Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

Lost 5.3: Jughead January 29, 2009

Filed under: Lost,Television — Emily @ 5:15 pm
Tags: , ,

This week on Lost, we learned some exciting new information. Here’s a rundown of the highlights:

  • Desmond and Penny had a baby! And they named him Charlie!! – I love that they named him after our favorite dearly departed rock star turned island castaway turned loyal friend and surrogate daddy. How cute is the boy who is playing little Charlie?

  • Meet the Others, circa 1950 – With the latest time flash, Daniel, Charlotte, Miles, Sawyer, Juliet, and Locke (I assume Rose and Bernard are somewhere around there, too) find themselves captured by the Others, who are wearing army gear and using new guns that Locke recognizes as weapons of the 1950s. Ageless Richard is there, too, and is the obvious leader of this Others era. According to Juliet, “Richard’s always been here” and he’s “old.” Maybe my theory that he came to the island on the Black Rock in the 1880s has some plausibility. Or maybe he was there even before that.
  • Ellie (the female Other holding Daniel at gunpoint) seems to recognize Daniel. Has he been to this time before? She looks familiar to him, too. I guess she reminds him of Theresa, the girl who we learn he worked with at Oxford.
  • The Others speak Latin, the “language of the enlightened,” according to Juliet, who said she and the rest of the Others learned the language in Others 101.
  • Locke is taking his role as leader of the Others seriously. He’s calling them “my people” and boldly walking up to Richard like they are old comrades (even though Richard has never met him yet there in the 1950s). They have a roundabout conversation about what Locke is supposed to do, similar to the one they had on last week’s episode, only this time Locke knows more than Richard does.
  • The U.S. military attempted to do weapons testing on the island in the 1950s. However, apparently when they were met with resistance from the Others and suffered casualties, they retreated, leaving behind an unstable bomb. Daniel tells Ellie that as long as they bury the bomb, they’ll be okay. He lets slip that he’s from the future, but that doesn’t phase her too much. I wonder if this bomb is connected to “the numbers” that Desmond and other hatch dwellers had to enter into a computer regularly to save the world.

  • Desmond doesn’t find Daniel’s mother at Oxford, but he does learn that something horrible happened to a woman that Daniel was working with – horrible enough that Oxford wanted to forget that Daniel had ever done research in the attic of the Physics building. My guess is that the “poor girl,” Theresa Spenser, volunteered to be Daniel’s first human test subject for time travel, and the experience messed with her brain, as well as her place in the time/space continuum. When Desmond tracks her down, he learns that she’s now bedridden and comes in and out of consciousness and sometimes goes “away.” For example, sometimes she thinks she’s three and asks for her dolly, others she talks to her dad, who died five years ago, etc. Hmmm… sounds to me like her consciousness is time traveling while her body stays put in London. This is similar to what happened to Desmond several times last season, when he would appear catatonic to whoever he was with, while he was experiencing various parts of his life in previous times.
  • Most revealing about Desmond’s investigation is the news that Charles Widmore was Daniel’s benefactor for ten years! He funded Daniel’s research into time travel. So I guess we can assume that Widmore knows about the Island’s habit of jumping around in time.
  • Charles Widmore has an Island-themed painting in his office. It features a polar bear and the Dharma greeting of choice, “Namaste.” This only reinforces Widmore’s obsession with the Island. I wasn’t aware until now that this painting was featured in at least one previous episode. I just happened to notice it this time around. Here’s a picture of the same painting from season three, when Desmond went to Widmore’s office to discuss his relationship with Penny:

  • Widmore gives Desmond the address of Daniel’s mother in L.A., and mentions that she’s a very private person. Could that be because she spends most of her time in a crypt, wearing a cloak, and tracking the location of the Island, a la Ms. Hawking?
  • Widmore also warns Desmond to “get out of this mess, don’t put Penny’s life in danger.” He explains that he’s getting himself involved in something that goes back many, many years. (How many years are we talking here?!) He tells Desmond to go back to where ever he and Penny were hiding. I wish they would, since Ben is still looking for revenge against Widmore by killing Penny, but now that they are headed for L.A., and since Ben is there, things are about to get very uncomfortable for everyone involved.
  • Charlotte is starting to go downhill fast. With the latest time flash, she passed out and got a serious nosebleed. Now that Daniel has professed his undying love for her, the stakes are higher for whether she lives or dies. For whatever reason, she is the least interesting of the new characters to me. But I do like Daniel, so I would be sad for him if she dies.

  • And the most interesting revelation of the week: Charles Widmore was an Other, living on the Island, in the 1950s! So how did a gun-toting island dwelling flunky become such a powerful, wealthy, world-dwelling businessman? How or why did he leave the island, and why does he want to go back? Why does he believe it is his? (He told Ben last season that it’s his island and it will be again.) All this time I thought Widmore was interested in the island from an entrepreneurial perspective, and maybe that’s part of it, but he also sees himself as a rightful inhabitant.
  • Next week we change course to check back in with the Oceanic Six in L.A. I really didn’t miss them this week, with all the new developments. But, it will be nice to see their plan to get back to the island start to take shape.

Related Post:

Advertisements
 

Best Scifi/Fantasy TV Series on Hulu January 27, 2009

A vampire with a soul turns private investigator to make amends for his past evil deeds… A fleet of humans search for a home and form shaky alliances with the Cylons who were once their sworn enemy… A cheerleader turned vampire slayer saves the world time and again with help from her enthusiastic gang of Scoobies… A ragtag band of space cowboys stays one step ahead of the Alliance while also welcoming others who are on the run into their family… An FBI agent, a genius, and a mad scientist work together to investigate strange occurrences with the ultimate goal of unraveling the mystery of The Pattern.

