Commentary

The Cheap, Tawdry Trump Era

The White House in the Trump Era.jpg

This is the emblem of the Trump Era, writ large and laid out on a fine table in the White House.

Cheap, disposable piles of garbage food, set out in the midst of American History.

Imagine, if you will, the White House during the Kennedy years, presented in this fashion. Oh, I’m sure they had hamburgers in the White House, but not like this (but, really, did they? I have no idea). This is such an abomination.

I would imagine there have been many formal meals served here, and some informal ones. I can imagine what this room was decorated like during the Coolidge years or during the presidency of William McKinley. Would it have been adorned with such slop? Probably not.

Think of all the history that this particular room has seen over many, many decades. This is where Eisenhower, both Roosevelts, Lincoln himself (you see him on the wall, and you can imagine the laughter), and a whole host of founding fathers, lived their lives and conducted themselves. You can see the ghosts in the corners, just staring at the debacle of the Trump era. Even Andrew Jackson would have been appalled by how flinty and demeaning this food would look to visitors. He threw open the doors and let the common people stomp through the whole house, of course, but would he have served something so demeaning? Ah, no.

Nothing is more Trump than a priceless wooden table covered in pyramids of cold fast food containers, rotting at room temperature. Nothing is symbolizes the Age of Trump better than a squishy, tartar sauce drowned fish patty in a stale bun.

Trump is the president who thought that the best he could do was serve his fellow Americans a shit sandwich. What a fiasco.

Comedians Have to Apologize For Everything Now

Maria Bamford's new show Lady Dynamite is getting a lot of write-ups on the websites that contain information that I sometimes use while blogging:

Conventional wisdom would have it that crippling mental illness isn't a good subject for a sitcom. But there's nothing conventional about Maria Bamford's brand of comedy. Fans of her stand-up and such through-the-rabbit hole projects like 2012's Maria Bamford: The Special Special Special—  in which the 45-year-old comedian performs a taped set for just her parents in their living room — know that she isn't afraid to tap into very dark, very personal places in her work. So when Bamford announced she was developing a sitcom for Netflix that would touch on her career struggles in Hollywood and stints in psychiatric hospitals to treat a bipolar disorder, you expected something different. And Lady Dynamite, which toggles between our heroine trying to land acting gigs in Hollywood and her time in a mental hospital in her real-life hometown of Duluth, Minnesota (and premieres in full tomorrow night on the streaming service), could not be a better introduction to her ability to slide between sunny absurdity and depressive reality in a blink.

It sounds like a great show in the making, and I'll definitely watch it. But I hate Rolling Stone and I am sorry I linked to them. At the end of the article, poor Maria has to get her apologies in early:

"I had wanted to go very dark for the dark moments. Just, you know, minutes of silence passing. That's how it truly is — these unbearable moments. But who knows if that makes for good television," she says with a laugh. "I mean, people die from illnesses like these. I was a little worried about that, so I hope it turned out to be respectful as well [as funny]. And if it isn't, I apologize, I apologize, I apologize. I apologize right up front for everything I've done and will do."

The truly daunting thing that comedians do nowadays is tell jokes and try to get shows on the air. No one has a sense of humor about anything anymore. The Internet amplifies the voices of people who are outraged. I'm fine with all of that--I run my own website so I can't ban myself and I can't stop showing up for work, so there's that. The real problem is when someone organizes a boycott of everything you say or do--that's not fun. It's almost better to be ignored and have no one read what you're writing, but I have no opinions about that.

J.J. Abrams Ruins Everything

One of the unintended consequences of rebooting Star Trek is the fact that it is basically Star Wars at a time when there are new Star Wars movies being released:

 

[...] there's also the issue of Star Trek's position inside the genre since its 2009 reboot in J.J. Abrams' first entry in the series.

In his attempts to bring more personal stakes and character-based stories to the franchise, he arguably moved it closer to Star Wars and diluted the more nuanced, difficult to describe appeal of the series as a whole. In other words, recent Star Trek has seemed more like Star Wars, and who needs that when the real thing is back and already on everyone's minds?

The obvious solution — and one which may already be chosen by Beyond, judging by recent comments by co-writer Simon Pegg and director Justin Lin — is to return the franchise to its roots as a vehicle for stories that are as intellectual as they are visceral, and embrace everything that makes Star Trek different from Star Wars. To go not towards the final frontier, but back to the series' roots, so to speak.

At its core, Star Trek is a procedural, not a character piece (despite having such great characters as Kirk, Spock, McCoy — and, in later incarnations, Picard, Data, Worf et al; the one exception to that rule is spinoff series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, which broke many of the rules of the franchise). It's a series of stories intended to make commentary and ask questions about the world around us today through metaphor and allegory, and the majority of the most fondly remembered episodes of the various TV series do exactly that.

Despite the Abrams movies pivoting away from that core appeal — arguably building on something that has been part of the Trek movies since 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan — it's the ability of Star Trek to look outwards that won the hearts of fans originally, and remains the franchise's unique selling point.

At its best, Star Trek does what literary sci-fi does so easily, but so much of TV and movie sci-fi stumbles with: It changes the way that its audience interacts with the world.

