Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Walking Dead's third-season trailer is action-packed and tense (and probably misleading)

Every time I vow to stop watching The Walking Dead, the show sucks me back in by doing something amazing: the tense confrontation between Rick, Glenn and the two mysterious strangers; terrifying, heart-pounding action set-pieces; and Shane (finally) getting what he deserves. Those moments of brilliance are almost always wasted, lost in the endless conversations about nothing and the inexplicable continued existence of Lori and Andrea, but the promise of more sends this viewer into self-perpetuating spiral of hate-watching.

The Comic-Con trailer for Season 3 is no different; it's beautifully done, propulsive, mournful and action packed, and it teases a season full of constantly shifting allegiances, lots of actual anti-zombie combat (something the show has a tendency to forget about until it suits the purposes of the plot) and, of course, the (spoilers ahead) long-anticipated appearances of Michonne and the Governor and re-appearance of Merle Dixon. What we'll probably end up with, however, are endless debates about post-apocalyptic morality and Carl doing stupid things in order to move the plot along, not to mention a general dearth of zombies getting their heads sliced off by Michonne's katana. Until that inevitable disappointment, I'll just watch this trailer on repeat and pretend that Hershel's farm never happened.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

THAT Scene: the problem with The Newsroom's use of real news

The News Night team's coverage of the Gabrielle Giffords tragedy doesn't just sap dramatic tension; it exploits real grief in the service of its own message.

Jeff Daniel's Will McAvoy reports on the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords on The Newsroom.
THAT Scene is a recurring feature that takes a closer look at a single scene that exemplifies a particular show, theme or moment in time. The scene might be good or bad, but it will always be memorable and worth talking about.

Television Without Pity's recaplet of the (pretty terrible) fourth episode of The Newsroom, "I'll Try To Fix You," hits the nail on the head when it comes to the biggest problem with the series' much-discussed decision to have Will McAvoy and co. cover actual news stories from the recent past: in this case, the shooting of Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The results were not only uncomfortable to watch, but also undercut any point the sequence was trying to make about how the news should be covered:
When the other outlets start reporting that Giffords is dead but there hasn't been any official confirmation, Will has to decide if he should join them and risk being wrong or hold off and risk being the last news outlet to report Giffords' death. Of course, we all know that she survived, and Will's decision to wait is the right one, even though Reese is screaming at him to join in and pronounce her dead. Reese is the Bad Guy. Charlie, Will, and his staff and even Don are the Good Guys, so they realize that Giffords is a person and shouldn't just be used for news ratings or as part of a race to report the news first. No, although apparently it's totally cool to use her for an HBO show's sleazy and hypocritical attempt to elicit an emotional response from the viewers, titular Coldplay songs and all.
The entire sequence, which begins with Maggie (Alison Pill) sprinting to tell Will and MacKenzie (Emily Mortimer) and ends with Will's refusal to announce Gifford's death vindicated by the news that she isn't actually dead, is a perfect example of the ways in which reporting on real news can be incredibly damaging, both to The Newsroom's dramatic structure and the show's credibility as a moral authority. (And if you think the series isn't aiming for moral authority status, re-watch the episode and count the number of times Will says he's on a "mission to civilize.")


Monday, July 9, 2012

If you ever wondered what Better off Ted would look like if penned by Armando Iannucci, wonder no more

Those of you who love Better off Ted as much as I do (and I love it a lot, as evidenced by my summer TV suggestions) will probably enjoy this profanely filthy outtake reel from the show's hilarious second-season outing "The Impertence of Communicationizing." Fair warning: it's extremely NSFW, so unless your workplace has, like Veridian Dynamics, instituted a policy that requires employees to use offensive and insulting language in the workplace, you should probably put your headphones in. (via The A.V. Club):

Monday, July 2, 2012

How To Get Your TV Fix This Summer (Without Watching True Blood

A thoughtfully funny priest, a bumbling spy and a downright Biblical clash of Kings provide a great antidote to vampires and werewolves.

Clockwise from top left: Jay Harrington and Portia de Rossi in Better Off Ted; Chris Egan in Kings; Jude Wright and Darren Boyd in Spy; and Tom Hollander in Rev.

With May sweeps a distant memory and early-summer series like Game of Thrones already finished, summer TV epitomizes Minow's famous "vast wasteland." Although many cable networks are starting to challenge traditional scheduling, the current television landscape consists mostly of reruns, reality series and True Blood. Even Doctor Who, normally a godsend for those of us who prefer quality programming to baking on the beach (not everyone tans, and not all of us enjoy slathering on SPF 1500 and donning a hat just so we can watch other people brown) has taken an extended hiatus, and won't be returning until an unspecified date in the fall.

Luckily, we live in an age of streaming video and HD laptop displays, which means that a world of TV is sitting at our fingertips, waiting for us to dispel the summer doldrums and dive right in. If you find yourself with some extra time between barbecues and beach parties, these five series are well worth your time and energy (and, in some cases, the cost of an Amazon Prime subscription).


Who should watch: Anyone who misses the covert ops shenanigans of Archer and adores Community's genre parodies.

Available on: Hulu

Hulu has become a great source of less-known British television, and Spy is one of the streaming service's best offerings. The show's protagonist, Tim (Darren Boyd), is a middle-aged loser working in an electronics store and fighting for the love (and custody rights) of his precocious, witheringly critical son Marcus (Jude Wright) when he stumbles into the wrong civil service exam and ends up as an MI6 agent. Spy combines the best elements of several shows - the set-up is pure Chuck, the portrayal of MI6 is right out of the Archer playbook, and later episodes have Marcus starring in parodies of gangster movies and Westerns that could have teleported in from Community - but the show makes them its own. Spy features a great cast of supporting characters (I'm a particular fan of Mathew Baynton's Chris), but the whole enterprise is anchored by the prickly, hilarious, often cruel and occasionally sweet relationship between Tim and Marcus, whose odd couple banter is like nothing else on TV.