guilty of this. The show’s voice of reason, Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), is marginalized in season two and killed off in a frustrating manner. It’s as if Rick (Andrew Lincoln) took over Dale’s role as both feuded with the increasingly unstable Shane (Jon Bernthal). Jeffrey DeMunn is a fine actor as well, so losing him hurts no matter the trajectory of his character.

Daryl (Norman Reedus) is not so much a wasted character by the writers as he is wasted as a member of the group by Rick and Shane. As the two, along with Hershel (Scott Wilson), vie for control of the group’s direction, Daryl - seemingly the member most adept at surviving - is left to his own devices. This is partially his fault. He is a loner and doesn’t make much of an effort to to engage the group. His social skills are unpolished to say the least. There is also some underlying resentment of his “respectable” colleagues who have been brought up in good families, have families and jobs, and dress nicely.

Carol (Melissa Suzanne McBride) is quick to dissuade Daryl of the notion that he is any less worthy than the others. In this new world the heights someone has reached in pre-apocalyptic society are certainly meaningless. After Daryl’s extended commitment to finding Sophia (Madison Lintz) there is no way he could be considered less worthy - curt manners or not. Rick matches Daryl in the duration of his searching - with Shane all the while pointing out the obvious truth that Sophia would be assumed dead after two days before the zombie apocalypse - but no one matches his effort. In large part (though unsaid) he tirelessly tracks her through the forest because he was ignored and abandoned as a child. As we find out in the shocking mid-season finale, Shane was right. Sophia has been locked in Hershel’s bard the whole time. It was probably the now dead Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) who put her and dozens of other walkers in there as Hershel held out hope for a cure.

As Rick steps forward to put a bullet in the head of what used to be Sophia, the show loses another character, Carol. Having found strength during her ordeal, she is destroyed after the discovery of Sophia. A kinship seems to develop with Daryl, so it’s possible she’ll rise again with another lifelong survivor, but for the second half of the season she faded away.

Finally, Merle (Michael Rooker) returned, but only as a hallucination in Daryl’s mind as he struggled to get back to the farm after falling off his horse. I’m assuming that the fact that his amputated hand returned that this meant he was dead (though reports outside the show seem to suggest otherwise). If that’s the case it would be a big waste of Michael Rooker, a great villain character actor.

Another aspect of the story that was wasted was the great state of Georgia. One of the great things about post-apocalyptic stories is that everyone is uprooted - from their homes, their jobs, and their communities. There is no center to life anymore, nor is their stability. The farm brings that back. That’s what the group was looking for in the CDC and hopefully in Fort Benning. Now that they’ve found it they don’t have to explore their environment. They don’t have to explore, scrounge, or think on their feet to avoid the walkers.

The main storyline is the schism between Rick and Shane over the direction of the group. Rick still believes in some sort of order, while Shane believes it’s now kill or be killed. The latter’s descent is, even in the zombie apocalypse, one of the more scary aspects of this season. Once the rules have been invalidated and the element of fear has been introduced, this man of the law, this loyal friend, becomes unstable. Some of it is understandable. Beyond the obvious “world is ending” issues, Shane is being emotionally jerked around. He thought his best friend and superior at work was dead, thereby promoting him to leader and head of Rick’s family. He begins a relationship with Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) whom he has clearly been in love with since before the zombie apocalypse. Now after all he’s done for Rick’s family - and he would do anything for Lori and Carl - his reward is to lose his new family. Shane is not blameless though. Dale tells him that this new world is where he belongs, and it is certainly true that Shane is, if not the most violent, the most erratic of the group. He’s the one who would best live on instinct. You can see this even more in his inability to handle a group dynamic. He can’t handle the dissent that comes with democracy or even a committee. He’s too impatient for process. Eventually his opposition to Rick ends the only way it can, with Shane making a play on Rick’s life, only to be outsmarted by his friend.

Shane’s binary vision - kill or be killed - makes him think of Rick as weak. But just because Rick indulges Carol in searching for Sophia and Hershel by herding walkers into the barn doesn’t make him weak. Sophia is important to the group. Losing her without a fight might be too much for morale. Hershel is their host, so it is prudent to play by his rules, unless the group is willing to take the farm by force. Only Shane seems willing to go that far. When it comes down to it though, Rick has shown more than enough ability to take action. He is the one who initially goes after Sophia. He wants to be the one to go get medical supplies for Karl’s surgery with Otis. He steps up and puts down the zombie Sophia. He kills the two men (Michael Raymond-James as Dave & Aaron Munoz as Tony) in the bar. He allows Shane to make a move on him to force a confrontation.

One more problem I have with the season - the show really - is the careless way the group acts. It annoys me to all hell how much noise they make. The show is inconsistent in how it handles noise. In season one a single gunshot brings dozens of walkers to Morgan (Lennie James) and Duane’s (Adrian Kali Turner) hideout. This season the group engages in target practice and it doesn’t bring walkers. It’s only the helicopter from season one that sets a walker hoard upon the farm. (They left us hanging in season one with that, so I appreciated it showing up again.) I want the group to develop some rules and best practices for survival. How is it that Carl disobeys his parents? How is it that the fear of this new world hasn’t scared him into listening and his parents into getting the point across? Rick starts to develop some rules with his suggestion that they don’t use guns when possible, but for the most part, despite being on a farm all season, they act like a band on the run.

