"I bought myself a parrot that could talk, but it did not say 'I'm hungry', so it died."--Mitch Hedberg
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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Best of the Newbies



Every season, a ton of new shows premiere that usually don't last past the fifth episode. Thanks to the success of shows like 24 and Lost, networks are finally taking risks this year with new high-concept and science fiction shows, which in all honesty, are the kinds of shows I want to watch. I don't like cop dramas or medical dramas, I like shows that are actually interesting. That's why, for me, this fall TV season rocks. For the most part. Here's my rundown on some of the new shows this season.

Prison Break (FOX, Mondays @ 9PM): This was the first of the new shows to premiere. Very 24-esque in its fast-paced action, intelligent writing, and multiple season-long plot threads. Prison Break tells the story of a man named Michael Scolfield who held up a bank to get himself into the prison that was holding his brother, Lincoln Burrows. Burrows is set to be executed in about a month's time, accused of killing the vice president. Michael's objective is to break him out before the execution date. The first main twist is that Michael, an architectural engineer, helped design the prison that he is now incarcerated in. By establishing ties with various other powerful inmates, Michael ensures that they'll have people on the outside to help them escape when they do decide to break out. Episode by episode, the mystery of how Michael will escape unfolds in exciting ways. The show gets very intense sometimes (there is one scene in particular where Michael is held down by some other prisoners as they take off his big toe with hedge clippers), which often serves as a rude awakening to Michael. Meanwhile, on the outside of prison, Burrows's ex-girlfriend is investigating his case and finds that he may have been framed by the government. The show is suspenseful, engrossing, and intriguing, and everyone who hasn't yet should give it a chance. It's a great show to tide you over until 24 returns in January. (5 episode have aired so far)

Supernatural (WB, Tuesdays @ 9PM): I've only seen the pilot of this show, but I'll give my two cents: Supernatural is about two brothers (Sam & Dean) who hunt various supernatural creatures (things like ghosts, werewolves, creatures from black lagoons, the like) in search of their dad. After their mother was killed by an unkown supernatural force, their father began the hunt for all things that go bump in the night, bringing his young sons along with him. Now they're both grown up and in search of their father, who has recently disappeared. The show was intriguing and certainly scary at times, but I wasn't engrossed in the characters enough to stick with it past one episode. The show allegedly draws from real-life supernatural legends, so that's kinda cool. (2 episodes have aired so far)

Invasion (ABC, Wednesdays @ 10PM): This is one of the aforementioned science fiction shows. Shown on the same network right after Lost, this show could not have a better lead-in for the type of show it is. The pilot began with a hurricane approaching a town. The story centers around a broken up family. Park ranger Russell Varon is married to his second wife, Larkin Groves Varon, a news reporter. Her brother Dave Groves lives with them and Russell's two kids from a previous marriage, Jesse and Rose. Their mother Mariel (Russell's ex-wife) is married to Sherriff Tom Underlay, who himself has a daughter from a previous marriage named Kira. One big, messed up family. Got all that? No, of course you don't. Anyways, Russell's 7-year-old daughter Rose noticed hundreds of lights falling into a lake during the hurricane. When Dave and Russell go to investigate, they discover a skeleton and encounter one of the lights - a stingray-esque alien of some sort, apparently, that attacks and nearly kills Dave. Meanwhile, Mariel (Russell's ex-wife, remember) got separated from everybody during the storm and was found in the middle of a field completely naked and completely unharmed. Apparently, something has happened to her, and her new hubby Tom knows all about it, since the last shot showed him talking to his wife saying "The first days are always the hardest...baby steps, honey." This show had a VERY intriguing pilot episode, and I am definitely psyched for the next episode. (1 episode has aired so far, the second is on tonight)

Reunion (FOX, Thursdays @ 9PM): This show is a great example of how a very good idea can go so very wrong. The premise is great: the show follows a group of friends. It starts as they graduate from high school in 1986, and every following episode is another year in their lives. So episode 2 is 1987, episode 3 is 1988, etc. all the way until 2006. I'm sorry, but that's a really great premise. The potential for greatness in telling a story that way is immense. If only they had a good story to tell. Bad writing, bad acting, lame characters, and an all around bad plot make this show very, very dissappointing. Reunion is the worst of really bad teen soap dramas. The characters are all cliché and aren't likable enough to want to stick with them through 22 years of their life. The show tries to add a murder mystery into the plot to spice things up, but it doesn't work. Hopefully, if the show lasts past its first season, a new plot and set of characters will be chosen for the second season that will actually be...well, good. (2 episodes have aired so far)

