Sunday, 31 January 2010

Top 10 Lost Characters

Well the Lost premiere is in two days and I've decided to celebrate w hat is one of the greatest television shows ever by giving my personal list of the best episodes and the best characters. Because of the sheer amount of great characters on Lost, I decided to limit myself to only Series Regulars, so no Penny, Mikhail, Keamy, Rousseau, Charles Widmore, Eloise Hawking, Rose, Bernard or Arzt. So what I feel we're left with is a fairly definitive list of the best characters, which is oddly very male skewed. But that's mostly because the male characters are normally a lot better written, or in the case of Kate, get bogged down in a very boring love triangle and soap opera back story.

So let's delve into Lost's best Characters


Honourable Mentions

Charlie Pace
Charlie was probably seen by many people as one of the main characters in Season 1, especially considering that Dominic Monaghan was coming to the show fresh off the success of Lord of the Rings. If we could include the Season 1 and Season 3 Charlie only, then he would have probably made it into the top 10, but sadly the characterisation of Charlie in Season 2 drags the character down with a very boring addict storyline. Luckily Season 3 redeemed Charlie so much that when he died in the third season finale it resulted in what still remains the most touching and emotional death the show has produced (and of my favourite scenes from the show as a whole)

Richard Alpert
Richard Alpert is still a mystery but it's such a compelling mystery. For 3 Seasons we slowly found out more about Richard, he's been off island and hired Juliet, he seemingly doesn't age, he's worked for both Charles Widmore and Benjamin Linus, he was behind the murder of the Dharma Initiative and is one of the only people on the island who has interacted with Jacob. Season 6 is going to be a big season for Richard and I'm sure by the shows end he may have cracked my personal Top 10

Frank Lapidus
Probably the character who has appeared in the least episodes and is arguably one of the least pivotal, but damn is he awesome. In Season 4 he was the only one of the freighter characters who wasn't classed as a regular and yet he made such a great lasting impression. Effortlessly cool and a helicopter pilot, he got a great deal of laughs near the end of Season 4 and was the reason why the Oceanic 6 got off the island. But then it seemed his job was over. He appeared briefly at the start of Season 5 in flashbacks to the aftermath of Season 4 but then it seemed like he was gone forever. But then they got on Ajira 316 and possibly the coolest part of the episode was the reveal that Lapidus was the pilot and as he looked out at the passengers on his flight he uttered the immortal words "We're not going to Guam, are we?". Since then we saw bits and pieces of him landing a plane on a tiny island as well as playing a big part in the final reveal of the season. Being bumped up to a Series Regular means that we'll only get more of Lapidus' awesomeness in Season 6 and I couldn't be more happy for that.

10. Jack Shephard

Jack is the closest that Lost has to a main character. He was also supposed to be killed off at the end of the first episode, but because they didn't get a big name star (they originally wanted Michael Keaton) and it distressed the audience too much they decided to keep him around. Whilst Jack has had some of the best episodes centered around him, he's also had some of the worst which keeps him from climbing up the list any higher. If it hadn't been for the tattoo episode or the love triangle he would be a lot higher, based purely on episodes like 'Through the Looking Glass' and 'Man of Science, Man of Faith'. But I guess the fact that we've almost overdosed on Jack Shephard (he's had the most centric episodes and has appeared in the most episodes) means that he just doesn't feel like the strongest character that the show has to offer.

9. Mr. Eko

If Mr. Eko had been around for more than a Season then I'm sure that he would have been a lot higher. However because the actor who played him wanted to leave the show due to his parents dying whilst filming, so sadly Mr. Eko's was cut short and he was unceremoniously killed by the Smoke Monster in Season 3 and most of his story moved over to Desmond (presumably). But for Season 2 he was a triumph, he was quiet and stoic but also scary. He was the character who first met the Smoke Monster on screen and had one of the cooler flashback stories. He quickly became a fan favourite and was easily my favourite character through most of Season 2. If only he'd stuck around longer he would have only been even more fleshed out and could have quite easily have topped this list.

8. Sayid Jarrah

Sayid is an Iraqi soldier and also the shows resident badass. Of all the characters on the show he probably has the most "Crowning Moments of Awesome". From killing someone using a dishwasher to breaking someones legs using his thighs whilst in handcuffs. He's just awesome. Whilst he doesn't have the most interesting backstory, it still builds on a more emotional side to the character and adds even more to him when eventually he becomes morally compromised after the death of his love, Nadia. It's this that feeds him to work for Benjamin Linus in Season 4 as well as his attempted assassination of Benjamin Linus during the 1970s to prevent the events in the future from happening. It's this dark sided character, mixed with the more romantic side that make Sayid such an interesting character. Every time he thinks he's escaped his dark past as a torturer for the Republican Guard than he is dragged back into this life be it as a torturer or professional hitman. Last we saw of Sayid he was bleeding from a gunshot would to the chest, so let's just hope he survives into most of Season 6.

