Terrifying Television: Halloween Episodes

October 31, 2009

With Saturday the 31st upon us, this TV enthusiast will be gathering a collection of her favourite Halloween episodes and settling in to celebrate with some beloved fictional characters. If you’re planning a marathon of your own, or simply looking to kill an hour or two before trick or treating or a Halloween party, here are some of my favourite episodes of Halloween television for your consideration.

How I Met Your Mother, “The Slutty Pumpkin”

how i metBarney: Flight-suit up!

An instant classic from the first season, this episode sees Lily and Marshall attempting to win a costume contest at the bar and Robin having trouble “putting on the girlfriend costume” to please her date. However, the episode revolves around Ted’s annual tradition of attending the Halloween roof party at his building in hopes of meeting “the slutty pumpkin”, the one who got away four years earlier. This has all the heart and all the laughs you’d expect from How I Met Your Mother, and Barney is his usual awesome self. You’ll come away with a few fun new variations on “suit up!” as well as a fun mixed drink recipe!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Fear Itself”

gilesGiles: It’s a sombrero.
Buffy: And it’s on your head.
Giles: It seemed festive.

Buffy has a grand total of three Halloween episodes, but this one is my favourite. “Fear Itself” is full of memorable moments, from Anya’s choice for a scary costume to the now unemployed Giles getting into the Halloween spirit. As Willow, Oz, Xander, and Buffy attend a Halloween party in a frat house, the house comes alive and plays upon the fears of its inhabitants. What really makes the episode are the last five minutes though and the appearance of the fear demon itself.

Dexter, “Let’s Give the Boy a Hand”

dexter hallDexter: “I love Halloween, the one time of year when everyone wears a mask, not just me. People think its fun to pretend you’re a monster. Me, I spend my life pretending I’m not.”

I believe that Dexter is one of the most consistently good series on television, which means that it has few weak episodes and this is not one of them. A fan of the holiday because he’s no longer the only one hiding, Dexter celebrates Halloween with Rita and her kids, while also deciphering disturbing recreations of his past left by his fellow serial killer, who has been leaving severed body parts in the locations of childhood memories. The theme of masks and hiding is continued throughout the episode, as is the question of what makes a monster.

Supernatural, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester”/”Pilot”

super hallSam: “For us, every day is Halloween.”

I can’t decide which Halloween episode of Supernatural I enjoy more. The pilot has the distinction of being the episode that started it all and as far as pilots go it’s a great one. Twenty-two years after the mysterious death of his mother, college student Sam Winchester has a girlfriend, an interview to get into law school, and no desire to join the family business. Then brother Dean shows up, revealing that their father went missing while hunting demons and Sam rejoins Dean for a one-time deal and a show was born. The pilot manages to hook you in and sets up a season long hunt for John Winchester (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

Fourth season episode “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester” is worth watching for entirely different reasons. In it, the angels tell Dean that he must find a witch and stop the raising of the demon Samhain or they will smite the town and all of its 1200 inhabitants. The opening of the episode uses the urban legend of razor blades in Halloween candy, but it’s the end, where the audience begins to see the humanity in the angel Castiel that makes this one a Halloween must for me.

Dead Like Me, “Haunted”

dead like me hallGeorge: “It’s not so bad, being dead like me.”

My favourite Halloween episode to date has to be the brilliant series finale of Dead Like Me. The grim reapers prepare for Halloween and George Lass, dead one year in her home town, learns about a reaper legend that says all reapers can be seen as themselves on Halloween. As Mason goes on a candy gathering mission, with George along for the ride, a serial killer is on the loose. Meanwhile George’s family gather in the graveyard to pay their respects on the Day of the Dead. There are few cancellations more upsetting than this one, which was never really explained and caught the writers and producers of the show off guard, meaning some loose ends were never tied up, but the show did go out on a high as George begins to accept her life as a reaper at last.

Happy Halloween Everyone!

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Terrifying Television (non-Halloween episodes)

October 31, 2009

If you’ve already exhausted your collection of Halloween episodes, or plan to take advantage of the holiday falling on a Saturday to pack in more television, there are a number of options. A marathon of any genre-themed show, such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, True Blood, or Supernatural, could make for a spooky Saturday, but if you’re looking for a variety of choices, here are a few of my favourite non-Halloween-themed hours of terrifying television.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Hush

hushSince it originally aired, I’ve included this fourth season episode in my annual Halloween marathon. The largely dialogue-free hour features the creepy gentlemen, who glide above the ground in tuxedos and politely applaud each other’s efforts to remove human hearts. The episode combines humour with drama and danger, and as fans of the show are aware, “Hush” is also the first appearance of Wiccan Tara, who would become a recurring character. It’s one of the best episodes of an above average show and also one of the scariest… perfect for Halloween!

Supernatural, “Monster Movie”

monster movieAlthough it isn’t the actual Halloween set episode of the season, this ode to monster movies is filmed entirely in black & white and provides a lighter hour perfect for any Halloween marathon. In a more comedic turn, the Winchesters take on an odd case involving the classic silver screen monsters, including the one and only Dracula. The humour comes from the juxtaposition of details from the 1940’s movies and the contemporary, which results in a memorable moment where Dracula flees on a moped.

