Archive for the ‘Favorites’ Category

I like these shows.  So should you.

Louie (FX – Thursday 9:30 PM Central)

Back in 2006, Louis C.K. had an HBO comedy, Lucky Louie, that lasted 13 episodes.  It was in the traditional three camera sitcom format filmed in front of a live studio audience and it had a laugh track.  I’ve never seen it and I imagine Louis is okay with that.  It was a troubled production as Louis had a contentious relationship with the network.  I doubt he was terribly upset when it was cancelled.

A few years later he landed a new show on FX in which he had complete creative control.  And it’s one of the best shows on the air.  If you’re a fan of the comedian’s stand-up, you’ll already be inclined to like it.  Like Seinfeld, it mixes Louis’ bits in front of an audience with story.  Unlike the famed precursor, the situations tend to be less ridiculous and more dripping in brutal awkwardness and honesty.   It’s sometimes painful to watch but never less than entertaining.

The first two seasons are available on Netflix Instant and on DVD/Blu-ray.  The third season is currently running.

Longmire (A&E Sunday 9:00 PM Central)

Based on a series of novels by Robert Johnson, this is a young procedural that is steadily growing more comfortable with itself as it gets more episodes in the can.  Aussie actor Robert Taylor plays the titular lawman Walt Longmire, a Wyoming sherif trying to keep order in a county that is disturbingly becoming more volatile.  The weekly mysteries, usually centered around some unfortunate’s death, are typical of the genre but engaging enough to maintain your interest. 

I personally hope the show stretches its legs a bit and has the confidence to get away from the murder-of-the-week format from time to time.  There’s a lot of a great character actors in the show that they can do a lot with.  Taylor brings a world-weary stoicism to the recently widowed sherif.  There are some dark things in his past that have been alluded to in some vague flashbacks.  Lou Diamond Phillips plays a bar owner and Longmire’s best friend, an indian off the local reservation where the cops have a less than amicable relationship with the county authorities.  Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica fame plays Vic, a brassy deputy who brings her experience policing the mean streets of Philadelphia to the American west.  Her working relationship and friendship with Walt has been a highlight of the first few episodes.  Bailey Chase plays Branch Connaly, another deputy who feels that Walt’s getting a bit long in the tooth and has decided to run against him in the next election.  And oh yeah, Walt doesn’t know it yet but Branch is totally sleeping with Cady, a local attorney who happens to be Walt’s daughter.

The show is gorgeous to look at.  It’s filmed in New Mexico which serves as a worthy substitute for Wyoming.  And, as long as the show doesn’t forget to focus on all these fun characters, I’ll be watching.  Five episodes of the 10 episode first season have aired and can probably be caught on-demand from your local cable provider.  A&E has already ordered a second season.

Big Brother 14 (CBS  Sunday & Wednesday 7:00 PM, Thursday 8:00 PM)

I know, I know.  Believe me, I know.  Every year I tell myself I’m not going to watch this glorious train wreck of the very worst of human behavior.  And yet, I always do.  Can’t help myself.  The show began the same year as it’s far more famous and watched network sibling Survivor and has been struggling for respect ever since.  More than a decade later it’s still trying and still failing.  The premise is simple enough.  A bunch of wanna be movie stars (models, bartenders, fitness trainers, etc) get thrown together with some geeks and some random old people.  The producers stage challenges in which contestants can gain the power to nominate people for eviction.  Campaigning begins, alliances form, people lie to each other all within the confines of a tricked out house with no forms of communication to the outside world. 70 or so days later one victor emerges and I feel dirty for the next 10 months.  It all plays out in as close to real time as a show can get and it’s ridiculously addictive.

The new season begins on Thursday, July 12.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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I like these people. You should too.

Nick Offerman

Ron Swanson, as portrayed by Nick Offerman on NBC’s Parks and Recreation, is quite possibly the best character on network television today. This is no doubt partly due to stellar writing by a great staff. It is also due to the man who so embodies the character that you’re not sure where the actor ends and the part begins. Prior to landing the great role, Offerman made small guest appearances on various television shows and had minor roles in motion pictures. He need not worry about getting work these days, though. He’s hit it big with the type of character actors pray for. Ron Swanson is a constant source of some of the best lines in a stellar show. Internet memes rise because of his cynical, brutally honest character’s words and actions. Whether it’s the Ron Swanson Pyramid of Greatness, ‘Drunk Ron Swanson’ dancing on an infinite loop, or Offerman’s own video of building a canoe, there’s absolutely no reason not to love the man, the myth and his ever-growing legend. Nick Offerman is the best friend I don’t have.