7. Juliet Burke

Juliet is the only female character on this list for good reason. Whilst when she was introduced in Season 3 she wasn't the most interesting, partly because of coming in during a storyline which just seemed to drag along for 6 weeks, she made up for it with 2 great flashback stories. Whilst her episode in Season 4 took away from the far more interesting Oceanic 6 storyline, she still made an impact in Season 4, but it was her relationship with Sawyer in Season 5 which pushed her over the top. Before hand she was just there to kind of act as a buffer between Jack and Kate, but once they were off island, she was left alone with Sawyer and the two started to show some great chemistry. It quickly became one of the shows better romances (similar to Charlie and Claire and Desmond and Penny) and is one of the better parts of Season 5. But of course Kate comes along to screw this up and by the end of the Season Juliet wants to forget everything and ends up bashing a nuclear device with a rock to reset the time-line. A strong but understandable reaction to Jack-Kate-Sawayer Love Triangle

6. Daniel Faraday
Daniel Faraday was the best character introduced in Season 4, mostly because he was mysterious, he was a tiny bit insane and seemed like he'd be able to give so answers. He did experiments with time which led us to find out that island time is different to off island time. He was able to explain the shows concept of time travel and for most of the early part of Season 5 when it came to the jumping in time. He was using Desmond as his constant and got some really cool scenes of him interacting with past versions of characters. He had an awesome part in Jughead and then his reappearance in the Variable seemingly cemented the fact that "What happened, happened" when he is ultimately murdered by his own mother. He may have been around for only two seasons, but he's had a massive impact on the show and with news that he'll be appearing in Season 6, I can't wait to see what answers and more story that he has to bring to the show.

5. James 'Sawyer' Ford

Whilst Sawyer is probably well liked within the non-hardcore members of the fanbase, he's also very popular within the hardcore fanbase. When the show started he was a bit of a jerk and was probably the least liked character on the show and it wasn't until the flashback episode where we found out that his mother had been conned by a man named 'Sawyer' which led to his father murdering his mother and committing suicide in front of him. What makes this story even more interesting is that the real 'Sawyer' (a man he has vowed to kill) turns out to be Locke's dad as well. It's a great backstory for the character and if that weren't enough, his on island persona is just as good. His long con in Season 2 was a great part of the story, his fights with Jack over leadership, nicknames, occasional comic relief episodes and relationship with Juliet are some of the lasting memories of the show. Plus Josh Holloway portrays him to tee, just watch Season 3 episode 'The Brig' to see some of the best acting that that the show has produced

4. Hugo 'Hurley' Reyes
Hurley for the most part is comic relief. Most of his episodes are often lighthearted and don't really stand up against the shows best. But Hurley is a stealth player. There's always something funny for him to say or react to. His reaction to Arzt blowing up in Season 1 is one of the funniest single moments in the entire show, plus he's inextricably linked to the Numbers which is only a plus. Whilst Hurley's centric episodes aren't great, he is used amazingly in other peoples peoples episodes which makes him such a strong part of the show. He may just be the shows most recognisable character, because everyone knows about the fat guy but really Hurley is so much more than that. Plus he saved the day once by running over the Others in the Dharma Van, in what was probably one of the shows best single scenes (but we'll talk about that more in my favourite episodes list)

3. Desmond Hume

Desmond is probably my overall favourite character on the show. He's got the story I love the most, the best romance, the best single episode that the show has produced and I love every second that he's on screen. Especially since he was introduced in my absolute favourite Lost scene ever. He gave us time travel, emotional grounding, Charles Widmore, the death of Charlie and so many great things about Lost. However he isn't the shows best character, there undoubtedly two characters better than him but Desmond is such a fan favourite that he's always top 5, no question. It's so hard to imagine the show without everyone's favourite Scottish "brother" and it's sad to see him not being a series regular for his last year, but he'll still be back occasionally, so I just hope he makes a big impact this year and gets the happy ending that his character has deserved from the beginning. But knowing the way good television works, that almost wouldn't seem fair...

2. Benjamin Linus
Introduced to the viewers as Henry Gale, we didn't know whether he was good or bad. All we knew was that he was a riveting character. Michael Emerson was originally only brought on for 3 episodes but he was received so well that his stay got extended, then he became a series regular in Season 3 and now he's one of the most important players on the show. Michael Emerson is perfect as Benjamin Linus, every scene is stunning and whenever he's on screen it's hard to take your eyes off of him. He's weaselly and cunning and has done so many bad deeds on the show but he's had such a tragic past. Blamed by his father for his mothers death then practically ignored by the leader of the island. All he wants is recognition and whilst his methods are dubious you can't help but feel sorry for him. Ultimately though, it seems inevitably that something bad is going to happen to him in Season 6 which is probably the only way that his character can leave the show, because he is the closest thing that we've had to a villain for three years.

1. John Locke
Undoubtedly the shows best creation is the character of John Locke. He's the shows most tragic and interesting character. He's been abused by his parents, by the island, by co-workers, lovers, friends, enemies and people he's never met. He was put in a wheelchair for four years after his dad (the same one who Sawyer wanted to murder) pushed him out of a window and ultimately regained the power of his legs on island, which seemed to enjoy taking them taking them away every so often, just because it could. He lost faith pushing the button for months, was shot in the stomach and left for dead, briefly became leader of the island until eventually he moved the island to save it, but not before losing the use of his legs again. On his quest to send everyone back, he was ignored and turned to suicide. Whilst he may have been talked out of it, he was then choked to death by Benjamin Linus and set up to look like a suicide. Then we're led to believe that when his body was brought back to the island he came back to life, but that's not the case. John Locke in fact died halfway through Season 5 and now the mysterious Man in Black has possessed his body. For such an interesting and tragic character it was the perfect way for him to go. Whilst Terry O'Quinn is still on the show, John Locke shall be missed even if he was essentially never anything more than a puppet from the very beginning of the show, he was a puppet who was never anything less than engrossing even during his lowest moments and when Lost is looked back upon in the years to come, will probably be seen as the single greatest achievement of the show. More so than the complex story, amazing writing and direction, Locke is the embodiment of Lost and no other character comes close to matching the impact that he has had.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Of Dollhouse Season 2

Well here we are, the end of Dollhouse. It also looks like this is the end of Joss Whedon's involvement with network television. Whilst we might get a cable show out of him, it seems more likely that we'll be getting a lot more internet content from him in the future. But before I launch into the review, it must be said that my Top 10 Lost Characters and Episodes will be up over the next two days. I may need to discuss some placements (there are a lot of characters and over 100 episodes to choose from).

