TV Shows

Bates 1
So I’ve been watching A&E’s new Bates Motel TV show and I thought I’d share some thoughts on it. The show seems to be getting some popular buzz and if we’re good at anything here at Infinite Hollywood, it’s trying to capitalize on something for our own benefit. Truth be told, I’ve been a bit of a Psycho kick recently, digging out my Big Lots bargain DVD set of the three original Psycho sequels and watching them in the past few weeks. I had planned to review them here, but general laziness supercedes all.

Anyway, coming into A&E’s new take on the old tale of Norman Bates, there’s a lot to compare it to. Frankly, the few other reviews I’ve taken a look at disgust me, because they act as if there was only ever one Psycho film. Look, Hitchcock’s Psycho is a timeless classic, but it’s an absolute disservice to everyone to pretend like that’s the only exposure we ever got to Norman Bates. The following three Psycho sequels are all fine films in their own right and throughout there are some incredible moments (some dumb ones too) but Anthony Perkins was able to craft Norman Bates into a really interesting and misunderstood character, turning in downright fantastic performances in each film.

And that’s probably the biggest problem with Bates Motel, there is no Anthony Perkins. No, I don’t mean the actor (although it’s certainly sad Perkins is no longer with us, I would have loved a Psycho 5) but rather there’s no one who can command the screen quite like him. Perkins’ magic, was that he could make you very interested in what he was doing, even if the movie he was in wasn’t all that great. Nobody does steely eyed lunatic, quite like Perkins did.

Freddy Highmore shouldn’t necessarily be compared to Perkins, despite the obvious reasons to want to, but Highmore has problems of his own to worry about beyond comparisons. In the first episode, Highmore exposes his British accent two or three times. Seriously, how did A&E let that slip? He’s also a tad too babyfaced and generally likeable. I suppose that could work if he eventually does become a ruthless killer, but with a show of this nature you risk turning the audience off by making him suddenly turn on a dime. There does seem to be a bit of a darkside hiding behind those eyes, so maybe he can make it work.

This of course leads us to another problem with the show overall and that’s turning Bates into a hero or a good guy. This is something that plagued the later Psycho sequels, although sometimes it was used to great effect in that Bates couldn’t change his stripes even when he tried. This show doesn’t have that working for them, however, as we’re seeing Norman before he’s a “psycho” and again it starts to put the whole premise into dangerous territory.

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Are You Afraid Of The Dark (Season 2)
The Tale of the Midnight Madness
Directed by D.J. MacHale
Starring Eddie Robinson, Melanie Wiesenthal, Christopher Heyerdahl, Aron Tager
Available on DVD

I decided to dig up an old favorite of mine from the Niceklodeon series, “Are you Afraid of the Dark?” which featured iconic horror character, Nosferatu. I remembered watching this episode when it originally aired and thinking it was quite creepy. Largely because of the Nosferatu character which appeared throughout.

The premise is that Count Orlok escaped the film and began terrorizing those who worked in the theater showing his film. Years later when I saw Shadow of the Vampire, I was reminded of the episode. So for the 31 Days of Halloween I decided to track the episode down and see how it stood up to time. Many fans of the show consider this episode one of the best. There are some good and bad elements to it, so let’s take a look!

We begin as always with the Midnight Society, a group of kids who gather around a campfire every week trying to scare each other. I have no idea what it’s like in Canada (where this show was made) but these kids would get their butts kicked in my neighborhood. I love the idea though, who wouldn’t want to do this once a week?

Gary is the leader, but you’d never know that from this episode. He was in like, most every episode and I always thought it was the same kid who played Vinnie Delpino from Doogie Howser, but in glasses. Turns out it’s not him at all. This guy went on to become a “weather personality” in Canada and the Weather Channel. See he’s an old school weatherman, which means he has no meteorological experience and basically just reads a script.

Anyway, some of the kids are about to head to the theater to watch some midnight madness marathon of scary movies. Before they go, they do their meet up and this jackass in the jean jacket says he’ll never go to the theater again after what happened to those other kids… What kids? Well here’s his story, submitted for your approval, the Tale of the Midnight Madness!

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Awesome news! Beavis and Butthead are on their way back! According to the New York Post, Mike Judge is working with MTV to bring the classic cartoon comedians back to the airwaves with all new misadventures. It’s almost amazing how long it’s been since Beavis and Butthead were on the air, and people tend to forget how much controversy these two originally kicked up.

