Sunday, September 30, 2007

Dexter's Back and It Bothers Us that We Love Him

Some drama series get you in the mood from the very first moments of the opening montage. The Sopranos was that way; Tony and his fat cigar driving through the Jersey wastelands with Alabama 3 wailing in the background. DEXTER is most certainly that way, and a more original opening sequence would be hard to imagine. While creepy, almost silly, haunted house music sets the tone, Dexter slices blood oranges, snacks on raw meat and cracks eggs into a frying pan...all in extreme close-up. It's like a food snuff film. I should be appalled, we all should be appalled. But I'm not, because I know that I'm about to experience one hell of a great hour of TV. Tonight's season premier (9-30-07, 9pm eastern on Showtime) lived (died?) up to all expectations.

When we last saw Dexter at the end of the first season, he had saved his step sister and dispatched, in the usual creative Dexter-like manner, his evil, irredeemable serial killer brother. As everyone surely knows by now, Dexter is a serial killer too, but none of his victims are innocent. In fact, Dexter, in a code enforced by his deceased adoptive cop father, only kills the worst of the worst.

But Dexter has a problem. He's trying to get back in the groove again, first with a blind voodoo murderer possessed by the Devil and then with a monstrous 6 foot 10 inch gang banger who's killed at least three people. Dexter is unable to finish the job in either case and he just can't figure out why. A curse? A conscience? What the heck is the matter with Dexter? What's worse, scuba diving treasure hunters discover the underwater graveyard where Dexter has been stashing his victims. Black plastic trash bags full of body parts, as far as the eyes can see.

I love everything about this series, and then hate myself for it. The sly humor, mixed with the darkest crimes. The Miami setting so authentic, you can practically smell the pressed pork sandwiches. The supporting cast is dynamite, and they look shiny and sweaty all the time, which is as it should be in the 110% humidity of South Florida. Best of all, there is Michael C. Hall, who is superb as the enigmatic, enormously attractive and oddly sympathetic Dexter. Pour yourself a tall Mojito, turn on the ceiling fan, and enjoy the rest of the season for one of the most fantastic crime dramas you will ever see.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Season Premier of The Office: The Corporate Carnival Returns!

The one hour season premier of The Office was strange, somewhat disturbing and frequently hilarious. It did not disappoint. This quirky show has such an enormous ensemble cast, and yet each character is clearly drawn, unique and essential. As the boss, Steve Carell's Michael is the narcissistic and mentally handicapped glue that holds it all together. The exquisitely weird Rainn Wilson has become a classic breakout character, playing the perfectly named Dwight Schrute. He is not so much weird, as absolutely deranged. In this episode, he is responsible for euthanizing a sick fluffy cat (Sprinkles) by placing the doomed feline in the freezer. I am haunted by the description of the clawed bags of frozen peas. Angela plays Dwight's blond office Nazi girl friend Angela, and her sorrow over the loss of Sprinkles makes her almost likable for the first time ever. Jim and Pam are back and finally together as the perfect office couple. When they kiss, all is right with the world. Michael has his own romance cooking, with the seriously in need of rehab Jan now living in his condo. Kevin the fat guy is fast becoming my favorite character. Along with Creed (the older quality control manager who gets my vote as the one most likely to climb a tower and start shooting) and Stanley (the deeply cynical and ironic black guy), Kevin forms a water cooler Greek chorus, observing and commenting upon the insane tapestry woven by the others in this Office from Hell.

This year's season opener started out with a real bang. Michael ran over Meredith (the red haired office lush) in the Dunder Mifflin parking lot. In the hospital with a broken pelvis, Meredith refuses to forgive Michael, and he begins to wonder if The Office is cursed. He decides to redeem himself by creating a 5K run for the Cure for Rabies, and everyone in the office has to participate. Although I admire the many clever ways writers get the cast out of the claustrophobic office environment and into the fresh air of Scranton PA, the charity race didn't work quite as well as past outings. Last year's beach trip was a classic. the new season kick off was a good (not great) start. But a good episode of The Office is a thousand times better than just about anything else on TV.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Big Bang Theory on CBS

If you are a nerd or just like laughing at them, the new CBS 8:30p entry The Big Bang Theory might just be for you. The premise: two ultra-geeks find that a completely unattainable, i.e. gorgeous, woman has moved in next door to them, and they immediately try to figure out how to bed her. Or at least one of them does. Not the one in the picture here. He's more the prickly uber-virgin, and he's pretty funny.