The first half of the season drags, but part two rewards viewers for their patience. Part one is not without its highlights. There is the zombie hoard the group meets on the road, leading to the search for Sophia. Carl is accidentally shot, leading to Otis and Shane’s excursion for medical supplies. This leads to the shocking realization that Shane disabled Otis on purpose so the zombies would eat him and Shane could escape with the equipment (he would do anything for Carl). Lori reveals she is pregnant and who knows whose baby it is. Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) have sex during a supply run. Shane and Andrea (Laurie Holden) do the same on a search for Sophia. In both case there are zombies to escape as well. Daryl tests his survival skills in the woods. And Shane lets the walkers out of the barn. Really, as long as you give me some zombie headshots you can sustain me for a few bland episodes.

Part two is what we signed up for. Hershel goes to the bar after his post-apocalyptic worldview is destroyed. There, he, Rick, and Glenn have to fight off a party of survivors. They rescue one of the men, Randall (Michael Zegen), which sets up a conflict about whether to kill or release him. When they do try to release him, Shane nearly gets caught by a group of zombies at a school before a daring “maybe things will be OK with the group after this” rescue by Rick.

The finale is what the zombie apocalypse is all about. No one is safe. People - Jimmy (James Allen McCune) and Patricia (Jane McNeill) - are going to die. Your world is going to be overrun like Hershel’s farm and burn to the ground like his barn. Here comes the hoard and you can’t stop them. Defend your home until you realize it’s hopeless. Then run for your life like Andrea does in the woods. With a bag of guns. No food. No water. No rest. Too slow - of mind or foot - and you are zombie lunch. Andrea’s face as she looks back in horror at the relentless hoard - that is the zombie apocalypse.

The finale also gives us three major pieces of information for the next season. Rick finally reveals what Jenner (Noah Emmerich) whispered in the season one finale. Everyone is infected. This was hinted at with the two dead biteless police officers at the school. It was heavily suggested after Daryl and Glenn find and kill Randall, and after Shane’s reanimated body is put down by Carl. The next two revelations are major foreshadowing for season three. As the survivors camp out Daryl, Carol, T-Dog (almost got to the end of the recap without mentioneing IronE Singleton’s character, yet he survived anyway), Rick, Carl, Lori, Glenn, Maggie, Amy (Emma Bell), and Hershel - once again a band on the run, the final scene pans up to show a prison, where I assume they’ll stay and meet new characters in season three. The last revelation is a mysterious black shrouded woman who saves Andrea by slicing the head off a zombie with some sort of sword. When Andrea looks up the woman has two amputated zombies in tow. Can’t wait till next year.
 
60 minutes
This product was released around October 2011 by AMC
I consumed this around October 2011
More: The Walking Dead - Season 2
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 6/4/2012 9:45:31 PM
 
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The League - Season 2 Jeff Schaffer, Jackie Marcus Schaffer
The League - Season 2 The League did not turn out to be hit or miss like I suspected. The players are at all times inappropriate, backstabbing, paranoid, and somewhat pathetic. The writers pull it off.

Ruxin (Nick Kroll) kills it this year. Jenny (Katie Aselton) joins the league and she brings it. Rafi (Jason Mantzoukas), the brother of Sofia (Nadine Velazquez), joins the team in Vegas to bolster the gross humor element. Shiva (Janina Gavankar), the inspiration for the “Shiva Bowl”, makes an appearance. Andre (Paul Scheer) hits new lows. Pete (Mark Duplass) chugs along. Kevin (Stephen Rannazzisi) loses it. Taco (Jonathan Lajoie) is funny, but his singing and rapping bits have to go.

There’s unfortunately an awkward race relations episode. For some reason every comedy show with a majority white cast feels the need to do this. On the other hand there’s a reunion episode - a trope that is usually terrible on most shows - that is actually good. Season two hits on all cylinders.
 
30 minutes
This product was released around September 2010 by FX
I consumed this around 2011
More: The League - Season 2
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 5/9/2012 9:56:33 PM
 
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The League - Season 1 Jeff Schaffer, Jackie Marcus Schaffer
The League - Season 1 As I see it The League has several pitfalls it must avoid to be a successful show. A six episode first season is tough to evaluate. The wives cannot be wet blankets. Jenny (Katie Aselton) looks like a solid contributor that will probably join the league, as she’s already setting Kevin’s (Stephen Rannazzisi) team. They quickly jettisoned Pete’s (Mark Duplass) wife (Leslie Bibb), an obvious wet blanket. Ruxin’s wife Sofia (Nadine Velazquez, of My Name Is Earl is fame) is going to stay, and will probably act as one for the length of the show. Ruxin (Nick Kroll) is an insidious liar and generally a bad person, but realizes he married way over his attractiveness.

Next, Andre (Paul Scheer) is an obvious target for ridicule, but he can’t just be a punching bag. Conversely, Pete needs to be the object of jokes. Right now the show seems to rotate who gets the upper hand each week. Pete is the most confident, but just got divorced. The gap-toothed, poorly dressed Andre wins the “Shiva Bowl”. Kevin is married with a kid (little Alina Foley), but gets to act childish with the group - plus, Jenny is cool. Taco (Jonathan Lajoie) is clueless but has some innate ability to get laid. Ruxin is insidious but usually gets played every couple of episodes.

Finally, the show can’t miss. There’s no sincerity so every minute of the show requires raunchy humor. Obviously the writers are going to miss sometimes, but missing on even 25% of their jokes means a full quarter of the show is bad. Right now the show is avoiding this and all of the other potential mistakes.
 
30 minutes
This product was released around October 2009 by FX
I consumed this around 2011
More: The League - Season 1
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 5/9/2012 9:48:52 PM
 
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Breaking Bad - Season 2 Vince Gilligan
Breaking Bad - Season 2 Season two of Breaking Bad continues with themes established in season one. The most prominent theme is of Walt (Bryan Cranston) and Jesse (Aaron Paul) moving up in the drug industry and dangers associated with that. Hank (Dean Norris), now unknowingly following Walt’s exploits, remarks that the duo is probably stepping on a bigger trafficker’s toes. And, of course, they are.

