Television: Viva la Fall Schedule!

Once upon a yesterday, the fall schedule was something special. Mid-season replacements were unheard of and shows never went on “hiatus”, so all the new shows debuted on the fall schedule and viewers could be relatively certain that any show premiering in September and October would last at least one season.

In today’s television world, shows like Manimal and Hard Time on Planet Earth would likely have been cancelled after two episodes—with A Different World and Three’s A Crowd appearing in their timeslots—rather than running until spring. Likewise, The Facts of Life might have gone on hiatus in April and returned in July with “Season 2.5”. In the meantime, fans hungry for the ongoing adventures of Mrs. Garrett, Blair, Tootie, Natalie and Jo (who may or may not have been a cylon) would have had to suffer through reruns of One Day at a Time. Oh, the humanity.

When the fall schedule was announced in 2005, I picked several new shows and watched them faithfully. Four of the five shows had science-fiction or supernatural themes and the fifth was a half-hour sitcom. One by one the hour-long sci-fi/supernatural shows were cancelled: first Threshold and Night Stalker fell off the schedule, each after only a handful of episodes had aired. Surface lasted an “entire” (if short) season, but NBC has reportedly not renewed the show despite a letter-writing campaign among fans. Similarly, ABC’s Invasion lasted a full season but has not been renewed. Of the five shows I latched onto last year, only My Name is Earl has returned on the 2006 fall schedule.

This year, I’m taking a more conservative approach to the fall season. That may be due to a less-than-spectacular offering by the networks (ABC, for example, has nothing in their lineup that interests me), but I’m probably just trying to avoid the inevitable letdown that occurs when shows I enjoy are canceled.

Whatever the reason, I’m only going to watch one show from the new fall schedule: Heroes on NBC, which tells the story of people throughout the world who suddenly develop superpowers. Anyone who’s read more than two posts in this blog knows that I’m a sucker for superheroes, so it should come as no surprise that I’m going to pass on the post-nuclear drama Jericho (CBS) and whatever brilliant, imaginative new show Fox is planning to cancel by mid-November and go with the network that pulled the rug out from beneath Surface.

If that doesn’t work out… well, I suppose I could go outside for a while.

Podcast: Fist Full of Comics (and Games)

Fist Full of Comics by The Round TableFriday night, the hosts of The Round Table donned their superhero guises to host Fist Full of Comics (and Games) as part of a crossover event currently taking place among several gaming podcasts. It seems that the wizard Weirdbeard, powerful-but-clumsy mascot of the Does My Geek Look Big in This? podcast, managed to bugger up his latest spell, which should surprise no one. The result of his mangled magick is that eleven of Weirdbeard’s favorite gaming podcasts have been jumbled together. Mick, Chris, Julia and I wound up on Fist Full of Comics, while the regular hosts of that show (including JJ “Working Man” Lanza and Victor “Tangent” Cantu) were off reviewing beer on Does My Geek Look Big in This?

The show was a lot of fun to do, and we managed to apply our trademark mythic twist on comic books and superheroes, topics we only occasionally discuss on The Round Table. The episode should appear on the regular Fist Full of Comics feed as well as the special Shaken Not Stirred feed sometime in the next week or so.

Non Sequitur: Biblioptimus Prime

Moving day looms like an ancient monolith at work. We scurry around in its shadow, fully aware that the hour of its descent draws nigh. When the simile topples, we will scatter or be crushed beneath its awesome mass.

I will be moving approximately eleven feet west, which means I need to pack everything at my desk (except my laptops, which currently number five) into boxes and vacate the building by 4:00 Friday afternoon. When I return on Monday, the journey from MVoD to desk will be approximately eleven feet shorter.

Today, I decided it was time to get rid of some technical tomes that I haven’t touched in a couple of years. I brought Newton’s Telecom Dictionary, The XML Bible, Teach Yourself HTML 4 in 24 Hours and a slew of Microsoft “core” references for Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and IIS to Half-Price Books, where the going rate for out of date computer books is approximately thirty cents per pound. This came to six whole dollars, the voucher for which burned like the innards of a freshly-microwaved Hot Pocket in my hand.