Whereas Star Wars is a series that speaks to the heart — it is, after all, inherently a story about relationships and families, both inherited and constructed — Star Trek is arguably at its best when it speaks to the brain, asking questions and introducing ideas that challenge the status quo. Viewed in that light, not only can the two co-exist, alternating between the two seems like a well-balanced diet of sorts.

The short answer is, J.J. Abrams ruined Star Wars after he ruined Star Trek. Everything he gets his hands on becomes a fan's nightmare and a studio executive's wet dream.

Other filmmakers are now going to have undo the damage done by retelling old story lines and abandoning the heart of each franchise. Star Trek is a cerebral examination of the archetypes in human nature; Star Wars is an adventure saga designed to make everyone forget they live in a world where there is no magic. Abrams turned them into large Hollywood movies that make kids go whee! and not much else.

Sean Young Really is Crazy

I love Sean Young, but she's just a little nutty:

You’re also anti-vaccination, huh?

Yeah, I am.

There does seem to be evidence that as a result of that stance, whooping cough and measles are making a comeback.

Well, I wonder who’s spreading it. The thing is, you have a very big pharmacological industry, and they want those bucks to keep flowing. It’s definitely not impossible to imagine that there are agents that spread this kind of thing. Remember when the English came over with blankets that were laced with tuberculosis and they gave all those blankets to the Indians? You think that doesn’t happen today?

Thus your belief in chemtrails.

Yeah! Man, we’re getting it from all kinds of areas. I know people will call me a conspiracy nut or whatever, but the evidence is out there.

I wouldn't put it past her to be trolling the interviewer and to be looking to drum up interest in her latest project by grabbing some viral headlines. I wouldn't blame her, but, ouch. I guess you have to separate the art from the person. Excene Cervenka came out with a lot of nonsense that was similar to this. Love and adoration for both of them, but back away slowly when they start in with the kray-zee.

Sacha Baron Cohen is the New Adam Sandler

Not Our Kid with Mark Strong

Man, you can't pay this guy enough to go away:
Sacha Baron Cohen's latest comedy fails to cause major offense and has his lowest-ever box-office bow in the U.K.
Despite a final scene, in which Donald Trump accidentally contracts AIDS (and from an already-infected character purported to be Daniel Radcliffe), Sacha Baron Cohen's latest film has failed to copy its predecessors in igniting major offense or, indeed, major box- office glory.
The Brothers Grimsby, which was released in the U.K. last week as Grimsby, landed in the comic's homeland in second place behind Deadpool with $2.7 million, the star's lowest-ever British debut (his last, The Dictator, earned $6.9 million, while Borat amassed some $11.9 million).
Liam Gallagher impersonators, take heart. You can be rest assured that Cohen won't be putting you out of business any time soon. The only career arc left for this guy is to have his own show on NBC.




The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 10


Don't read this until you've seen episode 10, "The Next World."

Somehow, the gang figured out how to remove several thousand zombie carcasses and find the breathing space necessary to repair the walls and expand the size of the Alexandria Safe Zone. For budgetary purposes, this makes sense. There are bound to be a few more large, expensive sets in the future, but this is now home for Rick and the survivors. A lot has been invested in giving them some measure of stability. They have the basics. Electricity, running water, and relative safety and security are their hard won prizes, even if the supplies are running out.

We have moved ahead several weeks in the time line, and this means that there's a routine now. People have had a chance to calm down, assess their losses, and start living with one another. It's a shame that we didn't see more normalcy among the other characters (you see Tara's arm, briefly, and little else, and that's a shame because the dynamic between her and Dr. Denise looks like fodder for a few more storylines involving gate guard Eugene and whoever else). As soon as a routine sets in on the Walking Dead, critics begin complaining about how the show is boring. I suppose that's the inevitable backlash that's going to build between now and the appearance of Negan in the finale. We're a few weeks away from that, however.

This week's show was an expanded supply run that allowed Daryl and Rick time to bond over music Daryl doesn't want to hear and drive fast on abandoned roads in a nice Cadillac (if I have that wrong, sorry, but it looked like a Caddy to me). Rick talks about "the law of averages" and it looks like they are able to luck out. However, their luck seems to change when they run into the other character everyone's been waiting for, named Jesus by his friends (Daryl is contemptuous of the name, of course). The other storyline centers around Carl and Enid being teenagers in the woods. They won't show a love scene, so they showed us comic books and crabby, moody repartee instead. This all leads to Carl avoiding Michonne and Spencer, who are out looking for one particular walker to put down and bury, properly. Nothing could be more obvious than the fact that they carve a D into a tree when their mission ends.

Adding someone as pivotal as Jesus to the knowledge base of the survivors is what is going to drive the majority of the upcoming episodes, I believe. Jesus is given nearly magical powers as far as fighting ability and deception. He's practically a ninja in uncomfortable clothes as depicted here. All of this makes sense because he represents the comic book arc that everyone has been waiting for.

When you combine the Hilltop people with Rick's survivors, you end up with a very large and potent group of characters that are inevitably going to face off against Negan and his followers. I suppose this is a hamfisted way of settling in behind the story arc that carries the comics forward. There should be enough tricks and turns ahead to throw everyone else off. My belief is that we're going to set up Daryl's death in the weeks ahead.