It is implied that the man they are dealing with now, Tuco Salamanca (played by an old favorite, Raymond Cruz), has connections with cartels in Mexico. Tuco is unstable and paranoid and meets his demise in the desert thinking one partner (Gonzo, played by Cesar Garcia) had betrayed him over the death of another (No-Doze, played by “Jesus Jr.”). He kidnaps Walt and Jesse and hides out in the desert, hoping to escape to Mexico. Walt, Chemistry Super Hero, tries to poison him with ricin, but Jesse, Screw Up Super Hero, blows it. Tuco’s mute, wheelchair ridden uncle Tio Salamanca (played by consummate bad guy Mark Margolis) blows their cover. They end up shooting Tuco, who survives only long enough to get shot by Hank as Walt and Jesse escape into the desert.

With Tuco’s demise, the team must find a new dealer to sell to or, as Jesse suggests, they could be the distributor. Yes, Walt and Jesse will lead a gang of street dealers. Brilliant. Jesse enlists his junkie friends - the fidgety Skinny Pete (Charles Baker), the lovably absent-minded, yet good-natured, Badger (Matt L. Jones), and the far too optimistic Combo (Rodney Rush). So Pete gets robbed by the junkiest of junkies in Albuquerque, Badger gets busted by Kyle from Road Trip (DJ Qualls), and Combo gets killed by a kid on a bicycle. Just as planned.

Walt demands that Jesse get their stolen product back from “Spooge” and his equally reputable wife, forcing Jesse into the role of enforcer, which he is not qualified to be. The experience is almost a complete disaster, but with some luck it turns into some short term street cred. Walt even feels ballsy enough to chase some amateur meth manufacturers from his territory. Badger lawyers up with Bob Odenkirk. Well, actually the character’s name is Saul Goodman, but it’s totally Bob Odenkirk from Mr Show with Bob and David. Odenkirk does not undersell Saul the shady lawyer. I was half expecting Brian Posehn to be waiting for an appointment in some scene. Eventually Saul takes Walt and Jesse on as clients and is able to throw the cops off their scent and keep Badger out of prison, for a large sum of money. They do not weather the death of Combo nearly as well. They lose territory and the illusion of toughness.

Saul smells more money and convinces the duo that they need his expert services. With the cops looking at Jesse (because they found his car at Tuco’s) and Walt feeling exposed (Saul was easily able to track him to his work), they agree to a meeting with a larger distributor. That falls through, but Walt is able to force another meeting with Gus (Giancarlo Esposito), the owner of a chain of fried chicken restaurants. Soon Walt is contacted by an associate (Jeremiah Bitsui) and frantically tries to deliver their product while Jesse is strung out and his wife is going into labor. As the money rolls in, Saul sets up a money laundering scheme through a fund raising website that Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) set up. A full-time drug dealer’s lawyer and a money laundering scheme; our boys have been promoted to the major leagues.



As mentioned earlier, Hank starts to gain more prominence as he unknowingly starts to follow Walt’s exploits. Hank is the one who goes looking for Walt and stumbles upon and kills Tuco in a tense action scene. His heroics land him a promotion, but also test his bravado. He begins to doubt himself at his new office. No longer is he the leader and his new co-workers don’t appreciate his hard-nosed style. He doesn’t speak the language (co-workers mock him in Spanish) nor does he have a solid understanding of his new enemy. After a bomb kills an informant and a Mexican Federale while tearing off the leg of a US DEA agent, Hank has a crisis of confidence. For the first time in his life he is afraid. He faces some of the same problems that Walt deals with with regards to his masculinity. And while Walt rebelled against these forces, Hank essentially backs down. He goes back to chasing the blue meth, never returning to his promotion.

Walter still struggles with feelings of emasculation, but he’s aggressive about regaining it. For instance, Hank has always towered over Walt in the eyes of Walter Jr. So at Walt’s “remission” party, Walt gives his son a shot of liquor in front of Hank. Then he gives him another. When Hank objects to a third, Walt angrily declares that it’s his son before Walter Jr. throws up in the pool from his third shot.



Walt’s lies were causing problems in season one, but they cross into the fantastic after Tuco kidnaps him. He fakes a “fugue state” to explain his absence, but Hank’s investigation brings to light Walt’s second mobile phone. Skyler asks Walt about it but is not satisfied with the answer. Walt’s pathetic explanations only push her away. The stress drives the still pregnant woman to leave the house for long periods and start smoking.

Drugged before major surgery, Walt lets on about the other mobile phone. As Walt is recovering, not only does Skyler figure out the second phone mystery, but she learns that Gretchen (Jessica Hetch) is not funding Walt’s treatment, and that Walt did not visit his mother when she dropped him off at the airport earlier in the season (he went off to cook meth in the desert with Jesse). On that trip, when Walt and Jesse are near death, stranded in the desert, Walt remarks "All the lies, I can't even keep them straight in my head anymore." If the liar can’t even keep them straight it is inevitable that he will be exposed. His doctor (David House) rebukes him for failing to report a health concern, urging “No more secrets, Walt.” The dramatic irony is thick for Doctor Delcavoli, but you have to wonder if it is equally so for Walt.



Walt and Jesse’s relationship has always been tumultuous. Their bonds are strengthened and strained in season two. Their battle with Tuco and almost stranding the RV in the desert causes friction but also ties them together like any traumatic experience would.

Out in the desert it is Jesse who sympathizes with Walt when he coughs blood even though Walt lied to him to get him out there. He tries to reassure Walt about his decision to sell meth despite Walt’s derision towards him. After their adventure in the desert, Jesse assures Walt that “Whatever happens, your family will get your share.” When it turns out that Walt is in remission Jesse is beside himself at the “kickass news”.

