Archive for April, 2013

Time for Grapes to go?

Posted: April 28, 2013 in Sports, T.V.

Don and RonWhen this shortened NHL season began, I swore it off saying “I will not watch a full game if I can prevent it”. I knew there would be outside circumstances (work, going to a bar or restaurant or to a friend’s place) where it would be on and I would watch because I love the sport, but I would not watch the game at home. With the change in weather and my attitude, I decided to flip on last night’s game. You should know that in general, it’s very rare that I’ll be able to sit down and watch an NHL game in its entirety, and between the Leafs/Habs storyline (will they be first round opponents or will Toronto play Boston?) and the Senators trying to move up the rankings, it made for an interesting night.  And of, course, there’s “Coach’s Corner”!

I’ve been a big fan and supporter of Don Cherry (every Christmas, I still get his videos and can remember getting Number 4 on VHS) and when he comes on, I pay attention. The segment starts with Don holding up the newspaper and talking about how the headline which reads “We Want You!” implying that the Maple Leafs/their fans want to play the Canadiens in the first round because of earlier success from this season. He talks about how it will be used as bulletin board material to motivate the Habs going into the game and possibly the playoffs (should they meet up in the first round). When Ron tries to move on to a different topic, Don cuts him off and goes into something that grabbed everyone’s attention: gender roles in sports.

Earlier this week, Duncan Keith made some comments to female reporter Karen Thomson that many people saw as being sexist (and I won’t defend those comments; if he didn’t like the question he should’ve moved on but was probably heated after the loss) and Don came to his aide….kinda (skip ahead to the 2:15 mark of the video).

 

A few things really stuck out to me when I saw this:

1)      Since WHEN did Hockey Night decide it was a good idea to have Ron and Don switch seats?! This bothers me…
2)      Ron’s initial reaction! (which has since turned into GIFs and video to help blow up Twitter)
3)      The thought of an Executive Producer in a truck somewhere either freaking out like Miles Silverberg used to
4)      I have never wanted Jackie MacMullan to write 2,000 words on a subject matter drawing from personal experience more in my life (because she is, hands down, one of the best)
5)      I wonder how the CBC will deal with this issue? They probably have their top lawyers on this as we speak and that intrigues me the most.

Don Cherry seems to get away with saying a LOT in today’s politically correct society and for the most part the CBC has always backed him up but recently it feels like they’re trying to distance themselves from any controversy surrounding him. The only thing that seems to be missing from the Coach’s Corner segment is a warning about how the views of Don Cherry do not reflect those of the CBC (which could be coming in time for playoffs). After hearing these statements made by Don, don’t be surprised if he’s not around for much longer, and seriously this time. Grapes’ comments are too indefensible for the commentator and as “Canada’s Broadcaster”, the CBC can only take so much negative bulletin board material for so long.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @c_fudali

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Checking Out of the Bates Motel

Posted: April 22, 2013 in T.V.

Bates MotelRecently I was texting with a friend and she asked me “Do you watch Bates Motel?…you should start at the beg its (expletive) up” (like I said, it was a text so spelling and grammar never really apply). Here’s the skinny: Bates Motel is supposed to be about Norman Bates and his Mother, Norma, (yes, so lame that even Sheriff Alex Romero makes a joke about it in an episode) are going through in modern times: getting the motel up and running in the quiet town of White Pine Bay, Oregon but things are not what they seem. Now, because we’re 5 episodes in already (the 6th will air tonight on A&E), allow me to do an Episode-by-Episode-Evaluation-in-One-Word-or-Less:

Episode 1 – Meh
Episode 2 – OHMIGAWD
Episode 3 – *Shrug*
Episode 4 – Okay
Episode 5 – What?

ATTENTION: YOU ARE ABOUT TO READ, WHAT COULD BE DEEMED AS, SPOILERS SO IF YOU DO WANT TO WATCH ANY/ALL OF THESE EPISODES, YOU MAY WANT TO STOP READING NOW.

What works for the show: The show landed an AMAZING actress in Vera Farmiga to play Norma Bates. Watching her play a character by taking all the attributes that we’ve heard about (constantly reminding Norman that he made bad things happen and that people, like his brother Dylan, are trying to take Norman away from her, etc) and watching her work a situation to her advantage by pausing in a confrontation so you know she will flip it in her favour. She’s cold and calculating and just an amazing character.

What doesn’t work for the show: There’s a lot that doesn’t seem to work for this show: the police underbelly, the Bates family, and the Bates name. Let’s start with the subplot: the police.