Angel, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Fringe. These are the nominees for Best Scifi/Fantasy TV Series on Hulu. For me, choosing one of these shows as the proposed winner is a nearly impossible task. I’ve seen every episode of these shows at least once (and have seen many episodes of Buffy and Angel multiple times), and consider myself a loyal fan of Angel, Battlestar Galactica, and Buffy. While I enjoyed Firefly, I never became attached to it in the same way as Joss Whedon’s previous shows, yet there’s no denying that it was a unique and well-executed concept. And Fringe is my favorite new show this year. It is consistently fascinating and entertaining. All five of these nominees are worthy of winning in this category. Deciding on one will require me to break it down a bit:

  • AngelMy favorite things about this Buffy spin-off were its fantastical story arcs and the evolution of its characters. Cordelia, once a shallow actress wannabe, transformed into a warrior of the people and, literally, a higher being. Wesley went from being a prissy bookworm to a smooth talking, motorcycle riding, James Bond type of hero. (I miss him most of all.) All the main characters faced great crises at some point, and things were rarely resolved in a nice and neat way. (I still am deeply saddened when I think about Fred’s horrible fate, and the way it affected all of her friends.) As for the story arcs, one of the best ones was at the end of season two when the gang found themselves in Lorne’s home world of Pylea. I loved everything about these episodes, from Angel’s true demon appearance being unleashed, to the Pyleans calling humans “cows” and enslaving them. Angel was one of those rare shows that got better with age. The final season was my favorite one. It was sad to see it go when it was at the top of its game.

  • Battlestar GalacticaI love the scifi aspects of this epic show, but it is the human drama that makes it truly memorable. President Roslin was thrust into the role of leader of the human race, fresh off of the news that she was battling cancer. Admiral Adama struggles to maintain his military authority while also trying to make up for lost time with his son Lee. Gaius Baltar may be insane, he may be brilliant, or he may be somewhere in between, but he is definitely guilt-ridden over his part in the near-extinction of the human race. Every character has a well-developed personality and believable struggles. And no one can say that the story is predictable or formulaic. So much has happened, and there’s so much time between seasons, that I feel like I need a refresher course just to keep up with the mythology. Once the series comes to an end, I plan to rewatch it from start to finish, in a relatively short amount of time, so that I can fully appreciate the connections and the ongoing trials and triumphs of the characters. I should also mention that the special effects are always impressive – this is an important aspect to a scifi/fantasy show.

  • Buffy the Vampire SlayerThis is a show that grew on me over time. My initial impression of it didn’t amount to much more than a “those demon costumes look silly and fake.” Of course, I came in late in the game – in the middle of season five. Once I started from the beginning (which was easy to do when FX was showing two episodes a day), I quickly grew to appreciate the fast-paced dialogue, the unusual happenings on the Hellmouth, and the way that the show combined fantasy with real life issues. The show had its ups and downs over the years (Once More with Feeling and the season with Glory = up, Slayers in Training and the Adam story arc = down), but once I got to know the characters, it didn’t really matter where they went or what they did. I was happy to be along for the ride.

  • FireflyA Western in space. As far as I know, this idea had never been made into a tv show before this little scifi western that could came alone. Well, it only kind of could, since it didn’t last a full season on Fox. But it has had a healthy and successful afterlife on DVD. Like all of Joss Whedon’s shows, this one features distinctive characters that we either love, or hate to love. There was fearless Mal, loyal Zoe, comical Wash, opportunistic Jayne, enigmatic River, etc. In addition to the crew’s ongoing run-ins with The Alliance, Whedon created another truly frightening enemy in the Reavers, a group of cannibalistic nomads that wander the outer reaches of space. This show barely had time to get its footing before it was canceled, but it managed to create a loyal (and well-deserved) following in that time.

  • Fringe – I started singing this show’s praises right after the pilot aired. It’s smartly written, well-acted, has interesting special effects, and seems to have unlimited possibilities with where the story could go. I actually like Joshua Jackson more in his role as Peter Bishop than I liked him as Pacey on Dawson’s Creek (pause for the customary “gasp!” from all the Joey/Pacey ‘shippers). Lance Reddick is appropriately mysterious as Agent Broyles, Anna Torv plays Olivia Dunham as a determined but slightly stressed young agent, and the rest of the cast rounds out very well. John Noble is the stand-out as Walter Bishop. He has so many great moments on the show, and I love his basement lab at Harvard, complete with a dairy cow and plenty of gadgets and gizmos. The search for The Pattern is a mythology-in-the-making worthy of the X-Files, and perhaps we will even receive more answers than the X-Files ever gave us. I hope this show is given at least a few seasons to take us to new places.

So now comes the hard part. Separating the great from the… great:

  • I will eliminate Fringe first, because with as new as it is, it hasn’t had a chance to prove that it is as deserving of the award as some of the heavyweights in this category.
  • For a similar reason, I will take Firefly out of consideration, because it’s hard to value one season of it as much as the many seasons of Angel, Buffy, or BSG.
  • This is where it gets really hard. I have trouble deciding whether I liked Buffy or Angel better, but in the end I guess I would go with Buffy – if I had to choose one or the other. Angel was a great show, but when I go back and watch it now, it doesn’t feel like as much of a classic as Buffy still does.
  • So, that leaves me with two super worthy contenders: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica. I am leaning toward Battlestar Galactica, as its production values are slicker (I’m sure it has a bigger budget), and it tackles slightly more grandiose themes concerning the human condition, questions of what makes life worth living, etc. (Buffy held its own in the thematic arena, though, but on a smaller scale.)

As of this moment, I stand ready to cast my vote for Battlestar Galactica as the best Scifi/Fantasy tv show on Hulu. If you believe one of the other four nominees is more deserving, please make an argument on its behalf. I just may change my mind!

 

Lost Gets Wrinkled in Time January 23, 2009

Filed under: Lost,Television — Emily @ 12:26 pm
Tags: , ,

Lost has done it again. The season five premiere lived up to my expectations. It was full of surprises, adventure, new twists, and of course, new questions. Rather than try to summarize the entire two hour season premiere, I’ll examine the characters and plots

The Island

  • So, apparently when Ben moved the island, it didn’t just jump to another part of the ocean – it moved through time and space.
  • The blinding white light and weird noises were very similar to when Desmond turned the key in the hatch (at the end of season two?). Afterwards, he found himself having visions of other times and places. Desmond’s hatch experience and Ben’s wheel turning experience must be related.
  • Now the island and the remaining crash survivors are traveling through time.

