If you watch the show Glee you’ll know what I mean when I say that Glee includes everything from high school. Seriously, the creators and writers of that show have literally taken every story and stereotype that has ever come out of high school, every personality type and quirk, and found a place for it in the show. It is absurd, and I suppose that absurdist take on high school is what keeps people watching. That and the singing.
Taken from that angle, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that the creators of Glee also created and wrote Nip/Tuck, which was a show that took every story and stereotype that has ever come out of plastic surgery and mashed it into an absurd take on the profession.
Following in that tradition comes American Horror Story. It’s about a family that buys a house that is haunted. Within the framework of their story, they are taking every story and stereotype of the haunted house and ghost story traditions and mashing them into an absurd wild ride. Perhaps other people will find the show scary, and even I might admit to finding a creepy moment or two, or a scene that makes me jump now and then, but mostly this show is just insane.
We’ve got ghosts of murder victims and ghosts of their murderers, we’ve got previous owners who managed to survive still drawn to the house, we’ve got a family of current owners with secrets, we’ve got crazy neighbors who seem to know the house is haunted and they don’t seem to mind. We’ve got haunted places and haunted people and haunted items. We’ve got people with blood on their hands who know it, and people with blood on their hands who don’t know how it got there. We’ve got ghosts who appear only to some people and we’ve got ghosts who appear differently to different people. And all of it is happening all at once.
I hesitate to call this a great TV show, because I know it isn’t for everyone. But for someone who loves horror, I think I almost have to watch it. The first episode, to me, had some pacing issues -as I find much of TV and movies do these days since so many editors don’t seem to know how to cut transitions that evoke the passage of time- everything seems to happen all crammed together rather than over a period of days or weeks, but later episodes have resolved that a bit. Every actor here is also giving a top-notch performance, even Dylan McDermott whom I normally can’t stand.
All in all, I’m finding it worth watching. And it has already been picked up for a second season. Woohoo!
The other day I was thinking about when my family used to go on vacation. The topic came up because someone else was planning their vacation and booking flights, and I asked if they ever considered driving. They immediately shot down that idea, not wanting to be “trapped” in the car for long stretches with their kids, or taking multiple days to get somewhere. I’m sure that my rose-colored glasses are firmly in place, but I look back fondly on our vacations when I was a kid. Of course I remember some of the fights too, but there were so many good things that came out of them.
Early vacations with both parents and three kids in a regular car were a bit tight, but in those days our vacations were shorter. We lived in Florida and drove to other places in Florida, like Disney or the beach, or north to Georgia to visit family. When we moved to Pennsylvania though, and trips to Georgia and Florida and other destinations got longer, the family bought a mini-van. It had two bench seats in the back, my older brother taking the front one, while my younger brother and I took the rear. In order for us both to be able to stretch out back there, we’d put a sleeping bag on the floor. It turned out to be the best place to nap because down on the floor you avoided most of the light that came through the windows.
The key, however, to long term survival in the car for our family was the purchase of three Walkmans. It is hard today to imagine the impact that portable tape decks that ran for many hours on a couple of AA batteries had on the world, but it was huge. Suddenly we kids weren’t fighting with the parents for where to tune the radio. And while music tapes had their place, for me, for vacations, there was something better. I have no idea how I got it, but I imagine it come from my older brother, through some friend of his, but I wound up with a tap of Dr. Demento’s radio show. It wasn’t a real tape, it was copied – maybe from a real tape or maybe from the radio. But it had songs like Fish Heads and Another One Rides the Bus and more, as well as other comedy bits and longer stories. This, along with a couple of Bill Cosby tapes would end up being the things I listened to most… until we wandered into the Cracker Barrel one day.
