Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

David Anders: One of TV’s Unheralded Heroes February 10, 2011

Filed under: 24,Television,Vampire Diaries — Emily @ 12:56 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

He has played the son of a Russian mobster, the biological father of a vampire-loving teenager, an eternally young ne’er do well, and even the unfortunate victim of a corn-worshipping cult. But to me, he’ll always be Sydney Bristow’s charming, British-accented nemesis, Julian Sark. I’m talking about one of my favorite unheralded tv actors: David Anders.

Mr. Anders was one of the first celebrities who I investigated on IMDb, when I first discovered the website nearly a decade ago. Since I only knew him at the time through his character on Alias, I was surprised to learn that not only was he only in his early 20s, but he was from Oregon. In his role as Sark, he came across as much more mature than 20, and his British accent was so flawless that I had assumed he was really from England. Sadly, most of his subsequent roles haven’t featured such an attractive accent, nor have his characters met very satisfying fates. However, no matter how poorly written or short-lived a role is, if David Anders’ name is attached, I will always check it out. Let’s take a look at some of his work:

  • Alias – (2002-2006) – So far this has been Anders’ most impressive and memorable role. Sark was supposed to be a villain, but he was impossible to dislike! For awhile, the writers hinted that he and Sydney were half-siblings, and I wish that had been true. But at least he crossed over from the dark side in later seasons, to assist Sydney and company on some cases.
  • Heroes – (2007-2010) – Let me be clear. David Anders was the only reason I tuned in to season two of this show, which was already faltering big time by the end of the first season (and it only went down hill from there…) By the next season, Anders’ presence almost wasn’t enough to make me keep watching, the show had become so ridiculous. So when he was killed off with absolutely no fanfare, I immediately stopped watching, with no regrets. Even when his character was alive and well, this was not a villain you loved to love. He was annoying and selfish – not the best role for someone as attractive and charming as David Anders!
  • Children of the Corn – (2009) – Sadly, things didn’t get much better in his next role, SyFy’s tv remake of the classic ’80s horror movie of the same name. The original was campy enough (what was Linda Hamilton thinking?!), so why redo it? At least it gave me a chance to see David Anders again, in a slightly less annoying role than that of Adam Monroe on Heroes. As is usually the case in horror movies, Anders’ character didn’t meet a very good end.
  • 24 – (2010) – I had started to tire of Jack Bauer and company by the time this final season rolled around. (I never fully recovered from the bizarre direction they took Tony Almeida…) I was considering not watching, but then the names of the new cast started being announced: Katee Sackhoff (Starbuck was back!), Freddie Prinze, Jr. (that should be interesting…), and David Anders! So yet again, Anders became my motivation for watching a show. And his role as Josef Bazhaev didn’t disappoint. He was a “bad” guy, but he had the redeeming qualities of risking his own life to help his brother, and ultimately deciding to turn on his Russian mob father to help Jack save the day. It was a short-lived role, but a step in the right direction.
  • Vampire Diaries (2010-2011) – And now it appears that David Anders has found a new generation of fans on the CW. Many viewers of Vampire Diaries were probably starting kindergarten when Julian Sark first came to life on Alias. So to them, it’s not strange for him to be playing someone’s father on this show about a group of teenagers, two vampire brothers, and apparently a clan of werewolves (I stopped watching during the first season, so I’m not really sure what’s going on now…) But to me it’s very weird! He’s only 30 years old, and he’s playing father to Elena, who must be 18. Do the math. Then again, he has often played roles older than his real age. I did tune back in to this show to see him, but at the time it appeared to be his last episode (as had the episode before that, when he had been left for dead…) Plus, I admit to fast forwarding through the show and only watching his scenes. But I am glad that he is back on tv – hopefully for a prolonged stay this time.
  • The Riot (2011) – Perhaps this will be the year that Anders has a breakthrough year. He’s turning 30 in March, and he’s appearing in a feature length film called The Riot. It doesn’t exactly feature a top notch cast, but headliners Ron Perlman and Michael Clarke Duncan tend to have success in action movies. Based on the synopsis (four friends stick together and try to survive in a world “on the cusp of disaster”), it looks like he’ll be playing a good guy for once. Let’s hope this role will get David Anders noticed even more, so he can land some better roles, and I’ll only have to watch great shows to see him.
 

24 Season 8: The First 4 Hours January 20, 2010

After seeing all the action-packed promos for this season of 24, I was more excited about the show’s return than I had been for a few years. And the two-night, four hour season opener didn’t disappoint. There were plenty of twists and turns, and perhaps more importantly, there were a lot of new but familiar faces.

