Category Archives: TV

*Cue Laugh Track

 

I hate The Big Bang Theory, there I said it. I’ve been told by some friends that it’s the show to watch, it has geek references, geek jokes and basically a love of all things nerdy…except it doesn’t  I’ve tried to watch a handful of shows over the years, to have an open mind and perhaps surprise myself by digging it- I didn’t  In fact, my initial reaction was the correct one- I hated it, still do.
So why is it one of the most watched comedies on television right now? Not sure, it seems either the zombies who watch CBS and all of its repetitive crime shows are of the zombie persuasion and wouldn’t know a good joke if it were in the laps or perhaps even series creator/producer Chuck Lorre signed a deal with the devil; I like to believe that last one since Lorre also is responsible for the even-worse “Two and a Half Men,” which is offensive on every level, the least of which is the alleged comedy, but that’s for another rant….I’m not making fun of those people that do dig it, I’m merely pointing out the makers of this and why the show is as phoney as a $3 bill.
Having grown up on copious amounts of classic television, good and bad, I know my way around a great sitcom and Big Bang is not it- it’s basically nerd/geek blackface; it’s full of unfunny jokes, inauthentic speak and exaggerated stereotypes. The stories are from the usual sit-com tropes sure, yet nothing original is done or said. The jokes are lazy, obvious, over-sold, under-baked, low-brow, low-frequency and bogus. The characters never feel like real people with “funny” problems or funny people with real problems; just hack actors waiting to deliver their trite lines. The character of Sheldon should be an easy sell; he’s a genius in his field of study, yet treats everyone around him like dirty hobos knowing he’s smarter than everyone in the room, except there’s no room for comedy when that happens. He instead comes off as an asshole, borderline Sociopath. An irritating know-it-all that no one wants to root for or be around… You can’t do that with comedy, IF he was funny he could get away with murder but since he’s not, the “jokes” fall flat and sucks the humor right out. That’s the problem with most network television today- they wrote from PLOT, not character, which is dull as hell; isn’t that right, “Law & Order?”
Sheldon: I’d have a diet coke.
Penny: Please order a cocktail. I need to practice bartending.
Sheldon: Fine, I’ll have a Virgin Cuba Libre
Penny: That’s rum and Coke, without the rum?
Sheldon: Right?
Penny: So coke!
Sheldon: And will you make it diet, please?

*cue Laugh track!
Why is that funny?

Or they will throw in some science techno jargon to make Sheldon a real card…

(A sick Sheldon on phone with Leonard)
Leonard: Take rest, and drink plenty of fluids.
Sheldon: What else would I drink?? Gases?? Solids?? Ionized Plasma??!

To be fair, the above is probably just a matter of taste- ME having some! *rim shot!
Except my problem with this show goes deeper, after watching several episodes I noticed a fatal flaw. Recall all the classic sitcoms and a formula will emerge; not so much a formula as the required ingredients in sitcom DNA. The series is a bust right down to its mechanical structure. It violates nearly every rule established for a quality show and the rules it does adhere to, it abuses them.

Below are the best examples of said template on how to use great stock characters, the huge difference is the following series ran with them. Gave the characters nuance and foibles. Not only stock characters, but real, well-rounded people we got to know. They weren’t always right or even good, but always human and always, always funny!

“The Mary Tyler Moore Show” -every show has the main kid, the well balanced one- usually told from this character’s POV, they tend to balance out the wackiness created by the others; Mary Richards was the sane one who balanced everyone else out. Dorothy from “The Golden Girls” and Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show” did the same on their respective series.

Cheers” -the dumb one, Ernie “Coach” Pantuso, was mostly a dim-bulb, but once in a while he would say something very sensible and wise. Occasionally they will exhibit more wisdom and sanity than anyone else. Rose from “The Golden Girls often did the same; a real putz, with stupid stories and nearly insane form of naivety but would surprise everyone with her wisdom and tough competitive streak. Diane Chambers was a great character because she was high-strung, pretentious, so completely self-analyzing that she was often unaware of her surroundings and was ripe for a great insult. Despite being the best educated, she was at times, the dumbest, an huge irony indeed.

“The Andy Griffith Show”, the buffoon- Sometimes these are separated into two different characters or combined with the dummy, in the case of Barney Fife from he was three. Another great angel to write a character from as they could grind him in the dirt and humiliate him anyway possible, but often would have the audience feel his pain and empathize with him. Andy would go to great lengths to protect Barney’s feelings from being hurt. Barney was easy to relate to, but easier to laugh at. Ted Baxter was another great example, slightly more destructive than Fife with his rampaging ego as a TV weatherman. Always good for a laugh, but occasionally would surprise everyone with his courage.

Everybody Loves Raymond” is a perfect example of a modern series with classic ingredients. Ray’s wife was the sane one, usually, while her in-laws were definitely a mix bag of buffoons and dummies and all the other archetypes. Husband Ray was somewhere in the middle and often exhibited all these traits.

“Sanford & Son” – Son Lamont was the steady, usually the rational mind while his father Fred was the schemer, the conniving and constantly played mind games with his son to keep him home. Both characters filled most of the stock character roles/archetypes. The strong supporting cast filled out everything else- especially friend Grady Wilson as the dumb one and sister-in-law Esther Anderson as Fred’s nemesis. Despite the quarreling between father and son, they loved each other deeply and would do anything for each other when called for.  

“Seinfeld” had all those in play with Jerry acting as the normal one, yet exhibiting all of the above traits at one time or another. Kramer and George were of varying degrees of buffoons and dumb and Elaine filled in the rest of the blanks. They all worked in tandem, without one, the group would be ruined and not nearly as funny. Despite their near mental psychosis, the gang was funny. Their selfishness was horrifying yet occasionally relatable and the show gets points for having the guts to not always go for the safe, obvious joke and would relish any moment to make fools out of the characters to sell a joke, but never went cheap and stepped out of character at the expense of a joke. Even though the characters were all ciphers, the show wrote comedy from the characters, not PLOT.

Three’s Company”- for all the critical drubbings it took; it had the classic formula down pat. Jack was the crazy/buffoon, Chrissy was the dummy, and Janet was the normal one that balanced out the others. The Ropers were a mixture of all of the ingredients with neighbor Larry Dallas filling in the blanks, but mostly was a skirt-chaser. Landlord Ralph Furley was definitely THE buffoon. This was farce taken to the extreme and done with hilarious results.

“All in the Family”- the single best sitcom ever produced, had the stock recipe down to perfection along with its provocative writing and flawless acting you didn’t really notice; the dumb character was wife Edith, the loud-mouthed bigot (or buffoon) was Archie. The Loud-mouth arrogant youngster was son-in-law Mike and the mostly normal character, daughter Gloria who balanced the other three out when she wasn’t doing her own freak out. ALL stock characters, but taken a little further than expected. What could have easily have been cliché is ignored for truth and a good joke- the execution was so mechanically and creatively sound we never noticed the formula. The humor and topics rose above the premise and created something bigger, it become the first water-cooler show that would have tongues wagging the following day. Full of passion, guts and humanity, the series never sacrificed character for a cheap joke and it never sacrificed a joke for fake emotions. When it was dramatic it deserved it and when it was funny, it earned it. Instead, we got variations and nuances from each every character; they had their moments to shine and would surprise the viewers with some personality revealed. Sometimes Edith was the wisest character on the show. Although Archie was a bigot with distasteful opinions, he’d often surprise everyone with his generosity and humanity. He and Mike fought like cats and dogs, they would band together in times of crisis. Mike, the crusading Liberal was often wrong and Gloria could at times be as dense as her mother. Archie Bunker with all his flaws was an inherently good man, who worked hard all his life and was only saying what society and his father had taught him, he was just confused and the changes were too fast for him. The audience over the years grew to like him, cheered him on, laughed and cried with him and at him… only through the love of his family does he occasionally see the error of his ways and at least, soften his opinions. That’s real, that’s relateable and that’s excellent writing! That’s what good comedy does, delivers the laughs, but gives us something of the characters to relate to- real human moments with some unexpected bits thrown in. The nuance, the human foibles that makes us who we are; this is why we laugh at those shows decades after they’ve left the air.

“The Big Bang Theory” has NONE of that! It will enter syndication and leave undisturbed or talked about, and dull as a silent fart. When you break it down the series is paper thin and terribly lacking in good, well-constructed, memorable jokes. Having watched two episodes two days ago, I cannot recall a single one-liner or funny aside. It’s also enourmously fake and inauthentic… the following proves to me this show is full of crap!

 Sheldon: “Saturn 3 and Deep Space 9 are on tonight. What shall we watch?”

Raj: “Deep Space 9. It’s better than Saturn 3 anyway…”

Sheldon: “Since when is Deep Space 9 better than Saturn 3?”

