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The Best Show You're Not Watching

Nov. 25th, 2010 | 12:31 am
location: Los Angeles
mood: determined
music: "Gunfight Epiphany" by Rob Duncan

Tonight, the penultimate episode of Terriers Season 1 aired. I had been warned beforehand that it was dark, darker than usual, and that it was excellent, and that it would leave me desperately wanting more. All of these warnings were accurate, but none of them quite prepared me for "Quid Pro Quo".

What was truly amazing about the episode was not that it went darker than the show normally does (and this is a show that not only isn't afraid to go dark but kind of revels in it). It certainly wasn't that the episode was excellent, because there hasn't been a bad hour yet (and there have been a number of truly stellar ones). It wasn't that I would want more at the end of the hour (of course I do, it ended on a cliffhanger), or that the script (in this case by Leslye Headland and Angela Kang) and direction (by Adam Arkin) were great, or that the performances were outstanding (Donal Logue, Michael Raymond James, Laura Allen, Kimberley Quinn, Alison Elliott…all names to be remembered during awards season). Frankly, those things are true week in and week out for Terriers, so none of them are huge surprises.

No, what was revelatory about this week's episode was the episode's structure, and the way that it revealed the entire season's structure. All season long, we have been following three main subplots: the disintegration of Britt and Katie's relationship; Hank's inability to let go of his ex-wife and his combative relationship with her new love; and a series of shady land deals and other nefarious goings-on orchestrated by the wonderfully oily lawyer, Ben Zeitlin (who is played with such humor and menace by Michael Gaston that I hate to think of a week going by without the character appearing on my TV screen). A few others have been present and important, but these three have been the driving narrative force of the show, reflecting each other and very occasionally careening off of each other and going in new directions (the wedding episode being the prime example of this). I knew that all three would have to be addressed in these final two episodes of the season, and I even knew that they would probably intersect once again.

What I didn't know was that the writer's room on this show had it all figured out, that they would turn the more personal, character-driven subplots into fuel for the plot-heavy Zeitlin arc. Hell, more than just fuel—the character moments became igniting incidents for the resolution (?) of the land deal plot. The emotional beats triggered actions that would seem completely independent of the Chinatown-like mystery at the heart of the season, but were actually key to the story's endgame. Britt beats the Hell out of a guy he incorrectly thinks slept with Katie, allowing Zeitlin to swoop in and leverage that situation to his own advantage. Hank comes hat in hand to his ex's new husband—a man he had seriously wronged for possibly noble, probably selfish reasons a few episodes ago—and triggers a domino effect that ends with a gun in Hank's hand and blood in his eye.

The seamless way that the writers have dovetailed some very different, unrelated storylines into one somewhat apocalyptic finale is truly impressive. Even more impressive is the way that all of the actions that have lead us to this point have been grounded in character and not expediency. Coincidence has barely factored into this show, and I have come to doubt that the most extreme example of writer's room expediency—that Zeitlin would be confronting an enemy in the same hotel that hosts Hank's ex-wife's wedding—is actually a coincidence. Given what we learned in this episode, Zeitlin would know where the wedding was being held, and he would know what effect it would have upon Hank. In light of the new information and events depicted in "Quid Pro Quo," I'm no longer convinced that Zeitlin was actually confronting an adversary in that hotel at all. A character I accepted at face value—that the main characters accepted at face value, too—is now potentially much more than she seemed. (Alternatively, she is exactly what she seemed, but probably doomed.)

Terriers has been a masters class in how to make excellent television, in how to build a noir-ish mystery, in how to properly structure a story. Next week's episode is the last of the season (and possibly the last one ever), and I can't wait for it. I can't wait for it to come out on DVD, too, so I can go back and watch all of the episodes and catch the hints that I missed along the way.

You should have been watching Terriers. You know what? It isn't too late to start.

Oh, and FX? If you should happen to be reading this, please, please renew this show. Give it another season to find an audience. And maybe leave the dogs out of the ad campaign next time.*

*There are no actual terriers on Terriers, and it is not in any way a show about canines.