Jekyll

jekyllI’m cheating a little here because Jekyll is not one hour of television, but a six hour BBC miniseries. However, I couldn’t write about monsters without mentioning this delightful take on the The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde set in the present day. I’m often skeptical of anything updating a period piece, but the creators have described this as a sequel, rather than an adaptation of the novella by Stevenson. This version of the story utilizes modern technology to cleverly continue Stevenson’s tale, and James Nesbitt is wonderful as Dr. Tom Jackman and his alter-ego. Jekyll was also written and executive produced by the brilliant Doctor Who scribe Stephen Moffat. I can’t wait to see what Moffat will do with his contemporary take on Sherlock Holmes, which he is adapting with Mark Gatiss.

Doctor Who, “Blink”

sally sparrowSpeaking of Stephen Moffat, there’s my favourite episode of Doctor Who, “Blink”. It’s extremely well-written, and even though the episode is “Doctor-lite” (referring to episodes where the Doctor and his companion have very little screen time to allow two episodes to be filmed simultaneously), it has a likable protagonist in Sally Sparrow. The episode is truly terrifying, especially if, like this TV enthusiast, you watched it with a group of friends at 3:00AM in an otherwise empty house. Trust me when I say that you will never look at a statue the same way ever again!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Conversations With Dead People”

conversationsIn my second Buffy pick, four completely separate stories are told, all of them occurring on one night. While on patrol, Buffy encounters an old classmate who has been turned into a vampire, while Dawn spends the night home alone, believing that her mother is trying to communicate with her. Meanwhile, Willow receives a message in the library, and Spike picks up a woman in a bar. The episode has its spooky moments but also some great humour and is one of the best from Buffy‘s final season. The dead and undead theme makes it a great choice for Halloween night.

Supernatural, “Bloody Mary”

bloody maryAlthough I was close to sticking the one with the clowns on this list, purely because clowns are truly terrifying, this early episode is a great choice for Halloween. What Supernatural does so well is make urban legends real and few legends are more well known than ‘Bloody Mary’. If “Blink” makes you think twice about statues, then “Bloody Mary” will make you wary of mirrors!

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Buffy vs. Dracula”

buffy vs“Buffy vs. Dracula” is a new edition to my annual Buffy marathon. The slayer was bound to face off against the greatest vampire of all time at some point and although this isn’t one of my favourite episodes of the show, it doesn’t disappoint. In it Xander becomes Dracula’s manservant, while even Buffy seems to fall under The Dark Prince’s thrall. What could be more ideal for Halloween than our favourite slayer meeting Count Dracula? I really can’t think of a thing.

 

Happy Halloween Everyone!


Terrifying Television: This Year’s Halloween Episodes

October 26, 2009

buffy hallAs I mentioned in a previous entry on my favourite Thanksgiving episodes, I like to celebrate the holidays in true TV enthusiast style… by watching a marathon of themed episodes. Predictably my marathon includes episodes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dead Like Me, but each fall, new Halloween episodes air, some of which will become instant classics and be added to my annual marathon in years to come. This year, with supernaturally-themed new shows like The Vampire Diaries and Eastwick, the amount of Halloween content seems to have increased. Here’s a look at the Halloween-themed episodes airing this week.

Monday

Teen hit Gossip Girl has Lily and Rufus celebrating Halloween in “How to Succeed in Bassness” tonight on The CW, while ABC drama Castle has a nice surprise for any Browncoats out there in the new episode “Vampire Weekend”. The episode features Castle and Beckett investigating the murder of a vampire fetishist, whose body is found with fake fangs and a stake through his heart.

Wednesday

With a show about witches and the devil, it would have been crazy not to have a Halloween episode of Eastwick. In “Bonfire and Betrayal”, Roxie envisions an ill fate for her loved-ones and tries to prevent it from happening. Meanwhile Kat attempts to reunite Will and Joanna, who continues to encounter misfortunes after having trouble with her career and love life. The ABC drama hasn’t received a full season pick-up and it’s ratings have not been promising, but maybe a little Halloween magic can turn that around.

Thursday

NBC has a full night of Halloween comedy lined up beginning with a Day of the Dead party on Community, a Halloween party on Parks and Recreation, and finally a themed episode of The Office, in which the office plans a haunted house for kids in the community. Meanwhile, the pairing of the CW’s best performing show The Vampire Diaries and genre hit Supernatural is a no-brainer for Halloween. Although the later doesn’t specifically have a Halloween episode this season, it’s demon-fighting theme and tendency to tackle urban legends make most episodes holiday appropriate. Lead-in The Vampire Diaries will air the new episode “Haunted”, which includes a visit to a haunted house. Freshman drama FlashForward is also getting into the spirit with an episode titled “Scary Monsters and Super Creeps”, and CBS has a new episode of The Mentalist titled “Red Scare”. On The Mentalist, witnesses claim that a wealthy man was killed by a ghost haunting his mansion.

