Sunday, October 17, 2010

TV Week in Review: October 10 - 14

This past week was an improvement over the previous week.  Chuck, with its great writing and use of characters, had its best episode of the season so far.  It also helped that Jeff and Lester were absent this week (I know, I know, most fans love Jeffster; I prefer the spy stuff).  Parenthood maintained its high quality.  Stargate: Universe improved.  Glee, for a change, had a coherent story, good character development, better songs than its had recently, and a lack of the over-rated Sue Sylvester interference.  It went from bottom two for three weeks in a row to number four this week.

The middle of the pack shuffled around a little this week with Hawaii Five-0 faltering a little but Cougar Town being a little better than usual.  No Ordinary Family has potential -- I think -- but it still fails to really impress me.  I'm beginning to lose my patience with The Event and Undercovers.  The Event seems to be trying too hard to be a deep conspiracy and mythology show, but it's missing the mark a bit.  Undercovers has the opposite problem in that it could use a little conspiracy or mythology because its procedural, mission-of-the-week format seems stale when compared to Chuck's already developed storyline.  But, shows need time to develop, so I'm not saying I'm giving up on any of these shows quite yet.

Caprica is starting to feel just as dark and depressing as Battlestar Galactica, if not worse.  And, with virtually every character being edgy, corrupt, troubled, or misguided, I'm having trouble finding a protagonist I can really invest in.  Sanctuary opened its third season with the conclusion of last season's bizarre and disappointing two-part season finale about a giant sea spider named Big Bertha creating islands and causing a tidal wave in the Indian Ocean.  I can't believe they spent three hours on that story, but I'm glad they can finally move on to something else which will hopefully be better.

I totally forgot to include the South Park season premiere from the previous week, but it wasn't great.  This past week though it made fun of Jersey Shore which managed to feel funny and relevant even though I've never watched a second of Jersey Shore (and would never want to).

Week of October 10 - 14
01.  (A-)  Chuck  (s4 ep04)
02.  (B+)  Parenthood  (s2 ep05)
03.  (B+)  Stargate: Universe  (s2 ep03)
04.  (B+)  Glee  (s2 ep04)
05.  (B)  Fringe  (s3 ep04)
06.  (B)  Cougar Town  (s2 ep04)
07.  (B)  South Park  (s14 ep09)
08.  (B)  House  (s7 ep04)
09. (tie)  (B)  Survivor  (s21 ep05)
09. (tie)  (B)  Mythbusters  (s8 ep14)
11.  (B-)  Hawaii Five-0  (s1 ep04)
12.  (B-)  No Ordinary Family  (s1 ep03)
13.  (B-)  Caprica  (s2 ep02)
14.  (B-)  Undercovers  (s1 ep04)
15.  (C+)  The Event  (s1 ep04)
16.  (C)  Sanctuary  (s3 ep 01)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Week in TV: October 04 - 08

Last week was a big mash of mediocre.  Since it was the third episode in the season for a lot of shows, hopefully they were just cost-cutting after blowout season premieres.

I know the 3rd episode of Chuck felt a lot like a "bottle show" with many scenes happening in air ducts of the new Buy More.  It was still good, but a slight dip in quality compared to the first two episodes of season four and the 4th episode I just watched tonight.  Hmm.  At least part of that may be due to Jeff & Lester...  They were back in full force last week, and the episode wasn't as good.  They were completely absent this week, and the episode was awesome.  There's more to it than that, but that makes feel better about being the only person on the planet who doesn't like the hijinks of the Buy More crew.

On the bright side, Glee had a slight upswing in quality this past week.  I didn't like everything about the episode, but this time I had to fast forward through only two songs.  Stargate: Universe redeemed itself too.  Oddly, its 2nd episode was better than the season premiere.

Undercovers was by no means bad, but in the battle between Undercovers and imitation Nyquil, Undercovers couldn't keep me awake.  I kept having to rewind parts of the episode because I kept dozing off.  Undercovers has potential, but it needs some kind of spark that fellow spy show Chuck has. It's early enough that it may find it, but it's not there yet.  And, for the record, I don't take cough syrup for fun.  I was fighting a cold last week.  Kids, don't do drugs; stay in school.

Week of October 04 - 08
01.  (B)  Parenthood  (s2 ep04)
02.  (B)  Chuck  (s4 ep03)
03.  (B)  Hawaii Five-0  (s1 ep03)
04. {tie}  (B)  Fringe  (s3 ep03)
04. {tie}  (B)  House  (s7 ep03)
06.  (B-)  Stargate: Universe  (s2 ep02)
07. {tie}  (B-)  No Ordinary Family  (s1 ep02)
07. {tie}  (B-)  The Event  (s1 ep03)
07. {tie}  (B-)  Caprica  (season 2 premiere)
10. {tie}  (B-)  Survivor  (s21 ep04)
10. {tie}  (B-)  Cougar Town  (s2 ep03)
10. {tie}  (B-)  Glee  (s2 ep03)
13. (B-)  Undercovers  (s1 ep03)

Oh, and since I'm already one episode into the current week of October 11 - 15, I'm going to go ahead and say tonight's 4th episode of Chuck was at least an A-.

Week in TV: September 27 to October 01

I'm two weeks behind on rating episodes, so I'll skip the commentary and just stick to my ranks & grades...