Deputy Sheriff Zack Shelby made it clear that there’s a system within the town: people can own mom-and-pop stores but live in multi-million dollar houses and everyone looks the other way. If Guy A doesn’t piss off Guy B, there won’t be any retaliation. Here’s the problem: this is supposed to be modern-day. You can really only get away with that for so long, even in a small town, until word spreads. For example, in episode two there was a guy set on fire in the middle of the day downtown. I repeat: THERE WAS A GUY SET ON FIRE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY DOWNTOWN! If you’re new to the area or just visiting and see that, that’s going up on social media! (“Stopped to buy cookies @GalesBakery in @WhitePineBayOR  & see guy ablaze! #WTF Twitpic”) Pretty sure that you cannot hide something like that in the Pacific Northwest in this day and age without it getting back to a news network (other than CNN. Then again, I said “news network”…BOOYA!) and having them run with it and then state or the FBI coming in to check things out.

As for the Bates family structure, not a huge fan of Norman Bates’ brother, Dylan Massett (played by Max Thieriot who looks like a poor man’s Casey Afflick circa 200 Cigarettes). It’s a decent idea to have this brother who’s “normal” to be the voice of reason for Norman, but at the same time they’ve made him to be a little more of a delinquent than he probably should have been. He’s trying to get Norman to live with him because he knows that Norma isn’t good for Norman but is doing shady work in order to get the cash…and also avenging the death of his partner by running down junkies (seriously, that was episode five). But let’s move on to the man of the hour: Norman Bates.

 It’s very difficult to remind yourself that this is supposed to be Norman Bates: Psycho (but as a teen). When he’s listening to is iTunes at the bus stop and Bradley (the attractive high school girl who approaches him to give him the time of day, because, that’s how EVERY attractive high school girl operates: go to the socially awkward new guy and immediately start flirting with him) approaches him and Norman’s perfectly fine talking to her. The actor, Freddie Highmore, tries to really do a decent job with the role: constantly seeking approval of his mother, trying not to hurt her feelings and do what’s right, maintain some naivety with girls or the outside world but there’s something bothersome about all of that: he’s just not that good.

It may be the fact that I keep looking at Freddie and thinking I’m watching a 17 year old James Cybulski with a bad haircut who has more sweaters than Sarah Linden pull off all these emotions and internal struggling and he can’t which is what really hurts the show. The one time that they had Norman really lash out at Emma in the halls was probably the best he’s done and we may not see that for a while longer.

Overall, the show is okay. Just okay. If it’s on and there’s nothing else on, you won’t regret watching it but at the same time to have it centre around a character called “Norman Bates” really hurts the Psycho franchise. Ideally, this show should’ve been called something like “Mother”, loosely base it off the Psycho theme but change the names and then try to go with it. The plots about drugs and a sex trade in the small town and having it tie in with the Bates family is too far out there also and, with social media, wouldn’t fly today. Speaking of social media…

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @c_fudali

Hey AMC, Better Call Saul

Posted: April 14, 2013 in T.V.

Call SaulThis past week there was a report that AMC is CONSIDERING a spin-off of “Breaking Bad” with its famous crooked lawyer: Saul Goodman. Initial reaction from the internet wasn’t good and, truth be told, my computer mouse almost went through the window when I read the article for the first time. However, there are a number of things to consider with this (possible) spin-off:

1) Vince Gilligan is in charge – The man who crafted Breaking Bad is the one who will also be running this show.  Face it, Vince Gilligan’s resume is VERY impressive when he has total control over a project (write, produce, direct and he’s golden…well, almost). AMC realizes this and they know that Saul (arguably the best TV show attorney since Ted Buckland or Lionel Hutz) has all the makings for a great main character and his clientele could make for some creative story lines. You would have the flexibility to focus on a case per episode (almost like CSI or Law and Order) or you could have it go in depth and really test Saul. Throw in the fact that we don’t have much of a back story on Saul (how he became a crooked lawyer; how did he end up in New Mexico) and this can get stretched out well into 3 seasons for AMC. And speaking of AMC…

2) AMC is SCREWED after 2014 – This network is basically me in high school when it came to book reports: ride the “oh yeah, TOTALLY planning ahead” card for as long as possible, hold off until the last minute and then see what can be pulled out of a hat. The difference: I was cool with getting a “B” in English but AMC is competing with three other big networks in HBO, Showtime, and FX (which is about to branch off into two new channels, FXx and FXM because they will have that much programming).