Browsing through the store, I saw a few possibilities: Sudden Strike II was only $4.98, but I decided that I don’t really need another computer game right now; Dungeons & Dragons: The Movie could be had for a paltry $6.98, but that would necessitate dragging out the debit card for a mere dollar and change; ((For some reason, I can’t bring myself to pay with a debit card if the total is less than about three bucks. I’ve gotten better; I used to balk at anything less than $10, and would wander around a store until I found something to bring the total over that threshold.)); Black & White 2 was available for $7.98, but that’s another sequel to a computer game I didn’t play enough in the first place.

I was ready to turn the voucher in for cash (which I would undoubtedly have blown on iced tea and Frappuccino®) when Miscellaneous G™ came to the rescue. Like Prince Adam lifting his sword high in preparation to invoke the power of Greyskull, Miscellaneous G™ held aloft a copy of Transformers: The Movie on DVD. The price tag: $9.98, which amounted to an acceptable $4.73 on the debit card.

The original value of the books I traded in probably topped three hundred dollars but I was glad to get six bucks for them, and Half-Price Books will be lucky to sell them for twice that; just another testament to how quickly computers and nearly everything related to them become obsolete.

Transformers, on the other hand, will never be obsolete to me. In the immortal words of Peter Cullen, ((Peter Cullen provided the voice of Optimus Prime in the Transformers cartoon as well as Transformers: The Movie. Fans of the original television series were delighted to learn that Cullen would be reprising his role in the upcoming live-action movie directed by Michael Bay. To date, Cullen’s inclusion is the only thing about the upcoming film that hasn’t led to indignation, outrage and rampant bitching from said fans.)) Autobots, transform and roll out!

Shatner DVD Club: Three Months

For my birthday this year, Laura bought me a membership in the William Shatner DVD Club. Since then I’ve received the following DVDs in the mail:

  • Immortel (2004) – This French film — directed by Enki Bilal, who also created the comics upon which the movie is based — is an interesting blend of live-action and computer-generated characters set against an almost entirely computer-generated backdrop. In the year 2095, the ancient Egyptian gods have reappeared in a pyramid hovering over New York City. The hawk-headed god Horus is being judged by Anubis and Set, and has seven days to… well, that would be telling. The story is bizarre, but nothing compared to the visuals, which range from stunning to jarring. Settings and vehicles are stylistic and work well, but most of the computer-generated characters just don’t mesh with their live-action counterparts.
  • Falcon Down (2000) – This bonus DVD was shipped with Immortel. Pilot Hank Thomas (Dale Midkiff) is recruited by Maj. Robert Carson (William Shatner) to steal a top secret plane and microwave weapon before both can be sold to the Chinese military. As techno-thrillers go, it’s no Hunt For Red October, but it’s got some decent aerial sequences and special effects. The story has a few twists and turns, but nothing truly surprising. There’s some docuentary-style footage that really doesn’t mesh well with the rest of the plot, and the movie would have been fine (if shorter) without it.
  • Close Your Eyes (2002) – Also known as Doctor Sleep, this one is a supernatural thriller in which hypnotherapist Michael Strother (Goran Visnjic) has a vision of a young girl who escaped from a serial killer. Together with policewoman Janet Losey (Shirley Henderson, who plays Moaning Myrtle in the Harry Potter films), Michael follows the trail of the killer, who believes he has unlocked the key to immortality. Close Your Eyes is a fairly competent and gritty thriller, with a decent story that delves into the supernatural without going overboard.
  • Ginger Snaps (2000) – I haven’t watched the DVD yet, but I saw Ginger Snaps on The Independent Film Channel a few months ago. Unfortunately, I also saw the sequel, Ginger Snaps: Unleashed, around the same time and I remember very little about the original. The story involves a teenage girl who, after being bitten by “something” in the woods, begins to undergo a transformation that’s almost as bad as going through puberty. I’ll do a mini-review after I’ve had a chance to watch the DVD.

I should be receiving another movie from the club in the next week or so. It will most likely be Butterfly Effect (starring Ashton Kutcher), the Japanese disaster film Virus, or it2i2, an independent film that has been described by the London Times as “The Da Vinci Code meets The Matrix, only with a lower budget.”

SciFi: Who Wants to Be a Superhero? (Season Finale)

All good things must come to an end, as must all things that started out good but then turned bad after an attempt to use lizard DNA to regrow an arm. Who Wants to Be a Superhero? falls somewhere in the middle of that particular spectrum, and it, too, has come to an end.