Neil, aka one of “those people” who have been there all along

  • When the island “moved,” so did Sawyer, Rose, Bernard, Daniel, Charlotte, Miles, some guy named Neil, and a handful of other unidentified people.
  • Neil was played by Sean Whalen, who will always be Roach in the 1991 movie The People Under the Stairs to me:

  • The introduction of new Oceanic Flight 815 survivors, who have supposedly been hanging out with the core characters all along, has probably been the silliest aspect of the show. Even though the season three episode chronicling the death of Nikki and Paolo was clever, their involvement in that season was nothing more than a distraction. At least now the writers use it as a bit of comic relief. In the case of Neil, Sawyer couldn’t get his name right, and no one else really seemed to know him. It was as if he’d just been hanging around not being helpful all this time. It’s fitting that he went down in a blaze of glory, literally, being hit by a barrage of flaming arrows after his enraged rant about the hopelessness of their situation.
  • It’s not that new characters are unwelcome – Ben, Richard, Charles Widmore, Penny, Desmond and others have become an integral part of the show – it’s just that their introduction into the show needs to have a purpose and explanation. So, with that being said, rest in peace, Neil.

Sawyer, Juliet, Rose, and Bernard

  • Now that Jack has left the building, Sawyer seems to have taken over as the fearless leader of the slowly dwindling Oceanic 815 survivors. Juliet has taken on the role of the voice of reason. Meanwhile, Bernard is still trying to do more than he is capable of, and Rose is losing patience with it.
  • Sawyer thinks that everyone he cares about is dead, since Kate, Aaron, and Hurley, along with Sayid, Jack, Sun, and Frank were in the helicopter that he thinks made it to the freighter before it exploded. He must be feeling pretty hopeless.

Locke

  • Just after Locke was crowned the king of the Others, he found himself swept away through time, and all alone. Was he moving to the same places in time as Sawyer et al?
  • First he saw Mr. Eko’s brother’s plane crash, and was apprehended by none other than Ethan when he went to investigate.
  • Next he found himself having a heart to heart with Richard. Apparently Locke had already talked to Richard in another time about what was going on, and they would meet again later on. Richard told Locke to give him a compass the next time that they meet, and that Locke has to get back the people who left, and he also has to die in order to save the island. This was one of the most cryptic parts of the episode, because I wondered why Richard didn’t time travel with the island, when he had a conversation with Locked about this situation, etc.
  • By the end of the episode, Locke saved Sawyer and the gang from some previously unknown soldiers, who seemed to have British accents? So now Locke, Sawyer, and the rest of the remaining island castaways will continue jumping through time together.
  • We also saw Locke’s body in a coffin again, three years after the island moved. It will be interesting to see how he left the island, what he did afterwards, and how he died.

Daniel, Charlotte, and Miles


  • These researchers from the freighter suddenly find themselves traveling through time with the people they came to fake rescue.
  • Miles continues to make snarky comments and communicate with dead things (he went “hunting” and just so happened to come across a wild boar that had recently died).
  • Charlotte is losing her memory and bleeding from her nose. Neither of those can be a good sign.
  • Daniel is giving a play by play about their time traveling adventures: what’s happening, where they are, why they can’t change the past, etc.
  • Last season Miles mentioned to Charlotte that she spent a lot of time trying to get “back” to the island. I’m thinking that Charlotte was once an inhabitant of the island. I mentioned this idea in a post from last season. Daniel seems to have a special interest in her. I hope they will give us answers about this soon, or at least some more hints. I’ve seen other people theorize that Daniel is actually Charlotte’s father, but I don’t think so.
  • Daniel seems positioned to play a crucial role in this season’s time traveling escapades. He gave hatch-dwelling, button-pushing Desmond a message to go find his mother at Oxford. Perhaps the old cloaked lady that was working with Ben is his mother. This lady, Ms. Hawking, also spoke to Desmond years earlier when he was buying an engagement ring for Penny. Hmmm… things are getting more and more complicated.

Desmond

  • Well, it looks like Penny and Desmond’s endless ocean vacation is actually coming to an end, courtesy of a dream/memory that Desmond had of talking to Daniel back in his hatch days.
  • Now Desmond plans to travel to Oxford University to find Daniel’s mother, in order to save all of his island friends.
  • Where is Frank the pilot? We know that he is in on the lie with the Oceanic Six, but we don’t know what he’s doing now. Last time we saw him he was still on Penny’s boat.

The Others

  • Richard – What a strange character Richard is. He doesn’t age, or at least doesn’t seem to. Maybe he has just been jumping around in time at the same age rather than not aging. I can’t figure out why he (and I assume the other Others) didn’t move when the island moved. He told Locke that he “didn’t go anywhere.” Well, he must have gone somewhere, or he would have been left in the middle of the ocean when the island disappeared.
  • Ben – I’m not sure if Ben still counts as an Other since he’s been banished from the island, but for the sake of convenience, I’ll still consider him one. After Ben turned the wheel to move the island, he suddenly found himself in the middle of a desert, in another time. Since then, he has been working with Sayid to kill some people whose names are on a list. (We learned all of this in an episode last season. I am foggy on the details.) Now he has decided to round up the Oceanic Six and somehow make it back to the island. I assume he also hasn’t forgotten about his vow to Charles Widmore that he would find and kill Penny as revenge for Alex’s death.

  • Ms. Hawking – I don’t know if this mysterious cloaked woman, who we’ve seen a couple of times before, has ever been to the island, but she’s weird enough to be an Other.
  • The Butcher Lady – Ben asked this woman to do him the favor of keeping Locke’s body safe (I assume in her meat locker.) Somehow she knew that Ben was asking her to keep a body – I wonder if she also knew whose body. She has the same mission as Ben – I guess that’s to find the island. Maybe she had to leave at some point as well. Will we learn more about her? Have we seen her before? I don’t remember.

The Oceanic Six – With as complicated as the island events were, it’s nice that the “three years later” action in L.A. was easier to follow

  • Jack – He’s working alongside Ben to round up everyone to go back to the island.