AMC has had 2 amazing shows the past couple of years in Breaking Bad and Mad Men, they also have The Walking Dead (their one show that gets high ratings with zero character development and…hell, call it like it is: just zombies getting killed), Hell On Wheels (a show that you ONLY remember exists because of commercials that AMC runs during their top two shows), and The Killing (yes, they’re bringing back a show that we all thought was gone after we figured out who killed Rosie Larsen and has single-handed ruined any chance of me ever visiting Seattle).

Here’s their problem: this is the last season of Breaking Bad, Mad Men has one more to go, and then it’s pretty much Walking Dead and 3 star movies to keep the network afloat. They NEED a show that can bring in viewers; to go with a likeable character in Saul couldn’t hurt. AMC would do the smart thing by letting Gilligan do what he feels is best for a (possible) show and, should he make it a comedy, then go with it. Wait, did they just say…

3) Saul a comedy? YES! – Of course, this will not be your traditional comedy show with the canned laughter but they can make it dark. Some of the best/most memorable scenes in Breaking Bad were the dark comedic relief. The three that stick out the most to me are: the bath tub, Ted Beneke slipping, and Hector Salamanca soiling himself in front of everyone! So why not take Saul, a corrupt lawyer, and give him a string of clients that he has to get out of a jam week after week?

True story: I was taking a law class once and the professor was a retired lawyer. He told us about a colleague who had someone come into his office and say “I need a lawyer. Will you be my lawyer?” The attorney said “Sure. Here’s my retainer fee.” The guy paid cash on the spot and now had him as his lawyer. The attorney then said “What’s the issue?” and the guy said “I just killed someone. Here’s the gun.” and put the gun down on the desk. Now, as an attorney you have a duty to your client and a duty to the public, so what do you do? ARE YOU TELLING ME THAT THIS COULDN’T BE A SAUL SITUATION?!?! (I think I just gave them the idea for episode one. Looks like my university did pay off for something!)

Let’s be clear on this: the track record for spin-offs hasn’t been great (I know a lot of Friends fans are still coming to terms with the fact that Joey existed for a short period of time), but every now and then you will find a very successful spin-off in something like The Jeffersons or Frasier or The Colbert Report or even (dare I say) The Simpsons. There’s a very good chance that a Saul show will never reach Simpsons-level, but when you’re AMC and you’re looking ahead and you can see a Frasier-esque run in this kind of a series, it really wouldn’t hurt to pick up the phone and give Saul a call.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @c_fudali

Back when I was working on my degree, there were a number of classes that you could tell would be dull from the title (looking at you, Psychology of Criminal Conduct!). But one class really stood out: “Psychological Profiling of Serial Killers and Mass Murderers.” It was a seminar class which basically means about 30 people in a room will be talking about serial killers and mass murderers. During the course, there was a lot of theory to take in (amazingly enough, at the time all the theories were written by either Holmes and Holmes or Holmes and DeBurger. Yes, classifying serial killers were written by, essentially three people) but we kept coming back to the greatest serial killer that never lived: Hannibal Lecter.

For those of you who don’t know, Lecter is a fictional character: a psychologist who is also a cannibal that ate his patients. Originally, Brian Cox was Hannibal in the movie Manhunter (WAY before he was in charge of state troopers in Vermont) but then it got turned over to Sir Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs and it took off from there into a sequel (Hannibal; which was so awful that the only good thing that came of it was the answering machine message on the DVD Bonus Features) and a remake of Manhunter in Red Dragon (the movie that made us all wonder “Why hasn’t Ed Norton given up on bit parts in movies and moved to television at this point?). But now, the character has been brought back by NBC in a future-prequel-kinda-sorta-thing. Let me try to explain…

Last we saw both Will Graham and Dr. Lecter was in Red Dragon, which has been understood is the prequel to all things Lecter, so it looks like it should be based in the mid-to-late 80’s. NBC has developed Hannibal in a way to give you insight to the back story about how Graham and Lecter’s relationship really began and developed (something Red Dragon hinted at but never fully explained). If you can get past the fact that Lecter is now living in a world where cell phone use and the internet is prominent but doctors still file everything on paper and they use slides and not PowerPoint, we’re good.

Those who run the show selected Hugh Dancy to play Graham; the brilliant yet troubled Special Agent who gets brought in to help solve cases involving serial killers. In the first episode, David Slade does a great job showing how Graham can take a crime scene and work his way back to figure out how it happened (it may take you the first minute to figure it out in episode one like it did me; mind you, I should really, REALLY pay attention to these things instead of try to multitask by reading articles or watching videos like this…no matter how funny they may be).  And Dancy also plays the role of an easily shaken and on-edge Graham. As great as that is, the biggest question surrounds the role of Lecter.