The cast of 24: Season 8

The Players

  • The Veterans – Superman Jack Bauer, the glue that holds the show together, is back, but is initially more subdued than normal. He’s too busy being a grandpa to Kim’s daughter Terri to burden himself with unraveling an assassination plot. Of course, being the noble hero that he is, he soon finds himself back at CTU, playing a crucial role in the investigation. Also returning is the lovably annoying Chloe O’Brien, who has managed to survive since she first joined CTU in season three. With as quickly as the bodies pile up on this show, it’s quite miraculous that she is still around. Jack and Chloe are the only two characters who have been around long enough to be considered veterans. (Well, there’s Kim, but it doesn’t seem like she will be very involved this season since she’s already on a plane back to L.A. with her family.) I’m holding out hope that Secret Service Agent Aaron Pierce will show up again. He’s the closest thing to an Energizer bunny (besides Jack, of course) that the show has. He’s constantly in harm’s way, but always manages to survive.
  • The Sophomores – Returning for a second season are President Allison Taylor (fresh off a divorce initiated by her husband, who couldn’t forgive her for sending their daughter to prison for her involvement in a murder), and her loyal sidekick Ethan Kanin. Also back in the game is Agent Renee Walker, although she’s no longer working for the FBI. When we last saw her in season 7, she was about to go off the books in her interrogation of a suspect, and apparently she crossed a line that sent her to a very dark place. So far, Annie Wersching is doing a great job of portraying Walker’s new personality. She is void of emotion, her eyes look empty, and she doesn’t seem to care about anything. It’s crazy to say, but in her current state she’s like a crazier, female version of Jack!
  • The New Players
    • The Hassan Family – This season’s initial crisis involves a plot to assassinat President Omar Hassan, the leader of an unnamed Middle Eastern country. He is in the U.S. to meet with President Taylor about promoting peace, disarming nuclear weapons, etc., but someone wants him dead, which throws a few kinks in the peace summit. He is joined by his wife (although it appears they have a loveless marriage) and daughter (who seems very loyal to her father). We soon learn that his chief of staff and brother, Farhad, isn’t as loyal as Omar would like to believe.
    • CTU: New York – The first six seasons were set in L.A., and last season was in D.C. Season 8 takes us to the streets of New York, and so we meet a new batch of CTU agents and analysts. (It sure is convenient that Chloe got transferred to this branch when Morris lost his job!) The head of CTU, Brian Hastings, seems to be as clueless as many of his predecessors, since junior analyst Chloe has a better handle on the situation than he does. And there’s the usual melodrama among the geek squad, with newbie Dana Walsh being terrorized by a former boyfriend who is threatening to expose her deep dark secret, and sneaky Arlo Glass, who spends most of his time either hitting on or spying on Dana. The one thing this CTU branch seems to have going for it is Agent Cole Ortiz, who is like a Jack-in-Training. He’s already pulled off a couple of Jack-worthy saves, so I have my fingers crossed that he will make it through this season.
    • Odds and Ends
      • Rob Weiss – He’s President Taylor’s new, young Chief of Staff. I’m not sure what to think of him yet.
      • Meredith Reed – She is the reporter who Hastings was convinced was working against Hassan, but it turns out the only thing she had to hide was the affair she’s been having with Hassan. Oops! That information is sure to resurface, especially since Farhad knows about it. I have a feeling he may use it to try to blackmail his brother.
      • The Villains – The first villain on the scene was President Hassan’s brother, Farhad, and as the plot thickened (by way of a series of tattoos on the assassin’s body), we were introduced to members of a Russian Crime Syndicate. The apparent leader goes by the name Bazhaev, and he has two sons, one who appears to be dying in a wine cellar, and the other, Josef, who is skeptical about getting involved with Farhad. One more thing about the tattoed assassin, Davros – I immediately recognized actor Doug Hutchinson as the man who played creepy Eugene Tooms on a couple episodes of The X-Files. Strangely, I didn’t remember until I read his filmography that he also played Horace Goodspeed on Lost. I guess it was the long haired hippie look that threw me off.

Familiar Faces

As I mentioned earlier, I was especially looking forward to this season because of some familiar actors who would be joining the cast:

  • Katee Sackhoff – Little Miss Starbuck seems to be playing a more feminine, weaker character than the fearless, aggressive Kara Thrace. But I am intrigued by her mysterious back story. Her name was Jenny, she was apparently poor and ran with a bad crowd, yet somehow she found a new identity as Dana Walsh and landed a job at CTU?
  • Freddie Prinze, Jr. – On today’s edition of “Whatever Happened To…,” we welcome back Mr. She’s All That, or if you prefer, Summer Catch. This former teen heart throb is hanging up his dancing shoes and picking up a gun. I must say, I like him as an intense, determined agent. He and Sarah Michelle Gellar have been married for almost 8 years now, and as a fan of Buffy, I kind of liked him more after they were together. All that to say, I’m glad to have him on the show.
  • David Anders! – Yes, I felt that the exclamation point was necessary. Ever since he played Julian Sark on Alias, I have had a major tv crush on David Anders, and his knack for accents. While even he couldn’t save the recent remake of Children of the Corn, I am hoping to see good things from him as a Russian villain on 24. I am even holding out hope that he will eventually turn on his father and help Jack save the day. Probably just wishful thinking, but that’s a much better alternative than Jack putting him in a choke hold and killing him!
  • Anil Kapoor – When I saw the 24 previews, I knew this was a familiar face, but I couldn’t place it. Then it hit me: “Who wants to be a… Mill-on-are!” President Hassan was the game show host on Slumdog Millionaire. So far he is doing an excellent job with this more serious role.
  • Mykelti Williamson – He’ll always be Fearless from Boomtown to me. I loved him on that show, and while he’s not nearly as likable here, it’s still nice to see him. And there’s still time for him to exhibit some more redeemable qualities.
  • Callum Keith Rennie – There must be a Battlestar Galactica connection on the casting staff, because joining Starbuck from that show is Leoben, one of the Cylons. He hasn’t made an appearance yet, except in photographs, but he will be one of the Russian villains.