At least in the pilot the verbal jousting was clever, liberally peppered with masturbation jokes (which I'm always good with) and the requisite Star Trek reference, plus riffs on computer massive multiplayer games, the space program, digestive ailments, and an assortment of other poindexter-ish plot points. How this might go over on an audience that doesn't perhaps get all the references is another thing, but the banter is played plenty funny and that might smooth over the spots for the clueless. The leads are Jim Parsons (pictured), Johnny Galecki (short, dark and four-eyed), and the luscious Kaley Cuoco, from 8 Simple Rules. A couple of the guys' friends are along for the chase, Simon Helberg as a brainy would-be lothario, and Kunal Nayyar as the brilliant Indian scientist. I guess these guys are all supposed to be working in the real world, though they sound and act more like they're still in school, but emotionally they are, I guess...eternally.

Can they keep up the jam-packed geek cultural references and somehow make a case of blue balls into a whole season of entertainment? I'm a sucker for smart people, even people just pretending to be smart, so I'm in for this one. The characters in this show remind me of a little of the hilarious and brilliant crew of young guys I used to work with, and we went more than a season, so maybe these fellas can do it, too.

The Big Bang Theory airs Mondays at 8:30pm on CBS. The show website is here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Falling Out of Love with TMYLM

Hmmm. Seldom have I switched affections so rapidly, but boy, Tell Me You Love Me has become, in three short weeks, a nearly complete downer. Not that I require happy people having fun in order to appreciate something, but this is a bit of a depressing brew and I'm not sure how long I can hang in there. And is it just me, or is the sex getting less explicit and more infrequent? Or am I just getting bored?

I'm still going to give it another go, but perhaps it's just paining me too much to see the fabulous Ally Walker's character and her hubby having such a horrible time of it. And yet, they seem to be the most realistic couple. As if that isn't a god-awful thought....

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Tell Me You Love Me

A few days ago Jane wrote a little about HBO's new series Tell Me You Love Me which premiered last Sunday night. It's about several couples and their problematic sex lives, and touts itself as being probably the most explicit TV so far (with mainstream actors). After watching the preem and then catching parts of the first episode a couple more times throughout the week, I've seen lots of whining, many tits and Luke Kirby's balls, and I'd say that show is not without interest. It's midway between your standard TV drama and really soft soft-core porn, but also uncomfortably like seeing your parents fuck. You might know and like some of these actors from previous roles, and sorta feel bad for them for having to cavort around in their birthday suits.

On the other hand, I'm all for America getting a little more adult about sex. I especially liked (thought that may be the wrong word) the scene at the end of the first show where actress Sonya Walger, as the high-strung wife trying to get pregnant, gives her husband a depressing hand job as he watches TV. Now, it looked pretty real, and they did show some ejaculate, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. I've since read around a bit and the consensus seems to be that the penis was prosthetic (ergo fake cum, too), as were Luke Kirby's balls, mentioned in the previous paragraph. I have to say that I'm a tad disappointed (again, that might not be quite the right word) to learn that basically everything except the breasts on the women are faked. But hey, these are actors, not porn stars, and I will admit that the cast members (and their members, real or not) of TMYLM are, on the whole, quite a bit more talented than your average pornsters. And have considerably fewer tattoos. (If there's one thing that kinda gives away the rough edges around porn, it's gotta be those ink-stained bodies. There are tattoos everywhere on those folks.)

I think I've gotten spoiled from watching Canadian pay TV, where quite hardcore material frequently airs in the overnight hours and no big deal is made over it. The only thing that TMYLM has that the latenight movies don't is, ironically, the ejaculation shot. Aficionados may prefer to refer to it as "the money shot" but never was it as joyless as in the HBO show.

I do think a shout out to several of the actors on TMYLM is in order. Ally Walker, whom you probably remember from her starring role as The Profiler a few years back, is superb as the bereft wife in a near-platonic suburban marriage. Walker, an intelligent actress--she's a physics major and worked in a genetics lab before devoting herself to acting--is perfectly paired with the likeable Tim DeKay who was so marvelous in HBO's sadly-cancelled Carnivale from a couple seasons ago. Luke Kirby is attractive as a young newlywed who can't quite get his head around the idea of lifelong fidelity, and of course, as Jane mentioned before, Jane Alexander is also a serene and wise presence as the therapist. Everybody in the cast is good; you might end up having a favorite couple, if you can stick with the possibly overwrought navel-gazing long enough. Truly, you need a little skin to help you get through the whines.