Despite his obvious disdain for Jesse, Walt clearly also sees him as his screw-up son though. Jesse loses his half of their earnings and has to beg Walt for more money like a teen asking his father. He bottoms out after being kicked out of his home, getting his bike stolen, and sleeping in his RV soaked in porta-potty toilet water.

When Walt happens across Jane’s father Donald (John De Lancie) at a bar the two strike up a conversation without knowing their connection. Donald has struggled with keeping Jane off drugs. Both are distressed that their children won’t listen to them. Walt is ready to give up on Jesse, but Donald sets him straight. "Family, can't give up on them. Never." Donald may be talking about his biological family, but those words send Walt back to Jesse’s house.

Walt may be a father figure, but he’s a jerk of a father. Jesse causes the desert adventure in the RV by inadvertently draining the battery, carelessly destroying the generator, and rashly wasting their water - but it was Walt’s lies about their supplies that brought the two out there in the first place. When Walt encounters Jane (Krysten Ritter) and Jesse’s drug induced sleep he has a chance to save Jane as she chokes on her own vomit, but instead recoils. Knowing how much Jesse cares about her he does nothing to save him the pain of waking up next to her dead body. Jesse enjoyed his life with Jane, but Walt didn’t approve so he destroyed it. When Jesse inevitably numbs the pain of his loss with copious amounts of drugs, Walt pulls him out of his spiral and puts him into rehab. So Walt “saves” Jesse, but only after the actions that Walt didn’t like ceased.

Once again it is the respectable middle class man whose morality and kindness is underwhelming compared to the junkie’s. After Walt demands retribution in the case of the stolen meth, Jesse reluctantly plays the role of enforcer. Upon breaking into the perpetrators’ house he immediately shows his good nature by taking care of a neglected boy. Jesse’s concern is as heart warming as the little read headed boy’s situation is heart breaking. The boy is disturbingly quiet (like developmentally slow quiet), and as filthy as the dump he lives in. Jesse brings the boy out of his shell by playing peekaboo with, making a sandwich for, talking to, and watching the one channel on TV with him. When the child’s junkie parents return Jesse, to his own detriment, does not harm them in front of the boy. When the situation turns violent Jesse shelters the child from the carnage and shuttles him outside, setting him on the front stoop to wait for the police and imploring him “Just don’t go back inside.” He cares about the boy, but can help no further. "You have a good rest of your life, kid”, he sadly wishes to the child.



I liked the use of flash forwards at the beginning of episodes - Tuco’s grill, Jesse’s bouncing car, the recurring pink teddy bear, even going back to the pilot. The images never gave anything away, and they didn’t effectively foreshadow either, but they were intriguing.



Walt again uses science to get out of some jams. He tries to kill Tuco with homemade ricin. Later, when Jesse dooms their return trip from meth cooking in the desert, Walt builds a battery out of supplies in the RV.



Breaking Bad continues to show the ruinous effects of the drug industry. Jane’s death sets off a chain of events which ends in her distraught father, an air traffic controller, failing to stop two planes from colliding. Hundreds die because of the chain reaction.
 
60 minutes
This product was released around March 2009 by AMC
I consumed this around September 2011
More: Breaking Bad - Season 2
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 10/29/2011 10:54:22 PM
 
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Breaking Bad - Season 1 Vince Gilligan
Breaking Bad - Season 1 Several themes emerge in the short first season of Breaking Bad. First and foremost, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) feels emasculated. At first it's just his job. A talented scientist in his younger days (as evidence by flashbacks), Walt is relegated to teaching dumb, disrespectful high school kids. Worse, he works a part-time job as a clerk at a car wash. His boss often asks him to wash cars, leading to humiliation when those same students of him see him scrubbing a tire on his hands and knees. His son (RJ Mitte) is ridiculed for his cerebal palsy at times too.

Walt's cancer takes it to a whole new level though. He resigns himself to death, but his pregnant wife Skyler (Anna Gunn) wants to pay for the best treatment. Not only does Walt lose control over decisions about his health, but now expensive treatments will stop him from providing for his family after death. His brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris) and old friend Gretchen (Jessica Hecht) each offer to pay for his medical bills. Hank even assures Walt that whatever happens, he and Marie (Betsy Brandt) will take care of his family. No man wants to hear that another man will see to his family's security though. This is especially true with Hank, a masculine DEA agent whom Walter Jr. looks up to. The teenage boy eats up Hank's stories about drug busts, while his stuffy science teacher father looks on. When Walter Jr - who prefers to go by "Flynn", discarding his father's name - gets in trouble with the law - allegedly smoking pot, actually getting busted for trying to buy beer - it is Hank who is called in to fix the problem. Walter Sr. is watching watching his son reject him as a father during his illness.

In the pilot Walt, thinking he is about to die, sends a later aborted message to his family.
I just want you to know that no matter how it may look, I only had you in my heart.
But that's not true. Instead of taking two legitimate offers, Walt turns to "cooking" methamphetamine (crystal meth) with a former student, Jessie Pinkman (Aaron Paul). So it is quite early in the series that the audience loses sympathy for Walt. Had he swallowed his pride Walter White could have saved his family.

Walt kind of gets off on his new life. In his car after the explosion in Tuco’s office Walt breathes in the adrenaline rush. He twice makes passionate love to his wife after stressful situations (and once pushes the issue too far). His first kill is self defense, but a subsequent murder is slightly more cold blooded.