How do I know Daryl is going to die and that everyone is going to riot? I don't, but that's my guess. The show followed through and removed Jessie from the mix; to follow through and get rid of Glenn in the comic book way would be too obvious. That's why I don't think Glenn will die in the end. I think the show will remix Daryl in his place. I also think Maggie will end up being the leader of the Hilltop community and Glenn will play a supporting role once her baby is born.

The show could use Abraham as a stand-in for Glenn, but I think that because Daryl actually killed Negan's men, the writing is on the wall.

And, yes, we get a wide shot of the additional names added to the memorial on the wall. The episode also teases the notion that Jesus is going to "expand" their world. I'm curious as to what that means. How big will the Hilltop community be and how man Saviors are there? Will the Saviors be more skilled and lethal than the Governor's Woodbury group? We know that Deanna told them that Northern Virginia had been depopulated, and then we discovered ten thousand walkers bottled up in a quarry. What else was misunderstood about life in that neck of the woods?

I don't know what to make of the dynamic between Carl and Enid. This is more of that annoying Emo stuff that will inspire countless think pieces on how the show should remove everyone who's a teenager from the cast. There's also some foreshadowing of a long supply run by Tara and Heath--was that a throwaway or will we see a rescue mission that will involve the loss of more characters?

Oh, and, the elephant in the room. People are freaking out because Michonne and Rick had sex. So what? It's a great thing, and normalcy means the characters look for comfort with one another. I would expect that Abraham and Sasha have gotten cozy with one another, and maybe a few other characters have found some comfort with one another. It's perfectly natural and an interesting way of remixing Michonne and Andrea as Rick's post-Jessie love interest.

This was another strong episode, one that followed up last week's episode with what everyone hates about the show--a lack of an immediate human threat and normalcy among survivors. There are some great stories to tell before we get to the end of this season, one which, if they do it right, will break a lot of hearts. It may be obvious to think that Daryl is headed for certain doom, but that's my guess right now.



Elitism on Television


Well, if this isn't elitism, what is?
For the first time in more than a decade, a single network had all 10 of the highest-rated programs on TV last week. And, proving once and for all that you and everyone you know are completely, irreversibly out of touch with the wider TV-watching public, that network was somehow CBS.
“Well, sure, Big Bang Theory,” you mumble to yourself, confident that you have a weak but stable grasp on the actual shape of the world. But you’ve already forgotten the network’s top-rated show, NCIS, which has been on the air for 13 years of uninterrupted unsub-hunting, and which pulled in almost 17 million viewers last Tuesday. That’s followed by Big Bang, which laugh-tracked its way to 16.2, and the Republican debates, broadcast from the alternate universe where Donald Trump is considered a credible frontrunner for the leadership of the free world.
After that, there are two more NCIS shows, a venerable bright spot in 60 Minutes, and Madam Secretary. That’s right, Madam Secretary. Do you even know who’s in that, let alone what it’s about? You don’t, do you? You think it might be a blonde woman, but at this point, who can be sure which one? (It’s Téa Leoni, but we’re not saying whether we had to look it up.) But millions of people tune in to it every week, apparently, those same millions you share the roads and the supermarket aisles with every day. They’re all around you, watching Blue Bloods and Life In Pieces. And, as it’s becoming increasingly clear, what with the network’s total domination of this week’s ratings: they’re multiplying.
The problem here is that television ratings matter a lot less now. It's getting to be impossible to see how a free, over-the-air network can continue to put an hour of scripted television on the air each week and attract enough viewers to maintain the advertising revenue needed to stay afloat. But all the other networks aren't CBS, which is surviving in large part because it has figured something out about the viewing habits of older Americans. They like shows with strong female characters and reliable male supporting characters.

Basically, we're not quitting on network television like the other age groups. I watch two of the shows mentioned above, and they're okay, but not great. The really good television happens on pay cable networks or places like AMC, TNT, and FX. And I say that as someone who has watched every episode of Rizzoli & Isles on purpose. 

If you're not watching Rizzoli & Isles for Bruce McGill, you're wrong. He's one of the best actors on television and they don't give him enough to do. But, what they do give him is better than a star turn almost everywhere else. This is a show that should be on CBS because it follows exactly the same procedural arc found on all their shows. McGill portrays a character people are going to keep watching. And if you had told me that Donnie Wahlberg was going to become a stellar actor in his own right, I would have laughed at you. But, the fact remains that the other Wahlberg has more range than his more famous brother. They are surrounded by strong female characters and support them with their abilities. What's not to like?

It's all about the writing with these shows. It's better than expected and it sustains these shows, week after week. The business people have to figure out how to make this work, and they need to look at what CBS is doing in order to create and develop quality scripted dramas. CBS is putting a great deal of quality on the air. In my mind, CBS is doing exactly what TNT decided to do years ago.

You may not be thrilled with it, you may not see it as essential viewing, but the overall quality of their programming is much higher than it used to be and you can see that being used to full effect on Madam Secretary. The sets are high end, the production values are excellent, and the writing is smart and doesn't insult anyone's intelligence. I'm not thrilled with the show's inability to find anything for Tim Daly to do, but it's not as if the whole thing falls down like wet cardboard every week. Someone has figured out that people will watch quality shows. How hard is that to figure out?