But now we must go into mourning of Dollhouse... kind of.

Dollhouse was a show that never truly worked. I will say that a lot of the actors were superb, Enver Gjokaj was a revelation and an actor that needs a long and healthy career after this show. The very definition of a character actor, he just his body stance, accent and mannerism for each different character that he played. Then there were many single episodes of Dollhouse which were great. My personal favourites from Season 2 were 'Belonging', 'The Attic' and 'Getting Closer' and they definitely stand as some of my favourite episodes from last year, and maybe even this year. But ultimately, it never came together as a cohesive whole. All the elements were there for something truly great, I mean it's a Joss Whedon show, so obviously there's something there! But when you compare Dollhouse to something like Firefly there a lot of differences. Whilst Firefly was dicked around by Fox, it had an identity from the pilot and you could tell the cast meshed well together. On Dollhouse, the two leads feel miscast and the show suffers for it, whilst the story and the strength of supporting characters do buoy some of the problems, they sadly don't make up for them.

I'm not saying Dollhouse is a bad show though, I gave Season 1 a 7/10 and Season 2 was better, but sadly it's also incredibly flawed and whilst a string of later episodes, like in Season 1 do help make the show feel better, they sadly don't erase the missteps from existence. Like in Season 1, Season 2 of Dollhouse opened with a string of standalone episodes and whilst the first episode had some great moments between Dr. Saunders (Amy Acker) and Topher (Fran Kranz), the "Assignment of the week" wasn't really engrossing. The same can be said of the following two episodes, 'Instinct' (in which Echo becomes a crazy mother in what was easily the worst episode of the season) and 'Belle Chose' (which had a cool serial killer element but sadly just a shone a massive spotlight on Eliza Dushku's lack of range). But after this the season stepped into high gear.

We got the episode 'Belonging' early in the season (which I've already reviewed) which still stands as one of the best hours the show has put out and the show just keeps going in this fashion. We get a two part episode focusing on different Dollhouse's, featuring Summer Glau (Firefly, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Alexis Denisof (Angel), which was then fully rounded into a four part story arc. Sadly after a string of strong episodes, I felt episode 9 'Stop-Loss' was the weakest episode in the second half of the season, but then we got the incredible 'Attic' and 'Getting Closer'.

These were the two trippiest and twistiest episodes that Dollhouse has produced, 'The Attic was visually stunning and took us around the insides of various employees of the Dollhouse as well as setting up the final conflict of the season. This was quickly followed by 'Getting Closer' which took all of our safe assumptions and turned them on theirs heads by making probably the friendliest character into an insane Big Bad of the season of the entire show (a move which many believe didn't come to proper fruition in the following episode). Plus the normal Whedonism that whenever someone is truly happy, that has to be ended fairly quickly.

Finally the final two episodes were the wrap up which whilst too many didn't feel overly satisfying, I did feel they did their jobs admirably. Whilst episode 12 seemingly wasted the shows final use of Amy Acker, and the biggest twist was ultimately not so fleshed out but I still enjoyed the pay off that was given to many of the characters over the course of the show. Same can be said of 13, whilst it should have probably been longer due to the amount of plot that needed to be filled in, it still did it admirably.

The shows cancellation was a double edged sword. Whilst it meant that the writers knew it was ending so they could build towards a conclusion. This increase in momentum definitely helped the show as a whole because we got that terrific string of episodes. But sadly we also got too little time to tell the story in, both of the last episodes would have been better if their content had been fleshed out more (especially episode 12 where the first 10 minutes are spent recapping the end to episode 11).

Ultimately Season 2 was a great improvement over Season 1, but sadly it was still a mixed bag of a show. Some terrific episodes, writing and supporting characters don't make up for the miscast lead actors, subpar standalone episodes and a concept which from the beginning was flawed and tampered with. Whilst there are many single episode I loved a lot, they were always balanced out with something that didn't mesh completely. But in the end those great episodes are too good to ignore and luckily the show isn't horrendous, just flawed. I would recommend that people should watch Dollhouse, it did a lot right but a lot wrong. As long as you go in not expecting a perfect show, a lot of fun can be had. In the end however, I will await Joss Whedon's next project with baited breathe, especially if the Dollhouse experience is what leads him to start looking for creative freedom. Because we all want to see what he can come up with given complete control and little input from executives is surely going to help.

However we're here to talk about Dollhouse Season 2. I'm not sure I'll miss it the same I do other shows, partly because it feels like a complete run. Season 2 was good season of television, with enough great episodes to elevate that much higher. The fact that it has an endpoint is a definite plus but ultimately a lot of the show is still frustrating, but that shouldn't put potential watchers off from what is a very cool idea for a show with some superb performances (and some mixed) along with great episodes and writing (for the most part).


Sunday, 24 January 2010

Of Doctor Who - The End of Time

Well I promised it weeks ago so lets get rolling with my review of David Tennant's final episode(s) on Doctor Who. However whilst it was indeed David Tennant's last episode, it also worked out to be Russel T. Davies' as well. Luckily Davies realised it was David's last episode and so instead of managing to fuck up by doing an epic sci-fi story which he is incapable of writing, he went for his strong suit of a character driven story. Whilst I had some complaints with how the story was wrapped, the strong performances and emotional moments definitely made this one of the stronger finale episodes that Doctor Who has aired since it came back in 2005.

