Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Game of Thrones" Season 2 on HBO Coming This Sunday!

To get you into the proper mindset for the continuation of its spectacular epic series Game of Thrones, HBO has created a twenty-two minute special which you can watch right here on The Flaming Nose.  Season Two premieres this coming Sunday, April 1st at 9pm. 

Full-Length Special: You Win or You Die

HBO also offers a catch-up guide for Games of Thrones here; highly recommended if the details of all the elaborate goings-on in the complicated worlds of the various Houses of Baratheon, Lannister, Greyjoy, Stark, Taragaryen and Tully have grown a bit dim in your head.  All I know is that two of my favorite characters from the first season are no more.  The virtuous Ned Stark (Sean Bean) and the swarthy leader of the horse people Khal Drogo (played by Jason Momo) met their ends in the first season, more's the pity.  (Perhaps even more dastardly was the quick box office death last year of Momo's feature film Conan the Barbarian where he played the title role!)

Season 2 Trailer: Seven Devils

At least we have the Emmy Award-winning Peter Dinklage back as Tyrion Lannister!  He's always a delight, a treacherous, lecherous, rapier-witted force who makes every scene he's in a treat. 

Don't miss Games of Thrones as it begins its new season, beginning this Sunday on HBO!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

C-SPAN Superhero Brian Lamb Stepping Down as CEO after 33 Years!

Oh, Woe is Us!  There's nobody on talk/news/political/public affairs television that we love more than Brian Lamb on C-SPAN.  For the past three decades and a bit, Lamb's calm and erudite presence has been a low-key delight and influence on the cable industry's premier do-good project.  He was there at the beginning, a key player in the founding of the channel in 1978 and its CEO since then, and his intelligent oversight has kept C-SPAN as the only really truly fair and balanced network out there in TV land. 

Now, at the beginning of next month, two of his trusted lieutenants -- Susan Swain (pictured at right with Lamb) and Rob Kennedy -- will take over the day-to-day management of the C-SPAN trio of channels, each of them presenting 24 hour-a-day coverage of all things political, historical, literary and beyond.  Whichever ill-informed and short-sighted wag once-upon-a-time bemoaned the dulless of "talking heads on television" clearly never envisioned or watched C-SPAN.  There isn't a dull moment on the channels, not if you're a citizen who cares about what's happening in Washington, or a history buff interested in life's rich pageant (especially America's past), or even merely a book lover looking for a place on TV that celebrates the written word.

Not that we won't still have Lamb as host of his weekly Q and A series, and not that Swain and Kennedy aren't utterly qualified to serve as co-CEOs (a brilliant move acknowledging both of their complementary talents and expertises).  Susan Swain has been an reliable and smartly entertaining on-air presence and behind-the-scenes management force since her arrival at the network in 1982, while Rob Kennedy came onboard a few years later and is the whiz behind C-SPAN's invaluable web archive, among other accomplishments.  We know the network couldn't be in better hands, thanks to Brian Lamb's decades of hard work and complete dedication to making C-SPAN the national network of record. 

A lot of people undoubtedly take C-SPAN for granted, and maybe seldom watch it, but it's inconceivable to imagine what cable TV would be like without it.  Talk about your vast wasteland...C-SPAN is a beacon of responsibility, ethics, intellectual prowess and civic responsibility in an America gone lazy and saturated with junky TV.  I am so grateful that the cable industry continues to value C-SPAN's incredible legacy and its ongoing efforts to make our government more transparent, more accessible and more engaging to the citizenry.  We all have Brian Lamb to thank for the high-minded standards that C-SPAN has always stood for towards and achieved, without question and without peer. 

Of course the internet was abuzz with the announcement of C-SPAN's management changeover, with plenty of terrific coverage over the past week.  We recommend this great article by Brian Stelter with some wonderful quotes from Lamb, Kennedy and Swain at The New York Times, nice coverage in USA Today, Patrick Gavin's complete-with-video look at five best-of Lamb moments on Politico, a wonderful piece by James Rainey from The Los Angeles Times, an amusing read from The Weekly Standard by Andrew Ferguson from a while back, and you can peruse the official C-SPAN press release here.  Don't forget to visit C-SPAN's own incredible website, a treasure trove of information, video, and special features. 

