Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Following up last night's post: Why your favorite show didn't make it and the best five supporting actors

So we stirred things up a little with our top 10 current TV shows. That was kind of the point. To answer a few questions: Yes, this list is fluid. A bad season could drop some of these, a good one could jump some forward. Copper is way up there because its first season was terrific. But it could easily fall off.

A lot of of our top shows have not had that huge body of work you have with Sons of Anarchy or Breaking Bad. Staying excellent for a long time is difficult. As we learned in the Dark Knight; you either die a hero or live long enough to become the villain. I see a lot of that in these shows.

I also think the networks struggle to keep up with the HBOs, FXs and AMCs, because they can be harder, grittier, more profane and thus more realistic. Networks have to pander more.

Some shows that didn't make the list besides Homeland: Dexter, Boardwalk Empire, American Horror Story, Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I ejected early on Dexter. I thought it was brilliant and clever when it first started, but I lost interest. A lot of people said it got better, but I can't include it because I no longer watch it. A lot of people I trust love it, but I don't watch it anymore and didn't include it.

Same with Empire. I have tried on multiple occasions, and some of the shows are terrific, but it just doesn't keep my interest. And I absolutely love mob-related content.

American Horror Story started off as one of the more entertaining and unique shows ever, but it became so predictable and just flat out terrible by the end of last year that it ruined the series. The writing went from terrific to simply asinine. I will not bother with the new one.

Sunny might be one of the funniest shows on TV, but like most comedies, it's really the same bit done differently each week. I love the show, but like a lot of these, maybe it has been around so long that it seems stale at times. I hope to live long enough to do this list again in five years once some of these have been around longer. I suspect it will look a lot different.

I have not yet watched the Americanized Sherlock, Elementary. It seems like it will suffer by comparison to its British counterpart but I will check it out at some point.

My all time favorite list in no order would include The Sopranos, Deadwood, and my current top three. A lot in that regard depends on how a series finally ends. Breaking Bad could get there depending on how it finishes. I try to look at available body of work when it comes to all time favorites.

I do think TV is stronger than it has ever been, and a lot of that has to do with AMC, HBO, FX, Showtime and channels like that diving in with both feet.

Finally, one list I wanted to include (but the post was already too long) was the five best supporting characters in these shows.

1) Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins), Justified. Not going to lie; I love this character. He is the perfect foil/friend with a love/hate/respect relationship for Raylan Givens. This might be the best pairing on TV. He doesn't appear as often as some of the others, but he is such a diverse, cleverly written character that he makes every episode he is in. Like all great characters, he has his successes and failures and responds to each the same way; with a new plan.

2) Alice Morgan (played by Ruth Wilson), Luther. A serial killer who is in love with Luther. She is absolutely brilliant, scary and delightfully deranged. Rumors out of England indicate a possible spin-off series, which would be worth seeing. Insane? Yes, but in a strange, sexy way.

3) Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), Breaking Bad. Like Walter White, he is frustrating at times, and there are episodes where you want to slap him. But he is such a great accessory for White, and Paul plays the role so perfectly that you want him on the screen more. Pinkman earned a well-earned Emmy for the role this year.

4) Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Walking Dead. The one character on the series you want to see live. Unlike most of them, he is made for this zombie world, but maintains a loyalty and integrity that is above the others. He might have been a simple redneck in the world before, but in this one he is a superior ally and is the one guy you want in your corner in a zombie fight. He isn't afraid to object to bad decisions, but once they are made, he is on your side. Reedus plays him perfectly; he always seems on the edge of going completely insane but manages it with a calm confidence that makes the character all the more appealing.

5) Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), Game of Thrones. This was a very tough call. But Snow gets it because he is one of the characters you want to see more and more of. He was one of my favorites in the book, but like most of the Game of Thrones story and cast, Harrington improves it and brings it to life on TV. Like most great characters, he is flawed, but he also has an honor than goes beyond most of the throne-chasing snakes around him. Brave, a little cocky, but also loyal and intelligent. He is trying to find his way in a cold, bleak world, and do it with some semblance of honor and grace. A well-conceived, adapted character who is made even better by fantastic acting.

The five that just missed the cut:  I also think Cersei Lannister (Lena Headley) from GOT is terrific. Others that belong in the discussion: Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) in Sherlock; Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk), Breaking Bad; Robert Morehouse (Kyle Schmid), Copper; and Roger Sterling (John Slattery) in Mad Men.