Imagine The Walking Dead Without Carol


A wonderful revelation happened recently:
ANDREW LINCOLN [to MELISSA McBRIDE]: You had a close shave in season 3.McBRIDE: I feel like I always have a close shave. 
LINCOLN: Yeah, but do you remember, with Sarah Wayne Callies [who played Lori]? She fought for you.
McBRIDE: She did? I didn’t hear that.
LINCOLN: Did you not know?
McBRIDE: I didn’t know that.
LINCOLN: It was the episode when Lori and T-Dog die. But for a few weeks it was going to be Carol and Lori. And Sarah, in her good grace and class, stepped in and said, “That’s a terrible mistake.” And so she knew that she was going, but she fought for you to stay.
McBRIDE: I did not know that. I’m going to faint.
LINCOLN: Yeah.
McBRIDE: Get her on the phone!
LINCOLN: Yeah, there you go.
When I think back to Seasons 5 and 6, not to mention this past season--without Carol, the story lines would be radically different. If you want to point to one of the real genre-shifting roles played by women on television, there should be a special award given to Melissa McBride for Carol Peletier. The fact that she has never won an Emmy is a travesty. She has redefined how to be a complex, evolving anti-hero female on television.

As we approach the back eight, starting on Sunday night, I have to wonder--are they going to bring Carol back into a major narrative? For a while there, she disappeared along with Aaron. I have to believe that there's a lot more we need to see from these characters. 

.

Food Snobbery


I was flipping through posts, and this caught my eye:
I must be the only media person to say something nice about Guy Fieri in years, because one of his representatives contacted me wondering whether I'd like to talk to him about all the restaurants he thinks he's helped saved. (I mentioned that he's done more for small businesses than any small-business-friendly-GOP-enthusiast in my lede.) So, um, there's that!
FTR: This is now officially on.
The outrage against Fieri is driven by the Gawker community, and by food snobs. His most vocal critic is Anthony Bourdain, who uses Fieri the same way music snobs used to use John Denver in the 1970s. After a while, you come to realize that food snobbery is a real thing that is too ridiculous to care about. I don't care what you like to eat, and you shouldn't care about what other people like to eat. Guy Fieri isn't just a guy on television who's trying to get you to eat something. He goes out and tries to help restaurants stay afloat.

I believe that Fieri and a very similar type of television host named Jon Taffer (Bar Rescue) have done more to save small businesses than anyone on television. 

If you think about all of the wage earners that they have kept employed, and all of the small businesses that they have helped, you can't help but wonder why people hate the guy. If they both keep twenty or so businesses afloat each year, that's a lot of wage earners that are keeping their jobs. This is an underserved market because there are restaurants, bars, and retail businesses out there that need a lot of help. Their success has a huge impact on lives and communities. And they're small businesses--who wouldn't want to help a small business? It's a no-brainer.

I love Taffer--clean this place up! is the best advice anyone running a dive bar ever got. Taffer is no-nonsense and he uses business analytics. Fieri is cut from the same cloth. 

He's got a California car culture look and working class culinary skills-so what?

And Rachael Ray will always be one of my favorites.

Stephen Colbert Has Not Caught on Fire With Viewers



I don't think this means the end of Stephen Colbert, but I think it does mean that changes will have to be made with how his show is marketed:
In a year of unprecedented change in late-night television, one date stands out as the defining moment. No, not Sept. 8, the night circled on most calendars — the premiere of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on CBS. Colbert, a Comedy Central alum flush with a second Emmy for outstanding variety series, did arrive with plenty of fanfare.
But none of that mattered — for long. D-day for late-night TV was Sept. 9, when Colbert's splashy, classy introduction to the Ed Sullivan Theater was upstaged abruptly by a commotion a few blocks south at 30 Rock. NBC's Jimmy Fallon came crashing through TV screens with the most boisterous blockbuster hour of entertainment he could fashion. Opening with a blast of dance and song — "History of Rap 6," accompanied by his signature guest, Justin Timberlake — and backing it with Ellen DeGeneres in another regular Fallon bit, a lip sync contest, the Tonight Show host made a statement: Welcome to late night, Stephen.
One prominent late-night player told me facing that show that night was like "going up against Hiroshima and Nagasaki." Fallon clearly had no interest in sitting back to allow the swirl surrounding Colbert's arrival to run its course. Those killer second-night bookings were long in the planning and very much the host's idea, says a Fallon staffer. Colbert's ratings preeminence lasted 24 hours: Fallon beat him the second night — and 55 of the next 58 nights. During recent weeks, the gap has grown in the 18-to-49 demographic coveted by late-night advertisers.
Now, there are a lot of things to remember here. It would appear that Fallon is falling apart in public. He's had numerous injuries and more than his fair share of Gawker-level gossip. He's working awfully hard while Colbert is settling in to his role as a far more cerebral host than anyone since Tom Snyder. And, really, that is the problem here. Fallon has the three minute YouTube bit down pat. Colbert has substance and fewer laughs. You can watch any show any time now, and that's why ratings are really deceiving. You literally don't have to make a hard choice anymore--you can watch Kimmel live, catch the Fallon clips the next morning, and sample Colbert's opening whenever you want.

I thought by now people would have gravitated to a smart show down the right way. Apparently not.