Week of September 27 to October 01
01.  (B+)  Chuck  (s4 ep02)
02.  (B+)  Parenthood  (s2 ep03)
03. {tie}  (B)  Hawaii Five-0  (s1 ep02)
03. {tie}  (B)  Fringe  (s3 ep02)
03. {tie}  (B)  House  (s7 ep02)
06.  (B-)  No Ordinary Family  (series premiere)
07. {tie}  (B-)  Survivor  (s21 ep03)
07. {tie}  (B-)  Undercovers  (s1 ep02)
07. {tie}  (B-)  Cougar Town  (s2 ep02)
10.  (B-)  The Event  (s1 ep02)
11.  (B-)  Stargate: Universe  (season 2 premiere)
12.  (B-)  The Colony  (s2 ep10; season 2 finale)
13.  (C+)  Glee  (s2 ep02)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

This Week in TV: September 20 - 24

This past week was a big premiere week for a lot of new & returning shows.  Overall, it was pretty good.
I was most excited to see the return of Chuck, and while the season 4 premiere itself wasn't mind-blowing, it showed just how well the writers are keeping the forward momentum started back in the season 2 finale.  From the previews they showed after the episode and some spoilers I've read online, I get the feeling I'm going to like the direction the show takes this year.  I like that Chuck & Sarah are truly together and will remain that way all season (and hopefully the duration of the entire series) and that the will-they/won't-they nature of their relationship is finally over.
Hawaii Five-0 was the last show I got around to watching but had the 2nd best episode of the week.  I don't know if I'll retain interest in a procedural cop show week after week, but they had an impressive premiere.  I still don't see how they pulled off one stunt in which the main character does a running slide across the trunk of a car while that car is simultaneously rear-ended by another car -- and with the slider looking like the main character, not a stunt man.  My guess is there was some CG work involved, but it sure looked seamless.  In addition to the stunts, the story, characters, performances, casting, dialogue, and scenery were all good too.
Parenthood remains strong.  There’s not even much I can elaborate on.  In general, I just love the actors, the characters, and the storylines so far.
Fringe focused it's season 3 premiere almost entirely on the over-here Olivia stuck in the over-there universe.  Consequently, there wasn't enough time with over-here's Walter or Peter to give the episode sufficient quirkiness or heart.  However, the cab driver character that helped Olivia evade her captors helped out in the heart department by becoming a trusted sidekick, even if he was forced into it.  Supposedly, the show is going to alternate episodes between the two universes, so next week we should get more time with the over-here Walter & Peter and the over-there Olivia (a.k.a. Bad Olivia, Bolivia, Not Olivia, Nolivia, Faux-livia) who's secretly embedded herself over here.
Warehouse 13 ended its 2nd season with an episode that had a goofy plot, the disappointing revelation of the H.G. Wells character as being neither good nor evil but just plain insane, and the equally disappointing split between Pete and his girlfriend played by the gorgeous Paula Garces (who may replace Lauren Graham as having the best hair ever).  Maybe the split isn't permanent and she'll return next season.  I hope so.  Despite the goofy plot, I've come to appreciate the show for its quirky characters, increasingly frequent comic relief, and occasionally clever dialogue.  The characters have also bonded well enough that they feel like a family.  Myka leaving Warehouse 13 is no doubt temporary, but it made for a nice bit of tension at the end.
As for the other shows...  Undercovers seems to have potential.  Cougar Town is no better or worse than it was before.  The Event was pretty good although a little boring until the end, many viewers have complained online about the story bouncing around in time too much, and I think I may already have a plausible theory as to what the big "event" is.  House was well-acted, well-produced, and well-directed as usual, but I just don't buy the new romantic relationship between House & Cuddy.  I hope it hasn't jumped the shark.  I continue to have a love-hate relationship with Glee, and the season premiere was all over the map.  I really don't think the writers quite know what to do with the characters, but they're determined to take them in completely different directions every single episode.
My ranks & scores for this week's shows:
01.  (A-)  Chuck  (season 4 premiere)
02.  (B+)  Hawaii Five-0  (series premiere)
03.  (B+)  Parenthood  (s2 ep02)
04.  (B)  Fringe  (season 3 premiere)
05.  (B)  Warehouse 13  (s2 ep12, season finale)
06.  (B)  Undercovers  (series premiere)
07.  (B-)  Cougar Town  (season 2 premiere)
08.  (B-)  The Event  (series premiere)
09.  (B-)  House  (season 7 premiere)
10.  (B-)  Survivor  (s21 ep02)
11.  (B-)  The Colony  (s2 ep09, penultimate episode)
12.  (B-)  Kate Plus 8  (s1 ep04)
13.  (C+)  Glee  (season 2 premiere)
Best Moments:
  • Chuck:  A captured & tied-up Sarah trying to type an urgent text message to Chuck using her toes.
  • Hawaii Five-0:  Several mind-blowing stunts, most involving vehicles, but the best one being the trunk slide explained above.
  • Parenthood:  Adam walks in his front door to see his wife consoling a sobbing friend who’s going through a separation, that woman’s son jumping on a trampoline indoors, and his own son being hyper and making constant noise with an annoying whistle.  Adam just backs out quietly, goes out to his car, reclines the seat, and listens to the radio.
  • Parenthood:  Adam comes home another night to see his house messy but empty.  A note from his wife says she’s taken the kids, including the annoying trampoline kid, out to eat so that he can have some quiet time.  He reclines on the sofa with a beer and starts to watch TV but realizes something isn’t right.  Next, you see his family at the restaurant, and Adam walks in and joins them.
  • Fringe:  Even after Olivia let him go, the cab driver still hung around to see what happened to Olivia.
  • Warehouse 13:  Claudia starting to cry because Artie got shot.  They really are forming a pseudo father-daughter type relationship.
  • Warehouse 13:  Pete getting emotional and not being able to hear the rest of Myka's resignation letter after she calls him the best big brother she never had.  They could have gone the romantic route with Pete & Myka, but I very much prefer them continuing with their relationship being more like brother & sister.
  • House:  Any scene involving Cuddy without her clothes on (and, there were several).
  • Glee:  The short cheerleader with Down Syndrome (I think) delivering some hilarious commentary during Finn's embarrassing audition for the Cheerios squad.
  • A "You Again" commercial during Glee:  Betty White, co-star of the new movie "You Again," saying, "Okay, I'm going to level with you...  Glee Club was for dorks."