Remember, these are current, which leaves out terrific performances in Breaking Bad from Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) and Mike Ermantraut (Jonathan Banks) since they were...eliminated from the show. I honestly think both would have been top five last year.

So there you go. Thoughts?

Monday, October 22, 2012

The 10 best shows currently on television. Period. Without a doubt.

So we talk about this a lot on the show, and people are often asking for what I think are the best TV shows. The Blitz has steered a lot of people into some of these shows, and most people seem to enjoy them.
My criteria for great TV: Strong acting, great story lines, originality. Do I stay interested even after several seasons? Do I care what happens to the characters? Can I not wait for the next show/season?

I particularly like shows that surprise me; either in plot or quality of acting. Some shows are extremely popular, and are highly touted. I prefer shows that might not necessarily be popular, but accomplish all those things. Most of these are indeed popular, but maybe they aren't as well known.

So here are my top current TV shows, and some of the best/worst acting performances. Keep in mind these are just my opinion based on the criteria above:

1) Sherlock, BBC. It might not be fair to compare the BBC shows, because a "series" is three hour and a half long shows. It is probably more accurately a mini-series. Sherlock has had two seasons, so six episodes.  Having said that, this is the most incredible show I have ever seen. It is clever, snarky, and the acting is through the roof. Basically, it is a modern-day version of Sherlock Holmes. Each episode works independently, but as a collective whole they are incredible. The hardcore British accents make it tough to follow at times (hey, it is BBC), but it's funny, clever, and focuses on intelligent solutions to problems. The twists are far from predictable but completely realistic. If you haven't seen it, invest the time. You won't regret it.

2) Game of Thrones, HBO. Another where the acting and story lines are terrific. Each episode ends with a terrific cliff hanger. It's violent, funny, and the acting is superb. It follows along with the books, but is one of the few shows that actually improves upon the written word. There are a lot of characters and sometimes that is tough to follow, but eventually it all comes together. It will be interesting to see what happens next; the third book in George R. R. Martin's series might have been his best, and that will be the next season. If the show continues to improve upon the written word, next season will be off the charts. It's funny, dramatic, violent. Simply one of the best shows ever on TV.

3) Justified, FX. Another clever, well written show. It's a little more predictable than our top two, but what sets it apart is the acting. Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens might be the single best character on TV. Walton Goggins as Boyd Crowder is up there as well. The show is remarkably consistent and rarely has a bad episode. You can jump in almost anywhere on this one and get caught up later. A great, great show.

4) Luther, BBC. Another that doesn't have many episodes. You can get caught up on Netflix very quickly as there have only been two seasons. Luther is a policeman who has psychological issues but always seems to come through unscathed. It is a psychological thriller that is unique, brilliant, and unpredictable. Idris Elba is incredible in the lead role. Like Sherlock, sometimes the accent gets lost on Americans, but the story lines are so incredibly compelling, you simply can't walk away from this show. Ruth Wilson as Alice Morgan -- a serial killer/ally of Luther's -- is one of the best supporting characters in all of TV. This show is so ridiculously good, you will want to watch it over and over again.

5) The Walking Dead, AMC. Based on a series of graphic novels (OK, comic books), this zombie apocalypse thriller can be frustrating at times, but like Game of Thrones, the ending of each show usually makes it worth it. Had some issues with the writing midway through season 2, but hopefully that is worked out. So far season 3 has been very good in just two episodes. Might be too violent for some people, and at times it loses its humor, but for the most part, very strong.

6) Copper, BBC America. This period piece has had only one season, but all I can say is wow. If you like Gangs of New York, it is roughly the same time frame. The acting is terrific, and like the best BBC shows, it is more about outsmarting the bad guys. It centers on a police officer, who like most BBC characters is brilliant but flawed. Very good supporting cast as well. Worth checking out.

7) Sons of Anarchy, FX. This one has been around for a while, and the boys of Charming continue to be entertaining. This year's addition of Jimmy Smits to the cast was fantastic. Some of it is fairly unrealistic and there are times that you will lose your suspension of disbelief, but the show has held up well over time.

