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Archive for the ‘TV on DVD Reviews’ Category

Fringe Season Two Review

Posted by television On October - 20 - 2010

Fringe Season Two
J.J. Abrams, Jeff Pinkner, J.H. Wyman and Bryan Burk (Executive Producers)
Warner Brother, 2009-2010.

By Miles Baker

A year ago, I reviewed the first season of Fringe. I got a review copy, and it’s polite to post them as quickly as possible, I burned through the first season in a few days, watching it whenever I could cram it in my schedule. It’s an intense but fun way to watch a show. And while I liked it, I’d concluded that Fringe was a well-executed show with no spark of creativity. When I broke it down into individual pieces the show was good, but something wasn’t coming together. With the second season of Fringe, the show remains well executed while finding the spark it was missing in the first season.

Part of that spark is the show’s mythology building rapidly and becoming more important episode-to-episode. There are still a lot of done-in-one mysteries in this season, but there are threads that keep the main narrative going. They find the right mix of episodic and epic, and it makes the show much more enjoyable. Read the rest of this entry »

Red Dwarf: Back to Earth reviewed

Posted by television On October - 30 - 2009

reddwarf_coverRed Dwarf: Return to Earth
Directed by Doug Naylor
BBC Video

By Miles Baker

As a movie…

Red Dwarf: Return to Earth will not thrill Red Dwarf fans.

As a DVD set…

Red Dwarf: Return to Earth will thrill Red Dwarf fans

As a newcomer to the series…

Start somewhere else.

I’m a causal fan of the Red Dwarf series. I’ve only watched a couple seasons but I can tell you that this isn’t the best the series has to offer. It’s not terrible by any means, and there are some extremely clever moments. The best parts of the show are when it enters the realm of the post-post-post modern, including jokes that involve the physical box art.

The story picks up a few years after the last series. Dave Lister, the last human in the universe, is stuck on the enormous mining ship, Red Dwarf, with his evolved cat, annoying hologram superior, and overly helpful and neurotic robot. In the tradition of the series, a low-budget romp ensues that mixes standard science fiction concepts with humour — a genre I love. Read the rest of this entry »

Fringe Season One Review

Posted by television On September - 21 - 2009

fringeFringe Season One
Created by J.J. Abrams, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci
Warner Brothers.

By Miles Baker

Never judge a show based on seeing five minutes of it. I did that with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and ended up regretting it eight years later. The same thing happened with Friday Night Lights, but the time period was shorter. With Fringe, I watched half a scene when the first episode aired thought, “well, that seems contrived” and left it that. After watching all 21 episodes of season one, I actually wasn’t all that wrong, but there is a lot of merit to this show.

When I break it down into individual elements, this is a good show: I like the genre, I like how it handles the genre, I like the characters, I like the gender mix, I like the use of humour. But when I add it all up there’s something missing — inspiration, or some spark of originality. Fringe is a competently executed show, but it has nothing you haven’t seen somewhere else, particularly X-Files. Read the rest of this entry »

Torchwood: Children of Earth Reviewed

Posted by television On August - 10 - 2009

US_Torch_S3_2dTorchwood: Children of Earth
Directed by Euros Lyn

By Miles Baker

If you were looking for a place to get into the Doctor Who revival this is the place. I had been looking for such a place for the last two years — I grew up in a house where Who was worshiped, even naming a cat after one of the Doctor’s assistants — without wanting to jump into what I heard were rocky starts for Who and Torchwood. Well, I sat down to watch an hour of this five-hour mini-series/season and ended up watching all five in a row. It’s a mesmerizing piece of television that’s accessible for Who fans and non-Who fans alike. Everyone I’ve talked to about it has been on board: it’s awesome, and you should watch it if you haven’t already.

This is science fiction with scope and bravery. It’s a huge, interesting, scary problem that leads to a tale of ghastly moral compromises — and there’s no way to look away from it. Read the rest of this entry »

Pushing Daises Season Two Review

Posted by television On August - 4 - 2009

1000094245BRDFLTBy Miles Baker

The facts were these: Miles Andrew Baker was 27 years, 1 month, 23 days old when he watched Pushing Daises for the first time. His parents had bought him the DVD box set for his birthday even though he had never seen the show before. Shortly after popping the present into the DVD player, young Miles exclaimed that his heart hurt. The DVD watcher was in love.

Eighteen weeks, three days later the DVD set of the second season arrived on his doorstep, a present from the good people at Warner Brothers, and Miles did a little dance.