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Another Miscellaneous Post

Oct. 28th, 2010 | 11:33 pm
location: Los Angeles
mood: draineddrained

Some random things:

1) I'll probably have more to say about it next week, but I'm really glad this ugly, ugly election cycle is almost over. Just when I think campaigns can't sink any lower or the electorate get more gullible, years like this come along. >>sigh<< That said, educate yourself on the issues — from multiple sources, not just NPR or Fox News — and get out and vote.

2) Terriers continues. It's ratings are still bad, but the show has only gotten more amazing as it has gone on. I've been pimping it pretty hard, and I've managed to convert a few people to viewers. If you haven't tried it yet, please do so soon. The season is winding down, and it has not gotten a 2nd season pick-up yet. Watch it now, help guarantee a second season of awesomeness, and then you won't be kicking yourself in a few years after you discover it on somebody's "Best Shows That Didn't Make It" list.

3) While you're at it, watch Community and Sherlock, too.

4) Please go to http://www.amazon.com/Goonies-25th-Anniversary-Collectors/dp/B003XM70B4/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1288328895&sr=8-3 and buy The Goonies 25th Anniversary Edition box set. I slaved over that thing, and it includes some nice premiums. The cover art is one of my favorite pieces of art I've ever done. (Yes, it does incorporate art from the original theatrical campaign. That's part of what makes it so cool.)

5) If you happen to be in New York while it's running, go see "Elling" on Broadway. It stars Brendan Fraser, Denis O'Hare and Jennifer Coolidge. I did the key art for the thing — my first Broadway work.

6) The decade is almost over, and I, for one, am glad to see it go. I just hope that the new one is an improvement.

7) I caught an episode of Friends Season 1 over the weekend. (What? It was late and there was nothing else on. Don't give me crap — you used to watch it, too.) It's hard to believe that those actors were ever that young now, or to watch the show without your mind boggling at what a phenomenon it was. We won't see shows getting that popular ever again — as fractured as the market was then, it's completely schizophrenic now. Oh, it is also hard to believe that anybody ever thought that an episode centering around a Hootie & the Blowfish concert was a good idea.

8) That Chris Evans Captain America stuff looks pretty good, doesn't it?

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On the Eve of a Momentous Occasion

Oct. 20th, 2010 | 11:34 pm
location: Los Angeles
mood: nostalgicnostalgic
music: "Closer" by Better Than Ezra

Eight years ago, I was sitting at Cedars, trying to wrap my mind around what was happening. Nine months is a long time to prepare, to accustom yourself to a thought, but it had not been enough. Ten days had passed since the due date — nobody in my family can hit deadlines, it seems — and that extra time had only made things seem less real.

I had no idea how to be a father. Still don't. But I try very hard. I try to be understanding, try to listen, try not to fly off the handle. I try to remember that he's just a kid.

That's hard sometimes, because he's an immensely responsible, caring boy. It's funny, but he can be so mature one minute — pretty much the picture of dependability — and then so careless the next that you can't imagine what's going on in his head. He works harder than anybody I know once he sets goals, exerting heroic effort in order to make himself and other people proud and/or happy.

I'm proud to be his dad.

Happy birthday (a wee bit early), E.

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It's that time again

Oct. 2nd, 2010 | 12:19 am
location: Los Angeles
mood: geeky
music: "Made in Heaven" by Big Country

Fall is here once more, bringing with a slate of new and returning TV shows. The fall TV season is rapidly becoming anachronistic, the cable channels proving that you can have successful launches any time of year, and digital downloads & online streaming proving that networks aren't as essential as they used to be. At some point the near-monolithic fall launch season will be gone, with shows premiering whenever they're ready and I will have to find something else to write about. Until that happens, though, there will likely be the Annual What the Heck Am I Watching This Year post.