8) Breaking Bad. Walter White might be one of the most intriguing characters on TV, and Bryan Cranston is fantastic in that role. The show will end this summer, and it is probably time. When it is at its best, there are few shows better than this one. But at times it delves into the ridiculous (the end of Season 2's plane crash) and stalls with several nothing episodes in a row. But it usually bounces back with something huge. A very strong show.

9) Mad Men. Started off brilliantly, and Jon Hamm as Don Draper is one of the best characters on TV. But it drags at times, and the most recent season really fell off until the very end. It's possible this one has jumped the shark, but the show is still terrific when it is at its best. Not a ton of loveable, characters, however.

10) Hell on Wheels. This one is also very young, but sure has potential. Anson Mount is terrific as Cullen Bohannon. Unlike a lot of series, this one follows fewer storylines and has only a small amount of key characters. That really stands out. Another with strong potential.

One that didn't make my list is Homeland, which crushed at the Emmys. But the truth is, it started great, but became unwatchable at the very end. The drama fell apart, and the main characters became so unlikeable as to make the show brutal at the end when it should have been at its best. Will give it another chance at the start of season 2, but will be ready to eject on a moment's notice.


1) Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock. (Played by Benedict Cumberbatch). Cumberbatch is simply brilliant. His Sherlock is clever, funny, arrogant, maybe shows a touch of Asberger's. He's sexually ambiguous and flawed as a person, but irresistible at the same time. You root for him, you want him to figure things out, and you know he will. His almost unbeatable intellect is offset by his oddities. If you aren't blown away by this character, you don't like TV.

2) Raylan Givens, Justified (played by Timothy Olyphant). Olyphant is fantastic in almost everything. He made Deadwood, still one of the best TV series ever made. He is awesome in this. Easy to root for, the kind of guy you know will always win. Like the best heroes, he is flawed and easy to identify with. But he is also a   complete badass.

3) John Luther, Luther (played by Idris Elba). Elba's character is incredible. He carries the show, and you always wonder if he is about to completely lose it. But his insanity also helps him solve crimes. Elba carries this show, with some help from the equally brilliant Ruth Wilson. He deserved an Emmy in the U.S. (overrated Homeland won it) but politics prevented it. Only one more year on BBC, then a movie. But you won't see many better acting jobs.

4) Tyrion Lannister, Game of Thrones (played by Peter Dinklage). In the often dark, evil, erratic Game of Thrones, Dinklage's character is intelligent, funny, and a nice foil for the beautiful people. Lannister's self-effacing humor is portrayed brilliantly by Dinklage, improving the character upon what is in the book. Simply brilliant.

5) Daenarys Targaryen, Game of Thrones (played by Emilia Clarke). She grows up before our eyes over the two seasons, from a bartered wife to a true leader. Sexy, smart, a hint of innocence but also a very powerful leader. One of the most interesting female characters in all of TV.


1) Betty Francis  (January Jones), Mad Men. She is so incredibly unlikeable that there were several episodes I quit on because she was too much of a part of it. There is simply nothing appealing about this character and the show would have been much better if she had disappeared after the divorce.

2) Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies), The Walking Dead. Please kill her. Whiny, unattractive, a real detriment to the show. Every minute this character is on screen, I want to change the channel.

3) Skyler White (Anna Gunn), Breaking Bad. How many times have we wanted her to get caught in the middle of some nasty dispute and get whacked? Annoying, arrogant and completely unlikeable. One  of the few negatives to the show. (I hated her character in Deadwood, too. I think it;s just this particular actress. She simply isn't appealing in any way, shape or form.

4) Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), the Walking Dead. I don't want this to be all women and children, but this kid needs to go as well. And enough with that hat, kid. It's probably all his mother's fault, but we are ready for him to be gone.

5) Peter Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Mad Men. Campbell is supposed to be unlikeable. He is smarmy, a liar, and the kind of guy most of us would beat the crap out of in high school. He comes from money, is entitled, and acts every bit of it. As much as Kartheiser plays the character to a T, like Betty, he has outlived his usefulness. He is hard to like, and like Betty, you just want to change the channel when he is on.

So there you have it. What do you -- the viewers at home -- think?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Best trilogy? This one is easy

The Dark Knight Rises is officially bad ass.

Every now and then we get weird topics on the show that take off with a life of their own. On Monday, in an attempt to avoid endlessly talking Penn State, the topic of The Dark Knight Rises came up. It evolved into a discussion on the best trilogies in movie history. 