An unbiased review was impossible; Miles knew this too well. So instead he tried to steal the voice of narrator Jim Dale into a review which became harder and harder with every sentence until he stopped at this very moment. Read the rest of this entry »

Quantum Leap: Season One

Posted by television On January - 14 - 2007

Universal Studios, 2004

By Rebecca Harrison

Posted January 14th, 2007

I recently read a book called How to Succeed with Women (shut up!) and one of the top tips for starting conversations was to carry around something peculiar. They suggested a large stuffed animal, which is cool, if you’re looking to meet 7-year-olds (and if you are, report to your nearest police station). My suggestion — and frankly, this will help you succeed with anyone — is to carry around a copy of any season of Quantum Leap.

Donald P. Bellisario’s classic show, which ran from 1989 to 1993, followed the time-traveling adventures of Dr. Sam Beckett and his holographic friend from the future, Al Calavicci. Though technically a science fiction show in premise, Quantum Leap tended to focus more on character growth and development, instead of resolving the question of who was leaping Sam or why the Quantum Leap project went wrong (the intent of the project was controlled time travel — not getting stuck in time). Instead, the show always focused tightly on the overarching theme that one person can change the world through positively affecting the lives of individuals.

One of the major keys to Quantum’s success is its genre-jumping (also cross-dressing). A combination of science fiction, comedy, drama, nostalgia, and social commentary, Quantum Leap is a television buffet with a little something for everyone. The meat and potatoes of the show, however, is the strong, almost familial bond between the two central characters. For a show that did not follow a strict episodic structure, Quantum Leap managed to cultivate a strong sense of character arcs and relationship development, with each leap revealing something new about Sam or Al, often strengthening the bond between the two men.

A rather optimistic show, each week, Sam was able to “right what had once gone wrong,” a sentiment with the potential to be saccharine. Luckily, the show was laced with a strong sense of melancholy. As much as Sam and Al enjoyed their work and doing good, the show’s opening highlighted its underlying sadness — that each week, Sam hoped the next leap would be the leap home. In fact, the most powerful episodes often involved a leap that somehow obliquely or directly touched upon a piece of personal history of either Sam or Al. My favourite episode, “The Leap Home,” is one of the few where Sam gets to connect to his past life, leaping into himself as a teenager. If I ever need a good cry, I just pop in “A Leap Home: Part II” and wait for the tears to flow.

Part of the magic of Quantum Leap is that, as dated as it is, it does not feel stale. The show is set in the future — which is now our rather distant past (1995) — but is an early 90s interpretation of the future, with flashy neon lights, holograms, silver suits, and hover cars. Putting aesthetic aside, the show was often ahead of its time, tackling issues that had not ever been tackled on television before. One episode dealt with gays in the military, a topical hot-button issue at the time, stirring up controversy and costing the show advertising dollars. The honest, tolerant manner in which Quantum Leap looked at the lives of the two leapers gave the show a resonance still relevant 13 years after the show was cancelled.

Even though it was early 90s hit, Quantum Leap has now gone on to achieve a cult-like status among those old enough to remember it. I brought my Quantum Leap: Season One DVD set to work about a week and a half ago to lend to a friend. As we sat around talking about favourite episodes we noticed that slowly, more and more people (from co-workers to managers) began to pass by and chime in on their own favourite Quantum Leap episode. With each person that passed, I heard another “Quantum Leap? Oh my God — I loved that show!”

So, you want to make a new friend or perhaps pick up? Do yourself a favour — go out and purchase a season of Quantum Leap! If you don’t have the same social success I have, you at least still have a damned good show. And that’s more than people who watch Two and a Half Men have.

Justice League Unlimited: Season 1 DVD

Posted by television On January - 14 - 2007

Warner Brothers Home Video, 2006

By Owen K. Craig

Series developers Bruce Timm and Paul Dini get comics. They understand what makes them work, they understand why superheroes appeal to people, and they understand what comics fans – both adult and child – are looking for. It can’t be easy developing a show aimed at both kids and adults, but Timm and Dini have repeatedly succeeded in finding that balance. Justice League Unlimited is no exception.

The original Justice League series ran for two seasons before the announcement that the show’s format was changing – the cast was expanded in order to allow for a wider selection of characters. DC Comics opened their vaults and told the producers to go nuts. Which is kind of like letting a fat German kid loose in a Lindt chocolate store. There are a few notable (and unfortunate) exceptions. I, for one, really wish a Blue Beetle/Booster Gold episode had been possible. Despite the expanded number of characters, the show still managed to balance a focus on the “big seven” seen in the first two seasons (that’s Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl and J’onn J’onzz for all you Marvel zombies out there), with characters that people may not be as familiar with. It’s a real plus for longtime DC fans to get to see characters like The Question or Green Arrow, and for the uninitiated maybe the show will introduce some new favourite characters.