Peter Dinklage

Peter Dinklage won a Best Supporting Actor Emmy for his portrayal of Tyrion Lannister in the first season of HBO’s Game of Thrones. I suspect strongly it won’t be his last. And if there’s any justice, he’ll have Oscars to go with them at some point. Dinklage first came to my attention as a lonely, little man who inherits an abandoned train station in 2003’s excellent The Station Agent. He solidified his utter coolness as the diminutive man who attends his closeted lover’s wake in both the original Death at a Funeral and its remake. Being a ‘little’ actor in Hollywood has traditionally been a thankless calling. And while Mr. Dinklage’s star is rising because of his acting as the wily imp, one gets the feeling he could read for any role he wanted and have a good shot of getting it. I look forward to seeing him starring in feature films for years to come. This man is a damn good actor. Period. He’s the best thing in a show that is quickly becoming one of my favorites and I will watch him in anything he’s in.

Roger Ebert

In the early 2000’s, famed movie reviewer Roger Ebert discovered he had thyroid cancer. He battled the cancer through many surgeries and treatment and ultimately lost most of his jaw and his voice. He’s recently had a prosthetic chin built to wear for TV appearances and a Scottish company, using recordings of his old reviews, developed a text-to-voice software program to give sound to his words. Roger does not shy from public appearances and I’m proud of him. I loved the old Siskel and Ebert movie review show. A Two Thumbs Up! review of a flick went a long way to determining if I would check out something I normally would not have. Ebert stands alone now after Siskel died many years ago. But his upward pointing thumb still holds power. Roger catches a lot of flak. He occasionally spoils big plot points in his reviews. He’s mostly dismissive of the horror genre. He’s sometimes comes off as a grumpy, old man. But the fact is that there are few people in the movie review game who have the breadth of knowledge or experience that he has. And if for no other reason than that, he will always have my respect.

I like these things. You should too.

The Dudley & Bob Morning Show (93.7 KLBJ FM Mon-Fri 6A-10A)

For 20 years, the premier duo of Austin radio have been bringing a healthy dose of morning reality to the FM dial. A buddy of mine listens to their cross the hall rivals claiming that he doesn’t like the bickering and bitching that comes with the guys but hell that’s half the damn reason I love them. But, there’s so many other reasons to listen.

Dale is borderline neurotic and moody, Bob can be petulant, and funnyman Matt Bearden consistently stirs the pot into a frothy state of excitement. Add in the perpetually defensive Daniel Gallo and the ever unpredictable Carissa Jaded, the freshest presence on radio in many a year, and you have a killer combo that Dale calls the best team he’s had in over a quarter century in Austin. And he’s right. Despite their frequent differences, you can tell the crew genuinely care for each other and would if not take a bullet for the other at least let it graze them.

Through numerous producers, associate producers, interns, and wacky sidekicks I’ve been hanging with the show since I moved to Austin in 2000. I was listening to them the day the towers fell and have shared every major world occurrence with them since. I see no reason to change that now.

Frozen Planet (Discovery Channel, Sundays 7PM)

The newest BBC documentary series from the team that brought us Planet Earth is absolutely beautiful in hi-def. It’s just getting started but I can already tell I’m gonna love it as much as I did its predecessor. This stuff is a joy to behold. It’s a rare treat to see, in the best possible format, things that you’ll almost certainly never get to see first hand. Check it out now on Discovery or wait for the Blu-Ray, but don’t miss it.

Y: The Last Man (DC Comics/Vertigo)

Back when I was working at the funny book store, this was my go to suggestion for anybody who was ‘looking for something good to read.’ It was my go to because it was the BEST thing to read.

In the summer of 2002, a plague of unknown origin wipes out everything with a Y chromosome save one clueless twentysomething and his pet monkey. The setup is remarkably easy but what follows is a fascinatingly complex study of the sociopolitical consequences of a world entirely run and populated by women. Beyond the global scale of the story is the personal tale of Yorick Brown and Ampersand, our heroes, as young Yorick tries everything he can to reach Australia and his lost girlfriend in the wake of the destruction of the worldwide infrastructure.

In turns funny, thrilling and tragic it has everything one would hope to find in the epic and personal story of the last man on Earth.

The first issue in September 2002 was the single best introduction to a comic series I’d ever read and I haven’t read a better first issue since. The series concluded in 2008 after 60 issues in bittersweet and perfect fashion. The entire series has since been collected in various formats and is available at finer comic stores everywhere. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I like this stuff.  You should too!

Soundtracks

I loves me some movies. I love great acting. A sharp, clever script. A beautifully composed camera shot. Directors who can draw out performances from their cast that no one imagined possible. There are so many elements that go into making a great movie. And one of those is a great score.

The importance of a great musical score in a film was first illustrated for me by John Williams’ collaborations with Spielberg, Lucas and Donner.  He created main title themes that will NEVER be forgotten. ET. Superman. Indy. Vader. The Jurassic Park T-Rex. You know them when you hear them.  In the early 90’s, I had the scores to Dances With Wolves and Last of the Mohicans on heavy rotation in my car CD player.  In fact, it was the latter that was in the player one of the three times a stereo was stolen from my vehicle.

Now, it doesn’t have to be a score by a composer like Mr. Williams or James Newton Howard who has done fine work on Chris Nolan’s Batman movies. Sometimes, the soundtrack can be a collection of songs by a singular artist, perhaps written for the film. Aimee Mann’s collection of songs for PT Anderson’s Magnolia comes to mind.