Where Are We Going?

So, the initial storyline was introduced and somewhat resolved: the assassination attempt on President Hassan. With 20 hours still left, what can we expect?

  • Jack and Renee go undercover – In another convenient backstory detail, it turns out that Agent Walker was the FBI’s top undercover agent with the Russian mob. With one phone call, she swoops into CTU and is ready to go back into the field. Her decision to violently remove her contact’s parole bracelet at the end of the fourth hour was truly shocking. What in the world?! She is dead serious about playing her part, I suppose. It will be interesting to see Jack play the level headed one next to her crazy out of control self. Their goal: um, not sure yet. I suppose they need to find out what weapons the Russians plan to sell to Farhad, and what he plans to do with them.
  • The Russians and Farhad plot their evil deeds – There’s much to be discovered about this plot line, which has only just been introduced.
  • Presidents Taylor and Hassan continue their peace negotiations – I am sure that CTU’s investigation will continue to put pressure on these peace talks, and will threaten to end them. Then there’s the looming threat of Hassan’s affair becoming public knowledge.
  • Jack’s desire to get to L.A. – As Kiefer Sutherland said in a recent interview, Jack has a different mindset this season because he has something to fight for: a new, happy life with his daughter and granddaughter in L.A. So while he’ll still be fighting for truth and justice, he’ll also be trying to make it through the day in one piece.
  • CTU shenanigans – What will become of Dana and Cole’s engagement? Will Dana be able to get rid of her old boyfriend, or will he expose the truth? Will Hastings shape up as director, or will he be replaced? (If only Bill were still alive…)

It looks like this season is shaping up to be a great one. The only thing I didn’t like was when Jack got tortured in the basement by that cop who thought he was a cop killer. I thought it was too early in the season for such over the top melodrama. All the action leading up to and during Agent Ortiz’s heroic car swerving maneuver, which saved President Hassan’s life, was truly thrilling, and the turn of events afterwards was just as intriguing. What have you thought about this season so far?

 

24: Digesting the Last Four Hours May 25, 2009

Filed under: 24,Television — Emily @ 5:12 pm
Tags: , , ,

So I finally finished watching this season of 24. Considering that I was five episodes behind as of three days ago, it’s impressive that I only finished a week past the finale’s air date. For some reason, my interest in the show waned about mid April. Crazy, right? How can you just stop watching 24 midstream? It was around the time that it was revealed that Tony was, in fact, bad after all. I was disappointed by this turn of events, and was annoyed by all the drama with Olivia at the White House. Thankfully, I was happy to see the plot take a couple of last minute detours to give us a high octane, fascinating finish to the season.

I’m always amazed when I think back to the beginning of any given season of 24, and realize how many turns the story has taken since then. It’s no different this time around. I blogged about the first four hours of season seven back in January; so many characters that were integral in those episodes, and all the storylines that kept us tuning in, are things of the distant past now. Jack was working with Agent Walker, as well as Bill, Chloe, and Tony. Their enemy was a Sangalan warlord who had ties to corrupt American goverment officials. Fast forward to the end of the season, and all the Sangalans have either been killed off or taken into custody. Jack’s crew changed several times over the course of the season. He turned on Agent Walker a couple of times, and Tony turned on Jack a couple of times. Bill sacrificed his own life to save the President, and Chloe was arrested and then released again to help save the day. As for the White House events, I wasn’t a huge fan of the siege during which Bill died. Once that settled down, though, I found the family politics of President Taylor and her daughter mildly entertaining. Olivia could have been this year’s Kim, but she was just intriguing enough to escape that stigma.

Rather than summarize the closing hours of the season, since everyone probably watched them before I did, I’ll give my opinion on the major plot turns the writers gave us as the clock ticked down.