Beavis and Butthead were partially responsible for the TV ratings you see now before every show. They had some major heat for the things they said and did. They had the first show that I recall ever having a black screen warning before it. The social satire of the time was just too much for many parents, leading to an outrage and attempted ban on the animated fartknockers.

Now in a world filled with crap like Jersey Shore, Beavis and Butthead seem like high art by comparison. Apparently the show is coming back largely unchanged. There will still be mini stories, but they’ll be more current to today’s teens and they’ll still watch videos, but they’ll be newer. Hopefully this doesn’t become an excuse for MTV to pump out the popular videos, but a chance for the dumbass duo to skewer new trends like Lady Gaga.

I loved Beavis and Butthead, and the episodes still crack me up when I see them. The Christmas episodes remain some of my favorites. Just hilarious. I’m definitely looking forward to this.

Every year new shows get picked up and last season’s shows are often canceled. It’s tough to build a following for any particular show because of these very reasons. I try to pick up a show or two each fall season to watch, but it’s tough. You know that with any new show that there is a 50/50 chance it will get canned. Last year I lost Eastwick, right when the show was really starting to get interesting.

But no network has managed to screw up as bad as NBC has. This former network giant is now in last place amongst the networks and only months after pissing all over the legacy of the Tonight Show and alienating a huge chunk of their fans by ousting Conan O’Brien in favor of Jay Leno, they manage to do it yet again. The good news is… Chuck’s back for another season. Although the last few episodes of Chuck have been good, here’s the dirty little secret: Chuck was neutered this past season. The show lost a lot of it’s charm and while I’m glad to see it’s back for one more season, we all know this is going to be the last season of Chuck and Jeff and Lester will be lucky to have 20 minutes total screen time. NBC is pulling the funding out from the show, no doubt like they did this season.

But that’s really it as far as NBC is concerned. First the big bombshell, Heroes is canceled. Boo hoo. Look, I loved the first season of Heroes too. It was excellent, despite an anticlimactic ending. Season 2 blew chunks, Season 3 was even worse and this past season was good, but still not quite up to form. Heroes probably should have been canceled. Live and let die. Reportedly, Heroes will get some sort of sendoff.

But what about a show that’s been on NBC for a record 20 Seasons?! What about LAW AND ORDER?! Well… NBC canceled it. Even though Law & Order still does good in the ratings (phenomenal by NBC standards these days) and had it made it to it’s 21st season it would have been the longest running Prime-Time drama in the HISTORY OF TELEVISION!

Now I’m not a marketing genius, but wouldn’t a record breaking highly hyped FINAL season of Law & Order be a gold mine? People LOVE to watch this final seasons of a show when they know that they’re getting closure. Sure, a show that’s been on for a year or two might not get the distinction of having that final season, but a show that’s been on nearly 20 years, yeah… It probably SHOULD.

Instead NBC has greenlit another Law & Order spinoff, while the original Law & Order, an NBC staple since Carson was on the air, ends in a random episode at the end of this month. It’s a real shame too, as the current cast of Law & Order is one of their best. The show still appeals to older people, but the cast is young enough that it’s trendy. Mike Cutter is the best DA on television people! Plus Jack McCoy has been great in his new head DA role. Heck I even like Anthony Anderson on Law & Order!

So for the lack of something more philosophical to say, I’ll just say that the legions of fans who have made Law & Order a hit for NBC and Universal for the past 20 seasons, here’s a hearty Jerry Orbach styled, SCREW You, to NBC. You missed out on history, you missed out on setting a milestone and oh yeah, you’re going to be missing out on millions of viewers weekly. NBC isn’t in the dumps because of Law & Order’s low ratings, Law & Order has low ratings because NBC is in the dumps. Perhaps had you created another hit show in the past 20 seasons, Law & Order wouldn’t be the only show left on your network that hasn’t had the axe.

I’m not saying Law & Order should be on for another 20 years. Maybe it is time to wrap things up. Then wrap them up proper. Law & Order deserves one last season, one last hurrah and one last time to ride off into the sunset.