At least it's a little more brazen than the usual ho-hum stuff, as is Showtime's David Duchovny sex-filled comedy/drama Californication which has been on a few weeks. I haven't quite warmed to it yet but Duchovny is always watchable, though I am creeped out a bit by the actress playing his teenage daughter. It's like she escaped from the brunette version of Children of the Damned. Very strange face and I think I really believe in alien/human hybrids now.

Such is the state of people having sex in mainstream U.S. media.

Monday, September 10, 2007

What Would We Do Without HBO?

How do I love HBO...let me count the ways. But first, let's get the bad news out of the way. Lisa was absolutely correct, the season finale of our beloved Flight of the Conchords was a bust. They introduced a new character who was as enticing as nails on a chalk board. And we didn't even get to hear our boys from New Zealand do a new song. I forgive them though, as the rest of the season was so top notch.

Curb Your Enthusiasm premiered last night after a long hiatus, and I've fallen right back into the groove of loving and hating Larry at the same time. The first episode does not disappoint. It involves a chocolate penis cake, Larry's adoption of a family displaced by a hurricane and more mishaps, disasters and celebrity cameos. Does anyone else ever secretly identify with Larry? He is the untethered Id in us all.

No matter what your political affiliation, if you plan to watch the new HBO documentary, Alive Day Memories: Home From Iraq", you better bring a big box of Kleenex along for the view. James Gandolfini gently and movingly interviews ten soldiers who have been terribly wounded by insurgent bombs or snipers in Iraq. Through blindness and brain injuries, amputations and post traumatic stress, these men and women show us what true bravery and grace is all about. It is an excellent special that every American (or Canadian ex-pat like Lisa!) should watch.

Finally, we come to the buzz inducing Tell Me That You Love Me. I have very mixed feelings about this one. If you like soft core porn, you're in for a treat. I had to throw a bathrobe over my TV set so the cats (
never mind the teen aged kid in my house) wouldn't see all the full frontal action. At the same time, the actual talking parts of the program were too dry for my tastes....sort of like a lukewarm 30 Something. I do like Jane Alexander as the smart therapist who interviews all the pitiful couples. She really is the best part of the show, mostly because when she is on camera I don't have to worry that more extra naked huffing and puffing will ensue. Disclaimer: Watch this show late at night when no kids, dogs or very sensitive cats are in the room!

Ahhh HBO. If all the channels on my TV were broken except for this one (and...well....FOX because I gotta have the Simpson's and American Idol), I guess I could survive.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

"Tell Me You Love Me" on HBO tonight

I hope that several Flaming Nose folks chime in on HBO's new sex-laden series "Tell Me You Love Me" which premiered tonight. I will post tomorrow!

Also a new season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" finally shows up.

Although our beloved Conchords may have left for now (thought I hate to say that I wasn't wild about their last episode...I hate when that happens!) we do have consolations!

Plus, Showtime's "Dexter" comes back at the end of this month!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

It's the End of the World --Almost -- on The Science Channel!

Oh my goodness! Saw a wonderful special on The Science Channel last Sunday evening, and it looks like it will be repeated this coming Monday Sept. 10th at 9am -- not sure whether this is Eastern time or what, but you need to figure it out and record this!

It's called "Super Comet" and it's all about what would happen if a comet collided with the earth today. Two hours long, it's chockful of well-done dramatic sequences interspersed with, best of all, real scientists offering the grim facts behind the dramatics. Naturally, the scientists are the best part of the show -- god, it's so wonderful seeing amazingly smart people on TV talking about what they know -- but the fictional sequences are pretty good, too.

You can run and you darn well better hide if a comet comes a'callin' here on Earth -- whew, it won't be a nice place afterwards. For me, one of the most eerie and telling moments is when a scientist who specializes in analyzing human reactions to disasters talks about how people simply cannot fathom the level of destruction that would result from such a thing. The mind can't wrap itself around the utter annihilation which lies ahead. And of course it's one of those inevitable things that's going to happen to our little planet one of these days.

"Super Comet" was fascinating and completely riveting. I highly recommend that you record and watch it. Unless apocalyptic futures don't float your boat, of course...