Much like Batman: The Animated Series and the original Justice League series, watching this show as an adult is a bit of a mixed bag. The occasional episode is clearly aimed at younger audiences. An episode where the League is transformed into children springs to mind, as does a preachy and slightly patronizing episode about why war is bad. That being said, much more often than not the show really shines. The season’s first two discs are primarily one-off stories bouncing back and forth between comedic episodes (Booster Gold assigned to crowd control in “The Greatest Story Never Told” is a personal favourite), fairly tragic episodes, and the occasional horror story. The real payoff, however, comes in the second half of the season, when it becomes clear that the first half was all groundwork for a larger plotline being developed right under our noses. A word of warning, however: for full effect it’s necessary to have seen season two of Justice League. It’s an extra bonus if you’re at all familiar with Batman Beyond, since two episodes reference this series.

Whenever I try to recapture my childhood by re-watching a show aimed at kids, I find that the plots are thinner than I remember, the characters flatter, and the dialogue laughable — I’m looking at you, Ghostbusters. By comparison, Justice League Unlimited will still hold up when I’m old and gray. In between the shocking and often brutal action sequences, the show still manages to portray intense personal moments between the characters. The characters are fully fleshed out both as people and as icons, often exploring through them what it means to try and find a balance between being a hero and being a human being (a much bigger challenge for Superman). The show even raises tough questions in the second half of the season, such as “at what point to we stop being protectors and start being overlords?” Heavy stuff for a so-called kids’ show.Would I recommend this show to everyone? Certainly not. But if you’re one of those people who can’t hear John William’s Superman score without getting a smile on your face, or who can’t see the Bat-signal without feeling a tingle run down your spine; if you can’t hear “Flash” or “Green Lantern” without your head turning to try and find the source, then this show is for you.

How I Met Your Mother: Season 1 DVDs Reviewed

Posted by television On January - 14 - 2007

Fox Home Entertainment, 2006

By Owen K. Craig

The sitcom is dead. At least that was the buzz around the watercooler, and I bought into it as much as anyone else. Single-camera shows like Scrubs, The Office and the much-mourned Arrested Development have been dominating the airwaves (in terms of quality if not in viewership) leaving traditional, four-camera, laugh-track heavy sitcoms in the dust. With shows like these, it’s hard not to be wary anytime one hears the cringe-inducing sound of a studio audience. I was ready to drive the nail into the sitcom’s coffin and pledge to never again watch another. Boy was I wrong.

When creating How I Met Your Mother, Carter Bays and Craig Thomas were told they were crazy to use the sitcom style, but they insisted. It’s a gambit that pays off. The show sports a friendly, easily accessible style that welcomes in viewers and makes the characters relatable, especially when played by such likable actors. The framework of the show (and, in effect, the show’s gimic) features Ted Mosby in the year 2030 (voiced by Bob Saget) telling his children the story of how he met their mother (thus the title). This framework provides the narration for the bulk of the show, which takes place in the present. Here we meet the younger Ted (Josh Radnor), a man watching his best friends Marshall and Lily (Jason Segal and Alyson Hannigan) get engaged. Ted is sick of being single and is looking for something more serious when he meets his dream girl, Robin (Cobie Smulders).

The show works on many levels. As your typical 20-somethings in New York sitcom, the show could very well take the place of Friends (early, funny Friends. Not irritating, later-season Friends). However, I prefer to look at the show as an in-depth look at the various stages of commitment in relationships. We have the fuly-committed relationship with Marshall and Lily, we have Ted who is looking for a committed relationship but doesn’t know how to find one, and we have their friend Barney who is not interested in a relationship at all unless it’s purely physical.

Speaking of Barney, Neil “Doogie Howser” Patrick Harris plays him pitch perfectly and has created the breakout character of the show, most notably through his infinitely quotable catch-phrases (“Suit up”, “legendary”, “have you met Ted?”) It’s a character that must been seen to be believed. But he’s not alone — the entire cast shines in this show. Segal and Hannigan make a believable and adorable couple, so much so that we can understand why Ted is so desperate to find what they have. Smulders is a refreshing change from many of the girls seen in sitcoms: smart, sexy and strong without apology. However, it’s Radnor that holds the show together. While striving for romance, we get to see him trying it all. We see his ideas, good and bad. We see his gambles, some of which pay off and others that backfire. When he makes his speech about not wanting to be single anymore in the pilot episode it becomes a mandate for the series. One which we get to see play out over the course of the season.

While much has been said about the show embracing the sitcom style it’s important to note that the show transcends the basic setup/punchline formula of joke-telling that sitcoms are known for. Oh, there are still punchlines, but there are also crazy fantasy/flashback sequences that modern comedy shows have become known for. There are also moments of dry wit that seem to move beyond the laugh track. There are intimate character moments, there’s tragedy, and the show features some of the most romantic moments I’ve ever seen on television. Bays and Thomas may have taken a gamble by using the sitcom style, but they’re not letting their creation by confined by it. People said that making How I Met Your Mother into a sitcom would kill the show. They were wrong. The sitcom style didn’t wreck How I Met Your Mother — it may have saved the sitcom style.

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