The episode began with Stan Lee sending the two remaining contestants to “Stunt School”, where they bounced on a trampoline, kicked a fella in the stones, and “flew” in front of a green screen. You’d have sworn it was Feedback’s birthday and he’d just gotten the best present imaginable, as I don’t think the grin left his face once during stunt school. Fat Momma wasn’t quite so enthusiastic; not only didn’t she have a permanent grin affixed to her face, but she didn’t do backflips on the trampoline and opted not to be flung through the air in front of a green screen, either.

Later, each of the heroes had a little face time with Stan Lee. When speaking to Stan Lee, Feedback’s super power is sniffling and hero worship. He once again reiterated that Stan was his hero, while Fat Momma got all misty when talking about her own personal hero, her father.

The final elimination took place on Universal CityWalk before throngs of fans. Fat Momma and Feedback were both featured in their own video montage, where they fought Dark Enforcer and leftover footage from SciFi Original movies. Finally, Stan Lee eliminated Fat Momma, which should have surprised exactly no one but seemed to catch Feedback off guard.

As is standard practice for reality shows, all of the contestants eliminated in prior episodes returned to congratulate Feedback. Then, for the first time in the series, Stan Lee appeared in person to offer his congratulations as well.

The first episode Who Wants to Be a Superhero? impressed the hell out of me, but by episode four the show had become everything I dreaded it would be from the beginning. By the final episode, there was nothing surprising, innovative, or even amusing about it. Feedback’s victory was pretty much a given, and everything about the finale leading up to the elimination of Fat Momma was just filler.

Now that the show is over, Feedback can take his wife to Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. He will also be featured in his own comic book developed by Stan Lee and published by Dark Horse Comics. Finally, his character will be featured in a SciFi Original movie on a Saturday night in the future.

The Feedback movie will not be the first time that Stan Lee has collaborated with The SciFi Channel. If their previous movie collaboration (Lightspeed) is any indication of what we can expect, Feedback may want to turn in his own costume before Lee and SciFi destroy the character he created.

Non Sequitur: Battle of the Badasses

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming so that we may bring you this special presentation.

Battle of the Badasses, Vol. 1: Kurtwood Smith vs. Michael Ironside

As unbelievable as it may seem, Kurtwood Smith and Michael Ironside have never appeared together in a movie. ((So sayeth IMDb.com.)) I believe this is because the combined badassedness of the two would be nigh-impossible to contain in a single motion picture. Auditoriums in which the Smith/Ironside film was being shown would hemmorhage badassery, which would then flood the multiplex and take over every other film being shown. Two doors down in That Charming English Fop, Hugh Grant would suddenly pull a Scarface and fatten every stiff upper lip gathered ’round the delightful, period-accurate dinner table with a Louisville Slugger. Clear across the multiplex, the children watching Shrek 4: Ogre and Ogre Again would recoil in horror as the beloved green grump began to feast on exquisitely-pixelated human flesh.

Clearly, a head to head, no holds barred, balls to the wall showdown between these two men—men who define the very essence of badassishness—is out of the question, but I can always dream.

Kurtwood Smith: Badass

Kurtwood Smith may be most recognizable to contemporary audiences as Red Forman in the television series That 70’s Show. Red is the father of not only two children, but also the word “dumbass,” which he apparently created to describe his son. There is no question that Red is a badass, but the character is played for laughs, and most incarnations of Ironside-badassitude would wring Red Forman out like an overused snot rag.

To find the quintessential Kurtwood Smith badass it is necessary to leap forward one decade, to 1987. In RoboCop Kurtwood Smith portrayed Clarence Boddicker, ((RoboCop was almost the movie that would have oozed badassery: Michael Ironside was at one time up for the role of Alex Murphy, which ultimately went to Peter Weller, who—without the benefit of a cyborg body—barely registers on the Badass Scale.)) the man who was directly responsible for Alex Murphy’s transformation from ordinary police officer into the ass-kicking titular character. Boddicker began by obliterating Murphy’s hand with a pump-action shotgun, then turned him over to his men, who fired round after round into the helpless cop’s prone body. Boddicker himself then delivered the killing shot, a blast directly to Murphy’s right temple. The scene is one of the most brutal, vicious moments in cinematic history, and Clarence Boddicker scared the ever-loving crap out of fourteen-year-old me.