If you’ve never been to a Cracker Barrel, it’s a restaurant with a gift shop attached to it. The shop is full of candy, folky art and decorations, and a random assortment of toys. We’d been there many times, and I’d often perused the tape rack, which tended to contain the works of John Denver and a variety of country singers which after I discovered MTV I just wasn’t into anymore. But one day I was spinning the rack and found a tape that had two “radio dramas”. I asked my mom what they were and she explained it to me. I don’t remember who bought them, but we ended up with three tapes. War of the Worlds, The Shadow and The Green Hornet. I played those things so many times, I’m surprised they tapes didn’t break. I’m pretty sure if I look around, here or at my dad’s house, I could find those three tapes.
Many years later, after the Walkman had been replaced by the Discman, I found a radio show style recording of Stephen King’s The Mist. I love movies and I love TV, but there is just something special about putting on headphones, sitting back, closing your eyes and letting the audio wash over you while imagery explodes in your mind. It’s like reading a book but without the reading. In fact, I’m pretty certain stumbling onto those tapes decades ago actually affected how I read, because I let the words sink in and I build the scenes visually within my mind. The downside is that I read slow. The upside is that I remember what I read very vividly.
Anyway… despite loving those things and them being an integral park of my growing up, I admit I don’t keep track of what’s going on in the world of radio shows. I mean, yes, I’ve been lusting after the DarkAdventureRadioTheater set for quite some time now, and I run across things now and then, but I haven’t actively sought things out. But recently I’ve discovered (years later than most) podcasts. While I tend to hate most talk radio, I’ve been enjoying a few podcasts, mostly entertainment or comedy related like The Nerdist. It’s actually through that site that I’ve found We’re Alive, which is just awesome and one of those “Why did I not know this existed?” sort of things. (Mental note: make sure the Apocalypse Rising track knows about this for Dragon*Con.)
So now I’m looking for more. Know any good radio show podcasts? I don’t want people just sitting around and talking (but if you say it’s completely awesome I’m sure I’ll try it out). I want radio dramas, mysteries, horror, adventure, whatever. Point me in their direction…
Friday Night Lights? Didn’t enjoy the movie, I’ll probably not enjoy the show.
At the time, that was accurate. I’d seen the movie and while “didn’t enjoy” might have been a tad harsh, the movie was decent but it didn’t blow me away. I certainly didn’t see why it would be turned into a TV show. Later on, people would tell me how good of a show it was, but I still avoided watching it. I didn’t want to watch a show about football.
Thanks to Netflix’s Instant streaming service and my Xbox 360, I’ve caught up on 4 seasons of the show and am now watching season 5.
Surprised is just too small a word to describe my reaction to Friday Night Lights. I was naive to have dismissed the show as being “about football” when football is just the backdrop for this story about people living in a small town. The drama depicted here is just so well done, so deftly written and played out, I’m kicking myself for having waited so long.
And it isn’t just the story or the writing, the performances by the actors here is amazing. I suppose it helps that many of them are people I don’t recognize. Outside of Kyle Chandler (who I know from various places including Early Edition) and Connie Britton (from Spin City), I don’t think I’d seen any of them before, and if I did it was clearly not enough for me to remember them. But each of them clearly understands their characters and their scenes play out so naturally, so real.
The main reason I write about the show now though is that this season, the fifth, is going to be the last. And it will be missed. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend watching Friday Night Lights.
Almost two months ago I wrote about the best show on TV that you weren’t watching, Terriers. You were supposed to start watching, like, immediately. But apparently, you didn’t. And now they’ve gone and cancelled the show.
I hate procedurals. They bore me, mostly because I want to know about the people solving the crimes, not the crimes so much themselves. If I wanted to see crimes solved I’d read a newspaper or something. What I want in my television are characters worth caring about, and most procedurals spend too much time on the science (half of which they make up anyway, or at least use in unrealistic budgetarily unconstrained ways) and not enough on the people.
