October 31, 2013

"Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see!"

First of all, if you haven't watched It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown yet this October, you just must. It's on my local ABC affiliate right now. Ah, the classic animation. The philosophical storyline. The lilting piano music. It's autumn now!

As all devoted fans of Peanuts know, this Halloween special is based on original Charles Schultz's newspaper comics.

Source: Peanuts wiki

Is this annual special enjoyable for all the kiddies? Of course! But it's so much more than that.
It's a tale of…

Innocent faith - Linus: "PS: If you really are a fake, don't tell me. I don't wanna know." 

Using your imagination - Narrator: "Here's the World War I Flying Ace, imagining he's down behind enemy lines."

Feminism - Linus: "I thought little girls were innocent and trusting?" Sally: "Welcome to the 20th century." and later, "You owe me restitution!"

Determination - Charlie Brown (repeatedly): "I got a rock."

So watch The Great Pumpkin. And learn some life lessons while you're at it. 

October 22, 2013

Reign: "Pilot" Review

I suppose it's time I post a review of Reign, a show I was looking forward to for awhile. Last week's premiere did not disappoint, although I did feel like I'd seen most of it already in the previews and promos. (That's my own fault though, right?)

Let's start off by getting some numerical facts straight. The year is 1557. That makes our heroine just 15 years old. Hunky prophet Nostradamus is actually 54, and the young (yet bearded) Prince Francis is 13.

Rather inappropriate dancing for ladies of the Court.
Source: cwtv.com
I got all that from wikipedia, so it may not be accurate. Of course, accuracy is a moot point with CW's Reign. The pilot episode of this new show was full of anachronisms. Clearly, the ages of the historical figures have been blurred a bit for the sake of the show's plot. And I know it's set in France, but even there, ladies of the 16th century didn't wear sleeveless dresses. Nor did they style their hair in beachy waves. And the love triangle - er, quadrangle - that's been set up between Mary, Francis, his brother Sebastian ("Bash"), and Francis's girlfriend/mistress/whatever will make for quite the romantic intrigue, despite the fact that it's entirely fictional. And that's not even the soapiest aspect of the pilot's story. One of Mary's ladies-in-waiting (in the completely out of place strapless dress) has begun an affair with the king. Because that won't lead to trouble with his wife. Or his mistress.

Star-crossed lovers?
Source: pinterest.com/thecw
Adelaide Kane captures Mary's doe-eyed naiveté quite well. While Mary's innocence makes her somewhat one-dimensional (for now, anyway), the character of Francis already seems complex. He's clearly torn between his desires and his responsibilities. And to make things more complicated, it seems he doesn't even know what his true desires are.

The pilot episode very neatly foreshadowed coming disaster. I lost count of the omens and harbingers of doom - i.e., "don't go into the forest," "don't drink the wine," "there are ghosts there," "she will cost Francis his life," "this was an assassination attempt." And I don't think that's even half of them. This drama will have very little - if any - of the comedic flair of the more popular CW shows. That's ok, though, as long as it continues down the intriguing path it's started.

I had no doubt that Megan Follows would blow us away, but I didn't have any idea just how villianous the Queen would be. Getting your son's fiancĂ©'s lady-in-waiting's boyfriend to roofie the future queen in order to ruin her reputation and thus secure your son's political future is wicked. Beheading said boyfriend when he fails is diabolical. And Follows delivered the treacherous performance seamlessly. I can't wait to see what she does next.

One final note: I'd keep watching this show just for the music. I'm miffed that I can't seem to find a downloadable version of The Lumineers "Scotland," which was the perfect opening number for the pilot.

October 15, 2013

Nashville: "I Don't Wanna Talk About It Now" Review

If the writers of Nashville do one thing really well, it's set things up for catastrophe. And not just the inevitable part of the catastrophe, but all the lingering repercussions.  It's what they did at the end of the first season with Rayna and Deacon's accident. The immediate outcome of that cliffhanger was Rayna's coma and Deacon's incarceration. But the lingering result was Rayna's inability to sing and how that led her to further business conflict with Edgehill's new management, and Deacon's inability to play his guitar.

In last week's episode, "I Don't Wanna Talk About It Now," I noticed three things that just might be hinting at calamities we'll see this season.