Not a lot of new shows have captured my attention this year to be honest. I couldn't get past the godawful advertising to sample No Ordinary Family, and I couldn't sit through a whole episode of The Event. My Generation wasn't going to happen for me, and now it's gone. I actually wanted to try Lone Star based upon the reviews it got from TV folk I know, but it was cancelled before I got the chance. Running Wilde looked promising, coming as it did from Mitch Hurwitz and Will Arnett; unfortunately, it was nearly unwatchable. I will confess that I tried to watch both Hellcats and Outsourced, both of which looked like trainwrecks from the get-go. Neither quite reached the so-bad-it-was-actually-entertaining level—actually, that isn't quite true. Outsourced was so bad, so decisively unfunny, stereotyped, and cliched that it reached that point and kept going, eventually becoming the text book example of what not to do with a sitcom. Someone I know assures me that it gets good a few episodes in, but I find that hard to believe. It's true that most shows take a little time to really find themselves, but this one is so far in the hole I find it hard to believe that it will ever find it's way out. Also, I would guess that it will be cancelled before it gets the chance. Oh, and Hellcats was actually relatively inoffensive but amazingly dull and predictable. As far as the other new shows this year… well, none of them really interested me enough to sit down and try them—except for one…

If you know me, you're probably tired of me pimping Terriers. Tough. It's a great show with a rotten name and an even worse ad campaign. At turns disturbing and amusing, Terriers tells the story of two down-on-their-luck detectives (can you be a detective without an actual license?) who are getting in way over their heads in Southern California. Donal Logue does a great job as the lead, but Michael Raymond-Jones steals every scene he's in as Logue's smarter-than-he-looks ex-con partner. The supporting cast performs well, the writing is sharp and unpredictable, the direction great, the production values high. You are doing yourself a disservice by not watching it (and, judging by the ratings, you're not watching it).

Let's see, other than that, it's pretty much all returning shows for me this year. Mad Men continues to captivate me on Sunday nights. Chuck makes me giggle on Mondays, although it's ratings aren't great, either. I'm also amused by Castle on Mondays, but it isn't exactly appointment viewing. Castle is a show that I really want to like, that I find kind of charming, but I can't quite embrace, which pretty much sums up everything on USA, too. Wednesdays offer Modern Family, although I'm not as charmed by it as I once was. (Wednesdays also offer Terriers; see above.) That's pretty much everything this year (mostly because I refuse to count any of my kids' shows other than Phineas & Ferb as actually being a part of my television viewing)—well, except for my current favorite show, that is.

My whole family adores Community, NBC's Thursday kick-off show. It was a pleasant surprise last year, a metatextual gem of a comedy that made me and my family fall madly in love with it. The season opener guest starred Betty White and was way darker and weirder than I expected, but the second episode (which guested Rob Cordry and Drew Carey) had me laughing so hard I missed a few lines. The cast is uniformly wonderful, although the real stand-outs are Alison Brie, Danny Pudi and Donald "The Man Who Would Be Spider-Man" Glover. It's from Dan Harmon, who wrote for Sarah Silverman's show as well as Heat Vision & Jack. The program also boasts some involvement from Arrested Development's Russo brothers. Like pretty much every other show I watch, Community is ratings-challenged. Go watch it and change that.

That's probably it for the time being, at least until Leverage returns this winter. Is there anything worthwhile that's on a non-premium channel that I'm missing out on?

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A recommendation or two

Sep. 20th, 2010 | 12:27 am
location: Los Angeles
mood: morosemorose
music: "Old Haunts" by the Gaslight Anthem

Tired, morose, so I'll spare you what's going through my head right now. Instead, might I suggest that you sample some of The Gaslight Anthem's excellent work? American Slang holds one of my favorite songs, "Old Haunts" (whose chorus I misheard as "Old haunts, forgotten goals" instead of "Old haunts are for forgotten ghosts"; might be a Freudian slip there). The '59 Sound is another standout album, but, really, anything they've done is worth a listen. (I should give a shout-out to Jeff Caudill for introducing me to these guys, as well as The Damnwells, who are another fine band. Jeff is a great musician in his own right, both solo and as a member of Your Favorite Trainwreck.)

I'd also like to point you towards the soon-to-be-released 25th Anniversary Edition of The Goonies. Fun flick, plus I busted my ass on the packaging.