Terriers was about people. Sure, there were crimes. Some of them were wrapped up in an episode, and some arced over several episodes. But most the compelling part of the show was the people who were tangled up in the mess. And ultimately, the core of the drama on Terriers was that it went to great lengths to illustrate that all actions have consequences. Nothing in this show was wasted. By the end of its run of just thirteen episodes, everything bore fruit, every action affected someone or something, every decision had consequences.
At this point, you’ve got a few options to see this gem in its entirety. Head over to Amazon and buy it from video on demand, or get it from iTunes, or go find some less than legal avenue to download episodes… or wait for the DVD release, of which I hope it gets good treatment of extras and not just episodes on disc.
Of course, one of the biggest letdowns of the cancellation is that I won’t get to hear “Gunfight Epiphany” each week. (Sadly, the song is only for sale on iTunes, and I hate iTunes.)
Just know… you could have saved this show. But you didn’t. And for that, I like you a little bit less today than I did yesterday. I’ll get over it, but we lost one of the good ones here, and that’s on you.
In the wake of many subscription MMOs going to a Free to Play model, it got me to thinking. Why can’t Cable TV do the same thing?
Instead of charging me $150 a month for 300 channels, most of which I’ll never watch, how about letting me have “free” cable, where I can watch PBS and other local stations in real time with commercials, and have everything, and I mean everything, available on demand as a pay per episode/pay per season service? The infrastructure is there. They already do sell programs on demand, they even ofter free on demand for many network and cable shows. They already provide Internet service and have the bandwidth. Just expand it. Sure, some people might just watch the free stuff, just like some gamers only play the free parts of free to play games, but the people who pay and buy the extras will far outweigh them in the long run.
As an added bonus to this sort of design, TV execs can stop trying to guesstimate viewers and DVR watchers and whatnot and actually get hard purchaser numbers. Even better, shows can stop competing against each other. Many shows have tried to go up against juggernauts like American Idol or Dancing with the Stars or even some scripted shows, and even if they get a few million viewers, it isn’t enough to keep the show on the air. Even when there are lower rated shows on the network, because sometimes it isn’t how good your show is but only how well it did versus someone else’s show. What if, instead of seeing your show get a paltry 2 million viewers while 28 million tune in to some other network, you could see that within a two week period 18 million people watched your show, 16 million of whom, if forced, would choose another show but when given the freedom to watch whenever they want without being forced to choose will happily watch and enjoy your program? Wouldn’t that be better?
And really, they don’t even need to go so far… I’d gladly watch the commercials during programs or special “sponsored by” spots before an episode if I could just watch all the shows I want when I want to watch them. I’d settle for having everything, with commercials, available on demand, and having the cable company charge me for the channels I want to select from a la carte. Rather than $150 a month for 300 channels, 282 of which I will never ever watch, ever; charge me $20 bucks a month and let me pick 20 or so channels I want to have. Make it a dollar a channel, with discounts the more I select.
Anyway… those of the rambling thoughts that are rumbling around in my brain today.
From the “Best TV Shows You Probably Aren’t Watching” file comes Terriers.
The show isn’t full of flashy action sequences. It isn’t full of sex. It’s about solving crimes, but it isn’t a procedural. It has no teens, no supernatural elements, no super spies or super powers. What it does have is excellent writing, great stories, and fantastic performances. There is action, and sex, and crime solving, but the show is really about the characters. In just six episodes I’ve gotten to know these characters better than some shows manage in entire seasons. The style of the show is like an old noir detective film. Scrappy underdog characters with huge character flaws. And snappy dialog.
Terriers is about Hank Dolworth. He’s an ex-cop and recovering alcoholic. He flushed his career and his marriage down the toilet, and now with his best friend Britt Pollack, a reformed criminal, the two of them are making ends meet by running an unlicensed private investigation business. Basically what you’ve got is an ex-cop who knows the law and where the edges are, and an ex-con who is good at breaking and entering and other less than lawful pursuits trying to do the right thing, even when they aren’t exactly sure what that is or how they should go about doing it. It begins with an old drinking buddy of Hank’s asking for a favor. This leads them into some dealings with corruption in local businesses and forms the story arc for the first five episodes. One of the best parts about the show is that it doesn’t divide it’s focus. Many shows like to have a case of the week for the episode and fill the background with character arcs. Terriers manages to actually use the case of the week as part of the character arcs and overall story arc. It all blends together instead of feeling like each scene is part of one or the other.