  • Hurley – Hurley has managed to get himself into trouble. He is suspected of killing three people, who are actually Sayid’s handiwork. At the end of the episode he turned himself in to the police in order to avoid going anywhere with Ben. Let’s hope this story doesn’t turn into Prison Break!
  • Sayid – Poor Sayid. He married the love of his life, only to lose her in a car accident that appears to have been no accident. Since then he’s been working as an assassin. He spent most of the premiere unconscious on Hurley’s parents’ couch. When he woke up, he was concerned about Hurley’s whereabouts. Maybe Sayid knows something we don’t about Ben’s real intentions. Or maybe he’s just paranoid.
  • Sun – Sun is in negotiations with Charles Widmore to find and kill Ben. But she found time to stop by to see Kate and Aaron. It should be interesting to see Sun’s reaction to the idea of going back to the island.
  • Kate – Kate is freaking out because someone wants her to take a blood test to find out if she’s really Aaron’s mother. Who would want custody of Aaron? Is it Claire’s mother? Or someone who doesn’t believe the Oceanic Six story?
  • Aaron – He’s just being cute. I like this little boy better than baby Aaron.

Wow. There are a lot of characters on Lost. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

 

24: Digesting the First Four Hours January 13, 2009

Filed under: 24,Television — Emily @ 12:24 pm
Tags: , , ,

Hold on. Let me catch my breath… Okay, I’m ready to digest the first four hours of my favorite tv thriller, 24, which returned with its seventh season this week. So far I am enthusiastically on board with where the writers are taking us. Let’s take a look at the three main story lines, which appear to be interconnected, and the new and returning characters.

The Story So Far

  • Jack Bauer and his gang of merry men – Jack got a temporary escape from his uncomfortable senate hearing courtesy of the FBI, who wanted his help in locating Tony Almeda (he’s alive – no surprise since his face has been plastered all over the previews). Tony appears to be leading a group of domestic terrorists in a plot to use a device that threatens U.S. air traffic, water treatment facilities, etc. Despite repeated warnings that he must play by their rules, Jack soon has Agent Renee Walker lying to her boss and otherwise crossing the line into ethically questionable territory, all in the name of doing what it takes to find Tony. When they do find Tony, Jack interrogates him and manages to get Tony to whisper one phrase in his ear: Deep Sky. Enter our favorite former CTU director, Bill Buchanan, looking all rugged and handsome with his silver hair and street clothes.

Turns out that Tony is working deep undercover, with only Bill and Chloe as his compatriots. Once Bill fills Jack in on the basics via a cell phone conversation, Jack does what Jack does best: sneaks out of FBI headquarters with Tony. Fast forward a bit, and now Jack and Tony are working together with the bad guys (and Tony’s colleagues of three years – he’s only been “good” again for a brief time), doing what’s necessary to maintain their cover as they try to locate Colonel Dubaku. Supposedly, if they can get their hands on Dubaku, they can get the names of the high level U.S. officials who are involved in a mass conspiracy to… do something. I’m not really clear yet on what the conspiracy involves, other than causing a war in Sangala.

Bottom line: Bill, Chloe, Tony, and Jack are risking everything and working against the government all in the name of getting to the bottom of a government conspiracy. Is this the same conspiracy that President Logan was a puppet in? I hope so. There would have to be massive corruption to justify what our former CTU crew is doing. I’d think it’s very difficult to take on the U.S. government with one secret hideout and a few Macs. But then, Chloe is apparently a genius hacker, Jack borders on superhero, and Tony is a vigilante with nothing to live for. I guess Bill is the backbone of the operation, keeping Jack and Tony in check and reassuring Chloe with his fatherly wisdom.

  • President Allison Taylor’s most difficult day – Welcome, new president. As a newcomer to the 24 landscape, she doesn’t know what she’s in for. Every season of 24 is the worst day of the president’s life. Today, President Taylor has three main catastrophes. The first is whether or not to take military action in Sangala to stop the genocide that’s happening. This is directly related to the second problem: Colonel Dabaku has in his possession a device that threatens the American people on a massive scale, and his one demand is that the president order all U.S. troops away from the Sangala border, meaning that the U.S. would take themselves out of the conflict and allow thousands more innocent Sangalans to be killed. The third problem is one she’s not even aware of yet: her husband, Henry Taylor, is investigating the death of their son, which makes some people think he’s unstable, but has others trying to decide how to take care of the problem.

  • First Gentleman Taylor vs. the Government Conspirators – As mentioned above, Henry Taylor has been investigating the supposed suicide of his son, Roger. He finally hits pay dirt when, during a secretive meeting with Roger’s girlfriend Sam, she confesses to him that some men paid her to keep quiet about Roger’s murder. She explains that Roger was killed because he got too close to some financial information linking an unknown senior member of his wife’s administration to Sangala. She hands him a flash drive with all the information he needs to continue his investigation. So, at this point, Henry is in this best position to identify the high level people involved in the conspiracy. He needs to cross paths with Jack and his gang pronto! Too bad that Agent Gedge is a tattle tale. Since he saw Sam give Henry the flash drive, he will probably run and blab to Chief of Staff Kanin. It’s too soon to say whether Kanin genuinely believes Henry is crazy, or if he’s concerned about Henry’s activities because he himself was involved in Roger’s death and/or the conspiracy. (I need to come up with a name for this conspiracy so I can stop saying conspiracy.)

So, that’s it in a large nutshell. They’ve given us a lot of information in the first four hours. I was thrilled with the revelation that Tony was working undercover for the good guys. It will be fun to see him and Jack working in the field together. Too bad that they are having to do so many questionable deeds in the name of justice. Turning rogue hasn’t hurt Tony’s appearance. He was looking smooth with his shorter hair, leather jacket, and scowl. It makes sense that he would have gone over to the dark side after Michelle’s death, but it also makes sense that he would have a change of heart. After all, he’s Tony!

The New Faces – Most of the significant newbies are at FBI headquarters, which seems to have replaced CTU with the silly office politics time fillers.

