Thursday, March 20, 2008

Shows that have been piquing my interest

I'm not much for television in general.  Haven't had cable in 8 years.  Most of the time it's word of mouth or an interesting premise that steers me towards certain shows.  I try to keep up with the big ones Heroes, Lost, Boston Legal, etc but it's the little gems that I really love discovering.  Something off the beaten path with good writing, strong characters and unknowns showing off their talents.

Here's a couple of shows I want to share.

Masters of Horror - There hasn't been a good horror series since Tales from the Crypt or Tales from the Darkside.  Sometimes they just try too hard, like the Body Bags series, and other times they just fall flat.  This series isn't exactly Tales from the Crypt but its heart is in the right place.  Horror film directors mixed with horror film veterans, add a dash of assorted star cameos with sometimes unique plots and that's a nice summation of the series.  Not all of them are winners.  Takashi Miike's episode "Imprint" was over the top surreal torture porn, so bad it was banned from playing in the States.  Then you get episodes like "Chocolate" featuring Henry Thomas.  Not what one would consider standard horror fare, but if enjoyed without expectations is an amazing tale.  "Cigarette Burns" is one that just blows you away.  Udo Kier in anything is worth watching but throw in one half of the Boondock Saints as the lead and you have a twisted tale of evil in an unexpected form.  I've dived into some of the second season (George Wendt is friggin' amazing) but haven't finished it.  If anything watch it for one of the best intros around.

*also noteworthy and in the same genre* Stephen King's Kingdom Hospital

Moonlight - A vampire private detective in LA.  Ok, the premise sounds like crap.  It's also produced by the same guy that made Angel... another vampire series.  Even though it sounds like an emo WB teenie wanker series, its surprisingly good.  It takes a couple of episodes to find its legs, but once it does the characters really draw you in.  The main character Mick St. John is a relative unknown actor with a great onscreen presence.  The development isn't forced or two dimensional.  The mixing of flashbacks is used tastefully and especially well done when introducing his ex-wife.  The vampire best friend is also a great character that strangely reminds me of Cameron from Ferris Beuller's Day Off.  Not a super heavy drama like Forever Knight although the parallels are noticeable, but an enjoyable show that will hopefully blossom further if the writer's strike doesn't kill it.

*also noteworthy and in the same genre* Kindred: The Embraced

New Amsterdam - Immortals seem to be popular these days.  It's been a while since Highlander was on the tube so I guess it was only a matter of time.  There are only two episodes out but the writing has pulled me in.  There's a pseudo Mulder from X-Files quality about the main character.. maybe its the way he dresses or the slight monotone his voice sometimes takes.  Either way the story is unfolding nicely making me eager for more.  There are a couple of pitfalls waiting for them plot-wise if they're not careful like being in danger of wrapping itself up in one season.  I have my fingers crossed that they keep the momentum of the strong beginning going.

*also noteworthy and in the same genre* Forever Knight - It may be about vampires but the searching for humanity and ennui of centuries of existence permeate this one as well.

Incomplete Gems - These are series that were ahead of their time, riveting in plot, amazing in their scope but cut short before the full story could be told.

  • Twin Peaks - If you watch the first season and nothing else, it's perfect.  Self contained, still retaining its mystery and not as surreal as the second season.  If there had been a third season, the craziness from the end of the second season would have been resolved.  Kyle MacLachlan is at his finest in this one.
  • Carnivale - HBO has a habit of putting out series like no one else. Who knew a dustbowl era show about a traveling circus could be so dark, magical and epic in scale?  Clancy Brown is frightening in both presence and zealotry.  Nick Stahl shows some real depth and Clea Duvall does too.  A strange series filled with so much promise, but was also cut short after its second season.  One more would have wrapped it all up.
  • Kindred: The Embraced - Loosely based on the role playing game Vampire: The Masquerade this marked a return to the small screen by C. Thomas Howell.  It had some great potential and the lead male vampire was a sex symbol waiting to happen.  Alas the series was cut short.  Not by budgetary concerns or network suits but by the tragic death of  its lead character in a motorcycle accident in Europe.

Complete Cheese - I love them for being the Velveeta filled guilty pleasures that they are.  Sometimes these throw away series have better writing than expected, but usually are churned out by C class writer hacks.  They are great to watch late at night in the syndication hell they've been relegated to.

  • The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. - Bruce Campbell... need I say more?
  • The Lost World - The CGI is bad and a lot of the time the stories go WAY beyond suspension of disbelief.  They try to be legitimate by invoking Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's name in the credits, but its a sub-Hercules/Xena quality show.  The two female leads aren't bad to look at and the red headed scientist is a hoot.  Actually, now that I think about it, there are some striking similarities between Gilligan's Island and this show.  Two hot females, a kooky scientist making inventions out of whatever happens to be available (coconuts anyone?), all stuck in a place with little hope of escaping.  Add to that random guest star appearances by people that have no realistic way of being in the same situation and viola... Gilligan with badly rendered dinosaurs.

I know there are several other diamonds in the rough like Freaks & Geeks and Firefly, but I haven't seen them so can't provide any commentary.  If there are any that you've found and I've failed to mention please throw them my way.  I'll take great writing with intriguing characters over quick jerky takes and big budget effects any day.

1 comment:

Purplerex said...

Since you are in England and our television shows are generally much better let me point you in the right direction.

First off, if you want to see one of the funniest shows in the past ten years then look no further than "Peep Show" starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb.

here is a clip

Also you would want to also check out David and Robert's BAFTA winning "That Mitchell and Webb Look" sketch comedy show.

Peep Show is about to start Season 5 on channel 4 and TMAWL is about to start season 2 on the BBC.

You can watch both series on youtube for the most part, but I highly suggest getting both series on dvd.

Lastly, if you like science fiction I would highly suggest getting the groundbreaking BBC series "Blake's 7" on DVD. It pretty much kicks the ass of just about every other sci-fi series out there and makes the much touted new Battlestar Galactica look like the pos it is.