Friday

With CBS’ double feature of Ghost Whisperer and Medium, Friday is already a night for the supernatural, so it’s fitting that both shows will air Halloween episodes this year. Melinda encounters the headless horseman in a themed Ghost Whisperer episode called “Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, and Alison dreams she has been cast in the zombie film Night of the Living Dead in a Medium episode titled “Bite Me”. The night wraps upon Numb3ers, where the body of a dead woman  turns up at a decommissioned air base where paranormal activity has been happening.

There’s plenty of spooky new television to be had, but if you’re ready for more Halloween content there’s always the numerous specials and horror movies airing all this week. A more complete list can be found here.


Thanksgiving in TV land

October 12, 2009

slapsgivingAlthough American Thanksgiving isn’t for another month, Canadian Thanksgiving is celebrated on the second Monday of October each year, and as a dedicated TV enthusiast, I choose to celebrate the holidays by watching some of my favourite television characters attend multiple turkey dinners, fight Native American vengeance spirits, and pardon turkeys. Unfortunately the difference in dates between Canadian and American Thanksgiving means that any themed episodes for this television season will air well after “real Thanksgiving”, as Robin Scherbatsky dubs the Canadian holiday. Yet this lack of new Thanksgiving-themed entertainment shouldn’t discourage the Canadian TV enthusiast because there are plenty of classic ‘Turkey Day’ episodes worth re-watching. Below are a few of my favourites.

Gilmore Girls, “A deep-fried Korean Thanksgiving”

gilmoregirlsRory: How do you feel?
Lorelai: I ate tofurkey! How do you think I feel?
Rory: Tofurkier?

This third season episode saw Lorelai and Rory Gilmore committing to four separate Thanksgiving dinners, a feat which tests even their spectacular appetites. The vastly different dinners include tofurky at the Kims’, a deep-fried turkey with Sookie and Jackson, dinner at Luke’s Diner, and Thanksgiving with Rory’s grandparents, where she reveals that she has applied to Yale, much to Lorelai’s horror. Meanwhile, Kirk gets a cat, and Jess and Rory navigate their new relationship.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “Pangs”

buffy pangsAnya: Well, I think that’s a shame. I love a ritual sacrifice.
Buffy: It’s not really a one of those.
Anya: To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It’s a ritual sacrifice, with pie.

This fourth season episode featured Buffy deciding to have her first Thanksgiving away from home, but her attempts to have the perfect Thanksgiving are foiled when a Native American spirit begins killing authority figures. While Willow sympathizes with the Native Americans and tries to find a non-violent solution, Xander, who has contracted various diseases experienced by the Natives, has a different idea. Spike, who is no longer able to harm humans, approaches Buffy for help, offering information about the mysterious organization who took him, and Angel returns to Sunnydale to keep an eye on Buffy after his friend has a vision of her in danger.

The West Wing, “Shibboleth”

west wingCJ: They sent me two turkeys. The most photo-friendly of the two gets a Presidential pardon and a full life at a children’s zoo. The runner-up gets eaten.
Bartlet: If the Oscars were like that, I’d watch.

This second season episode is a reminder of what was so great about The West Wing. In it press secretary C.J. has to decide which of two turkeys will be pardoned, and Charlie goes on a quest to find the perfect carving knife for the President. Meanwhile, President Bartlett has his hands full dealing with a ship of illegal immigrants from China who are seeking asylum as persecuted Christians.

Friends, “The One Where Ross Got High”

friendsChandler: Ross sure is a great guy. You know, I’ve always felt that how a young man turns out is a reflection on his father.
Mr. Geller: I always thought that too. Tell, me, what does your father do?
Chandler: He’s a head-liner of a gay burlesque show.

In this sixth season episode, the Gellars come for Thanksgiving, unaware that Chandler and Monica are dating. Chandler attempts to charm his girlfriend’s parents into liking him so he can tell them the truth, but doesn’t realize that the reason the Gellars dislike him is that Ross smoked pot in college and blamed the smell on Chandler when they walked in. Additionally, Rachel inadvertently prepares a disgusting dessert by fusing the recipes for Shepherd’s Pie and English Trifle.

How I Met Your Mother, “Slapsgiving”

marshallMarshall: See what I got going on here, they’re turkeys but they’re also hands. Because later we’re going to eat turkey, and then I’m going to slap you in your face.

When it comes to How I Met Your Mother, the Slap Bet introduced in the second season episode of the same name is perhaps the best thing to happen to the show. I consider all three episodes involving a slap to be classics and this third season episode is no exception. As Marshall and Lily prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving as a married couple for the first time, Marshall creates a new holiday called Slapsgiving, described as “the one day we set aside each year to gather together and give slaps.” As Marshall psychs out Barney over the impending third slap, Ted and Robin realize how hard it is to be friends with your ex, and wonder if they can make it work. If you only have time for one Thanksgiving episode make it this one. You won’t be disappointed.