  • Agent in Charge Larry Moss – Agent Moss is played by Jeffrey Nordling, who I know best as Jake from Once & Again. He plays the same type of character here: smug, confident, driven, but deep down caring about those close to him. Or so it seems. You never know who to trust on this show. I’m wondering if he and Agent Walker are romantically involved, with all the furtive glances and concern that’s been going on. A bit of random trivia: it’s interesting to me that Ever Carradine played an uncredited role as an employee at FBI headquarters. She played Tiffany, Jake’s girlfriend, on Once & Again. I wonder if there’s a Once & Again connection on the 24 staff.

  • Agent Renee Walker – She’s shaping up to be a Jack Bauer-ette. At first, she seemed like she’d be a by-the-books opposite to Jack, but it quickly became apparent that she’s not as mild-mannered as she looks. She single-handedly took out that huge bodyguard while she and Jack were interrogating a suspect. Then she agreed to tail a suspect with Jack, without telling anyone else where they were going. And, most disturbing, she basically threatened to kill Tony’s hospitalized colleague by blocking his oxygen tube, if he didn’t tell her where Tony was and what his plan was. It will be interesting to see how her character progresses this season.

  • Agent Janis Gold – Played by Janeane Garofalo, Janis is obviously a Chloe clone. She’s socially awkward, a genius on computers and networks, and loyal to her superiors to the point of breaking the rules. It will be fun to see a face-off between her and Chloe at some point this season. They simply must meet, right?
  • Agent Sean Hillinger – Played by Rhys Coiro, this is one smarmy guy. Is he just an annoying geek, or is there something more to his shifty exterior? I thought it was ridiculous for him to manipulate Air Traffic Control into bumping his wife’s flight to the front of the landing line.
  • Chief of Staff Ethan Kanin – Played by Bob Gunton, long time guest star on various tv shows, he is one shifty guy. So far he has his hand all over the place and is trying to manipulate the president. She’s not having it. Good for her!
  • Henry Taylor – I talked a good bit about Henry above, in terms of his investigation into his son’s death. I like him so far. He is gentle, while also resolute and discerning. I’ll be rooting for him to get to the bottom of his search, or at least to stay alive.
  • President Allison Taylor – She’s no President Palmer, but she’s not nearly as annoying as President Logan. And I like her better than Powers Boothe as president. She brings some dignity to the 24 presidency that’s been lacking for awhile.
  • There are also a handful of villains, but I’ll let the dust settle, the bullets fly, etc., before I spend time assessing them.

Returning Favorites – I’ve already sung their praises above, so I’ll just end by listing our ex-CTU quadruple threat.

  • Jack
  • Chloe
  • Bill
  • Tony

What do you think of this season so far? My one complaint is the weakness of Bill et al’s reasoning for taking on the conspiracy, but I’m willing to see how things develop. But when has 24 been about reasonable, realistic plot points? It has been at the top of its game in terms of action, intrigue, and suspense. I’m looking forward to the next 20 hours!

 

Flight of the Conchords: A Comedy Anomaly January 9, 2009

I experienced the first season of Flight of the Conchords for the first time last week. I’ve only watched half of the episodes so far, but I’ve seen enough to know that I love this show! I had been hearing tidbits about it and its starring duo for awhile, but my knowledge was limited to vague phrases like “two guys who sing” and “funny songs.” I didn’t even really know it was a 30 minute comedy show. Now that I’ve experienced it, and “experienced” is the right word here, I can say that it is unlike any tv comedy I’ve ever seen.

Background: Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement formed their comedy duo in 1998, and they have developed a cult following of their live shows over the past several years. They have also picked up various awards for their work, which is extremely hilarious and smartly written. In 2007 the first season of Flight of the Conchords premiered on HBO, and it features songs that they released prior to the show. The second season is scheduled to begin this month on HBO.

Synopsis: The HBO show revolves around Bret and Jemaine, who play exaggerated, fictionalized versions of themselves. They are two New Zealanders trying to find success as a band in the U.S. Unfortunately, they have only managed to make one fan, the super obsessed Mel. Their manager, Murray, is more concerned with taking roll call at their three-man meetings than in launching their musical careers. Bret and Jemaine are clueless about everything from love to American culture, and their only American friend who can give them direction is pawn shop owner Dave. Thus, from this meager premise, hilarity ensues.

Assessment: When I started watching the first episode, I wasn’t instantly hooked. From what I could gather, this was a show about two inept guys, and the tone of the show was absurdist. Well, both of those observations are true, but the show’s comic gold lies in its songs, the lyrics, the choreography, the visual effects, and the way that they are woven together into one great crazy tapestry of ridiculousness. My husband and I have laughed a lot, shaken our heads, and said things like “that’s so weird” and “that’s really random” while watching the first six episodes.

One thing we had trouble figuring out is what’s supposed to be going on when Bret and Jemaine break into song. I found this clear explanation on Wikipedia:

“Jemaine or Bret break into song periodically throughout each episode. The songs are built into the narrative structure of the show in several different ways. Some songs form part of the actual plot of the show. In these instances, Bret or Jemaine sings to another character. Other songs serve as the internal monologue of one of the two. Typically, at least once per show, a song is shot in the form of a music video. Some songs use a combination of the styles. For example, in the first episode, “Sally”, the song “Most Beautiful Girl in the Room” is a mix of Jemaine’s inner thoughts, which are inaudible to those around him, and his spoken invitations to Sally to get a kebab and to go back to his place, while the music video for “Business Time” (from “Sally Returns”) depicts a daydream that Jemaine is having.

The enthusiastic manner in which the characters express themselves through song is in stark contrast to the very low-key, monotone manner in which the characters express themselves throughout the rest of the show. Thus, when the characters cannot verbalize their feelings, the songs serve as inner monologues and explain the thoughts and feelings they are unable to communicate to others.”

Highlights: Read on for some of my favorite moments, music videos, lines, and lyrics from the first six episodes.