If you haven't seen the Dark Knight and are a fan of the first two movies, Rises is a must. It's a shame that the movie will be forever linked to the sick, pathetic lunatic in Colorado.

That aside, the movie itself is fantastic. Critics who ripped it simply don't like or get the genre. The movie is 2:45 minutes long, and felt half that. It also was a perfect end to the Dark Knight series.

So the conversation moved to best trilogies. There can be only three movies in the series, not more. Some were intended to be trilogies; others simply evolved that way.

Here are my favorites. Feel free to disagree and share your own:

1) The Dark Knight trilogy. Simply put, the best three comic book movies ever made. Each stands on its own and features terrific acting, great story lines and a perfect three-part series. (Not to mention, Anne Hathaway in leather). Christopher Nolan built a three-part masterpiece that will be tough to outdo. The best part is the protaganist and antagonists are all believable; there is no magic here, only characters who are tortured psychologically. Political undertones run underneath all three but never hit you over the head. Simply brilliant.

2) The Lord of the Rings trilogy. This was a clear No. 1 before Rises was released. All three movies are terrific, but it lacks the stand-alone performances of the Dark Knight, and as good as the acting is, there is no performance like Liam Neeson in Batman Begins and certainly not Heath Ledger in Dark Knight. Very strong and a clear No. 2, but Batman knocks it off the top of the list.

3) The Mad Max trilogy. This is old school, but the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max was subtle in its brilliance. Even with a young Mel Gibson being dubbed, the movies are fast paced, unique and wrap up the story. While Road Warrior is by far the best, the other two hold up well. Like Batman, all three stories stand alone. The good news is they are planning on remaking all three. With today's advances in technology, this ought to be interesting.

4) Star Wars, the original series. Some may dispute this because of the prequel trilogy, but the three Star Wars original movies were never supposed to be extended. I think the prequel should be treated as a different trilogy. If you disagree, toss this one out. It would rank higher if not for the silliness of the Ewoks in the final installment.

5) The Blade series. This was a tough one, but I do think the Blade series redefined vampire movies and made everything that happened since a hollow copy. (Yes, I am talking to you, Edward Cullen). Wesley Snipes was a complete badass, and Ryan Reynolds stole the show in the final installment.

If you don't accept Star Wars as a trilogy, then we would put The Godfather series in at No. 5. It should be higher, because 1 and 2 were two of the best movies ever made. But Godfather 3 is so awful it brings down the whole group. Sophia Coppola's awful performance and the emasculation of one of the great American characters in Michael Corleone, you could argue that 3 is one of the worst movies ever made.

And for the record, the Canadian votes for the Evil Dead trilogy.

What are some of your favorites?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Let's have a jam session

                                 Then and now....

Yeah, I know, I lied. I said I would post more. I've been dealing with writer's block and other projects for so long that I haven't written anything for this. I have also tried to become more of a twitter person (@fredfaour) and a lot of the things I would have posted here are going there. But I am over the block, writing like a fiend again and this blog is officially back, for good this time.

I got inspired to write this from a very cool conversation I had on twitter yesterday with some knowledgeable people. (They are all good twitter follows, by the way -- https://twitter.com/sportsmediaLMhttps://twitter.com/Rottweiller2000https://twitter.com/atxhobogrl#)

It started with a simple questions: Would the musicians of the 60s, 70s and 80s be better with today's technology? My honest response is no.

This is going to sound like the old man saying "everything was better in my day." I'm usually not like that. I think athletes are better now, TV shows are better now (Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, you get the idea). Technology is clearly better. But music is one place where I believe technology has stunted true musicianship.

Most of you know I am an old school 80s rock and roll fan, but I do like a lot of contemporary bands. So here is a simple question: How many great rock bands have emerged in the last 20 years, since technology developed to where we can punch a button and have a flawless drum beat. I think bands like Shinedown and Slipknot have potential, but are the truly great? Foo Fighters, perhaps? But even Dave Grohl now dates back more than 20 years. How many truly great musicians are out there that emerged after 1992?

There are a lot of lists out there. Let's start with Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. (I completely disagree, by the way) but the top 10 all date back as many as 50 years.

Avrev.com has a list of the top 100 bands of all time. The most recent member of the top 20 is Stone Temple Pilots at No. 13 -- and they were born over 20 years ago.