  • The Shadow Organization’s Plot to Release a Bioweapon in D.C. – As ludicrous as this story was, that a secret organization would throw caution to the wind and throw together a last minute terrorist attack in a desperate attempt to seize control of the U.S. government, it was highly entertaining. I try not to analyze the motivations of this organization too much. I mean, we don’t know what issues they had with the current U.S. government (other than what Jonas Hodges ranted about), or what they intended to do if they somehow gained control and seized power. But at least the writers tied up some loose ends from previous seasons, including explaining President Logan’s involvement with these people and identifying the mastermind responsible for Michelle and President Palmer’s deaths. Back to the bioweapon plot: they cast a likable actor (Omid Abtahi, who recently played Tony the tech guy on My Own Worst Enemy) to play a character we wanted to survive his unfortunate circumstances. As Jibraan, the innocent immigrant that Tony’s gang chose as the fall guy for their operation, he humanized the already disturbing chain of events. To say that the action in these episodes was fast-paced is putting it mildly. From Jack and Renee’s frantic rush to locate Tony and the device, to Jibraan racing up the stairs of the subway, and finally to Jack throwing the bioweapon into a sealed compartment just in the nick of time, this would have been a satisfying final chapter to the season. Instead, we got a final burst of intense plot twists.
  • Olivia’s been a very bad girl – Another silly element of this season was President Taylor’s quick reconciliation with her estranged daughter Olivia, and her even swifter appointment of her as her Chief of Staff. But once I got used to Olivia acting like a spoiled, selfish child all the time, I was entertained by this campy diversion from the main events. In a moment of understandable anger over Jonas Hodges’ escape from prosecution for a life in Witness Protection, she orders a hit on his life, only to back out at the last minute. Too bad for her that her shady contact told the hitman to proceed anyway. What followed was a series of events during which Olivia got what she’d had coming to her for a long time. I love that Aaron and Ethan Kanin worked together to uncover the truth – I knew that Ethan didn’t have the real data card on him when Olivia detained him. At least Olivia came around in the end, and was brave enough to confess the truth of her actions to her mother and father. That scene was well played by all involved. How awful was it when Henry Taylor told his wife that her career is the reason that their son is dead? I really thought that maybe she was going to resign the presidency and try to work on the issues with her husband and daughter. But instead, she alienated herself from both of them by doing the right thing – turning Olivia over to the justice department. I’m curious about who actually planted the bomb that killed Hodges, and if this story will surface again next season. I see some potential for more development…
  • Kim and the Cougar – In a strange and subtle way, the 24 writers revisited the now infamous scene from season two (?) in which Kim evaded a cougar in the California wilderness. This time around the cougar wasn’t an animal, but the human version, as in an older woman (Sarah) dating a younger man (Bob). Maybe it’s a stretch for me to find a connection between the two, but that’s how I see it. I’m happy to say, though, that this time around, the story was much more believable and entertaining. Kim has wised up over the years, and it was fun to see her step into her dad’s role of following a suspect, once bad guys Bob and Sarah realized their act as a married couple wasn’t fooling her anymore. (And that quick and deathly airport shootout was really something, too.) Kim’s quick thinking move to grab Bob’s laptop from his burning car ultimately led the FBI to Jack, and allowed them to take Tony and Wilson into custody. Well done, Kim. Now get back home to your husband and daughter. And really, there’s no need for you to pay your dad a visit next season. Quit while you’re ahead. 🙂
  • Jack in mortal peril – Poor, poor Jack. If he’s not being exposed to a deadly bioweapon or betrayed by his longtime comrade, he’s being blackmailed into helping terrorists escape custody and having his organs harvested to engineer a new strain of the bioweapon! Of course, we knew he wouldn’t actually die, even though various characters kept reminding us that he had only hours to live. They even sent in a spiritual advisor to talk to him in his last moments. By the time next season begins, Kim’s willingness to try the stem cell treatment will have proved effective, and Jack will be back to his superhero strength and resolve – maybe with an occasional moment of confusion or some anger management issues as remnants of his exposure. But even though we knew Jack would survive, watching him endure all these horrible things while also dealing with incapacitating symptoms, made for some exciting television! I was certainly surprised when he jumped off the stretcher and killed Tony’s medical team with a few flicks of a scalpel and a couple of head locks.
  • Tony’s Grand Plan for Revenge – This remains the most disappointing aspect of the season for me. In the initial promos, we saw Tony was clearly the bad guy. But then, a few episodes in, they told us he wasn’t actually bad. Then we found out he was bad after all and had been playing both sides. But wait… that wasn’t exactly the whole story. He wasn’t doing all this because he was evil. He was simply trying to find closure on what happened to Michelle. Turns out that the same mastermind of this shadow organization is the man responsible for ordering the hit on Michelle. So, we’re supposed to believe that Tony was willing to let thousands of innocent people die, and betray his few remaining friends, just so he would have a chance to meet face to face with Alan Wilson, and kill him? I like to think that Tony was a bigger person than that. He wouldn’t be so self-absorbed and obsessed with revenge that he would forget all his training as a CTU operative, his oath to protect the innocent, and so on and so forth. But as much as I hated seeing Tony so lost and gone over to the dark side, the final revelation that he was motivated by revenge was a better option than that he was simply evil or crazy. Well, I think he was a little crazy – make that a lot crazy. Attaching explosives to Jack and using him as a weapon to reach Wilson?! I really thought Jack was going to have to kill Tony when Tony wouldn’t get out of the way for them to detain Wilson. Instead, Jack shot him in the arm. Tony’s deranged, furious speech in this scene was a bit too campy for my taste, but then the climactic 24 moment of the villain’s fall is often over done. Such is the nature of the show.

