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November 19, 2012

Review: Falcón (Sky Atlantic) 1x1

Posted on November 19, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Falcón

In the UK: Thursdays, 10pm, Sky Atlantic

Times are a-changing, my friends. Time was it was perfectly legitimate to have a go at BSkyB for not putting anything decent on our TV screens. Sky1 and the like was full of nothing but US imports (some good, some not), rubbish like Prickly Heat, and almost no original drama or comedy whatsoever. After a few faltering steps on Sky1 with Terry Pratchett adaptations, Mad Dogs and Strike Back, Sky is now embracing quality, mainly with its new channel Sky Atlantic, which despite the name is originating plenty of quality comedy. Now it's turning its hand towards drama.

After Sky Atlantic's first attempt, the not-half-bad but dirt cheap Hit and Miss, we now have the first of the big guns: Falcón, which is best described as "sexy Wallander" or "Wallander in Spain". Based on Robert Wilson's series of crime novels and starring New Zealand actor Marton Csokas as well as a fine cast of Brits that includes Hayley Atwell (Captain America), Emilia Fox, Bernard Hill, Bill Patterson, Robert Lindsay and Charlie Creed-Miles, Falcón relocates Ken Branagh's misery, artist-father issues, grizzly horror and Brits pretending to be foreigners to Seville, where the eponymous detective has to solve a horrible murder that is connected to his father in some way. Along the way, there's an attractive widow (Atwell), his ex-wife (Fox) and, thanks to Dredd 3D's Pete Travis, a lot of beautifully composed scenes of local colour for him to deal with.

And if you loved Ken's Wallander, there's a good chance you'll love this, too, assuming you don't mind a cop that takes coke. Here's a trailer, a "characters 101" and the first three minutes of the first episode.

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November 16, 2012

Review: Wedding Band (TBS) 1x1

Posted on November 16, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Wedding Band

In the US: Saturdays, 10/9c, TBS

Straight men are, in general, catered for very well by US television. Or so you'd think. Not all straight men are created equal, however. There are, in fact, two genres that really don't seem to want us at all: romcoms and musicals. Glee, Nashville and Smash laugh in our faces, while The Mindy Project is still trying to work out what straight men want.

It's discrimination, I tell you.

Never fear, though: TBS is here to balance the scales. Now, despite its catchline of "Very funny", TNT's sister channel should really have been promoting itself as "Cack - for men". Glory Daze and Men At Work, I'm particularly looking at you here. But in an effort to stop making appalling television, as well as picking up Cougar Town now that ABC had dropped it, TBS has come up with Wedding Band, a romcom musical for men.

A cross between The Wedding Singer and The Hangover, it sees perennial bachelor Brian Austin Green (Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) as the lead singer of a wedding band that includes his married-with-kids Ed Helms-alike best friend, his Jack Black-alike slobby brother and the quasi-hip Harold Perrineau from Lost. The band has been doing weddings for years, but they're ready to go big, possibly with the help of big-time wedding planner Melora Hardin and her novice associate - and possible romantic interest for Green - Jenny Wade.

And while it's very male-oriented, features fight scenes and has quite a broad sense of humour, it's surprisingly funny, nuanced and unmisogynistic. And you get about three or four classic rock and pop cover versions per episode: a romcom musical for men.

Oh, and in case you don't read the tabloids, Brian Austin Green is married to Megan Fox in real life. Which is probably why she's in the next episode in a leather outfit. Here's a trailer:

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October 30, 2012

Mini-review: Mockingbird Lane (NBC)

Posted on October 30, 2012 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Mockingbird Lane

In the US: Friday 26 October, 8/7c, NBC

Well, it was a backdoor pilot but its ratings weren't very good, so I don't think Mockingbird Lane - Bryan Fuller's 'reimagining' of CBS's The Munsters for NBC - warrants a full review.

For those of you who don't remember the original, it essentially saw the Universal Pictures' ideas of Dracula, the Wolfman, the Bride of Dracula and Frankenstein's Monster all living in a house together with a relatively normal woman as an everyday blue collar US family called the Munsters. Herman the monster is the bumbling father, Lily the bride is the practical mother, Grandpa the vampire is a cooky old man and Eddie the werewolf is an average kid. The humour came largely from the juxtaposition of their standard horror film appearances and powers with their normal behaviour and activities.

Here's the original pilot, so you have an idea of what it was like, even if they recast Phoebe Munster and made her Lily afterwards:

The show was popular in syndication, popular enough to have reunion movies and even an updated series made in the 80s called The Munsters Today. Now, we have Mockingbird Lane - named after the road the original Munsters used to live on. And, to coin a phrase, Mockingbird Lane is a very different beast.

For starters, all the Universal Pictures iconography has gone, replaced in favour of more modern horror films: Eddie Munster turns into a proper CGI wolf, Herman Munster (Jerry O'Connell) is intelligent and handsome but a patchwork of parts à la Ken Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein; Lily (Portia di Rossi) looks normal but can become mist, control insects and spiders, and bewitch men; while Grandpa Munster (Eddie Izzard) is a full on Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, able to change into a man-bat, dissolve into rats and enslave others with his blood.

More than that, it's actually surprisingly horrific. While there is the same sort of humour as the original's in the background, the only people really trying to fit in are the new Eddie Munster, who doesn't know that he's a werewolf, and Lily who just wants to raise her son. Meanwhile, Grandpa wants to drain the local population of its blood; and Herman needs his heart replacing using neighbours' spare parts. And you get to see all of this, from Grandpa ripping apart mountain lions with his teeth to neighbours having their hearts ripped out.

In keeping with this new vibe, the show's main point of difference from the original is that there aren't that many jokes, and what there are seem to come mostly from Eddie Izzard's occasionally James Mason-esque delivery and more frequent ad libbing. As a result, there's not much drama and not much comedy, so the pilot feels like it's just there to exist and to give us some nice visuals and nice ideas, without really giving us much by way of story. We don't really know why the Munsters have moved into town, beyond the fact they had to leave the last one; we don't really know what their motivations are, particularly Lily's; we just know they're here and creepy.

To be honest, despite Fuller's pedigree on Heroes and Pushing Daisies, it was only okay, lovely to look at thanks to Bryan Singer's directorial skills, but hampered by a lack of clarity in what it was trying to achieve. As a pilot, it serves up some visual treats, but doesn't give you much of a reason to watch the hypothetical next episode that would have come.

All the same, it's actually not bad. Jerry O'Connell has never been better or more likeable than he is here; Eddie Izzard gives a great performance and is entertaining, even when the script isn't; and it looks great. It's just a shame there wasn't more meat on its bones. Here's a trailer so you can see what you missed:

And if you're in the US, you can still watch it on the NBC site or below.

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