It would seem that Doctor Who finale's were getting progressively worse Series 1 and 2 were fantastic (apart from the ease with which the Daleks were defeated in Series 2). Series 3 managed to screw up by focusing on Martha, turning Tennant into Gollum and a very stupid "I believe in fairies" ending, luckily John Simm made up for this. But Series 4 is almost offensive. Whilst the build up episode "The Stolen Earth" is brilliant in it's build-up, dark and emotional moments as well as fan service. Sadly this all comes crashing down when Davies' was unable to create a satisfying moment for his characters, plots and worst of all, showed his incapability to kill of his characters. This might seem a little sore but I still feel if you promise "someone will die" you deliver. Having your brain wiped and unable to remember your life with the Doctor isn't a fate worse than death, you're with the people you love and still have decades left to live. Oh and the stupidity of spinning Daleks

So what sort of ending did Davies go for this time? Well oddly he almost went backwards in terms of how these episodes work. Normally the first half is a lot stronger. Just look at 'The Sound of Drums' and 'The Stolen Earth', both are two of the strongest episodes that Doctor Who has produced, but sadly the payoff doesn't meet the buildup. In 'The End of Time' this almost worked backwards. The first half was very choppy, cohesiveness and the only part that kept it together was the strength of the three main performances. It felt like we were being spread too thin, across too many stories rather than what should have been a very personal story just about the Doctor and his rival, the Master. However we got all sorts of almost tangential and odd stories. It was still decent but that first half definitely felt more about what was going on elsewhere apart from with David Tennant (whilst I thought John Simm was superb, it can be argued he was given a bit too much to do).

Well as by now we all know The Time Lords came back in the second half. However most of the episode was spent by them trying to get to earth. In fact most of the episode is spent creating as much distance between the different characters until the ultimate showdown which occurred about 40 minutes into the episode. The Doctor was on a spaceship, The Master had literally taken over the world and crafted it in his visage and The Time Lords were still in the time lock of the Time War. So we spent most of the episode building up to an epic conclusion, a war between the Time Lords and The End of Time.

Sadly the buildup was dissipated in about 10 minutes. It takes 40 minutes for The Time Lords to reach earth and 5 for them to be defeated. It's like the Daleks. They need to be used sparingly and if you want them to maintain some kind of fear, they need to be able to almost win but ultimately have victory taken away by the quick witted hero. But here The Time Lords show almost no strength. Nothing is damaged by The Time Lords arrival. We're told Earth's orbit will be knocked out place but The Doctor stops that very quickly. The closest we get to being scarred by the villains in this episode is The Master transforming the whole world into him. But even that is reversed within the first few seconds of The Time Lords arrival to show their strength. But The Doctor defeats them so quickly that you wonder how he had any trouble against The Master.

Ultimately the threat is destroyed by The Master doing something good by sacrificing himself (unless a future writer wants to bring him back) to defeat The Time Lords and send them back into the Time War. Following this is where the truly great portion of the episode lies.

Before this point the episode is decent. It isn't brilliant, plotting issues aside it's enjoyable. Again the performances are stellar. But it's about 50 minutes in that the episode turns round and does what Davies is talented at. Intimate character moments. One of my favourite episodes from Series 4 is 'Midnight'. It was written by Davies and almost all the action takes place on one set. There's very little CGI and it relies entirely on psychological horror and acting. It's great because it relies on strong characters and their interaction. There's nothing epic, just personal moments which is what I would have preferred David Tennant's last episode to be.

Luckily a good 20 minutes was this small scale intimate idea. First off the perfection of the reveal of what the 'He will knock four times' prophecy is. It wasn't the Master's heartbeat. First we get the Doctor celebrating victory and not having died but then Wilf knocks on the door of the radiation chamber. Just the look on David Tennant's face shows he realises and how upset he is. We all knew Wilf was there for a reason and ultimately he's the bringer of the Doctor's death. David Tennat and Bernard Cribbins act their socks off in the following scene. It's emotional and even though the Doctor contemplates leaving Wilf to die, you know he won't He needs to save people, even it's just one person. So he saves Wilf and ends up sentencing himself to death. It's a powerful moment and I really can't say enough about how perfectly David Tennat and Bernard Cribbins act it out. It's scenes like this that make me realise how much Matt Smith will have to live up to. Christopher Eccleston was great but David Tennant was transcendent. It's fitting he's the first Doctor to have his death be built up to, he was just that good.*

So what follows is an epilogue. It's much like Series 2 where we spent time afterwards just to say goodbye to Rose and family. But this time we were saying goodbye to everyone. Mickey and Martha, now married and fighting aliens. Sarah Jane still having adventures with her son, Luke. Captain Jack looking around space for what he lost during the last Series of Torchwood but also getting a new beau in the form of Alonso from 'Voyage of the Damned'. We find Donna on her wedding day where we say goodbye to Wilf and he gifts her a (presumably winning) lottery ticket. Then finally Rose Tyler. She might be in the alternate reality with the Other Doctor but we find her about 4 months before she boards the TARDIS for the first time. It was a great little cyclical moment ending RTD run on the series saying goodbye to all the characters he created.

Again David Tennant is just superb but of course we need to say goodbye once and for all, so we get the regeneration. Those last few seconds where he says he doesn't want to go, the exploding TARDIS in space. It's a truly emotional goodbye to someone who has just owned his character for the 4 years he's portrayed him. But that's the nature of Doctor Who. A truly revolving cast and new writers. So now we get to see where Mr. Moffat is going to take us in a couple of months.