More Thanksgiving Choices:

This is by no means a complete list. How I Met Your Mother also has the first season episode “Belly Full of Turkey”, where Robin and Ted volunteer at a homeless shelter for the holiday and Lily visits her future in-laws in Minnesota, while The West Wing also has “Indians in the Lobby”, in which the President is disgruntled that he must spend the holiday at Camp David instead of his home, and C.J. deals with two Native Americans camped out in the lobby. The O.C. , known for its Chrismukkah episode, has a Thanksgiving episode in which Summer balks at coming home for the holidays and Ryan seeks revenge on Volchok for the death of Marissa. “Turkeys Away”, an episode of WKRP in Cincinati won an msnbc.com poll for favourite Thanksgiving episode. Certainly the King of Thanksgiving episodes though is Friends, which also featured a memorable episode in which Brad Pitt (married at the time to Jennifer Aniston) guest starred as President of the “I Hate Rachel Green” Club.

Whether you choose to watch or re-watch some of these Thanksgiving-themed episodes, or decide to digest a turkey dinner with the many choices available in new Monday night TV, I wish all my fellow Canadian TV enthusiasts a Happy Thanksgiving!


Follow Friday: TV and Twitter

September 18, 2009

twitterI admit it, I tweet. For the uninitiated, “tweet” is the term for the 140 character updates Twitter allows you to post, broadcasting your interests, boredom, or messages to fellow members. Although it has been compared to another social networking site, Facebook, that uses status updates in much the same way, the thing about Twitter is that it isn’t quite so personal. I have a Facebook page and use the site regularly, but I do so to keep in contact with friends and close associates.  I use Twitter to “follow”, the term used for receiving another user’s tweets, television stars, entertainment news blogs, and writers who I am not personally acquainted with.

Television and Twitter

There are a number of people involved in the television industry on Twitter now, and people have begun to take notice of Twitter as a marketing tool and a way to gauge popularity.  The social networking site uses trending topics, meaning that the more a topic is mentioned in an individual’s tweets, the higher profile it receives.  The most used subjects are pushed into the top ten trending topics.  Often this includes recent news items, such as Kanye West’s outburst at the MTV Video Music awards, or the death of a celebrity, but during Primetime hours the Trending Topics often include television shows.

When Fox aired the premiere for its new comedy Glee in May, after the ratings juggernaut American Idol, executives were less concerned with its ratings and more interested in regarding the sneek peek as a marketing initiative. Although they certainly took note of the fact that the pilot was watched by 9.6 million viewers, staffers also monitored iTunes, blogs, and Twitter in order to measure reactions to the show.  The debut was largely a success, and one Fox e-mail read “It was the No.1 topic all night on Twitter”.  Since then the show has continued to be among the top ten topics on Twitter each Wednesday night it airs.

Television fans have discovered the importance of Twitter as well, with some organizing awareness campaigns using the popular site.  Although NBC’s Chuck was picked up for a third season, it was a close call for Chuck fans, who decided to use the hiatus to generate publicity for the show.  The ‘Chuck Me Mondays’ campaign aimed to draw new viewers to the show by re-watching episodes of Chuck on Monday, its regular night.  Additionally they used twitter, tweeting #chuckmemondays in an attempt to make the trending topics list and generate interest in the show.  With the third season of the show not airing until early 2010, the fans are continuing their campaign, watching the second season from the beginning.  This week they tweeted We Heart Chuck in order to honour the campaign of the same name to raise funds for the American Heart Association, which has currently raised close to $20,000.

This TV enthusiast recalls being spoiled for Torchwood: Children of Earth when ‘Ianto’ appeared as a trending topic on the same night that “Day Four” was scheduled to air in the UK. Surely the trending of a character’s name couldn’t be good news.  There’s an argument to be made that I shouldn’t have clicked on the topic, but I was more of less sure that Ianto was dead as soon as I saw his name, the click only confirmed it.

Collins on Supernatural.

Collins on Supernatural.

Perhaps the most interesting occurrence of television on Twitter happened more than a week ago when fans of the CW drama Supernatural garnered attention by banding together to push the hashtags #Supernatural and #luciferiscoming into Twitter’s trending topics. In the season finale, brothers and demon hunters Sam and Dean Winchester began the apocalypse by inadvertently releasing Lucifer from Hell, so for Supernatural fans #Luciferiscoming referred to the fifth season, premiering that night, in which Lucifer was a character. Unfortunately the message was misinterpreted by some, including P. Diddy, who tweeted the following:

I’m calling GODS ARMY TO ATTENTION!! #GODISHERE #GODISHERE #GODISHERE let the devil know the fight he’s in for! Retweet all day! Make GOD #1

Soon there was a battle for the top spot, with Supernatural fans continuing to tweet #luciferiscoming while Diddy’s followers re-tweeted #godishere, even though Diddy had been informed by many that the hashtag referred to the fictional show and not to Devil worshippers.  The Twitter war caused confusion among the uninformed, “leading many users to question whether today held some religious significance or if the tags were in response to the anniversary of the 09/11 attacks upon the Twin Towers in New York back in 2001 – one user mused that perhaps the two trends were the result of sick, twisted humour in that regard.”  Twitter took action, removing both hashtags from the trending topics entirely, but Supernatural fans continued to Tweet, encouraged by actor Misha Collins, who plays the angel Castiel on the series.  However, new rallying cries, the more innocent #pdiddyisscaredofhistv and #twitterisafraidofmishasminions have also been blocked by Twitter, causing some to wonder about censorship.