The only other thing I have to say about the final episodes is that there was a recurring theme of making tough choices and dealing with the consequences. Olivia chose to end a man’s life, but couldn’t handle it when people found out what she did. President Taylor had to decide between maintaining her integrity as a world leader, or keeping what remained of her family in one piece. Kim had to risk her own safety to keep sight of the man who could lead to her father, and she succeeded. Tony stubbornly stuck to his plan to carry out revenge for Michelle’s death, despite the high cost of lives and his own conscience. Chloe risked losing her life to help Jack save countless more lives, even though it meant she might never see her husband and child again. And perhaps most chilling, Agent Taylor apparently succumbed to her season long battle between doing what was right and doing what was necessary, as she took off her badge and stepped into Wilson’s interrogation room, to, we can assume, torture him into giving up the names of the other people in his organization.

All things considered, I think this was one of the best seasons of 24. It was well worth the long, strike-induced wait. I look forward to watching next season, but I don’t mind having seven months to catch my breath!

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Random Thoughts on TV: March 2009 March 24, 2009

Lately, I can’t seem to find the time to write a detailed post on anything other than episodes of Lost. Since I’m short on time, I’ve decided to compile my thoughts on various tv show happenings into one random post. First up, American Idol.

  • American Idol – I’m not missing this show at all this season. Althought last season I cheered for David Cook and was amazed when America actually chose him as the winner, I didn’t feel compelled to watch again this year. How could this season live up to last? What were the chances that my favorite contestant would actually win again (I’m still bitter about Jennifer Hudson’s too early ouster all those years ago)? Despite my decision not to keep up with the show this year, I’ve seen an episode here and there, since some of my friends and family are watching. From what I’ve seen, I think I made the right choice to steer clear. The talent pool seems to be extremely lacking. There are some good voices, some pretty faces, but not much star power. Of course, my assessment might have been somewhat colored by the fact that I sampled the Top 11 on country music week (I can’t stand this genre!). I’ll continue to hear updates on this season through the grapevine, but meanwhile I’ll be eagerly awaiting the superior So You Think You Can Dance.
  • Battlestar Galactica – “So Say We All!” So say we all that we don’t want this show to be over. 😦   The series finale aired last Friday, but we haven’t watched yet, partly because I haven’t had a good two hour window in which to watch the finale in its entirety, but mainly because my husband and I feel like if we don’t watch it, then the show isn’t over yet. Warped logic, I know, but it will just be so sad to see the credits roll for the last time. On the other hand, we are anxious to see how it all ends, so I have a feeling we’ll watch in the next few days. This season has been excellent, from the surprising revelation of the fifth Cylon’s identity, to Roslin and Adama’s understated yet enduring relationship, to the changing dynamic between the Cylons and humans. I am seriously considering purchasing the entire series on DVD once it’s available, and forcing my skeptical friends and family (you know who you are!) to watch it. Plus, I want to watch it from beginning to end to clear up all the confusion about the mythology that the breaks between seasons caused.
  • 24 – This has been an excellent season! President Taylor is a vast improvement over the past couple of characters to inhabit the show’s fictional oval office. I hope we see more of her husband as well, because he is a very likable character. In fact, I have enjoyed all the new characters (except maybe for FBI traitor Sean, who seems to be out of the picture now), particularly Agent Walker, Agent Moss (can’t help but love Jeffrey Nordling from his days on Once and Again), and Janis the brooding computer whiz. And the show has managed to shift gears from the face-off with Sangalan warlords to an American-led national threat without grasping at straws. Hats off to the writers for reinventing 24 this season! The move from L.A. to D.C. was a smart one.
  • Life on Mars – Boo to ABC for cancelling this excellent show, but kudos to the network for at least giving the showrunners enough notice to provide viewers with answers and give the show a proper send-off. I hate it when shows are cancelled last minute, and viewers are left forever wondering what happened next. (One example of this is Invasion, from a few years ago, which was flawed but intriguing, and never got a chance to tell its story in full.) I love the characters on Life on Mars. Jason O’Mara is my new tv crush – I hope he finds a successful follow-up role to Sam Tyler. I’ve even grown to like the annoyingly sexist Ray Carling (played by the terrific Michael Imperioli). But most impressive is the fact that I like Harvey Keitel as Lt. Hunt. He is brazen, insensitive, but unwaveringly loyal to his co-workers. Before this show, I had never been able to move past Harvey Keitel’s blatant display of nudity in The Piano. Harvey Keitel’s completely naked body isn’t something that I ever wanted to see, and it wasn’t an easy image to shake from my memory. Thanks to Life on Mars and Lt. Hunt, I have a much more pleasant (and fully clothed!) image to associate with the actor.  I’ll certainly miss the characters, the fantastic music, the quirky tone, and everything else about this show, but hopefully we’ll get some answers and Sam Tyler will have some kind of happy ending. (If I were him I’d rather stay with Annie than go back to Lisa Bonet.)
  • The Office – I haven’t enjoyed The Office as much this season. Certainly there have been some outstanding episodes, but the quality has been inconsistent. Take, for instance, last week’s episode, in which Michael made a fool of himself because he didn’t like having the new VP calling the shots in his office. (This episode also had Jim in the unfamiliar role of the stupid guy, when he wore a tux to the office on the day he should have been impressing the new VP.) Michael has come across as the annoying idiot far too often this season – on every phone call with David Wallace, when he tried to blame Dwight for the golden ticket idea then tried to take it back, when he traveled with Pam to give some presentations at other branches, etc. We haven’t seen much of Toby and Ryan this season. Where are they? Then there’s the awkwardness of the Angela/Dwight/Andy love triangle, the dissolution of which has left Andy with little purpose on the show. How about less of the dynamic idiot due of Michael and Dwight, and more of the awkward office politics  and interaction among the quirky characters (how great was it when Oscar and Andy befriended one another on the trip to Canada?).
  • 30 Rock – While The Office has lost points with me, 30 Rock’s stock is rising. It is consistently funny and smart, even when it’s absurd. I love that Jenna is always getting one-upped by Tracy, that Liz can’t find a stable relationship, that Jack isn’t really as together as he’d have everyone believe (and I love how his relationship with Salma Hayek’s character has developed), etc. Earlier this season I applauded the show for its hilarious tribute to Night Court. The writers outdid themselves again recently with a Harry and the Henderson’s themed episode. I guess I grew up watching the same tv and movies as the 30 Rock writers, because I love their retro pop culture references. Not only did they show the ridiculously sentimental clip of John Lithgow telling Harry to go away and live in the woods, but they wove this idea into the very fabric of the episode, by having Jack use a similar tactic to convince Frank he should give up on law school, and by having a young father witness this debacle between two fatherless men, thus convincing him to stay with his girlfriend and raise their baby together. Not to mention having John Lithgow himself running into Liz Lemon on the elevator. Brilliant!