So in conclusion whilst I wasn't a fan of Mr. Davies attempt at doing an epic sci-fi story it was still buoyed by great performances by David Tennant, John Simm, Bernard Cribbins and Timothy Dalton (if only he'd been used more). Luckily the last 20 minutes more than make up for all my problems. It was still a satisfying story with some great performances and emotional goodbyes. Really this episode was all about David Tennant saying goodbye and that was done in spades. If the rest of the episode had been as good as his performance this would have been an easy 10. Sadly it wasn't so 'The End of Time' ends up with an


*However next time I wouldn't mind if it was a total surprise. Have Matt Smith die in the middle of a series or something. Make sure it doesn't leak to The Sun or leak so much crap that it comes as a real mind fuck. Don't do it in the next two series though. Just do something to shock the audience and take us back to classic Who stories. I wanted Doctor Who to surprise me now and if any writer can do that it'll be Stephen Moffat.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Favourite TV Shows 2009 - Episodes

Well we are at the end of 2009 in television. I know this is a bit late but I've been busy or lazy, but it's here. I aim to post two other posts this week, a review of The End of Time and Daybreakers, so I'm going to build up my blog count. Finally I won't do anything till late January/early February where I'll be going Lost centric with my top 10 episodes and 10 characters. It's going to be fun! (I'm also toying with the idea of doing individual episode reviews for each episode of Lost, but because it'll be going on until exams, I'm not sure that that will happen)

But here we go, my favourite episodes of television from the preceding 12 months, in alphabetical order.

Breaking Bad - Peekaboo
Ironically, this might actually be my favourite episode of television from last year and I get to write about it first. Well for starters it's Breaking Bad, and if you don't watch then something is clearly wrong with you. 'Peekaboo' might not the best example of what an episode of Breaking Bad is but it's one that got to me the most. For starters this is not Bryan Cranston's episode but Aaron Paul's (Jesse). Jesse is sent to get some money back from drug addicts armed with a gun he's never fired before. When he gets to their shack he finds a small child and what follows is on the of the most heartbreaking hours of television I've ever seen. Plus then of course there's that scene with the ATM Machine (similar to the bed+drugs scene later on in the season)

Chuck - Chuck Versus The Colonel/The Ring
Whilst technically not a two parter, it definitely felt like it with the events of one episode directly setting up the next. What we got were two of the most satisfying hours that Chuck has produced. Whilst I don't think they were as brilliant as the Chuck Versus Santa Claus, they made up a brilliant finale. There were twists, deaths and of course plenty of awesome music and action scenes. Oh and Jeffster, and Jeffster make anything about 500% more awesome (and that's a fact)

Dexter - Hungry Man

Ahhh Thanksgiving, that American holiday which we do not get in the UK, what would the Morgan's be doing for Thanksgiving I wonder? Well considering Dexter is a serial killer it wasn't going to be without some blood shed. Of course there were the events going on in the Morgan household, the affair, the breakthroughs in Lundy's shooting. But we were all there to see John Lithgow own the room as Trinity. There's the scene where he breaks his sons fingers which is absolutely brutal, but of course we have Michael C. Hall wrapping a belt around his neck dragging him to the kitchen and telling him he should have killed him when he had the chance. All in all it made for a near perfect episode of Dexter.

Dollhouse - Epitaph One
Dollhouse Season 1 had its ups and down. It definitely picked up towards the end but sadly the best episode didn't air on television. Instead 'Epitaph One' was kept for the DVD. Whilst episodes like 'Belonging' and 'The Attic' were great in Season 2, 'Epitaph One' was the first true taste of what the show could be and the main cast barely featured. Set 10 years in the future, with very little exposition, all we know is that technology is bad and the world is ripping itself apart. It makes for a riveting episode of television and whilst later episodes through some events into doubt, it doesn't take away any of the effect that is left upon the viewer with this brief and oh so brilliant look at what Dollhouse could have become if it weren't for network meddling, higher ratings and a better lead actress.

Lost - The Incident
It's a Lost season finale. There was action, romance, heartbreak, time travel and deaths. Plus of course mind blowing twists (the reveal of what was in the luggage trunk) and we followed Jacob around for two hours, the mysterious patriarch of the island. I'm keeping this one short because Lost ends in a few months and I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say about the show in the near future.

Glee - Sectionals
Probably the most feel good episode of any television last year. It could have wrapped up the first Season of Glee and it would still be as good. Stories came to an end and we got some great conclusions as well as hints for potential future stories. We find out if the Glee club make it to regionals (hint they do) and of course Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) is her normal evil brilliance. The show is still airing in the UK but suffice to say, Sectionals was the perfect wrap up for the shows first 13 episodes and I can't wait for the back 9 to come in April.

Mad Men - The Gypsy and the Hobo
I could have chosen pretty much any episode of Mad Men, 'Guy Walks Into An Advertising Agency' for the punchline to that joke (it involves a lawnmower) but I chose 'The Gypsy and the Hobo' for the scene where Betty confronts Don on his past. It's the moment that's been 3 Seasons in the making and it was just as good as we thought it was going to be. It was the start of the end of their marriage and you know what made the scene so tense between Betty and Don? Knowing that he had his kids teacher in the car outside who could come and make what was already a bad situation even worse. Master class entertainment.

Mad Men - Shut the Door. Have a Seat.

I did say I could chose any episode of Mad Men, so I chose two. The finale of Season 3 was perfect. From top to bottom, nothing was wrong with it. It paid of entire seasons worth of stories and was just an overall very fun hour of television. It wasn't as bleak as other episodes of Mad Men, instead we got a classic caper of building together a team of experts. From the witty dialogue (which at many points is downright hilarious) and playing with audience expectations (for a second you actually think they might call Sal). Mad Men is the best show on television for a reason, and this episode is the perfect example of that.

Parks and Recreation - Ron and Tammy

Not much has to be said about this episode other than it's absolutely hilarious. Ron Freaking Swanson is the man and any episode that focuses on him is bound to just be full of laughs. Honestly all I'm going to say is if you haven't seen this episode take a break from this and do so, no context is needed and it's only 20 minutes long. You just need to experience the awesomeness that is Ron Swanson and why he is quickly become one of my favourite comedy characters.