BULLSHIT! IF Sheldon was a big nerd as he is suppose to be, IF he is as smart as he says he is, then he would know what a terrible movie “Saturn 3” is and would never say its’ better than “Star Trek: Deep Space 9,” but per usual, the people watching this show yuck it up because it sounded nerdy, the laugh track kicked in therefore it’s funny…. right?!

WRONG!

In the same episode the same two debate which is worse, “Star Trek 5” or “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” Sheldon thinks TMP fails, but again, this is not a true geek talking… this is a fake nerd speaking words writen by posers and idiots who hate nerds but think it’s funny to make fun of them… Epic Fail. Every Trekkie knows TMP is a beautiful, accomplished film with plenty of admirers and fans… fake tv nerds are not among them…
Perhaps I’m asking too much by comparing gold to tin foil, but it’s a legitimate gripe and a serious problem for nearly every 3 camera sitcom/live studio audience on the air today. There are no pauses in the humor for real moments; it’s an endless assembly line of soulless mechanical writing that lacks humanity and truth. The show has stock characters, but refuses to anything with them; they merely sit around, spout their stupid lines and let the laugh track do the heavy lifting. It’s not just the humor that doesn’t work, but the inside structure, the building blocks to what makes a series solid and a test of time are not there in “The Big Bang Theory”.
Humanity, nuance, originality, surprise-none of that is on display in Instead, its surface, crappy writing. A pack of writers sit around a table eating their pizza trying to beat a deadline writing whatever comes to mind forgoing logic, quality of the jokes and taste.  There’s no depth, no interesting quirks, Sheldon only exists to serve as a “comic” foil to his roommate Leonard, who serves to only cower and kiss his ass. If Sheldon was a bully with sociopath tendencies, which he has, then Leonard is a scared, wimpy, wispy weakling who’s afraid of his own shadow. The characters are annoying jerks- neither are unlikable in a funny way, but both are unlikable in an unlikable way.
His friends are equally horrible.
Leonard is supposed to be smart and possibly smarter than Sheldon, but his kvetching Jew shtick is beyond pathetic- there are some occasional signs of competition with this as Sheldon’s narcissism comes out whenever his intellect is challenged- again, not very funny. Leonard’s self-esteem is so low and his nerdiness so over-powering that it’s enormously hard to swallow that neighbor Penny would show an interest in him, but of course she does…but she is dumb of course, god forbid they write a beautiful girl in the Lorre universe that’s also smart. The romance between her and Leonard is phony, why a girl that hot would show the slightest interest in a cream puff like that is still a mystery even Colombo couldn’t solve.
Would it not be more interesting and funny if Penny were as smart as the guys….?
Anyone? ….Bueller?

The girl that Sheldon does have an interest can’t look like a real woman- sorry, Mayim Bialik is not easy on the eyes…but of course since she’s smart, a borderline genius, she has to look like an Ape dressed up as Bette Midler. Keep those clichés coming; we can’t have realistic people and identifiable human traits on display.
Howard is whatever he is, a punching bag for Leonard when Sheldon gets pissed off. Rajesh is Indian and that’s why he’s funny…I guess? Those two serve no purpose other than to reinforce old racial stereotypes and to fill the sitcom quota for “Dumb guy” and get a condescending look from Sheldon from time to time with the laugh tracking kick into over drive. Which itself is not a terrible thing, IF something was done, inject some personality, HUMOR, do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, but the laugh track ticks on every five seconds laughing off every trite stupid joke and nonsense one-liner. If that weren’t enough, it’s the geek pandering; throw some Nimoy references around (a funny way to show off Sheldon’s sociopath tendencies), have the gang dress up like a comic book characters- oh how funny!!…and best of all- lets revive the old fashioned stereotype of guys who like science also like Star Trek/Star Wars!  
I love both of those and I HATE science and it goes back and forth between those two distinct personality types mixing them up liberally showing the audience they have no clue- This is why the show is a fraud-it may not matter to most watching but the lack of edification is annoying. The show has no idea what the difference is between a Geek and Nerd and it shows.
Splitting hairs perhaps, but there is a huge quantifiable difference. A geek is someone who lives a reasonably normal, healthy life, but “geeks-out” over whatever they like, Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, movies in general…and that’s basically it…they go on about their lives, have a family and are usually socially sound, date are and fun people to be around. They usually have other interests, a job and are not afraid of expanding their horizons.
Nerds are near mental cases. They live for whatever they are obsessed with and suck it dry. Nitpick and dissect it to death. They tend to be those basement-dwellers, unkempt mouth-breathers that live for only one or two things. If they have a job, it’s usually some dead-end retail madness. They are usually mean-spirited, self-centered jerks with zero interest in anything in life outside of their sphere of influence, emotionally regressive and social retards. They like only what they like, they don’t engage well in conversations if it’s not about them or their interests; they will keep it always about them and how it impacts their lives are generally jerky people that do not participate much in the game of human existence with very limited horizons. World of Warcraft seems to attract this type.
I realize they have to mix and match to make these freaks palatable and give them some mass appeal, but it’s insulting to my intelligence, again, it would not be a deal break, IF this damn thing was funny, but it’s not… the nerd/geek thing is the gimmick, the hook, the point of the show, but it seems, at least for me, to end right there… too bad…they don’t show the normal side of these guys, the mundane with the absurd, it’s JUST the absurd. We don’t laugh at the characters because they are funny, we are suppose to laugh at them because they are awkward, goofy and weird.  If this show wanted to go for the nerd/geek jugular, it could and really have fun it. There’s plenty of material- take aim at the basement-dwellers and the tubby unhygienic crowd.  Humiliate these freaks like crazy, but give them some humanity first and make one of the gang a normal person or twist it up and make Penny a nerd and the guy next door is the normal guy looking in or just have the main character the normal guy with nerdy friends and he keeps them balanced as they all learn from each other. Don’t just make it one long gimmick of assembly line and unfunny jokes.

*cue laugh track!

This show would have fit right in during the 1980’s/early 90’s sitcom renaissance sandwiched between “Family Matters” and “Step-by-Step,” with “Webster” coming up the rear- three horrible shows with all the same problems; lack of great characters, lack of solid joke building and the rudimentary concept of humor.

The worst part is that Jim Parsons has won the Emmy twice for his portrayal as Sheldon. and if that doesn’t make you sick enough here’s some disgusting trivia- Andy Griffith, Jackie Gleason and Redd Foxx never won an Emmy.

Penny: Umm, I guess the jokes only funny in Nebraska.

Sheldon: No, from the given data, all you can say is that this joke is not funny here…

Exactly!

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It’s De ja Vu All Over Again….Dallas & Dallas 2.0

Dallas and Trek together forever…

 

Watching some favorite television reruns recently I discovered a very striking similarity between two unlikely old favorites- Star Trek and Dallas. The hell you say, on the surface, yes, as their television journeys could not be more different; “Star Trek,” was a flop during its 1960’s run. “Dallas” was a huge, worldwide hit.

The styles and premises could not be more different and their television trajectories were miles apart, but once each show became entrenched with its fans, their similarities became very obvious as their television and pop culture legacy is nearly identical. For instance, despite being cancelled, remained popular in reruns having never left the air since its premiere, both had a spin-off (s), each has had several reunion movies, each has fan conventions all over the world at any given time of the year and each continues to be popular. Like “Star Trek,” “Dallas” has been pronounced dead more times than Bobby Ewing only to return bigger than ever.

Original Dallas Intro

 

As a kid watching CBS’s Friday night network schedule was the place to be; “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Dukes of Hazzard” and “Dallas,” the latter taking the network to number one by creating a pop-culture thunderclap. How else  could a hunk of redneck piss like “Dukes of Hazzard” get to be #3 in the ratings? I love it anyway.
The epic tale of two feuding families began as a five part mini-series in the spring of 1978; the rich and powerful Ewings  versus the working class Barnes set against the backdrop of the oil industry and family drama full of corporate takeovers, backstabbing, infidelity, sex, lies and more lies was a worldwide hit that agitation created frenzy by the end of season three with the “Who Shot JR?” cliffhanger aired on CBS in 1980.