A life of crime is obviously going to involve a lot deceit. Walt's lies quickly start to affect his marriage. He fails to tell her that he quit his job. When a "telemarketer" calls, Skyler traces the call back to Jessie. Then when she confronts Walter about his partner, Walter lies again about their relationship. He lies about how he's paying for treatment, and uses other alternative treatment as a smokescreen to go cook meth. He explains much of his absence as just needing time to deal with his illness. Regardless, he is distant.

Breaking Bad looks like it will follow a similar path as Weeds. Both shows indicate that you can't just be a small time drug dealer. Larger dealers will not just let you exist peacefully. You either grow or die. Unfortunately, Walt and Jessie, while carrying a superior product, are inept at selling it. After selling on their own for only a short time they try to hook up with two small-time dealers Krazy-8 Molina (Maximino Arciniega) and Jesse's ex-partner Cousin Emilio (John Koyama). When that sours they step up to a better financed and heavily armed group lead by Tuco Salamanca (Raymond Cruz), a most vicious criminal. They take their beatings and face death from both groups.

The show's first scene is very clear about how bad they are at this. With Jesse unconscious next to him, Walter crashes a Winnebago in the desert in his underwear. When we come back to that scene we find out that the duo has barely escaped death, while starting a grass fire, and leaving evidence behind. Walt attempts to kill himself, but fails to take the safety off the gun. When he attempts to kill a drug dealer who will almost surely kill him, Walt hesitates, making a list of pros and cons and ultimately almost letting him go. Later in the season they stumble trying to secure supplies - Walter allowing Hank to trace supplies back to his lab, and the two clumsily stealing a large barrel of methylamine. Their mistakes are reminiscent of Nancy Botwin's (Mary-Louise Parker) in Weeds.

Jesse is an immature junkie drug dealer of limited intelligence, while Walter is a stuffy, precise science teacher. The two have little in common, but the development of their relationship is something to watch. Walter hides a lot from Jesse and Jesse is suspicious of Walter's reasons. The "good guy" and the "bad guy" are actually reversed in the relationship. Walter treats Jesse - somewhat fairly - as a child. Jesse is the one that shows a middle class man's care and understanding. When he learns of Walter's cancer he admonishes Walter for not telling his business partner, but also offers him advice on how to deal with treatment, his aunt having succumbed to cancer.

Walt becomes somewhat of a father figure to Jesse. Instead of ditching his new partner in the desert, he puts a gas mask on him and drives him to “safety”. After Jesse’s beating from Tuco, Walt comes back with vengeance to get their money but also for compensation for Jesse. Walter’s burgeoning care for Jesse comes along with deep condescension. Walter definitely feels superior to his former student. Jesse doesn’t help it though. He often fails to listen to Walt’s orders, most famously resulting in bit of Cousin Emilio falling through his ceiling.

One subtle theme in Breaking Bad is that the actions of Walter and Jesse have consequences beyond the drug underworld. Obviously people die and drugs ruin lives. I reaches further though. When the cops come looking for the thief who stole the school's chemistry equipment they find not Walter, but Hugo. It was the lowly janitor who compassionately helped Walt when he was fighting the affects of his cancer treatment, vomiting in the bathroom. Hugo is a good man, who happened to have a little bit of pot and a short rap sheet. Half of his reason for helping Walter was so that he could go back and teach his kids. When he gets arrested he not only loses his job but will probably go to jail.

It’s interesting that Breaking Bad goes in this direction. You would expect it to speak of the immorality of the drug war, but there is little of that. Over Cuban cigars, Walt remarks on the arbitrary nature of which drugs are made illegal to Hank. This is more of an attempt at justifying his action than a commentary on the war on drugs.

A more innovative part of the show is that Walt is like a chemistry super hero. He’s able to extricate himself from dangerous situations using his deep knowledge of chemistry. It’s not done in a hokey manner though. He’s not MacGuyver and he’s not trying to educate you like he’s Mr. Wizard. According to Jesse, Walt makes the best meth he’s ever seen. When Sudafed is lacking, Walt cooks it from a more basic ingredient, methylamine. To break into the warehouse that stores it he burns through a lock using thermite extracted from Magnadoodles. He escapes Cousin Emilio and Krazy-8 with a concoction that creates poison gas. Walt disposes of the body with hydrochloric acid. He blows up a car by placing a squeegee on some jerk’s battery. And in the most intense scene of the season, Walt walks into Tuco’s office and nearly blows the psychotic dealer up with fulminated mercury, or as Walt puts it “a little tweak of chemistry”.
 
60 minutes
This product was released around January 2008 by AMC
I consumed this around September 2011
More: Breaking Bad - Season 1
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 10/11/2011 11:48:31 PM
 
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The Mormons Frontline
The Mormons The Mormons tells a story of persecution that I don't think most Americans are aware of with respect to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith and his followers - and later Brigham Young - were basically chased across the country for their beliefs. They left New York, then got chased out of Missouri when they claimed it was a sacred site. Smith was killed by an angry mob in Nauvoo, Illinois. Brigham Young's church was essentially outlawed by the United States Congress. The church has suffered an immense amount of persecution in its short history.

The other side of the church's short history, is that the revelations that serve as the basis for church doctrine do not have thousands of years to shield them from skepticism. Smith began his movement in what the documentary claims was a time and place that was ripe for religious men like Joseph Smith. Though Smith's beliefs are no more miraculous than those of Christianity, he clashed with most established denominations and was forced to flee.

Persecution also goes the other way as well, with the church having to reform itself of its racist ways, but still not giving women the same rights as men in the church, and still not giving respect to homosexuals.

Some other take away points:

The documentary also touched on how church doctrine - plural marriage, for instance - was developed through "revelation".

Like most religions, the church functions as a community as well as a spiritual center. It is also active in charitable works.

Mormons are required to go out on missions to evangelize the faith across the world. There's a somewhat funny part where two Mormon men try to evangelize New Yorkers on the street.