Even more random thoughts:

  • I am growing tired of The Mentalist’s leaps from horrific death scenes to happy music and silly jokes. A notable example is last week’s episode, in which one character went from shooting and killing a suspect to joking with Patrick in a matter of seconds. I’m all for light-hearted crime shows, but sometimes too much lightheartedness can seem insensitive.
  • The episodes of Friday Night Lights are piling up on my DVR. I now have six unwatched episodes. I assume this is the final season, so perhaps this is my way of making the show last longer (as I am attempting with the finale of Battlestar Galactica).
  • I am missing Fringe during its spring break. I look forward to its final fun of new episodes when it returns in April. Surely this show will be renewed for next season. It is the best new show of the year, in my opinion (with Life on Mars as a close second).
  • I didn’t need to say much about Lost here since I’ve devoted individual posts to each episode of the season. All I’ll say is that I think this is the best season yet, or at least as good as season one. I love how the show has reinvented itself time and again. And I love that Sawyer has taken on a more integral role.

I feel better now. It was good to get all of these ideas out of my head and onto the Internet. How are you feeling about tv these days? Good? Bad? Indifferent?

 

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!

 

From Sesame Street to 30 Rock: A TV Viewing Timeline June 1, 2007

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My earliest memories of watching TV include images of Big Bird, Bert and Ernie, and Snuffleupagus (back when he was Big Bird’s “invisible” friend). I’ve waded through many shows since then, of varying degrees of quality and appeal. Here’s a glimpse into what my TV viewing was like at various stages of my life. I am sure I will leave some things out, but these are the shows that left the biggest mark in my mind. And a special thanks goes to wikipedia for having such clear and detailed information about every U.S. network television primetime schedule since 1946. Craziness!