C-SPAN -- everything about it -- is tops in my TV world, and Brian Lamb is one of the most under-appreciated and unsung heroes of cable television.  Take a big bow, Mr. Lamb -- you've earned it!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Frozen Planet Debuts Tonight on Discovery

Heads up for the latest magnificent nature series. Frozen Planet premiers tonight on Discovery and it will take us to the bone chilling northern most and southern most regions of our world. These icy lands are full of breath taking beauty. Who among us would not want to see the Aurora Borealis? Spoiler alert: it will also feature some top of the food chain predator cruelty. I saw a preview where a pod of killer whales (the gangsters of the deep) capsize a poor fat seal who was sunning herself on a floating cake of ice. A terrifying chase ensued, and I had to avert my eyes. Nature is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure. It's especially dangerous when you put a very, very smart mammal brain into a fast water animal the size of a sport utility vehicle. I will never understand why all the Sea World Shamu orcas don't rise up and turn their human slave masters into a quick smorgasbord. Look how clever the orca in the picture above is, spy hopping so he can see all the delicious seals on the ice.

It took Discovery over four years to create the seven episodes that will begin airing tonight. They'll cover all the seasons of the frozen lands, as well as a special segment on global warming. Be sure to check out the website where you can find gorgeous photos and a wonderful live penguin cam generated by Sea World. I generally don't approve of the latter as I don't believe that large predators should be kept in captivity. But I have to admit that those water birds look pretty happy. Maybe in their case they realize that life at Sea World trumps becoming dinner for an orca.

Here's a little Frozen Planet preview. It looks glorious!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Great Article in "Vanity Fair" about TV's Class War!

I ran across a terrific story today written by Vanity Fair contributing editor James Wolcott about the current state of the haves and have-nots on prime time television.  We especially love that Flaming Nose Favorite Louis C.K. and his incredible unique FX comedy Louie rises to the top of the assessment.  What Wolcott loves about Louie is precisely what we do, too.  (Not to mention that one of my favorite scenes ANYWHERE lately is the one in the episode "Bummer/Blueberries" where the homeless man loses his head -- literally.  Shocking, hilarious, unbelievable!)  Also many good mentions of Breaking Bad, another of our big faves around here.

You can and should check out "From Revenge to Modern Family, The Class Warfare of Prime Time Television" from Vanity Fair right now!

 Also, Louie returns with new episodes this June!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

More Palin for Sunday on Reelz Channel Tonight with "The Undefeated"

The Flaming Nose can heartily recommend HBO's newest original movie Game Change which premiered last night.  As you learned in our previous post -- and no doubt were inundated with the same info from all media outlets the past weeks or so -- Game Change focused on the relatively short period of time in 2008 when Sarah Palin was picked to serve as John McCain's running mate up until the team's defeat at the polls.
Julianne Moore gave a compassionate performance, delineating Palin's clearly genuine warmth and love of family as well as the boundless ambition which surfaced as she was thrust into the public spotlight. Palin knew what she wanted -- at least after she realized the vistas now open to her -- and her personal chase was on.

The most memorable theme running through the movie was the notion that celebrity and charisma are what get people elected these days.  Obama certainly had star power, brains and pure political oomph; he went to the White House with them intact but has (sadly) somewhat let the hope he inspired in voters dissipate -- like air out of a balloon -- during the ensuing years.  Palin was a true diamond in the rough, her self-confidence akin to that of Debbie Reynolds as the Unsinkable Molly Brown.  In case you don't know what I'm talking about, here's Debbie singing "I Ain't Down Yet" (which could be Palin's manifesto, too).  Substitute Alaska for Colorado and I think you've pretty well figured Palin out.

Four years after the McCain/Palin ticket's loss, Palin certainly isn't down.  I think she got what she wanted -- fame and riches -- although objectively she's still relying on her fanatic base to put her over the top in whatever she does.  Her 2010 Sarah Palin's Alaska reality series on TLC started big but didn't hold onto the gigantic opening ratings, and though she's been shopping around a sequel starring her husband and his snowmobile, no takers so far.  That Palin has not sought the Republican nomination to run for President this year rather characterizes her reach and grasp; a million bucks from Fox News for her services, personal appearance fees and book revenues are more in keeping with the current American dream.  Politics is, as they say, show business for ugly people.  (Read about the origin of that phrase here.)  Actual show business for a pretty woman has a better payout, for sure.