Saturday, September 18, 2010

My Top "100" List of Greatest TV Characters of the Last 20 Years (Well, The Top 38 I've Finished Ranking So Far)

A few months ago, when Entertainment Weekly published their list of 100 greatest characters of the last 20 years, I started making my own list of best TV characters.  I had to stop because I got so bogged down in my own grading system that I found it too hard to narrow down to 100 and then properly rank them -- without driving myself crazy.  When I last left off, I had only nailed down the top 38.

Now, the TV Guide Network has assembled their top 25 greatest TV characters, but you have to watch to learn who they picked.  So, I thought I'd publish my list, even if it's not finished yet.  I don't have 100 ranked yet, but I have more than TV Guide.  So, below is my top 38 all-time best character list.  Maybe, I'll actually finish the list some day.  And, if I do, I can't guarantee the top 38 will still be in this same order.  But, for now (and yes, I am a geek)...

38.  Ranger Marcus Cole  (Babylon 5)
37.  James "Sawyer" Ford  (Lost)
36.  Attache Vir Cotto  (Babylon 5)
35.  Chief of Staff Leo McGarry  (The West Wing)
34.  Attorney Douglas Wambaugh  (Picket Fences)
33.  Detective George Francisco  (Alien Nation)
32.  Colonel Jack O'Neill  (StargateSG-1)
31.  Dr. John "J.D." Dorian  (Scrubs)
30.  Benjamin Linus  (Lost)
29.  Hugo "Hurley" Reyes  (Lost)
28.  Admiral William Adama  (Battlestar Galactica)
27.  Rory Gilmore  (Gilmore Girls)
25.  (tie)  Judge Henry Bone  (Picket Fences)
25.  (tie)  Dr. Juliet Burke  (Lost)
23.  (tie)  Dr. Jack Shepherd  (Lost)
23.  (tie)  John Locke  (Lost)
22.  Press Secretary C.JCregg  (The West Wing)
21.  CIA Agent Chuck Bartowski  (Chuck)
20.  Detective Vic Mackey  (The Shield)
18.  (tie)  Dr. Sam Beckett  (Quantum Leap)
18.  (tie)  Attorney Ally McBeal  (Ally McBeal)
17.  Captain Malcolm Reynolds  (Firefly TV series / Serenity feature film)
16.  Dr. Gregory House  (House, M.D.)
15.  Attorney John Cage  (Ally McBeal)
14.  Attorney Allan Shore  (The Practice & Boston Legal)
13.  Lieutenant Worf  (Star Trek: The Next Generation & Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
10.  (tie)  Lieutenant Commander Data  (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
10.  (tie)  Constable Odo  (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)
10.  (tie)  Luke Danes  (Gilmore Girls)
09.  Commander Susan Ivanova  (Babylon 5)
08.  Security Chief Michael Garibaldi  (Babylon 5)
07.  Captain John Sheridan  (Babylon 5)
06.  Captain Jean-Luc Picard  (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
05.  President Josiah "JedBartlet  (The West Wing)
04.  Lorelai Gilmore  (Gilmore Girls)
03.  Ambassador Delenn  (Babylon 5)
02.  Ambassador Londo Mollari  (Babylon 5)
01.  Ambassador G'Kar  (Babylon 5)

And, without listing the individual characters, the remaining candidates for a future top 100 will likely come from the following additional shows:

Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Commander-in-Chief, Crusade, Fringe, Highlander: The Series, Jericho, Leverage, Men In Trees, Moonlight, The O.C., The Practice, South Park, and The 4400.


So, who do you think are the best TV characters???  Where do you agree or disagree with my list?  Let me know.


And, in case you're wondering what my overly-analytical, super-neurotic grading system is...

Using Apple Numbers (the Mac version of MS Excel), I kept a spreadsheet of my list of characters, the shows they were in, my grading categories, etc...

 - I listed the total number of TV seasons in which each character appeared in one or more shows
 - I listed the number of TV movies and/or feature films in which each character appeared in a separate column
 - I graded each character on a scale of 1 to 13 in the following five categories (with 13 = A+, 9 = B, 5 = C-, 1 = F, etc.)

  • Significance:  How significant was the character to the overall concept and/or story arc of the show.
  • Depth/Eloquence:  How "deep," emotional, multi-faceted, and/or articulate was the character.
  • Character Development:  How much did the character grow, change, improve, evolve, devolve, cope with, or have their backstory revealed.
  • Performance:  How well did the actor/actress play the role.
  • Like-ability:  How likable, cool, relatable, honorable, or humorous was the character.

Lastly, the Overall Weighted Score for each character was, rounded to two decimal places, the sum of the following:
  • 6 X Significance
  • 5 X Depth/Eloquence
  • 4 X Character Development
  • 3 X Performance
  • 2 X Like-ability
  • 1 X Longevity  (square root of # of TV seasons plus square root of # of movies, rounded to 2 decimal places)

I let Pages do the calculating & sorting for me.  All I had to do was plug in the numbers.

Ambassador G'Kar from Babylon 5 got a perfect score of 13 in the "big 5" categories and a decent 3.97 in Longevity, for a total of 263.97.  I made him the standard bearer because there was no way he wasn't going to be in the #1 spot.

Lead characters (Pres. Bartlet, Vic Mackey), "captain" type characters (Picard, Sheridan, Mal, Adama, O'Neill), and characters for whom a show is named (Lorelai & Rory Gilmore, House, Ally McBeal) automatically got a 13 in Significance.  Because they each represent the culture of an entire race, I also gave 13s to the three main alien ambassadors from Babylon 5.  Usually, if a non-lead character was part of an ensemble but in the opening credits for most seasons, they got somewhere between 10 & 12 in Significance.

In Depth/Eloquence, only G'Kar and Boston Legal's Allan Shore got 13s.  Londo Mollari, Delenn, Lorelai Gilmore, President Bartlet, Captain Picard, and Judge Bone all got 12s.

In Character Development, only G'Kar and Londo got 13s.  Delenn, Sheridan, Worf, Luke Danes, Odo, Locke, Jack, Sawyer, Rory Gilmore, Willow Rosenberg (Buffy:tVS), and Duncan McLeod (Highlander: The Series) got 12s.  And, yes, I struggled with whether to give Worf a 12 or 13.  With his other categories high, a 13 in Char Dev pushes him into the top 10, which I felt was crowded enough already.  But, part of me thinks he still deserves it.

