The Walking Dead: Season 4 (TV Review)

The Walking Dead: Season 4 (TV Review)

I know it has been a while since the release of the fourth season of The Walking Dead, and they are already a few episodes into the fifth season. Such is the life of a Netflix-er. Always behind a little bit.

To be honest, I have been put off by The Walking Dead over the past couple of seasons. There is no denying the brutal honestly in the storytelling of the first season, but after that, there was a definite fade. Once the gang holed up in the prison, it really felt as thought the story got really repetitive, and at points, it simply ground to a halt.

Which made me leery about even starting the fourth season. Was it going to be worth it? Was something going to finally happen?

dead2After a slow start to the fourth season, things finally did start to happen. Without providing too many spoilers, the season really took off once we saw that The Governor was still around. After that moment, of seeing him lurking in the bushes, we knew that things were finally going to go down.

And they did.

After this moment, the season took off, and became, in my opinion, the best season of the show yet. Because a different kind of storytelling was employed. Traditionally the strength of the show is the group, but this has prevented us from really knowing any of the characters, and being forced to only really care about the main people, while basically forgetting any of the secondary characters.

In season four, the groups are split up, and we are able to see complete episodes that involve the different people in the group. We got more small-scale story telling, not having to worry about the group all of the time. A couple of the best episodes involved Darryl Dixon traveling with Beth, after they managed to escape the prison. This allowed us to see a little bit more about the character that many claim to be their favorite (Darryl), and one that never got the screen time she really deserved (Beth) because she was being over shadowed by the large group.

dead3This kind of depth allowed the story to move forward, and there were plenty of exciting things that were taking place. There is the introduction of many new characters, in new groups, that provide enticing opportunities for the story moving forward. We get the chance to start to like some of these characters that we have spent a couple of years with already. Like Michonne. Nice to hear that she has a little bit of backstory, and for seemingly the first time, she smiles in Season 4. It makes her that much more real, and easier to cheer for. The constant brooding got a little tiresome, for all of the characters, so it is good to know a little bit about why they are the way they are.

The main premise of the season, once the stragglers leave the prison, is that they are looking for a place called Terminus, where all the train lines meet. This gives everybody a goal, and gives hope for those who have been separated to get back together.

The Walking Dead, season four, is the best, because there is always something going on. There are more zombie attacks, there are plenty of zombie (as well as human) deaths, there is the usual loss of a long time character or two, and for the first time in a couple of years, there is action.

I know that I am in the minority saying that the past couple of seasons bored me, but this one picks up where it perhaps should have been all along: with adventure and action.

Now, I am excited to see the fifth season once again.

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Homeland: Season 3 (TV Review)

Homeland: Season 3 (TV Review)

Even after I felt that the second season of Homeland fell a little flat, I was still interested in watching the third go round. Despite season 2 not being as good as the incredibly good first season, it was still excellent television, and I wasn’t yet finished watching Carrie, Brody, and Saul, get things figured out and keep America safe.

HOMELAND (Season 2)Season 3 starts off where the second left off, right after the bombing of the CIA building in Langley. Brody, looking extremely guilty, needs to get away as fast as he can, and he disappears, going off the radar for an extended period of time. We don’t even really see him until a couple of episodes in, when he resurfaces.

The central plot of the season is to find out who was behind the CIA bombing, and then doing something about the increasingly hostile situation in Iran.

A couple of very good things about the third season:

  1. The story of the Brody family, and how they have coped with the lies and deception of their patriarch was very good, I thought. Much of this focuses on Dana, the teenage daughter of the disgraced Marine, the man thought of perpetrating the attack on the CIA, and known to have wanted to bomb himself and the Vice President during Season 1. Her trauma is good, and the story doesn’t seem out of place in an espionage thriller. It gets a little far reaching when her boyfriend gets involved, but it’s still pretty good.

    Dana gets an increased role in the third season.
    Dana gets an increased role in the third season.
  2. We again get to see Carrie go off the rails. Claire Danes has been great throughout the series, and she really nails it for the majority of this season as well. She plays the role of a woman suffering from bi-polar disorder to a T, and we can’t help but believe her plight. We can understand her problems, we feel bad for her, and we silently curse some of her stubbornness. While her crying and yelling does get a little tiresome at points, she is very good, as her multiple Emmys for the series can attest.
  3. There are a couple of good new characters that are introduced to the show, including Fara, a new analyst with the Agency after the bombing wiped out a major section of their manpower. The great Salieri appears in this season as well (F. Murray Abraham), as a friend and co-worker of Saul’s.
  4. Saul is in it a lot more than usual, and he is awesome as usual. He is perhaps my favorite character on the show, and he shines again in Season 3.
  5. There is a shocking ending, which Homeland has become known for. The end of the season definitely leaves us wondering about the direction they are going to take in the current fourth season.