Dr. Lecter is played by Mads Mikkelsen, many of you many know him as Le Chiffre from Casino Royale (and sorry to disappoint you all that held out hope of Hopkins playing the role again with a bad dye job). We don’t actually see Lecter until halfway through the first episode and it takes a couple of minutes for him to grow on you as a viewer. But after Agent Jack Crawford (played by Laurence Fishburne) assigns Lecter to Graham, you see all the traits that made Lecter famous come back: hearing about what organs have been pulled out because they’ve been eaten, watching Lecter tense up and tries to restrain himself from lashing out as a patient leaves a used tissue on the table, or when he’s having breakfast with Graham and says “I’m careful about what I put into my body” after you’re left wondering why kind of meat exactly was tossed in with the eggs that Lecter made (okay, you’re not REALLY left wondering but I don’t want to ruin it for you).

 After one episode, it looks like NBC has finally done some homework (instead of allowing for stuff like this to go on) and found a series that has the potential to compete with a number of good crime dramas that are on at the moment. It was great that they brought back a known character, made it “fresh” for a newer audience and isn’t afraid to try to challenge a network like CBS with their CSI and NCIS franchises. Keep this one in the cue but just avoid having spaghetti before you watch.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @c_fudali

Commanding the Don Draper Fastball

Posted: April 8, 2013 in T.V.

(Note:  This is a recap of last night’s season premier of Mad Men; yes, I was probably one of a handful of you who chose to watch that over Wrestelmania 29. I’m warning you now that there will be specific mentions to things in the show that may be spoilers, so if you missed it you may want to hold back on reading this for now.)

DON DRAPER IS BACK!!

There are a few characters on TV right now that get me this amped for the start of their respected shows: Walter White on Breaking Bad and Don Draper are the front runners (Elizabeth and Phillip Jennings on The Americans will soon carry this torch; if you haven’t jumped on this bandwagon yet there’s still time). Watching Don Draper is like when the Toronto Blue Jays had Roy Halladay; you would want quiet around you so you could just sit back and really marvel at what he’s able to do. But now Doc Halladay is raising major concerns with the Phillies about where he’s at versus where he needs to be leaving many to wonder if he can recapture what he had in his younger years. And Don is no different.

See, Halladay’s still able to get guys out and there’s no real question that his off-speed pitches are still working for him because he’s able to get nine strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings. The issue is that he’s losing velocity on his fastball which should be his most lethal pitch. When you look at Don, being able to pitch and sell anything to a client is his fastball and everything else about him are his off-speed pitches: the drinking, the philandering, the way he just carried himself. Last season we noticed that he was starting to lose some velocity on his fastball and now it’s carried over to this season. Before we get to that, let’s recap his off-speed stuff and remember why we love Don and hope he can get back to form.

There were a lot of things that happened this episode (getting drunk and throwing up at Roger Sterling’s mother’s funeral, hooking up with the neighbour’s wife, even just watching him go for a drink at the bar in Hawaii alone) that made you think “Don’s still got it!” The problem is that they’re all his off-speed pitches: they’re entertaining but they’re supposed to support the fact that Don is a creative genius. We keep getting distracted at the fact that how he is at work is supposed to be his fastball.

As mentioned, Don is in Hawaii “doing research” and can’t sleep. He ends up going to the bar and is approached by a man in the army about to get married (he notices Don’s lighter; they each got similar lighters for enlisting and you see that Don’s is engraved with his name. His REAL name). A little later on, Don’s doing a photo shoot for the company and is asked to “be yourself” when holding the lighter. He then tries to throw the lighter away but Megan said the maid picked it out of the trash and gave it back. This whole sequence is great throughout the show because it shows that Don cannot let go of the fact that he is actually Dick Whitman.

Dick Whitman is what’s really affecting Don Draper’s fastball: the constant reminder that Don/Dick came from nothing (the son of a prostitute) and is trying to make it as a big-shot in the city and with a single slip up he could wind up right back to where he came from. The past demons that he had (his half brother and how he was raised) are coming more to the forefront and starting to affect Don in a way that’s reflective in how he’s struggling to close deals with clients. Much like Halladay, you keep thinking “He’s a legend. He’ll find his groove again and he will come around.” The problem is, there will come a time when someone pulls you aside and asks “what have you done for me lately?” When that question finally gets asked of Don, he may slip further into self-doubt and turn into the Dick he’s spent his whole life avoiding.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter: @c_fudali