1. Gunnar and Zoey leave the Edgehill Showcase... together. Did you notice Gunnar leave the Edgehill party with Scarlett's friend Zoey? I can't imagine that won't lead to something. Even if nothing ever happens between those two, their interactions will eventually bother either Scarlett or Will. Or somebody else entirely, who knows? And leaving together wasn't the start of this. It started the episode before that, when she inspired him to write again. (The song he wrote, by the way, was my favorite performed on the season so far. I cannot wait for the next "Music of Nashville" album to drop.)

Source: abc.com
2. Will's choice to leave Highway 65 for Edgehill. In deciding he was a performer and not a songwriter, not only did Will put himself in a position to feel justified in ripping off Gunnar's songs, but he effectively sold himself short and bought himself a world of trouble down the road. Gunnar and Will have a fragile friendship as it is. And if you think working so near to his old flame won't come back to haunt him, you haven't been paying close enough attention. And that little look Layla gave Will while he was performing? That wasn't nothing, either.

3. And of course, Juliette's adulterous dalliance with Charles Wentworth. There are so many layers to that mistake. For one thing, there was about a 15 second scene in the episode where Juliette looked longingly at Charles and his wife. It seemed to me she wasn't longing for him, but for the love they (supposedly) shared. Poor Juliette. Charles has now further confirmed her disillusionment with love. And talk about foreshadowing - like Avery told her, "Defiance is a drug. It can make you do stupid things." How is this any stupider than any of the other ones? The short answer is that he's married. But the long answer is that he's a media mogul who's influence is of extreme importance to Edgehill Records. This was not just a relationship mistake. This was a business mistake.

It's just brilliant! Nashville proves that good drama has a long fuse. It doesn't happen all at once. By the time we reach the end of season 2, Nashville will have surprised us again. I'm sure of it. Whether it was based on something I noticed, or something else I've totally missed, season 2 is about to get catastrophically good.

October 7, 2013

Sleepy Hollow: "For the Triumph of Evil" Review

I figured the third episode wasn't too far into a new show to join. So I caught last Friday's rerun of the new show Sleepy Hollow. Though it doesn't seem to have any well-known stars at the helm, Sleepy Hollow can be found on several lists of "new shows to be sure and watch this fall" (like this one and this one.) I'm glad I did watch it, because from what I can tell, this show has a few things going for it:

It has a relatively original premise (for a procedural.) From what I gathered so far, Ichabod Crane has been resurrected in modern-day upstate New York, where he now helps a young police lieutenant, Abbie Mills, solve supernatural crimes. The episode I watched centered around "The Sandman," a mysterious midnight menace who begins killing people from the lieutenant's troubled past. So while there are the standard cop-plus-knowledgable-sidekick and cop-with-a-dark-secret tropes, Sleepy Hollow has the distinction of being a sci-fi, quasi-historical, time-traveling procedural. The overarching villain is, of course, the headless horseman. But Sleepy Hollow's headless horseman also happens to be one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. (Right? Weird. But kind of intriguing.)

Source: facebook.com/SleepyHollow
It has a nice combination of horror and humor. For a ghost (or a zombie or whatever), Ichabod Crane sure has a sense of humor. This was particularly surprising to me because, having never read Washington Irving's classic, all I knew about Crane was gathered from Disney's animated mini-movie, in which the title character was kind of a loser and a coward. Not so with Tom Mison's Ichabod, who is  delightful and delightfully handsome. His banter with Nicole Beharie's Lt. Mills balanced out the freakiness of the nightmarish plot.

It seems like you could miss an episode and not be totally lost. After all, this may be the procedural's greatest strength. It makes for a good occasional viewing.

The thing that might keep me away from Sleepy Hollow isn't the horror of it (I'm a fan of The X-Files) or the standard crime drama (I'm also a fan of NCIS.) What will keep me away is the fact that Sleepy Hollow is on FOX, a network my rabbit ears aren't often tuned to. But if Sleepy Hollow stays as interesting as I think it will, I just might make the effort. Especially since the show has already been picked up for a second season. Sleepy Hollow airs Mondays at 9 on FOX.