It’s been a while since I’ve done any TV reviews or movie reviews for that matter. I often mean to, but sort of forget. I’ll be reviewing Wolfman this Sunday (No spoilers please) and I wanted to talk about Smallville: Absolute Justice but just didn’t find the strength. If you’re curious, I liked Smallville: Absolute Justice well enough and thought Icicle, Hawkman and Dr. Fate were used quite well. I also marked out for Martian Manhunter, but there were a few points that came off as hokey…

Anyway, onto today’s review. It’s of the 2006 BBC mini-series, Jekyll. At 6 full hours it’s a bit long at times, but certainly has some interesting style choices and enough flare to generally keep you interested. If you’re a fan of British sci-fi, you’ll probably jump right into Jekyll with ease.

Jekyll comes to us from Stephen Moffat, who now will be in charge of Doctor Who and did a few Who stories during the RTD era of Doctor Who. That’s mostly why I watched, but also because I generally like the premise of Jekyll and Hyde and think it’s been underutilized through the years. Then there’s the fact that while 6 hours is a long time, it’s not a whole series so if it sucked I didn’t lose too much time over it.

Jekyll stars James Nesbitt (I’m Mrs. Nesbitt!) as Doctor Tom Jackman. Without giving too many spoilers, Jackman is obviously cursed with the Jekyll and Hyde condition. The series sort of unfolds in non-linear fashion, with us jumping right into the full blown Jekyll and Hyde issues, before finally giving us some backstory three or four episodes in.

But is it any good? Well for starters, James Nesbitt puts on a tour de force as both Jekyll and Hyde. In a lot of ways he plays three parts, Tom Jackman the manic scientist dealing with his “curse”, Tom Jackman a man who is charming prior to the affliction and Hyde, the psycho with whimsical glee. Hyde is clearly a lot of fun and Nesbitt really plays him in such a fun way.

The supporting cast is pretty good too, with Denis Lawson as Peter Syme, Tom’s best friend and worst enemy, you may know him better as Star Wars’ Wedge Antilles! Awesomeness. There’s also Michelle Ryan, who I couldn’t place for the life of me. A quick check on IMDB reveals that she was the Bionic Woman in NBC’s ill fated revamp and also Lady Christina de Souza from Doctor Who: Planet of the Dead. I knew her from both, but it didn’t click immediately.

Right, so back to “how is it?”… Not to sound too cliche, but it’s a bit like the man himself, both good and bad. The writing is brilliant at times, while Moffat shows a lot of restraint. There are times when the supreme visuals aren’t given to us, instead we’re left to imagine what Hyde has done. The problem with that is that far too often the tease is better than the payoff. Hyde is a man with tons of power and evil in him, but he rarely does anything with it. For a guy with a vicious bite, his bark is much worse.

The story is best when it focuses on Jekyll and Hyde and in fact, the story probably would have been must see had is stayed with that. Instead the mini-series is mostly about the origins of Hyde and how he has to battle a FBI type team that’s out to capture him. No one’s motives or origins are clear and you don’t get any answers until the last episode, which also creates a lot of teaser tension with little payoff. The finale of the show adds in a couple of genuinely intriguing twists, but has far too many twists to be any good. Scenes happen, shocking twists occur and then more are continued to be piled on until it’s far too muddled to be interesting or compelling anymore.

Russell T. Davies is given a lot of flack from Who fans for some of his quirks and Moffat is believed to be the cooler head, but his direction on Jekyll seems, well, a bit directionless in the end. Certainly everything has a payoff, which is solid but there’s a little too much there for this to be really good.

Then there’s the makeup… I’ve heard some say it’s really good. I guess so. The problem is, Jekyll and Hyde don’t look that much different. In fact, aside from minor differences I often couldn’t tell them apart. Yes, sometimes it’s obvious when Hyde is around, but his change isn’t that drastic. The final payoff to what Hyde is, doesn’t make any sense either, mind you, and some of the erases to the mythos subtract more than they add.

So do I recommend this or not? Yes and no. If you go into this knowing that there are some pretty unsatisfactory elements but still some great acting and a fun twist on the Jekyll and Hyde mythos, then you’re fine. If you want excellent sci-fi with solid direction and a meaningful payoff, you should look elsewhere. In the end Jekyll is like a cool episode of The Outer Limits… Except, you know, it’s 6 hours long. If you’ve got 6 hours to waste on something like that, you’ll probably enjoy this alright.