It’s just really good.
If you haven’t watched it yet, I’d recommend giving it a shot. Full episodes are available on Hulu. If you like it, tell a friend.
Didn’t watch the show. (Okay, I saw some episodes, randomly chosen by happenstance, didn’t care enough to try to see more.) Haven’t seen the first movie. (I think I saw the end once on TV, and possibly caught a few scattered minutes, but not enough to understand the plot, or make me want to see more.) Won’t be seeing this one either. (I watch enough crap that it is highly possible that I will, at some point, see part of this movie, but it won’t be because I sought it out.)
Prince of Persia – The Sands of Time:
The previews look very full of action, but still I’m just not excited, not chomping at the bit, to see this film. I never played the game it is based on (though I did play the original, long ago), however that might be a good thing since I wouldn’t be able to say the game was better. I’m not going to make special plans to go see this on the big screen, but I will probably watch it when it is available on DVD.
When it comes to Dragon*Con, four hours sleep is a lot. And remember, you can’t be hung over if you are still drunk. Really, it doesn’t take much too keep yourself going all day, that canteen I have isn’t water, its vodka and Crystal Light Lemonade, because, you know, I’m trying to watch my diet.
The day begins with a car alarm. I shit you not. Not even seven in the A.M. and there is an annoying *BEEP BEEP* alarm that I can hear… in my room… on the 38th floor. Jeez… So, once awake, I figured I’d just stay up. Three hours later I’d find myself sitting in the Free MMOs panel, listening to Krystalle tell us about some nifty free MMOs some of which I knew about and some of which I did not. Expect to see a few of them tested out and reviewed here, because these days in this economy I am all about the free.
Made my way over to the Hyatt for a panel on How To Draw Monsters. Interesting stuff, will definitely utilize some of that in my Saturday doodles when they return. While I was in the area I sped through the Art Show… Some people like to take their time and carefully examine the art, but I’ve been to enough Dragon*Cons that, no offence to the artists, I’ve seen most of this before, either exactly these before or items very similar. Lots of the same artists with the same styles they always have, and almost all of it is incredible stuff… but its not new, and most of it is not the kind of thing you stand considering for hours letting the emotion of the piece work into your soul… its fantasy art, with dragons, and women showing boobs, and guys with swords, and little monsters, and fairies, and women as the seasons, and aliens, and henna, and Celtic knots, and all the stuff you would expect. Good stuff, but at this point I can speed through the hall and if it doesn’t jump out and grab me then I’ve probably seen it before. This year didn’t even have one of those awesome miniatures scenes I’ve enjoyed from the last couple years.
I also took this opportunity to make a first trip through the exhibit halls… much like the art show, it is a lot of the same stuff every year. As is typical, I spent a little time in some of the book sellers looking for deals or books I’m missing, but overall, great stuff that I’ve seen before and so really easy to speed through.
Then it was off to the MMO Roundtable. People from Cartoon Network, CCP Games, Funcom, Hi-Rez Studios, and Sony Online Entertainment answered questions about the MMO industry. Lots of good stuff here. I ran in Ferrel from Epic Slant, and he gave me a t-shirt. Woohoo! Free stuff rocks!
With my head full of MMO industry goodness, I wandered over to Watch the Guild where we did exactly that: watched season one and two uncut. It was interesting to see each season without the breaks, the credits for every short segment. It played well. Ms. Day was great. Being that she’s a bit of a geek herself and a big reader, she seems to really like Dragon*Con, so hopefully this means she’ll make many returns, even if it means she has to miss PAX.