A frenzy of such, it garnered 360 million viewers, number two still on the list of most watched television episodes- ever.
Geared mostly to the male viewers, “Dallas” defied all expectations and slowly became one of the biggest hits over the next decade by tapping into the simplicity of the art form-the serial narrative, or “Soap Opera” took bits and pieces from other areas; Shakespeare’s “Romeo & Juliet” and most obvious the Bible. A shade of “The Magnificent Ambersons”, but mostly taking its cues from the Montague’s and the Capulet’s, the series begins with two feuding families, the super-rich and powerful Ewings versus the working class Barnes.
The pilot episode begins with Bobby James Ewing (Patrick Duffy, The Man From Atlantis) and his new bride Pamela Barnes (Victoria Principal) come to live at the family ranch in Texas, outside Dallas, called “Southfork,” problems arise as the Ewings and Barnes patriarchs have a history of feuding over oil claims. Pamela’s wildcatter father, Willard, “Digger” Barnes a raging alcoholic, felt his claims had been stolen from him by John Ross, “Jock” (Jim Davis) Ewing some forty plus years prior. The feud continued on when Jock married Eleanor, “Miss Ellie” Southworth, and (Barbara Bel Geddes) a childhood sweetheart of Diggers’. While Jock and Ellie built a rich oil empire and raised three sons, (John Ross Junior, “JR”, Garrison Southworth, Robert, “Bobby” James), Digger drank his bitterness away, barely eked out a living and raised two children, son Clifford and daughter Pamela. All the while cursing the Ewing name and blaming them for his lost fortune, his first love Ellie and everything else evil in the world. At one point early in the series Jock even scolds Digger for blaming him for everything dating back to ‘original sin.’ Although Digger had long since given up on revenge his resentment of the Ewing’s was perpetuated through his son, with Pam caught in the middle, Cliff (Ken Kercheval), who as Assistant District Attorney and later a Senator, was hell bent on bringing down the family that he blamed for his father’s ruination.
The biblical allusions are more than just some throwaway dialogue from Jock; it’s the heart of the early and best years of the series as it’s embedded with many Old Testament motifs. The most prominent, is the “good son” Bobby fighting with the older brother “bad son” John Ross Jr., known by his nickname “J.R.” for control of the Ewing family business, Ewing Oil. It is your basic Cain and Abel homage. Throw in prodigal middle son Gary, a raging alcoholic, black sheep of the family and father of Lucy, who turns up later in the second season and leaves for his spin-off series, “Knots Landing.” Ranch Foreman, Ray Krebbs (Steve Kanally) would later be revealed as a fourth Ewing son, the result of Jock’s affair with a nurse during his stint in WWII. The dynamics were set up immediately, the rivalry between Bobby and J.R. over not only for their father’s favor, but as the head of Ewing Oil; JR feels it’s his divine right to have it, Jock feels its Bobby’s right to fight for it and thus the competition is born. JR’s unyielding love for his Dad and the constant need to prove himself to Jock, who is thrust in the middle as referee and Mama Ellie, is the moral compass of the series, as she tries to understand JR’s blind ambition and her husbands’ blind eye to all things J.R.

The Ewing’s abode.

 

The best aspect of the series was its moral simplicity that was worn like a badge of honor. The good guys were clearly drawn, Bobby, Pam, Mama Ellie and so are the bad guys; J.R., Sue Ellen and sometimes his Daddy Jock, probably the only character with a good heart and intent, but still clouded with shades of gray. The brother’s wives, Sue Ellen, (Linda Gray) who is clearly unhappy in her marriage and drinks like Ted Kennedy on Saint Patty’s day. Her performance is marginalized in the first season, but by second, she is a full-blown alcoholic while JR cheats on her with her younger sister and tries to commit her to a sanitarium. Pamela, Bobby’s wife, she’s the poor folk, allowed into the rich world by love, but met with a cynical eye from Jock and J.R… Jock learns to accept her, but J.R. never does and becomes a constant interference as does Pam’s brother, Cliff, (Ken Kercheval). The steady rocks, Jock and Miss Ellie offer wisdom and deal with their own problems; (her’s a mastectomy, his a heart attack) while trying to raise their wild granddaughter, Lucy, (Charlene Tilton) absent son, middle son Gary’s long ago abandoned daughter.
It was melodrama in its simplest, purest, shameless form and audiences loved it. Not only the suffering of the rich, but the manipulative, scheming ways of J.R. Ewing, as the show became a hit, he became the breakout character evolving quite nicely into arguably televisions greatest villain.

  Even though Brother Bobby made the perfect obstacle for J.R.’s schemes, Cliff Barnes was his true enemy. Seething with revenge and bitterness thanks to his father Digger Barnes, the torch carrier of the Barnes/Ewing feud, Cliff used every resource possible to avenge his drunkard father by trying to destroy the Ewings in the field of business and politics.
Both men went to great lengths to destroy the other. One J.R.’s first attempts to destroy Cliff began in the series second season when Cliff runs for State Office. J.R. illegally funnels money to his campaign, Daddy Jock was partially aware of this, and pulls all the money out at the last minute causing his opponent to win. Other acts of kindness; J.R. framed Cliff for murder after sleeping with his wife Sue Ellen causing him to question his son’s paternity. He also bugged Cliff’s office to get the upper hand on a hot business deal. One of J.R.’s “best schemes” was to entice Cliff with a phony deal, prompting him to embezzle money from his mother’s company, forcing her to fire him causing Cliff to attempt suicide. Cliff tried to get back at J.R. too; he once blackmailed his secretary for some industrial espionage of his own and by series end wound up with sole ownership of Ewing Oil.
In the early seasons, Cliff is portrayed as the righteous good guy, a symbol for the working class against the evil rich, but when he inherits his mother’s vast fortune he becomes just like JR, but is never comfortable with his status. J.R. lived and breathed rich, and was mostly honest about his dishonest behavior.
Cliff was the opposite, never completely comfortable in scheming and dealing, he often lied to those he cared about to get what he wanted coming off sleazy. JR did too, but at least it was expected of him and he made no pretense about his dishonesty and gave him a scoundrel charm. The series also was a comment on how to be rich and live rich.    Throughout the series Cliff had a reputation for being cheap and naive in contrast to J.R., who always dined in fine restaurants, wore a stylish Stetson, lived on South Fork and lavished his mistresses with generosity; Cliff often preferred take-out Chinese cuisine, wore cheap suits, lived in a condominium and assumed his romantic interests would clean his home. While J.R. was smooth talking and charismatic, Cliff tended to speak before he thought and frequently stuck his foot in his mouth.

Although it was fun to see J.R. occasionally bested by Cliff and whoever else, as a fan you couldn’t help but root for the guy to get back up and fight. When Cliff lied it was uncomfortable, when JR lied, it was illuminating.
J.R. Ewing was a liberating character to watch; shameless in his asshole behavior, he went completely around and came out on the other side. He was paradoxically likeable -yet wholly selfish, uncaring and mercenary in nature. He wasn’t totally evil, he stood by his family from outside attacks and truly believed what he did was for the good of the family, especially to get approval from his father, but he was who he was because of that- he lived and breathed the family business, oil and took anyone down that got in his way- including family members. He had no trouble telling middle brother Gary and half-brother Ray what he thought of them, which was not much.
His true ascension to evil prick began in the series third season when he mortgaged the family ranch, Southfork, to pay for some oil leases in southeast Asia unbeknownst to this parents, (who would never have approved). It was eventually discovered by his brother Bobby. A season earlier, as he was constantly trying to gain the upper hand, he blackmailed the son-in-law of the family lawyer to illegally obtain the document and allow him to read his Daddy’s will long before he was dead.

 

J.R.’s Best Moments…
He constantly tried to break up Bobby and Pam through various methods, once by photographing her with another woman to imply she’s a lesbian.

“Exactly!”

“Gee, I wonder why I liked this show so much” DUH!

“Sue Ellen as she is today! Not bad for an old broad!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first season cliffhanger had him “accidently” cause Pam to fall from a hay loft causing her to miscarry the Ewing’s first grandchild; although portrayed as totally unintentional, the results didn’t bother him one bit. He drills for oil on his family’s land, even though his mama strictly forbade it, he cheats on his wife constantly and has an on-going affair with his younger sister-in-law, Kristen, (Mary Crosby), who later tried to kill him with two gunshots to the gut. When he was not cheating on his wife, he was cheating business partners causing one to commit suicide and selling his banker worthless oil leases.

What a guy!

“The one who shot -J.R. I’d take a bullet for her too if I could take a peak!”