For Performance by the actor/actress that played them, I gave 13s to G'Kar, Londo, President Bartlet, Ben Linus, Juliet Burke, House, Allan Shore, and Admiral Adama.  I gave 12s to Delenn, Lorelai Gilmore, Vic Mackey, Ally McBeal, Picard, Data, John Cage, Emily Gilmore, Sam Beckett, Capt. "Mal" Reynolds, and Judge Bone.

For Like-ability, I only gave 13s to G'Kar and Dr. Juliet Burke (in retrospect, I may have had Lost fever at the time), and I gave way too many 12s to list.  (If I ever try to finish the top 100, this may be the category I need to go back and tweak the most.)  Characters meant to be obnoxious, annoying, morally ambiguous, or downright villainous got low to mediocre scores in Like-ability, but characters like Sawyer, Douglas Wambaugh, Ben Linus, Vic Mackey, House, and Londo Mollari still made top averages thanks to high scores in other categories.

And, the winners of the Longevity Score were:
5.32  Lt./Lt. Cmdr. Worf  (7 seasons ST:TNG; 4 seasons ST:DS9; 4 feature films)
4.74  Cartman, Kyle, Stan, and Stan's dad from South Park  (14 seasons; 1 feature film)
4.73  Capt./Major/Lt. Col./Col. Samantha Carter  (10 seasons Stargate: SG-1; 1 season Stargate: Atlantis; 2 DVD movies)
4.65  Most of the cast of Star: The Next Generation  (7 seasons; 4 feature films)
4.61  Kenny from South Park  (absent one season compared to the other boys)
4.58  Teal'c from Stargate: SG-1  (same as Samantha Carter minus the year on Atlantis)
4.45  Dr. Beverly Crusher from ST:TNG  (same as others except absent in season 2)
4.41  Dr. Daniel Jackson from Stargate: SG-1  (same as Teal'c except absent in most of season 6)
4.00  Captain John Sheridan from Babylon 5  (4 seasons; 3 TV movies; 1 DVD movie)
3.97  G'Kar, Delenn, Garibaldi, and Dr. Franklin from Babylon 5  (5 seasons; 3 TV or DVD movies each)
3.83  Col./Gen. Jack O'Neill from Stargate: SG-1  (8 seasons; 1 DVD movie; not counting the Kurt Russell version from the feature film that started the franchise)
3.74  Leopold "Butters" Stotch from South Park  (14 seasons)
3.65  Londo Mollari from Babylon 5  (5 seasons; 2 TV movies)
3.61  Tweak from South Park  (13 seasons)
3.46  Chief Miles O'Brien  (5 seasons ST:TNG; 7 seasons ST:DS9)

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Movie Review: Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3 dares to explore what happens when kids outgrow their toys.  The toys, who are sentient unbeknownst to their owner, must face their fate.  Do toys go to college with the kid, to the attic, to another home, or just the junk yard?
This movie explores every angle.  It does it with fun, humor, heart, and even one particularly scary moment that only makes you appreciate the characters even more.
The movie integrates a ton of new characters (see the poster attached to this review) but without detracting or devaluing the established characters we know & love.  And, it has a nice way of re-introducing the core characters in a very funny & exciting opening scene.
I was a little surprised that I wasn't quite moved to tears by the emotional ending.  Maybe I will be upon repeat viewing in private.  There is one scene, however, involving a tortilla -- yes, a tortilla -- that is so bizarrely hilarious that it triggered tears of laughter.  For humorous subplots, a close 2nd goes to -- without getting spoilery -- a very different kind of Buzz Lightyear.  ;)
This movie is a perfect way of wrapping up the Toy Story trilogy but could also work as a stand-alone story.  It's equally great for kids & adults.  Like all Pixar movies, it looks amazing.
About the only very minor flaws are that the point of the plot is driven home a little often, to the point that it feels like beating a dead horse, and that the evil Zurg doesn't make a cameo until the closing credits (I was hoping for a Zurg & Buzz father-son reunion).  My only other complaint is that the movie didn't send me out of the theater "pumped" about it afterwards, but I can't deny a quiet appreciation for how well it was made.
I may change my mind later, but my initial gut reaction is that the movie deserves a letter grade of "A" which in my scale translates to 5 out of 5 stars.  And, in terms of Pixar movies, TS1 & TS2 are a little lower down the list for me, but I think TS3 is 2nd only to Finding Nemo.

Letter Grade:  A
5-Star Scale:  5 out of 5 stars

Sunday, May 23, 2010

My Favorite Episodes of Lost - Season 6

Season 6.  It had so much potential.  It had so much to prove.  It had so much to live up to after the stellar season 5.  Sadly, I don't think it did.  It's been a good season, but it's been a frustrating season too.  It's been exciting and has had some big revelations, but it also hasn't totally felt like Lost.  All the cryptic stuff that happened at the Others Temple felt a little "off."  I haven't been thrilled with the sometimes significant switch in focus from our Losties to Jacob and the "Man in Black."  Maybe I'm just jaded because of what happened to Juliet.  ;)  I do like the sideways universe, but I'm not sure exactly what it's purpose is in terms of storytelling, but I guess/hope we will find out later tonight.

Season 6 - Favorites

[6.01]  LA X (Part 1)
[6.02]  LA X (Part 2)
[6.07]  Dr. Linus

Season 6 - Honorable Mentions

[6.04]  The Substitute
[6.05]  Lighthouse
[6.06]  Sundown
[6.08]  Recon

I loved the two-part / two-hour season premiere because of the introduction of the sideways universe.  It had a lot of "Easter Eggs" with old characters, sometimes ones who had died, coming back for an appearance in the new timeline.  I like seeing how some things turned out the same, how some things turned out completely opposite, and how somethings were similar but with a twist.  It was very amusing, very nostalgic.