It is important to break for dinner prior to going out to party and drink. I did so, and then did so. Frankly, as much as I love the MMO track people and the MMO track, the WoW Party getting the giant room was a huge waste when you consider to do so meant pushing the BSG party into a piddly half-ballroom. They reach max capacity very fast and had a massive line. Seriously, on the first Dragon*Con after the series ended, did they expect attendance to diminish? Its the funeral, the big send off… BSG had a huge turn out. The show may be over, but fans always swell and linger at the end. The Firefly Shindig, forced to use just half a ballroom as well was in a similar boat, though not anywhere near at severe. Meanwhile, I strolled right in to the WoW party, took one of the many empty seats and almost immediately got up to leave. I wanted to party, but I couldn’t get in to the good parties… so instead I resorted to the Marriott lobby, people watching while sipping spirits. I did manage to run into and catch up with quite a few friends, but still, I’d rather have been able to get into a party instead. That said, I still enjoyed myself and made it well beyond 3AM of another day at the Con.
Day two ends as day two should, exhausted and drunk. Not the highest of highs, but high enough.
Over the past few months, I’ve been participating in the beta for Fallen Earth, an upcoming post apocalyptic MMO. Before I get to the good stuff, let me just get the bad stuff out of the way.
The graphics. And I don’t mean the style, but the performance. My PC isn’t exactly new or top of the line, but I beat out their required specs and I play a great number of games released in the last couple years very well. When I venture off by myself or in a small group, this game plays great. But when I get to town or any large gathering of people, the game turns into a slide show. Unplayable. Obviously, I could buy a new PC, but my PC should be enough to play if I turn all the effects off… it doesn’t help though. Even with minimal settings, low resolution and playing in a window, the game gets better, but never what I would call good in busy areas. To make matters more confusing, if I stand still in town, I can sit and watch everything run great, but the instant I try to move or turn, slide show.
That aside… Fallen Earth captures the post apocalyptic world perfectly. First off, the world is huge, so when you run off into the wilderness, you are literally running off into the wilderness. One day I just picked a direction and started running. Two hours later I was still running… I’d seen one other person and some critters, some salvage and ruins, but little else. The best part of this… I started to get worried. Am I lost? Where is everyone? I’m gonna die out here… This is what a world after Armageddon is supposed to feel like. In other MMOs I would complain about all the empty space, because those games are littered with NPCs and stuff and are supposed to be full of people, but Fallen Earth is supposed to feel empty, and it does, and it works.
The combat is a little different from your standard MMO. Ranged weapons require aiming, and melee weapons have standard swings but need you to be facing the target. There is no auto attack or auto aiming, you don’t automatically hit something just because you have it targeted and hit your attack button. This makes fighting moving targets more difficult, and it makes movement matter in combat. Speaking of movement… you know how in real life if you are running and then jump, you pause when you land? You know how strafing is slower than turning and running? Both are true in this game. So, if you are looking for typical First Person Shooter mechanics of jumping around like a coked up jackrabbit all while running sideways at full speed in a circle perfectly nailing your opponent all the while, you won’t find it. Personally, I love it.
Another aspect of the game that I really enjoyed is the crafting. Not because crafting is so awesomely fun to play, but because so much in the game can be crafted. If you are familiar with EVE Online, it works like that. People go out and scavenge from the wilderness, then craft items (and the crafting is all done “offline”, meaning you don’t sit at a bench and make stuff, you just set it to be made and it will be done in time).
In fact, the EVE comparison is important, because, to me at least, this game plays a lot like a ground based version of EVE. While I could never really get into flying around space in a ship mining materials and joining corporations, I could easily get lost in walking the Earth, surviving.
I’ll make another post later with some screen shots, but to close off this post I’ll just say that if they can get the graphics issues sorted out, or if I win the lottery and can buy a new PC, I’m definitely on board for this game. If I could take this game’s design and put in zombies, I think I’d have my perfect MMO.