Threshold (CBS, Fridays @ 9PM): Another scifi drama, Threshold tells the story of Molly Caffrey, a woman who works for the government dealing in worst-case scenarios. She develops plans for what the US should do in case of worst-case scenario crises. The government finds her and tells her that one of her plans, Threshold, has been set into motion. Apparently, a crew aboard a cargo ship had a close encounter with an alien being from the fourth dimension. Although most of the crew is dead, Molly and her Red Team (a group of misfits put together to help deal with the crisis) discover that a handful are missing. As it turns out, these aliens aren't terraforming the earth to suit their needs, but are instead transmitting information into humans that they come in contact with. This information changes the humans' DNA, in effect turning us into them. Molly and two other members of the Red Team discover a video tape taken by one of the ship's crew members that shows an alien vessel. Seeing and hearing this tape causes these three to be exposed to the "virus" that the aliens are using to change the humans into the aliens. Anyways, long story short, Molly and the Red Team begin to track down the crew members in an attempt to stop this invasion, even though three of them may already be infected. The show gets a little ridiculous at times, but overall it's very interesting and the characters are likable and engaging. (3 episodes have aired so far)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

All hail the kings...


...of comedy and drama television. Both Arrested Development and Lost are back for the new season, Lost for its second and AD for its third. Although these shows are very different, they also have many similarities. Both are incredibly smart, original programs. Both have large casts. And both of these shows kick too many kinds of ass than I have extremities to count.

Arrested Development premiered Monday at 8 on Fox. This show is, as far as I am concerned, the greatest comedy I have ever seen. In my LIFE. And pretty much anyone else who watches it will tell you that. I'm not even really gonna bother describing it here, because whatever I come up with is gonna fall way short of what it actually is. Just know this: the show is absolutely, @#*&ing hilarious. And the weird thing is that I hated it the first time I saw it. It took me a few episodes to really get into it, but once I did, I REALLY got into it. And you will too, if you give it a chance.

The problem is that as brilliant as this show is, nobody watches it. Despite all the critical acclaim, despite winning the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series last year, viewers just don't see to understand that this is a good show. In fact, the premiere had some very, VERY low ratings. I hear that it took Seinfeld three seasons to really catch on, so I hope that's what could happen with this season of AD. But from the looks of it, that's a false hope. I'm begging any and everyone who's reading this to check out the first season DVD if you've never seen it before. You can get it through Netflix, Blockbuster, or even the library. If you want to see one of the best shows on TV right now, you owe it to yourself to check this out. This isn't all bull. I wouldn't be plugging it this shamelessly if it wasn't a good show.

Next up is Lost. I'm sure everyone's heard of this show, but in case you haven't: it's basically about a group of people whose plane crashes off-course in an uncharted island where strange and mysterious things happen. Their stories pre-island are told every episode in flashback format. That's it in a nutshell. This is probably the best network drama currently on TV, and that's saying a lot, what with other greats like Veronica Mars, Prison Break, and 24. Lost's intelligent writing and superb acting are consistent from episode to episode. Lost is probably the most suspenseful (until 24 returns anyways) and definitely the most inventive show in a long time.

Last season's finale left a lot of unanswered questions, from "What was in the hatch they opened?" to "Who were those guys who took Walt and how on EARTH did Jin, Michael, and Sawyer survive without their raft?" to "WTF? Was that really the monster?!?" Well, this premiere managed to answer one of those questions, and I was entirely, 100% pleased with the reveal of what was under the hatch. There be SPOILERS here,


for anyone who doesn't want to know: there's a man living under the island in a sealed hatch. The guy just lives his life, apparently, with a lot of outdated music and technology (so he must have been there a while). Locke and Kate are the first to go down, then Jack follows. He can't find either of them until he sees Locke being held at gunpoint by--Desmond!! The dude we just saw in Jack's flashback! OH SNAP!! But the best part--on the other side of the door to the hatch, it said QUARANTINE. The hatch was locked from the INSIDE, and the door read QUARANTINE from the INSIDE.....so it's not what's down the hatch that's been quarantined, it's the whole, @#*&ing ISLAND!!! Desmond must have locked himself up there because of something--


SPOILERS ARE DONE NOW

Okay, okay, I need to calm down because I get so AMPED when I talk about Lost. I can't wait for next week's episode.