Follow Friday

Twitter has its own set of popular hashtags for days of the week, including “Music Mondays” and “Follow Fridays”.  It would be impossible to rhyme off all users of Twitter who are involved with television, but for Follow Friday here are some of those worth following for fellow TV enthusiasts.

Nathan Fillion in Castle

Nathan Fillion in Castle

It’s no secret that I am a fan of Joss Whedon and his works.  Although the man himself is not on Twitter, many “Whedonverse” talents are, including Castle star Nathan Fillion, his Doctor Horrible co-star Felicia Day, who also stars in her own popular web series The Guild, and writer Maurissa Tancharoen.  Dollhouse stars Eliza Dushku (Echo), Dichen Lachman (Sierra), and Miracle Laurie (November) are also on Twitter.  Canadian Jewel Staite, who played Kaylee in Firefly, has an account, as do Buffy the Vampire Slayer cast members Anthony Stewart Head (Giles), Amber Benson (Tara), Tom Lenk (Andrew), and Alyson Hannigan (Willow).  To keep up to date on all Whedon related news, follow Whedonesque.

A number of other Television actors and actresses tweet.  Among them is the aforementioned Misha Collins, who has gained a lengion of “minions” with his humourous tweets.  Julie Benz (Dexter) has an account, as does Pushing Daisies star Kristin Chenoweth, and Burn Notice‘s Jeffrey Donovan.  It’s only fair that Aldis Hodge, who plays a hacker on TNT’s Leverage with the motto “Age of the Geek” has an account, but so do his co-stars Tim Hutton (Nate), Beth Riesgraf (Parker), and Angel alum Christian Kane (Eliot).

Jeremy Piven, voted “least deserving of their 2009 Emmy” by TWoP readers, is on Twitter, along with Corbin Bleu of the new show The Beautiful Life, which premiered with a dismal 1.5 million viewers.  If you’re missing Dirty Sexy Money you can follow two of its stars, Lucy Liu and Blair Underwood through the Social Networking site, or for someone completely different there’s John Lithgow, who plays the Trinity Killer in the fourth season of Dexter. Christopher Gorham, of the summer show Harper’s Island, has an account and for some Canadian content there’s Degrassi actors Adamo Ruggiero and Lauren Collins.  Fans of CW drama Gossip Girl are no doubt already following stars Leighton Meester and Blake Lively.  While for any Trekkies out there, Brent Spiner and Levar Burton are worth following.

Unless you have an iPhone you probably won’t find Heroes star Greg Grunberg all that interesting.  He tweets mainly to promote his money saving application Yowza!, but co-stars Zachary Quinto (Sylar), James Kyson Lee (Ando) and former Heroes actresses Kristin Bell (Elle), and Brea Grant (Daphne) might be more interesting.

Actors aren’t the only ones using Twitter.  Just as interesting are some of the writers and other individuals who work behind the scenes in television, including James Clark, the On Set Prop Master for Heroes, and Doris Egan, a writer and co-executive producer on House m.d. Former Buffy and Battlestar Galactica scribe Jane Espenson, who is currently working on Caprica, has an account as well.  Also on Twitter are Whedon brother Zack Whedon, who worked on the Emmy winning Doctor Horrible’s Sing-along Blog and Hart Hanson, the creator of Bones.  For the TV enthusiast who isn’t spoiler shy, following writers, and actors, on Twitter can mean getting tidbits about upcoming episodes.

Cory Monteith of Glee

Cory Monteith of Glee

With the network’s use of Twitter both to promote Glee and to air reruns with commentary that comes from Twitter comments made live by its cast, it comes as no surprise that most of the young cast have their own accounts, such as Lea Michele (Rachel Berry)  Cory Monteith, who plays Finn, even uses the nickname given to his character in the last episode, “Frankenteen”, as his account name.  The rest of the Glee cast is comprised of Chris Colfer (Kurt), Diana Agron (Quinn), Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina), Kevin McHale (Artie), Mark Salling (Puck), and Amber Riley (Mercedes).

Another show with a strong presence on Twitter is So You Think You Can Dance.  It’s always interesting to read what the choreographers thought of the performances and the judges are quite good at interacting their their followers.  Nigel Lythgoe, Tabitha and Napoleon, and Lil C all actively tweet.  Less active are Mia Michaels and Tyce Diorio.  For fans of the Canadian version of the show there’s judge Blake McGrath, and back on the original series sometimes judge Debbie Allen. Of course no list would be complete without the new third judge on the show, Adam Shankman!  Former contestants on Twitter include Travis Wall, whose amazing piece of choreography should be nominated for an Emmy next year, contemporary dancer Courtney Galiano and, one of my favourite contestants, Mark Kanemura.

Naturally there are also too many American Idol contestants to name, including Adam Lambert, winner Kris Allen, and David Cook.  Other Idol personalities with accounts are Randy Jackson, new judge Ellen DeGeneres, and Ryan Seacrest.