Aside from all of the positives, the series still hasn’t managed to recapture the delicious tension from the first season, which I found to be edge-of-the-seat viewing. While the events of Season 3 are interesting and sometimes exciting, it sometimes causes weariness with the continued, Is Nicholas Brody a good guy or bad guy? story line. But it still works, just not as perfectly as it did during their first run.

Homeland Season 3 is definitely worth watching, of course. It isn’t perfect, but it still holds plenty of intrigue to keep viewers interested if they are trying to get caught up so that they can watch the fourth season that is currently airing. For those who enjoyed Season 2, keep on going with Season 3, as it won’t cause much disappointment, and there isn’t a ton of drop off from the excellent television they have got us used to.

The Mindy Project: Season 1 (TV Review)

The Mindy Project: Season 1 (TV Review)

Another new release to the Netflix selection are the first two seasons of The Mindy Project, the brainchild of comedy writer and The Office alum, Mindy Kaling.

The premise of the show is that Mindy is a successful OBGYN in New York, but highly unsuccessful at her love life. Her age is creeping up on her, she drinks too much, is too concerned about her weight, is obsessed with celebrity lives, and bounces from poor relationship to poor relationship.

mindy2The Mindy Project is a show geared towards women, as she embodies so many cliched aspects of the approaching middle-aged single woman, and the majority of the laughs are focused around the calamity that is her love life. She is clumsy and awkward, and manages to choose the wrong person for every one of her relationships. Mindy wants her love life to be like a romantic comedy, but this obsession with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan films causes her unrealistic expectations in what reality will be like.

Although I never watched it, I feel that this show can somewhat slide into the void left behind when Sex and the City went off the air. Mindy provides a beacon for women who struggle in the love department. She is aware of her faults, and struggles with the balance of who she is, and who she feels others want her to be. Mindy struggles with being herself, and she has issues with being too self-centered. But these are issues that normal people face, despite them being dramatically blown up for the purpose of the entertainment.

Mindy herself is a likable character, which is able to make this show as solid as it is. There are laughs that are missing in this show, and it frequently flirts with becoming a drama, but it does create numerous humorous situations that make it worth watching.

The Mindy Project is pretty charming, but might not be as binge-worthy as other new sitcoms like Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

The rest of the cast is pretty respectable as well. They don’t garner as many laughs as they could, as is often expected from the supporting characters, but they do provide the occasional comic relief, specifically the male nurse, Morgan. They also provide some obvious plot features that we simply know are going to happen. The story is not entirely original or unpredictable, but it maintains enough freshness to keep us watching.

Overall, The Mindy Project is worth a watch. It is nothing life-changing in the sitcom genre, but it provides enough charm to make it decent viewing.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season 1 (TV Review)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Season 1 (TV Review)

New to Netflix this month is the first season of the Emmy Award-winning TV comedy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, starring Andy Samberg.

The plot of the show is fairly simple. It is an ensemble comedy focused around the lives and work of a Brooklyn detective precinct. That’s it. Pretty simple, really. And it really, really works.

Perhaps the biggest strength of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is that it manages to be a true ensemble comedy, with all of the characters able to generate their own laughs. This isn’t a show that relies simply on Samberg’s goofiness and a bunch of slugs surrounding him to set up the laughs. Each character gets in on the act, able to make their own humour fit nicely into the concept of the show, and play off one another.

The 99th precinct is full of archetypal cop characters: the straight-laced Captain, the goofy, but successful detective, the brown nosed ladder climber, the hard-edged female cop, the goofy sidekick, the teddy bear sergeant, the incompetent old-timers, and the borderline psychotic secretary. And each one is able to come into their own, and not be overshadowed. The ensemble arrangement of the cast is perfect, allowing us to see, and like, each of the characters, without getting too tired of them. Obviously, Samberg is the main character, but he doesn’t really hog screen time, and his comedy is dead on. He takes the set ups perfectly, has witty, less obvious jokes, and manages to become a really likable character as the season progresses. It is a perfect blend, and well done by the show.

The hard edge and the do-gooder.
The hard edge and the do-gooder.