"Dr. Linus" was, by far, the most Lost-like episode of the series.  It contained a redemption storyline, it showed parallels between the prime timeline and the alternate timeline, it had some of our characters back on the beach, and I think it's the only episode of the season to have a classic music montage near the end (I love those).  This felt like the old classic days of Lost.  Too bad it couldn't last...

I liked "The Substitute," "Lighthouse," and "Sundown" because of the information we learned about the numbers, Candidates, and Jacob's use of the lighthouse mirrors to observe the Candidates.  Actually, I don't even remember right now why I liked "Sundown," but I marked it an 8 out 10 at at the time, so I must have liked it.

I got a real kick out of the Sawyer-centric episode "Recon."  It was so cool seeing him be a police officer with Miles has his partner.  While I would have been *thrilled* to see Juliet in this episode, having James hook up with Charlotte (who looks much better off-island) was a decent consolation prize.

No, "Ab Aeterno," the Richard-centric episode, is neither a favorite nor an honorable mention.  Maybe once I get some distance from it, I'll like it better.  I will admit, it had some great production quality.  Out of *all* the episodes, it was the one that felt the most like a movie.  It had some of the most beautiful vistas of the island since season 1.  It had a great, romantic love story between Richard and his wife.  And, Nestor Carbonell should get an Emmy nomination for carrying this episode with excellence.  *But*, in the final season, when there's such little time to conclude so many subplots and solve so many mysteries, I do not care enough about Richard to see him get an entire episode when the only thing we learn about him that is important in the grand scheme of things is that Jacob made him immortal -- something we *already* knew.

My Favorite Episodes of Lost - Season 5

Season 5.  The best season of Lost, by far.  One of the best seasons of TV, out of all my favorite shows.  This is the season in which Lost peaked.

Season 5 - Favorites

[5.08]  LaFleur
[5.09]  Namaste
[5.10]  He's Our You
[5.11]  Whatever Happened, Happened
[5.13]  Some Like It Hoth
[5.14]  The Variable
[5.15]  Follow the Leader
[5.16]  The Incident (Part 1)
[5.17]  The Incident (Part 2)

Season 5 - Honorable Mentions

[5.01]  Because You Left
[5.02]  The Lie
[5.03]  Jughead
[5.04]  The Little Prince
[5.05]  This Place Is Death
[5.06]  316
[5.07]  The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham

Yes, that's no mistake.  I count every episode of season 5 as either a favorite or an honorable mention except [5.12] "Dead Is Dead."  Even that episode was still decent.  The season is just that good.

Basically, season 5 is the time travel season.  On the island, Locke, Sawyer, Juliet, Jin, Miles, Daniel Faraday, and Charlotte are bouncing around in time.  According to Lostpedia, they experienced at least 14 time flashes.  In those flashes, one or more people each got to witness the birth of Aaron, the washing ashore of Rousseau's science group on the island, the presence of an atom bomb on the island in the 1950s, and the Tawaret statue being intact on the island in an earlier century.

I love the time flashes.  The only thing better is when the time flashes stop, and the survivors join the Dharma Initiative in 1974.  It was great seeing James (hard to still call him Sawyer at this point) taking up a respected leadership position and even better to see him in a relationship with Juliet.  It's funny; after three seasons of developing the Jack/Kate/Sawyer love triangle (and, maybe a few months of Juliet just barely making it a "love trapezoid"), all it took was a few scenes of seeing James and Juliet together for their relationship to be just as believable as Sun and Jin's or Desmond and Penny's.

When Jack, Kate, Hurley, and Sayid time flash back to 1977, after the other Losties have lived comfortably in the Dharma Initiative for three years, there's this horrible sense that fun time is over.  The game is back on.  While the final hours of season 5 aren't as action-packed as season 4, it's even better because of the tension between characters, the philosophical aspect of fate vs. free will, the nostalgia of seeing the Swan station being built, and the big question as to whether the group could -- or should -- try to change their pasts.  And, the final moments of the episode are the most jaw-dropping and gut-wrenching of the entire series, and again, it's because of the believability of the James/Juliet relationship and how much Juliet was my favorite character.

Other highlights of the season include:  Hurley trying to write The Empire Strikes Back for George Lucas, finding Rose and Bernard (with Vincent) who are hiding from both Dharma and the Others because they have "retired," Miles getting to interact with his dad and finding out he wasn't so bad after all, the horror of knowing that Eloise Hawking killed her own son, getting to see Hurley drive a fully intact Dharma van, and Hurley asking Miles questions about time travel that some of the audience were probably wondering too.

My Favorite Episodes of Lost - Season 4

Season 4 really picked things up.  Setting an end date was the best thing the producers could do because it increased the pace and gave the overall story arc a destination to work toward.  Unfortunately, this season was reduced in episode count because of the writers strike.  However, that may be a good thing for two reasons:  (1) We got extra hours in seasons 5 and 6 to compensate.  (2) Season 4 was ultimately a season about shuffling characters back and forth making us wonder the whole time how the Oceanic Six became the Oceanic Six.

Season 4 - Favorites

[4.05]  The Constant
[4.13]  There's No Place Like Home (Part 2)
[4.14]  There's No Place Like Home (Part 3)

Season 4 - Honorable Mentions

[4.03]  The Economist
[4.07]  Ji Yeon
[4.12]  There's No Place Like Home (Part 1)

"The Constant" is generally regarded as one of the best episodes of the series.  Instead of us seeing a flashback of Desmond's character, we actually follow his character as he bounces back & forth in time.  This serves as more proof that Desmond is special when it comes to properties of space, time, and consciousness.  And, it gives us one of the series' most emotional moments as Desmond reunites with his love Penny albeit over the phone.  Hearing Penny's voice helps ground Desmond such that he gets his memory back in the present and stops bouncing around in time.