Anyways, if you can't tell by my unabashed love for these two shows, they're worth checking out. Do yourself a favor...you won't regret it.

Again, Arrested Developent is on Mondays at 8PM on Fox, and Lost is on Wednesdays at 9PM on ABC.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Revolution Rant (UPDATED)


Photos courtesy of IGN Cube


Today at the Tokyo Game Show, Nintendo finally unveiled to long-awaited controller to their upcoming console tentatively titled the Nintendo Revolution.

Yeah. It's crazy.

When you look at this, your first instinct is to laugh. That's what my instinct was. In fact, even after you hear what it does you'll keep laughing just imagining people using it. The controller, in effect, looks like a TV remote designed by Apple. The controller has all sorts of buttons on it, but that's not what anybody cares about. The big thing is the motion sensor located on the front of the object. The sensor can detect which direction you're moving the remote in, how far away from the system you are, and at what angle you're tilting it.

Like I said, imagining somebody sitting in front of a TV waving their arms around to play a video game seems ridiculous. But it's not until you see the people actually using it; when you really think about the possibilities a controller like this allows, that you stop laughing and realize the potential for greatness.

The controller has a port at one end that expands its potential a hundredfold. Any number of accompanying controllers can be designed to plug into this port. Pictured above is a joystick that will come bundled with the system. This joystick allows you to move around while using the remote-like controller for additional controls.

Imagine playing a Resident Evil-type game where you move with the joystick and shine a flashlight around a dark house with the remote. Imagine controlling Link's movements with the joystick while striking at foes with the remote. Imagine combining the two for a first-person shooter or a fighting game. The possibilities are endless.

In addition, the Nintendo Revolution comes with built-in WiFi internet connection out of the box, as well as the ability to download classic Nintendo games from the NES, SNES, and N64 eras to your Revolution. Traditional-style controllers can be designed to plug into the remote's port, so you can play them the way they were meant to be played. The Revolution is also backwards-compatible, so you can use all your GameCube games in it as well. This system boldly goes where no Nintendo console has ever gone before in terms of both internet play and backwards compatibility.

What Nintendo may have succeeded in doing is changing the face of video gaming as we know it. Perhaps I'm overexaggerating a little, but if this does catch on, this new console really could live up to its codename. What you have to remember is, Nintendo designed the modern controller with the original NES. These people know what they're doing. If I'm wrong and developers don't take advantage of this and the consumers don't buy it, this could go the way of the Virtual Boy or the Sega Dreamcast. Perhaps our culture is so deeply involved in traditional games that we will never see a "revolution," if you will, in the video game industry.

In a world where graphics reign supreme, is game innovation really important anymore? I think so, but then again, I'm a bonafide Nintendo fanboy, something that I am unashamed to admit. Nintendo makes the kind of games I want to play. Why should I get a PSP for gorgeous games that I've played a dozen times before when I can have a DS for its incredibly original game design? Why get a PS3 for its realistic graphics when I can play games an entirely different way on the Nintendo Revolution? I don't want to play the endless supply of sports and FPS games that plague the Playstation and XBox, I want things like WarioWare Touched! or Nintendogs or Donkey Konga.

Nintendo is the only company that takes risks in the video game business. They are the only people who try to break the mold of traditional video game playing. The argument could be made, "If it ain't broke, why fix it?" Sony and Microsoft have been consistently successful in the games they design so why should they take a step in a completely different direction? Maybe they shouldn't. Maybe they're smart to play it safe and just up the hardware every few years. But when there's potential to make the industry better than it is currently? To take gaming to an entirely new level? Thanks, I'll take that over Madden 2564 any day.

***UPDATED!***


This is IGN's rendition of what the second announced extension to the remote might be. This combo could be used if you (a.) want to play Revolution games in a more traditional way, or (b.) want to play your Gamecube (and presumably N64, SNES, and NES) games. That is hardcore.

For continued coverage of the Revolution, as well as video of the unveiling and its possible uses, check out IGN Cube.