Click here to peruse Wikipedia’s Primetime TV Schedule Pages

Early 1980s

  • Sesame Street – I loved the time I spent on Sesame Street with The Count, Oscar the Grouch, Maria, Bob, and the whole gang.
  • Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – The Land of Make-Believe. The trolley. The fish tank. Need I say more? Mister Rogers was a great tv neighbor for kids everywhere. There is no one like him for today’s kids.
  • Today’s Special – Remember this one? The concept sounds disturbing, but somehow I loved it as a pre-schooler: a mannequin in a department store comes to life at night when a magical hat is put on his head. He is joined by a store employee named Jodie, a puppet security guard, a giant mouse, and a talking computer, and together they have fun and learn new things. If you would like to do some more reminiscing, check out this very thorough fan site devoted to the show: Today’s Special Fan Website

Mid-1980s

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  • The Cosby Show – I watched the Huxtables through most of their tv lives, and enjoyed watching all the kids grow up while I did.
  • Who’s the Boss – This was one of my favorites during the ’80s. Who didn’t love Sam, played by cute little Alyssa Milano? I even had a poster of the cast hanging up in my room!
  • The Dukes of Hazard – Ah, the Duke boys. I don’t remember much about this show except for the General Lee (someone in my hometown had an exact replica that they proudly parked in front of their house) and the winding roads of the chase scenes. There was a winding, dirt road (at least that’s how I remember it) that we would take as a shortcut to my babysitter’s house, and often as we drove on it, I imagined that I was being chased by Boss Hogg. Based on what I have seen of this show in reruns, there wasn’t much more than cars and chase scenes to remember.
  • The Love Boat/Fantasy Island – I had to keep these two together here because they have always been linked in my memory. That makes sense, since they aired back-to-back on Saturday nights. As a 6 or 7 year old, I really didn’t know what was going on, yet I remember the opening sequence of each show very well: “The Love Boat” theme song playing while a cruise ship sails across the ocean, and Fantasy Island’s Tattoo shouting “the plane! the plane!” while ringing a bell. These were some of my very first television dramas, along with Simon and Simon, and Knight Rider. 24 and Lost seem so far removed from all of those – and so much better!

The Late 1980s

By the late ’80s, I was almost exclusively watching sitcoms – there were so many to choose from! I think I can safely say that I watched more tv during this phase of my life than I have at any time since, which is why I had to divide shows by days of the week. In my quest to jog my memory, I found a tribute to a fantastic collection of primetime sitcoms, with links to their opening sequences on YouTube. Enjoy!:

Click here for classic sitcom fun

Monday nights: ALF, The Hogan Family, Murphy Brown, Designing Women

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  • ALF – We watched a show about an alien who was played by a puppet? Maybe there’s hope for the new Cavemen sitcom after all…
  • The Hogan Family – My favorite thing about this show, besides the fact that it starred Jason Bateman (future star of Arrested Development), was that its name was changed so much. It went from Valerie to Valerie’s Family before settling on The Hogan Family for the rest of its run.
  • Murphy Brown and Designing Women – These shows marked the beginning of my viewing of a string of shows geared toward an older audience. I think the funny, distinctive characters drew me in. I even watched Newhart sometimes, for the same reason.

Wednesday night: Growing Pains, Head of the Class, The Wonder Years, Doogie Howser, M.D.

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  • Growing Pains and the Wonder Years have the two best theme songs of all time, in my opinion. They were both so catchy, and so in tune with the feel of the show. Growing Pains was another show where I enjoyed watching the actors grow up. And I still remember Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss on The Wonder Years. As for Doogie Howser – the adventures of a brilliant teenage doctor – there’s another ridiculous show concept that actually worked. It’s nice that after so many years, Neil Patrick Harris has finally found another memorable sitcom character to play. Now when I see him, all I think is “Barney” – not even a trace of Doogie is left.

Thursday night: The Cosby Show and A Different World

  • Of course I watched the Cosby Show spin-off!

Friday night: And so began TGIF – Perfect Strangers, Full House, Mr. Belvedere, Just the Ten of Us

  • And the catchy theme songs/opening sequences just kept on coming. I’m pretty sure now that none of these shows was really very funny, but those Olsen twins sure were cute, and I always found it a challenge to keep all eight of Coach Lubbock’s kids straight on Just the Ten of Us.

Saturday night: More “old people” sitcoms! – 227, Amen, The Golden Girls, Empty Nest

  • More catchy theme songs! To this day, I still break out in “Thank you for being a friend, travel down the road and back again…” from time to time. We are really going to miss those theme songs when we look back on today’s shows in 20 years. Theme songs and opening sequences are becoming obsolete.

The Early 1990s

As I moved into my pre-teen years, I moved away from sitcoms and toward hour long shows. I still watched some of my old favorites, and added a couple of new ones, like Night Court, Family Matters, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and Blossom, but the early 90s shows I have the fondest memories of are the dramas.