I don’t buy much popular music but of late I’ve been picking up some soundtracks. I took advantage of my President’s Day holiday to check out Cheapo Discs here in Austin. They have a great selection of used soundtracks and I was able to pick up the scores to Luc Besson’s The Big Blue and Korean monster movie The Host. I also picked up the classic Ennio Morricone score for The Mission and Peter Gabriel’s work for The Last Temptation of Christ. I’ve got some good listening ahead of me.

The Iron Sheik

A semi-retired professional wrestler who came to fame in the early 80s as the foreign villain to Hulk Hogan’s Real American hero. 

Quick wrestling history lesson: 

The Sheik was the WWF Champion who one month earlier had defeated the popular but doughy goody two-shoes Bob Backlund, holder of the title for the previous 6 years.  Vince McMahon had decided to put the belt on Hogan but couldn’t have two good guys face each other.  So, he built up the Sheik as a rabidly Anti-American Iranian zealot who would come to the ring waving the Iranian flag and incensing the hometown crowd.  This is known as building cheap heat.  Hogan had been groomed to become the face of the company and on a fateful January afternoon in Madison Square Garden, Hulkamania was born.  The Sheik went on the varying degrees of success in the WWF and other organizations while Hogan went on to become the face of professional wrestling in the 80’s and later the narcissistic, leathery old bastard who refuses to give up the ghost that he is today.

Now, The Iron Sheik makes the occasional nostalgic non-wrestling appearance on WWE programming and was inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame in 2005.  He is notorious for his vehement and vitriolic condemnation of Hulk Hogan, whom it would appear the man legitimately hates.  Now, he has a Twitter account.  And it is glorious.  He rants against the likes of former wrestlers Hogan, Tito Santana, Virgil and The Ultimate Warrior and current celebrities like Chris Brown and whatever sap is on The Bachelor.  He praises the beauty of Giselle Bundchen and Rhianna.  He threatens to perform something in the “old country way” upon those he deems inferior.  I don’t really know what the “old country way” is but I have strong suspicions as to what it may involve.  And, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to experience it.

Fair warning, The Sheikie is an equal opportunity offender but if you think you can handle it and you want a good chuckle, I highly recommend you follow him:  @the_ironsheik.

Nutella

It’s a chocolate hazelnut spread.  Says so right there on the container.  This delightful concoction was created in Italy in the early 60’s and eventually made its way overseas.  It can now be found in over 75 countries.  It’s good.  Seriously.  I would not lie.  Well, I would.  But not about food.  Never about food.  Yummy.

These Are A Few vol 1

Posted: February 9, 2012 in Favorites
Tags: , , ,

I like this stuff. You should too.

The New Girl

And not for the reason you might think. Yes, it does star Zooey Deschanel (if that is her real name) who is a total geek and hipster goddess. And yes she is terribly cute and precocious. That’s not the only reason to enjoy this show. The ensemble cast is quickly growing into one of the most solid in a crowded and otherwise played out genre. There’s only one other show on network television that makes me laugh out loud more than this one does and that just happens to be one of the best shows on all of television, Parks and Recreation. Do me a favor. If you haven’t already, try one episode. If you don’t like it, I’ll pay for your next cable bill.* I’m that confident you will.

TRUE CRIME

I’ve long had a fascination with the ‘True Crime’ genre of popular culture. A friend long ago and at far too tender of an age introduced me to a trashy little book called Bloodletters and Bad Men which recounted in great and sordid detail the terrible doings of terrible men (and the occasional woman.) It was where I was first introduced to the frightening history of Ed Gein, the man who inspired both Norman Bates and Leatherface. He was a real life Hannibal Lecter. I was pathological at one point about reading every possible thing I could about the Kennedy assassination. It was the one true crime tale that touched every American. I have followed with an almost personal interest in seeing justice prevail the tale of the Robin Hood 3 in the Paradise Lost series of documentaries. I mention this because, as a part of my renewed dedication to reading as often and as much as possible, I’m about to crack open The Monster of Florence: A True Story, the tale of how an American novelist and an Italian journalist become embroiled in the case of the most notorious serial killer in Italy’s history.

Cheerwine

I first discovered Cheerwine while I was doing some internet searching on so-called specialty sodas. It’s a regional soda, a subtle cherry in flavor,produced and bottled in the Carolinas. The description of the drink and the rave reviews that accompanied said description piqued my interest. I searched high and low in Austin and finally found it stocked in 4 packs at Spec’s. I chilled my first bottle in the freezer for about 30 minutes, twisted off the cap, and was introduced to pure heaven. Since that first miraculous 4 pack, Specs has resorted to selling only singles. And anytime I’m in Specs, I’ll buy everything they’ve got. Good luck finding it if you didn’t get there first. And if we get there at the same time, I will cut your ass.

As always, take the above with a grain of salt. Such things may not be to your taste. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Just that you have bad taste.

*I was lying about the cable bill. I’m so NOT gonna pay your cable.