It's not fair to bring politics into this--Johnny Carson would have had a field day with the Clintons, Bernie Sanders, and everyone self-identifying as a Republican. He would not have been fair to anyone, and that's why blaming Colbert's ratings on politics is wrong. If it's funny, you tell the joke. This has been true since forever. Perhaps the problem is we have fewer and fewer people who can laugh at both sides. If that's the case, then the reason why Colbert hasn't been doing so well can be traced to the fact that 

Legacies and Film Franchises


I have to confess that I have almost no interest in seeing a James Bond film unless it's for free and unless I have nothing else to do. I feel that way about a lot of things and I suppose I can work up enough concern to talk about this:
Pierce Brosnan has likened his departure from the Bond franchise to being "kicked to the kerb".
The Irish actor starred as 007 in four films released between 1995 and 2002, beginning with Goldeneye and culminating with Die Another Day, then the highest-grossing Bond film ever.
Though Brosnan was keen to return for a fifth outing, the franchise's longtime producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli ultimately decided to take Bond in a new, edgier direction.
Pierce Brosnan is correct when he expresses outrage as to how the owners of the James Bond franchise treated him. It was shabby, but predictable. Virtually all of the actors were hired because of money and not much else. Hollywood's A-list of actors--Carey Grant and Richard Burton among many--would have required more money than Albert Broccoli was willing to spend.

And that's the thing of it--you're never going to get the actor you want. You're going to see the actor who agrees to do it for the money they're willing to spend.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 6


There are two more episodes to go until we reach the next manipulative cliffhanger for the front half of this season, and things aren't looking too bad. You can look at this week's episode and reach several different conclusions, but here's the one that matters--Rick and the group will confront whatever is out there and kick it up it's own ass.

That's the pronouncement from Abraham, now back in dress blues thanks to a wardrobe malfunction and that's pretty much how things are going to be. No one knows how long they have but it's time to quit worrying about that bullshit and get busy living. This is the most life affirming episode so far and it reveals to us a little more of the situation in Northern Virginia. Yes, there are other groups out there. No, they can't shoot worth a damn. And, yes, there's this asshole named Wade who will prominently feature in a future episode. Wade can't be too happy now that Alexandria just sent a massive herd into his territory.

This episode was divided into two parts--Abraham and Sasha hole up and regroup so they can discuss how crazy or horny they are and Daryl's abduction by a half-assed trio of survivors runs the gamut between trust and betrayal. Everything they were riding in has been shot up or taken but they still come out of it all looking pretty good. Each character is moving in more or less the same direction. The only surprise is when Abraham states his desire for Sasha, who is non-plussed and doesn't give him much to go on. If this leads to strife or jealousy, I would be surprised because there's nothing unnatural about it. Both characters have admirable traits and if this is the new relationship, it signals their impending doom.

My guess is that Abraham or Sasha are next as far as the conclusion of their storylines. This was an episode where any one of them could have died, even Daryl. When he had Wade in his sights, it was shot in such a way as to suggest that Daryl really should have pulled the trigger. When the guy and girl he helped took Aaron's motorcycle and his crossbow, you could tell that Daryl knew that he was only temporarily saying goodbye to these things.

I had to admire the way the show integrated Abraham's back story into his discovery of a pristine set of dress blues in an abandoned office. He even notes the picture of the family man on the wall of his darkened office, reverting back to what he lost when he finds even more treasure while out scavenging. The way it was filmed suggested Abraham was about to meet his end--the same slow motion, intensely focused camera angles used when Glenn "died" a few episodes ago. And I also have to admire the good job they did with Abraham and this new uniform. He respectfully removed the owner's rank, skill badges, unit awards and medals and left the jacket with the insignia that would be appropriate. A real soldier would never wear another man's medals.

The weapon he found strung up on an impaled soldier was likely an RPG-7, which is a copy of the Russian RPG by an American company called Airtronic. It could very well be the Russian RPG version, which is a very deadly weapon and can stop tanks. I don't know what they're foreshadowing, but this is a game-changing weapon that will make Alexandria more powerful than ever. They sure could have used it when the Governor attacked the prison.

All in all, this was a good episode but not a great one. It showed Daryl's ethics at work--he even gets to play three questions (how many walkers have you killed, how many people have you killed and why did you kill them?) with the group of survivors that he ends up helping. Their inexperience and incompetence is fairly surprising--they have a backstory about being brutalized by Wade and they come off as sympathetic at first. The next time we see them, they'll either be dead or begging for help. Please note that the actress who plays on of them was Christine Evangelista, who has a great resume for a show like this. She could be a pivotal character in the weeks ahead, maybe even in the back half of this season.

This might also signal the end of going out and looking for other people to join Alexandria. You couldn't blame Daryl for not wanting to trust anyone else out there. Look what he's gotten for his troubles! He's lost his bike and his crossbow, and all he gained in return was a truck full of fuel named Patty.

Of course that was Glenn on the radio, calling for help (I don't buy into misdirection, and neither should you at this point). Of course we're being punished for caring about his character. And, of course they're going to be instrumental in rescuing not only Glenn but Alexandria itself. That's what the RPGs are for. I didn't see what will happen next week, beyond the bleeding of the walls in Alexandria and the impending threat outside. For a while there, I thought we'd see Enid again.

My lame-assed prediction is that Enid will save Glenn. If not her, then Daryl, Sasha and Abraham are going to have to drive angry to get back there in time.