The supporting cast is really strong, and if the show continues, it could become one of the questions of “who is your favorite cop,” much like other ensembles in the past, like deciding who your favorite Friend was. Through season 1, I am taken by Stephanie Beatriz, who plays the black leather clad, unsmiling, tough-as-nails female cop Rosa Diaz. Not only is she intimidatingly attractive in her gothic attire, but her hard nosed cruelty is generally hilarious. She owns the character, and she plays well with the others around her. Diaz is always good for a smirk, or a commentary on how she loves when things go wrong.

The plots of the episodes are what would be expected of a comedy set in a police station. There are crimes, they solve them. But that is not really the focus of the show. It is more about the interaction of the characters that drives this series forwards. And these interactions are fantastic. The back and forth between Jake Peralta and his Captain are priceless. The constant bickering between Peralta and the goodie-two-shoes Amy Santiago gives way to some excellent one-liners. And pretty much everything that the extra-quirky secretary Gina offers up is priceless.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is funny. Something that is increasingly rare on a network series. There are laughs in every episode, and it is currently hitting its stride as a show. The drama hasn’t yet crept in, something that eventually will affect every sitcom, so right now is the glory years of the show. And yes, I understand it is only the first season. But winning the Emmy for Best Comedy and Best Comedy Actor in its first year pretty much assures us that this show will be around for a few years. It will fall, and the jokes and characters will become tiresome. But for now, it is fresh, it is fun, and it is pretty damn hilarious.

Definitely add Brooklyn Nine-Nine to your summer watch list, it will be well worth your time. Once you have adjusted to the new characters, you will start to like them, and the way they play off one another is great. Well worth watching, and enjoying.

Throwback TV: Veronica Mars Season 1

Throwback TV: Veronica Mars Season 1

I’ve written a fair amount about Veronica Mars, because I just love it. I’ve written about the movie trailer, the film itself, and have even read the first novel in what is a possible VM book series, The Thousand Dollar Tan Line.

Going back to where it all began, season 1 of the cult TV show is simply an awesome watch. Over the course of the season, we see the development of the characters that would play roles throughout the series, and we would see Kristen Bell become Veronica, to the point where she is one of the best female TV characters of the last decade.

And seeing as how Veronica Mars has been a recent addition to the Netflix lineup, it seemed an appropriate time to write about it. While I have gone through the entire series three times prior, seeing it on Netflix drew me back in for another complete viewing.

veronica2After Laura Palmer, and well before Rosie Larson, we wanted to know who killed Lilly Kane.

The premise of the first season is to introduce the once popular, but now pariah character of Veronica Mars, daughter to the former sheriff of Neptune, California, where the social divide is great between the haves and the have nots. Veronica used to run with the popular group, date the son of a billionaire, and be well respected among her peers at school. But that all changed after her best friend, Lilly, was murdered. Her father, Keith Mars, tried to pin the murder on Jake Kane, Lilly’s father, which essentially ostracized both of them from the high end people of Neptune. Veronica stuck with her father, not believing that the murder was solved, as the new sheriff would have everyone believe. Sure, there was a man behind bars, but something never fit right with the Mars family. Now, no longer sheriff, Keith is a private detective in town, and Veronica helps him on some of his cases. Often of the more sordid variety, such as cheating husbands.

But Veronica wants to know who really killed her best friend. Not to get back in with the cool people at school, but for her peace, Lilly’s peace, and her father’s vindication.

The first season of Veronica Mars has the long, over-arching story line of who killed Lilly. But in between, there are smaller arcs, as well as episode one offs, all of which are fun and interesting little mysteries, filled with wit, humour, and the perfect amount of seriousness, all while exploring topics of class division, popularity, and the typical teen issues. Veronica deals with small cases, like mysterious dog disappearances, to bigger things, like drug smuggling, and her own drugging and rape at a school party.

Veronica has a chip on her shoulder, and she is determined to get revenge on people who have wronged her, and wronged the people that she cares about. While her behavior can be morally questionable at times, Veronica always has justice at heart, which makes her an intriguing character.

She has a veneer of sarcasm that is able to protect a hurt girl, who has many wrongs in her life. Aside from the fall from popular grace, she has had to deal with an alcoholic mother who eventually abandons her family, questions about her own paternity, the scorn of the people from her past, and the struggles to balance her unique job and her studies, where she is a top student without the money to go to an elite school. She needs to earn everything she gets, and she is faced with tough decisions all the way through the first season.

But she is tough, which is why we love her. There is nary a situation that doesn’t warrant a quip from her, and the writers of the show gave Bell some great material to work with. But it is Bell that really makes this character come alive, and she gives Veronica the edge and humour that make her so lovable, and an easy character to cheer for.