One of the off-shoots of the Palin political pizazz was last year's documentary The Undefeated, directed by Stephen K. Bannon, about Palin's life and career.  The movie disappointingly played to less-than-full theaters when it was released (and honestly what did they expect? Kids go to movies, Tea Partiers seldom do), but Reelz Channel has smartly picked it up and will be premiering it tonight at 8pm.  The Undefeated doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is -- a cinematic love letter celebrating the Palin mystique -- but airing it now on the heels of Game Change is a terrific scheduling coup for Reelz.  (You will also see a lot of conservative political correspondent Andrew Breibart who passsed away a couple of weeks ago.)

The Undefeated | Movie Trailer | Review

The Undefeated airs on Reelz tonight at 8pm and at 11pm, Eastern time, and again tomorrow Monday at 10pm and Sunday, March 25th at 5:30pm.  They've got links to a slew of coverage about the film on their website, so be sure to check them out if you crave more on The Undefeated. 

Palin and her politics couldn't be further from my own worldview, but her stardom is an interesting phenomenon.  These days especially the bar seems to be set appallingly low, with the pop culture hit parade feeling more like an old timey sideshow line-up, full of strange people behaving badly.  (Which unfairly characterizes sideshows, I realize.)  I'm not a Palin fan, but if I were a person in today's America, horrified at what I thought was a degradation of the country I grew up in, I'd probably have lined-up behind Palin, too.  She offered herself up in relatable images, like a June Cleaver packing a high-powered hunting rifle, or maybe Harriet Nelson speaking tongues in an evangelical church service, or Donna Reed standing up and saying the kinds of things that make some voters believe that the country can be shoved into a time machine and taken back to the 1940s. 

Can't happen, of course, but it's a powerful dream for some and The Undefeated might show us why.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

HBO's Sarah Palin Movie "Game Change" Premieres Tonight!

You really don't need to say anything else.  Despise her or adore her, the name "Sarah Palin" still gets plenty of attention, any and all of it very good when you're HBO and you're promoting a TV-movie about the 2008 Presidential campaign.  Based on the 2010 non-fiction book (part of it anyway) of the same name by John Heileman and Mark Halperin, HBO's Game Change chronicles the Republican race to the White House and the quantum shift in interest and controversy that swept the nation when essentially-unknown Alaska governor Sarah Palin was plucked from the tundra to stand beside John McCain as his Vice-Presidential pick.

The always-impressive Ed Harris stars as Senator McCain and Julianne Moore takes on Sarah Palin, and by all early reports both are much more than merely terrific.  By now, nearly four years and an almost infinite amount of stories and publicity and manipulation later, we've probably all made up our minds whether the McCain/Palin political marriage was forged in heaven or hell.  Bottom line is they didn't win the White House, but -- and I think we have to read the whole Game Change book to get a better understanding of the forces at work back then -- no doubt we can probably all agree that the American election system is more circus than it ought to be.  In that sense, Sarah Palin perfectly played the part of the gorgeous bareback pony rider, all prettied up and designed to break hearts and cause swoons in the populace.  That she did, and I know I'm looking forward to perhaps gaining a little more insight from HBO's movie.  Yes, it's only a movie, but guaranteed more people will see this on HBO than will ever read the book, as distressing a thought as that may be.


Co-starring with Harris and Moore are the typically intense (in his own unique fashion) Woody Harrelson, Ron (still our fave from Office Space) Livingston, Peter MacNicol, Sarah Paulson and more. Director Jay Roach loves political movies with a comedy edge; he helmed HBO's Recount and is currently making an election comedy with Oscar co-presenters Will Ferrell and Zach Galafianakis.  The notion of politics being BFF with the absurd is something Roach clearly relishes, and he has great material here in Game Change.

Game Change premieres on HBO tonight at 9pm, with frequent replays; check out the "Schedule" link on the HBO Game Change website for dates and times and more information about the production.  We recommend checking out NPR TV correspondent David Bianculli's report on Game Change here; as always, Bianculli is entertaining and enlightening.

Let us know what you think of the movie!