That's Love


With 29 days to go, the Kickstarter campaign to bring back Mystery Science Theater 3000 has already amassed a ridiculous amount of money.

We've seen successful Kickstarter campaigns in the past, but, really, have we really seen something like this? The show will be resurrected somehow, some way, and it is almost a foregone conclusion that the $2 million mark will be met and that there will be at least three new episodes if not more produced and released in the next year or so.

Amazing.

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is Back From the Dead


Another sad prop comic returns from the 1980s and hurls chum into the fan:
We’ve got movie sign, MSTies: Joel Hodgson, a.k.a. “Joel,” has officially launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring back Mystery Science Theater 3000 after 16 years. (It was canceled in 1999.) The campaign quietly appeared on the MST3K official website earlier this morning, confirming suspicions raised by vague promises of “big news coming soon” on the Rifftrax and MST3K social-media channels. The campaign has the rather lofty goal of $2 million, which Hodgson says will enable him to make three full-length episodes of MST3K to shop around to TV networks and streaming platforms. With three additional episodes per $1.1 million raised over the original goal, that’s $5.5 million for a full 12-episode season. But if Zach Braff can do it, so can Joel and the bots.
Speaking about the campaign to EW, Hodgson says he hopes the campaign will not only raise the needed funds to produce new episodes of the show, but to serve as a sort of MST3K Signal to lure the old gang back onto the Satellite Of Love. But they won’t be on screen: Hodgson also wants to cast a new host and new mad-scientist adversary for the new season, as well new voices for Crow and Tom Servo. “Mystery Science Theater has already refreshed itself once with a completely new cast, so I think it deserves to do that again,” Hodgson says. “The original cast is going to be invited back to write, produce, and do cameos as their mad science characters, and then there’s a new cast with new talent.”
It depends a great deal on where they'll shoot the show and host it; the original show was created and staged in warehouse space southwest of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the Kickstarter indicated that it will be done in Los Angeles. Someone is going to have to move a lot of props from one place to another to make this happen because there's no way they're going to be able to do this without borrowing heavily from the visual feel of the original show.

A let-it-rip version, suitable for pay cable or FX, would be preferable to a return to Comedy Central, which destroyed the show when it was very, very popular because the network didn't want to program itself in two hour blocks (IIRC).

Anyway, yeah--who wouldn't watch this?

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 5


If you're foolish enough to expect closure on the issue of Glenn Rhee, this episode will only infuriate and frustrate you. The corresponding dip in ratings for this season has clouded the issue because here we have a popular show that is firing on all cylinders with an absolutely terrible and manipulative front half of a season underway. If there's a negative reaction, it has to do with the awful way in which we are being introduced to the idea that Glenn's either dead or not dead.

Is this any way to tell a story? Only if you have contempt for your audience.

Anyway, the failure to deal with what happened to Glenn in a definitive manner puts up an argument that doesn't hold much water. From the viewpoint of the people making The Walking Dead, the storyline of what really happened to Glenn in that alley was moved along only marginally during this episode. We have Maggie and Aaron undertaking a fruitless journey through the sewers to try and find a way out of the Alexandria safe zone. This was done more to show off a pair of innovatively rotted walkers as opposed to really giving us any closure on the matter. This delivers Maggie's bombshell--I won't spoil it here--and Aaron's guilt but it leaves the issue open and festering.

The reason why stringing along the viewers doesn't work is because this show is presented from a very omniscient point of view. We are allowed to see everything so that there isn't any ambiguity. We have been given cliffhangers--the worst cliffhanger of all would have been putting everyone in the rail car at the end of Season Four--but we haven't been forced to suffer like this as viewers unless you count Sophia's disappearance and reappearance in Season Two. The difference here being the fact that there was much less invested in Sophia as a character than there is in Glenn.

"Killing" Glenn in an ambiguous way was the bridge too far in this season. We already have the tension created by the massive herd of walkers introduced at the beginning of the season. We already know that there's a Wolf locked in a townhome basement who swears he will kill everyone. We already have Enid running around with survivor's guilt. And we already suspect that Daryl, Abraham and Sasha have a bit of a problem of their own on their hands.

We've killed off half of Alexandria. Now we have the heartbreaking issue of what really happened to Glenn. I believe that this storyline has killed off goodwill and helped drive people away from the show. The simple act of removing him as a character is a choice that could be defended on any number of levels. But by not definitively killing him and leaving things open ended, the show teases the audience in a way that isn't necessary. Any show that does this and goes over the line opens up enmity from the audience and this was neither the time nor the place to try this sort of thing on for size.

Now that this is out of the way, we had a very strong episode featuring Alexandria's surviving residents and their counterparts in Rick's group. They are not meshed together nor are they capable of coming out of their exile from reality--except for Deanna, Jessie and fledgling Dr. Denise. This was a great episode for Tovah Feldshuh, Alexandra Breckenridge and Merrit Wever. We had a lesbian kiss, a straight kiss, and Deanna told some walkers to talk to the hand. Great performances all, and while the story doesn't move forward all that much, we do get to see the reaction to the Wolf attack and the first real test of the walls keeping them safe.