  • “Beautiful Girl” – This was my first experience of a song on Flight of the Conchords. Jemaine sings about Sally, and how she’s the most beautiful girl… in the room. (“You could be a part-time model, but you’d probably still have to keep your normal job.”)
  • The music video for “The Humans Are Dead” – Murray decides that Bret and Jemaine need to film a music video to get more exposure. Unfortunately, due to their limited budget, he films it with a camera phone, and the guys’ robot costumes consist of spray-painted boxes. The song itself is very funny, but the way the scene is set up and filmed makes it even more memorable. Bret’s binary solo is classic.
  • “I’m not crying. It’s just been raining on my face.” – This was the best excuse Jemaine gave in his song full of explanations for why his face was wet. (“I’ve just been cutting onions,” “my eyes are a little sweaty today,” etc.)
  • “Inner City Pressure” music video – This video and song are a spoof of the Pet Shop Boys’ first hit song, “West End Girls.” Bret and Jemaine perfectly capture the spirit of 1980s music videos, from the pacing about, to the slow motion camera work, to the synthesizer playing.
  • “I think I need a 1983 Casio DG-20 electric guitar, set to electric mandolin” – This may be the most random moment so far on the show. Bret is standing and chatting with fellow sign holder (that’s his job) Coco, and he is inspired to sing when he realized that he’s attracted to her. As he voices his need for a Casio guitar, an old man walks by and hands him one.
  • The Dancing Chorus of Sign Holders – In the song that begins with the Casio guitar moment mentioned above, there is a group of sign holders who act as background dancers for Bret. The song is “She’s So Hot – Boom!”, and it’s a reggae/rap number. Typically, background dancers are attractive, scantily clad women. In this case, they are a mix of male and female, small and large, and dressed in regular clothes. Maybe you have to see it to appreciate it.
  • “This is where we break it down” – At the end of the song “Think About It,” which talks about people getting stuck in the leg with knives and forks, and getting diseases from monkeys, among other things, Bret and Jemaine “break it down.” Normally there are lyrics to accompany this cascading part of a song, but in this case, they just do lots of “oohing” and “aahing” and repeating that they are breaking it down. It’s a fun poke at songs that over-milk the break down. You can view the entire video of “Think About It” here.
  • “Business Time” – Everything about this song and music video are funny. Jemaine runs into Sally at a laundromat and commences to daydream about what his life would be like if they got married. “When I’m down to my socks it’s time for business. That’s why they’re called business socks.” See the funny here.
  • Mel insulting Jemaine to compliment Bret – In the episode “Bowie,” Bret develops some body image issues, so Jemaine asks their one fan, Mel, to give Bret some extra compliments. When she “just so happens” to run into them on the street, she takes things overboard, to the point of giving Jemaine his own set of body image issues.

I’ll leave you with the song “The Most Beautiful Girl,” which as I mentioned before, was my introduction to the essence of Flight of the Conchords.

 

Eclaire’s Favorite Things: TV Edition January 7, 2009

In a previous post, I sang the praises of my favorite household and food items. Now I’m moving on to a topic near and dear to my heart – and more in keeping with the usual content of this blog: television! All of my picks are from current tv shows.

Favorite Shows

  • Comedy: 30 Rock – 30 Rock has replaced The Office as my favorite comedy because it is consistently funny, and often manages to surprise me, whereas The Office is hit and miss this season
  • Drama: Lost – I am so excited about the return of my very favorite show! It is science fiction, drama, romance, action, and suspense all rolled into one. I deemed it my top pick when I listed my Top Ten All-Time Favorite TV Shows.
  • Science Fiction: Battlestar Galactica – This show may be great science fiction, but it surpasses its genre to be an outstanding drama as well. I can’t wait to find out who is the final Cylon, and what will become of our favorite band of galactic travelers.
  • New Show: Fringe – Fox has produced some great one-hour shows in recent years – House, Bones, 24, and now Fringe. Part X-Files, part CSI, its unusual cases of the week are enhanced by its well-developed characters. I’ve really missed it during its winter break.
  • Premium Channel Show: Dexter – I just love this show! Too bad I have to wait until the summer after it airs on Showtime to watch it, when it is released on DVD. At least it’s always worth the wait.

Favorite Characters

Eric and Tami from Friday Night Lights

  • TV Dad: Coach Eric Taylor on Friday Night Lights – He’s a good dad to Julie, a good husband to Tami, and a good father figure to many of his players, including Riggins, Saracen, and Smash.
  • TV Mom: Tami Taylor on Friday Night Lights – I liked how the show developed her character during season two (I will be watching season three on NBC starting this month) – the postpartum depression, balancing her responsibilities as a mom and a guidance counselor, taking on the role of volleyball coach, etc. I can’t think of a more realistic female character on tv, or a more likable one.
  • Unsung Hero: Sawyer on Lost – Jack usually gets all the glory, but these days I prefer Sawyer. And while he started off more of a con artist, not to be trusted, he now goes out of his way to help other people. I wonder what he whispered to Kate before jumping out of the helicopter.
  • Incompetent Boss: Michael Scott on The Office – One redeeming quality about this character, who sometimes seems like a hopeless case, is that he really does care about his employees. So while he often messes everything up or makes everyone feel awkward, he usually means well. This is the reason I keep rooting for him. Now if only Holly could be transferred back to Scranton. They were such a good match!

  • Keen observer: Patrick Jane on The Mentalist – This show has grown on me a lot, after a lackluster start (only because I was always able to spot the killer right away). I wonder if the casting director listened to similar complaints, because now the murderer of the week isn’t always played by a familiar guest actor. Despite this complaint, one thing that I’ve always loved about the show is its star, Simon Baker. He is great in the role of Patrick Jane, a widower who is trying to find the man who murdered his wife and daughter, and who also happens to have great powers of observation, to the point of seeming psychic. Patrick is charming, witty, and doesn’t always play by the California Bureau of Investigation’s rules as he assists the agents in solving violent crimes.

  • Morally/Ethically Questionable Character: Dexter Morgan on Dexter, Gaius Baltar on Battlestar Galactica – Maybe it’s strange to choose a serial killer and a former president/current spiritual leader for this category. But when you take a deeper look at Dexter and Gaius, the serial killer seems to have a better value system. I mean, at least Dexter has a system for sorting out good and bad people, and he believes in punishing those who do horrible things. He also (as of season two) has a loving, if strained, relationship with Rita and her two kids. Gaius, on the other hand, can be best described as wishy-washy. He is a complete egotist and self-preservationist. He lies, manipulates, and charms his way into or out of situations, depending on what’s best for him. It’s difficult to know when, if ever, he is showing genuine compassion or interest in someone. His relationships have been equally self-serving. So why do I like Gaius? I guess because despite everything he has done, I feel sorry for him. Plus, he’s a very entertaining character. Dexter, on the other hand, I love because he is such an interesting character, and because he is played by the amazing Michael C. Hall.

