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Some of the best articles on the blog. Typically, these have a picture. It's a low entrance requirement, I know.


March 23, 2011

Review: Endgame 1x1-1x2

Posted on March 23, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Endgame

In Canada: Mondays, 10pm ET/PT, Showcase

"If the art of the detective began and ended in reasoning from an arm-chair, my brother would be the greatest criminal agent that ever lived." - Sherlock Holmes describing Mycroft Holmes in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter

It seems that no matter where you go in North America, more and more cable channels (and even Netflix) are reckoning that the key to getting good ratings and making money is to actually make TV programmes rather than simply air re-runs. HBO, Showtime, AMC, Starz: they're all at it.

Canada's no different and with CBC currently suffering budget cuts everywhere (and churning out crud like InSecurity instead of The Border ), we have to look to lovely subscription TV to find bolder attempts at quality TV.

Showcase, which has been having a brave stab at quality (with varying degrees of success) with the likes Lost Girl, Blackstone, Moderation Town, Cra$h & Burn and Haven, has now waded into the problematic world of detectives. I say problematic because there have been so many detective shows already. As a result, detectives in TV shows need to have quirks to stand out from all the others - that's the law. Everyone knows that.

So we've had fat detectives, thin detectives, gourmet sandwich-eating detectives, 80s-TV obsessed detectives, detectives with OCD, working class detectives, upper class detectives, detectives that live on house boats with their robots (Riptide, in case you couldn't place it), detective brothers and more. But generally they've all had one thing in common: they actually want to solve crimes. Okay, maybe not Jonathan Creek, but everyone else, largely yes.

So let's add to this mix a very unique detective: Arkady Balagan, a Russian chess grandmaster with agoraphobia. He can't leave his hotel so wanders around in his pyjamas and dressing gown all day. He's also a bit of an a-hole - is that why the KGB have been trying to kill him? But because he needs to pay his hotel bills, he starts solving crimes to claim the reward money rather than because of any sense of altruism.

And he turns out to be quite good at it.

Cue the trailers, one with a particularly funky bit of music, one with a bit more explanation.

Continue reading "Review: Endgame 1x1-1x2"

March 3, 2011

Old Not Quite Gems: The Highwayman (1987)

Posted on March 3, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

The Highwayman

Glen A Larson was, as I may have mentioned once, twice or possibly even three times before, one of the most powerful US TV producers of the late 70s and 80s. The creator of Battlestar Galactica, Magnum PI, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Knight Rider, among other shows, he shaped the face of US television for pretty much a decade. Some of his shows did well, others not so much, but he was still one of the most influential people in television.

However, things started to peter out for him by the end of the decade, and one of his last shows - before he eventually hit rock bottom with Night Man - was The Highwayman, a poorly remembered (and slightly poor) show that aired largely in the wee small hours of the night over here in the UK. It was set in the near future where, as the narrator at the beginning of each episode said, "There is a world just beyond now where reality rides a razor-thin seam between fact and possibility, where the laws of the present collide with the crimes of tomorrow. Patrolling these vast outlands is a new breed of lawman, guarding the fringes of society's frontiers they are known simply as Highwayman and this is their story."

Part Mad Max, part Max Headroom, the basic idea was that in the "near future" (1992) a group of law enforcement officers who dress like bikers roam the desert roads of America, trying to prevent crimes. Most of these crimes will apparently be quite futuristic, involving aliens, robots, cloning, time travel and mind-reading among other things. To prevent these crimes, they have futuristic weapons and, in keeping with Larson's other super-technology shows, trucks that can turn invisible and the cabins of which can separate off as helicopters or cars.

Who exactly these law enforcement officers worked for is unclear, but in the pilot episode they worked for Claudia Christian (Babylon 5), in subsequent episodes Jane Badler (V and Mission: Impossible). The hero of the piece was Sam J Jones (Flash in the movie Flash Gordon), who's only called The Highwayman or "Highway" throughout. After the pilot episode, he's joined by another Highwayman, Jetto, played by Australian 'actor' and Aussie rules football star Mark "Jacko" Jackson (which gave us the timeless on-screen credit "co-starring Jacko as Jetto") and Tim Russ (Star Trek: Voyager, Samantha Who?) as an engineer with a very bad moustache who helps fix his truck when it has problems.

Jones fit the part exactly as "Highway", but largely and despite guest appearances from the likes of Jimmy Smits, G Gordon Liddy and Rowdy Roddy Piper, this was a very poor show. The scripts were fun but dumb, it had a slightly catchy theme, but the action was a little lacking - although briefer in duration than Manimal's transformation scenes, the inevitable copter-separation only slowed things down - and it was too low budget to do much well. Jacko was also an incredibly bad actor. Just terrifyingly bad. Which made every scene he was in like fingernails down a blackboard.

You can watch most of it on YouTube, but here are the starts of a few episodes.

February 22, 2011

Review: Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior 1x1

Posted on February 22, 2011 | Post a comment | Bookmark and Share

Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior

In the US: Wednesdays, 10/9c, CBS

(Very) long-time readers of the blog will know that I'm not a big fan of Criminal Minds. In fact, I dismissed it pretty much after the first episode, the second season opener didn't make me recant and the replacement of Mandy Patinkin with Joe Mantegna lured me in for all of two episodes.

My basic problems with it are that it's very dull, doesn't really bother with characterisation beyond a couple of the leads, despite being an ensemble show, and although it pretends to be intelligent, largely that's a thin veneer that covers up an entirely preposterous plot with as much resemblance to real-life as The Magic Roundabout.

Millions of people disagree with me, however. They're wrong, obviously, but they do. To cater for "these kinds of people", CBS has developed an identikit version of it called Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, in which a rapid reaction team called a 'Red Cell' heads off in Without A Trace stylee to deal with nastiness as quickly as possible.

However, despite the presence of Forest Whitaker, Janeane Garofolo, the red-headed nerdy one from Criminal Minds and Richard Schiff from The West Wing, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior is just as tedious and stupid, yet without even the few hints of interest that the original had.

Here's a trailer for the show that for some unfathomable reason doesn't feature Amber Heard in a bikini (am I on SEO fire this week, or what?).

Continue reading "Review: Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior 1x1"

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