Party Down - Sin Say Shun Awards After Party
It's from the people that gave us Veronica Mars so you know it's going to be good. Whilst this episode seems quite a random one to choose I just remember laughing so much during it (perhaps revealing myself to have an extremely dirty mind). It's set after porn awards so of course everything is shaped like a penis. But there are also boobs! And the normal awkward hilarity from our Party Down crew. Ron's invitation to the porn industry and his massive penis (which just ends so badly and hilariously), Roman refusing to take dating advice Kyle trying to be so dirty and perveted that even porn stars run away and of course the woman who has people cum up her nose. Probably the most underrated comedy on TV at the moment (Season 2 beings April 23rd by the way)

Scrubs - My Finale

I felt My Finale was the perfect way to end Scrubs, whilst the jokes weren't always hitting, it spent time with the characters we know and love and said goodbye to them in such a meaningful way. JD and Turk acting like idiots with Eagle, the Janitor's name being resolved and Kelso finally leaving the hospital after being there ever since he was forced into retirement. But of course the big goodbye was to JD, he finally got that hug and acceptance from Dr. Cox, and that led us the perfect last 10 minutes. The walk through the hallway, the movie screen flashforward and then the quiet goodbye to a janitor (show creator Bill Lawrence) whilst an acoustic version of 'Superman' played in the background. Yes, I was in tears, so what?

Supernatural - On The Head Of A Pin
I had a tough time coming up with the perfect episode of Supernatural but ultimately I chose this one. Firstly it was just a superb episode, Alastair was a brilliant villain and got plenty of awesome moments. And we got great performances out of both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki. But I also chose it because it was written by Ben Edlund who has the incredible talent of being able to write many of the quirky funny episodes but also the best dramatic serious ones. This episode came with plenty of great reveals and shocking twists, so gets on as the best episode that Supernatural aired in 2009 (close 2nd goes to 'Changing Channels'

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles - Born to Run

The show may not have ended where it was supposed to but it ended perfectly. Whilst we'll never know what happens next, it still feels almost complete and I'm able to let go. Whilst earlier episodes in 2009 suffered from being to centric on Sarah Connor, this episode utilised the entire cast. I was still reeling by the scarily realistic death of Derek the week before (I was still sure it was a dream sequence) but 'Born to Run' still took us so many different places. Garret Dillahunt was, as always, brilliant (he's the one Deadwood star I'd kill to see on Lost this year) and the story took us to more thoughtful places than other Terminator movies have taken us whilst still providing us with action. But of course this is here for those last few minutes and the mindfuckery that went with it (time travel will do that to you).

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Favourite TV Shows 2009 - Top 10

I know I've put the title top 10 up in the title, but it's actually a top 11, so already I'm lying, also apologies for not getting this up sooner but a mixture of snow (and not actually being too ill this year to take advantage of it) and jumping back into school right in the middle of mocks means that I'm really quite busy. I'll have more time come summer once exams and the television season are over, but really this being done quite disjointedly whenever I have a free moment and I'm not trying to maintain a social life and my education. Not easy to say the least.

But here we go, my favourite shows of 2009.

11. Scrubs
Scrubs hit its eighth season (and technically ninth) this year, and whilst the past few seasons had been disappointing, it’s hard to say that Season 8 wasn’t an overall success. Whilst some people began to experience ‘show fatigue’, overall this eighth season was a huge return to form. Gone was the cartoony buffoon that JD had become over the preceding few seasons. Also gone were the over long fantasy sequences that had plagued the past few season. Overall, Season 8 was just back to basics Scrubs which is what we wanted all along. With one of the best episodes that Scrubs has ever made in the form of ‘My Last Words’ and a perfect finale, Scrubs Season 8 was an absolute winner, even if it did come a couple of years too late.

10. Glee
People who know might have expected to see this one a bit higher, and whilst I do deeply love Glee, it's only had 13 episodes and there were better shows from 2009. Glee is kind of the spawn of High School Musical and Freaks & Geeks. It definitely errs more towards Freaks & Geeks which is definitely a positive, considering how well regarded those 18 episodes of F&G are. Glee takes popular and show tunes and then has them be covered by the outcasts of the Glee club. It sounds like a crap idea for a show, but a mixture of the talent and it being really quite cynical about high school life make it great. Jane Lynch is superb as Sue Sylvester, one of the best comedy characters produced this year (along with Ron 'freaking' Swanson) and the rest of the cast are just as enjoyable. The show might sound like a real hard sell but overall it just works, the songs are well done, the cast is great and it just exudes happiness. It might be camp as fuck, but I love Glee and cannot wait to see what's coming in the back 9 (with an episode directed by Joss Whedon!!!)

9. True Blood
The best vampire fiction to be debuted in the post Twilight fervor. It's more adult, funnier, sexier and more enjoyable. More events are crammed into one hour of True Blood than almost any other show on television. Whilst it's easy to say that True Blood is shit, that's mostly from people who can't see the camp and humourous side to the show. You're supposed to realise that none of this is supposed to be taken seriously. There are so many great moments within True Blood that can make you laugh or even occasionally cry. There are some great characters and the plot just moves at such an unbelievable pace. Whilst the show does occasionally slip up (look at the long and protracted Maenad arc in Season 2) pound for pound, it offers the most content and enjoyability a week for each episode.

8. Parks and Recreation
Easily the best show to debut in 2009, Parks and Recreation started out slow. However like the US Office, it quickly found it's feet and when it came back for its second season it was firing on all cylinders. The characters were meshing and the writing was tighter. Everything was just working now and what went from one more tepid shows from earlier on in the year has become one of my absolute favourites. It's easily the best out of NBC's Thursday Night comedy lineup (far better than Community which flits between good and bad episodes) and one I want to see survive for a while. Hopefully it won't become like The Office where it just seems to run out of ideas, but when you have a scene stealing character as Ron 'Freaking' Swanson, I don't really mind how long it stays on the air, just so long as it maintains it's current quality.