Michael Ironside: Canadian Badass

Whereas Kurtwood Smith’s image has been softened over the years, Michael Ironside remains a hardcore badass. One look at the man tells you two things: first, he’s fully capable of tearing your face off and nailing it to a wall; second, he’d enjoy it.

Ironside (Canada’s premiere badass) has had a career full of badass roles, from the malevolent Darryl Revok in Scanners (1981) to the malevolent Richter in Total Recall (1991) to good guy badass Sam Fisher in four installments of the Splinter Cell video games. ((Ironside as Fisher is the ne plus ultra of perfection in voice casting.)) Even when he’s not playing the villain, Ironside will break both your arms just to see you dance like Michael Flatley. Where Kurtwood Smith as Clarence Boddicker scared the crap out of me at fourteen, Michael Ironside as Michael Ironside scares the crap out of me at thirty-three.

Movie fans may recall the hype generated when badasses Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro appeared together for the first time on screen in Heat (1995). I submit that the meeting of those two powerhouses was not only anti-climactic but would pale in comparison to the jaw-dropping, nut-crunching spectacle of a Kurtwood Smith/Michael Ironside showdown. The event could only be described as an earth-shaking collision, the movie could only be titled Badass, and all other auditoriums in the multiplex would have to be evacuated any time it was screened.

Podcast: Planet RetCon Episode 29

The first annual Parsec Awards—”a celebration of speculative fiction podcasts”—were presented at Dragon*Con this past weekend in Atlanta, GA and Planet RetCon was nominated for both short- and long-form audio drama. Though “The Hoff” was beaten out by The Radio Adventures of Doctor Floyd, the Planet RetCon series StarGate Café won the for long-form audio drama.

I’ve been spreading congratulations around at The Harping Monkey and the Planet RetCon sites, but I wanted to do the same here, too. So congratulations again to Wesley Clifford (KJToo Forum frequenters know him as Yotto) and the Planet RetCon Players: Jamie Bartl, Lisa Clifford, Jeffrey Vargo and Bob (blob) Voegerl.

If you head over to the Planet RetCon site, you’ll find the seventh episode of StarGate Café. In the aftermath of his birthday celebration, Pete (Jeffrey Vargo) finds himself in an awkward position with co-worker Katie (Jamie Bartl) and naked hilarity ensues. Featured guest voices in this episode: some dork from another podcast and Christiana Ellis, author of Nina Kimberly the Merciless, which is available from Podiobooks.com

Weekend Wrap-up: Labor Day

I’ve got a few things in the pipeline just waiting for me to finish them up, including reviews of Ultraviolet, the season finale of Who Wants to Be a Superhero?, Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, the second season of The Venture Brothers on Adult Swim, and a long-overdue review of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Last but not least, if you listened to the latest episode of The Round Table you know that I gave myself a homework assignment to determine whether or not Snakes on a Plane follows The Hero’s Journey.

This may simply be a case of too many irons in the fire, but I just haven’t been able to focus on finishing anything over the past couple of weeks. I obviously have strong opinions about the movies and television shows I’m watching, not to mention the books I’m reading (currently Orwell’s 1984), but sitting down and writing about them has been difficult recently and I’m not sure why.

This weekend, I didn’t even attempt to write anything for the site. Instead, Laura and I spent three days watching the first season of 24. A co-worker loaned me the DVDs and I figured the only way I was going to be able to watch the series was if Laura watched it with me. After we watched the first two episodes on Saturday afternoon, she was hooked; we watched eight episodes on Saturday, eight more on Sunday, and finished up the series last night. That may seem a little extreme, but each episode is roughly 40 minutes without commercials, so it works out to just over five hours of 24 each day, leaving nearly nineteen hours a day for sleep and…

  • Dragon Sword, a wonderful study in anachronism (think Legolas’ rail-grinding in The Two Towers) and misplaced accents (think Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) starring James Purefoy, Piper Perabo, Patrick Swayze, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Val Kilmer (sort of).
  • Ultimate Spider-Man for the Xbox.
  • LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, also for the Xbox.
  • Ice cream at the Kurlee Kone in Fairport Harbor.
  • The Chili Meltdown Grillburger from Dairy Queen. Instant food review: the chili is too sweet.
  • The care and feeding of my young apprentice, who now has four teeth (two up top and two beneath) and a growing appetite.