When blood runs down the wall at the end of the show, you already know the answer as to what will happen soon. It might be time to start thinking about an evacuation plan. When Rick kisses Jessie, we know that their blooming love is going to be doomed from the outset by the machinations of her oldest son and the helplessness of her youngest son. Criminally absent was Carol and her casserole.When Crazy Rick disappears and Sane, Tender Rick appears, we already know it won't last. Why isn't anyone trying to reduce the walkers on the perimeter? Why isn't anyone building a fortified citadel where they can all evacuate to if the wall is breached? Why didn't Morgan tell anyone he had a captive?

Collectively, let's all yell argh! and move on to other things.

And so, unfortunately, the fact that Sasha and Abraham are some twenty miles down the road leaves Alexandria without two powerful defenders. We'll deal with their story, and with Daryl's, next week. If there is still no closure with Glenn's storyline, don't worry. There's a mid-season cliffhanger coming, and it will probably extend his fate well into the back half of the season. This will, I think, go down as a poor decision but I've been wrong before.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 4


This week, we have an episode that talks about two important subjects in the Walking Dead series--recovering from loss and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It's great to see a series-defining character like Morgan get his own episode, and it ranks up there as an important detour from the current story line. We are being dragged to a conclusion that seems pretty ominous to me. What happens if Alexandria is destroyed? Where does everyone go?

Here's Not Here has some great dialogue as well as a significant exploration of how people can come back from severe personal trauma. It's a therapeutic episode as well as one that accomplishes a great deal in terms of explaining how a person moves on from deep, deep tragedy. Can you depict insanity with dignity? If so, this is your template for doing just that.

Treating PTSD in this way allows us to see how Morgan has healed without being cured of anything. He still carries doubt, fear, pain, and loss around with him as well as a lucky rabbit's foot. This luck is transferred from the man, named Eastman, who takes Morgan from his own demented hell and makes him a person again. The feral version of Morgan we saw back in Season Three when Rick, Michonne and Carl had a chance encounter with a heavily armed but disturbed version of Morgan gives way to a character not unlike Caine from the 70's series Kung Fu.

This is Morgans's journey and it appears where it does in order to further frustrate the viewers while giving them essential backstory. He goes from a man out of place with no purpose to one who will now walk the Earth and look for people to be with. Everything is about people and everything worth living for involves being with other people--that's the lesson I took from this. You can see the therapeutic results for yourself in the montage where Morgan learns Akido from Eastman. This is how Morgan will live his life, deflecting and redirecting the horror around him with a bow staff. This is a weapon designed not to kill, and this defines the peace that Morgan has made with the world.

This deviation from the imminent walker attack on Alexandria heightens the tension of Season Six. Who will die when the Alexandria safe zone is overrun? Glenn is dead, but is he really? Will we have to wait until Episode 8 to find out what happened when Glenn crawled under the dumpster and fell asleep? Will we have to wait until next year and Episode 16? Holy cow, talk about being put through the ringer. If you haven't already guessed, we're going to be subjected to a lot of this from now on. It's like trying to get through the last two seasons of Breaking Bad--every week, just enough happens to keep you on the hook for more, and those weeks are few and far between.

Did anyone yell "son of a Gunderson" when John Carroll Lynch appeared in this episode? I had to look it up, too. Yes, the same actor who played Marge Gunderson's husband in Fargo makes his single episode debut in the Walking Dead franchise (whether he comes back for flashbacks is anyone's guess, but I suspect we have seen the last of him. This will go down as one as the most significant appearances in the history of the series, and Lynch deserves an Emmy. I mean, the entire cast has a solid body of work to draw from and it is further proof that you will see some of the best actors and actresses out there when you watch this show. For the Emmys to ignore The Walking Dead remains a travesty of the highest order.

This is an episode that defies recapping and analysis. To be honest with you, I've already said more about it than I thought I would.






The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 3


Episode three of the sixth season of the Walking Dead was every bit as terrifying and brutal as the last one, and it featured something no one is really talking about. The Wolves were effectively finished off as a group in this episode, and unless they exist as a scattered clan of interconnected groups, there is little or no reason for the Alexandrians to fear them anymore. However, there are quite a few fewer Alexandrians to do just that.

And that's really my takeaway from this episode--another outmatched group has been driven to what appears to be extinction thanks to the fact that Rick and his group are heavily armed and fight like well-disciplined infantry when up against any living adversary. They have come to this point because of the massive battles they had against the Governor, who looms large over the series even today. Without the experience gleaned from going up against a skilled adversary, Rick's group wouldn't be as sharp and focused as it truly is in terms of defending itself and solving problems.

The front half of Season Six is, apparently, going to focus on the problem of securing Alexandria. And this episode featured the efforts of Michonne, Rick, and Glenn while foreshadowing the urge that Daryl has to break off and go to the aid of Carol. It's not by accident that all four characters carry out this struggle with new personalities and new characters or, in Rick's case, entirely by himself. Adversity comes in the form of swarming numbers, broken plans, a broken knife, a wrong turn, or a walker banging on a closet door. It comes from being conscience of responsibility and accepting of fate. 

When you see the Alexandrians (who are not much more than red-shirted extras from the old Star Trek franchise) die, their deaths are horrible and overwhelming. They are unprepared for the world as it really is--the world unleashed when the bottle was uncorked in the first episode. The emptying of the rock quarry is like the clearing of the conscience in one way because now we get to see what this new form of adversity will bring to the characters. 