Just as interesting to me as the television stars and writers are updates from entertainment blogs and journalists.  An article takes time to write up while Twitter is an instant way to communicate any breaking news to interested parties.  What better way to stay up to date with your favourite TV shows than to follow one or more TV journalists?  Personally, I’m fond of The Nick C Blog, James Hibberd of The Live Feed, and Hercules the Strong of Ain’t It Cool News, but other choices include Robert Seidman and, for spoilers more than anything else, Michael Ausiello.

spongeFinally there’s Happy Squared, a Twitter account that provides “Daily affirmations from everyone’s favourite sea sponge” with tweets like “When spying on a neighbor late at night, be careful not to be lulled to sleep by the soothing sounds of his clarinet.” and “If you’re going to skip town and live under a new name, try to come up with something that’ll really fool ’em: like “BobPants SpongeSquare.”

Clearly in the Twitter Universe, there is something, or somesponge, for everyone.


TV on DVD (September 1st)

August 31, 2009

supe 4As much as I’ve been enjoying blogging, I still have a lot to learn.  I recently returned from a week’s vacation where I sadly failed to spot Wilson giving House an alibi in an Atlantic City casino, and saw, but did not lick, the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.  Before leaving I set one blog entry to post while I was away with a note mentioning my absence… or at least I thought I did.  As you’ve no doubt noticed, the entry didn’t post, but I’m now back from a wonderful holiday, and I’m just in time for fall premiere season!

The last stretch of summer is when the most recent seasons of your favourite shows hit DVD, giving you a chance to play catch up by packing the episodes into a short span of time.  I’ve been meaning to write entries on TV on DVD for awhile now, and the entry that didn’t post was actually about the releases of Dexter season three and Eli Stone. However, this won’t turn into a weekly column because television shows seem to be released much like theatrical feature films. To clarify, there are either a number of things you would like to watch arriving within a short span of time, or nothing at all and you’re better off saving your money and watching reruns at home.

Fortunately, this is one of those better weeks for the TV enthusiast seeking one last show to get them through the last week or so of the summer season.  Your choices range from top procedurals to science-fiction dramas, here’s a look at what’s out on DVD tomorrow.

My Pick: Supernatural Season Four

Supernatural is one of those shows I’ve been meaning to try for awhile but never quite found the time to watch. I’ve caught the odd episode here and there, and am now working my way through the first season, but I haven’t been a regular viewer.  Then one night with little else on I caught a few episodes of season four and was hooked like I had never been before.

Misha Collins as Castiel.

Misha Collins as Castiel.

By the fourth season some shows have run out of ideas, or are at least inching past their prime.  A special few have even jumped the shark, and since I haven’t watched much of Supernatural to date, perhaps it isn’t fair to comment, but I believe this show is different.  What it has is something every show should possess, a writer/creator with a plan. Should does not always mean does though, and particularly in this age of television when it is hard enough to create a show that strikes a chord with audiences and networks, planning ahead can just mean seeing your vision go unfulfilled.  I imagine Carnivale creator Daniel Knauf knows a little something about that.

Supernatural creator Eric Kripke has avoided falling into the trap frequented by one season wonder shows like Heroes, or perpetually confusing Lost, by having a five year plan for the show.  Each year the action and the stakes have grown, with brothers Sam and Dean Winchester hunting monsters of the week while searching for their missing father over the course of the first season, to being a part of the battle between angels and demons in the fourth season, arriving on DVD tomorrow.  Each season has given the brothers more to contend with, and this escalation of evil is part of what has made the show so engaging for fans.

Another part of season four’s success was the introduction of new character Castiel, an Angel of the Lord played by Misha Collins.  Although Kripke originally intended the character to be present in just six episodes, critical and fan response was so positive that the role was expanded.  Collins has been upgraded to a series regular who will appear in seventeen of the twenty-two episodes in the fifth, and possibly final, season of the show.  Misha Collins is also at the top of TV Squad’s convincing list of ten reasons you should watch Supernatural.

It’s certainly late in the game to be picking up this show, and as the new season premieres September 10th, I don’t have much time to catch up, but I’m glad I’m finally giving it a chance rather than discovering it on DVD years later.  Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer before it, this is one genre show that deserves more attention than it gets.

Here’s the trailer for the upcoming season five:

Also on DVD this week:

If you’re more into crime scenes than demon hunting, pick up the ninth season of the original C.S.I. on DVD.  This eventful season saw the departure of protagonist Gil Grissom (played by William Petersen), the arrival of Laurence Fishburne’s Dr. Raymond Langston, and the funeral for Gary Dourdan’s character Warrick Brown, who was shot in the eighth season finale.  Although ratings began to drop after Fishburne took over, I enjoyed his character and thought that the writers made a smart decision to integrate him as a new C.S.I. while Catherine Willows took over as senior supervisor.

noAlso of note this week is the first season of HBO series The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency , which is based on the novels of the same name by Alexander McCall Smith.  Filmed on location in Botswana, it focuses on a detective agency opened by Mma Ramotswe (Jill Scott) and assistant detective Mma Grace Makutsi (played by Tony award-winning actress Anika Noni Rose).  For something completely different there’s the fifth  season of Desperate Housewives , which took place five years after the fourth season and debuted a separated Susan and Mike, and spoiled Gabrielle Solis as a mother.  Although I’ve never found it very humourous, ratings say that millions of people have enjoyed CBS sitcom Two and a Half Men. Its sixth season, featuring Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer, is out tomorrow.