The Mormons have a somewhat controversial practice of baptizing the dead, even if the dead person was not a Mormon. This upset Jews who feel the Jewish people have fought to remain Jewish throughout their history.

The Mormon temple is a secretive place that is off limits to non-Mormons and even Mormons who don't live by the strict codes of the church.
 
240 minutes
This product was released around unknown by PBS
I consumed this around July 2011
More: The Mormons
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 9/5/2011 4:20:42 PM
 
333
June 17th, 1994 Brett Morgan
June 17th, 1994 Friday June 17th, 1994 was an amazing day in the history of American sports. Arnold Palmer played in his final U.S. Open, in Chicago the World Cup began for the first time in America, the Rangers paraded their first Stanley Cup in 54 years through New York City, Ken Griffey Jr. continued his soon to be cut short quest for the Major League Baseball single season home run record, and the New York Knicks battled the Houston Rockets in game 5 of the NBA Finals in Madison Square Garden.

I remember the last event because I was trying to watch the game while O.J. Simpson was leading Los Angeles police on a slow speed chase to his mother's house in a now infamous White Ford Bronco. NBC kept cutting away from that game. Remember, this was the 90s when playoff teams hated each other. Pat Riley's Knicks had pushed the physicality of the game to its limit. No team would score over 93 points the entire series. It was an intense playoff battle featuring my favorite sports team playing at their apex in a pivotal game. It was Ewing versus Olajuwon, the battle of the great centers. There was a shootout between the two erratic scorers, John Starks Vernon "Mad Max" Maxwell. There were two stoic power forwards, Charles Oakley and Otis Thorpe, with other big bodies like Charles Smith and Carl Herrera called on to battle down low. Mario Elie and Anthony Mason were spark plugs off the bench. Cagey veterans Derek Harper and Kenny Smith battled at point guard. Younger and less established players like Greg Anthony, Hubert Davis, Sam Cassell, and Robert Horry stepped onto the stage.

At 13 years old I was so frustrated that I couldn't watch my team play. I am still frustrated by that day, but for a different reason. Without prior experience I am hesitant to say that this was a turning point for American culture. I don't really know if there was ever a media circus of this magnitude for an event so inconsequential. Yes, two people died. But I do feel that the event so was horribly overblown that it speaks poorly of our media and our culture. Simpson was a beloved athlete and celebrity, but did he deserve this level of attention? He played football years ago, acted in some movies, and starred in Hertz rental car commercials. People lined the streets to watch A.C. Cowlings drive him down the highway. Every news station was covering it without interruption. The southern California airwaves were so overwhelmed that helicopter feeds were getting crossed. Bob Costas carefully explained to basketball fans that NBC was going to try to broadcast this game even though everyone was more concerned with the unfolding drama. Tom Brokaw called it an American tragedy. For the love of god, it was a car chase in LA.

Watching the clips of the great sporting events that took place on that day brought a smile to my face even 17 years later. I was too young back then to be cynical about professional sports. It was a reminder of the great pagentry of sports. We may put too much emphasis on what athletes do in this country, but the joy and exhiliration we obtain from it feels right and deserved. Watching the news clips from that same day and the sick fascination people receive from the misery of others embarrassed me. I can't say for sure, but I feel like that day - combined with the soon to be instant and vast information the web would soon make available - was the start of a increase in American lust for celebrity worship, pointless gossip, and destructive personal scandal. This 30 for 30 episode did a great job of portraying that.
 
30 minutes
This product was released around June 2011 by ESPN
I consumed this around July 2011
More: June 17th, 1994
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 8/24/2011 10:43:50 PM
 
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Weeds - Season 6 Jenji Kohan
Weeds - Season 6 Where else to go but down for the Botwins. After Shane (Alexander Gould) clubbed Pilar (Kate del Castillo) at the end of season five, Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) takes the band on the run. Silas (Hunter Parrish) reluctantly follows his family. Andy (Justin Kirk) blows it with his doctor girlfriend (Alanis Morissette) so he decides to help out the family. Later, Doug (Kevin Nealon) gets dragged into the escape, as Cesar (Enrique Castillo) and Ignacio (Hemky Madera) search for Esteban's son.

Season six makes perfect sense considering the trajectory of the show. Nancy ineptly climbed the drug industry career ladder, so once she got to the top it made sense she would fall and crash through the bottom floor. The Botwins try to go straight for about two minutes, before they start selling hash at a hotel, a trailer park, and a night club. Nancy doesn't adhere to Andy's rules for living off the grid, and eventually Esteban (Demián Bichir) catches up with them. The Botwins have truly hit rock bottom, and more than in any other season, Nancy comes close to losing her family. Silas almost leaves the family three times (once with his newly found biological father). Shane becomes more morbid and cynical. It's only by giving herself up that Nancy can finally make her family safe.
 
30 minutes
This product was released around August 2010 by Showtime
I consumed this around July 2011
More: Weeds - Season 6
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 7/24/2011 9:33:44 PM
 
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Rescue Me - Season 6 Denis Leary
Rescue Me - Season 6 Season six drags a little because of the focus on Colleen's (Natalie Distler) drinking problem. Katy (Olivia Crocicchia) goes to boarding school and grows apart from Tommy and Janet (Andrea Roth). Through six seasons Tommy (Denis Leary) hasn't been able to get his family in order.

Budget cuts threaten the house, leading to classic Rescue Me action when they beat another house to a fire and save a school full of children without equipment. Needles (Adam Ferrara) battles Feinberg (Jerry Adler) over the cuts. Mickey (Robert John Burke) dates Sheila (Callie Thorne) behind Tommy's back. Mickey usually has moral superiority over Tommy. Turning the tables is always funny. The rest of the crew - Mike (Michael Lombardi), Sean (Steven Pasquale), Franco (Daniel Sunjata), Lou (John Scurti), and Shawn (Larenz Tate) - are their normal, mostly irreverent selves.