Michonne is ready for it, as is Heath. Daryl is always ready for it, but is unhappy with his role in this episode. Rick looks truly frightened when he finds himself in the dead RV. And Glenn realizes it a moment too late because he never should have followed a screw-up like Nicholas.

Glenn's apparent death in this episode is hinted at, but I don't think it actually happens this way. For one, Steven Yeun is still filming the show, and he's either appearing in flashbacks or hauntings or not at all. This could be how the show fools people and tries to get back at a rabid following down in the Atlanta area. For another reason, it's evident that Nicholas is consumed and not Glenn, allowing him a moment to escape. Remember when Tyreese got free from a similar fate, unscathed? It's possible, in the crush of all the walkers, for Glenn to either end up in the dumpster or crawl out through the legs and make a break for it. This is how many people end up surviving stampedes or similar situations (of which, admittedly, there are relatively few).

I wouldn't focus on Glenn's demise in this episode. I would take note of the problems at hand. There are many, many walkers being led away by Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha and those three characters are due for a major story line in episode four if the show travels that route. Ethically, should they really be leading so many walkers away from a place? How's it going to look when it appears that they are leading them towards some other community or settlement? What then?

We know that the Jesus character from the Hilltop Community should be appearing at some point soon; whether that happens in the front half or the back half is anyone's guess. My prediction is that Rick will be saved by Morgan and the Alexandrians. The group has to go on the offensive to ward off so many walkers. Remember the tractors and heavy equipment we've seen so far? Someone needs to put all of that to good use. 

My money is on Aaron, whose discovery in the last episode of his pack among the scattered belongings of the wolves will be the impetus for him to do something to redeem himself. Don't forget--we have Aaron, Carol, Morgan, Rosita, and Tara in Alexandria and that's not a group to sneeze at. I think we'll have Daryl go off on his pseudo-abduction mini-plot (as hinted at in the trailer for the season) and Abraham and Sasha will discover the Hilltop Community by accident. I'm not buying what was teased ever again--I don't think the 90 minute show we will see next week will focus on Morgan's backstory so much as it will be about resolving a great deal of the problems that the group are in now. We have to figure out who Enid, the troubled teenage love interest of Carl, really is and we have to have a come-to-Jesus moment about a lot of things. We have a lot of characters that haven't been used yet and we have a whole new world to play in.

So no, I don't think Glenn is dead. Glenn's story isn't over yet. In one form or another, Glenn has more road to run on and so does this group. When challenged, they are way too dangerous for amateurs. Their only rivals, besides their own crumbling plans, would have to come in the form of professional killers who have seen the right amount of adversity.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 1


I didn't think it was going to be this huge:
Fear the Walking Dead just had the best first season of any show in cable history.

With live-plus-three day ratings in for all six episodes, each of which also did gangbusters among live viewers, the AMC spinoff averaged 11.2 million viewers. 7.3 million of those were adults 18-49. That means that the cable network heads into the last months of 2015 with the No. 1 (Walking Dead), No. 2 (Fear the Walking Dead) and No. 3 (Better Call Saul) shows on basic cable.

AMC, which had renewed the series before its debut, is also going to give it a weekly post-show treatment upon its 2016 return. Chris Hardwick's The Talking Dead, a popular companion to the parent series, will air after every episode of Fear's second season.
I did recaps for every episode, which is something I haven't done before. I went through a lot of other recaps, looking for signs that I had gotten something wrong or had made a factual error and, no matter where I went, the reaction was always the same: boring!
Comment after comment rained down--this is a boring show, nothing is happening, blah blah blah. And that tells you one of two things--people are starved for action and they're starved for attention. 
FTWD isn't an action show. It doesn't feature mindless car chases and fight scenes (although it probably will end up having them soon). It's a drama disguised as a horror genre television show. And it's one steeped in the Humanities and elevated by the life or death aspect of the choices put in front of the characters. I guess I'm not surprised by the fact that the show has been marketed as a horror and action show rather than a drama. There's nothing procedural about it other than scratching out some way to survive. To me it's a story of humanity that operates within a framework of asking "how would you survive?"
Well, we already know that you won't survive without people and people are the reason why you probably won't survive for very long. That's the thing that keeps people coming back. They want to see who makes it and who doesn't and that wouldn't happen with flat, phony characters in a horror or action show. It wouldn't happen if there wasn't a struggle with conscience and morality over the simplest of choices.
If you look at this first season as a slow-moving drama, it works on a number of levels. You get the blended family dynamic. You get a slice of Central American history. You get inter-generational conflict. And you get a pretty good idea of where we're at as a society when it comes to treating people addicted to drugs.
Yeah, boring stuff.
These ratings reflect the need for people to connect to an alternate history of the United States. We're talking about events that happened in 2010. We're looking at the context of a global pandemic that mysteriously affects every human brain on the planet. If you succumb to a serious fever, somewhat akin to meningitis or influenza (which look very similar when identified in victims), you die and reanimate and consume human or living flesh. If you survive this, you will reanimate when you die or when you are bitten or scratched by a person who has succumbed to the reanimation process. This basic set of rules affects all of civilization in that it then causes everything to break down. Now, how do you survive?
That's not horror--that's drama. That's life. It's very powerful and the interest in this show reflects that.
Sunday night, I'll start issuing recaps for Season Six of The Walking Dead.