J.R. was the ultimate male fantasy, both in the boardroom and the bedroom. Males lived vicariously through him due to his well-fed libido and his approach to his enemies. Women liked his scoundrel ways and God-like confidence; men dug his no BS approach to life. He played by his own set of rules, which mostly consisted of getting laid and making money.
Larry Hagman’s good ole’ boy charm is what made the character work; he became a household name and the highest paid actor on TV as he played the role to the hilt, smiling and backslapping his way to the bank. It was hard to tell where the twain met with actor and character, but his performance was so convincing to some, he was accosted on the street a few times by angry female viewers for his lecherous ways.
Dubbed “The Human Oil Slick” by TIME Magazine at the height of the “Who Shot JR” pandemonium, JR put a face to the “Greed Decade” of the 1980’s. After the malaise and economic doldrums inflicted upon the country by the idiotic Jimmy Carter, “Dallas” became an escape as audiences witnessed the rich fat cats becoming heroes and the materialistic culture giving birth to the insufferable yuppie. As much as JR was fun to watch, his handlers knew he couldn’t always be on top so good guy Bobby would come in to kick him in the pants and deflate his raging ego. He would bring his scheme to usually a crashing halt and occasionally his Mama and Daddy would subvert his trickery, i.e. the mortgage on the family ranch, Southfork.
The series entered a crossroads at the beginning of the Fourth Season as it experienced its first loss of actor Jim Davis as Patriarch, Jock Ewing. Cancer quickly killed Davis in at the end of the third season, but Jock was slowly written out as the stage was set for a dramatic exit. A mid- 4th season event reveals Jock’s demise from a plane crash. A body is never found, but the sons know he is dead as they deliver the news to their mother. J.R. most of all mourns his passing. Some great character moments emerge as he pays more attention to this young son and realizes business is not all there is to make him happy…this works for a while until he returns better and meaner than before.
A noticeable shift in dynamics occurred as J.R. becomes the head of the family. Miss Ellie is still in charge, but its J.R. would lead the family into the new decade. No longer seeking curry from his father, J.R. becomes a more aggressive striking cobra; with Brother Bobby fighting him for control of Ewing Oil. For the first time their competition is laced with more viciousness.