Damien (Michael Zegen) questions his commitment to firefighting before coming back and tragically getting paralyzed in a fire. The season ends with Tommy dealing with his role in Damien's choices.
 
60 minutes
This product was released around June 2010 by FX
I consumed this around 2010
More: Rescue Me - Season 6
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 7/21/2011 9:43:46 PM
 
333
Weeds - Season 5 Jenji Kohan
Weeds - Season 5 Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker) keeps moving up the drug industry hierarchy. After nearly getting killed in season four, a stroke of luck keeps her alive in season five. The idea of saving her family takes a turn as it is absorbed into that Esteban (Demián Bichir), a Mexican drug kingpin. From her lowly beginnings as a solitary marijuana dealer, she has stumbled to the very top of the drug trade. The danger to Andy (Justin Kirk), Silas (Hunter Parrish), Shane (Alexander Gould), and now a new baby is at its highest. Violence is inescapable. And of course, there is nowhere to go but down.
 
30 minutes
This product was released around June 2009 by Showtime
I consumed this around 2010
More: Weeds - Season 5
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 7/19/2011 11:45:12 PM
 
333
3rd Rock from the Sun - Season 6 Bonnie Turner, Terry Turner
3rd Rock from the Sun - Season 6 By season six I was just waiting to see how 3rd Rock from the Sun would wrap up. Would they stay, would they go, whom might they bring with them? Spoiler alert: the Solomons leave and don't bring anyone.

Tommy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) goes off to college. Dick (John Lithgow) tells Mary (Jane Curtin). Sally (Kristen Johnston) sets Don (Wayne Knight) on the right path. Harry (French Stewart) continues his wacky ways without a mate. Nina (Simbi Khali), Dubcek (Elmarie Wendel), Leon (Ian Lithgow), Bug (David DeLuise), Pitman (Chris Hogan), Caryn (Danielle Nicolet), Judith (Ileen Getz), and Strudwick (Ron West) are around for the final party, but don't get extended send offs.

Season six is better than seasons four and five, but not as good as the first two. While the show didn't end at its peak - shows over 3 seasons long rarely do - I still felt sad when the Solomons were beamed up in the Rambler. The family - the aliens - lacked any tact, but they had heart. They were always quick to love the things they learned about our primitive planet. It's always endearing when an outsider tells you he or she loves your hometown or your family. That's what the Solomons did, and that's why they'll be missed.
Across The Void, We come A-warping,
Across The Fields Of Stars We Soar...
We pledge to land, and something something
something and something Spaceship!

And When, at Last, our mission’s finished,
In duty, homeward shall we fly!
Our glory can not be diminished
Back to the heavens in our mighty

SPACESHIP!!!!
 
30 minutes
This product was released around October 2000 by NBC
I consumed this around July 2011
More: 3rd Rock from the Sun - Season 6
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 7/17/2011 10:25:25 PM
 
333
Sons of Anarchy - Season 3 Kurt Sutter
Sons of Anarchy - Season 3 After an excruciatingly drawn out story line about Jax's (Charlie Hunnam) kidnapped child, season three kills it with a great finale. It's not that taking the Sons to Ireland (and changing the theme music) wasn't a good idea. The problem was that it just wasn't realistic that they would allow themselves to languish overseas for that long.
 
60 minutes
This product was released around September 2010 by FX
I consumed this around 2011
More: Sons of Anarchy - Season 3
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 7/16/2011 11:53:36 PM
 
22
Sons of Anarchy - Season 2 Kurt Sutter
Sons of Anarchy - Season 2 Season two of Sons of Anarchy follows a plot similar to season one's. Jax (Charlie Hunnam) continues to clash with Clay (Ron Pearlman) about the direction of the club. The battle for influence is more open now, with Jax making more of the decisions, as he tries to move SAMCRO away from gun running as a source of income.
 
60 minutes
This product was released around November 2009 by FX
I consumed this around 2010
More: Sons of Anarchy - Season 2
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 7/16/2011 11:52:33 PM
 
333
Sons of Anarchy - Season 1 Kurt Sutter
Sons of Anarchy - Season 1 In the face of a major life event, and a major revelation, Jax (Charlie Hunnam), the second in command and son of the founder of the Sons of Anarchy, is having second thoughts about the direction of the motor cycle club.

SoA is a crime family drama. Clay (Ron Pearlman) is like Tony Soprano in that he uses certain grand ideals when it suits him. For Tony Soprano it's "the family", while Clay claims SAMCRO is out to protect the town of Charming from external criminals like the Mayans (a Hispanic motorcycle gang lead by Marcus Alvarez, played by Emilio Rivera ) or the Nords (a white supremacist gang lead by Ernest Darby, played by Mitch Pileggi). But Tony Soprano abandons familial loyalty when it suits him. Watching SAMCRO deliver guns to inner city gangs, you have to believe the same thing goes for Clay. He is a criminal out to enrich himself, and the Sons of Anarchy are just another violent gang.

The cast of SAMCRO is likable, ranging from comic relief to serious players. Clay's wife and Jax's mother is the shrewd and strong Gemma, played by Katey Sagal. Johnny Lewis plays the rookie, "Half Sack", who gets assigned menial jobs as he works up the ladder. Bobby (Mark Boone Jr.) is the consigliere (who imitates Elvis on the side). Tig (Kim Coates) is crazy. Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) is is an Irish import, bridging the Sons to the IRA. Piney (William Lucking) is a member of the old guard, who breathes with an oxygen tank. His son Opie (Ryan Hurst) just got out of jail and is trying to stay straight with his wife Donna (Sprague Grayden) and kids. Juice (Theo Rossi) is the more technically advanced criminal, and apt to get in trouble. Hale (Taylor Sheridan) is the straight cop. His boss, Unser (Dayton Callie), helps the Sons. Happy (David LaBrava) is a pretty bad ass character with a limited role in season one.
 