7. How I Met Your Mother
Still my favourite overall comedy on television. Mostly because of some incredibly inventive writing and Neil Patrick Harris' portrayal of Barney Stinson. It's not the most critically acclaimed comedy on television but for me, in terms of laughs, I will get a couple of good laughs an episode and that's honestly all I really want from a comedy. We're barreling into How I Met Your Mother episode 100 tomorrow and I can't wait to see what the show does to celebrate it's longevity. HIMYM is probably the best example of a classic sitcom still on television, especially compared to the other awful examples that still exist (apart from BBT). I don't really care if we never find out who the mother is, the show is always funnier when not focusing on that story and again, it's really only the humour that matters.

6. Dexter
Dexter came back for Season 4 far stronger than it left us at the end of Season 3. Whilst Season 3 wasn't bad, it certainly wasn't as good as Season 1 or 2. It moved at a far slower pace and whilst Michael C. Hall was fantastic, as well as the stellar performance from Jimmy Smitts, they were still the two main pulls. Luckily Season 4 not only had the stellar performance of Michael C. Hall and John Lithgow, the story was a lot more exciting and delivered some terrific twists (seriously that last scene was such a curveball and just changes how the show will be next season). I can't wait for Season 5 now with such a changed landscape. My only wish is that an end date gets announced because the concept of the show is one that begs for an endpoint, we can't keep following everyone's favourite serial killer for 6 years and not have any kind conclusion. So whilst I'm sure Season 5 will be just as good, the show needs to end within the next year or two if it wants to go out on top.

5. Supernatural
I started the year watching Supernatural Season thinking it was decent yet seriously flawed show. After a couple of months break and I kept seeing good things about the show. So I decided to get over my trepidation and watch Season 2, which blew my mind. It was such a solid season of television that perfected pretty much everything that was wrong with Season 1. It was the strength of this season that led me to watch all of Season 3 and 4 before Season 5 premiered. It was such a fun ride and whilst Season 3 has sooo many flaws it doesn't harm the overall feel of the show at all. Supernatural is just a great show from start to finish. It mixes standalone and mythology based episodes with such precision that it always feel like the show is continuing and now we're actually moving into the final 12 episodes of a story 5 years in the making. I couldn't be more excited to see Eric Kripke is taking us on the final stretch of episodes. The show is a superb mixture of humour and drama and the supernatural that just make it winner overall and also a sucess story when it comes to networks messing with their writers story in the fact that they promised a five year story and that's what we're getting (even if the show is renewed this year).

4. Chuck
Chuck is just fun, a hell of a lot of fun. I can't believe that last year I only ranked the show at 11. Chuck didn't really improve in 2009, it stayed true to what it was but somehow it just clicked and became one of the shows that I'd just want to watch over and over again. Season 2 was an amazing season of television and I'm so glad that we're getting a third season (which starts tonight). Chuck just wins on so many levels. It's abashedly geeky with so many film and game references, it has quite possibly the best guest cast on television with it being almost guaranteed that anybody in a one time guest role or even a recurring arc will be incredible and the fact that it has one of the best soundtracks on television. The show is never anything less than it what it aims for and it does so perfectly. The entire is cast is great and there are so many great moments throughout the season (JEFFSTER!!!). Chuck is action packed and hilarious and a show that wouldn't give up for anything, whilst my other favourite new show from 2007 might have died, I'm glad that Chuck is sticking around to give me one of the most pure fun hours of television that I can find each week.

3. Lost
Last year Lost was number 3 because there were 2 better shows. This year, Lost is number 3 because not only were there 2 better shows, but also Lost didn't actually have an amazing year in Season 5. Not that the show wasn't brilliant, Season 5 was still fantastic, it just wasn't as good as it has been in Season 3 or 4. Whilst we're still barreling along at an impressive pace. The show was setting up all the pieces for Season 6. We got the normal fantastic acting, great twists and great writing but overall it just seemed the show was hitting the normal stratospheric heights that it hit in Season 4 with episodes like 'The Constant'. Luckily when it comes to Lost, even an episode that can only be labeled 'good', it's just better than 95% of everything else on television. The show is going to have an incredible sixth season, I'm sure, and since it is one of my favourite shows ever, I'm sure it'll top my list next year. But before we move onto Season 6, let's focus on some great moments from Season 5. Episodes such as 'The Life and Death of Jeremy Bentham', 'Dead is Dead' and 'The Variable' were all superb. And there was the finale, which I'll talk about in my next blog post based on top episodes.

2. Breaking Bad
If it hadn't been for the number 1 show, this would have been there with a bullet. But I think we all know what number 1 is. Breaking Bad is another show I regret putting so low last year (number 10? what on earth was thinking), it's just a phenomenal show. Everything about it just drips quality. The writing is darkly funny and the acting is incredible. Bryan Cranston is a revelation but in Season 2, Aaron Paul really stepped up the game and was going head to head with Cranston in so many scenes and just elevated the season above pretty much everything on television. The frequent foreshadowing used during the beginning of episodes, incredible set up as well as some genuinely disturbing scenes scattered throughout the season, really made it stick out in my head. When a show has only aired 20 episodes and already people can be asking whether or not it's deserving to be on not just end of the year lists but end of decade lists, you know you have a winner. Season 3 starts in March, which still feels so very long away.