Also really digging Terriers, an excellent detective show with a rotten, too-clever-by-half name, that airs on FX on Wednesday night. It's the bastard child of Veronica Mars and The Rockford Files, two favorites of mine, and it's creative staff include Shawn The Shield Ryan and Tim Firefly Minear. John Dahl, he of Red Rock West, Kill Me Again and The Last Seduction, will be directing an episode. I'm told that it really takes off with episode 3, which is this coming Wednesday, so I'm more than a little psyched.

Also, a good night's sleep. I highly recommend it. Haven't had one in years, but I remember them being nice. Off to give it a try.

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Nine years later

Sep. 13th, 2010 | 12:36 am
location: Los Angeles
mood: contemplativecontemplative
music: "Wishing Well" by the Airborne Toxic Event

   I've been told that anxiety, that amorphous fear of future events, is a natural defensive strategy among humans that has gone horribly awry. In order to guard oneself, the imagination runs overtime, sussing out every possible thing that could go wrong in an attempt to prevent that dark occurrence from happening. In limited doses, this doom-laden forecasting is helpful, possibly even healthy; when it becomes impossible to shut off, when it shuts out the good possibilities -- when it becomes an actual fear of the future -- then it is a problem.
   These are anxious times to be sure. There's so much uncertainty in the world, in the economy, amongst ourselves… it's easy to understand why so many people are afraid. Most people that I know are living paycheck to paycheck, trying to figure out how they're going to survive if something catastrophic happens to them, or if they lose their jobs, or if who knows what else happens. I'm no different. I spent most of the last three years fretting over the possibility of losing my job, fearing Fridays, wondering how I would take care of my wife and kids.
   And you know what? It did me no good. It was wasted energy -- luckily, in my case, because my job is safe and I don't have to figure out how I'm going to feed, clothe and house my family. Even if things had turned out differently, it would have been wasted energy, because it wouldn't have made one bit of a difference to the situation. Once the concern manifested, I should've come up with a contingency plan and then moved on. That's easy to say, especially now, but it isn't as easy to do as it should be.
   What I have learned is that giving in to that anxiety, shrinking into myself, not communicating with others, not voicing my fears, is both no way to live and anti-productive. Our friends and our families are there to help us, as we are for them. I broke down early this summer, had a little mini-nervous-breakdown, and confided in someone who is like a brother to me. I had no idea that things were rough for him. In fact, I thought that everything was fine for him and was sorry to burden him with my problems. It turned out that he was as troubled as I was, if not more so (and for better reasons). Like me, he had felt it unseemly to share his fears and woes with others. We had a few long conversations, talking through our problems, and then, inspired by this, he turned to another friend who could help him in a much more substantial, concrete way than I could. In seeking help, I had helped my friend.
   This is a universal truth: everybody has problems, and, when you strip away the surface details, all of the problems are the same. We need love, we need security, we need hope. At our core, we are all the same, every one of us, and ignoring that is as unhealthy as fearing the future. Tomorrow will be here whether we like it or not, whether we're prepared or not. And we'll all face it with some mix of trepidation and optimism. Remember this: you are not alone, and I'm not talking about some sort of spiritual higher power. There is always someone in your life who cares about you, and that someone probably needs help, too. Remember this, too: the future holds some misfortunes, but it holds wonders as well. Fearing the future, fighting or ignoring or hating those around us, these are pathways to disaster.
   Hope is more powerful than fear, and kindness more powerful than hatred. Neither one is easy to find or to give, but it is important to seek them out. It is important to reject fear and hatred. Our lives can only get better by embracing hope and love, because only they give us the incentive to work towards bettering ourselves, our situations, and our world.

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Long time, no post…

Aug. 15th, 2010 | 11:54 pm
location: Los Angeles
mood: dorky
music: "My Star" by Jeff Caudill