The three-part / four-hour season finale is one of the most exciting story arcs of the whole series.  We see events that eventually lead to some of the characters getting off the island, though not in as easy a way as we might have expected.  I can't remember exactly why, but I count Part 1 as an honorable mention instead of a favorite probably because the action and intrigue was just ramping up at that point.

"The Economist" is definitely the best Sayid story.  In retrospect, it's a little depressing though.  When combined with what happens to Sayid in season six's sideways universe, it's pretty obvious that Sayid was perpetually screwed.  No matter how hard he tried to redeem himself, on the island, in 1977, off the island, or in the sidewaysverse, he was always meant to be a killer.  It reminds me of a line from the otherwise forgettable 1996 Michael Douglas film "The Ghost and the Darkness" in which his character, a famous hunter named Charles Remington, is hired to kill two lions reeking havoc on a railroad operation in Kenya.  Someone asks Remington if he enjoys killing and if not, why do it.  Remington responds, "Because I've got a gift."  It's the same with Sayid.  His gift, but also his curse, is his ability to torture and kill.

No surprise, but "Ji Yeon" is another honorable mention simply because it's a Sun-centric episode.  I love the part at the end when Hurley goes to visit Sun in Seoul.  She and Hurley take Ji Yeon to a grave that is reserved for Jin.  At that time, we still didn't know if Jin was really dead, on the island but pretending to be dead to the outside world, or assumed to be dead by the Oceanic 6 but actually alive.  Consequently, another tear-filled moment.

My Favorite Episodes of Lost - Season 3

Ahh, Season 3 of Lost.  Lost is one of my favorite shows, even at its worst it’s still better than most of the crap on TV, and the season ended pretty well.  But, let’s face it.  Season 3 was the worst season of Lost.  Or, I guess it’d be more appropriate to say it’s the “least good” season of Lost.
Season 3 started off with the lackluster six-episode mini-arc in which Jack, Kate, and Sawyer are stuck in love triangle hell while held captive by the Others.  Despite those six episodes not being that great, their saving grace is the introduction of the character of Juliet Burke, the sympathetic, blond Other (played by Elizabeth Mitchell) who became one of my favorite characters.  Also, the first few minutes of the season premiere episode are dedicated to her (one of the best character introductions ever) as well as the sight of the Oceanic plane breaking up in air from the viewpoint of the Others barracks, also introduced for the first time.
Season 3 also brought us “Stranger in a Strange Land,” the infamous Jack-centric episode dedicated to the origins of his tattoo in Thailand, generally considered to be one of the worst episodes of the series.  According to, that episode was the turning point in which the studio finally allowed the producers to set an end date for the series.
Season 3 - Favorite
[3.16]  One of Us
Season 3 - Honorable Mentions
[3.10]  Tricia Tanaka is Dead
[3.14]  Expose
[3.18]  D.O.C.
[3.21]  Greatest Hits
[3.22]  Through the Looking Glass (Part 1)
[3.23]  Through the Looking Glass (Part 2)
“One of Us” is my favorite episode of the season mostly because it focuses on Juliet.  I love how it shows her vulnerable side as we see her a normal doctor before her time on the island hardened her.  I think it’s a great image of Juliet climbing out of the hatch of the submarine and taking her first look at the island.  It’s such a polar opposite to her character’s fate in the season 5 finale.  When she comes to the island she climbs up out of a hole in the water (the submarine hatch), willingly, into the light (sunshine of the island).  In the season 5 finale, she falls into a hole in the earth (the 1977 Swan Station drill site), unwillingly, into darkness.  Her character goes full circle, and though this is the 2nd Juliet-centric episode of this season, the best part of her backstory begins here.
As if her character introduction in the season premiere weren’t already Emmy-worthy enough, Elizabeth Mitchell continues to deliver in the scene in which Ben shows Juliet on a TV monitor that her sister is now cancer free and has a son named Julian.  Juliet is overjoyed and grips the screen crying wishing she could hold her sister and nephew.  That’s heartbreaking enough, but when Ben radios to Mikhail to turn off the connection, and the monitor goes blank, Juliet begs for more time and for the opportunity to go home after being stuck on the island for three years.  Ben won’t let her until she finishes her work for which she adamantly claims she’s exhausted all possibilities.
“Tricia Tanaka is Dead” and “D.O.C.” are two of my honorable mentions simply because they focus on two of my other favorite characters, Hurley and Sun, respectively.  I also love the triumphant moment in “Tanaka” in which Hurley is able to get the old Dharma van running again.  And, “D.O.C.” also marks the beginning of the freighter storyline as Charlie, Desmond, Hurley, and Jin deal with the wounded Naomi Dorrit, the first member of the freighter crew to land on the island, which eventually leads to the Oceanic 6 getting off the island.
Most fans *hated* the way new characters Nikki and Paulo were written into the show in season 3.  They simply emerged out of the nameless, faceless extras littering the beach (as at that time, Oceanic 815 still had over three dozen survivors from the middle section of the plane) and started injecting themselves into the story, such as the mission to one of the underground Dharma stations.  Even the producers eventually admitted those characters were a mistake.  I didn’t mind them nearly as much as others did.  Regardless of how awkwardly Nikki and Paulo were introduced, “Expose” is one of my honorable mentions from the season because it was a brilliant way of writing them out of the show, sending them to a horrifying death deserving of such hated characters.
“Greatest Hits” and Parts 1 and 2 of “Through the Looking Glass” are all honorable mentions for basically forming one looong, exciting four-hour season finale (with part 2 of “Glass” being two hours).  They’re just short of being favorites because of a heavy centricity on Jack in the final three hours.  But, the Charlie-centric “Greatest Hits” was a great way of writing out an un-even, yet ultimately likable character who’s last sacrificial act served as a heroic warning that would drive much of the tension and mystery for the rest of seasons 3 and 4.

My Favorite Episodes of Lost - Season 2

While I really like Season 2 overall, because I like the Swan Station setting and the introductions of Desmond, Ben (a.k.a. Henry Gale), and The Others, not many episodes stand out as exceptional enough to be all-time favorites.