Dramatically, the series continued on full throttle until the unthinkable happened- The eighth season started off wobbly with Barbara Bell Geddes, in a contract dispute, left the series and was replaced by Donna Reed as Miss Ellie, now married to Clayton Farlow. Reed did her best in the role, but the fans turned against her and demanded Geddes back. Another blow came with Duffy’s announcement he too would leave at the end of the season, his only stipulation was to be killed off…permanently.
The writers obliged and gave Robert James Ewing a dramatic send off with his ex-sister-in-law, Katherine Wentworth, in a fit of jealous rage, (who had shoot Bobby one year earlier) tries to kill her half-sister Pamela by running her down with a car. Instead, Bobby pushes her out of the way and takes the hit, injured; he’s rushed to the hospital and dies with his family at his bedside. A ratings blockbuster as everyone bid Bobby adieu.
The series 9th went through a strange metamorphosis; although starting off strong, we see the return of Babs Bel Geddes as Miss Ellie and with the characters suffering from the death of Bobby- we get some great acting in these early episodes; Miss Ellie and JR trying to console each other. Linda Gray as Sue Ellen playing her boozy- victim shtick to the hilt is quite impressive as she attempts to climb out of her drunken hell.
Ray and Donna have a brilliant storyline when they learn their baby will be born with Down’s syndrome, losing it and then wanting to adopt a deaf kid. Some of the best moments of the series are here; tender, well-acted stuff that was over-powered and largely forgotten thanks to the crappy stuff.
And boy is it crappy, just from a single character missing; the series polemic shift was forever altered. Once they move past the fallout from Bobby’s death and the series had to move on to regular storytelling, it tanked. By mid-season, the series had lost its creative mind- Pamela was off in South America looking for an Emerald mine Bobby bought years ago with a so-called friend of his, only to learn it and the friend, were a fraud…
Aside from a few brilliant moments, it was obvious things weren’t working and the series began to suffer from, “What do we do now?” syndrome.
J.R.’s scenes of mourning Bobby were great, well-acted, written and his final monologue to his brother was perfect. And that’s the problem- he was given too much pain, too much humanity, he became a real person and then over the season withered and died. J.R. was defanged, deballed- no longer the cobra waiting to strike, had he become…sympathetic, not in a good way, and with a heavy emphasis on the pathetic. And the lame attempt to put Jack (Ewing cousin) and Jenna together except no one told Pricilla Presley she couldn’t act. Running on two speeds- doe-eyed flirt or enraged crybaby, she was worse than the previous season by a country mile to be sure, but her pairing with Ray the following season made even less sense and only made her crimes against humanity worse.
The first of many mistakes, season 9 lost its voice. An attempt to broaden the storylines was Angelica Nero. The mysterious European shipping tycoon was obviously inspired by “Dynasty, (the #1 show at the time) and fans quickly picked up on this as she was met with a fan collective, BOO! At this point, it takes no genius to know that without Bobby; creatively the show began sinking becoming a clone of “Dynasty” with its European influx of guest characters and over-the-top costumes. Worst of all, J.R. had become…tamed.
It was in fact Hagman himself who expressed his dislike for the show at that time to the press and ultimately demanded Patrick Duffy back. He got it, with some cajoling and an incredible offer, (one that Duffy later said was something I could not refuse,) was lured back for the 1986- 1987 season.
In the opening episode of Season 10 in September 1986, Pam woke up to find Bobby in bathroom happily soaping himself in a shower. In possibly the most bizarre scenario (some would say cop-out) in TV history, the entire previous 1985-86 season was explained away as being nothing more than a bad dream that Pam had experienced, and the entire storyline picked up where the 83-84 season finished, with Bobby and Pam planning to remarry. Bobby only died in her “nightmare,” and everything else the producers didn’t like’ Merinos, Angelica Nero, Jack as a double nonsense, etc. was rendered null and void. Many fans felt cheated by the stretch in creditability, even for a soap opera, but just as many felt it was a necessary, to expel some boring storylines and fix the missing dynamic of J.R. versus Bobby. In Star Trek, they can go back in time or use any kind of sci-fi Mcguffin, (Spock’s ka’tra in “stasis” inside McCoy’s brain) to restore a dead character; “Dallas” had no such options.
Looking back, it was the best solution to a woefully wrongheaded move of killing Bobby off in the first place. A bold move for a popular show to admit the previous season was a piece of shit. There only true mistake was making his death so permanent, one scene of uncertainty was all that was needed to fix the mess.
Despite reports on the contrary, the series stayed on the air another five seasons with “Dream Season” having done little damage as the series would have at least two more good years.
The true decline, when the series really lost its jazz, began in May 1987 with the first of many cast departures, Victoria Principal left after her character was seriously burned in an auto accident. (Her fate was only half-resolved as Cliff would find her the next season in a hospital being treated for a fatal illness with her telling him to never contact her again.)
At least two actors a year until 1990 would exit the series, leaving Hagman and Ken Kercheval the only two actors to stay the entire run, but by this point, the series was obviously running out of gas.
Even as the show declined in its later years, beginning with the death and resurrection of Bobby, J.R. remained at the heart of the series. Once his Ewing Oil was no longer his prize catch and Sue Ellen left town for good, his character became tame and started to lose. Fans tuned out once their favorite winner began losing.
As the ratings sank and fans no longer interested, Hagman and the rest of his co-stars could take pride in the fact that they rode an extraordinary wave into television history. After the “It’s a Wonderful Life”- esque final episode, the series went off the air in 1991. It was then that “Dallas” became like “Star Trek” and instead of being just cancelled, it entered quiet phases and would never truly go away for good.
Entering rerun syndication, new generations of fans would be picked up in the 90’s pushing for a reunion, which happened in 1996, the first of several reunions aired, “Dallas: JR Returns,” saw the once thought defeated J.R. take back his home town and his beloved Ewing Oil.
1998 saw the less than stellar “Dallas: War of the Ewings,” but a hit still and 2003 had a third reunion comprised of interviews, clips and anecdotes of the glory days in “Dallas: Return to Southfork,” in 2004. Fans still clamored for more as conventions, gatherings fan parties continued. One film that is criminally forgotten and is hands down the best of these movies, “Dallas: The Early Years,” airing in 1986, is an excellent prequel set in the 1930’s detailing Jock and Digger’s friendship during their wildcatting years and the courtship of Jock and Ellie. We see their friendship and how it breaks down and the seeds planted for the Ewing Empire. Not considered an official reunion film since it aired when the series was still on the air and told the story of the Ewing parents and associates.
Like the “Star Trek” cast, Hagman and his crew are icons, celebrated around the world and will forever be associated with their respective characters and the actors have accepted that, attending various conventions around the world since the series left the air in 1991.
Dallas is the perfect definition of phenomenon; it was a celebration of high energy and distilled melodrama that verged on camp. A wallowing in the excess of high class couth, “Dallas” never met a moral value it did not offend, laughing at the old adage “Nice Guys finish last.” There wasn’t a nice guy left once J.R. was done. Making money and acquiring power was the series mantra and embraced it like a horny lover. The first significant soap opera aimed at the male sensibilities, J.R.’s dealings were always couched in the next big business deal or between the sheets of his many conquests. While it did not usher in the shallow culture of the 1980’s, it certainly enjoyed it and wore it like a fur coat. All the while reaping what it sowed and practically divorced from reality of life beyond the cathode ray universe it so effortlessly dominated.
Sitting on top of this Mountain was King Larry, watching over his television minions, he was the genial, manipulator with almost satanic magnetism, which made JR likeable, sometimes even sympathetic no matter how dastardly he was, defined an already cynical generation.
With reboots, remakes and revivals galore, it was a no-brainer that Dallas, the biggest network series of the 1980’s, too would get a second chance in series television in the summer of 2012… Not as a remake, rehash, retooling, but a continuation…taking its cues from “Star Trek” once again, TNT gave birth to, “Dallas: The Next Generation,” (the next generation is not its official title) to huge ratings, 7 million to be exact.
Usually series revivals do not work, anyone remember, ‘The New Avengers,” The New WKRP in Cincinnati,” ”Melrose Place,” and all those damn Brady Bunch series…thankfully, Dallas and its allusions to “Star Trek” continues, as its fans are just as passionate and vociferous when it comes to the Ewing clan and keeps the things that work and ignores the bad. (Take those reunion films, PLEASE!)
I was excited and skeptical about the series return, the last scripted reunion movie did a huge disservice making, “War of the Ewings,” nearly unwatchable.
I feared it would it be a trashy copycat more in like a aping the original with stock characters with pretty faces mouthing terrible, uninteresting dialogue.
My skepticism was inappropriate as it would seem lyin, cheatin and screwin never go out of favor. In an era of “reality” everything, the series is a welcomed fresh of scripted air. The cast is great; no surprise from the original kids as they’ve all stayed in the limelight and have been working fairly steady since the series left the air in 91. The newbies were the ones I was worried about. Jesse Metcalf as Christopher Ewing I have seen around for years, but he did nothing to set the world on fire; guest spots on “Smallville,” Passions” and the awful “Desperate Housewives”, Jordanna Brewster un-crapped the “Fast and the Furious” franchise and the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” remake, both familiar, but not yet sold. The new-newcomers are Julie Gonzlo as Rebecca Sutter and Josh Henderson as John Ross Ewing III, the standout of all the cast. Henderson has the rakish charm of a scoundrel, he keeps John Ross in the gray area, we expect him to be a prick thanks to his Dad, but it’s not that easy. He has his problems with his father is not a member of Team J.R.
To play catch up for the uninitiated, the reunion movies from the late 90’s are ignored as those films tried to wrap up the series in 4 hours of television narrative; the new series has now rendered them non-canon as it picks up where the old series left off with JR, out of business and depressed and not Dallas’s fattest cat any longer
The three originals are back and doing just fine, Patrick Duffy as the formerly dead, Robert James “Bobby,” Ewing his third wife Ann (Brenda Strong) son Christopher (Jesse Metcalf) The one actor that needs singled out is Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing, at 80, he’s as conniving and charming as ever. A cancer scare has the actor missing for several episodes of the first season, (ironically enough the character of Bobby has a cancer scare in first few episodes); Duffy and the newcomers try their best to compensate, but his absence is felt. His presence is felt too when he’s in an episode and the series reaches its glorious heights when J.R. is in full prick mode. What made the original series work was Hagman’s performance, he was so fully invested you couldn’t help but root for the guy even when he was mortgaging the family ranch. He’s back to his old tricks trying to wrestle Southfork, from Bobby, not for sentimental reasons, but because there is a parcel of land loaded with billons worth of crude oil.
As the series begins, Bobby is trying to be the peace maker in the family, put aside his old rivalry with his brother and hopes it doesn’t pass on to their sons, which is does as they not only fight over the family business, but their women as well. He intends to sell Southfork to conservatory, much to the chagrin of John Ross and J.R. Elena Ramos, daughter to the Ewing cook, she’s lived around the Ewing boys most of the last 20 or so years and was originally engaged to Christopher, but two years before the series begins, they split, and are now involved with John Ross. As the series opens, Christopher marries Rebecca Sutter, (Gonzalo) who is shrouded in mystery from the giddy-up.
Without getting into pages long storylines, the series knows its history and for this fan, it’s great to see nods to the originals kids… For instance, Miss Ellie, mother to the Ewing brothers, is almost constantly referenced, in episode 6 Bobby makes a graveside visit; her headstone says she died in 2001. He gives a nice speech, but it’s too short to make an impact. In the same episode, Bobby was willing to pump oil on Southfork to save John Ross and the ranch as the kid gets involved heavily with South American cartel gangsters. A nod to the season 3 episode when Miss Ellie was prepared to do the same thing after she and Jock found out JR had mortgage the ranch behind their backs and was days away from defaulting on the loan. Ellie would later pursue the idea of selling Ewing Oil in season 6 as she felt it was the source of all the fighting and all the bad things that befell the family. Much like now with Bobby pursuing the idea of selling Southfork, the last vestige of the former Ewing Empire. It’s the little things that give the show a history and to see them sprinkled throughout, give it life and truth. Other tidbits pop up throughout the season; in the first episode, and exchange between John Ross and Christopher takes us fans in the way-back machine and gets right to the heart of the original series back story: oil versus land, Ewing versus Southworth, what Daddy Jock told JR when they drove out to Section 40 in Season 2, (the rig J.R. would later try and steal from…)
“That’s where I first discovered oil, right after I married your mama. Old Man Southworth damn near skinned me alive after he found out what I’d done. Barely tolerated me the way it was. Hated all oil men; He said they ruined the ranges and stank up the air, and he figured the only way to live off the land decently was to raise cattle. So to keep the peace, I capped this thing off…”
How rousing that the first time Jock and Miss Ellie are spoken of in this new series it’s by the next generation, who refer to them not as Grandpa and Grandma as they would have back in the day, but using their first names – “Jock” and “Miss Ellie” – those iconic names tossed so casually out of the mouths of babes. “Eighty years ago, Christopher!” (Those events they speak of are depicted in the previously mentioned “Dallas: The Early Years.”) It’s a wonderful sense of the past that reminds you how time has flown by.
Cliff Barnes shows up a few times to rub it in that’s he’s richer than God himself and wants Bobby to sell Southfork to him. Kercheval slides back into his easy-going style, originally the blue-collar answer to J.R.’s super rich deity; they’ve now switched roles and plotting something. The season finale shows a different Cliff, more focused, angrier, but why?
It’s not a perfect show; it still needs to add some things to make it feel like a true continuation. The Ewings need to have dinner together more often, have pre-dinner drinks and exchange more snarky comments. The originals best moments were in the den with drinks in hand as the accusations flew and emotions ran high. We still need to see more characters from the original series; third brother Gary and wife Valene would be a good start, let them bring their California drama back to Texas. Rumors are flying however that they are indeed prepped for a return along with Gary’s nasty ex, Abby who J.R. had an affair with back in the day and was just a female version of him.
Afton Cooper (Audrey Landers), Cliff Barnes’s ex, Jeremy Wendell, former enemy of J.R., Punk Anderson, friend of Jock and the Ewing brothers need to show up. Give Ray Krebbs, fourth Ewing son, and niece Lucy, daughter of Gary and Valene much more to do. Fleeting one or two lines of nothing dialogue doesn’t cut it. Let’s see the current Ewing clan mix it up with the old timers and new comers to give the show more scope. I’m digging it, but it seems like the action takes place at two locations, Southfork or John Ross’s apartment in the city.
Nitpicks at worst, where the show shines is in its performances, which all are fantastic. Patrick Duffy as Bobby is the leader of the clan is as noble as ever. He and Hagman’s many years together spark when needed. Linda Gray returns as J.R.’s ex Sue Ellen Ewing, no longer the boozy doormat, but a strong, resourceful woman who is running for the Governor of Texas. She’s the woman J.R. created and he’s amazed at her current powerful image. He of course wants her back.
And of course Larry Hagman, the iconic role he shaped and twisted all through the 1980’s that made greed look good long before Gordon Gecko ever did. Although his appearances were limited in this first season due to a cancer scare-the few times he does show he makes an impact and leaves a twisted trail behind him as if he’s a tornado in human form. In this lame era of reality television, Hagman’s performance is an amusing new variation on Machiavellian mischievousness; he enjoys being bad and we enjoy watching him do bad things.
From this last season’s performance alone, it’s hard to believe he didn’t score at least an Emmy nomination, for nothing else just for hanging in all these years as he’s had personal problems with a liver transplant and just recently a successful cancer fight. A few years ago, Ellen Burnstyn won for a mere 38 seconds on screen, who does Hagman have to screw to get that damn Emmy!
The new show is no slouch with the newbies, especially Josh Henderson as John Ross Ewing III, angry at both his parents for various deeds and at his Uncle Bobby for not allowing him to drill for the oil on Southfork pasture, worth billions of course, but Ewings aren’t exactly in the poor house so Bobby could give a damn, plus it violates the wishes of his mama Ellie’s will. Henderson has been strong from the very start, cocky and focused. What gives me a geek thrill watching the show is that he has an Anakin Skywalker vibe- a good kid, turned bad by too many differing voices- over powered by his emotions and is unable to decipher where he stands exactly until it’s too late. Never a dull a moment with this kid around as he acts with his eyes better than anyone of recent memory; from that very first scene with he and J.R. in the home and the look of fear in his eyes when he awoke from his coma to his final scenes in the season finale where he cried genuine tears over the loss of his love Elena. He always looked engaged with his dialogue and engaged with his acting partner, that’s good acting no matter how you slice it. Should fate take over and prevent Hagman from continuing on as J.R., the kid is talented enough to carry the show himself, but he’s still in need of good dose of J.R.’s humor and hubris when completing a dirty scheme.
It is Larry Hagman’s J.R. who obviously steals the show. He’s the reason we tune in; somehow managing to be utterly preposterous and vividly watchable at the same time, he perfectly exemplifies the spirit of the show and every line he utters takes hold and brings back fond memories. From the first episode, he rises from his silent, depression-induced grave and spits out to John Ross, “Bobby was always a fool…”