60 minutes
This product was released around September 2008 by FX
I consumed this around 2010
More: Sons of Anarchy - Season 1
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 7/16/2011 11:51:32 PM
 
333
The Pacific Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks, Gary Goetzman
The Pacific Marines climb down from their ship into DUKW boats. The boats head toward the coast of Guadalcanal. The audience has watched this scene in Saving Private Ryan. We're as nervous as the young Marines. The boats land, but nothing happens. From the start, The Pacific is different from its European counterpart on HBO, Band of Brothers.

There is no shortage of action, but The Pacific focuses on the emotional toll of war than Band of Brothers. Though not as cerebral, it is similar to The Thin Red Line in this respect. I had trouble getting into the series at first, because the transition from stateside to the theater of war happens quickly. Also, the harrowing Battle of the Tenaru - the audience's first real combat - is fought at night. It was tough to see what was happening and get a sense of what each character was like in battle. Robert Leckie (James Badge Dale) and John Basilone (Jon Seda) fight at Guadalcanal. Basilone famously receives the Medal of Honor, and is sent back to America to raise money for the war effort. In America Eugene Sledge (Joseph Mazzello) pines for war, but is denied because of a medical condition. Next, Leckie goes to Cape Gloucester, but is stricken with a demoralizing illness. There the Marines deal with the discomfort caused by constant rain. Clothes and living conditions are completely soaked. Leckie recovers and, along with Sledge, lands at Peleliu where the Marines fight a long, vicious battle for an airfield. Along with the ever present heat, the Marines lack adequate water supplies as they push into the island. Leckie is injured in the battle and can no longer fight. Revered as an almost mythical hero by his fellow Marines, Basilone returns to the Pacific. Instead of staying stateside as a celebrity, he is killed at Iwo Jima. Sledge lands with the 1st Marine Division in Okinawa. Like Iwo Jima, this island is devoid of vegetation from bombing and fighting. It is a picture of hell on Earth. The Japanese refuse to surrender, booby trapping everything from their shelters to natives Okinawans. Even the toughest Marines break down.

If you give a brief description of what the Marines were forced to deal with, you'll see that it's similar to what the Army had to deal with in Band of Brothers - weather, health, psychological issues, a fierce enemy. I believe it was Bastogne where Americans had to deal with the cold of winter in Europe. I remember Guarnere (Frank John Hughes) coming down with an illness similar to Leckie's. "Buck" Compton (Neal McDonough) loses it near the end. Doc Roe (Shane Taylor) must deal with the trauma of watching men die. And the Germans are no slouches. But everything seems worse in The Pacific. The saying goes, you can always add more layers for cold. The way the men look on those islands, it never looks like they can escape the heat. The psychological issues sting more. There seems to less camaraderie amongst the men in The Pacific, though I'm sure that's not what the filmmakers meant. They seem more beaten down by the elements, and worn down by an enemy that doesn't share a common heritage. The Germans play by the same rules as the Americans. For instance, they'll surrender in an orderly fashion. The Japanese live by a different code. Most of the time they fight to the death. If they do surrender they might just try to kill an American who has let his guard down. The change in Eugene Sledge, a young idealistic volunteer at first, is powerful. By the time he returns home the horrors of war have made him distant.
 
1 hour
This product was released around March 2010 by HBO
I consumed this around February 2011
More: The Pacific
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 7/14/2011 10:15:32 PM
 
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United States of Tara - Season 2 Diablo Cody
United States of Tara - Season 2 Season two involves Tara (Toni Collette) escaping her alters at first, before eventually reverting and picking up a new one (psychologist Shoshana). I thought that might happen, rather than a loss of alters one by one.

I noticed in this season a problem that's been happening since season one. United States of Tara doesn't finish off its subplots well. In season one Kate (Brie Larson) has a relationship with her boss, Gene (Nathan Corddry). It ends with her sneaking out the back door of her own house. We never hear of Gene again. Marshall's (Keir Gilchrist) season one relationship with straight boy Jason (Andrew Lawrence) ends rather abruptly. Now in season two there's Buck's affair with Pammy (Joey Lauren Adams), Kate's infatuation with Lynda P. Frazier (Viola Davis) and her stint as fantasy character Valhalla Hawkwind, Marshall's relationship with Courtney (Zosia Mamet), and Kate's short relationship with Zach (Seth Gabel). All of these were interesting subplots that the show didn't really take appropriate care of in ending.

I thought the Shoshana alter was annoying. The introduction of neighbors Ted (Michael Hitchcock) and Hanny went well. I continue to like Marshall's development as a young adult. The writers refuse to let Kate's character fall into too much cynicism. She always finds a way to show solidarity with her family. Max (John Corbett) is still a great husband, but the pressures of dealing with Tara and his inevitable mistakes are handled realistically. I loved the result of Charmaine's (Rosemarie DeWitt) wedding to Nick (Matthew Del Negro) in the finale. The slow revelation of the problems in Tara's childhood was also done well. They look to be the cause of her dissociative identity disorder, but the show doesn't give everything away.
 
30 minutes
This product was released around March 2010 by Showtime
I consumed this around May 2011
More: United States of Tara - Season 2
Posted by: Jeff Egnaczyk at: 7/13/2011 10:10:17 PM
 
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