Season 2 - Favorite

[2.07]  The Other 48 Days

Season 2 - Honorable Mentions

[2.04]  Everybody Hates Hugo
[2.05]  ...And Found
[2.16]  The Whole Truth
[2.17]  Lockdown
[2.19]  S.O.S.

I like "The Other 48 Days" the best out of Season 2 because it shows us something completely different -- what happened to the people in the tail section.  We see that there were actually several survivors.  Some were abducted by The Others, including the kids.  We're introduced to whole new set of characters:  Ana Lucia, Libby, Mr. Eko, Rose's husband Bernard, and the flight attendant Cindy.  Considering that Ana Lucia, Libby, and Eko all get killed, Cindy joins the Others, and Bernard eventually "retires" with Rose, the tail section story doesn't really add much in the grand scheme of things, but it's an interesting diversion, especially considering how it's woven so intelligently into the main storyline with the Tailies finding Sawyer, Michael, and Jin after the raft explosion.

I like "Everybody Hates Hugo" because it focuses on one of my favorite characters, Hurley.  It begins with a dream sequence in which he's speaking Korean, and Jin, standing beside a guy in a chicken outfit, speaks perfect English.  Later, we see what happens when Hurley wins the lottery and how it affects his responsibility in rationing the Swan Station food stash.  Many of my favorite scenes in Lost are the "music montages" in which emotional music plays over a scene without dialogue.  They're occasionally done in slight slow motion and usually involve departures, reunions, mourning, celebration, etc.  The music montage in this episode is Hurley giving out *all* of the food to the entire group of survivors in one night, which brightens everyone's mood and basically turns a normal night on the island into a party.  It's one of Hurley's finest moments.

I like "...And Found" and "The Whole Truth" simply because they focus on Sun & Jin who are always interesting characters to learn more about, even when they're story doesn't seem that important in the grand scheme of things.  "Lockdown" is good because we get to see the map drawn in invisible ink on the Swan Station blast door and see some interesting interactions between Locke and Ben.  "S.O.S." is unique because it's the only Bernard & Rose -centric episode.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

My Favorite Episodes of Lost - Season 1

After six seasons, the TV show Lost ends tomorrow night.  A lot of satisfaction in the series is riding on the climactic finale.  Even though unanswered questions & dangling plot threads are at this point a foregone conclusion, it’s still my hope that the final 2.5 hours will wrap up the mind-bending, time-twisting series in a way that surpasses expectations.  I simply don’t know how they can do it, but maybe Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse will pull off the seemingly impossible and deliver a finale packed full of drama, emotion, humor, clarification, cohesion, and closure.  (And, there better be a prominent guest appearance from Elizabeth Mitchell as the massively-missed Juliet.)
In preparation for Sunday’s finale event, as well as the replay of the pilot episode tonight, I thought I’d list out my favorite episodes from the series.  It’s too hard to rank them or to limit them to a top 10 list, so I’ll just go season by season...
Season 1
[1.01]  Pilot (Part 1)
[1.02]  Pilot (Part 2)
[1.04]  Walkabout
[1.05]  House of the Rising Sun
[1.06]  The Moth
[1.17]  ...In Translation
[1.18]  Numbers
[1.23]  Exodus (Part 1)
The two-part “Pilot” episode is more than just the pilot of a series; it’s virtually a movie.  I remember being pleasantly surprised at how action-packed it was.  I’m not sure I knew ahead of time that there’d be a sci-fi or fantasy element, so I was immediately intrigued by the unseen yet formidable-sounding monster in the jungle.  I didn’t know that character flashbacks would be a staple of the series’ early run, so Lost did a good job of concentrating on character development from the very beginning.
The other episodes are my favorites almost entirely because of one scene per episode...
  • "Walkabout":  The shocking revelation that Locke was confined to a wheelchair before coming to the island, which apparently healed him and allowed him to walk again.
  • “House of the Rising Sun”:  The Korean woman, Sun Kwon, revealing to Michael (and, consequently, the audience) that she knows how to speak English but hasn’t told her husband Jin.
  • “The Moth”:  The redemption of drug-addicted Charlie where he chooses to throw the heroin in the fire and Locke says he’s proud of him.
  • “...In Translation":  Sun unexpectedly revealing to the rest of the castaways, including her husband, that she could speak English.
  • "Numbers":  Hurley being so desperate to have someone believe him that he confronts an armed & slightly insane Danielle Rousseau about the cursed numbers and then hugs her when she agrees that the numbers are cursed.

But, the single greatest scene of the season and still one of the greatest of the entire series, is not in the two-hour season finale, but in the season’s penultimate episode “Exodus (Part 1).”  In that episode, Michael’s well designed raft is ready to set sail so that he, Walt, Jin, and Sawyer can bring back help to the other survivors of Oceanic 815.
First, Sun gives Jin a list of English words spelled out phonetically to help him communicate on the raft.  Jin apologizes for all he’s done wrong, and they have a tearful goodbye.  As the awesome musical score starts up, the rest of the scene happens without words.  Charlie collects the last of the survivors’ notes for the messages in a bottle.  Claire kisses her baby.  Walt says goodbye to his dog Vincent.  Jin kisses the forehead of baby Aaron.  Michael & Sun, who have had a certain chemistry, have an awkward moment where they don’t know whether to shake hands or hug.  Jin & Charlie hug.  Walt gives Vincent to Shannon.  Charlie gives the bottle of messages to Sawyer.  Sawyer realizes that with Kate being in the group going to get dynamite from the Black Rock (revealed for the first time in this episode) there’s no one who likes him enough to hug him goodbye.  The survivors (still several dozen at this time) push the raft into the water and hoop & holler at it’s successful launching.  Vincent runs out into the water, and Walt has to tell him stay behind.  Sayid & Charlie have their arms around each other and holler when Sawyer raises the raft’s sail.  The camera focuses on Jin as he stares with love at his wife still on the beach, and she looks back at him.  And, the music becomes exceedingly bold & triumphant as we see the raft successfully sailing off into deeper water.
If there were a Top 10 list, maybe even Top 5 list, of best scenes of the series, that would *have* to be in there.
So, that’s the best of Season 1.  This ended up being long enough, that I’ll do separate blog entries for each season...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Anticipated Movies of 2010