The New Series Cast!

He’s looking tanned, rested, and ready for spiteful action. He refers to his adopted nephew as a “foundling,” as if this were a penny dreadful, which it kind of is. He has the boy call down for red Jell-O, and there is a satisfying rattle in his voice when he tells his son how they shall defeat their wayward kin: “Courts are for amateurs. No, this is personal.” The actor knows that the audience wants to see him chew the scenery and savor the chewing, and he indulges—and emotes as if the scenery is juicy with barbecue sauce. His relationship with John Ross takes an interesting turn in episode 3, he enters a barber shop, pays off the attendant to leave and holds a razor to his son’s throat telling him a story of when his Daddy Jock sold him a blind horse; the moral being he was taking offense to his son trying to cut him out of $2 billion barrels of oil found on Southfork- in typical Dallas fashion it turns into a bonding moment between father and son, they strike a truce and hatch their next scheme. For all the great moments in the original series with Jock and his sons, none we are compelling as this moment when J.R. fights for his fortune, his life, his name and his legacy by threatening his own son…
Damn right!
Hagman as J.R. has many more great moments throughout the ten episode first season, from scoundrel to hero, he plays it steady and cool showing us JR’s true motivations, but also reminding us he does indeed have a heart, especially when he tells Bobby sick in the hospital, “I’ve always loved you. I was never better than when I was fighting with you…” even though it pumps oil.
The season finale’s final moments reminded me of any beloved franchise I heap with attention. As J.R. and son are standing over the sky view of Dallas, they have a plan and devout their time together to conquer their town…

Hmmm.. who do they remind you of????

I pointed out the similarities to “Star Trek,” but another favorite institution is also nearby…someone had to have been a “Star Wars,” fan on the Dallas crew because the final scenes in episode 9 of the first season are much too eerie to be mere coincidence.

From “Revenge of the Sith,” Vader and Palpatine look over the Empire they begun to create…

 

 

 

 

John Ross and Papa J.R. look over their Empire they are about to resurrect…

 

 

 

Only two. A Master and an Apprentice.

“Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.”

 

 

“It is your destiny! Join me, and together, we can rule the Dallas as father and son! Come with me. It is the only way.”””

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second season starts up in January and per Dallas tradition we are given a cliff-hanger to resolve. Will Elena and Christopher last, John Ross it seems has made the ascension, with daddy J.R. at his side, and he’s ready to be the series next best villain.
Not as dramatic or over-the-top as in previous years, but a damn good to start for things rolling; just what exactly has pissed Cliff Barnes off so bad that would motivate him to sanction what went down- have no clue and that’s a good start, a nice fresh twist that is starting off with a good solid mystery.
“Dallas” (The Next Generation) is vastly agreeable, a snarky cauldron bubbling over with oil and sex, power and betrayal; just as it was all those years ago. And there is a sense that, in spite of the new faces and the injection of some 21st-century pace, sensibilities underneath everything, it’s still the same old same old and that’s exactly how it should be.

The Man!

Bobby Ewing- alive and well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dallas 2.0 Intro

 

 

 

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Sons of Anarchy – Best on TV

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While I love Breaking Bad almost to a fault, Sons of Anarchy is a show so fantastic, you almost want to rewind and watch it again and again.  Nearly every episode since the end of Season 1 has been explosive, well acted, heartbreaking at times, and incredibly fun to watch.  I have not enjoyed a series this much on television since Buffy went off the air nearly a decade ago.  Season 5 is gearing up to start, and if you have not seen this show, you owe it to yourself to play catchup.  You will not be disappointed.

The acting is phenomenal.  The story is both intense and moving.  There’s a lot of action.  A lot of action.  Ron Perlman has never been better.  Maggie Siff is incredibly hot.  Charlie Hunnam is outstanding.  A ladies man, but someone to fear, for sure.  Katey Segal steals every scene she’s in.  She’s over the top, but has just some of the funniest dialogue I’ve ever heard.  There’s just too much to like about this show, and I don’t want to spill anything.  It’s like watching Hamlet mixed with Die Hard.

Season 5 starts 9/11/12.  FX.

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“Smallville Says Goodbye, Without Getting “Lost” in the Shuffle”