The word for the third season of Heroes is confused.  Not only could the show not decide where it wanted to go, its creative staff also couldn’t decide what to do with its characters.  Plots and characters were dropped altogether, retcon was employed, and Sylar, in particular, did more Heel Face Turns and Face Heel Turns than most characters do in an entire series.  There were some bright spots though, particularly with the short-lived return of writer Bryan Fuller in “Cold Snap”, before the polarizing season finale split fans.  If you’re willing to take a second look at the series or are interested in the special features though, the third season hits stores today.

I didn’t watch the made-for-TV movie Meteor, but my mom did and you can read her thoughts on the movie’s grammatical and plot content here.  They’re enough to convince me to avoid this title like the plague. It’s out today on DVD, along with season one of The Game, season three of ABC drama Brothers and Sisters, and season two of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.


When Good Shows Go Bad

August 11, 2009

Television Without Pity recently published an item on the “worst of the best”, choosing the worst episodes of great shows including Veronica Mars, House m.d., The Sopranos, and The West Wing.  Even the most consistently good shows have their missteps, those episodes that fail to live up to expectations or, Tv gods forbid, ones so bad you wonder how the episodes ever made it past the writers room.  We console ourselves with those truly great hours of television that we can watch over and over again, including such classics as How I Met Your Mother’s “Slap Bet”, or Doctor Who‘s “Blink”, but what about those entirely forgettable, or worse, memorable for all the wrong reasons, episodes?

Television Without Pity’s comprehensive list covers many of the obvious television missteps, from the “Jack’s tats” episode of Lost (titled “Strangers in a Strange Land”) with guest star Bai Ling, to the preachy Veronica Mars episode “Un-American Graffiti” with its messages about bigotry and underage drinking.  I don’t actually think any Dexter episode has been bad enough to land on one of these lists, but I can see the reasoning behind sticking second season finale “The British Invasion” there, and I was glad to know that I wasn’t the only one disappointed by the Doctor Who Easter special “Planet of the Dead”.  I do, however, have a few additions to their list.  Here are some of my picks for worst of the best:

Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Episodes: “The Zeppo” and “Beer Bad”

Buffy steps down he evolutionary chain in "Beer Bad"

Buffy steps down he evolutionary chain in "Beer Bad"

TWoP included Buffy in its list, but chose the poltergeist-inspired sex episode “Where the Wild Things Are” instead.  It’s certainly a worthy choice, as I really can’t remember anything happening in this episode beyond crawling vines, Buffy and Riley having a lot of sex, and a girl hacking off her hair in a closet, but here are a few other possibilities.

“The Zeppo” is, in my opinion, the black mark on my favourite season of the show.  I have some bias here as this is a Xander-centric episode and I’ve never been a fan of the character, but I found the third-season episode, which sees Xander getting a car and spending a harrowing night away from the scoobies, very dull.  This is one of those episodes I rarely re-watch and could wipe from my DVD set without a second thought.

However, the Buffy episode that is truly the worst of the best is the universally loathed “Beer Bad”.  I’d love to know how this was pitched in the writers room and the response it received.  Did it really seem like a good idea on paper?  The episode features Buffy, still hurting from Parker’s rejection after they slept together,  getting drunk with four college boys and waking up the next morning to more than a hangover.  The beer turns them all into Neanderthals and the boys begin a fire that Buffy saves Parker from.  In the episode’s only good moment, Neanderthal Buffy beats him with a club when he apologizes for his actions.

Show: Lost
Episode: The Kate-centric episodes (including “Eggtown” and “Whatever the Case May Be”)

Evangeline Lily plays ex-con Kate Austen in Lost.

Evangeline Lily plays ex-con Kate Austen in Lost.

Since the beginning I’ve had a few issues with Lost.  Plotlines and monsters were introduced only to be forgotten about or never explained and more new characters than should ever be on a supposedly deserted island kept coming out of the woodwork.  The main problem though was consistency and much of this depended on the character who was featured in the episode.  So I came to dread the Kate episodes, preparing for what was bound to be a dreary hour.  As an ex-convict, Kate should really be more interesting than she is.  Instead I find her to be the dullest character on the island, and her episodes about retrieving toy planes, miraculously not being convicted of murder, and being unable to choose between Sawyer and Jack do nothing for me.

Show: How I Met Your Mother
Episode: “The Best Burger in New York”

Regis Philbin guest stars on How I Met Your Mother

Regis Philbin guest stars on How I Met Your Mother

Many shows rely on, or become famous for, their stunt-casting.  Some of them genuinely aren’t that funny without that “special guest star”, but How I Met Your Mother is a genuinely funny sitcom with great characters and some wonderful writing.  It really doesn’t need cameos by Britney Spears, Enrique Iglesias and, in this episode, Regis Philbin, to be hilarious.  The episode revolves around the quest to find a burger place Marshall ate in eight years earlier that served “the best burger in New York” but it just doesn’t have the same sparkle or the heart of other episodes.  The repeating joke of Robin’s burger being the last to arrive isn’t all that amusing, and descriptions of just how good the various burgers taste are only funny for so long.  That said, this is my no means a terrible half hour of television, it just doesn’t live up to the comedy and heart of other episodes.