  • Crazy Person: Walter Bishop on Fringe – I mentioned above that I love all the characters on Fringe. I am particularly impressed by John Noble as Dr. Bishop. This character is so far removed from his role on 24 as Anatoly Markov that I hardly recognized him. While Noble’s acting is top notch, credit must also go to the writers for creating such a quirky character.
  • Genius: Peter Bishop on Fringe – Taking on the role of Peter, Walter’s son, has given Joshua Jackson a chance to move beyond Pacey Witter in my mind. He was well cast here, and is as charming as ever. In fact, I like him more on this show than I did way back when on Dawson’s Creek.
  • Sidekick: Barney on How I Met Your Mother – I could have put Barney in the morally questionable category with Dexter and Gaius, given his unapologetic player’s mentality. Somehow, though, it is only amusing when he lies, manipulates, and charms his way into women’s beds. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s a good friend that allows me to overlook his less pristine qualities. And I’ve enjoyed the revelation that he’s in love with Robin. It’s given us a chance to see a softer side of his character.

  • Troubled Teen: Tim Riggins on Friday Night Lights – He’s an outsider, misunderstood, abandoned by his parents, but has a heart of gold. Kind of. Riggins is one of those characters who is good for comic relief, but who also demonstrates how good Friday Night Lights is at developing its characters. He could have just been the token slacker on the football team, but instead we’ve been offered glimpses into why he’s the way he is. Yes, he’s a slacker, but he’d like to be more than that, which is why we always cheer him on.

  • Leader: Laura Roslin, William Adama on Battlestar Galactica – I’ve loved watching Roslin and Adama’s relationship evolve from hostile to cordial to friendly to loving. It’s been heartbreaking to watch her struggle again with cancer, and Adama right there with her. It is rare to see such a deep, well-developed relationship between an older couple in today’s television landscape. All the more reason to love these characters.
  • Possibly Evil Mastermind: Ben on Lost – Oh, Benjamin Linus and his shifty eyes. You can never tell if he’s telling the truth or simply manipulating the situation to his advantage. But after he had to watch his daughter die (how heartbreaking was that?!), I feel more empathy for him. And now that we know that he is following someone else’s orders, he doesn’t seem so evil. I liked the direction the show took his character at the end of last season: Benjamin Linus, secret agent.
  • Tag Team: Liz Lemon and Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock – What a fun, comic duo they are! Goofy, sarcastic Liz and serious, even-tempered Jack. They are the best reason to watch 30 Rock.
  • New Character on a Returning Show: Holly on The Office – I am always skeptical of new characters on shows that have an established cast, so I was surprised by how much and how quickly I loved Holly. Too bad she was transferred out of Scranton so quickly. Perhaps we haven’t seen the last of her? (fingers crossed!)

  • Secondary Character on a Comedy: Toby on The Office, Kenneth the Page on 30 Rock – Poor Toby. He tries to move to Costa Rica and ends up having a horrible experience. He comes back to Scranton and has to put up with Michael’s constant insults of him. What did Toby do to incur so much of Michael’s hatred? Is it just that he’s the HR guy? It’s sad, but in a funny way. Kenneth, on the other hand, is an absurd character. He is so full of life and enthusiasm that you just can’t help but laugh. He’s had some stand-out moments this season, such as his success as an elevator jokester, and his frozen fist pump to celebrate the Night Court reunion.
  • Secondary Character on a Drama: Sun on Lost, Annie on Life on Mars – Sun has always been my favorite female character on Lost, and perhaps the most interesting one as well. I am still in denial that Jin died in the boat explosion – I’ve loved their relationship. The episode about Sun having their baby (flash forward) and Jin rushing to the hospital (flashback) was sneaky and almost cruel to viewers, but it succeeded at giving his death more emotional impact. Annie on Life on Mars is a sunnier character, with her golden hair and a smile on her face. It’s nice to have a little sunshine in the otherwise testosterone heavy police department.
  • Cute couple: Jim and Pam on The Office – Jim and Pam have been a lovable couple from season one, and now that they are together, they are even more so. I’ve enjoyed seeing their ups and downs this season and hope that the writers don’t force a break-up. Since the show doesn’t revolve around just their relationship, I don’t think it’s necessary to mess with a good thing.

  • Destined for each other couple: Penny and Desmond on Lost – What an epic love story these two have! In the season four episode The Constant, viewers had the satisfaction of witnessing their reunion. How perfect was it that Penny answered the phone?! (Now that I think of it, I can’t remember if all that happened in one episode – I need to rewatch that season!) I fear that it might not be all smooth sailing for these two in the future, since Ben has vowed to find Penny and kill her to take revenge on Charles Widmore, who he blames for Alex’s death.

  • Couple with issues: Apollo (Lee) and Starbuck (Kara) on Battlestar Galactica – Issues, for sure, but these two have great chemistry. The first strike against them is that Starbuck used to be involved with Lee’s brother. Strike two is that Kara went and got married right after she proclaimed her undying love for Lee. That’s messed up! Now, from what I remember of last season, they are back to being friends. Let’s see these two crazy kids get back together before the show ends!

  • Good-Guy Cop: Sam Tyler on Life on Mars – Sam is a lovable character for many reasons. He’s attractive (always important on a tv show, am I right?), he cares about people, he’s fun, and he’s making the most of a weird situation. What would you do if you woke up in 1973? I would probably curl into a ball and stay in bed, hoping I’d wake up soon. Instead, he just goes on with his life, solving crimes, and trying to put together the pieces to explain what happened to him.
  • Villain who died an untimely death: Adam on Heroes – Once David Anders was gone, I had no reason left to continue watching the show. In fact, Adam was about the only reason I watched Season Two, much less Season Three.