The first season is full of twists and turns, both within the small story lines, as well as the big one. There are plenty of laughs, and plenty of strong secondary characters that make the show go round. Particularly strong is the relationship between Keith and his daughter, as they are serious about their work, but also seem to have the perfect father-daughter relationship, in that they can confide in one another, and do so quite hilariously at times.

Regardless of your taste in TV, Veronica Mars should be considered as a must see series. It never got the viewers it should have during its time on TV, but warrants a watching now. It is non-stop entertainment, with clever writing full of allusions that will make the knowledgeable pop culture junkie happy. Even having gone through the series several times, I still find myself enjoying the show, the quips, and being more knowing and involved in the mystery.

The King Is Dead

The King Is Dead

How can you not love Game of Thrones? Easily the most well-crafted, best looking, series on television, it truly is something to get into, and to love. There is always so much going on, so much death and destruction. Lives are lost, alliances are changed, events unfold at a pretty rapid pace, considering the sheer size and detail of the novels they are based on.

For those who have read the books, the Purple Wedding of Season 4, Episode 2, was something that we were eagerly awaiting. For those who have not read ahead, it was a welcome sigh of relief.

Note: This article is full of spoilers, so if you have not watched this season yet, don’t read ahead.

King Joffrey, the worst villain in recent television memory, is at long last, dead.

joffAnd the best part about it, is that he died in a shameful, embarrassing way. On his knees, hacking and coughing, spewing blood and spit for all those at his wedding feast to see. He died in shame, and we are glad for it, as he was truly awful. A despicable character, who took every moment of screen time to make us hate him even more.

He was brilliant at it, and in a way, we loved Joffrey for this. When he would do something brutal or disgusting, like shooting crossbow bolts into the women sent to pleasure him, we hated him. When he treated Sansa Stark like garbage, seemingly taking every opportunity to rub it in her face that her father was beheaded at his request, or that her brother had been murdered in an awful way, we found him despicable. When he turns his rage and brutality to his Uncle Tyrion, we hate him even more (and we still all love Tyrion). We all wanted Joffrey to die.

And he has. So…now what?

Since Game of Thrones is such an encompassing story, new villains will rise, and we will turn our dread and loathing to someone else in no time. But there has been nobody on the show, or in recent TV memory, that had collectively been loathed in the way that Joffrey had. He unified all viewers with their vitriol and bile, and he deserved it.

Personally, I am excited to see where the show moves from here. I read the first three books, skipped the fourth, and have read the first bit of the fifth, A Dance With Dragons. So I am not completely familiar with the upcoming material, and am looking forward to the show without truly knowing what is going to happen. I know that there will be people to hate, and that is always good.

But, like most viewers, I probably won’t be able to hate them as strongly as I did Joffrey.

Eating Boston: Cheers

Eating Boston: Cheers

Of course, as a tourist in Boston, you want to go where everybody knows your name.

As one of the main spots on the tourist trail in the city, it speaks volumes about the lasting impression that the TV series Cheers had on people. It was one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, and people still love it.

cheersThe exteriors of the show are based on the Bull and Finch pub in the Boston Back Bay area, and walking up to it, it looks exactly as it did on the TV show. The insides, however, are not the same. Even though the Bull and Finch has officially changed its name to Cheers, it is not the same bar when you walk inside, but you should know that before going in. There is a replica bar elsewhere in the city. This is just the place that served as the inspiration for the show. Walking down the stairs, you hear the theme song to the show. Not just in your head, but actually. They have it playing constantly down the stairs, so you definitely know where you are.

It is still a really good bar, though. Of course, we sat up at the bar, next to the spot that has been deemed “Norm’s spot.” There is a nice selection of local beers here, along with some regular American classics that you see everywhere else. The food is pretty basic, all named after characters from the show, but it tastes good. It is definitely your average bar fare, as Cheers was supposed to be the average American bar.

cheers2There is a good atmosphere inside the place, which is much smaller than I remember it being from a previous trip to Boston. There is a good crowd (mainly tourists, of course), and it really is a good place to go for a pint or two after work, or after a day of touring around the city. The prices are fair, and thankfully not over-inflated knowing that the majority if the patronage is from out of town and looking to have a drink at a place made so famous by the long running TV series.

The staff was very friendly, and efficient. Our bartender was fast at refilling our drinks, and engaging in regular bar conversation.

Overall, Cheers is a good place to go, and for fans of the show, you definitely need to stop in and have a beer.