This fall will feel strange without the premiere of one my favorites, “Smallville,” which bade us good-bye forever last spring.
After the dim-witted and massively insulting finale of ABC’s “Lost,” in 2010, my fears were on high alert as the finale of “Smallville approached on May 13, 2011. Would it too, refuse to answer my questions logically and would the series end in a dignified, satisfying manner. Thankfully, my worries were unfounded as “Smallville” did justice to the premise and resolved things better than I expected and resulted in one of the best television finales of all time. It also helped for the fact that Smallville was never a pretentious piece of crap like “Lost.”
Before it’s premiere and several seasons after, the series had potential to be something quite extraordinary like a modern, adult take on “Lord of the Flies,” a microcosm study of human behavior in times of crisis; allegory of society in the vein of the original “Star Trek.”
It felt more like, “Gilligan’s Island” on Mescaline; a more apt description of “Lost” during it’s heyday of weirdness yet it was the weird stuff that kept the viewers tuning in and the critics constantly asking the question, what does it all mean? Seriously, what did the freaky stuff mean: The plane crash, smoke monster, Polar bear, Crazy French woman, The Others, The hatch, Daniel Faraday, The Dharma Initiative? Time-travel flashes forward, sideways and beyond! How did the gang escape from the island and why did they feel compelled to return? Why did Claire return with her biological father
For six seasons we all wondered WHAT DID IT ALL MEAN?
 Apparently, it meant JACK SQUAT as the closing moments revealed the passengers of Oceanic Flight 851 had been dead since the premiere episode and by finally accepting their fates and resolving their issues, ascended into Heaven. Kinda cool, but….huh?
OK. Fine, no big deal, I did not mind the reveal, it was not a surprise really, but what I hated was the trickery and fake-outs it took to get there. The series used gimmicks, mind games, half-baked conceits, and useless plot points to fool the audience into thinking they were being led down an edgy path of genre television. The result was a lame-brained ending that left the viewer feeling cheated and abused for six seasons. It was tacked on and showed signs that the writers did not know what to do so “making them dead” will do!
Not since “Dallas” in 1986, brought back Bobby Ewing from the dead and explained it, away as Pamela Ewing’s season-long nightmare had there been a bigger cop-out. Yet, this goes much deeper than Bobby’s revival; many fans welcomed his return so the explanation was redundant by that point. “Dallas” was labeled a soap opera, rules of logic did not really apply and most fans accepted that and in retrospect it was a better move as the show was suffering creatively and needed to re-install the brother dynamic.
“Lost” was different, it was hailed as revolutionary, hip, innovative drama for the 21st century; Emmy voters dug it, critics loved it and constantly placed it on their best of the year lists. It is tight, twisty episodes were praised for their mystery and their utter coolness! The critics gushed, fawned, and drooled over the next best thing since the history of ever. The people were all about getting lost and then the finale came in and crapped all over it!
One of the worst displays of creative cowardice, meaning the writers were too lazy, chicken or just stupid to create a logical or at least believable scenario with all of the above could be explained, because for this viewer it wasn’t.
“Lost” had plenty of goodwill built in, they could have taken the story anywhere; aliens, parallel earths, etc…, and it beat its viewers like a redheaded stepchild as they were betrayed in ways not seen since the unfunny finale of “Seinfeld.” I am not even sure why I stuck with the show for as long as I did, I did bail after season 3 when it became infuriatingly convoluted. I am no idiot, but I should not need a handbook to study the various plot points and overall themes. It was pointless, needless teasing,
The Lost finale was not just a betrayal of those who wanted answers to the mysteries, or a plot that weaved a consistent world in which the series would exist. I do not discount them, but ultimately it was also a betrayal of the character development of nearly the entire cast of characters. Who they were, what they had gone through, the choices they had made, ultimately meant nothing to the denouement of the series and the destiny of the character. Their struggles, their back-stories were just one red herring after another and for what purpose; to let us know the writers had not a clue as to where they were taking this “ship.” I think that was established long ago. What did time travel and the Faraday character have to do with anything, especially being dead? Why did the island become a time travel device and what was the point of exploring any of the weird stuff; French woman, “the others,” “smoke monster,” if at the end it meant nothing?
It represents a failure far more profound than forgetting to tell us who was shooting at the boat in season three. It represents a failure even more profound than the banal and continuity-breaking revelations the final season did provide. It is bad writing, simple as that. The failure to provide answers of any kind, illogical or logical, stupid or brilliant; it failed the simplest of narrative guidelines with insulting slight of hand theatrics and pretentious stalling and they seemed to do it with maniacal glee. You do not create a universe this dense, diverse, and complex without offering up some kind of explanation.
I stand by my initial reaction- meh; how could the writers spend all those years building a quirky, strange universe and in one fell swoop, demolish it with a crass, cop-out ending that makes zero sense with all of the clues given. The series will definitely not hold up in reruns or repeat DVD watching, so in the end they screwed themselves out of a potential television classic and settled for an infuriating experiment of how to abuse your fans. WAY TO GO!
 In stark contrast to “Smallville”; a show that knew what it was and gave its audience what it wanted. The finale delivered the goods in many ways I wanted and in several ways; I did not expect and is the perfect example of how you end a long running series, by honoring it with satisfying resolution and playing by the rules. After ten amazing seasons, it left the airwaves in spectacular fashion. Not since “Battlestar Galactica” has there been a more exciting, fitting goodbye.
The series certainly had everything against it, when it premiered back in October 2001 on the now defunct WB Network. Despite some good reviews, many predicted it at best, it wouldn’t last but more than a few seasons, yet it did, becoming one of the only few hits to emerge from the fledging network, even out-performing critical darlings, (and vastly superior creations I might add) “Buffy The Vampire Slayer,” and “Angel.”
After four time slot changes, several cast defections, change in networks, (beginning on the defunct WB then to the current CW), and a change in producers; the show was just like its namesake, impervious to death. Ten seasons is an amazing accomplishment no matter how you slice it, especially for a fantasy series a genre that usually flames out by season 5. As it stands now, Smallville is the longest running genre series to date, beating out “Stargate-SG1,” and ending on its own terms.
“Smallville” has always been like an abusive relationship you are in denial about; when it was good, it was brilliant, but when it was bad, it was soul-crushing awful, yet you stuck it out, endured, suffered through the monster-of-the-week episodes and the lame-ass filler episodes that always premiered before the Thanksgiving break and right after their spring hiatus.
The show was maddening, delving off topic into non-sense filler episodes or rip-offs of other titles; SAW and Buffy the Vampire Slayer were two of the worst examples of the series pandering and catering to popular trends.
There were a few missteps beginning with Pete Ross, a character attached deeply to Clark’s original comic book history, but on the series, he was constantly under used. Not for one second was he never believable as Clark’s best friend. He never seemed to exhibit the go-to vibe best friends should have, plus it didn’t help that the actors didn’t look good onscreen together; Tom Welling was a giant in comparison to actor Sam Jones III’s small stature. When Ross left, no one seemed to notice.
Kristen Kreuck as Lana Lang, Clark’s on again, off again girlfriend, quite possibly the most attractive working actor working today, gave us plenty of leaps in logic to swallow. In the second season, she was a 16 y/o, living on her own and running a Coffee shop, while going to high school, dated Clark and later married Lex and then tried to murder him. She hung around for seven seasons before running off to Europe with viewers waving her good riddance. The appearances of either character was never considered for the finale, Ross especially considering the actor, Sam Jones III, is in prison waiting Federal sentencing for selling Oxycodone which makes both of their absences go unnoticed.
In the grand scheme of things, those trivial tidbits can now be forgiven as they never really affected the show and were only minor annoyances. I stuck around because when it was on, it was ON and nailed the character of Superman perfectly.  Demoslishing an inaccurate conceit that Superman does not have angst, which is not true. Sure he doesn’t brood like Batman, but he suffers because he knows he can’t save everyone and  that bothers him, just like when Pa Kent died, “…all these powers….and I couldn’t even save him.”
Looking back, pound for pound, Smallville fairs slightly better most of its contemporaries in the quality versus crap ratio.
“Battlestar Galactica,” voted as one of the best series of the last decade, which is was quite often, and was only on four seasons, yet its ratio of crap episodes might be slightly higher. Especially in the middle of the third and fourth seasons when too much time was wasted on pointless stories no one cared about.
“Star Trek: The Next Generation’s” first season and parts of its second season are virtually impossible now to watch due to the campy awfulness. Frankly, how it ever made it to a third season is astounding yet it did and became a show of great quality. There are 30 right off the top that was utter garbage, “Smallville” fares far better in comparison.
Out of 220 episodes, probably five were bad each season, bad which means awful, which leaves the show with 160 that are of varying quality- from mediocre (mediocre meaning, the main story was forgettable but there was something good, something watchable, at least in the B plot, usually the prologue) to brilliant, not a bad run.
At the end of the day, the series ended on a high note and apparently with no regrets and with most fans happy with the results.
In order to properly review the Smallville’s finale, one needs to find the three important factors that make for a satisfying series ending:

  • Did it do justice to the characters and compliment the overall premise of the series?
  • Did it wrap up any dangling storylines in a satisfying manner?
  • Did it answer, (if any) the questions it posed over the years?

Smallville gets three for YES!