That's longer that a lot of you have been alive.

The greatest drummer? Neil Peart of Rush. He dates to the 70s. Greatest bassist? Geddy Lee? Flea? Bootsy Collins? All decades old. Robert Trujillo is terrific, but again he doesn't break the 20-year barrier.

Certainly music is subjective, but as a former musician, I have to say bands were better -- especially guitarists -- during my heyday growing up in the late 70s and 80s.

Really, since the grunge movement -- another that started over 20 years ago -- no truly great bands have yet emerged. Part of that I believe is because technology does not force people to become skilled musicians. Shortcuts are taken. My favorite guitarists -- Randy Rhodes, Eddie Van Halen, Eric Johnson, George Lynch, Yngvie Malmsteen, Slash -- are all from that era. But even guys like Vito Bratta (White Lion) who wouldn't make many top 10 lists is light years more talented than any guitarist that has emerged since the late 1980s.

The grunge movement eliminated lead guitar, which explains some of it. But I think technology is to blame. The same technology that made Rebecca Black a YouTube star.

Maybe I am just the venting old man who thinks everything was better in his day. It sucks getting old.

Friday, February 3, 2012

An attempt to expand the horizons

OK, as promised, trying to post more. This will be a slight de
parture from spider monkeys, midget strippers and evil clowns.
Photography has never been my strong suit. Everyone else in the family is damned good at it. I always figured leave it to the pros and just do what I do best. (Of course, if I ever figure that out, I will let you know. In the interim I will just continue the never ending quest to be mediocre at everything).

Anyway, here are some recent shots that I hope don't completely suck:

This is from our trip to Ontario. A lake in Napanee that was frozen over. (I don't see snow much).
This one I really like. It was in Oakville, Ontario.

This is back in the U.S.A on a camping trip to Huntsvillle State Park. This is sunset, obivously.

This is another shot of the lake, from my fishing spot. They weren't biting, but it was still a great day.
Finally, these guys got spooked by the shot and took off, but it made a nice photo:

Anyway, hopefully these weren't a complete waste of time.

You know you have issues when you can't sleep and the only thing on is Battlefield Earth -- and you watch it. Either I am a) old b) really old or c) just watch too many damned movies, since I have 20-plus movie channels and can't find anything to watch. This one is truly awful. The only other viable option was Smokey and the Bandit II, and who wants to jump in right smack dab in the middle of a trilogy?
If you haven't bought the book yet, please do. You can get it here. It is well worth the money.

Monday, January 16, 2012

A little courtesy appears to be too much to ask

As we celebrate MLK Day and ponder a message of peace and tolerance, it begs a look at what we have become as a society.

It's not a pretty look, either. If you are reading this, it's probably not about you. But you probably know people like this.

I don't know if I simply hadn't noticed these things before, or if people really have changed. I am leaning the latter.

And I think it's a shame. When did we get so selfish, so me oriented in our everyday lives? Whatever happened to common courtesy?

I'm talking to you, person behind me in the car who speeds up when they see me signal a lane change so they can cut me off.

And you, person speeding through a crowded parking lot while texting.

And of, you, really large overperfumed lady who insists on getting on the elevator before I get off.

Not to mention the person who won't hold the elevator door for you.

Or the one who lets a door slam in your face even when they know you are behind them.

When did it get to the point where we became so intolerant of other's beliefs, especially in our political process. Why is it if you say you are a Republican, you are branded a reactionary right-wing Fascist? If you are a Democrat, you are a "liberal" who is trying to ruin the country.

In truth, both sides get a lot right and a lot wrong. But there seems to be no middle ground anymore.

We live in a world where Internet trolls rip people at will with no repercussions. Where if you disagree or try to have a discussion you simply branded an idiot and ignored.

It's a damned shame.

I might be in the minority, but I still believe there are more good people in the world than bad. I still believe that not everyone is like that. But if you are one of those people, and you did take the time to read this, please take a second every now and then to think about how small actions can add up. That a little courtesy can go a long way. That it's OK to be nice to people on occasion. To realize that we actually share this planet with others.

None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. Hopefully we learn from them.

So the next time you get on your cell phone and put it on speaker in public, or carry on a conversation in a movie or assembly where the other people are trying to watch and listen, or cut in front of someone in line...Try a little courtesy instead.

It's really not so hard.