1. Mad Men
Mad Men is the best show on television at the moment. No other show is anywhere near as good. At all. Lost on the whole might be and Breaking Bad is close, but Mad Men is just transcendent. Like The Wire it just feels like a perfect whole. Everything comes together in such a satisfying way. The performances, the writing, the set decoration and costumes. It might be a slow burn but when it gets to the end it just feels like so much has happened. The way show mixes in real life events over the top of the characters lives just seems amazing know what I go into a massive long stream of hyperbole of what makes this show work. Essays can be written about it's tone and style, analysing the characters motives. But all you really need to know is that, yes it's as superb as you've heard and if you're not watching it you should be. It's one of the greatest televisions shows ever produced and should be seen a lot more outside of those people who actually take critics opinions seriously (they like stuff you've never heard of for a reason, it's just better than the shit you watch).

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Favourite TV Shows 2009 - Honourable Mentions

Here we go with my third annual list of the best television shows of the year. 2009 was a brilliant year for television and whilst once again the list will be made up entirely American shows, I would like to give special mention to Gavin and Stacey for just being an immensely enjoyable show and along with Outnumbered being one of the better British sitcoms to come about in years. Think of this as being an Honourable Mention for the Honourable Mentions. That being said, I now bring you the honourable mentions.

Honourable Mentions


Joss Whedon's new show isn't as fully formed as Firefly was when it came about, and Eliza Dushku isn't the best lead actress in the world, and yes, when the show is bad it's damn near awful. But when it's brilliant it can stand up with the best of them. Not every episode of Dollhouse is a winner but the ones that are such as 'Belonging', 'Briar Rose' and 'Epitaph One' are some of the best hours of television you'll come across from 2009. Sadly we had to sit through some real clunkers to get to the gems and now with the show hurtling along for it's final three episodes, I really want to find out where Joss Whedon would have gone with this great but seriously flawed show.

Modern Family
One of the shows I seriously considered putting on the list. Whilst Modern Family came out of the new season as the clear winner of the best shows, I picked another show to be representative. But Modern Family is superb. It's not quite as cartoony and brilliant as Arrested Development but it's kind of a safe funny family comedy, in the same way that Gavin and Stacey is. It doesn't have the same kind of story, but the ideas behind it being about family and a large expanse of very different people from different cultures whilst still being hilarious make Modern Family a clear winner and a show which will probably go from strength to strength in the coming months/years.

Party Down
It's the new show from Veronica Mars creator, Rob Thomas and it's absolutely hilarious. It's very sarcastic, dark but it's just so damn good. Following a group of unemployed actors working for a careering firm, we get not only an inside look at Hollywood but also some truly insane characters. Along with Chuck, probably my favourite show for guest casting and not only for the stars from Veronica Mars but actors such as JK Simmons, Breckin Meyer and Ken Jeong. Also Kristen Bell has guest starred and will guest star again in the coming season, so honestly if that isn't reason enough to watch I don't know what is.

Pushing Daisies
Only three new episodes of Pushing Daisies aired in 2009 but it's one of my favourite shows ever and whilst it could never quite make it onto my favourite shows of the year, I'm giving it it's final dues right now. Pushing Daisies was one of the most original shows ever put to the small screen and it was an honour to have been there from the beginning. Pushing Daisies I salute you. Now let's Bryan Fuller (a God amongst men) can get the comic book series out.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Apart from Pushing Daisies, this was probably the most painful cancellation of the season. Whilst the show kicked off 2009 with a very boring trilogy of episodes focusing on Sarah Connor which weren't very interesting and took a lot of the life out of the show. However they followed this up with a final string of 5 episodes which made the show awesome again. Whilst those three episodes hold the show back so much, I couldn't not put this one my list. Not only for a brilliant finale, some incredible ballsy moves but for the prospect of what might have happened if it had gotten a third season with which to answer the questions so tantalisingly raised in the final episode.

Of January 2010

Well here's a blog post I didn't really expect to make. I might not update frequently but still, I expected to be bored of this now. Whilst I'm not prolific, I do enjoy sending my opinion into a big expanse.

Coming up later tonight and ealy tomoorow will be the Third Annual Top 10 TV Shows list. Due to the large amount of snow (yay snow) I've actually got some time to do blog post about this. Unlike last year, it isn't a long series of blog posts but more in line with those music related posts I've been doing in the past few weeks. However it will still take up multiple posts. About three so I can A) Get some sleep and B) Boost my blog post number. Whilst I haven't seen everything great in 2009 (Sons of Anarchy probably being my biggest grievance), I do think it's a fairly good list and for the first time ever, is entirely made up of shows which debuted new episodes in 2009.

My top 10 movies of 2009 can be found on my Twitter. I didn't review a lot of them but that's because, someone else reviewed them first or I just simply didn't have enough time (or I simply couldn't be arsed). Of course The Wrestler is number 1, that movie is just superb and a must see.

Doctor Who review will be coming soon, as soon as I've watched the episode again. It was good. The first half was patchy but the stellar performances more than made up for it. My only complaint is that the villains were an actual threat for all of 5 minutes before dying. Whilst like in Series 2 it was followed by a great epilogue, it just felt a little bit of waste (although Timothy Dalton did salvage some of it.)

I'll be doing some stuff about Chuck very soon, it's back on Sunday so make sure you watch BOTH episodes! Probably just a first impressions/suck-up fest because Chuck is just fantastic.

Finally Lost is back February 2nd so in the run up I'll be doing a top 10 episodes and top 10 characters to get back into the feel. However if Obama has his way I might need to wait until February 9th, in which case some people may end up being castrated because I NEED my final Lost fix ever. With only 18 hours left, I'm going to savour every single second that Damon and Carlton are going to give us.

Currently Listening To: Nothing Like You - Frightened Rabbit
Currently Reading - 1984, Enduring Love, Jane Eyre and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay (I've also finished The Lost Symbol and Peter and Max in the past month)
Currently Watching (TV) - Gavin and Stacey