  • Good Guy who died an untimely death: Warrick Brown on CSI – I’ve heard about his personal issues, and I know that his contract was up and he was getting expensive to keep around. But, he was my favorite character, and his presence is missed this season. It was fun to watch him and Nick interact, and he was always so super cool. He exuded coolness even while walking across a room. That being said, the episodes revolving around his death were well done, so at least he got a proper send-off.

Favorite Music


  • Theme Song: The Office, Dexter – Both of these shows’ theme songs perfectly fit their tone. The Office music is goofy and fun, and Dexter’s opening has a Miami flair while also being slightly disturbing. I love them both!
  • Creepy Atmospheric Music: Fringe – From the opening credits to the ending scene, the music on Fringe is appropriately creepy and intense, and is another one of the reasons I love the show.
  • Era-Defining Music: Life on Mars – Where else can you hear Cat Stevens, David Bowie, Simon & Garfunkel, and other 70s icons in one place, besides a personal playlist? The music is what sealed the deal to keep me watching this show. It adds just the right tone to make me feel like I’m watching a show from another time. Plus, it has reminded me of some really great music from the 70s that I’d otherwise never think to listen to.

Related Post

Stay tuned for my favorite movie and music-related things.

 

Eclaire’s Favorite Things: Household Edition January 4, 2009

Filed under: Food,Memories,Tivo — Emily @ 4:41 pm
Tags: , , ,

“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things…”

I’m not giving thousands of dollars’ worth of goodies to my blog readers, a la Oprah. No, I just thought the New Year was a good time to reflect on some of my favorite things. In this installment, I’m covering gadgets, food, etc. I’ll get to tv, music, and movie related categories in a later post. Let’s proceed, in no particular order:

In the Kitchen

  • Grind and Brew Coffeemaker – I have loved coffee for several years, but have always made do with the basic coffee maker models, and for the past few years, a super messy coffee grinder. That all changed last week, when my parents gave me the Cuisinart Grind and Brew Coffeemaker for Christmas. This amazing machine grinds any amount of beans you desire, up to enough for 12 cups of coffee, and you can even program it to grind and brew at a set time. Best of all, it makes an excellent cup of coffee. You can adjust the strength of the brew to light, medium, or strong – so far, I prefer medium. I thought it appropriate to begin with this item because I am enjoying a cup of its delicious coffee right now.

  • Apple Corer – I’ve never been too good with a kitchen knife. It takes me way too long to peel an apple, chop an onion, or dice a tomato. So I am all for contraptions that do the job for me. An added bonus is if it requires minimal cleanup and takes up little space. So while I appreciate my food processor and blender, I really love my apple corer. It’s nothing special. Just a $5 Chef’s Mate product. But when I want a healthy snack, all I have to do is whip out my apple corer, and in seconds I have a perfectly sliced apple to dip in peanut butter. Yum!

  • Garlic Press – This is another small, inexpensive kitchen gadget that I love. Fresh garlic tastes so much better than the minced garlic in a jar, or especially the garlic powder from the grocery store spice aisle. My garlic press makes it easy to add fresh garlic to anything.

Food and Beverage

Avocado Smoothie

  • Fat Straws’ Avocado Smoothie – Most people I know make an ugly face when I tell them about this creation from my favorite bubble tea place in Dallas, Fat Straws. But I love it! The ingredients are simple: fresh avocado, milk, brown sugar, and ice. I also have them add bubbles (the tapioca balls, also known as boba). I love this smoothie because it tastes great, I know exactly what’s in it (I’ve watched them make it every time), and other than the brown sugar, it’s pretty healthy. It’s almost filling enough to be a meal replacement, so if you want to try it, don’t order it right after a big dinner out!

  • Oregon Chai – Next to coffee, chai tea lattes are my favorite hot beverage. Some afternoons, I love to sit down with a cup of Oregon Chai Tea Latte. It’s a quick and easy “specialty” drink without the hassle of leaving home.

  • Corner Bakery’s Chicken Pomodoro Panini – I really never order anything else at Corner Bakery, because I am never disappointed by this sandwich. The chicken is always very flavorful and tender, the bread is crisp, etc.

  • Paciugo’s Gelato – One of the perks of living in Dallas is that cold desserts can be enjoyed year round. (Yesterday, in the heart of wintertime, the high was nearly 80 degrees.) My favorite destination for a frozen treat is Paciugo, which makes the best gelato this side of Italy. I usually order a cup with three different flavors. My favorite choices include pistachio, coffee, chocolate mint, and hazelnut, but I’ve tried such unusual flavors as black pepper olive oil and vanilla lavender.

Household


  • MacBook Pro – I probably use this item more than anything else in my house. It is the first Mac that I’ve ever owned. My previous laptop was a Dell, and while it was fine and relatively dependable, it wasn’t fun and impressive like my Mac, which never ceases to amaze me. Consider me converted.


  • iLap laptop stand – This laptop stand makes it very easy and comfortable to work on my MacBook while lounging on the sofa. It is well-designed, light weight, heat reducing, etc.

  • Tivo – I have spoken fondly of my Tivo many times before here at Eclaire Fare. Click here to read some of my posts that sing its praises. Last spring, we moved our Tivo to the kitchen to make way for a Verizon Fios HD DVR to go with our new HD television. This was a painful decision, but seemed more financially responsible than shelling out a few hundred dollars for an HD Tivo. I wasn’t able to totally let go of the Tivo, and I still prefer it over the Verizon DVR. It seems like Tivo will always be the best DVR, just as Netflix is still the reigning champion of online rentals. We have a rather old Tivo model (older than the one pictured above). I hope to one day own the newest genius creation from Tivo: the Tivo HD XL DVR. But right now the $599 price tag is way too steep.

Comfy Blanket

  • Woolrich down alternative blanket – I love this blanket (and so does my cat, as evidenced by the picture above). I bought it at Target a few years ago, and it is just as soft and warm as a real down blanket would be. I use it all the time, while watching tv, reading, blogging, napping. My husband has recently developed a fondness for this blanket, so I may purchase another one.

What are some of your favorite food and beverages, household items, electronics, etc? Stay tuned for my favorites in the world of tv, movies, and music.