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  • The Young Riders – Lots of cute guys riding around on horses delivering packages to people. I’m sure I wasn’t the only tween girl who watched this show.
  • The Commish – How interesting it is that when I watched this, I thought that Michael Chiklis, who played the title character, was like 45. In fact, he was only 28! He looks younger now, 15 years later, playing Vic Mackey on The Shield. The most upsetting thing that happened on The Commish is when my favorite character, police officer Stan, was killed in a car bombing. 😦
  • Quantum Leap – My clearest memory of this show is the last image of the series finale: “Dr. Sam Beckett never returned home.” That caption appeared on an otherwise black screen, and I cried. That seemed like such a hopeless, sad ending.
  • Twin Peaks – My family being the strange people that we are, we would all sit down and watch this strangest show EVER together. Log Lady, One-armed Man, Dancing Dwarf, no problem. We were all fascinated by the bizarre characters, storylines, and mysteries.

The Mid-1990s

In theory, my tv-viewing should have become drastically reduced during this time period, because this is when I got my driver’s license, which would have enabled me to find other diversions besides tv. Let’s have a look at what kept me glued to the tube:

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  • Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman – Dean Cain was so cute as Clark Kent and Superman!
  • Party of Five – a pre-Lost Matthew Fox, and a cute teenaged Scott Wolf. Plus, this show made me cry every week. What more could a teenage girl ask for?
  • Friends and Seinfeld – It took me a couple of seasons to catch on to both of these classic shows. I preferred Seinfeld over Friends, and still think it is the superior show. But, during my high school years, they both gave me lots to laugh about.

The Late 1990s

By fall 1996, I was in college, which meant I had my very own TV and VCR on which to record my favorite shows while I was off studying or enjoying my newfound independence. So what shows were worthy of my VCR’s recording capabilities?

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  • The X-Files – This sci-fi procedural remains one of my all-time favorite shows. Mulder and Scully’s investigations into the paranormal were interesting, sometimes creepy, and always entertaining.
  • Ally McBeal – I was lured in by dancing babies, toilet flush remotes, and pet frogs – in other words, by the quirkiness of this show.
  • Dawson’s Creek and Roswell – And so began my love affair with the WB. Finally, a channel had arrived that catered to people my age! I would no longer have to depend on geriatric entertainment like Golden Girls and Empty Nest. Now I had shows about high school students. Sure, some of them were aliens, but I could still relate to them more than the previous characters I had been watching for so many years. Wednesday nights meant heading over to my friend Leah’s house to watch these two shows with a group of friends – a vanilla cream soda and popcorn in hand – with follow-up discussion of the episode always a given.

The Early 2000s

Now I had graduated from college and moved to Alabama to go to graduate school. I didn’t know anyone in my new city, so my tv kept me company. I added a few new show to ones like Dawson’s Creek and the X-Files that I was still watching.

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  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel – I actually started watching Angel about two seasons before I started watching Buffy, which is unusual, since Angel was a spin-off of Buffy. In the end, they both captured my heart, and I still enjoy watching them in reruns even now.
  • CSI – This original version is the only CSI I have ever enjoyed watching. And although I started watching it with an extreme case of skepticism (due to my dislike of producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s formulaic action movies), I quickly had to admit that Jerry had uncovered a gem with this one.
  • Smallville – The first season of this show was really interesting, but after the first few seasons I lost interest amidst the continuous “Lana in peril” storylines.

The Mid-2000s
And then came 2004, which as I recall, is when I received my very own TiVo for Christmas! With that gift came a golden ticket to any tv show I wanted to watch, and I took advantage of it.

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  • Arrested Development – There are so many classic moments on this show about the dysfunctional Bluth family, but one of my favorites is a scene where they give their various impersonations of a chicken. Who knew there were so many ways to do that?
  • Alias – This show was highly entertaining and had several likeable characters, including Francie and Will, Syd’s closest pals. The later seasons suffered from them not being there anymore, but I still watched to the lackluster end.
  • Everwood – I loved this show and still miss it.
  • Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars – Two shows focusing on young female heroines, and they both got cancelled this year. I enjoyed them while they lasted!
  • 24 – It’s like a rollercoaster that lasts for 5 months!
  • Battlestar Galactica – It’s not just for sci-fi geeks! It’s an excellent character drama that happens to take place on a space ship. The upcoming season will be its last, and I will savor every moment of it.
  • The Office and 30 Rock – I can’t think of any other comedies like them. They are both unique, quirky, and hilarious.
  • Heroes – Very epic. And I like the comic book touches.
  • Friday Night Lights – Love it. The characters seem so real, the story lines so touching. Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose!
  • Grey’s Anatomy – I have thoroughly enjoyed it until now, but it has gotten too soapy and annoying, so my plan is to not rejoin it in the fall.
  • Lost – The best show on television. It will be tough waiting until February ’08 for new episodes.

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So there you have it. Nearly 30 years of tv viewing. Some of it better or more memorable than others. Although this is an extensive list, it doesn’t even mention the after school and Saturday morning tv shows that I watched growing up. I’ll save those for another day. At some point I will also make a list of the best and worst shows I have watched over the years, but until then, I hope you have as much fun checking out the wikipedia primetime schedule pages as I did!

Click here to peruse Wikipedia’s Primetime TV Schedule Pages

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