Here are lists of movies in 2010 that I'm certain, tempted, or iffy about seeing:

Must See
  • *** Iron Man 2 *** (May 07)
  • The A-Team (June 11)
  • Toy Story 3 (June 18)
  • Harry Potter and Deathly Hollows, Part 1 (November 19)
  • Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader (December 10)
  • Tron Legacy (December 17)

Curious / Tempted
  • She's Out of My League (March 12)
  • How to Train Your Dragon (March 26)
  • Clash of the Titans (March 26)
  • Kick-Ass (April 16)
  • The Last Airbender (July 02)
  • Inception (July 16)
  • Red (October 22)

  • Hot Tub Time Machine (March 26)
  • Date Night (April 09)
  • The Losers (April 23)
  • Robin Hood (May 14)
  • The Karate Kid (June 11)
  • The Sorcerer's Apprentice (July 16)
  • Salt (July 23)
Hmm, so far, not a single movie in August or September and only one in October for which I've only read the cast list & a paragraph summary. Well, it's a little soon to know what's that far ahead anyway.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pondering About Lost: Red, the Third Symbolic Color???

If you look up black & white at, there are a lot examples of the use of black & white. But, some examples introduce a third color... Red.

  • There’s the joke Michael's nurse tells, “What’s white, black, and red all over?”
  • There are three cars, one of each color, in Locke’s dad’s driveway.
  • In a Desmond flashback, he & Eloise Hawking witness a man in red shoes getting killed. The man’s other clothing was black & white.
  • I don’t remember this, but according to Lostpedia, Ben’s kitchen is red, white, and black.
  • There are numerous examples of one character in a scene wearing black, another white, but sometimes a third character in the scene is wearing red.
  • The creators of the show obviously make a big deal out of white & black, but as an homage & in-joke, they have also adopted the Star Trek tradition of “red shirts” being easily killed off.

So, what does the red mean? It could represent yet a third major entity, like Jacob & Smokey, that we still haven’t met yet. It could represent the blood that will be shed in the conflict between the two opposing sides. It could represent the survivors of Oceanic 815 being the variables in an equation that has constants on either side.

On another of my favorite shows, Babylon 5, “understanding” is one time described as a three-edged sword -- your side, their side, and the truth. I believe that’s what’s going on in Lost.

Smokey is angry, jaded, alone, single-minded, obsessed with getting home. He justifies his actions by advocating free-will. Jacob is entrenched in the island, paranoid about its protection (warranted or not), willing to observe & manipulate the lives of hundreds of innocent people and entrap & endanger them over his own beliefs. He’s set in his ways, and he’s brainwashed the Others with his philosophy. They’re the black & white, but I don’t think it makes either of them right.

I think our main characters represent the color red, the third edge of the sword, the truth. They represent a mix of good & evil, a mix of fate & free will, a mix of faith & rational thought. They are caught in the middle. And, either that means they will bring compromise & balance to the island, or they’ll be forced to choose sides in a battle that will end the conflict once & for all -- and only half will survive.

...Or, maybe, red in Lost doesn’t mean anything at all. :(

Pondering About Lost: Light & Dark May Not Equal Good vs. Evil

A common theme on the show has been black & white, dark & light. Here are just a few examples:

  • the colors of backgammon pieces
  • the white & black stones found beside the “Adam & Eve” skeletons in the caves
  • the keys on a piano, played by several characters in the Lost universe (including Jack & his fiance, Daniel Faraday, and Jack’s alternate timeline son)
  • the colors in the Dharma logo and the Lost title screen
  • Rose & Bernard
  • appearances of animals or stuffed animals that are black & white including: stuffed panda, stuffed whale, polar bears (which have black skin but appear white because of their translucent fur), white rabbits with black numbers on them, etc.
  • the black & white rocks on the scale in Jacob’s seaside cave
  • *numerous* examples of characters in the same scene wearing clothes of opposite colors -- one character in black & another in white or one character wearing something that has both white & black in it

One might automatically assume that this theme implies a conflict of good vs. evil. That is definitely a possibility. However, I have a hard time seeing any character in this show, even Jacob and the Smoke Monster, as being completely good or completely evil.

Some assume that Jacob is the good guy and that Smokey is the bad guy. But, Jacob has also encouraged the Others to do some awfully dark things through his cryptic lists. It’s still unclear whether he sanctioned the Others to commit kidnapping, torture, and murder, but he never stopped them either. When face-to-face with Ben, he totally dismissed Ben’s work & devotion, but if he didn’t approve of Ben’s leadership, why didn’t he ever intervene to expel Ben from power? I’ll agree that Jacob seems to have better intentions and is the lesser of two “evils,” but his hands are *not* clean.

Some assume that the opposite is true, Smokey could be good, Jacob could be bad. Smokey has killed a multitude of people. Even if you could argue that some of his kills were done in self defense or were acts of justice on behalf of others, I keep thinking about his ruthless slaughter of Mr. Eko. Had Mr. Eko committed some atrocities? Yes. But, he had turned his life around. He redeemed himself. So did Sawyer & Sayid, and Smokey hasn’t killed them -- yet. How could Smokey possibly justify killing Eko?

So, what’s the deal with white & black, light vs. dark? I think the theme implies two diametrically opposed philosophies. I don’t think it’s good vs. evil. I think order vs. chaos would be too much of a ripoff of another favorite show of mine. I think fate vs. free will is close but not quite it (I may speak to that in a separate blog entry). Regardless or what it is, I think the colors represent two sides that are equal & opposite, regardless of what their motivations are. But, I don’t think either side is completely good nor completely evil. The conflict is about something...else.