So, yeah, things have been busy. Really batshit crazy busy for most of the year, which is good news, because it means job security and we all need that. And, y'know, while you might feel neglected because I haven't posted -- I mean, REALLY posted -- in six months, imagine how my family feels. There were whole months when my wife didn't see me. It's the cost of doing business, the cost of being in this relationship, and it isn't fair and it isn't right but it is just the way it is.
   This might be why I'm so sad that summer vacation is over and she's back to work and we're back to not seeing each other again starting… oh… now. It's been nice to be able to come home exhausted at 10 o'clock and have a sleepy-but-smiling face waiting for me (that isn't my daughter, who should be in bed, but that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish). It's been warm and comforting and I'm supremely grateful for it, even as I feel myself sliding back into The Way Things Go.
  My wife is the most amazing woman I've ever met. She's able to work full time, pursue post-graduate degrees, take care of two kids (who, while beautiful and charming, can be a real freakin' handful; kids, if you read this in the future, don't put dad in the home, okay?) and put up with a husband who is rarely ever home and is fairly useless when he is around. She's also beautiful, kind, and (very occasionally) funny. She'd bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan if she could only overcome her insane prejudice against meat. 
  She has been the key to me making it through the first half of this crap-ass year. She's been there, by my side, through the uncomfortable transitions, economic freak-outs, health scares, sleep deprivation and dark moods. Sure, she's pretty much been snoring through all of it, because she's been asleep by the time I get home, but she's been there nonetheless. We have been married for over twelve years, together for over 18, and I still love her every bit as much as I did the day we got married. Without her, I doubt that I'd have made it through the first half of 2010.
   Okay, that's enough for tonight. I promise not to be so maudlin the next time I post (which I hope will be soon but know it won't be in the next few days). Take care of yourselves, you three people or so who bother to read this. Like Ray Davies said, it's a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, but there isn't a single one of us that's truly alone.
  Oh, and no, my wife probably won't read this and would probably die of embarrassment if she did.

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Man…

Jun. 22nd, 2010 | 09:31 pm
location: Los Angeles
mood: amusedamused

 …I hate people who don't maintain their blogs. ;)
Tags:

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The movie poster post might never happen

Jan. 9th, 2010 | 12:58 am

On top of everything else, Livejournal has lost the post twice. The list, in brief, is Batman Begins (Batman falling towards the camera), Blindness (milky silhouette behind eye-chart title), Brick (the torn-out character posters with the delightfully hardboiled copy), Descent (bodies forming an image of a skull), From Hell (bloody streak ending in the Ripper), The Illusionist (Edward Norton's body composed of period-style type), Lord of War (the portrait of Nic Cage done in bullets), Paris, Je T'Aime (the heart composed of Eiffel Towers), Terminator Salvation (the fiery wreckage of Los Angeles forming a Terminator's face), and Thirteen Ghosts (the collage of smaller images combining to form a huge screaming face). I haven't seen all of these films, but I love these posters. Check 'em out over at impawards.com. I would post images or spell out my reasons, but LJ doesn't seem to want me to do that.

I should state for the record that I work for the company who did Descent, Lord of War and Terminator Salvation. Doesn't affect my love for the posters one way or the other.

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The End of a Decade

Dec. 16th, 2009 | 11:27 pm
location: Los Angeles
mood: tiredtired

Sorry for the programming change, but my favorite movie posters list is proving more challenging than I thought it would. I also apologize for the long stretches I've gone without posting. Life has been... complicated, and I've been a lot more tired than usual.

Anyway, we're here at the end of another decade — the first decade of a new century, I have to add. It has been a wildly tumultuous decade for me (and for the planet), even though there were times when it seemed absolutely nothing was happening. This was the decade that I moved to California, the decade that my children were born, the decade that saw most of my friends not only get married but have children as well. We had two historic presidential elections here in the US, although they are historic for vastly different reasons. This decade had 9/11, Katrina, the tsunami, more devastating earthquakes than I want to think about, the wars, the market crash and yet more crap.

I'm really glad that it is ending, and I look forward to finding out that the first decade of every century blows chunks. Of course, the second decade of the twentieth century brought the first world war, so maybe I should be careful what I wish for.

Regardless of how I feel about the decade itself, I am compelled to reflect upon it, to take stock of its lessons, and, of course, to make pointless favorites lists. Brace yourself, because they're coming: favorite movie posters, favorite comics, favorite tv shows, favorite music, etc. I'm making lists, checking them twice... wait, no, that's what I'm doing for the kids' Christmas. Well, I'm making lists anyway. And posting them here.

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