Lily: This burger is so good, its like Christmas in my mouth. Meat Christmas.
Ted: Its like an angel from heaven landed in
the kitchen of McClaren’s… where the chef killed it and ran it through the meat grinder.
Barney: I love this burger so much I want to sew my ass shut.

Show: Torchwood
Episode: “Cyberwoman”

Ianto's girlfriend Lisa in Cyberwoman

Ianto's girlfriend Lisa in Cyberwoman

Let’s face it, Torchwood didn’t exactly start out as high art.  During the first season the show was campy, tried a little too hard to convince us that it was the darker adult cousin of Doctor Who, and went out of its way to show the fluidity of human sexuality.  It also routinely borrowed and twisted plots from Angel, including having the female lead wake up nine months pregnant by a demon/alien and using an alien/demon who stays alive through sexual intercourse that destroys their partner.

Still, the first season had some good episodes, it’s just that “Cyberwoman” was not one of them.  The first episode focused on mysterious tea boy Ianto Jones revealed that he had been keeping his girlfriend Lisa, partially converted during the Cyberman Invasion (which occurred during the Doctor Who episodes “Army of Ghosts” and “Doomsday”), in the Torchwood Hub basement in hopes of curing her.  Her Cyberman programming soon takes over though and Captain Jack tries to feed her to the resident pterodactyl.  Really the fact that Jack sprays Lisa with special barbeque sauce to help the pterodactyl identify its prey speaks for itself.

Show: Star Trek Voyager
Episode: “Threshold”

Janeway and Paris go through some... changes in "Threshold"

Janeway and Paris go through some... changes in "Threshold"

Not even the writers defend this episode of Star Trek Voyager, which co-executive producer Brannon Braga called a “royal, steaming stinker”.  It has even been unofficially erased from canon by fans and the production staff.

In “Threshold”, Tom Paris takes on a mission to break the Warp 10 barrier in a shuttlecraft.  However he begins experiencing symptoms upon his return and rapidly mutates into a new form of life.  Paris escapes his planned treatment, kidnaps Captain Janeway, and steals the shuttlecraft.  Here’s where we get to the bad part because the cast of Voyager track the shuttle only to find two amphibious creatures and their three offspring(!)  Luckily there is enough human DNA remaining for the ships’ Doctor to reverse the mutation and restore them to normal.  Lizard mating?  This is another one that speaks for itself.

Show: Dead Like Me
Episode: Dead Like Me: Life After Death movie

George faces off against new leader Cameron.

George faces off against new leader Cameron.

I absolutely love Dead Like Me and it is certainly at the top of my “gone but not forgotten” list of shows cancelled before their time.  The show, which followed the unlife of Georgia Lass after she is hit by a flying toilet seat and becomes a grim reaper, was full of colour, thoughtful, and found the humour in death to great success.  Its cancellation after just two seasons, and for no apparent reason, was disappointing but fans found hope in the news that there would be a direct-to-DVD movie.

I’m glad I read the reviews about the film before watching it or I would have been sorely disappointed.  It isn’t that the movie is bad, so much as it just isn’t the Dead Like Me we knew and loved.  The role of Daisy Adair was recast, as Laura Harris was committed to another project, and replacement Sarah Wynter always felt “off” to me.  At that time Mandy Patinkin was starring in Criminal Minds and his lead reaper Rube Sofer was replaced with a new character, played by Lost star Henry Ian Cusick.  I enjoyed the subplot with George’s sister Reggie, which answered the question left open in the show’s series finale about whether or not Reggie had recognized her sister in the graveyard, but the movie just didn’t have the same feel as the series.  The real pity is that Harris’ show Woman’s Murder Club was cancelled that year and Patinkin famously departed Criminal Minds.  If the movie had been delayed, the whole cast could have reunited.

And one for the road…

Although I’ve seen most of Star Trek: The Next Generation, DS9, and Voyager, I haven’t seen more than one episode of the original series and don’t have a strong desire to do so.  I haven’t included episodes generally regarded to be poor unless I have seen them myself but this is my one exception to the rule.  “Spock’s Brain” seems to have the same universal loathing in fans of the original series that “Beer Bad” inspires in Buffy fans.  The synopsis seems to be that aliens steal Spock’s brain and that the episode is, according to this site, “the most sexist hour of television that I’ve ever seen.”

But wait – there’s more!  It’s featured on a website called the agony booth under the “Worst of Trek” title, and a website featuring fan created Star Trek motivational posters has one just for the episode which says the following:

Spock’s Brain

Look, not every episode can be “City on the Edge of Forever,” okay?

I’m sure my list will continue to grow as I discover new shows and as my favourites misstep but these are my “worst of the best” so far.  I’d love to hear other ideas though, feel free to let me know some of your “worst of the best” television episodes!