From the very beginning we’ve always heard the motto from the original producers, “No tights, no Flights!” meaning Clark was not ever going to don the blue Superman suit and he didn’t (not until the last five minutes) as the series was not about flying and leaping, but the journey of self discovery.
The last few seasons have been surprisingly dark, beginning with the death of Pa Kent (John Schneider). One of the many instances where Clark was forced to understand that despite his great abilities, he can not save everyone and must learn to accept death and fate in whatever form.
In watching the pilot, it is great to see how in those early scenes in comparison how much Clark has matured, both the character and Tom Welling the actor.
In these early episodes, Clark is very much burdened by his powers; still trying to figure out what can he do with super speed and x-eye vision. A clumsy kid in love with the most beautiful girl in the school, Lana Lang, Clark evolved into a young man full of uncertainty who learns his heroism the hard way and how to battle self-doubt thanks to the love of a good woman, Lois Lane.
Smallville has always been about having a good support system for Clark and he did with his parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent and his friends, Chloe Sullivan and to a lesser extent Pete Ross.
The Kents were a bit of an oddity for modern television, one of the few shows of the day that actually showed a family that loved each other and was not afraid to show it. This was by design as it formed Clark’s strong moral fiber. The Kent’s constant support and encouragement taught the kid that although he was “special,” it was not about him. It was about making the best use of his “talents” to contribute something positive to this world. Clark’s talents just so happened to be his ability to pick up tractors, throw cars and fly.
On the opposite side, you had Lex Luthor, initially, a well-meaning young man trying to shed the reputation of his family name by doing good deeds, befriends Clark after he saved his life, but slowly becomes jealous of him. In a first season episode, “Jitters,” we see Lex’s situation as not terribly envious, despite his money and stature; after an accident in one of Luthor-owned plants, Lex along with Clark and several others are taken hostage by a disgruntled ex-employee. Once they are out of danger, Clark is greeted by the love and support of his parents who are glad that his is alive. Lex is greeted by a rather cold and insincere hug by his father who seems annoyed by the fuss. The episode ends with a lingering shot of the Kents and their relief and obvious love and affection as a family.
The point is made very clear, here and through the next several seasons, that Lex does not nor has he ever experienced anything like that and if given a choice, he would give his entire fortune to trade places with Clark.
The dichotomy between the Luthors and the Kents was a constant theme throughout the early part of the series.
Lex’s father, Lionel played with great urbane cruelty by John Glover, directly or indirectly- through business or emotional hijackings, refused to accept that his son was capable of good, that he was merely lying to himself. He would constantly sabotage said efforts and demanded the boy accept his destiny, he was a Luthor, and in the words of Jonathon Kent, “Luthors are no damn good.”
Luthor’s home-stretch return in the final season, the alternate universe Lionel, was a clever trick and reminded us what a truly great bastard he was and how the show had needed a steady villain since his murder a few seasons back.
Jonathan Kent, the salt-of-the-Earth farmer whose moral character was just as strong, if not more so than Clark’s alien abilities gave us faith in humanity as a whole at his inherent decency and goodness. Some of Jonathon’s best moments however, where the episodes where his morals were put to the test. A fourth season episode, told in flashback has Jonathon relaying the details of Clark’s arrival to Smallville and his dealings with Lionel Luthor as he puts the screws to the Kents about Clark’s fake adoption.
Very revealing of both characters as it showed how far Jonathon would go to protect his son, even subverting his own moral code and just how far Lionel would go to get what he wanted, ironically, he never fought that hard for his own boy. Stubborn men on both sides, fighting for what they felt was right, ironically too revealing how they were more alike than either cared to admit.
The parental advice was usually the best moments of the series harkening back to the original movie when Pa, in the form of Glen Ford told Clark rather succinctly and full of wisdom, “You are here for a reason.”
It was of no surprise that Pa Kent, in ghost form comes back to impart some final advice. Clark had been struggling with his human upbringing and his Krpytonian heritage, constantly trying to separate the two- compartmentalizing and sectioning off one at the expense of the other. Trying to be something, he was not and did not understand how to merge the two. John Schneider in a fantastic bit of acting tells Clark to embrace it- there is no reason to shun his alien heritage and there is no reason to short-change his human upbringing. He is who he is and be proud of both. His biological father Jor-El tells him to keep his Smallville experiences close to his heart, it was what made him a hero.
Annette O’Toole as Martha Kent has some nice bits too, (and her acting isn’t bad either, HAR!) upset that Clark wants to sell the farm and leave it in the past, gives him some sage advice about using his past to carve a better future. Pain is a part of life, to forget it, is to deny it ever happened and to do that makes all of his experiences pointless and totally in vain and makes for a hard hearted person.
By embracing his heritage and his experiences, both good and bad, he finally accepts his destiny and takes flight!
Erica Durance was a great addition in the fourth season as Lois Lane. She gave the show a creative boost and replaced the humorless Lana Lang. Her chemistry with Welling was always playful and the re-jiggering of the Superman mythos; having her and Clark get married was clever and fresh. I liked how she initially felt to be a burden to Clark, but he realizes and she too, that he is only as good as the support system around him, which is now her and their life in Metropolis. Her getting pre-wedding cold feet was some of the best acting by Durance who is usually two speeds; giddy or weepy, here she showed some real pathos, range and genuine emotion, despite dragging on for a bit too long. Her gesture of self-sacrifice was quite beautiful and made Lois that much more attractive.
Her realization to her fears where not illogical, but quite normal, even though her situation is unique, her anxieties are akin to someone married to a Solider, police officer, or firefighter; in this case, a bit more exaggeration is involved of course. No one ever said love made sense.
It was nice how she ends Lois’s arc, by seizing the biggest scoop of the century when she figures out how to stop Armageddon with the meteor. Crafty and always a step ahead, she was vintage Lois.
Tess Mercer (a play on the name of Miss Techmacher! Get it!) was always an odd duck, is she good or bad? Yes. Does she secretly belong to the Luthors or is she genuine when she befriends Clark and the gang? Always walking that fine line and constantly seeking out redemption, she remained a sad mystery, another victim of Lionel’s machinations; it was revealed she was Lex’s half sister. Not a real big surprise since she hated Lionel almost as much as Lex, who stabbed and killed her, an act he quite relished.
The episodes biggest surprise was Michael Rosenbaum’s return as Alexander, “Lex” Luthor. After leaving at the end of the seventh season, Lex’s fate was always left open. Tess was brought in to fill the void, but Rosenbaum’s intense charm was missed. His appearance here is mainly just an extended cameo, but it is worth every minute he is on screen as it shows what a true bastard Lex has become and what lies in store for him. His anger towards Clark stemmed from jealousy as he couldn’t understand why Clark didn’t embrace his abilities and use them for glory. He gives a great prophetic speech of how the two will be great men, only on different sides. We saw a flicker of his future in the episode from the first season called, “Hourglass,” when a blind woman, who can see into the future, sees Lex standing in the White House dressed in a white suit as blood rains down on him, terrified she drops dead.  During the closing moments, (the episode jumped ahead 7 years) the prophetic vision had come true as the television announces President-elect Lex Luthor. Ever since the premiere, the single most persistent and nagging question was how Lex & Clark could be friends and then sworn enemies without Superman’s identity  being known.

Give thanks to Tess for solving that conundrum without using time travel or alternate universe doubles, who injected a Nero-toxin into Lex right before she died erasing his long-term memory, not a big deal when you are President I guess. A bit contrived, but it will do!

At the end of the day, this was still Clark’s show and him finally understanding what his parents and Jor-El have been telling him all these years.
Oliver and Chloe did not get much screen time, but their arcs were pretty much wrapped up before the finale, and the bit of seven years in the future with a Chloe reading a Superman comic book to her little green arrow was rather succinct and satisfying.
At the end of the day, this was still Clark’s show and I believe Tom Welling deserves kudos for a marvelous achievement of creating a character and remaining consistent with him for ten television seasons. I have enjoyed watching earlier seasons in prepping for this review and Welling has matured in every way conceivable; starting as clumsy, dumb kid into a strong, believable hero. Once he takes flight, to the sounds of John Williams’ iconic theme of course, we believe the dude can fly as he quickly dispatches the enemy of Apocalypse and settles in as role of Earth’s savior.
Many have complained that we were cheated of the money shot- Clark in full dress blues, but that was for legal reasons. The shot we got was good enough, but was ultimately unimportant as it was about the journey, not suit. As long as Clark arrived there, I did not care. I liked the fact that Clark was scared, unsure of himself right up to the very last moment and the flash forward seven years in the future, married to Lois, her providing his cover for once was a nice twist putting to bed the love tri-angle.
The site of Jimmy Olsen and Perry White as photographer and Editor of The Daily Planet was a welcomed site- for those screaming at the television at the sight of Olsen, remember, he was not the Jimmy we all knew, but his twin brother ending a remarkable run from one of the genre’s most durable series.
If longevity is the series only crime, then so be it, I think it did it is very best most of the time and did good the rest, with a few stumbles in between. The quiet moments have always been the heart of the series, the bookend scenes, the bits of advice he would receive that no matter how absurd things had gotten, gave the series weight, some semblance of reality while giving birth to several iconic moments.
The most famous being the guest appearance by the late Christopher Reeve in season two as Dr. Virgil Swann, a wheel-chair bound scientist who discovers Krypton and eventually Clark’s identity. A fantastic episode that used the John Williams cues for the first time and began delving into Clark’s alien heritage. Chris Reeve’s appearance was a “passing of the torch” moment and although he never returned, his character was felt for a few seasons after, up to season four, when he sends Clark the octagonal disk from his ship, which had been missing since season three’s “Legacy”.
Several faces from Superman’s past showed up for guest appearances, Margot Kidder, (70’s Lois Lane), showed up as Swann’s assistant, who was also buddies with Lionel Luthor an association that ended her life as she was found dead on Luthor’s property. Helen Slater, the original “Supergirl” played Clark’s birth mother, Lara looking just as good as, she ever did. Dean Cain guest starred playing a crazy plastic surgeon and Terri Hatcher playing Lois Lane’s deceased mother who she visits via video tape.
TV’s original Wonder Woman, Lynda Carter played Chloe Sullivan’s mother, who she thought was dead, but was in a mental institution.
My only complaint is that these kids do not get to play in the big-screen version of Superman. Warner Brothers, have been greedy bastards, not seeing the forest for the trees, has been trying for the last 15 years to get Supes off the ground, only to a slight successful attempt, with “Superman Returns,” in 2006. A movie I adore, it was perceived to have not the right jostling power to make Superman’s return relevant despite it turning a profit.
So they move forward yet again with a new cast, director, and leave the Smallville kids in the dust. On a sad note, this is likely the last time we will ever see Superman accompanied by the beautiful John Williams score ever again as the new film, released in 2013, plans to use all new music.
Three Cheers to “Smallville,” it delved deep into the Superman mythology unlike any other medium and told some brilliant stories at least a few times a season and ended the series on its own terms and fans satisfied.

Long live Superman!

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Kenny Powers: CEO of K-Swiss!

I couldn’t resist:  A good friend showed me this.  I would say who it is, but he would most likely like to be left anonymous.  This is crazy hilarious.  If you aren’t sure who Kenny Powers is, he’s the alter-ego of Danny McBride, from the HBO series East Bound and Down.  Warning!  This is NSFW and RAW!

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